Superfly
Trevor Jackson Plays Iconic Title Character in Stylized Remake of Blaxploitation Era Classic 

  Super Fly (1972) was one of the most profitable of the Blaxploitation Era flicks. Released during the genre’s heyday, the picture revolved around its iconic title character, Youngblood Priest, a flamboyant cocaine dealer who dressed like a pimp, drove flashy cars and sampled his wares from a spoon shaped like a cross draped around his neck. 

  Overcoming a modest budget of just a half-million dollars, the film’s phenomenal box-office success led to a couple of sequels, Super Fly T.N.T. (1973) and The Return of Superfly (1990). Nevertheless, the franchise is probably best remembered for the original’s soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield, which enjoyed a long run at No. 1 atop Billboard‘s Top 100 chart. 

  Given its woeful production values, Super Fly is a movie almost begging to be remade, and 2.0 represents an upgrade, which does not disappoint in that regard. As overhauled by Julien Christian Lutz (aka Director X), the highly stylized production bears a greater resemblance to McG’s frenetically paced Charlie’s Angels (2000) and Baz Luhrmann’s decidedly decadent interpretation of The Great Gatsby (2013) than to any blaxploits made back in the Seventies. 

  The setting has been shifted to Atlanta, but the basic plotline is otherwise faithful to the source material. The blow-by-blow is narrated by the picture’s protagonist, played with perfect aplomb by Trevor Jackson (of TV’s Grown-ish). 

  At the point of departure, a beleaguered Priest informs us via voice-over that he’s been selling drugs on the street since the age of 11. He now sits atop a gang caught up in an escalating bloody turf war marked by drive-by shootings with a flashy posse called the Snow Patrol. 

  Understandably, Priest wants out of the game, but first he has to do a bigger deal than he’s ever attempted before. That involves going over the head of his supplier Scatter (Michael Kenneth Williams) and securing a huge shipment of narcotics directly from the South American cartel kingpin, Adalberto Gonzales (Esai Morales). 

  Somehow Lutz, a veteran director of music videos, manages to manipulate the audience into rooting for the sort of unsavory characters you’d cross the street to avoid in real life. Listen, the cinema has a long history of championing ruthless lawbreakers like Bonnie and Clyde, the Godfather and more recently, the Ocean’s 8 crew.

  The upshot: this incarnation of Superfly proves to be a riveting, slick and pulse-pounding reboot that easily blows away the original!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for pervasive profanity, graphic sexuality, violence, ethnic slurs, nudity and drug use
Running time: 108 minutes
Production Studios: Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures Entertainment / Silver Pictures
Distributor: Columbia Pictures

 

Ocean’s 8
Dame Gang Hatches Plan to Purloin Priceless Diamond Necklace in Delightful Spinoff of Crime Caper Franchise!

  The original Ocean’s 11 (1960) starred Frank Sinatra and a tight-knit cadre of fellow Las Vegas headliners affectionately dubbed the Rat Pack by the press. The bawdy band of brothers was famous for partying and making impromptu appearances at each other’s shows on The Strip. They even shot the movie right there in Vegas so they could continue working. 

  That buddy flick was remade in 2001 with George Clooney starring as Danny Ocean alongside ten of this millennium’s matinee idols. The story was again set in Vegas and also revolved around an elaborate casino heist. The picture was such a hit it spawned a couple of successful sequels, Ocean’s Twelve (2004) and Thirteen (2007).

  Ocean’s 8 may trade on the Ocean name, but this novel spinoff represents a refreshing departure for the testosterone-fueled franchise. Besides featuring an all-female gang, the film is set a world away from gaudy Las Vegas amidst New York City’s Jet Setters.

  At the point of departure, we’re introduced to dearly-departed Danny Ocean’s little sister Debbie (Sandra Bullock) as she does her best to convince a New Jersey parole board that she’s nothing like her con artist brother. But no sooner is Debbie let out of the slammer than she’s embarking on a brazen shoplifting spree at Bergdorf Goodman’s and duping a desk clerk at a luxury Manhattan hotel into giving her a key to a suite.

  Next thing you know, she’s masterminding an elaborate plan to purloin a priceless diamond necklace during the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual costume ball. Debbie begins by recruiting a crack team of cohorts, starting with her longtime partner in crime, Lou (Cate Blanchett). The rest of the motley crew is composed of hi-tech whiz Nine Ball (Rihanna), jeweler Amita (Mindy Kaling), fashionista Rose Weil (Helena Bonham Carter), big screen diva Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), ex-thief coaxed out of retirement Tammy (Sarah Paulson), and Constance, a trash-talking crook played by the scene-stealing comedienne, Awkwafina.

