We’ve nearly made it to the official start of summer — summer Fridays! summer breezes! summer lovin’! — but first we get the extended holiday weekend of Memorial Day. In the event that barbecues or poolside festivities aren’t your speed, rest assured that you can stay out of the sun by seeing one of the many enticing films currently in theaters. (And for even more movie and television recommendations, be sure to head on over to our streaming hub.) Below, here’s a list of nine flicks — complete with what our film critic David Edelstein had to say about them — that may or may not be worthy of your time.
In the latest adventure of angsty superhero team the X-Men, Professor Xavier’s best students must stop the ancient big bad Apocalypse from taking over the world and reshaping it in his vision. “Watching Apocalypse, you don’t feel as if every character is being set up for his or her own spinoff. They complement one another. They need one another. The overflowing ensemble nature of the enterprise is the whole point. And while you might miss Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen, the younger-generation ‘reboot’ has been handled with unusual grace. Many of these mutants are more engaging than their older incarnations,” writes Vulture film critic David Edelstein. “But in many scenes, [director Bryan] Singer captures both the pain of being an outsider and the potentially ruinous temptations that come with newfound power. He can hold his head high in regards to this film, if little else.”
Maggie’s Plan, an indie comedy starring Greta Gerwig in the titular role, follows a 30-something New Yorker who’s keen on having a child and ends up embroiled in an affair with a professor. “The familiarity of [Gerwig’s] shtick robs Maggie of uniqueness, at least in the film’s wobbly first third, when we can’t tell if the heroine is supposed to be this much of a flake,” writes Edelstein. “Maggie’s Plan doesn’t quite gel, but it’s very enjoyable, and it has a solid emotional core. … It’s a silly fantasy but a potent one. You watch Maggie formulate her daft scenario and think, ‘Okay: It’s a plan!’” Pregnancy, regret, and a very funny Julianne Moore ensue.
The Nice Guys
Who knew Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe would make such an excellent pairing? The 1970s-set Los Angeles buddy noir finds the dynamic duo — one a half-witted private eye, the other a tough enforcer — tasked with investigating the mysterious disappearance of a young woman. “The Nice Guys has a nice feel: just slick enough to keep from falling apart, just brutal enough to keep from seeming inconsequential. The ‘70s period trappings — wide lapels, sideburns, plaid pants — are cringeworthy without spilling into camp, and the noticeable lack of cell phones and computers seems a blessed respite from the world of high-tech thrillers,” Edelstein writes. “Nothing they do is particularly ingenious, but their relaxed rhythms are the key to the movie’s charm. They know that on some level we enjoy the idea that they’re slumming it, but we don’t want them to look like they’re phoning it in. Despite the formula structure, The Nice Guys has personality.”
The documentary Weiner specifically focuses on disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner’s failed attempt at running for mayor of New York City in 2013. Returning to the public eye two years after his sexting scandals caused him to resign from Congress, Weiner decisively lost the mayoral race. “Weiner is a tabula rasa doc — one of the most provocative of its kind I’ve seen. Everyone’s bound to have a different perspective. Social conservatives will find a link between Weiner’s progressive politics and his moral lapses, perhaps even proof that Hillary and Huma (whom Hillary has called a second daughter) have a penchant for making deals with male devils. Others will find confirmation that the kind of people (especially male people) driven to run for office are inherently unscrupulous,” Edelstein writes. “In Weiner, we’re voyeurs at a grisly spectacle, a modern political tragicomedy. … The movie brings to mind Oscar Wilde’s definition of scandal: ‘gossip made tedious by morality.’ I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with him, but Weiner offers a sobering view of what’s wrong with us.”
