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Fourth of July Weekend ’14 Movies to See or Skip: ‘Tammy,’ ‘Begin Again,’ ‘Transformers,’ More

All the movies to see (or skip) over Independence Day, from the Melissa McCarthy dramedy ‘Tammy’ to the crappy new ‘Transformers’ flick.

Michael Tackett

Michael Tackett

Fourth of July Weekend '14 Movies to See or Skip: 'Tammy,' 'Begin Again,' 'Transformers,' More

Whether it’s Tropical Storm Arthur barreling toward the Northeast and threatening to ruin your Fourth of July plans, or you just need to take a breather from all the booze, BBQ, and fireworks, there are plenty of joys to be had at the cinema this Independence Day. But nobody wants their holiday ruined by wasting their hard-earned dough on a total dog. So, from the Melissa McCarthy-starrer Tammy to the charming musical flick Begin Again, here are our recommendations for which movies to see or skip.

Andrew Schwartz

SEE: ‘Begin Again’

Seven years ago, filmmaker John Carney won us over with Once—the romantic tale of a lonely busker falling for a young Czech flower girl in Dublin. The film won the Oscar for Best Song (“Falling Slowly”), and has since spawned a hit Broadway musical. While Once is a ballad about two actors falling in love onscreen, his long-awaited follow-up, Begin Again, is a catchy pop ode to the Big Apple. The film centers on Gretta (Keira Knightley), a burgeoning singer-songwriter who was dumped by her far more popular musician-boyfriend, Dave (Adam Levine, of Maroon 5—bear with me). One evening, Dan (Mark Ruffalo), an over-the-hill record exec, catches Gretta performing in a Downtown Manhattan watering hole and thinks he’s just discovered the next big thing. Together, the two record an album in different locations all over Manhattan. It’s a delightful gem of a film. Your biggest issue will be getting the tune “Lost Stars” out of your head.

Keith Bernstein

SKIP: ‘Jersey Boys’

Further evidence of Clint Eastwood’s artistic decline is this, a middling, aesthetically wanting adaptation of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical about the Jersey musical group the Four Seasons. Like J. Edgar and Hereafter before it, the film is languid and lifeless; a puzzling tableau chock full of Italian-American clichés, uninspired camerawork, and pedestrian performances—save Christopher Walken, who impresses as a Mafia don. Yes, the musical numbers are catchy, but the rest of it will send you into a movie coma. If it’s a musical flick you’re after, go check out Begin Again, or if you’re jonesing for a walk down memory lane, rent the charming That Thing You Do! 

JoJo Whilden

SEE: ‘They Came Together’

The filmmaking team of David Wain and Michael Showalter has reunited with many of their cast members from the cult classic Wet Hot American Summer for this very funny satire on tired romantic comedy tropes. Joel (Paul Rudd) works for a corporate candy firm that’s threatening to shut down the cute lil’ Upper West Side candy store of Molly, played by the wonderful Amy Poehler. Yes, the film is a bit too messy and self-aware for its own good, but many of the jokes land with a bang, and the ensemble cast—which includes Christopher Meloni, Max Greenfield, Ed Helms, Cobie Smulders, Bill Hader, Michael Ian Black, etc.—is terrific.

Michael Tackett

SKIP: 'Tammy'

Written by real-life couple Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone—the latter played the Air Marshal that McCarthy relentlessly hits on in Bridesmaids—and marking the directorial debut of Falcone, this tone-deaf film stars comedy god McCarthy as Tammy, a thirty-something who, after getting axed from her job and catching her hubby cheating, goes on a wild road trip with her grandma, played by Susan Sarandon. But Thelma & Louise this is not. There’s really not much of a script here; the film merely moves from uninspired set piece to uninspired set piece—Drunken donuts! A Jet-skiing accident! A bungled robbery!—and if that weren’t enough, midway through tries to transition into a drama, with confused results. A misfire for the tremendously talented McCarthy.

