REVIEW: The Kings of Summer

23 04 2013

The Kings of SummerRiverRun International Film Festival

More and more, I’ve come to appreciate movies that can use montage to great effect.  Scenes have their own power, sure.  We remember those scenes from our own life; they constitute reality.  But that’s not always how we remember our lives.  We see them in glimpses and flashes, which add up to make truth.

Even though it might not connect at every moment, sometimes a well-edited montage can capture the ephemera of life with such raw power that they tap into and connect with something deep within ourselves.  The most obvious example in recent memory is Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” whose camera floats through life itself and reaches you with evocative imagery (even if its story leaves you unmoved or just plain confounded).  More subtly, films like “Up in the Air” and “The Artist” have caught these moments of fleeting joy in well-cut dance scenes.

The Kings of Summer,” though it features a compelling narrative that plays like “Superbad” meets “Moonrise Kingdom,” is at its best when it captures these brief snapshots of unfettered adolescence.  Though I’m still in the process of moving into full independence, I can look back on the days of yearning for escape from my parents’ house with the slightest bit of nostalgia.  And while the majority of the film is silliness and shenanigans, every once in a while an image would flash on the screen that really got at something subconscious within me.

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REVIEW: Safety Not Guaranteed

19 06 2012

Maybe my response is partly Pavlovian due to four seasons of conditioning from “Parks and Recreation,” but I thought just about everything Aubrey Plaza said or did was hilarious in “Safety Not Guaranteed,” a quirky indie comedy featuring the comedic dynamo.  At best, her muted enthusiasm elicits gut-wrenching laughs; at worst, a good and wholehearted chuckle that leaves no after-taste of guilt.  So forget Tom Cruise’s half-baked rocker impersonation and Adam Sandler’s self-parodic baby voice; this is the summer comedy you deserve to see.  And then maybe see twice.

Plaza plays Darius, a magazine intern in Seattle working for an aspiring Miranda Priestly (a lovely cameo by Mary Lynn Rajskub, best known as Chloe from “24”).  Suffering from a bad case of cubicle tedium, she escapes by going out on assignment with Jeff, a lazy Lothario played with appropriately little decency or discretion by Jake Johnson, and a fellow intern Arnau, an Indian intern whose life motto must be “work hard, computer game harder.”  Together, the three investigate a very odd classified ad seeking a time traveling companion.

Don’t expect “Back to the Future” from “Safety Not Guaranteed,” though; this comedy follows all the antics leading up to a trip to the future with Mark Duplass’ Kenneth, the enigmatic man who placed the ad.  Darius must track him down, entice him, and then woo him into allowing her to see the details that would make an interesting piece.  The lines between the story and real feelings quickly blur, but the film has plenty of tricks up its sleeves along with an abundance of fantastic lines and nuanced comedic performances to guarantee satisfaction.  B+