As we begin to come out of the end-of summer doldrums and into the fall prestige screening season (which begins roughly, though not absolutely, after the mid-September close of the Toronto International Film Festival) we start to see more interesting -- or at least less overt -- movies opening. Witness this week's "A Haunting in Venice," reviewed elsewhere in this section.
But we also still encounter oddities and films that distributors perhaps didn't really know what to do with, like "Camp Hideout," the faith-based comedy that's opening this week. While these movies do have a built-in audience, to really prosper they need to find a week where there's not that much going on. They can get lost in the wake of a "Barbenheimer"-type event. So often they come out in quieter periods such as February or at the tag-end of summer. In the case of these films, the release date is not a reliable indicator of quality.
That said, we're not seeing any reviews of "Camp Hideout" by anyone but bloggers allied with the whole faith-based movie movement, which indicates that the filmmakers would rather not have their work scrutinized by working critics without dogs in the fight. That's their prerogative, but sometimes these performative Christian filmmakers will turn right around and try to use the lack of mainstream reviews as a marketing technique. We used to encounter that all the time back when we attempted to review every film that opened in Arkansas. The reluctance of these filmmakers to show us their films used to bother us -- especially when they would arrange a screening for certain columnists they figured were "friendlies" -- but now it's just mildly amusing.
There's no reason to doubt that "Camp Hideout," which is apparently about a delinquent teenager who finds fellowship and faith at a Christian summer camp, exhibits "a strong Christian, moral worldview with references to church, crucifixes and biblical allusions," but we have no idea whether or not it's actually a good movie. According to a review on movieguide.com ("the family guide to movies and entertainment") it "is a pretty wholesome, family-friendly movie" with "references to church, the Bible, prayer, and crucifixes.''
But the review is not an out and out rave.
"Jesus and God are not overtly mentioned," it notes. "So, the movie's Christian worldview is not as strong as it could be."
Among the film's stars are Corbin Bleu, who was in 2006's "High School Musical" and the fine character actor Christopher Lloyd.
Also opening theatrically this week is "The Retirement Plan," a crime thriller starring Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Jackie Earle Haley, Ernie Hudson and Ashley Greene. That's probably enough to sell it to a certain faction.
Meanwhile, on various smaller screens:
"Bulls and Saints" (not rated, 52 minutes, PBS) As part of Hispanic Heritage Month on PBS Television, POV is offering this tale of love, tradition and the desire to return home in a documentary that explores reverse migration through the everyday lives of an undocumented working-class family, members of the thriving Hispanic migrant community in rural North Carolina, as they struggle to return to their homeland of Michoacan, Mexico. Directed by Rodrigo Dorfman.
"Strike Force Five" is a weekly 60-minute podcast (running for at least 12 episodes) that will ease the pain of those who are missing late-night TV comedy because of the Hollywood writers' strike. It features Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, John Oliver and Jimmy Fallon, who will use their signature styles of humor to poke fun at the The Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. All proceeds will go to out-of-work staff from the hosts' five talk shows.
"Up First" is NPR's 10-minute opportunity -- available at 5 a.m. CDT Monday-Friday -- to catch up on the big news of the day with "Morning Edition" hosts Leila Fadel, Steve Inskeep, Michel Martin and A Martinez. It's also available by 7 a.m. CDT on Saturdays, with Ayesha Rascoe and Scott Simon; a longer exploration behind the headlines can be heard with Rascoe on "The Sunday Story," available by 7 a.m. CDT.
"Stuff You Should Know" is education made fun via casual conversations with hosts Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant as they share curious facts and science: Do fish get thirsty? Is bariatric surgery a smart move? What is absinthe? Are cats an invasive species? "Stuff You Should Know" dives into exciting and often strange topics to provide unique, engaging insights.
"Dark Winds" (TV-MA, 39-53 minute episodes, AMC+) Based on the Leaphorn & Chee novel series by Tony Hillerman, this is an absorbing, sometimes brutal, and thoroughly humanizing psychological thriller series that follows Navajo police officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee as they take on criminals, troubled teenagers, kidnappings, family dramas, brutality and wrongdoing in the 1970s Southwest. With Zahn McClarnon, Kiowa Gordon, Jessica Matten, Rainn Wilson, Noah Emmerich; directed by Chris Eyre.
"The Bear" (TV-MA, 10 30-minute episodes, Hulu) The first few episodes of this insider restaurant series were so frenetic that I found them unnerving to watch, but now that I've settled into its rhythms, I've become enamored of observing the rapid and highly entertaining up-and-down machinations of a brilliant young chef who leaves the elite fine-dining realm of Manhattan to take over his family's sandwich shop after his brother dies of suicide. With Jeremy Allen White (you'll recognize him from "Shameless"), Ayo Edebiri, Molly Gordon and Ebon Moss-Bachrach.