The Kings Of Summer
Rated R for profanity and underage alcohol consumption.
Runaway Teens Build Shack In The Woods In Quirky, Coming-Of-Age Comedy
Freshman year of high school has just ended for Patrick (Gabriel Basso), who isn’t looking forward to spending the summer under the same roof as his helicopter parents (Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson) given their monitoring his every move and their merciless teasing about his raging hormones. The situation’s even worse for Joe (Nick Robinson), whose widowed father’s (Nick Offerman) way of grieving involves belittling and grounding him at the drop of a hat.
One night at a keg party, the best friends come up with a viable solution to their predicament when they discover a clearing in the middle of the forest. Why not build themselves a house out in the woods where they will finally be free from the abuse and control of meddling adults?
Swearing each other to secrecy, the malcontents hatch an impromptu plan to live off the land. And they are joined in the clandestine endeavor by classmate Biaggio (Moises Arias), a mysterious weirdo wiling to tag along and utter an occasional, odd non sequitur.
Next thing you know, they’re building a shack out of materials found on a construction lot, and also foraging for food by diving into a dumpster behind a restaurant. Meanwhile, their worried folks are calling the cops, convinced the missing boys must have been kidnapped.
That is the absorbing point of departure of The Kings Of Summer, a quirky, coming-of-age comedy marking the magnificent directorial debut of Jordan Vogt-Roberts. His laugh-a-minute adventure is reminiscent of some the best of the rebellious adolescent genre, à la Stand By Me (1986), Superbad (2007), Ghost World (2001), Super 8 (2011) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986).
The picture’s clever script by first-timer Chris Galletta is laced with lots of hilarious scenes like when Biaggio attempts to throw the police off their trail with a ransom note from the fictitious “Jamal Colorado” inspired by combining a black first name with one of the 50 states. But human oddity Biaggio is basically around to provide intermittent comic relief.
At heart, the movie is about the intrepid trio’s struggle to survive while eluding the frantic search party. The plot thickens upon the sudden arrival of Kelly (Erin Moriarty) at the lad’s lair, a cutie pie Joe’s interested in dating.
Will the fetching femme fatale prove to be the boys’ undoing? Or will their bond remain intact? No spoilers here. Suffice to say that between a host of memorable performances by a cast of relative newcomers, and a haunting, grungy score by Ryan Miller, The Kings Of Summer is a bona fide sleeper not to be missed.
Excellent (4 stars)
In English and Italian with subtitles
Running time: 95 minutes
PG-13 for action violence and disturbing images.
Father And Son Crash-Land On Earth In Campy Sci-Fi Saga
In recent years, the name M. Night Shyamalan has become synonymous with mediocre movies with a humdinger of a twist tacked on at the very end. Meanwhile, Will Smith has been so successful as the perennial star of a string of summer blockbusters, that he’s been crowned “Mr. July.”
Thus, when the two former Philadelphians decide to collaborate on a film project, something ostensibly has to give. Will Shyamalan stem his decade-long decline or will Will’s winning streak come to an abrupt end?
Looking a little more like a Shyamalan than a Smith production, this cheapo, post-apocalyptic adventure suffers from a combination of miscasting and cheesy special f/x (reminiscent of Lost In Space, the ‘60s tv series). Consequently, After Earth pales in comparison with a couple of other sci-fi pictures presently in theaters, specifically, Star Trek 12 and Iron Man 3.
At least this futuristic, Shyamalan offering doesn’t turn on rabbit-out-a-hat resolution. In fact, quite to the contrary, the predictable ending of this stranded and I want to go home saga is an exercise in the obvious established by the premise.
As for the acting, Will Smith is normally good for a little comic relief even in his dramatic outings. Here, however, that trademark flair for the flamboyant he regularly exhibited on tv as The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air is nowhere in sight.
Instead, he displays a sober stoicism from start to finish as General Cypher Raige, the forbidding father of Kitai (Jaden Smith), an aspiring ranger eager to prove his worth as a soldier. He gets his chance when they are the only survivors of an intergalactic expedition crash-landing on Earth, a planet abandoned by humanity a millennium earlier.
