Summertime


In L.A., you can always see the stars.

(2020) Musical (Good Deed) Tyris Winter, Marquesha Babers, Maia Major, Austin Antoine, Bryce Banks, Amaya Blankenship, Bene’t Benton, Gordon Ip, Gihee Hong, Anna Osuna, Caedmon Branch, Mila Cuda, Paolina Acuña-Gonazlez, Gabriela de Luna, Sun Park, Walter Finnie Jr., Jason Alvarez, Doug Klinger, Joel Dupont, Sophia Thomas. Directed by Carlos López Estrada

 

I grew up in Los Angeles. I spent my formative years there, from age six until I graduated college at age 21. I still feel deep connective roots to L.A. and so movies that are love letters to the City of Angels often tap a soft spot in my heart. Just sayin’.

Carlos López Estrada’s (Blindspotting) new film is just that. Set on a warm, summer day in La La Land, it careens from the beach communities to the inner city to the suburban neighborhoods of Los Angeles, which was once described when I was living there as a bunch of suburbs in search of a city. That’s a bit of a mean-spirited description, but it isn’t entirely inaccurate.

There’s not much plot here; in that sense, this is more of a collection of shorts than a cohesive whole but essentially, we are taken on a tour of the neighborhoods of L.A. by a group of young poets, each with their own issues. The characters sometimes are on their own, other times they run into each other (sometimes literally) and only at the end do we have any sort of cohesive group moment. The individual poets wrote their own poetry and created their own characters, often using their own names. For example, Tyris Winter plays a young gay black man who has been rejected by his family and is essentially crashing on the couches of his friends. Outraged by the gentrification of a beloved diner that no longer serves hamburgers but instead offers avocado toast for fifteen bucks, he goes on a rant against the high price of things before stalking out in search of a moderately priced burger, which turns out to be more of a difficult quest than he (or we) expect. He is one of the bright spots in the film and tends to be the connecting tissue for the whole movie.

Then there is Marquesha Babers who just about steals the show near the end of the film as a plus-sized girl who has been hurt because of her size. Toting a book by a therapist that urges its readers to “rap away their demons,” she confronts an ex-crush who rejected her because of her weight and lets him have it in an emotional bring-down-the-house rap that anyone who has been rejected by a potential romantic partner because of their size or their looks will certainly relate to.

Adding comedy relief is the rapping duo of Anewbyss (Banks) and Rah (Antoine) who go from street corner rappers struggling to get people to buy their mixtape to jaded hitmaking superstars during the course of a single day, lamenting in a crowded burger joint that they miss the simplicity of their former lives. That comes directly after a rant by a fast food worker (Yip) who, fed up with a counter full of Karens and a minimum wage job that expects him to provide elite level service, decides to give away burgers to all comers.

The other highlight for me is an argument between mother (de Luna) and daughter (Acuña-Gonzalez) about the shade of the daughter’s lipstick, which leads to a discussion about how men perceive women which leads to a wonderful dance of waitresses in bright red dresses accosting a car full of wolf-whistlers with an assertive dance that is beautiful in its empowerment.

Not everything works; the opening song which involves a skateboarding guitar player singing a folky love song to L.A. falls a bit flat, sounding pretentious and at times the artists do sink into self-righteous diatribes. Some of the performances are stiff, or unnecessarily over-the-top, even some of the good ones occasionally lose focus.

All of the poets are from one marginalized group or another, whether it be people of color, LGBTQ, plus-size people, or women. Some will roll their eyes and smirk “Hollywood liberalism” at that, but it’s hard to forget that these are groups that have largely been ignored and get to express their joy and their love for a city that is often misunderstood.

Honestly, I’m not particularly into rap or slam poetry, and there’s a lot of both here but I found myself drawn in to the feeling of community and neighborhood. This is not the idealized L.A. of other movies, but a more realistic one where diversity has led to some cultural overlapping and a bit more acceptance among those who have grown up among other cultures, other points of view. Those who grew up in a single culture may dismiss this as woke Hollywood socialist crap, but they miss the point. This is about all of us being in the same leaky boat and while the boat might be a little beat up and dingy, there is much to love about it. This is a movie that may not be on your radar that you should definitely check out.

