What looks good this week?
Our engines rev up for “Bottoms,” a racy comedy costarring a hilarious Marshawn Lynch, and for “Wanted: The Escape of Carlos Ghosn,” a sharp, incisive docuseries about the uber-wealthy former head of Nissan and Renault who absconds from authorities. It drops on Apple TV+
But you can pass on sales-pitchy “Gran Turismo,” and the well-intentioned by long and repetitive “The Hill.”
As for East Bay-set “Fremont,” it’s so good we wrote a separate review on that.
Here’s our roundup.
“Bottoms”: If you thought the uncouth hard-R-rated “Strays” wore out its potty-mouth welcome halfway through — which it did — check out this irreverent bit of rambunctious from one of our most exciting new comedic filmmakers, Emma Seligman. On a par with the outrageous female-backed comedy “Joyride,” this one pins itself to a daring premise — two unpopular high school friends PJ (Rachel Sennott, who co wrote the screenplay) and Josie (Ayo Edebiri of “The Bear”) form a female fight club to woo two cheerleaders they are crushing on. Meanwhile, their school goes into a tizzy over an obnoxiously hyped football game featuring an overly idolized pretty-boy QB Jeff (Nicholas Galitzine of “Royal Red White & Blue”). “Bottoms” is one of those wild and rude comedies where you sit in disbelief, recovering from fits of laughter, and say “they didn’t just do that.” It scores the most points where it counts — ribbing today’s teen predicaments and high school problems — while being unpredictable and flat-out hilarious. The leads are exceptional as is Oakland native and former football player Marshawn Lynch, a kick as an often-inappropriate teacher overseeing the club. The ending is insane — in the best way possible. Details: 3½ stars; opens Aug. 25 at area theaters.
“The Hill”: The story of former baseball player Rickey Hall’s determination to play ball, in the face of sneering bullies and a spinal disease that once required him to wear leg braces, is indeed inspiring and worthy of cinematic depiction. But while director/screenwriter Jeff Celentano’s heart and soul is firmly in the right place, his faith-based drama suffers from being too long and repetitive, and sidelines the subject’s transition later in life — a story that could inspire others even more. Where Celentano slugs it out of the park are the brittle scenes between gruff pastor and father James (Dennis Quaid) and his loyal and, at first, acquiescent son Ricky (Colin Ford, in a solid performance). Randy Houser provides a good assist as a coach believing in the Texan kid, who went on to sign with the Montreal Expos and later retired from playing baseball due to his condition. It’s moving, but could have been better. Details: 2 stars; in theaters Aug. 25.
“Gran Turismo: Based on a True Story”: Remember that time you got roped into a time-share lecture, complete with fruit cup and bad coffee, while on vacation? If the answer’s yes, expect to relive that most unfortunate experience once more by watching the first 20 minutes of this glorified pitch for why Sony and the PlayStation console should not be just lauded but regaled for teaching “Gran Turismo” game players the principles on how to race cars. Less a movie and more a glossy infomercial, “Gran Turismo” does have a few pleasures, namely Archie Madekwe’s rise-above-it-all lead performance as Jann Mardenborough, a British gameboy turned pro race car driver, and some nifty Le Mans car racing moves that are directed with va-voom energy by Neill Blomkamp. But the saintly devotion to the brand all but brings “Gran Turismo” to a screeching halt. Orlando Bloom and David Harbour cheer, clap, soothe and grouse, all for naught. Details: 1½ stars; opens Aug. 25 in theaters.
“Retribution”: Sleek and efficient as a jaguar, this Liam Neeson vehicle comes up with a simple, singular premise — the car of a wealthy, financially shady father Matt Turner (Neeson) in Berlin gets rigged with a bomb that’ll go kablooey if he gets out of his cushy seat — and then floors it. Nuance is nowhere to be found, nor necessarily warranted, in director Nimrod Antal’s intense rejiggering of an acclaimed 2015 Spanish thriller. Neeson’s fine, but it’s stage actor Noma Dumezweni who brings the most gravitas as the inspector hot on the trail of Matt and his two kids (stuck in the backseat). Matthew Modine costars in this “Speed”-like guilty pleasure that’s directed with style and focus by the underutilized Nimrod. Details: 3 stars; in theaters Aug. 25.
“Wanted: The Escape of Carlos Ghosn”: Told in four airtight episodes, this series by director James Jones doesn’t futz with the facts and sticks to good old investigative journalism skills to chronicle the rise and spectacular fall of the former head of Renault and Nissan. Remarkable for its even-handed but “let’s-ask-the-tough questions” approach, “Wanted” unfolds like an unbelievable, pulpy financial thriller filled with decadent lifestyles, global corporate in-fighting, daring escape plans, shady financial moves and intriguing characters (including a high school football coach with a Green Beret background who smuggles Carlos out of Japan in a box to Lebanon). The book “Boundless” from Wall Street Journal reporters Nick Kostov and Sean McLain (both featured prominently in the series) served as the impetus for this brilliant docuseries. Details: 4 stars; all episodes available on Apple TV+ Aug. 25.
“Golda”: Helen Mirren gives a textured performance as the late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in Guy Nattiv’s serviceable docudrama, which might have been better as a documentary. Focused on one of Meir’s most controversial actions — during the 19 days of the Yom Kippur War — Nattiv mixes real footage with re-creations and you can’t help but wonder if the subject matter could have been explored more thoroughly in nonfiction format. Liev Schreiber is a plus as Henry Kissinger but deserved more screen time. The exchanges between him and Mirren, almost unidentifiable under the prosthetics, crackle. Meir’s excessive smoking is nauseating to behold, though. Details: 2 stars; in theaters Aug. 25.
“Landscape With Invisible Hand”: Don’t let director Cory Finley’s undefinable genre hopper slip by. It’s a quirky adaptation of M.T. Anderson’s sci-fi laced novel. In the near future, aliens have taken over — stranding earthlings on the sidelines of life and taking away their jobs. When high school students Adam (Asante Blackk) and Chloe (Kylie Rogers) find their viral “fake” courtship catching the curiosity of these toaster-sized aliens, one of which roosts in the home of Adam and his single mom Beth (Tiffany Haddish) and sits on the couch and watches old TV shows. While hardcore sci-fi fans might be disappointed, this bittersweet tale that touches on issues of today (AI concerns over losing jobs being just one relevant topic) celebrates the power of sticking to your creative and artistic instincts and of love. It’s a lovely little film, and features two great performances from Blackk and Haddish. Details: 3 stars; now playing in theaters.
Contact Randy Myers at [email protected]