Not sure which new movie to see in theaters this week? Take my advice and either see-it, rent-it, skip-it, or wait-for-it to become available on HBO, Starz, or Netflix instant queue. Some films are in limited release, so see-it if you can. See #1 first then work your way down the list.
Here are the ten best movies playing in the majority of theaters around the nation as of Friday, June 24, 2011.
1. 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.
2. Super 8 – See-it – Super 8 is as “mint” as a summer blockbuster can be these days, pairing Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams to make 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 Encounters of the Third Kind. And don’t leave the theater until you see the kid’s homemade zombie film roll during the credits.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Thor – See-it – Something about an Australian swinging a hammer just didn’t strike me as “cool” superhero material, but Thor, like Iron Man, is comic-book movie gold, with the perfect mix of action and laughs, and brilliantly ironic direction by Kenneth Branagh. But boy do I feel bad for younger brother Liam Hemsworth who lost out to big brother Chris for the title role of a lifetime.
6. 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.
7. Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop – See-it – New This Week – 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.
8. Leap Year – See-it if you can – New This Week – 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.
9. 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!
10. 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.
Ten other films in theaters that didn’t make the top ten:
11. 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.
12. Cars 2 – Rent-it – New This Week – 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 to be the world’s fastest car.
13. Beginners – Rent-it – Ewan McGregor and Mélanie Laurent’s on-screen “romance” is so affectionate and sensitive it will make you too want to start all over from the begginning.
14. Beautiful Boy – Rent-it – Parents will feel for these parents Maria Bello and Michael Sheen, who struggle with “why” their son committed a mass shooting at his college and then took his own life. But the rest of us are left too far outside the story to really feel the emotions a story like this should portray.
15. Bride Flight – Rent-it – This sappy Dutch melodrama about three women immigrating to New Zealand to find their future husbands is as predictable and nostalgic as a candle-lit bubble bath.
16. Bad Teacher – Wait-for-it – New This Week – 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.
17. 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.
18. Kidnapped – Skip-it – This art house thriller is in a genre dying for something fresh and edgy – and the plot about a struggling family held hostage for money in their new home by three hooded men – sounds interesting. But it’s not. Skip it.
19. 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.
20. The Art of Getting By – Skip-it – A fairly typical coming-of-age rom-dram with some recognizable teenage faces in a story about a boy who made it to his senior year of high school without ever doing a real day of work. Reminds me of my life at 18 – so trust me, and skip it.
…And the five worst films in theaters:
21. 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”
22. 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.
23. 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.
24. 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.
25. 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.
Read weekly reviews of the top 10 best movies in theaters and 25 best new releases on DVD/Blu-ray here every week: Ryan Pratt – National Movie Examiner