REASONS TO SEE: Compelling and innovative, a movie that grows on you as it goes along.
REASONS TO AVOID: Some of the sequences are overly mannered and pretentious.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a fair amount of profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Estrada got the idea for the movie while watching a poetry slam event in L.A.; most of the cast were recruited from similar area events.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 7/18/21: Rotten Tomatoes: 79% positive reviews; Metacritic: 69/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: In the Heights
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT:
The Green Sea

New Releases for the Week of July 16, 2021


SPACE JAM 2: A NEW LEGACY

(Warner Brothers) LeBron James, Don Cheadle, Sonequa Martin-Green, Lil Rel Howley, Zendaya, Gabriel Iglesias, Jim Cummings. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee

When a rogue artificial intelligence kidnaps his son, basketball legend LeBron James enlists the help of animated legend Bugs Bunny to re-assemble the Toon team, win a basketball game and save the universe. Or at least, this corner of it.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Family
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: PG (for some language and some cartoon violence)

Akilla’s Escape

(Vertical) Saul Williams, Thamela Mpumlwana, Donisha Rita Claire Pendergast, Vic Mensa. A young 15-year-old Jamaican boy living in an American urban war zone must come to terms with a generational relationship with crime and violence he thought he had escaped during a single night’s armed robbery.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Enzian On-Demand
Rating: NR

Dachra

(Dekalog) Yassmine Dimassi, Hela Ayed, Aziz Jebali, Bilel Slatnia. A young journalism student and her two friends are trapped in a sinister village trying to solve a crime that occurred 25 years ago that may have involved witchcraft.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Enzian On-Demand
Rating: NR

Die in a Gunfight

(Lionsgate) Diego Boneta, Alexandra Daddario, Justin Chatwin, Billy Crudup. Two black sheep children of powerful warring families reignite a love affair that will have far-reaching consequences in the underbelly of New York.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Action
Now Playing: CMX Merritt Square
Rating: R (for drug use, violence and language)

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions

(Columbia) Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Thomas Cocquerel. Six people unwittingly find themselves back in the deadly Escape Room and must find out what their skills are so that they can work together to survive. But it turns out, they’ve all played – and beat – the game before, and this time the traps will be so much more lethal.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: PG-13 (for peril, terror, strong language and violence)

How to Deter a Robber

(SHOUT! Factory) Vanessa Marano, Leah Lewis, Chris Mulkey, Gabrielle Carteris. A stubborn young woman and her boyfriend, accused of a robbery she didn’t commit, looks to clear their names and come face to face with a couple of amateur thieves.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Crime Comedy
Now Playing: Studio Movie Grill Sunset Walk
Rating: NR

I Carry You with Me

(Sony Classics) Armando Espitia, Christian Vazquez, Michelle Rodriguez, Angeles Cruz. An aspiring chef is forced to leave his love and emigrate to New York, where his life changes – but his love doesn’t.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for language and brief nudity)

Moby Doc

(Greenwich) Moby, David Lynch, Julie Mintz, David Bowie. An unvarnished and surreal look at one of the fathers of modern electronic music and noted animal rights activist Moby.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Music Documentary
Now Playing: Enzian (Monday only)
Rating: NR

Pig

(NEON) Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Cassandra Violet, Adam Arkin. A truffle hunter, living in the woods of the Pacific Northwest by himself (and prefers it that way), is forced to come to the big city when someone steals his beloved foraging pig.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Thriller
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs, Cinemark Orlando, Cinemark Universal Citywalk, CMX Plaza Café, Regal The Loop, Regal Waterford Lakes, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for language and some violence)

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

(Focus) Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert, Josh Homme, David Chang. The life of the late Florida Film Festival attendee is looked at from his days as an unknown line cook in New York to becoming a bestselling author and a world-travelling television host.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Avenue 16, AMC Classic New Smyrna, AMC Disney Springs, Cinemark Orlando, Enzian Theater, Regal Oviedo Marketplace
Rating: R (for language throughout)

Summertime

(Good Deed) Tyris Winter, Marquesha Babers, Maia Mayor, Mila Cuda. A day in the life of Los Angeles, as seen through the eyes of poets, rappers, musicians and artists from the innovative director of Blindspotting

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Musical
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for language throughout and sexual references)

Sweat

(MUBI) Magdalena Kolesnik, Julian Swiezewski, Aleksandra Konieczna, Zbigniew Zamachowski. A Polish fitness instructor and internet lifestyle influencer battles loneliness, a stalker and an impending national TV interview as she tries to get through a weekend with her overbearing mother.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Cinematique Daytona
Rating: NR

COMING TO VIRTUAL CINEMA/VOD:

Fire (Tuesday)
Great White
House of Quarantine
(Tuesday)
How It Ends
(Tuesday)
Out of Death
The Rebels of PT-218
Resurgence
(Tuesday)
Room Nine
(Tuesday)
Sleepless Unrest
The Witches of the Orient

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Escape Room: Tournament of Champions
Pig
Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain
Sleepless Unrest
Space Jam 2: A New Legacy
Summertime
Sweat