  The real fun starts after the get acquainted phase of the adventure, when the conspiracy is put into action in and around the museum. Besides a super cool caper, we’re treated to a profusion of enough blink-and-you-missed-it cameo appearances to take your breath away. 

  Dozens of celebrities attend the marvelous Met gala, including Katie Holmes, Kim Kardashian and her sisters Kylie and Kendall, tennis pros Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, and designers Tommy Hilfiger and Alexander Wang, to name a few. Ultimately more lighthearted than edgy, Oceans 8 is a fashion-driven, fun-filled affair where all the flair and famous faces serving as backdrop practically upstage a perfectly delightful, female-centric crime caper. 

  You go girls!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 profanity, drug use and suggestive content
In English and German with subtitles
Running time: 110 minutes
Production Studios: Smokehouse Pictures / Village Roadshow Pictures
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures

 

OPENING THIS WEEK
Kam’s Kapsules
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
For movies opening June 15, 2018

WIDE RELEASES

Incredibles 2 (PG for action and brief mild epithets) Animated superhero sequel finds the Parr family and sidekick Lucius Best (Samuel L. Jackson) joining forces to defeat a diabolical villain (Bill Wise) hatching a plot to hypnotize humanity. Voice cast includes Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Catherine Keener and Isabella Rossellini.

Race 3 (Unrated) The third installment in the Bollywood action franchise finds Shamsher (Anil Kapoor) entrusting his boss (Salman Khan) with the execution of a high-stakes heist, which goes awry. Cast includes Jacqueline Fernandez, Bobby Deol and Daisy Shah. (In Hindi with subtitles.)

Superfly (R for pervasive profanity, graphic sexuality, violence, ethnic slurs, nudity and drug use) Trevor Jackson plays the iconic title character in this highly stylized remake of the blaxploitation classic revolving around a gruesome, ghetto gang war. With Jason Mitchell, Michael Kenneth Williams and Jennifer Morrison.

Tag (R for pervasive profanity, crude humor, sexuality, drug use and brief nudity) Buddy comedy based on the real-life competition among a quintet of lifelong friends (Jon Hamm, Ed Helms, Hannibal Buress, Jake Johnson and Jeremy Renner) who have been playing an elaborate version of the children’s game “tag” for the past 30 years. Supporting cast includes Rashida Jones, Isla Fisher, Leslie Bibb and Brian Dennehy.

 

INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN

Eating Animals (Unrated) Agri-business exposé, inspired by Jonathan Safran Foer’s best seller of the same name, examining America’s evolution over the past 40 years from a traditional farming nation to one dependent on massive, industrial food complexes. Narrated by Natalie Portman.

Gabriel and the Mountain (Unrated) Bittersweet biopic about Gabriel Buchmann (Joao Pedro Zappa), the college-bound, Brazilian backpacker who perished in Malawi in a mountain climbing accident while spending his gap year crisscrossing Africa with his girlfriend (Caroline Abras). With Alex Alembe, Rashidi Athuman and John Goodluck. (In Portuguese, English and French with subtitles.)

Gotti (R for graphic violence and pervasive profanity) John Travolta portrays John Gotti, Sr. in this revealing biopic chronicling the life and times of the flamboyant, New York City mob boss known as the Dapper Don. Co-starring Kelly Preston, Stacy Keach and Ella Bleu Travolta.

Loving Pablo (R for sexuality, profanity, drug use and graphic violence) Javier Bardem plays Pablo Escobar in this biopic chronicling the infamous, Colombian drug kingpin’s rise and fall in the Eighties, as well as his volatile extramarital affair with an investigative journalist (Penelope Cruz). With Peter Sarsgaard, David Valencia and Julieth Restrepo.

Maktub (Unrated) Middle East dramedy, set in Jerusalem, about the sole survivors of a terrorist attack (Guy Amir and Hanan Savyon) who rededicate their lives to answering the prayers left by pilgrims in the Wailing Wall. Featuring Gal Amitai, Chen Amsalem and Ami Anijar. (In Hebrew with subtitles)

Set It Up (Unrated) Romantic comedy, set in NYC, revolving around a couple of overworked and underpaid administrative assistants (Zoey Deutch and Glen Powell) who play matchmaker by orchestrating a date for their lovesick bosses (Taye Diggs and Lucy Liu). Cast includes Wai Ching Ho, Meredith Hagner and Pete Davidson.

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