SEE: 'Snowpiercer’

This is, with the exception of the Richard Linklater masterpiece Boyhood that will drop next week, the best film of 2014 so far. The latest flick from South Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho, who thrilled us with the creature feature The Host and shocked us with the disturbing Freudian whodunit, Mother, is back with this post-apocalyptic sci-fi instant classic about a group of survivors in 2031 aboard the titular perpetual-motion trail that goes around on a globe-spanning track. The train is divided by class, with the elites, led by Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton in fantastic aging makeup) at the front and the poor at the tail. Curtis (Chris Evans), one of the poor, leads a rebellion with the aim of upending the rigid class system. Joon-ho’s film is ambitious, action-packed, and visually stunning.

SKIP: ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’

In this pointless mid-franchise reboot, Marky Mark steps into the shoes once filled by Shia LaBeouf as a concerned father caught in the middle of the ongoing/never-ending/explosion-filled/pointless intergalactic war between the Autobots and Decepticons. Michael Bay wants your money, folks. That’s all. The film can be summed up by this exchange: a vagina-shaped Transformer ejaculating all over robot John Goodman. Pass.

MATT NETTHEIM

SEE: 'The Rover'

Breaking: Robert Pattinson can act. The brooding British model-cum-actor, who got a bad rap for his sparkly vampire turn in the Twilight films, emitted icy cool in Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis but here, as the callow brother of a notorious criminal, Pattinson delivers his best performance to date, displaying heretofore unforeseen levels of sensitivity and grace. And the film is pretty damn good, too. Directed by David Michod (Animal Kingdom), it’s a spiritual cousin to Mad Max set in the futuristic hellhole of the Australian outback. Eric (Guy Pearce) gets his car stolen by Pattinson’s no-good brother, so the two join forces to reclaim his wheels, as well as their will to live. It’s a bleak, nihilistic barnburner of a film packed with high-wire performances and machismo to spare.

Courtesy of Relativity Media

SKIP: "Earth to Echo'

A silly, sophomoric blend of E.T. and Wall-E—which I’m sure was the half-baked pitch that led a misguided studio exec to green-light such a misfire—this coming-of-age tale about a trio of kids who receive a signal on their cellphones leading them to a cute lil’ alien critter stranded on Earth had a very hard time finding a studio to distribute it—and with good reason. It’s a hodge-podge of well-worn gimmicks, e.g. shaky cam, found footage, cute aliens, compassionate kids, that brings nothing new to the table. The young actors give it their all, but even at 82 minutes, the film is slow and lame, like a Disney Channel/SyFy love child.

Glen Wilson

SEE: '22 Jump Street'

The first installment, 21 Jump Street, was one of the biggest surprises of 2012. Now, the entire gang (minus Brie Larson) is back for this pumped-up sequel. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The Lego Movie) as well as undercover cop BFFs Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are all in top form, allowing this overpopulated ship to glide along smoothly thanks to their winning chemistry. The film, which sees the two fellas infiltrate a college drug ring, is a bit too self-referential at times, but nearly all the gags land, and many of them will have you howling in the aisles. A big bright spot is Workaholics star Jillian Bell, who steals every scene she's in as a sarcastic college gal.

Matt Kennedy

SKIP: 'Think Like A Man Too'

The cast of the first film/surprise hit, including Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrara, Romany Malco, etc., have all reunited for a wedding in Vegas in this bloated, unfunny, and wildly unnecessary cash-courting sequel. Hart and his merry band of bros hit up all the spots you'd expect of a Vegas-set comedy--the pools, the casinos, the strip clubs--and even, at one point, proclaim, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." Really. Despite the comedic talents of Hart, Think Like A Man Too is D.O.A.

SEE: ‘Life Itself’

Hands-down the film to beat for the Best Documentary Oscar. What a perfect marriage of director and subject: Steve James, the master documentarian with a gift for exposing the humanity in his subjects, whether it's the would-be basketball stars of Hoop Dreams or the gang-busters in The Interrupters, and Roger Ebert, the late, great film critic who imbued his writing with great humanity. James' adaptation of Ebert's memoir of the same name traces his rise from the only child of a bookkeeper and an electrician in Urbana, Illinois, to his struggles with booze and women, to becoming the most celebrated film critic ever. But it's his heroism in the face of the cancer that stole his jaw, voice, and ability to eat--but never his creativity or inspiration—that makes this story unforgettable. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up.