Of the summer’s many sequels, the one I’m happiest to see is Kick-Ass 2. Matthew Vaughan’s original was one of 2010’s most enjoyable films, offering witty commentary on super hero stories while still bringing plenty of top-notch action. Jeff Wadlow takes over the follow-up, which finds Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) fighting crime with fellow costumed citizens they’ve helped inspire. Led by reformed mobster Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), these new heroes prove all the more important when Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) enacts his revenge on Kick-Ass for deeds from the first film. Sure to be at least as foul-mouthed as its predecessor, the film has also drawn criticism from Carrey for its intense violence in the wake of December’s Sandy Hill Elementary shooting. Whether or not these issues will hurt the film’s box office remains to be seen.
Continuing the steady trickle down from January’s Sundance Film Festival is The Kings of Summer. Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ feature debut follows three teenagers (Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, and Moises Arias) as they build a house in the woods and live off the land away from their parents. Adding star power are actors primarily known for their TV work, including Alison Brie (Mad Men; Community), Mary Lynn Rajskub (24), and the husband-and-wife team of Nick Offerman (Parks & Recreation) and Megan Mullally (Will and Grace), who apparently come as a package deal these days. The ubiquitous trailer suggests a fun and funny independent film, perhaps with a few touches of Moonrise Kingdom. Should be a nice way to close out a long Friday at the movies.
Perhaps no film this year enters its opening weekend with as many knocks against it than Lee Daniels’ The Butler. A fact-based story of Eugene Allen (called Cecil Gaines in the film and played by Forest Whitaker), who served eight U.S. Presidents in the titular White House position, the film was at an early disadvantage following the unfair critical savagery that met Daniels’ last film, The Paperboy. The casting of Oprah Winfrey, Vanessa Redgrave, and Terrence Howard alongside Robin Williams as Eisenhower, James Marsden as JFK, Liev Schreiber as LBJ, John Cusack as Nixon, Alan Rickman as Reagan, and Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan somehow added little hope, while the potentially treacly trailer drew its share of eye-rolls. Then weeks before release, Warner Bros. claimed ownership of the title The Butler, the name of a 1916 silent short, in what may or may not have been an effort to get Harvey Weinstein to relinquish his company’s rights to The Hobbit. Now armed with an unnecessary new name, audiences finally get to see what all the fuss was about. My guess is that it’ll be a star-studded mess or, seeing as I really liked The Paperboy, a knockout.
Another 2013 Sundance alum is Jobs, Joshua Michael Sterns’ biopic of the late Apple Computers founder. Ashton Kutcher dons the famous beard and glasses as the eponymous Steve, while Josh Gad (still maybe best known for Broadway’s The Book of Mormon) plays company co-founder Steve Wozniak. As a lifelong Apple user, even in the pre-iMac days when my friends used to tease me because I couldn’t run Warcraft, I confess to a good deal of excitement over this film. Something about Kutcher turning serious, however, gives me the willies. Even more pressing: will it be better than the 1999 TNT original movie The Pirates of Silicon Valley, starring Noah Wyle as Jobs and Anthony Michael Hall as Bill Gates?
Paranoia is a thriller that came out of nowhere with practically zero hype. Going in blind is somewhat appealing, but there’s also the chance that it could be an ambush. The Hunger Games‘ Liam Hemsworth plays a new hire at a tech corporation, caught in a rivalry between billionaires played by Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman. Richard Dreyfuss and Lost‘s Josh Holloway show up in supporting roles while Robert Luketic (21; Legally Blonde) directs. Well…
Fleeing the Scene
Robert Redford’s solid, all-star thriller The Company You Keep is a winner, as is the gut-wrenching but rewarding update on Henry James’ What Maisie Knew. The Tommy Lee Jones as MacArthur flick Emperor is about as shrug-worthy as they come, but is far preferable to Olympus Has Fallen and The Big Wedding, two of the year’s worst films thus far.
On Netflix Instant
Did I mention Season 5 of Breaking Bad? Because you’ll definitely want to get caught up on those episodes with the final season currently underway.
Also out are It’s a Disaster, which takes a comedic look at the apocalypse; the mostly strong documentary The Other Dream Team, about Lithuania’s 1992 Olympic basketball squad; Sylvester Stallone’s 1978 directorial debut, Paradise Alley; Birders: The Central Park Effect, a documentary about die-hard bird watchers, including The Corrections author Jonathan Franzen; and Antiviral, the debut feature from David Cronenberg’s son, Brandon.
Lastly, of local interest is the decent indie Future Weather, starring Lili Taylor and Asheville School student Perla Haney-Jardine, which I reviewed for DVD Snapshot. Haney-Jardine’s dad Chusy directed Anywhere, USA, more affectionately known as Asheville: The Movie.