(WOMENSENEWS)—Of the movies opening today, the big buzz, eagerly anticipated blockbuster is “Suicide Squad.” But sadly, it’s a letdown. The Warner Bros/DC Comics release turns pathological criminals with super powers into a team of civilization savers. Seemingly the product of Hollywood marketers rather than creative storytellers, the plot is thin and nonsensible, a mere excuse to introduce a new cast of super-powered characters. In this flick, they are the “baddest of the bad,” a crew released from a maximum security prison by a secret government agency intent on using them to clean up the corruption and crime that’s rampant in a post-superhero apocalypse. To keep these misfits focused on their mission, the agency’s head honcho (Viola Davis) fixes remote control bombs to the super-antiheroes’ bodies, threatening to obliterate them if they stray. This deadbeat generation of action figures, led by Deadshot (Will Smith), includes one forceful woman, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), who is the Joker’s (Jared Leto) girlfriend. She stands her ground against any man – superhero or super-antihero – and is well worth watching, if you favor this genre. Otherwise, forget about it.

“Amateur Night,” written and directed by Lisa Addamo and Joe Syracuse, is a comedy about a couple in trouble. Guy (JasonBiggs), an out-of-work architect, takes a chauffeur job that his pregnant wife (Jenny Mollen) found advertised on Craigslist. The gig turns out to be delivering three call girls (Janet Montgomery, Ashley Tinsdale, Bria L. Murphy) to their dicey trysts, and protecting them when the johns get rough. Guy needs the bucks, so he goes along for the ride, while hiding his client list from his unsuspecting wife. It turns out the hard-nosed prostitutes have hearts of gold, and give Guy some good tips about life, love and career choices. Yes, there’s some female flesh and foul-mouthing on screen, but the funky film is funny and provides a basically respectful and appealingly tolerant take on women’s rights to choose what they do with their bodies.

“Five Nights in Maine,” writer/director Maris Curran’s second feature, is a somber drama about grief and mourning. After the sudden death of his wife, Sherwin (David Oyelowo) seeks solace at the rural coastal Maine home of his mother-in-law Lucinda (Dianne Wiest). She is suffering from cancer, as well as from grief. There are unspoken tensions — some of them clearly racial, as Sherwin is African American — between the two, as they remember dead Fiona (Hani Furstenberg) and try to sort out their relationship. Wiest and Oyelowo, working with scant dialogue and few moments of overt drama, occupy the film’s portentous setting and deliver compellingly nuanced and moving performances.  See the film for them.

“Sun Choke,” on the other hand, is over-the-top femme-centric melodrama. It looks at the tangled and tawdry relationship between Janie (Christina Amber), a psychotic 20-something woman, and Irma (Barbara Crampton), a manipulative live-in caregiver who imposes a bizarrely severe and aggressive daily therapy regimen to restore delusional Janie to full functionality. In scene after scene, the characters’ looney, sometimes violent, behavior is unjustified and inexplicable, and the plot progression is virtually undiscernible. The performances are full of unconvincing Sturm und Drang. Matthew Rudenberg’s cinematography is standout stunning, but he and the actors deserve a better script and direction.

“Gibby” is an uplifting family drama about teenager Katie (Shelby Lyon). She is deeply and chronically depressed following  her mother’s recent death, but is brought back from despair when her vacationing teacher (Shannon Elizabeth) entrusts the care of her capuchin monkey, the titular Gibby, to Katie for the summer. Caring for the charming and mischievous Gibby (played with astonishing smarts by Crystal the monkey) brightens Katie’s days and lifts her spirits so she can renew her social life, rejoin her school’s gymnastics team, withstand the competitive meanness of a jealous girl classmate and bond with the cutest boy at her school. The joy that’s brought into Katie’s world by the remarkable pet doesn’t erase her sense of loss, but helps her carry on. Although the plot sometimes pushes the envelope on cuteness, not to mention that overcoming grief in real life isn’t this easy, the well-made movie is a wonderful reminder of the healing relationships that form between people and pets. It’s an entertaining coping primer for tweens, teens and kids of all ages. It opened Aug. 2.

“Little Men” is also a great watch for tweens, teens and their parents. The film plumbs the theme of childhood friendship and whether it can withstand pressures imposed by feuding parents. The story revolves around two teenage boys. Jake (Theo Taplitz), who comes to Brooklyn with his parents for the summer to live in his recently deceased grandfather’s house, forms an instant bond with Tony (Michael Barbieri), the son of a single mom seamstress who rents the property’s ground floor storefront. Trouble erupts when Jake’s parents decide they must charge more rent for the shop, and Tony’s mom cannot afford the increase. At the height of their economic feud, the grownups want to make the territorial battle lines clear and try to keep the new besties apart. Instead, the boys’ bond becomes stronger as they try to find ways to resolve the conflict between their parents. Co-written (with Mauricio Zacharias) and directed by Ira Sachs, the film is a sensitive statement about the precious and healing nature of friendship, something we all need to think about.

This Week’s Documentaries

In “From Fat to Finish Line,” filmmaker Angela Lee chronicles the remarkable journey of 12 strangers from all corners of the country who come together to run the 200 mile Ragnar Relay Race from Miami to Key West in Florida. The race is the culmination of a weight loss challenge created by Katie Foster, a health blogger, and Rik Akey, an avid runner, to help the team of 12. The relay runners met online and formed an internet support group to lose a significant amount of weight, and keep it off, enhancing their health and inspiring others. It worked. The documentary shares the team’s stories, shows their struggles and captures their moments of triumph. It is indeed inspiring.

“Cristina” is Michèle Ohayon’s profoundly moving and provocative documentary about a woman who, at age 37, transforms the cancer that is threatening her life into the catalyst for living in the moment and experiencing boundless, uplifting love with her partner, Bruce. The film is a tribute to Cristina’s spirit, an intimate meditation on the meaning of life, love and optimism.

If you were moved by Patricia Arquette’s performance as Olivia in “Boyhood,” and her character’s 12-year arc, you’ll want to see “Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny.” The film is Karen Bernstein and Louis Black’s documentary about the life and work of the auteur director who brought “Boyhood” and other acclaimed films to the screen and has transformed the film business in his home state of Texas. This excellent profile will enhance your appreciation of Linklater’s projects, past and future.

Stay tuned for reviews of next week’s openers and movie news.

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