Kam on Film: ‘The Shallows,’ ‘Free State Of Jones’ and What’s New In Theaters

—by , June 29, 2016

The Shallows

Columbia Pictures

Rated PG-13 for bloody images, intense scenes of peril and brief profanity

It’s Surfer Vs. Shark In Harrowing Tale Of Survival Offshore

Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) was so shaken by her mother’s (Janelle Bailey) untimely death that she’s dropped out of med school. In order to feel closer to her dearly departed mom, she’s decided to vacation at the same exotic Mexican retreat where she was reportedly conceived back in 1991. An avid surfer, she also plans to search for the stretch for her mom’s favorite beach.

Upon arriving, Nancy is so impatient to find that idyllic, uncharted spot, that she impulsively heads for the ocean with her surfboard, handbag and smartphone, abandoning her bushed traveling companion at the hotel. Instead, she accepts a ride to the shore from the very obliging Carlos (Oscar Jaenada), an affable local yokel who is more than happy to serve as the bikini-clad hitchhiker’s chauffeur and navigator.

He drives away right after depositing her at the secluded cove, yet Nancy has no qualms about being left alone, since she does have cell service. Next thing you know, she’s blissfully paddling out to deep water where she’s surrounded by a pod of playful dolphins as she starts riding the mammoth waves.

The plot thickens soon after she spots the bobbing carcass of a humpback whale. What Nancy doesn’t recognize until it’s too late is that she’s inadvertently entered the feeding grounds of a still-hungry shark who’d rather dine on human flesh than cetacean.

She subsequently suffers a nasty gash from the initial attack but is somehow able to swim to a tiny, low-lying island nearby. Her medical training comes in handy as she quickly fashions a tourniquet from part of her outfit.

Still, with high tide coming in a matter of hours, she knows that she’s got to figure out how to survive once this temporary sanctuary sinks below sea level. The shore is 200 yards away, which is way too far to swim with a determined predator steadily circling as her blood drips into the water.

A couple of potential rescuers (Jose Manuel Trujillo Salas and Angelo Josue Lozano Corzo) show up, but hope fades fast when the dopey duo simply starts swimming without noticing the damsel-in-distress. The next beachgoer (Diego Espejel) does see that Nancy’s in need, but he seizes the opportunity to steal her phone and other personal effects left on the sand.

This means spunky Nancy must survive by her wits, a daunting challenge given her dire straits. Thus unfolds The Shallows, an engaging, edge-of-the-seat thriller expertly directed by Jaume Collett-Serra (Non-Stop) to ratchet up the tension.

The movie borrows elements from Jaws (headstrong, maniacal shark), Cast Away (this stranded heroine bonds with a seagull instead of a volleyball), Blue Crush (oodles of gratuitous titillation) and MacGyver (a brilliant tinkerer exhibits endless ingenuity). The good news is that it all has been sewn together quite seamlessly yielding a thoroughly enjoyable screamfest reminding us that it’s still not safe to swim in the ocean.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 87 minutes

 

 

Free State Of Jones

STX Entertainment

Rated R for brutal battle scenes, an ethnic slur and disturbing images

Civil War Saga Chronicles Exploits Of Confederate Soldier-Turned-Slave Revolt Leader

While the slave raids led by Nat Turner and John Brown have been well documented in the annals of American history, the relatively-successful exploits of another notorious abolitionist insurrectionist have somehow slipped through the cracks. At least until now.

Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey) was born and raised in Jones County, Mississippi, the grandson of a slave owner, making him, at first blush, a very unlikely figure to mount a revolt. He even served as a medic in the Confederate army during the Civil War, but was disheartened to learn how the sons of large plantation owners had been exempted from the military draft. And he was further demoralized the day a fresh young recruit (Jacob Lofland) from his hometown who had just joined his unit perished in battle upon reaching the front lines.

No longer seeing any sense in poor people fighting to preserve the privileges of the very rich, Newt impulsively went AWOL, the dead boy’s body in tow. He returned to Jones where he is quickly identified as a deserter. After being abandoned by his wife (Keri Russell) and having his farm confiscated by the Confederacy, he flees for his life, finding sanctuary in a swamp deep in the woods inhabited by a handful of escaped slaves.

