Some Advice on What to See This Summer

COP CAR

Directed by Jon Watts

The rather time-defying Kevin Bacon (MYSTIC RIVER, THE FOLLOWING, TAKING CHANCE) – who seems to have made a pact with the devil, not having aged a speck in 40 years of solid movie-making – stars in Jon Watts's strong throwback thriller, COP CAR.  A week after seeing this simple story, the movie still exerts an  impressive resonance on the near-sleep psyche. 

The deceptive story is like something out of Gustave Flaubert, “Un Coeur Simple.”  Two easygoing but headstrong preteen friends (Hays Wellford, James Freedson-Jackson) come across a seemingly abandoned sheriff’s car in a secluded glade in rural Colorado.  They decide to take it for a joyride across the fields and countryside.  The ill-favored mischievous decision unleashes the exasperation, then ire of the county sheriff (Bacon) and leads to brutal consequences.  Coming to mind prominently for the somewhat parallel events in a cross-country escapade with bad results is Terry Malick’s 1973 BADLANDS.  COP CAR moves inexorably across backwoods small-town criminality and corruption without hard-pedaling the sheriff’s corruption or petty criminals’ particulars.

Fascinating to see both the sheriff’s suppressed frantic search for his car, with a body in the trunk, and his resourcefulness at evading  anyone at HQ realizing anything is amiss.  He deflects subtle and overt opportunities to be exposed.  The boys, unaffected sharp kids with above average interest in but below average familiarity with cars, guns, and adventure, are also, in their way, amazingly self-possessed, though circumstances soon outrun their frail understanding of bad guys and extremis.

COP CAR is minimalist suspense that gathers impetus as the deceptively simple story stretches into a bloody moral tale; it resides in the head longer than it has a right to.  It is a superior independent offering – and director Watts just signed to helm the still untitled SPIDER-MAN reboot for 2017.

TRAINWRECK

Directed by Judd Apatow

Amy Schumer has a girly face, eyes close-set to her nose, and a layer of unshed baby fat.  These coalesce to make her – and viewers – relax.  She’s none of that emaciated, fork-thin model type that makes people annoyed and disbelieving.  We get Schumer.  We like her.

The now infamous dating and sexuality raunch-com film starring comedienne Schumer and SNL vet Bill Hader, a fabulous (unrecognizable) Tilda Swinton, grouchy-good Colin Quinn, and tall, impassive-funny LeBron James ought not be titled “Trainwreck.”  It isn’t one.  Even before the protagonist’s conversion from a desperately commitment-phobic sexual mattress-mounter, the film shows that far from being a desensitized slick female version of Hef, Amy is in fact sensitive to most of what goes on around her in the editorial rink of S’Nuff mag, a parody of lad-mags.  Her boss (Swinton, arch and brittle as any avenging chief of such a rag should be) allays Amy’s hopeful sense that she might be as attractive as others who ply her avocation with abandon.  “You’re not really attractive or thin enough to threaten me, so you’re fine for this job…”  Amy doesn’t know what to do with such brickbats, but she gamely plows on, sex and raunch at the ready.

The easy plot of a gender-role reverse millennial trying to be as commitment-averse as any male, an outlook drilled into her by her philandering rascal father, is not at all a train wreck.  She can mock her sister’s domestic bliss and bed as much as she wishes.  The truth is, when she meets up with sports doc Aaron Conners (Hader), she panics out of her head and does everything in her power to sabotage his affection.

Who in truth hasn’t panicked at the thought of yielding to vulnerability and someone who against all odds insists on liking one?

Even truth-sharing married people admit they wouldn’t know what on Earth to do if they were to suddenly divorce and have to play the dating market.  Just as Hamlet says (Act 3, Scene 1):

[…] But that the dread of something after [divorce],
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all…

It’s not a perfect movie, director Apatow does not make you retch, and the ending is both unlikely and a dopey wrap-up.  But the movie makes you laugh.  And you like the girl, even when she’s boredly harassing the confused dim hunk of nude male fabulosity in her bed played by WWE super-stud John Cena.  Deadpan LeBron is a hoot, too, demonstrating that not all sports supernovae are ironing boards on film.

Not, um, for kids.

Other films – thumbnails

MINIONS

Those cute yellow gummy-nubbins in denim pantalets from DESPICABLE ME (franchise 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015, and soon, 2017) are hilarious to watch and fun to revisit.  They still speak that mélange of indecipherable mishmash that still manages to communicate their delight, despair, or depression.  Stuart, Kevin, and Bob, Minions three, are recruited by super-baddy Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock) along with her inventor husband Herb (Jon Hamm) in a dastardly plot to take over.  The world, natch.  Worth a run to the multiplex.  An animation you can enjoy probably more than the kiddies in tow.

TED 2

Quite an adult follow-up on TED, with the same smutty lingo in the mouth of the fuzzy teddy BFF of Mark Wahlberg.  All’s swell that starts swell.  Underneath the scatology, a moral and touching vein run through it.  Sorta.

MAGIC  MIKE  XXL

Call me a sucka, but MAGIC MIKE XXL is a swoon-fest for female viewers, and even some (straight) men who expressed pleased reactions after the film.  It’s three years after MAGIC MIKE, and the stripping/gyrating/dancing  crew are getting together one last time before they go their separate other-profession ways.  Anything with Channing Tatum is beyond crit, frankly.  Travelogue-ish.  Seamy some of the time.  Expect scenic bumping and grinding, plus inadvertent as well as 'vertent comedy.  Jada Pinkett Smith  has some nice moments.

TERMINATOR GENISYS

Ah-nold’s pre-governator bod from the first TERMINATOR (1984) is spliced into the CG and SFX.  The magic of living in the unreal reel age.  Lots of explosions and fights and half-remembered set-ups.  Not one of my faves.  Very much a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.  Unless you’re 14.

JURASSIC WORLD

Next to Channing Tatum, gimme Chris Pratt.  The beauteous Bryce Dallas Howard, “Opie’s” real-life daughter, is the femme in high heels running through the underbrush, from the omnivorous scary dinos and lab-clones.  The story, cinematography, and whatnot are as juicy and full-frontal prehistoric as one could wish.  Yeah, I saw all the previous primordial Jurassics.  Suitable bad guys played by Vince D’Onofrio and B.D. Wong.  Other megabuck plutocrats get trashed, of course, as they chase the eeevil dollars and chemicals over safety, sensibility, and people.  The imaginary isla off Costa Rica was eye-pleasing to revisit.  I enjoyed this one, homages to its priors and all.

Hail popcorn. Hail non 3-D.

TWINSTERS 

Rather interesting near-documentary of two sisters born in a village in Korea and  separated at birth to very different new parents, one set Catholic, one Jewish, one in LA, one in France – without the girls suspecting they had been born other than singletons.  The remarkable tale of how they happened to discover each other in their 20s is engrossing and warm-hearted, if without the usual movie tension, as the story unrolls from the premise from the get-go.  Engaging photographic following and tracking by friends result in this happy film.

Proves what we knew all along: even separated by vast distance and obvious euthenics, twins and multiples have a great deal of remarkable mirroring.  When they met for the first time, and not having discussed it at all, both girls bore the same hairstyle, same part, same length – as well as precisely the same shade of aqua nail polish.  That got to us.