The Bling Ring
by Sean O'Connell Stoker was taken (excellent choice, Eric), so I’m going with The Bling Ring, a movie I feared would be a superficial rehash of the standard celeb-culture denouncement, but ended up being a telling glance through the SoCal-inspired looking glass of our TMZ-riddled society. Writer-director Sofia Coppola regularly chases the contact high that comes from celebrity recognition, and her deep understanding of both the vapid “elite” and those who’d actually be interested in them informs both sides of Bling Ring’s discussion. The movie goes beyond the contemporary notion of entitlement. When Ring-leader Rebecca (Katie Chang) and her shallow band of thieves infiltrate the overstuffed mansions of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, we’re amazed at how much stuff these starlets have received, though never actually earned. The initial lure of The Bling Ring, for some, might be watching Harry Potter beauty Emma Watson transform herself further into a credible actress blessed with more range than the magic franchise allowed her to show. But it’s Coppola’s non-judgmental stance on modern hero worship – and insightful, enabling performances by Chang, Watson and Leslie Mann – that help it feel like the director’s most complete analysis of fame and foibles to date.
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The Kings of Summer
by Kristy Puchko All grown-ups remember what it felt like to be under the thumbs of our parents. And if you somehow forgot all the chafing frustration of parental oversight, the feature directorial debut of Jordan Vogt-Roberts makes them blazingly vivid once more, but with a healthy dose of hilarity. This comedic coming-of-age story follows three teen boys who have had enough of their parents' overbearing brand of love, and so take off into the woods where the build their own house with their own rules. Their freedom is so sweet you can practically taste it. But grounded by heartfelt portrayals of its young leads (Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, and Moises Arias), The Kings of Summer blooms into a poignant story about friendship and the growing pains of going from boys to men. It's so compelling that I declared it "the best film of the year" in my review.
Bolstered by sidesplitting supporting turns from TV stars Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), Megan Mullally (Party Down), and Allison Brie (Community), it's easily one of the funniest movies of the year to boot. But screenwriter Chris Galletta's careful balance of the boys' perspective with that of their flustered (and frustrating) parents makes this an instant classic, sure to be treasured summer after summer.
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