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Kirill Ustinov
Kirill Ustinov

Ping Pong Summer

Director Michael Tully has said that the movie was inspired by growing up with 1980s Hollywood films, ping pong and sunny summer times in Ocean City, Maryland. With Ping Pong Summer he also wanted to pay tribute to those comedy filmmakers from the 1980s that took their time to craft heart-felt stories. Tully focused on breaking the "connect-the-dot" contemporary comedy by infusing personal experience and genuine characters.[9][10] Tully grew up in Maryland, and he and his family vacationed at the resort where he shot the movie when he was an adolescent.[11]

Ping Pong Summer

The production opened up in Ocean City, Maryland. According to Tully the town was excellent at preserving the nostalgic feel of summer vacations. The local authorities and citizens were very cooperative with the filmmakers. To further capture the style of the movie, the entire picture was shot on Super 16 film stock. Tully felt very passionate about this choice and it was approved by Rush and the other producers.[9][12]

During his family's annual summer vacation to Ocean City, Maryland, Rad's activities include being picked on by disaffected goth sister Michelle (Helena May Seabrook), and playing ping pong with new Jheri-curled friend Teddy Fryy (Myles Massey in his hysterical debut role). Rad also likes popular girl Stacy Summers (Emmi Shockley), and therefore stumbles into a romance-and-table-tennis rivalry with W.A.S.P. bully Lyle Ace (Joseph McCaughtry). Also, because the '80s really were a different time, Rad has a friendly reclusive neighbor named Randi Jammer (Susan Sarandon). So, to win the girl and have the best summer ever, Rad must do the worm, and beat the rich kid in a high-stakes game of ping pong.

The rise and fall of Rad Miracle, a teenager so gawky that his mom confuses his bathroom beatboxing for cries of masturbatory ecstasy, is necessarily basic. His summer vacation is a sacred oasis of warped priorities, one whose sheer weirdness only becomes clear in hindsight. That revelation is almost tender enough to makes preceding jokes about Funk Punch, Icees, and bad tan lines seem meaningful. But only almost.

Located on the Maryland Eastern Shore, Ocean City is a seaside resort town with a population of under 10,000 residents. But in the summer months, the city hosts between 320,000 and 345,000 vacationers, and close to 8 million visitors each year.

Parents need to know that Ping Pong Summer is an indie coming-of-age comedy set in the summer of 1985 in Ocean City, Maryland. A Sundance Film Festival flick, the movie is fine for most teens. Expect a smattering of language ("s--t," "a--hole") and references to drugs (kids gossip about a girl who may or may not put cocaine in her Slurpees), as well as some scenes of bullying/insults/pushing and shoving. The movie will remind young viewers that if they want something, they need to practice and focus and not let others bully them into self-pity.

It's the summer of 1985, and Rad Miracle (Marcello Conte) is a suburban 13-year-old headed to Ocean City, Maryland, with his family. Rad, shy and awkward, is not-so-secretly into early rap and break dancing. After arriving at his family's rental house, Rad goes off exploring and meets another summer visitor, Teddy (Myles Massey), who shows him the beach destination's hottest destination for teens: the Fun Hub, a video arcade-meets-clubhouse where locals and summer kids mingle and play Pac-Man and ping pong. Throughout the summer, Rad experiences his first crush, gets bullied by two snobby rich boys, and learns to play ping pong like a pro.

The movie's missed opportunities include everything from Rad's unexplored background -- he's got a Scottish dad (John Hannah) and Southern mom (Lea Thompson, herself a veteran of iconic '80s movies like Some Kind of Wonderful and Back to the Future) to his underused sister to his predictable meet-up with eccentric neighbor Randi Jammer (Susan Sarandon). Despite the sincere performances, there's a lot to be desired in the story development. But for those looking for a nostalgic cinematic trip back to the '80s or viewers who grew up going to beach towns for summer vacation, Ping Pong Summer could be a temporarily amusing "I remember when" diversion.

People who lived through this time, and did some bad beat-boxing and shiny red pants-shopping of their own, will appreciate the small touches. If there's one thing we can learn from "Ping Pong Summer," it's that the Fat Boys have been woefully underused in Hollywood movie soundtracks.

Filmmaker: The film is a sports movie, and ping pong is indeed well-overdue for its proper cinematic treatment. What is it about this game that you love, and why did you choose to anchor this story around it?

