A star-studded surveillance thriller and a magic-centered drama are evidence of the fact that we’re moving into the glorious summer of the film season.
A superhero story set to an urban thriller, Sleight features a street magician whose gift is every bit as miraculous as it appears to be. His talents attract the attention of the wrong sort of people, and lead to a slippery slope that involves gang violence and kidnapping, as well as his loved ones in danger.
While it’s currently receiving mixed reviews from critics, there’s a lot about Sleight to be excited about. It’s a superhero story adapted into a genre film, a treatment that has worked very well in past films like Logan and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The expression of that in an R-rated film provides the opportunity to take a very candid look at street violence, leading to the superhero story in some ways we haven’t really seen before. The film’s critics cite too much reliance on common action/thriller tropes, and the abundance of language may be a concern, but the opportunities for this to be a worthwhile film outnumber its disadvantages.
Featuring a stellar cast that includes Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, and John Boyega, The Circle is a film that continues the trend of technologically-based cautionary tales. In the vein of films such as Eagle Eye, iRobot, and even the biopic Snowden, The Circle features a company, led by Tom Hanks’s character, that leads the world in technology and innovation. Key in its success is its surveillance software, which promises steps forward in law enforcement and security. But along with that, predictably, comes a host of problems that come from one entity having too much power.
The Circle itself essentially functions as a stand-in for Google, a company that, while surviving in the court of public opinion, has been involved in controversial data peddling in recent years. That gives the film a grounding in reality that makes it more relatable than the more science fiction-heavy films of similar theme. That this revelation comes from someone working inside the company (Emma Watson’s character) also gives the film an interesting approach. All told, this looks like a very promising film, from cast to theme to artistic merit.
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Maximo is a gold digger. He made a successful lifestyle out of going after wealthy older women, and eventually married a billionaire, and settled into an easy, luxurious life. But 35 years later, his 80-year-old wife dumps him for an even younger man, and he’s forced to live with his sister and her son. He soon discovers that he doesn’t have the charm and appeal that he thinks he does, and he is forced to grow up. Or at least, that’s what the makers of the film want us to believe will happen.
The continuing trend of sexually-charged comedies, many of them co-starring Kristen Bell (who’s in this film as well), has grown trite. There’s nothing terribly unique about this film, and its thematic content throws off some warning signs. It is certainly possible that the film could end up embracing a criticism of modern men who don’t want to grow up, and a juvenile obsession with sex. But more realistically, I expect it to throw a couple of bones in that direction, but end up mostly doing a run-of-the-mill raunchy comedy, just toned down for a PG-13 rating.
Recommendation: Both The Circle and Sleight seem to be solid choices. My pick is The Circle, due to the phenomenal cast and, for me personally, a more compelling theme. But Sleight also has a lot of promise as an interesting take on the superhero craze.