In cinemas this week – Straight Outta Compton, Gayby Baby, Me & Earl & the Dying Girl, American Ultra, A Walk in the Woods and The Transporter Refueled.
Straight Outta Compton – In the mid-1980s, the streets of Compton, California, were some of the most dangerous in the country. When five young men translated their experiences growing up into brutally honest music that rebelled against abusive authority, they gave an explosive voice to a silenced generation. Following the meteoric rise and fall of N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton tells the astonishing story of how these youngsters revolutionized music and pop culture forever the moment they told the world the truth about life in the hood and ignited a cultural war. Reviews have been very strong – with one of my trustworthy friends claiming it to be his favourite film of the year. I’m in.
Gayby Baby follows the lives of four kids – Gus, Ebony, Matt and Graham – whose parents all happen to be gay. As they each wrestle with personal change, the outside world wrestles with the issue of marriage equality, and whether or not kids of same-sex families are at risk. A former colleague of mine worked for many years on Gayby Baby and I am looking forward to supporting the film. Especially at this sensitive time. The message comes from a personal place, but it has national significance due to the ongoing debate about marriage equality. As it tackles its broad themes, I understand this rather compassionate PG-friendly doco takes the intimate perspective of the kids and reveals just how familiar their childhood experience really is.
Me & Earl & the Dying Girl – Winner of the 2015 Sundance Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award, ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL is the story of Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann), an awkward high school senior whose mom forces him to spend time with Rachel – a girl in his class (Olivia Cooke) with whom he hasn’t spoken to since kindergarten – who was just diagnosed with cancer. A big hit everywhere – Sundance and Sydney Film Festival Audience Awards – but certainly one of the most overrated films of the year in my opinion. My extended thoughts at the link.
American Ultra is a fast-paced action comedy about Mike (Eisenberg), a seemingly hapless and unmotivated stoner whose small-town life with his live-in girlfriend, Phoebe (Stewart), is suddenly turned upside down. Unbeknownst to him, Mike is actually a highly trained, lethal sleeper agent. In the blink of an eye, as his secret past comes back to haunt him, Mike is thrust into the middle of a deadly government operation and is forced to summon his inner action-hero in order to survive. I enjoy the cast, and this looks like an entertaining stoner romp. Still, hard to overlook the fact that the filmmaker also made Project X.
A Walk in the Woods – In this new comedy adventure, celebrated travel writer, Bill Bryson (Robert Redford), instead of retiring to enjoy his loving and beautiful wife (Emma Thompson), and large and happy family, challenges himself to hike the Appalachian Trail – 2,200 miles of America’s most unspoiled, spectacular and rugged countryside from Georgia to Maine. The peace and tranquility he hopes to find, though, is anything but, once he agrees to being accompanied by the only person he can find willing to join him on the trek – his long lost and former friend Katz (Nick Nolte), a down-on-his-luck serial philanderer who, after a lifetime of relying on his charm and wits to keep one step ahead of the law – sees the trip as a way to sneak out of paying some debts and sneak into one last adventure before its too late. The trouble is, the two have a completely different definition of the word, “adventure”. Now they’re about to find out that when you push yourself to the edge, the real fun begins. I haven’t read any of Bill Bryson’s work, so this doesn’t appeal. But, I expect the veteran leads will have a good deal of fun out in the wilderness.
The Transporter Refueled – Frank Martin (Ed Skrein), a former special-ops mercenary, is now living a less perilous life – or so he thinks – transporting classified packages for questionable people. When Frank’s father (Ray Stevenson) pays him a visit in the south of France, their father-son bonding weekend takes a turn for the worse when Frank is engaged by a cunning femme-fatale, Anna (Loan Chabanol), and her three seductive sidekicks to orchestrate the bank heist of the century. Frank must use his covert expertise and knowledge of fast cars, fast driving and fast women to outrun a sinister Russian kingpin, and worse than that, he is thrust into a dangerous game of chess with a team of gorgeous women out for revenge.
Weekly Recommendation: The Gayby Baby banning debacle is embarrassing. What a country we live in. Everyone should take their kids along to see this film (Dendy Newtown has discounted tickets). For something not so kid-friendly go for Straight Outta Compton, by far the best-reviewed wide release here. I expect the hip-hipster Sundance winner [unreliable] Me & Earl & the Dying Girl will attract a big crowd, but here’s a tip – it’s not very good.