Louis Lesser presents the hippest stuff you need to know about:
Focus: The last time audiences saw Will Smith on screen, it was in 2013’s science fiction misfire After Earth, which Smith recently called “the most painful failure of [his] career.” Smith hopes that his new film will return him to his status as the most bankable star in Hollywood, although a confusing marketing campaign has set mixed expectations for his new film. This new movie finds Smith playing an experienced con-man that takes on a young woman (Margot Robbie, The Wolf of Wall Street) as an apprentice, but when she gets too close for comfort, the two part. However, years later, his ex becomes an equally accomplished criminal, and the two end up on opposing sides of the same scam. R. 104 minutes.
Chappie: From the director behind 2009’s Academy-Award nominated surprise District 9 comes this unique sci-fi thriller starring Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), Hugh Jackman (X-Men: Days of Future Past) and Sharlto Copley (The A-Team) in a motion-capture performance as the titular robot. Set in a near-future South Africa, the movie follows a police droid, in a world where crime is patrolled by an oppressive mechanized police force, as it is stolen and given new programming by a young scientist. When the robot develops the ability to think and feel for itself, it is up to the droid to help save the human race. In an era where most big-budget films are part of major franchises, Chappie offers a refreshing change of pace as an original concept in the science-fiction genre. R. 120 minutes.
Dark Sky Paradise – Big Sean: Often criticized for being better known for his ad-libs than his actual rhymes, Big Sean came into recording his third studio album believing he had something to prove. His first single, the biting “IDFWU” featuring Bay Area rapper E-40, made the hip-hop community aware that Big Sean would certainly be taking a more aggressive tone on his next effort. The whole collection includes twelve tracks littered with collaborations, including G.O.O.D. Music labelmates Kanye West & John Legend, girlfriend Ariana Grande, and Drake, featured on new single “Blessings.”
Empire – In the last several weeks, Empire, a new drama on FOX, has done something that has rarely happened in the history of broadcast television. Since its premiere, the viewership for the show starring Terrance Howard (Iron Man 3) and Taraji P. Henson (Think Like A Man Too) has posted more consecutive ratings gains than any other new broadcast show in at least 23 years, and among adults 18-49, the show has risen five out of the last 6 weeks; exceeding nearly all Nielsen total viewer records to date. Having suffered from decreasing interest in the once-dominant American Idol, FOX has to be pleased with the growing popularity of the show, which has already been renewed for a second season. Empire airs Wednesdays at 8 PM Central on Fox.