At the Multiplex

Movies to See, Skip Memorial Day Weekend: ‘Hangover 3,’ ‘Fast 6’ (Photos)

Marlow Stern on the films to check out (Before Midnight) or avoid (Hangover III) this holiday weekend.

Clockwise from top left: Sony Pictures Classics; Warner Bros. (2); Universal

Clockwise from top left: Sony Pictures Classics; Warner Bros. (2); Universal

Memorial Day weekend is one of the biggest weekends of the year at the movies, as families—including college graduates—flock to the cinemas to check out the latest fare. And a bevy of new films are opening, including Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight, the third film in the Before Sunrise trilogy; R-rated comedy The Hangover Part III; and the action extravaganza Fast & Furious 6. Before heading over to your local movie theater, check out The Daily Beast’s guide to which movies you should see and which you should skip this holiday weekend. 

Despina Spyrou/Sony Pictures Classics

SEE: ‘Before Midnight’

The third film in Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise trilogy is set exactly nine years after the previous installment, 2004’s Before Sunset (which was set exactly nine years before the first film, 1995’s Before Sunrise). Now, American author Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and his French love, Celine (Julie Delpy), are living as a family in Paris, and are the parents of twin girls. Friction arises between the couple during a family vacation in Greece, as Jesse struggles to balance his current family with the one he left behind. The film, written by Hawke, Delpy, and Linklater, is utterly brilliant, and the best so far in the trilogy. All of the couple’s pent-up frustrations come to a head in a 30-minute hotel-room sequence that is nothing short of mesmerizing, and features arguably the best performance by Hawke since Training Day. It’s one of the best films of the year (so far).

Melinda Sue Gordon/Warner Bros.

SKIP: ‘The Hangover Part III’

Critics have been downright brutal to the third installment in Todd Phillips’ R-rated comedy franchise, The Hangover Part III. The second installment, set in Bangkok, was a smash hit, earning more than $581 million worldwide despite negative reviews. This film brings The Wolf Pack—Phil (Bradley Cooper), Alan (Zach Galifianakis), and Stu (Ed Helms)—back to Vegas and does away with the whole morning-after-partying conceit. Instead, Doug (Justin Bartha) is kidnapped by a gangster, played by John Goodman, all because the Chinese master criminal Leslie Chow (Ken Jeong) took his gold, so The Wolf Pack must locate Chow, and the gold, before it’s too late. The film is brutally unfunny, with New York magazine calling it “nothing short of a tragedy,” and The New York Times saying it “has a claim to be the year’s worst star-driven movie.”

Paramount Pictures

SEE: ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’

J.J. Abrams’s highly anticipated sequel to 2009’s Star Trek sees the whole crew of the Starship Enterprise—Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and the rest—return to square off against a mysterious terrorist by the name of John Harrison, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. The Enterprise must travel all the way to the Klingon homeworld to find him, and they soon discover that Harrison is far more than meets the eye. The film looks gorgeous, especially an opening sequence involving a volcano eruption on a primitive planet, and the performances are all first-rate—in particular Pine and the baritone-voiced Cumberbatch as the slick villain. Be sure to see it in IMAX for the full effect.

Giles Keyte/Universal Pictures

SKIP: ‘Fast & Furious 6’

Set in Rio, Fast Five was a fantastic rejiggering of The Fast and the Furious franchise that transformed the tired—and limiting—car-racing formula into an Italian Job–style heist. It was not only one of the best action films in recent memory, but one of the best films of 2011. Fast & Furious 6 sees Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) crew, including his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), and the rest, in London. In order to clear their identities, Diplomatic Security Service agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) tasks them with bringing down Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), a former British Special Forces soldier heading a hijacking crew alongside Toretto’s former flame, Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez). Whereas the previous entry was hilarious fun, this franchise entry buries the laughs in favor of more high-octane action sequences, with varying results.

Disney/Marvel Studios, via AP

SEE: ‘Iron Man 3’

Directed by franchise newcomer Shane Black, the third installment in the Iron Man Marvel superhero movies sees Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) get his house leveled, presumably by a bin Laden–like terrorist, The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). This sends Stark on a mission, sans suit, to discover more about the origins of The Mandarin, and why people are mysteriously overheating and exploding. But the best thing about Iron Man 3 is Downey Jr., who’s at his quippy, motor-mouthed best. In my review of the film, I wrote: “Iron Man 2 was a disappointing affair that spent far too much time on Tony’s love of pricey pageantry, but here, Black has made a good choice to send Tony on an investigation, sans Iron Man and Gucci suits. It’s not just a fact-finding mission but a soul-searching one as well, and gives audiences a good look at the vulnerability of Tony Stark, which is a big part of what makes him such an intriguing, dynamic figure.”

