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VOL. 40 | NO. 32 | Friday, August 5, 2016

A pretty good summer at the movie theater

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It’s been a summer of ingestion: Taking things in. Reading books. Watching movies.

Last week I wrote about “The Lobster,” which has enjoyed positive review ratings, though it’s not making much money. As of July 10, it had grossed just over $8 million in a couple of months – around twice its budget.

Compare “Love & Friendship,” which I saw right after I saw “Lobster.” It’s grossed $13 million (four times its budget) in the same time frame. This lilting comedy, based on Jane Austen’s “Lady Susan,” is a semi-satire, semi-celebration of all things British-landed-gentry, including tone, tenor, subject and context.

A young widow, Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale), pops in for a stay at her in-laws’ estate, circa 1775. As colorful rumors about her circulate, she embarks on a mission to secure husbands for herself and her daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark). Think “Downton Abbey” on steroids. And be prepared to laugh early and often.

“Dark Horse” (2016) is a feel-good doc about a group of working-class folk in a small South Wales town who form a joint venture to back a local woman’s dream to breed a racehorse.

She buys a broodmare, hires a stud and bingo, Dream Alliance is born. He goes on to win the Welsh Grand National.

The film goes on to win the Audience Award in the World Cinema Documentary Competition at Sundance in 2015. With high reviewer and audience ratings, it’s grossed around $750,000. IMO, this film, though enjoyable, is, at 140 minutes, exactly 30 percent too long.

The mystery film of the summer is “The Nice Guys.” Its high reviewer rating is a total puzzle. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling play a couple of thuggy P.I.s in 1970s L.A. They stumble into a bizarre conspiracy while checking out a porn star’s alleged suicide.

There are too many cutesy comments by half: grammar, figures of speech, décor, clothing styles and more.

It’s too violent to be a comedy, too serious to be a parody – and almost nothing made me laugh.

So what if it has grossed $56 million against a budget of $50 million?! If it looks like a skunk and smells…

So, that’s three out of four that I liked at the theater. I saw two I really liked on TV – one on HBO, although it had a good run in theaters last year; another on Netflix.

In “The Intern” (2015), Ben Whittaker, a retired business executive, becomes an unpaid intern at a successful Internet start-up founded by 20-something-year-old Jules Ostin (Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway play the leads).

He winds up working for her, and she discovers he has a lot to teach. This film grossed $195 million against a budget of $35 million.

“The Fundamentals of Caring” (2016), starring Paul Rudd, Selena Gomez and Craig Roberts, was released by Netflix in June after going to Sundance this year. Rudd plays a writer, who, after a personal tragedy, lands a job as a disabled teenager’s caregiver. The two of them take off on a road trip, are joined by Gomez’s character along the way, and all learn something about hope, friendship and joy.

Next week, we’ll hit the books.

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.

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