In a summer with several films about fathers and daughters, Eighth Grade is in a class all its own. Angst-ridden Kayla (Elsie Fisher) lives with her dad, Mark (Josh Hamilton), and embarks on her last week of middle school. Kayla makes self-help videos for her YouTube channel and exhibits a self-confidence that she herself lacks. Kayla is awkward at school and struggles to make friends. She goes to a pool party and tries to talk to a boy but ends up calling her dad to pick her up.
When the students retrieve the time capsule boxes they made at the beginning of sixth grade, Kayla is dismayed and asks her dad to help her burn it. He persists in being an optimistic father who cares about his daughter even though she rebuffs and baffles him. After Kayla meets Olivia (Emily Robinson), a high school senior whom she shadowed for a day, she asks her dad if she can meet up with Olivia and her friends at the mall. One of the boys makes a move on Kayla, and though she is curious about boys and sex, she rejects him soundly.
Eighth Grade is by first-time writer and director Bo Burnham, a former YouTube star. At 28, he is close enough to adolescence to understand and evoke the perpetual embarrassment of eighth grade. Hamilton’s performance as the single dad, who is as awkward as his daughter, is warm and positive. Fisher is a revelation and plays her role painfully well.
This is a film about hope, kindness, family, and not giving up. Young people should remember: Middle school and high school are not forever. I did wonder, at the end, if African American, Latino, and Asian kids have the same experience as Caucasian kids in middle school. These are stories yet to be told.
Not yet rated, R • Brief language and non-explicit sexual references.
Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), is on house arrest after a violation involving his ant suit while helping Captain America. His daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), spends time with her dad, who has built a rudimentary sci-fi theme-park ride in their house. We learn in a flashback that Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the original Ant-Man, lost his wife, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), the original Wasp, a superhero, 30 years previously when she and Hank were visiting the quantum realm.
Scott thinks he has connected with Janet. He visits Hank and his daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), who has grown into the Wasp. Though they are all estranged over the loss of Pym’s Ant-Man suit, they work together, along with Hank’s old partner, Dr. Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne), and Scott’s security company crew, headed by Luis (Michael Peña), to retrieve Janet. To complicate matters, Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), who is under the protection of Foster, seeks the same quantum device to reenergize her dying body that the team needs to bring Janet back.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is over-scripted by its five writers, including Rudd, but is consistently charming, due to the performances by Rudd, Peña, and Randall Park, who plays an FBI agent. The father-daughter relationships are nicely presented. With a touch of romance and the promise of more sequels, the film is a superhero treat for ordinary mortals.
A-3, PG-13 • Science fiction violence.
After years of torture in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, the former Olympic runner Louis Zamperini (Samuel Hunt), returns to California and to his family. Zamperini suffers from PTSD, and his commanding officer grants him leave, where he meets Cynthia (Merritt Patterson). They soon marry and make their home in Los Angeles, but Zamperini’s depression is worsened by his alcoholism. He is haunted by memories of his tormentor, Watanabe “The Bird” (David Sakurai). Cynthia threatens to take their daughter and leave unless Louis goes to hear Billy Graham (Will Graham) at a crusade.
Unbroken: Path to Redemption completes the true story told in Angelina Jolie’s 2014 film Unbroken that ended shortly after Zamperini and the other prisoners of war were liberated. Both films are based on Laura Hildebrand’s biography. This inspiring film, directed by Harold Cronk, is replete with themes of forgiveness, family, and faith. Will Graham plays his grandfather, Billy Graham, but he needs to polish his acting skills.
Not yet rated, PG-13 • War and domestic violence.