Wondering which movie to go see in theaters?
Here are the ten best movies playing in theaters and my quick, spoiler-free advice:
- X-Men: First Class – See-it – The epic beginning of the mutant saga is just as diverse, stylish and powerful as the “superheroes” it’s about. You’ll leave wishing the Cold War had never ended. But it’s the perfect summer blockbuster that will obviously have a sequel and will certainly make a handful of somewhat recognizable faces into Hollywood stars.
- Super 8 – See-it – Super 8 is as “mint” as a summer blockbuster can be these days, pairing Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams in a sci-fi adventure about a group of small town kids who accidentally capture a shocking military secret on film. It falls somewhere between Goonies, Stand By Me, E.T. and Close Encounter of the Third Kind. And don’t leave the theater until you see the kid’s homemade zombie film roll during the credits.
- Midnight in Paris – Rent-it – It’s a typical Woody Allen film starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, and Adrien Brody about an engaged couple who travels to Paris where their lives are – individually – changed forever. Fans will embrace it, millennials will be bored.
- Kung Fu Panda 2 – See-it – The lovable, overweight, martial arts panda Po (Jack Black) and the Furious Five (Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Angelina Jolie, and Jackie Chan) are back at it again, literally, it is basically the same story. Despite that, Kung Fu Panda is a well-proportioned (not fat or big-boned) balance of action and comedy making it largely entertaining for children and adults.
- Bridesmaids – See-it – Kristen Wiig is officially the next big thing in comedy, and proves it in her leading role as a maid of honor in this R-rated, female-driven, Judd Apatow comedy.
- Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop – See-it – This documentary about Conan’s 6-month leave from TV, radio and internet doing stand-up on a 32-city music-and-comedy tour is as funny and intriguing as any documentary you will ever see. Even Letterman and Leno fans will ROTFL and even Conan’s haters will find some pleasure in the more raw moments caught on film.
- The Tree of Life – See-it if you can – Brad Pitt and Sean Penn somehow managed to star in a film that you’ve never heard of – which is a shame – because this story about a Midwestern family in the 1950’s is a splendid, emotional, rewarding, insightful, visual treat. Just be patient.
- Leap Year – See-it if you can – You will actually stress and worry about the main character’s body and soul in this Mexican film about a young journalist’s sadomasochistic affair.
- TrollHunter – See-it if you can – This Norwegian Blair-Witchy movie about a group of film students’ anti-government-conspiracy adventure to catch a real-life troll on camera will be re-made by Hollywood soon enough. Don’t wait for that version. See-it!
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon – See-it in 3-D – New This Week – The 3rd installment in Michael Bay’s series about giant alien robots battling on earth is better than the 2nd, not quite as good as as the first, but definitely 10x better than most critics are saying. It’s the perfect Independence Day film full of 3-D action – possibly the best 3-D action since Avatar – and, surprisingly, tons of laughs! Go see-it and we will rub the box office numbers in those snobby critics’ faces.
Ten other films in theaters that didn’t make the top ten…
- The Trip – See-it if you can – This art house comedy has a reality-TV/documentary look to it, but don’t let that fool you, this film about two men’s odyssey through the English countryside is a smart and illuminating back-seat observation about men and the friendships of men. See-it if you can.
- Terri – See-it if you can – New This Week – This moving comedy about an overweight misfit named Terri and his high school vice-principal (John C. Reilly) was a hit at the Sundance 2011 Film Festival – you will laugh and cry and find out why if you get a chance to see-it.
- Page One: Inside the New York Times – See-it if you can – As a journalist I am biased, but this documentary gives us an unprecedented inside look inside the media desk at The New York Times as it attempts to save an industry dying to convert from print to the digital age.
- Cars 2 – Rent-it – This is a rare summer sequel that is better than the first as Pixar’s animated cars voiced by Owen Wilson and Larry The Cable Guy head overseas in a competition for the world’s fastest car.
- Larry Crowne – Wait-for-it – New This Week – This rom-com is neither funny nor romantic, but the chemistry between Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts is believable and there is some post-retirement life lesson here… somewhere. So watch it on ABC in 10 years or show it to your dad on Netflix in a few months.
- Bad Teacher – Wait-for-it – Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake, and Jason Segel star in the completely wrong comedy about three high school teachers. If you’re interested in romantic comedy parody or just want to see Diaz’s charity car wash scene – this film is probably for you.
- Last Night – Wait-for-it – Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington are a happily married couple in NYC until 7 years into their marriage the wife meets the husband’s gorgeous colleague Eva Mendes who he’s never mentioned before. Yadda, yadda, yadda, a drunken business trip ensues.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – Skip-it – Everything you loved about the first Pirates film, and clung to in the 2nd and 3rd, is lost at sea in this overly 3D, obnoxiously loud, fourth film that proves Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow character was best at amusing one-line commentary on the solid acting by now missing Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom.
- The Perfect Host – Skip-it – New This Week – David Hyde Pierce (Dr. Niles Crane from TV’s Frasier) is the perfect host of this dinner party that goes 90 minutes too long. The intriguing twist in the plot would have made a better short than a feature film. You could rent-it and quickly “drive-thru” but I’d say skip it altogether.
- Monte Carlo – Skip-it – New This Week – It’s an enchanting and charming tale for teenage girls about three young women travelling to Paris post-graduation and the romanticly royal world they discover – boyfriends, go watch Transformers 3 while your girl giggles at this.
…and the five worst films in theaters:
- Mr. Popper’s Penguins – Skip-it – This Jim Carrey family comedy has certainly flown under the radar. And it’s not because penguins can’t fly. As my good friend Ryan Beltz (@RJB1983) put it: “Jim Carrey has obviously decided at this point in his career he is going to follow down the Eddie Murphy road of comedy #talktoanimals”
- The Hangover Part II – Skip-it – Excedrin and Gatorade won’t make you feel any better after watching this even raunchier sequel with about 1/10th the LOLs of the first film.
- Green Lantern – Skip-it – If you don’t know anything about the comic book superhero’s mythology and need a completely adolescent explanation in an obnoxiously loud, visual-effect vomiting fashion, you might mildly enjoy this film. Otherwise, skip-it.
- Love Wedding Marriage – Skip-it – Mandy Moore and Kellan Lutz (one of the Cullen vampires from Twilight) might sweep the Razzies with this “comedy” that will actually leave you awkwardly waiting for a pity laugh you feel so bad for it.
- Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer – Skip-it – Unless you’re actually interested in something self-described as “supermegatotallythrilladelic” and/or you are 5 years old you will be utterly bored, annoyed and angry simultaneously while watching this 90-minute story of a brother and sister’s summer “adventure” – skip this movie based on the popular children’s book series.
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