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Movies: 'Carrie,' 'All is Lost' & 'Machete Kills'

Published 4:22 pm, Friday, October 25, 2013

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  • A new version of the horror movie classic, "Carrie," is playing in area theaters. Photo: Contributed Photo / Westport News contributed
    A new version of the horror movie classic, "Carrie," is playing in area theaters. Photo: Contributed Photo

 

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Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters:

"CARRIE"

While Stephen King's 1974 novel and Brian DePalma's 1976 film are undisputed horror classics, director Kimberley Peirce ("Boys Don't Cry") brings a contemporary dimension to her remake of this coming-of-age story, now that teenage bully-ing has become a relevant, social-media-inflamed, national crisis.

Quivering, vulnerable Carrie White (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a naive, troubled high school outcast who's been so over-zealously sheltered by her religiously fanatic mother, Margaret (Julianne Moore), that when she gets her first menstrual period one day in the shower after gym class, she has no idea what's happening and is terrified that she's dying. The mean girls in the locker room cruelly mock her, tossing tampons and screaming, "Plug it up!"

Using her cellphone to make a video of the event, Chris Hargesen (Portia Doubleday) posts it on the web. When the gym teacher, Ms. Desjardin (Judy Greer), realizes what's happening, cyber-humiliated Carrie's classmates are reprimanded. Conflicted Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) has regrets, but nasty Chris is defiant, which leads to her suspension, meaning no prom.

Smugly determined to take revenge against shy Carrie, Chris has no idea what retaliation lies in store for her since, along with the onset of puberty, Carrie has just become aware of her telekinetic powers. So when the hunkiest guy, Tommy Ross (Ansel Elgort), escorts her into the prom ...

Back when DePalma made the original version, he cast then-26-year-old Sissy Spacek; this time, Peirce picked 16-year-old Chloe Grace Moretz. In the aftermath of the Columbine/Virginia Tech/Sandy Hook tragedies, Peirce discarded the concept of Carrie as a calculated killer. Those are interesting choices.

Nevertheless, scripted by the original's Lawrence D. Cohen and "Glee" writer Robert Aguirre-Sacasa, it's more of the same -- with the addition of a creepy, entirely new opening sequence involving psychotic Margaret's giving birth to her daughter.

And the scary, albeit campy, humor has been excised, replaced by an insidiously pervasive sadness.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Carrie" is a gory, gruesome 6 -- an updated blood bath that's far too evocative of today's grisly, real-life violence.

"ALL IS LOST"

In counterpoint to "Gravity," about an astronaut's struggle to survive in space, J.C. Chandor's drama revolves around a lone sailor's struggle to survive at sea.

The challenge begins as a 39-foot yacht is struck by a metal shipping container filled with Chinese-made children's shoes. The Virginia Jean's grizzled owner (Robert Redford) awakens, inundated by seawater pouring into the cabin.

In the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean with his navigation equipment deactivated and his radio in need of repair, he is barely able to patch up the damaged hull before he's battered by the wind and rain from a violent storm, which capsizes the boat in open water, 1,700 miles from the Sumatra Straits. Perilously adrift in a life raft, using only a sextant and nautical maps to chart his progress, the resourceful mariner must improvise.

His strategy is to rely on ocean currents to carry him into a shipping lane -- in hope of hailing a passing vessel. But soon sharks are circling, his water supply is exhausted and he's fighting for his life.

Although there is almost no dialogue, charismatic Redford's compelling, subtly edgy, complex performance is intelligent and intensely focused, combining insight with uncertainty and fear, evoking memories of his earlier, often underestimated, work in the equally rugged "Jeremiah Johnson" (1972). Now in his mid-70s, Redford reportedly performed the majority of his own stunts, and an inevitable Best Actor Oscar nomination is well deserved.

Writer/director Chandor, who garnered a Best Screenplay Oscar nomination for his first film, "Margin Call," boldly relies on minimalist, Hemingway-esque realism and naturalistic sounds to sustain seafaring suspense in what might be interpreted as an environmental, perhaps metaphysical, allegory. There are no tricks or gimmicks, no flashbacks with secondary characters to explain the nameless man's family situation. It's all about ingenuity and dogged perseverance -- superbly chronicled by cinematographers Frank G. DeMarco and Peter Zuccarini and scored by Alex Ebert.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "All Is Lost" is an awesome 8, an extraordinary adventure on an unforgiving sea.

"MACHETE KILLS"

Opening and concluding with a fake trailer for "Machete Kills Again ... In Space," independent filmmaker Robert Rodriguez continues his long-running nostalgia for cheesy exploitation B-movies, marking his 11th film collaboration with Danny Trejo that began with their "Grindhouse" homage.

This time, the stoic, hatched-faced hit man Machete (Trejo) is offered not only redemption but also American citizenship from the president of the United States (Charlie Sheen, a.k.a. his birth name of Carlos Estevez) if he can stop crazed Mexican revolutionary Marcos Mendoza (Oscar nominee Demian Bichir) from firing nuclear missiles at Washington, D.C. In order to accomplish his mission, Machete will be working with a handler, Miss San Antonio (Amber Heard).

"You know Mexico. Hell, you are Mexico," tequila-swilling, babe-boffing President Rathcock tells him. So without much difficulty, Machete manages to infiltrate Mendoza's compound in Acapulco, where he discovers that the erstwhile drug lord not only suffers from multiple personality disorder but also has the missile-launching device implanted in his heart. The only solution is to take Mendoza back to the bomb's creator, a diabolical arms dealer/religious crackpot, Luther Voz (Mel Gibson), who has taken refuge in outer space.

So much for the campy plot -- and the idiotic on-screen notification to put on 3D glasses, even though there's no 3D.

Based on a chaotic story by Robert Rodriguez and Marcel Rodriguez, it's monotonously scripted by Kyle Ward. In this family endeavor, Robert Rodriguez directs, photographs and edits the seemingly endless -- and senseless -- violence, aided in the latter task by Rebecca Rodriguez.

Michelle Rodriguez and Jessica Alba reprise characters they've previously established. Former "Spy Kids" adolescent Alexa Vega has grown into a nubile sexpot, working with Sofia Vergara, a man-hating whorehouse madam who feasted on her abusive father's genitals and has transformed her breast and crotch into lethal weapons. Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Walt Goggins supply more villainy as a shape-shifting assassin known as El Camelon.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Machete Kills" is a trivial and, eventually, tedious 2. Enough already.