No Escape: Thai stuck

No Escape is every tourist’s nightmare, and scarcely more for moviegoers seeking escapism as the summer movie season draws to an end. Originally titled The Coup, this generic action opus has no relation to the 1994 Ray Liotta futuristicprison thriller No Escape (itself originally titled The Penal Colony).

Luke Wilson and Lake Bell play a generic American couple, with generic daughters (Sterling Jenis and Claire Bell), who have relocated to a generic Asian country so he can start a generic new job. The country is not specifically named, but the film was shot in Thailand – where, indeed, an actual political coup took place during production. (So much for generics.)

Regardless of actual history, No Escape is one-note, knee-jerk fare. Luke and Lake, along with their onscreen offspring, are in panic mode as they rush through unfamiliar surroundings while revolution erupts at every turn. Under the direction – yes, it’s generic too – of John Erick Dowdle, who also penned the screenplay (yep, generic) with brother Drew, the film lapses into a dull routine of the endangered foursome fleeing, hiding, catching their breath – then repeating same.

Yet, remarkably, for all the gunfire, explosions and car crashes, there’s rarely a siren to be heard or so much as a wisp of smoke in the sky. This isn’t generic filmmaking, it’s lazy filmmaking. Even as exploitation, No Escape is flat fare.

The source for the onscreen turmoil is never really explained, although secret agent Pierce Brosnan (echoing a grizzled James Bond gone to seed) claims he’s to blame – although neither he or the film has any inclination to get into specifics. Because it’s Pierce Brosnan, however, it’s hard to hate him – especially when he manages to enliven every scene he’s in.

As for the Asian characters, they are portrayed either as threatening thugs or helpless fodder for butchery. According to No Escape, if you see an Asian face, run in the other direction. If you’re considering seeing the film, the same advice applies. !

The altar of Apple

With a dramatic feature starring Michael Fassbender on the horizon, the timing for Alex Gibney’s documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine is nothing if not fortuitous.

This detailed, sometimes overlong chronicle opens with the Apple founder’s 2011 death being mourned worldwide, then proceeds back to the beginning to follow the life of a mercurial man who would be king.

To some extent, Jobs relates his own story – in interviews, sound-bytes and even e-mails, while former colleagues and journalists offer their own perspectives. The end result is an interesting film about an interesting man, one whose legacy will undoubtedly live on, but whose public image belied a complicated, often divisive (and divided), private personality.

Gibney, the prolific documentary filmmaker whose Taxi to the Dark Side (2007) won the Oscar as Best Documentary Feature and whose HBO Scientology study Going Clear made waves earlier this year, doesn’t lionize or (entirely) demonize its subject, although Gibney’s occasionally overripe narration is quick to point out his own observations.

For all of his success as an innovator, there was the darker side to Steve Jobs – the domineering, vindictive side – and the film doesn’t shy away from that, although a lengthy look into Apple’s more questionable (to say the least) business practices quickly falls by the wayside as Jobs’ illness looms. There’s something of an ultimate irony in that despite having made his mark on the world as few men of his time, he would have to leave it – literally at the height of his power.

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine opens Friday !

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