With the General wounded and the spaceship crippled, it is up to Kitai to embark on a hundred-kilometer trip through the jungle alone to retrieve the emergency beacon from the detached tail section. This proves to be no mean feat, since the forest is covered with a variety of voracious, man-eating creatures.
Will Smith proceeds to spend the balance of the movie sitting in the damaged fuselage surrounded by unspooled reams of what looks like toilet paper. Unbudgeted scenery aside, this film is really designed as a vehicle for his real-life son, Jaden, whose performance in front of the blue screen is tarnished a tad by a high-pitched voice yet to crack.
They say there comes a time in every black comedian’s career when he’s asked to put on a dress. Well, it seems the same can be said about appearing in a campy sci-fi as demonstrated by Billy Cosby in Leonard Part 6, Eddie Murphy in The Adventures Of Pluto Nash and John Witherspoon in Cosmic Slop.
A simplistic, father-son morality play strictly for little kids and die-hard Will and Jaden Smith fans. Destined to be added to the pantheon of inadvertently funny blaxploitation flicks with a devoted cult following.
Good (2 stars)
Running time: 100 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening June 7, 2013
The Internship (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, partying and crude humor) Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson co-star in this buddy comedy as a couple of downsized salesmen desperate to reinvent themselves in the Digital Age who find themselves competing against some tech-savvy, young geeks for jobs at Google. With John Goodman, Rose Byrne and Max Minghella.
The Purge (R for profanity and disturbing violence) Futuristic sci-fi thriller set in theU.S. where all criminal activity, including murder, is legal for one day a year. Plot revolves around a man’s (Ethan Hawke) attempt to protect his family from harm when an intruder breaks into their well-fortified gated community during the period of state-sanctioned slaughter. With Lena Headey,Adelaide Kane and Max Burkholder.
Much Ado About Nothing (PG-13 for sexuality and drug use) Screen adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic, battle-of-the-sexes comedy about two couples, one (Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof) at war, the other (Fran Kranz and Jillian Morgese) in love. Support cast includes Emma Bates, Reed Diamond and Spencer Treat Clark.
Rapture-Palooza (R for profanity, drug use and crude sexuality) Post-apocalyptic horror comedy about a suburban Seattle couple (Anna Kendrick and John Francis Daley) left to deal with plagues and an amorous Antichrist (Craig Robinson) after billions of other souls ascend to Heaven during the Rapture. Ensemble includes Ken Jeong, Rob Corddry, Ana Gasteyer, Thomas Lennon and Rob Huebel.
Syrup (R for profanity, sexual references and brief drug use) Screen adaptation of Max Barry’s dark novel of the same name about a slacker (Shiloh Fernandez) who has to trust a cutthroat marketing executive (Amber Heard) if his million-dollar idea is to have any hope of succeeding. With Brittany Snow, Kellan Lutz and Rachel Dratch.
Tiger Eyes (PG-13 for a violent incident, mature themes and underage alcohol consumption) Coming-of-age drama based on the Judy Blume best-seller about a grieving teenager (Willa Holland) trying to cope with the murder of her father who finds a shoulder to cry on in the Native-American (Tatanka Means) she meets after her mother (Amy Jo Johnson) moves the family to Los Alamos, New Mexico. With Elise Eberle, Cynthia Stevenson and Russell Means.
Violet & Daisy (Unrated) Crime drama about a pair of mild-mannered, teenage assassins (Saoirse Ronan and Alexis Bledel) who knock off New York City mobsters when not obsessing about their favorite pop singer (Cody Horn). With James Gandolfini, Danny Trejo and Marianne Jean-Baptiste.
Wish You Were Here (R for profanity, sexuality, violence and drug use) Missing persons drama about four Australian friends enjoying a vacation inSoutheast Asia until one member (Antony Starr) of their party disappears mysteriously. With Joel Edgerton, Felicity Price and Teresa Palmer.