The Kings of Summer, An American Hippie in Israel, Shanghai Calling 


click to enlarge The Kings of Summer

The Kings of Summer (R)

Sony Pictures

The Kings of Summer didn't crack Amazon's Top 25 pre-orders. That's not a dig, but a testament to its buried-gem bona fides. Paperboy-turned-Letterman-intern-turned-debut screenwriter Chris Galletta takes a wholly generic coming-of-age tale and tells it, along with fellow feature first-timer Jordan Vogt-Roberts, like a storyteller just of-age enough to dismantle nostalgia. A group of friends deals with grief, anger and white privilege by retreating to the woods just outside their suburban bubble. What starts out idyllic, though, turns as quickly as it does when the teenage years set in; sexual jealousy, media manipulation and mortality all eventually intrude on their treehouse paradise. The characters are well drawn and the supporting players connect to the material, but it's the urgent freshness of Galletta and Vogt-Roberts' voices that really stuns. — Justin Strout

click to enlarge An American Hippie in Israel

An American Hippie in Israel (R) (Blu-ray)

Grindhouse Releasing

Just as America was finally getting over the cross-country reclamation of freedom that was Easy Rider, the country of Israel got into the action with their own pretentious free-love epic, An American Hippie in Israel. It's a far more entertaining movie, with so many sheer WTF moments that it makes our counterculture cinema stink like a bag of cheap skunk. Like the title suggests, an American hippie travels to the Holy Land in search of ... something, I'm not quite sure what ... and finds himself pursued by two undead gangsters. He makes friends with a swinging couple, and they swim to a deserted island for some peace and love and sunburns. When sharks surround the island, however, their pacifism decays and they become bloodthirsty savages. The bleak ending proves the '60s didn't die at Altamont — it died with the release of this must-see cultural oddity. — Louis Fowler

click to enlarge Shanghai Calling

Shanghai Calling (PG-13)

Anchor Bay Entertainment

New York attorney Sam (Daniel Henney), who describes himself as "technically" Chinese because of his American upbringing, finds himself in a legal and cultural mess, when he travels to Shanghai for business. He quickly finds out that his Chinese heritage means nothing when he's not from there, can't speak the language, and has a superficial understanding of what it means to be Chinese. Hooking up with numerous off-beat characters to help him maneuver through a city that is overwhelming to him, he discovers romance in his personal life and love for the city. The film is well-acted, beautifully shot and written with serio-comedic insight that takes viewers on a memorable journey, almost to the point that you'll find yourself looking on Priceline to see how much tickets to Shanghai are just to experience it yourself. They're about $1,600 round-trip, FYI. — Louis Fowler

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