Kings and Corpses

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Kings of Summer

If you have an evening free this week, The Kings of Summer has recently come to DVD and video on demand, and it is one of the sleeper hits that I have enjoyed this summer.  The story is not overly unique.  Teenage friends, fed up with parental rules and convinced that they can succeed if given their freedom, head out to live in the woods together for the summer.  I rented the video mostly because of the beautiful Ohio forests of my youth that form the backdrop for the film, but I found a lot more to enjoy.

Chris Galetta’s script crackles with understated wit.  This summer comedy doesn’t go over the top, but sneaks in below the radar with the quiet wry humor of the disillusioned with life.  Nick Offerman’s curmudgeonly father-figure Frank steals scene after scene, but he is only the lead fighter in a formation of wit.  The humor is varied, with young Moises Arias completely random sidekick filling in visual humor, and Nick Robinson’s long-suffering protagonist Joe melding his father’s bitter wit with a softer adolescent vulnerability.  Gabriel Basso plays the straight man, Patrick, who is the linchpin that holds the film together and keeps it from seeming like a series of sketches.

There are some excellent questions to ponder in this film.  What is adulthood?  Independence?  Where do the lines lie in friendship and rivalry?  Tie it all in with some raw celebration of life that young people seem to embrace much more freely than those of us who have taken the hits of life, and The Kings of Summer is worth your time.

30 Days Without an Accident

The Walking Dead has returned to AMC with several bangs.  Those would be the sounds of guns aimed at zombie heads.  I greatly enjoyed the season four opener for several reasons.  The jump forward in time (six or seven months have passed since the end of last season) is a payoff all on its own.  The first five minutes gives an excellent sense that our heroes have won a season of rest and rebuilding after their long hard struggle for survival.  There is friendship, hope, healing, and a sense of community that they have built in the prison fortress, safe from the zombies.

Of course it doesn’t last.

Without giving too much away, once again there is a pair of new threats that are logical outgrowths of things that have come before.  Rick’s struggle to find peace and turn away from the Governor’s path continues in a deeply personal way.  I particularly enjoy the question several characters experience about hope and continuing to live in the face of a struggling life.

As a history nerd, of course, I know that our sense of peace and security in life is a fleeting thing, very recent.  Fewer than two hundred years ago disease, violence, and war still filled life with the simple struggles to survive.  One reason I continue to enjoy The Walking Dead is how it calls back to the oligarchy of the dead, the wisdom of those who have lived before us that we can learn, love, live, and grow in the hardest of times.  The show has never quite lost sight of that truth.  Combine it with excellent effects, great acting, and some real storytelling and The Walking Dead promises another great year.

Highly recommended.

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