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“Captain Phillips” and the new Oxford Commons Theater

Posted on November 4th, 2013
Posted on November 4th, 2013

by Coop Cooper

In addition to the film “Captain Phillips”, I will also talk about the newly opened Oxford Commons Malco Theater which has been refurbished from the former ‘Amp’ theater on the east side of Oxford, MS. Few people remember the Amp as it had a short and unsuccessful run but Malco is betting that due to Oxford’s rapid growth, the town can now support a second movie theater. I sincerely hope they are right because the venue is classy and pleasant, but first the movie review…

Based on the real events, “Captain Phillips” stars Tom Hanks as the skipper of the Maersk Alabama cargo ship which was boarded by Somali pirates off of the coast of Africa in 2009. He and his crew-in-hiding play a dangerous game of ‘cat and mouse’ with the pirates in an attempt to get them off the boat. This results in the pirates taking Phillips hostage in a lifeboat with the U.S. Navy hot on their heels, prompting an attempted rescue by the now infamous Navy SEAL Team 6.

Shot in documentary style with a lot of shaky camera work, the film features many non-actors in small roles, giving it a realistic feel. The opening scenes with Phillips and his wife (played by Catherine Keener in a very minor role) having a mundane conversation about their son’s future doesn’t help things move along at first. The story begins to pick up the pace when Phillips orders anti-piracy drills on his ship, then events escalate quickly. I expected the film to take place mostly on the ship but it the majority of it actually takes place on the lifeboat which is a hard location to keep things interesting, but it somehow works.

Hanks is predictably good in this film as the beleaguered captain but his final moments in the film elevate him to potential award-winning status. The more interesting performance came from Barkhad Abdi as the lead pirate, Muse. His character is both menacing and human. A man with only a pad to sleep on and a rifle, his desperation is almost tangible as a an ex-fisherman forced into crime by circumstance and under the orders of a brutal warlord. He has many poignant moments in the film and I imagine he might get some award nominations before the season is done.

This film is not without controversy. Many of the crew members of that hijacked ship dispute the portrayal of Phillips in this film, claiming he was not the hero the film suggests. According to them, Phillips arrogantly ignored safety measures and advice which resulted in the ship straying too far into pirate territory. Despite these accusations, the film is compelling and the story is effective. It will no doubt shape what people know about the incident.

Rating: 3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

As for the new Oxford Commons theater, it appears it is still a work in progress. There is a bar and grill area but it is not operational and its difficult to tell whether they will serve beer and wine like the ‘Amp’ did, although it is certainly equipped to. The theater is fully refurbished with eight screens in contrast to the other theater’s six. It also has a bigger concessions menu including full-meal options. Outside there is a small amphitheater for live events and comfortable leather seating scattered about the common area. The theater will show mainstream movies (like “Captain Phillips”) but will also include many independent films, which is something a college town ought to appreciate. The projection is of the latest technology and highest quality with the crispest picture I have seen in any Malco theater.

On the negative side, the location of the theater is remote. It is far from the Ole Miss campus/town center and in an area that is largely undeveloped, giving it an air of isolation. The parking lot is small, awkward and may not yet accommodate enough spaces for a busy night of moviegoing. Either the word hasn’t gotten out that the theater is open or the odd location isn’t attracting many customers because the crowds were slim. It would seem when the next door bowling alley/mini golf/entertainment center is finished in 2014, more people will find their way there, but it is so far out of sight from the highway, people might forget it is there. I hope locals and travelers will discover it because it is nice, clean and appears to be well-operated. It also has the fanciest restrooms I’ve seen in a chain movie theater.

If you find yourself in Oxford, hankering to see a movie, give this out-of-the-way (but worth it) theater a try. It has a lot to offer.

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