There, he befriends Moses (Mahershala Ali), a runaway bothered by an iron collar that had been soldered around his neck by a sadistic slave master. Newt, a blacksmith by trade, gains the group’s trust by freeing the beleaguered black man from the torturous contraption.

He soon emerges as its very charismatic, spiritual leader, founding the Free State Of Jones on a quartet of core principles promoting racial equality. Gradually, its ranks swells to over 250, with both ex-slaves and disaffected Rebels joining the ranks.

In this oasis of racial harmony, Newt proceeds to fall in love with Rachel (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a beautiful black woman who bears him a son. Thus unfolds Free State Of Jones, a reverential biopic written and directed by four-time Oscar-nominee Gary Ross.

Matthew McConaughey shines from beginning to end in a star vehicle where the virtuous protagonist is never allowed to exhibit a flaw. This costume drama proves compelling enough, primarily because nobody knew such a scenario could possibly have unfolded in a Southern state like Mississippi supposedly marked by segregation and intolerance.

An overdue history lesson about an important chapter in America’s long march to freedom.

 

 

Very Good (3 stars)

Running time: 139 minutes

 

 

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules

For movies opening July 1, 2016

 

The BFG (PG for action, peril, scary images and rude humor) Steven Spielberg directed this adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s novel about the unlikely friendship forged between a little girl (Ruby Barnhill) and the only member of a hostile race of invading giants (Mark Rylance) who won’t eat children. With Rebecca Hall, Bill Hader and Rafe Spall.

 

The Legend Of Tarzan (PG-13 for action, violence, sensuality and brief crude dialogue) Alexander Skarsgard handles the title role in this adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs adventure about a British boy born an aristocrat but raised in the Congo by apes. Ensemble includes Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Jim Broadbent and Djimon Hounsou. (In English and Bantu wuth subtitles)

 

The Purge: Election Year (R for profanity and disturbing, graphic violence) Third episode in the horror franchise finds a U.S. presidential candidate (Elizabeth Mitchell) and her bodyguard (Frank Grillo) on the run from government operatives during The Purge because of her campaign promise to discontinue the gruesome annual ritual. Cast includes Edwin Hodge, Kyle Secor and Mykelti Williamson.

 

Buddymoon (Unrated) Road comedy about a just-jilted groom-to-be (David Giuntoli) who honeymoons anyway, but with his incessantly-optimistic best man (Flula Berg). Cast includes Claire Coffee, Brian T. Finney and Jeanne Syquia.

 

The Innocents (PG-13 for disturbing mature themes, sexual assault, bloody images and brief suggestive content) Post-World War II saga, set in Poland in 1945, about a Red Cross intern (Lou de Laage) who discovers a convent containing a number of liberated Benedictine nuns impregnated while imprisoned in a concentration camp. With Agata Buzek, Jaonna Kulig and Anna Prochniak. (In French, Polish and Russian with subtitles)

 

Life, Animated (PG for mature themes and a suggestive reference) Heartwarming documentary chronicling how Disney cartoons and supportive parents helped an autistic boy overcome a host of his challenges.

 

Microbe & Gasoline (R for teen sexuality) Coming-of-age comedy about a couple of high school outcasts (Ange Dargent and Theophile Baquet) who embark on a summer road trip across France in an automobile they built themselves. With Diane Basnier, Audrey Tautou and Vincent Lamoureux. (In French with subtitles)

 

Our Kind Of Traitor (R for violence, sexuality, frontal nudity, brief drug use and pervasive profanity) Adaptation of the John le Carre international thriller of the same name about a naive Britsh couple (Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harris) duped into helping a powerful Russian mobster (Stellan Skarsgard) while vacationing in Morocco. With Damian Lewis, Alicia von Rittberg and Mark Stanley.

 

Roseanne For President! (Unrated) Prestige biopic recounting comedienne Roseanne Barr’s unsuccessful run for president during the 2012 campaign. Featuring Michael Moore, Rosie O’Donnell and Sandra Bernhard.


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