School's out so let's start with the kids' movie. The BFG opens this week with quiet charm and solid pedigree — it's the first-ever collaboration between family fare titan Disney and 69-year-old legendary director Steven Spielberg, and while the result feels a bit old-fashioned, that also makes it surprisingly refreshing.
Amid a cinematic landscape of sequels, comic-book follow-ups and unnecessary remakes, Spielberg and late screenwriter Melissa Mathison (E.T., Kundun) quite faithfully adapt Roald Dahl's lesser known but still awesome novel about an orphan who's awake at the witching hour and thus abducted by a Big Friendly Giant to be smuggled off to fantastical new worlds fraught with wonder and peril.
With Mark Rylance (an Oscar winner for Bridge of Spies) anchoring the film as the titular giant, Speilberg's BFG is not the visual and cinematic tour-de-force many would expect (especially after the success of Disney's other live-action/CGI hybrid The Jungle Book).
Instead, the story is light, the effects sometimes falter, and while the themes of trust and the value of dreams ring true, it doesn't feel like Spielberg is illuminating them in a way we haven't seen before. But the film works through nostalgia, the right kind of nostalgia. Rather than in-jokes and nods to a bygone era in hopes of culling favour with parents, The BFG simply unrolls as an old-school fantasy adventure film where the conflicts aren't smashed over our heads, and the adventure meanders freely.
It works, perhaps only because it's so refreshing to see a film that was constructed to stand on its own, rather than as a precursor to a three-, hopefully, four-picture franchise.
On the other end of the spectrum, The Purge: Election Year is the third instalment in a franchise few saw coming. Until they heard the premise: in order to keep society functioning, for one single, 12-hour night each year, America is legally allowed to go batshit crazy and commit any crime, including killing their neighbours, looting their cities and pillaging the morality of their civilization.
Back in 2013 when the first Purge film came out, that concept seemed like a clever dystopian one-off. These days, with fear and hatred defining so many of our global headlines, a purge almost seems like the next logical stretch.
In a stroke of genius, The Purge: Election Year skips ahead into the future and focuses on a too-good-to-not-be-a-target U.S. presidential candidate who lost her family to a purge and wants to put an end to the insanity. Add in some government betrayal (for the good of the nation, of course) and the wholesale return of all the original purge talent, and this one is perhaps the timeliest 4th-of-July flick ever. (And Brazillian police and firefighters already on the news warning about mass government corruption and a total lack of emergency services at the upcoming Olympic Games, this Purge could be far more prescient than anyone would like.)
Also opening, The Legend of Tarzan avoided all press screenings (a really bad sign for any wanna-be blockbuster opening on the July long weekend), but at least it isn't a total remake.
Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood) stars as a grown-older-and-more-civilized Tarzan who returns to the Congo with his bombshell wife (Margot Robbie: Suicide Squad, The Big Short) just in time for all sorts of betrayal, and jungle-twisting hell to break loose.
The good news is Samuel L. Jackson and Djimon Hounsou are also in among the foliage, plus what looks like a shipload of apes and Christoph Waltz as a bad guy. The Legend of Tarzan won't be amazing but with that cast and the director of much of the Harry Potter franchise (David Yates), this one should be passable escapism.
If you're staying in this weekend, the downloads of the week are Richard Linklater's '80s college baseball flick Everybody Wants Some and the critically panned but awesome anyhow Hank Williams biopic I Saw the Light, which stars Tom Hiddleston and one of the Olsens who isn't a twin.
Kids will want to hit up Zootopia, which is like Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid but with animals and no sex. Happy long weekend. Don't purge.