Warner Bros.

SKIP: ‘The Great Gatsby’

In the time it takes for you to drive to the theater, find your seat, and watch filmmaker Baz Luhrmann’s laborious 143-minute 3-D take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s celebrated 1925 novel, replete with dizzying camerawork, vexing rap-jazz music, and shoddy dialogue, you could probably have read the book. Go and do that, for despite the alluring presence of Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role, as well as Carey Mulligan’s elegant turn as the apple of his eye, Daisy, the film is a bore. In my review of the film, I wrote, “Fitzgerald’s novel is, after all, a cautionary tale about the decline of the American empire, drowning itself in a sea of excess. The empire, of course, didn’t fall. So over the years, the saga of James Gatz has been appropriated by the victors into a celebration of the very excess it abhorred. A similar thing happened to Oliver Stone’s 1987 film Wall Street, which is now a favorite among budding Masters of the Universe. The Australian filmmaker Luhrmann, best known for the boisterous bohemian musical Moulin Rouge!, revels in the glitz and glamour of the Roaring ’20s, completely losing sight of the story’s central message.”

Pine District/IFC Films

SEE: ‘Frances Ha’

Writer-director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) teamed up with his Greenberg star—and real-life flame—Greta Gerwig to craft the splendidly modest black-and-white film Frances Ha. The film stars Gerwig (who also co-wrote it) as Frances, 27—an idiosyncratic, free-spirited aspiring modern dancer living in Brooklyn. Her world gets torn to shreds when her roommate and best friend, Sophie (Mickey Sumner, the daughter of Sting), gets engaged and moves out. Sophie then ends up shacking with a couple of entitled Brooklyn hipsters, Lev (Girls’ Adam Driver) and Benji (Michael Zegen), as she searches for some stability in her life. The film is surprisingly intimate, wonderfully written, and very, very real. But it is, first and foremost, a platform for the acting talents of Gerwig, who is outstanding as a directionless, twentysomething millennial.

Barry Wetcher/Lionsgate

SKIP: ‘The Big Wedding’

Written and directed by Justin Zackham (The Bucket List), The Big Wedding boasts a massive, star-studded cast, including Robert De Niro, Susan Sarandon, Diane Keaton, Amanda Seyfried, Katherine Heigl, Topher Grace, and Robin Williams. It’s set at—you guessed it—a big wedding, and is a remake of the 2006 French film Mon frère se marie (My brother is getting married). It’s also one of the worst reviewed movies of the year, with an 8 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. “Many Hollywood films are founded on privilege, but few are as open and nasty about their racism, misogyny, and homophobia,” wrote The Village Voice in their zero-star review. Yikes.

Jim Bridges/Roadside Attractions

SEE: ‘Mud’

Written and directed by Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter), this coming-of-age drama follows two Arkansas teen boys, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), who encounter a drifter named Mud (Matthew McConaughey) on a small island off the Mississippi River. Mud has a dark past, and is in hiding because a gang of criminals is hunting him. The boys soon find themselves helping Mud rebuild a boat so he can be reunited with the love of his life, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). The film is like a cross between Huckleberry Finn and Beasts of the Southern Wild and, in addition to its spot-on portrayal of a young Southern boy’s awkward transition to manhood, also features award-worthy turns by Sheridan (as the aforementioned boy), and McConaughey as the mystical title character.

Véro Boncompagni/Radius-TWC

SKIP: ‘Erased’

This disposable action film stars Aaron Eckhart as Ben Logan, a former CIA agent who goes on the run with his estranged teenage daughter, Amy (Liana Liberato), when his former employers mysteriously target them both. The film also features the gorgeous former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko, who also appears in the current films To The Wonder and Oblivion, as an ex-lover on his trail. It’s basically Eckhart doing his best Liam Neeson impersonation—albeit far less effectively—from the Taken films, and is nothing we haven’t seen before. “Viewed solely as a string of action sequences, Erased delivers the kind of dryly efficient, wearyingly familiar entertainment that already clogs too many of our movie screens,” wrote The New York Times.

Karin Bar/Sony Pictures Classics

SEE: ‘Fill the Void’

Written and directed by Rama Burshtein, the Israeli drama Fill the Void provides an inside glimpse of the ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jewish community in Tel Aviv. When the wealthy Rabbi Aharon’s (Chaim Sharir) wife, Esther (Renana Raz), dies in childbirth, the deceased woman’s family pressures their other daughter, 18-year-old Shira (Hadas Yaron), to marry her dead sister’s husband. “What the film makes clear, with unfailing sensitivity and wry humor, is that for Shira and her family the ordinary arrangements of living are freighted with moral and spiritual significance,” wrote The New York Times’ A.O. Scott.