Love & Friendship
Because there can undoubtedly never be too many period films, Jane Austen’s pre-Pride and Prejudice novella chronicles Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) as she clumsily attempts to act as a matchmaker for her daughter — and potentially herself — while laying low at a country estate and outmatching adversaries. “The elaborately formal period comedy of manners Love & Friendship has a different vibe than other movies of its ilk. The delight of its director, Whit Stillman, enlivens every scene, so what might have seemed stilted is full of human faces in exquisitely subtle states of panic,” writes Edelstein. “He serves up this late-18th-century world with theatrical bravura.”
Captain America: Civil War
Marvel’s newest outing, Captain America: Civil War, is quite the extravaganza, bringing out nearly every superhero in the MCU (and introducing a couple new ones) for an epic showdown between Captain America and Iron Man. (Whose side are you on?) “Given the relative dullness of the Marvel supervillains, the studio has resorted to making its colorful superheroes fight one another in Captain America: Civil War, a combination jamboree and ethical colloquium,” writes Edelstein. “There’s a lot of bloat, but the fanboy in us all will have a hard time not grinning when Spider-Man be-webs Captain America’s shield while Ant-Man scoots around pulling out wires in Iron Man’s suit. But there’s a lot of bloat.” As expected, it’s currently crushing the box office.
Keanu is the cat action-comedy we need, and the cat action-comedy we deserve. The film begins when a heartbroken guy (Jordan Peele) gets a cute and cuddly kitten named Keanu after a particularly bad break-up, only for the kitten to get mistakenly kidnapped by gang members. He and his best friend (Keegan-Michael Key) proceed to infiltrate the gang in pursuit of Keanu, but things don’t go so smoothly, to say the least. “Keanu is cause for hope. In my frequent role as ‘laugh accountant’ for mainstream comedies, I’d estimate two-thirds of it works, and when it’s good it’s sooooo good — good enough to make you want to see Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key and director Peter Atencio and co-writer Alex Rubens do it again and go farther out,” Edelstein writes. “Everything that’s good in the movie slows down or distends or interrupts the dumb plot. Everything that drags it down is for the sake of pepping it up. Two-thirds, though: not bad for a first feature. And a mad-cute kitten. Help it make some money … so they can all do it again.”
The Huntsman: Winter’s War
The prequel to Snow White and the Huntsman finds us reunited with the evil Ravenna (Charlize Theron, who got paid for the role) and new addition Queen Freya (Emily Blunt) as they wreak havoc on some illicitly in-love soldiers of Frey’s army (Chris Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain). “The only reason to subject yourself to The Huntsman: Winter’s War, a mush of Game of Thrones and Disney’s Frozen with CGI that looks uncannily like CGI, is Emily Blunt, who gives the nearest thing I’ve seen in an American movie to a kabuki performance,” Edelstein writes. “[Chastain and Hemsworth are] boring and too old for their parts. I’d say Chastain has outgrown bland-ingénue roles like Sara, except she’d never have stooped to play them when she was young. Big paychecks are turning her into a dull girl.”
Elvis & Nixon
Elvis & Nixon, which Edelstein calls “a thoroughly charming comedy that bobs on a sea of incongruities,” chronicles the infamous day-long meeting between Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey) and Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon) in the White House after Presley demanded a meeting with the president to appoint him a “federal agent at large” for the war on drugs.
“Shannon doesn’t deliver an Elvis impersonation and doesn’t, in truth, conjure the man who by 1970 had sullied his persona with Viva Las Vegas, Clambake, and 29 other wretched films the Colonel shoved him into. But the Elvis he gives us is, on its own terms, revelatory. Shannon is too fine an actor to ‘play’ crazy. What he plays, instead, is a kind of casual, soft-spoken kingliness,” Edelstein writes. “Start with a president played by Kevin Spacey — who’s stupendous, the best and subtlest Nixon ever. With seeming effortlessness, Spacey captures the stiffness born of terrible insecurity that makes all that protocol necessary. Unused to someone who doesn’t bow and scrape, his Nixon is further disarmed by Presley’s stream (part real, part cunning) of anti-hippie invective. That really was how subordinates won Nixon’s confidence — by attacking his enemies even before he could.”