Summer always brings the goods to the silver screen. Blockbusters galore give a guy yet another reason to beat the heat for a 30-foot picture with high tech audio in a dark room with thousand dollar day bills on an epic AC unit. In theaters now are a few flicks that have caught my attention for one reason or another, be it the genre, the actor or the plot. None of these might be taking home golden statues at the end of next February but do any of us really need an excuse to check out for a few hours and commit to someone else’s life, albeit fictional, other than our own?
22 Jump Street
Two of my favorite knuckleheads team up for another round as a modern day Odd Couple when Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) go deep undercover at a local college. Normally we know to treat sequels like a stray dog in Mexico and I can think of a lot of forgettable comedy follow-ups (Caddyshack II, The Hangover II, Dumb and Dumberer to disgorge just a few). However all reviews so far point to another hilarious and thoughtful winner of a film. Not sure you’re all in? Decide for yourself and watch the trailer. If you’re laughing and smiling through the first 30 seconds then bail out so the rest is a surprise and scenes aren’t ruined for you.
If you’re one of the myriad Breaking Bad fans, Aaron Paul has already performed an all-time role as Jessie Pinkman for you. His proceeding leap to movies was immediately challenged in a project that revolved around a video game in Need for Speed, which is a genre that is notoriously unsuccessful and generally disregarded. In Hellion, Paul is the in-over-his-head, single parent and widower Hollis Wilson, who encounters a custody battle over one of his sons. This tale is about family and the challenges of staying together despite the overwhelming odds to the contrary. Set in the Texas oil country outside of Houston, the film serves as a coming out party for newcomer Josh Wiggins. Wiggin’s 13-year old character Jacob encompasses the coming of age theme of a troubled boy intent on redemption, while battling senses of abandonment, self doubt and rebellion. The backdrop of Hellion is that of blue collar roughnecks peppered with heavy metal music, crime and motor cross which all help comprise the multi-layered journey of getting back up after falling down . Now throw Juliette Lewis into the mix, whose nurturing and loving character provides a savior-like role while promoting the preservation of one life path versus the wrong decisions and downward spiral behavior that she must contend with from the likes of Hollis and Jacob. This film has already garnered festival award recognition at Dallas, South by Southwest and Sundance and it looks like director Kat Candler has something very powerful and explosive here in this drama.
If you’re a fan of plots of revenge set around a character who has nothing else to lose then The Rover might be an ideal respite. I, for one, enjoy the premise of a cleaner who takes no prisoners, i.e. Liam Neeson in Taken or the original badass, Charles Bronson. In this case, we find ourselves in the lawless outback of Australia with a car at the center of the story (Mad Max anyone?), ten years after a global economic collapse where Guy Pearce is on a mission for justice and to retrieve the last important thing in his life that was stolen from him, said automobile. The Rover already made the difficult cut in being chosen as an official selection this year at Cannes and while you and I might not care that Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame also stars in this thriller, if the woman in your life insists on joining you for a movie then you can use his inclusion in the film to your advantage. I know I will.
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon
Are you a music junkie? Do your preferred tunes that date back to the 60s and 70s from that incomparable classic rock era? Supermensch is actor Mike Myer’s directorial debut that follows the incredible career of Hollywood insider Shep Gordon, whose accidental foray into the LA music scene resulted in friendships and business partners that ran the gamut of Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix to Pink Floyd, Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass and Alice Cooper. The documentary also reveals Gordon’s managing of chefs such as Emeril Lagasse, which eventually pioneered the genre of celebrity chefs on television. Archive footage and interviews dot this feature that includes the usual suspects of sex, drugs and rock n roll while including celebrities who know a thing or two about good times in Hollywood like Sylvester Stallone, Willie Nelson and Michael Douglas.
The first time I was introduced to John Favreau was back in 1996 with Swingers. Fast forward from that historical movie moment eighteen years ago and the guy who brought us the most uncomfortable scene ever opposite a telephone answering machine is now one of the most prestigious writers, directors and producers in the business. And while he has his finger prints all over blockbusters like the Iron Man series and The Avengers, his starring and directing role in Chef is a welcomed return to a more down-home film sans explosions, special effects and super hero costumes. This charming and thoughtful comedy takes us inside the kitchen and behind the counter in examining how happy we are versus how happy we can be. In celebrating food whether it’s prepared at a 5-star restaurant or from the food truck phenomenon of today, the movie that Food & Wine Magazine hails as “our favorite food movie of the decade,” boasts a cast of stars including Dustin Hoffman, Bobby Cannavale, Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johannson and John Leguizamo. Not taking Favreau’s genius for granted, I’m particularly excited to see his latest appetizing showcase.