These are three shots from the same movie.
Photo: Pixar/Disney, Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros
The Fourth of July is upon us. That means you’ll probably spend just enough time under the sun — baking in its heat, getting sweaty, feeling light-headed, peeling clothes from your body, worrying about melanoma, talking to people you see all the time, anyway — to realize that you’d rather not be spending time under the sun. When that occurs, know that there are plenty of options awaiting you at a nearby movie house. Here’s a list of 16 flicks — and what Vulture’s reviewers had to say about them — to help expedite your escape from the outdoors.
Magic Mike XXL
The Channing Tatum–produced follow-up to 2012’s surprise hit Magic Mike, XXL is fun despite the inherent cynicism of sequels, according to David Edelstein: “My hunch is that the whole thing was thrown together quickly and shot on the fly, which accounts for the loose narrative and let’s-put-on-a-show sense of immediacy. And I’ll take it this way, if only for the dancing … Sure, this is a dumb sequel and everyone’s on one level slumming. But they’re slumming in style.”
The franchise rises again with a fifth installment, but perhaps they should have left well enough alone when Cameron’s tenure came to a close. Said Edelstein, “All I could think as I watched was that this weird old-new Terminator movie was not the upshot of an artist’s free will but of the Hollywood Machine that dictates all. Cry freedom all you want, Sarah [Connor], but your fate is to face more terminators. The future is all sequels.”
This buzzy documentary traces the life of Amy Winehouse, the haunted, soulful British vocalist whose sensational talent was matched only by her struggles with addiction and mental illness. The film, wrote Edelstein, “Is alternately thrilling and devastating, throwing you back and forth until the devastation takes over and you spend the last hour watching the most supernaturally gifted vocalist of her generation chase and find oblivion.” Some lighthearted holiday fare, then.
Of the latest in the Jurassic Park series (alternate title: What Could Go Wrong?), Edelstein said, “It’s a ride: Shell out for the biggest and most kinetic experience. Because whatever else you say about Jurassic World, its amazing special effects — not just hurtling dinosaurs but flying killer pterodactyls — make it one of the most rousing people-running-away-from-stuff movies ever made.”
Everyone’s losing their minds over Pixar’s cerebral new film — and with good reason, according to Edelstein: “Set largely inside the mind of an 11-year-old girl named Riley, this teeming, tear-duct-draining, exhaustingly inventive, surreal animated comedy is going to be a new pop-culture touchstone. In all kinds of ways it’s a mind-opener.”
This raunchy bromance comedy “really goes off the rails,” said Bilge Ebiri, when the story morphs into an ill-conceived parallel of the civil-rights movement. But it has redeeming qualities: “No movie in which Mark Wahlberg and a talking teddy bear break into Tom Brady’s house and try to jack him off in his sleep in an attempt to harvest his sperm can be entirely bad.”
The unconventional espionage flick stars Melissa McCarthy as a meek CIA analyst turned secret agent, an unusual role for the boisterous comedian. Said Edelstein, “Apart from a shockingly gory fight scene in a restaurant kitchen between McCarthy and a female assassin, [Director Paul Feig] shows no gift for action; and much of the editing in the comedy scenes is pushy, as if the editor didn’t trust the laughs to come on their own. But the movie jumps to another level once McCarthy is McCarthy again — i.e., the pop-top fount of abuse.”
In this CGI-laden behemoth that continues to chug along at the box office, “San Francisco disintegrates while a disintegrated family is restored to wholeness, which the movie presents as a net plus for humankind,” wrote Edelstein. “Dwayne Johnson and his torso occupy their usual two thirds of the wide screen as an L.A. fire and rescue chief who comes home — after swinging from a helicopter and pulling a blonde from a car perpendicular to the side of cliff a millisecond before the vehicle plunges thousands of feet into the crevice — to find divorce papers waiting.”
“Dope is Go meets Risky Business meets True Romance meets Fingers, with a little bit of Boyz N the Hood and We Are the Best! thrown in,” described Ebiri. It “wears its referentiality on its sleeve: It’s a remorselessly entertaining, Frankenstein’s monster of pop-culture borrowings and appropriations. So much so that it becomes very much its own thing.”
Insidious Chapter 3
The third entry in the Insidious series, which is actually a prequel to the first two, “Doesn’t really offer much that’s new, but it starts off as a reasonably reliable series of slow-burn chills,” said Ebiri. “The result is a film that starts off as a solid, workmanlike exercise in horror, but it can’t quite keep that energy through to the end.”
Mad Max: Fury Road
This critically acclaimed action blockbuster continues to be a box-office titan. “If you’ve relished the Mad Max series,” wrote Edelstein, “Your heart will leap in Mad Max: Fury Road the first time a ‘War Rig’ made of leftover car and truck frames (human skulls affixed to the grille) or a turbo-charged, weaponized jeep swerves into the foreground and then suddenly roars off into the distance at a 45-degree angle while the camera continues on its scorching horizontal track. It’s a signature move by director George Miller, who gets scary-close (he’s fucking with us) and then says, ‘Eat my dust.’”
Pitch Perfect 2
“It actually is difficult to write a review of Pitch Perfect 2,” said Edelstein of the second chapter of the Barden Bellas tale. “First you have to think up and reject a bunch of adjectives and nouns to pair with ‘a ca,’ as in, ‘It’s a ca-lousy’ or ‘It’s a ca-piece of shit.’ Then you have to spell out — because critics are reporters, too — what happens in the movie, which is hard (and reads boringly) when it’s the same thing that happened in the last one except without the laughs.”
Love & Mercy
This Brian Wilson biopic stars Paul Dano and John Cusack as the young and old incarnations, respectively, of the Beach Boys’ troubled front man. Edelstein wrote of it, “Love and Mercy has whopping gaps but few of them matter. It has the two things a Brian Wilson story needs above all: a sense of mystery and the right vibrations — good, bad, weird.”
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
This movie, which traces the story of a “doomed friendship” between Greg (Thomas Mann) and a girl at his high school who has been diagnosed with leukemia, is “as clever a piece of meta pandering as you’re likely to see,” wrote Edelstein. “It’s a movie full of quotations from other movies, it climaxes with a movie-within-a-movie, and it addresses the audience directly from its perch as a movie. Nearly every drop of human experience in it is mediated by movies, not in some Godardian assault on false Hollywood narratives but to flatter an audience too self-consciously hip to swallow this story straight.”
Avengers: Age of Ultron
The ultimate superhero megamovie mash-up is strangely remarkable, according to Edelstein: “The amazing thing about Avengers: Age of Ultron is that it’s reasonably enjoyable while feeling less like a movie than an epic sowing of seeds for multiple Marvel properties. Perhaps only Joss Whedon — fanboy, scholar, hack, pop visionary, humanist — could satisfy both nerd-do-well Comic-Conners and corporate masters so thoroughly. He has managed to locate the epicenter of the ‘universe’ universe.”
The movie is, by most accounts, bad. “It’s hard not to get a little restless watching endless Steadicam shots in which our characters banter around while anonymous, be-stilettoed sylphs sashay in the background,” wrote Ebiri. “That ‘walk-and-talk’ aesthetic is par for the course in the TV world, with its ruthless schedules and dialogue-based content; on film, it feels like laziness.” But there is a scene on a boat. That’s kind of Fourth of July–ish.