Owen Wilson and his family find themselves in hot water when a coup breaks out in an unnamed Asian country in No Escape. While at times it borders on xenophobia, asking us to root for the white protagonists as they’re hunted by nameless Asians, it’s an undeniably tense thriller that harks back to the gritty exploitation thrillers of the ’70s.
Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi is officially banned from making films, but he once more flouts this ban with Closed Curtain. The movie begins as a standard narrative drama, one heavily critical of Islam, but in the film’s second half it becomes a meta commentary on Panahi’s restrictions and the frustrations he endures as an artist under control of the state. One for hardcore film buffs only.
This year’s Oscar shout from Meryl Streep comes in the form of Ricki and the Flash, in which she plays an aging rocker attempting to reconnect with her estranged daughter. While Streep is great, the film is a collection of cliches.
The same can be said for the other two releases this week. Dope is the story of an African-American teenager who finds his path to Harvard blocked by circumstances beyond his control. It’s initially impressive as a character drama, with some great performances from its young cast, but quickly descends into a second rate crime caper.
Not half as clever as it believes itself to be is Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, a sub-standard teen drama that keeps telling us it’s anything but.
By Eric Hillis