Ping Pong Summer takes us to Ocean City, Md., a beachside town where 13-year-old Rad Miracle (Marcello Conte) is vacationing with his family, staying at a ramshackle house with a notoriously reclusive neighbor (Susan Sarandon). Rad's passion, though, is not for the beach but for pingpong. So naturally he gravitates to Ocean City's Fun Hub arcade, "the coolest place in the whole wide world," according to his new summer friend, Teddy (Myles Massey). There he finds a pingpong table on which to practice his craft, a Slurpee-addicted love interest named Stacy (Emmi Shockley), and a pair of nemeses, Lyle Ace (Joseph McCaughtry) and Dale Lyons (Andy Riddle), who are "the richest kids in Ocean City" and pingpong aficionados themselves.

As just the character names make clear, the film seems to delight in the '80s aesthetic and summer coming-of-age story that it's built on. But the mood turns languid and even dark at times, as if, faced with the bright colors and loud personalities of the '80s, writer-director Michael Tully decided that a counteracting drop in energy level was necessary. When it cuts to a drunk man passed out on the balcony of a decrepit motel or showcases a horrifying clown that berates Rad about his girl problems, Ping Pong Summer seems as set on providing offhand reality checks as it is on offering rosy summer fun.

Test also takes place during the summer of 1985, but the mood in writer-director Chris Mason Johnson's second feature is more ominous, marked by fear of the growing AIDS crisis among the gay community in San Francisco. In the film's first scene, an anonymous figure at a party asks: "Can you get it from sweating?"

Rad builds up a fair amount of goodwill along the way, which keeps us squarely in his corner. Still, most characters are thin, too many bits fall flat and, at least as presented here, ping-pong does not a scintillating summer make.

This is where Michael Tully comes from. He's a product of this boredom. Growing up in the Eighties, he found solace in the kinds of things that bored, small-town kids usually turn to: pingpong, baseball, other sports, and the radio signals from bigger cities. With his three sisters and two blue-collar parents, he'd hit the amusement parks in the summer: Hershey Park in Pennsylvania and Kings Dominion outside of Richmond, Va.

Tully moved to New York, and started temping in at offices. He scored some good film credits (costume designer and makeup artist on David Gordon Green's George Washington in 2000), got married (to Holly Herrick, the associate artistic director at the Austin Film Society), and directed his first film in 2006 (Cocaine Angel, screenwriter Damian Lahey's dark study of a young Floridian drug addict).

Ping Pong Summer is only interesting in that it really isn't trying to tell a special story. It's not particularly funny, there's no real emotional turmoil (there's a really long "climactic" ping pong battle at the end. I guess that's cool). Instead, all it's eggs are in the nostalgia basket. Having been born in 1988, on the tail end of the 80's, I just couldn't connect with that nostalgia, so essentially there was nothing here for me. Writer/Director Michael Tully punts his storyline for this retrospective look at a particular time and place and if you have no rooted interest in that time then you'll probably feel the same.

Writer/Director Michael Tully packs a load of '80s references into Ping Pong Summer, some work while others do not as one can expect. Some of the ones that really worked for me worked on a personal level given my childhood spending every 4th of July weekend in Deep Creek, Maryland and summer vacations at Ocean City. Plus, I was young kid obsessed with hip-hop as well but I, sadly, never owned a pair of those sick zipper pants, or high-top Nikes, or giant boombox.

As a nostalgia piece redolent of '80s-era pop culture, "Ping Pong Summer" works better as an affectionate touchstone than fully realized movie. Written and directed by Michael Tully and filmed on location at Ocean City, Maryland, Md., this summertime coming-of-age comedy possesses winsome charm and a sense for the artifacts of the age: cassettes, boomboxes, parachute pants and Jheri-curl activator.

For several years after college, Tully would tell himself in the winter he was going to make the movie the following summer, but by March, he would realize he didn't have enough money or support to do so. He spent 14 years living in New York and made other films along the way, but none were his dream project.

Tully describes the film as the familiar, awkward summer for teenagers between middle and high school. The protagonist, Rad Miracle, goes on an annual summer vacation with his family to Ocean City and has what Tully calls a "Karate Kid" type summer with Maryland flavor. He meets his first crush, makes a best friend and becomes the target of rich local bullies.

Writers tell stories about their adolescences, Tully said, and during his, two obsessions he had included hip hop and ping pong. He wanted to pay tribute to the basement, garage arcade-style of the game, which can be played year-round.

Sarandon plays a Mr. Miyagi-esque role in "Ping Pong Summer," serving as the unexpected mentor to, Rad, played by Marcello Conte, and giving him the tools to show up his rival on the ping pong table. It doesn't hurt that off-screen, she co-owns the SPiN Galatctic ping pong club, which Tully believes helped make his movie stand out from the pile of scripts she receives. 041b061a72


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