“Top Gear” U.K. is back, and you’ll recognize at least one of these three blokes.
Back in the day you had leaf through through all 362 pages of the weekly TV Guide to see when car stuff would appear on your cathode ray tube TV in glorious cable broadcast quality or punch tiny buttons on your video recorder of choice to program it to tape the show to watch later. Yes, things were bad in the bad old days, and thankfully there’s no one around anymore to tell you not to touch the tape inside the cassette. (Who was the cassette to boss you around anyway and tell you that you could not touch the magnetic tape?)
As we try to push away the memories of those glitchy days, let us thank the microchip gods for putting an end to most of that, except the price of food and beverages in movie theaters.
Here’s a list of five shows and movies worth watching on streaming sites (or that will stream into theaters) this month.
“Top Gear” Season 27 (debuts June 16)
BBC 2, Netflix, Amazon Prime, iTunes
Have you heard of this new car show called “Top Gear”? The U.K. version — the most convincing one — returns for a third season since its relaunch and (surprise!) there are more cast changes.
Chris Harris, the finalist of the last season of “Survivor: Top Gear” is our returning champion, but two new hosts joining the island are Paddy McGuinness and Freddie Flintoff. McGuinness is a British comedian and TV host, whom most U.S. viewers will not recognize from anything else, unless they’ve done a semester in the U.K. and have picked up a London accent they cannot seem to shake, while Flintoff is a former cricket player, whom most U.S. viewers will not recognize from anything else unless they’ve done a semester in the U.K. and have picked up a London accent they cannot seem to shake.
If you’re waiting for us to mention Matt LeBlanc, we have to disappoint you: Despite becoming the de facto frontman of the show, LeBlanc could not return due to the difficult scheduling requirements of filming in the U.K. So no more Joey, despite the fact that he was really funny and genuinely popular with audiences — we wish he’d do more car stuff on TV back here in the States.
Harris has indicated that the new season of “TG” will be a little more chill — that seems easy enough as now there will just be three hosts instead of 13 — while another cast member, Rory Reid, will host the online aftershow “Extra Gear.” We would have liked to see Reid return to the main cast, but if “Extra Gear” gives him a better platform and more of a chance to shine, then that’s a good outcome too.
“Framing John DeLorean”
Streaming into some theaters June 7
The John Z. DeLorean story has gotten the documentary and drama treatment all in one film, starring Alec Baldwin as DeLorean alongside the real John DeLorean in archive footage. That’s right: This is technically a documentary that also contains re-enacted segments. DeLorean lived a life exciting enough to fill up at least one full TV season worth of dramatic re-enactment, so the 1 hour, 49 minute running time may feel like a sped-up highlight reel, especially given the fact that Baldwin has been inserted into the picture. (We could also picture Sam Waterston playing DeLorean.)
If DeLorean were not a real person, his life story as a fictional character would probably be judged to be too outrageous for a summer beach novel hawked at the airport. In nothing else, this film will introduce his story to a younger generation who may only know DeLorean as that wedge-shaped silver car from the “Back to the Future” movies.
Released on June 7, “Framing John DeLorean” currently has a 91 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so the docudrama has struck a chord with critics. We’ll see if that rating holds in a couple of months.
This drama directed by and starring Clint Eastwood is one of the relatively small number of films set in the 21st century version of Detroit, and even though the story is told with some clumsiness and clunky editing choices, between the lines it’s not an unrealistic look at the modern diversity of the city. And yes, there is a Ford Gran Torino in it, with the coupe playing a fairly significant if not action-packed role in the plot.
The social commentary between the lines is a bit clunky but not especially dated — “Gran Torino” was filmed during the absolute height of Detroit’s “ruin tourism” wave, when every visiting journalist from the two coasts made sure to get the gutted shell of the train station into at least one full-page photo as part of a lavishly photographed article. But most of the film’s message, scenery or underlying social issues have not faded in the 11 years after its release.
“Talladega Nights” (June 30th)
Despite its comedic nature, this movie offers a more revealing look at the world of modern NASCAR than “Days of Thunder” did, which took itself a little too seriously. If you have not seen this movie by now, this means you were either in a coma for the past two decades (in which case, congratulations on making it back, and you’ll never guess who’s president!), or you are allergic to anything NASCAR. Thankfully, this movie is enjoyable even if you cannot tell the difference between Indycar and NASCAR, because it’s largely a screwball comedy with Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly with NASCAR serving as the setting, and it’s one of the good ones in a long list of buddy comedies with these two actors.
Just to make you feel extra old we’ll remind you when “Talladega Nights” was first released: in 2006. That’s right — back when suits were baggy, Blackberry phones weighed several pounds and Facebook was for college students. “Shake and bake” is the enduring catchphrase from the film that has yet to fade from NASCAR more than a decade later, and Sacha Barron Cohen’s character just about steals the show. Thirteen years later, Talladega Nights stands up remarkably well, better than the vast majority of comedies from that decade. And it doesn’t get enough credit for that.
Enough time has passed that we’re kind of amazed that “Talladega Nights 2: Tokyo Drift” has not yet been produced, but you can bet that more than a few scribes have pitched scripts for a sequel. (This is our way of telling the studio please make a sequel — it’s been 13 years already).
“Cop Car” (June 16)
Kevin Bacon is a cop complete with a 1990s cop haircut, and two kids find and steal his Crown Vic cruiser. And then we find out that he’s not Officer Friendly at all.
The premise sounds simple and more than a little goofy, but this is no ordinary Kevin Bacon. This is a bad cop Kevin Bacon in a major role, with the film’s trailer painting him as nothing short of a horror film villain. The trailer, by the way, is either terrifying or hilarious, and there is a pronounced Coen brothers vibe to just the trailer itself. There is also a whiff of an indulgent, pulp B-movie to the plot and premise, a kind of thriller that simply does not get made anymore because of the Superhero Industrial Complex dominating major studios.
In fact, we’re still amazed that something like “Cop Car” could be green-lit, but evidently someone at Focus World and Audax Films felt that the premise alone was brilliant. Let’s face it: an action horror thriller that revolves around two middle schoolers finding a police Crown Vic in the middle of nowhere and taking it for a joy ride, all while being chased by a buzz-cut and mustache-equipped Kevin Bacon is hilarious. In fact, we already want to see “Cop Car 2: Tokyo Drift.”
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