See It Instead: Captain Phillips Edition.
Sometimes a movie comes along and makes you aware of an itch you never knew you had. Perhaps a review piqued your interest, or you’d rather stay in and pay yourself $10 for a small popcorn and watch a movie on the cheap. Perhaps you’re valiantly struggling through your queue on Netflix or Amazon Prime, and need a wise, cultured voice to direct you to where the real movie viewing gold is hiding amidst the shitty ninja movies and serial killer biopics. Well, look no further. See It Instead is here to take today’s new releases and guide you to what you should really be watching.
Captain Phillips (2013)
Fending off roving bands of Somali pirates on the high seas is Tom Hank’s latest Oscar bait performance in Captain Phillips. Despite being unable to unseat Sandra Bullock and Gravity from the top spot at the Box Office, critical praise is sure to earn Hanks another trip to the big show to compete for his billionth statuette. Seriously, what does he even do with them these days? World’s coolest hat rack? Who knows. But if you want to evade pirates or go berserk on your captors, why not see these movies instead?
The Serious Pick: The Bounty (1984)
If you wish to experience a visceral tale of survival on the high seas featuring some of the greatest actors of our time.
The fateful voyage of the HMS Bounty has been told numerous times, and by many excellent actors. Errol Flynn and Marlon Brando have both taken a mutinous stab at this wrenching story of hard choices and foul fortune. For my money, the best version stars Anthony Hopkins, Mel Gibson, and Daniel Day-Lewis (with assists by Liam Neeson and Laurence Olivier) in The Bounty. Recounted by the vilified Captain Bligh (Hopkins, with the best English snarl you have ever heard if you “comprehend my meaning, sir!”) as he faces court martial by the British Admiralty for the loss of his ship, the Bounty, to a mutinous crew led by Fletcher Christian (Mel Gibson, distraught and crazed…so normal, I suppose.) Bligh’s brutally honest recollection paints a picture of a stodgy, vain glorious Captain who is nonetheless earnest, honest, and dedicated to the service of his King. Bligh takes his young friend, Christian, with him. Christian is able and sympathetic to the crew, and suffers Bligh’s high handed discipline with growing dismay. When the Captains orders cause the crew to not only abandon their adopted wives on Tahiti but risk death on a personal quest to circumnavigate the globe, Christian leads a reluctant mutiny. The harrowing tale of how both Bligh, set adrift in a raft, and Christian, pursued by both moral guilt and the British Navy, manage to come to good ends make this tale timeless and captivating. The lush visuals by Dino De Laurentiis are amazing. The sound track is quite moving. And the movie features more full frontal nudity than Catholic High School Girls in Trouble. So, yeah, watch this movie.
The Lighthearted Pick: Joe Vs. The Volcano (1990)
If you want to see Tom Hanks drifting on the high seas. With great luggage.
Back when Tom Hanks was considered only good for a lighthearted laugh, such as in Big or The Burbs, along came Joe Vs. The Volcano. While billed as a romantic comedy, this movie packed some seriously dark humor and existential angst. Joe, a work-a-day nobody, is haunted by a phantom malady that causes him to seek out doctor after doctor who cannot help him. Finally, a shady MD (Robert Stack, before Unsolved Mysteries became his full time digs) diagnoses Joe with a “Brain Cloud” which will kill him in six months (no, not a career killing Cloud Atlas…) Mysteriously, a billionaire (Lloyd Bridges, doing a spot-on Lloyd Bridges impersonation) contacts Joe around the same time, and offers him unlimited funds, as long as he throws himself into a Volcano which threatens to explode and destroy the only source of a valuable mineral. Joe accepts, and is escorted to the island by the magnates daughters, all played by Meg Ryan (forget How Harry Met Sally, this is Meg Ryan’s funniest role by far…and what range she gets to show!) Joe paints the town red with his wealth, with the guidance of the criminally under used Ossie Davis (Bubba Hotep) and departs with a luxury set of steamer trunk luggage for his fate. Along the way, he is faced with repeated peril, wins the love of Meg Ryan, and is thrown into a volcano by Abe Vagoda. But he makes it. Naturally. Many viewers have a soft spot for Hanks and Big, yet fail to appreciate this gem. It’s fatalistic, world weary vibe is reminiscent of Terry Gilliam’s majestic Brazil, so its unfortunate that more people are unaware of Joe Vs. The Volcano.
The Unconventional Pick: Ransom (1996)
If you want to turn the tides on those pricks taking your stuff.
Ah, a second Mel Gibson movie. I really need to talk to my doctor about this “Brain Cloud” I’ve been dealing with. This movie is deliciously over the top, with Gibson raging through scene after scene in this Ron Howard thriller. The premise is that a rich Gibson has his son kidnapped by a low-braincell count of thugs orchestrated by a dirty cop, Gary Sinise. Things go south rapidly when Gibson loses faith in the police and instead uses the ransom money to put a bounty out on the kidnappers. If they fail to return his son, every freak with a gun will be on their ass from now till eternity with the prospect of a huge pay out. This movie will live forever for the scene of Gibson shouting at the kidnappers thanks to Jim Rome (“Give me back my son!”) Before Liam Neeson showed us his unique set of talents in Taken, Ransom was the go-to movie about how to fuck up a kidnappers day.