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Paper Towns

Last summer brought us the teen weepie, “The Fault in Our Stars,” an adaptation of John Green’s bestseller of the same name. This summer, we have “Paper Towns,” another cinematic treatment of a Green coming of age novel.

You may be scratching your head wondering what the somewhat cryptic title refers to. Just to clarify, it’s a term of art that refers to a trick used by some cartographers to protect their intellectual property. They place fictitious entities, so-called “paper towns.” on their maps. This is designed to catch any other mapmaker, who has stolen their work.

Set in Orlando, Florida, the film revolves around Quentin Jacobsen (Nat Wolff),  an academically successful high school senior. He’s detached from the clique-dominated social scene. Unlike his best buds, Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith), the protagonist disdains the notion of attending the high school prom.

Quentin harbors a long-simmering crush on his across the street neighbor, Margo Roth Speigelman (Carla Delevigne). When they were younger, Margo would routinely climb through Quentin’s bedroom window and hang out.

Now that she has become the school’s most popular girl, Margo no longer spends much time with Quentin. However, one night, Margo, dressed in a ninja get-up, prevails upon Quentin to chauffeur her around town. She plans to wreak revenge against several people, who have betrayed her.

The next day, Margo mysteriously disappears. Poof! Where has she gone? Margo has left a series of clues behind as if beckoning Quentin to track her down. Can he possibly resist pursuing his dream girl? Not likely.

To his peers, Ben, Radar, the latter’s girlfriend, Angela (Jaz Sinclair), and another gal, Lacey (Halston Sage), it sounds like a good excuse for a road trip. So, the quintet jump in the car, intent upon following the clues to wherever they may lead.

Like “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Paper Towns” shares the screenwriting team of  Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber as well as Nat Wolff in a lead role. However, this film jettisons the lachrymose theme of terminal cancer that informed the previous Green adaptation. In addition, this film has the potential advantage of having Jake Schreier in the director’s chair. Schreier demonstrated considerable promise in his polished 2012 feature debut, “Robot & Frank.”

Opens wide on Thursday, July 23. PG-13 (for some language, drinking, sexuality and partial nudity – all involving teens) 109 minutes. 20th Century Fox


Films about professional boxers are a well-established genre. They have a built in narrative trajectory with the potential for a climactic bout.

Boxing movies are often biopics, which are based on real-life pugilists. “Raging Bull” was inspired by Jake Lamotta and provided Robert DeNiro with an Oscar-winning role.  “Ali” featured Will Smith as the eponymous heavyweight and focuses on his historic Rumble in the Jungle against the seemingly invincible George Foreman. In “The Hurricane,” Denzel Washington played Rubin Carter and his travails both inside the ring as well as with the legal system. In “Cinderella Man,” Russell Crowe portrayed Depression-era prizefighter, Jimmy Braddock, who won the heavyweight championship. More recently, in “The Fighter,” Mark Wahlberg provided a screen treatment of Micky Ward, a journeyman boxer, who staged a big comeback.

This photo provided by The Weinstein Company shows Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope, in the film, "Southpaw." The movie releases in the U.S. on July 24, 2015.  (Scott Garfield/The Weinstein Company via AP)

This photo provided by The Weinstein Company shows Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope, in the film, “Southpaw.” The movie releases in the U.S. on July 24, 2015. (Scott Garfield/The Weinstein Company via AP)

The six films in the “Rocky” series feature Sylvester Stallone as a fictional character. However, many boxing aficionados insist that the protagonist’s similarities to Chuck Wepner are unmistakable.

By contrast, “Southpaw” involves a fictional character, Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhall), who has attained the middleweight championship. He grew up in a series of group homes. There, he met his childhood sweetheart, Hope (Rachel McAdams), who has now married. They live in a sprawling mansion with their young daughter, Leila (Oona Lawrence).

As the film opens, Billy has defended the belt for the fourth time. However, he is starting to show signs of having sustained neurological damage. His wife begs him to retire.

At a post-bout press conference, Billy is taunted by a Latino contender, Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gómez). He accuses Billy of ducking him. Will Billy succumb to this macho posturing?

Previously, Antoine Fuqua directed “Training Day,” which won an Academy Award for Denzel Washington as a corrupt cop. Since then, Fuqua has helmed  a series of lackluster films. This included the skein of “King Arthur,” “Olympus Has Fallen,” and “The Equalizer.”

Here, Fuqua will be directing a screenplay by Kurt Sutter, who makes his feature debut with this film. His résumé consists entirely of scripts for the FX series, “The Shield” and “Sons of Anarchy.”

Will “Southpaw” break any new ground or just be a regurgitation of hackneyed clichés from the hoary genre of boxing films?

Opens wide on Thursday, July 23. R (for language throughout and some violence) 123 minutes. Weinstein Group

Nathan Lerner sees over 200 feature films a year. He welcomes feedback at lernerprose@gmail.com.


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