Blockbuster Weekend

‘The Lone Ranger,’ ‘The Heat’ & More Movies to See or Skip July 4

All the movies to see or skip this weekend, from ‘White House Down’ to ‘The Lone Ranger’ and more.

It’s not all sun, suds, and BBQ-filled celebrations—Independence Day is one of the biggest moviegoing weekends of the year, and there’s plenty to choose from at the multiplex. There are family films like Monsters University and Despicable Me 2; blockbuster action flicks White House Down and The Lone Ranger; and art house movies by celebrated auteurs, such as Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring and Pedro Almodóvar’s I’m So Excited. Here are The Daily Beast’s picks to see or skip this holiday weekend. —By Marlow Stern

Reiner Bajo/Sony Pictures,Reiner Bajo

SEE

White House Down

Filmmaker Roland Emmerich specializes in big, loud, outrageous blockbusters and has a history of blowing up the box office on Fourth of July weekend (see: Independence Day). In White House Down, U.S. Capitol Police officer John Cale (Channing Tatum) is touring the White House with his young daughter when it’s attacked and taken over by a group of mercenaries, leaving Cale in charge of protecting the president, played by Jamie Foxx, and saving the day. The plot is ludicrous, and the film is basically a less witty and entertaining version of The Rock, but there’s plenty of bang for your buck, and Tatum makes for a solid action hero. So if it’s mindless blockbuster entertainment you’re after, this is the ticket.

Peter Mountain/Disney Enterprises,Peter Mountain

SKIP

The Lone Ranger

Director Gore Verbinski made Johnny Depp a blockbuster star a decade ago with Pirates of the Caribbean, and now the two have reteamed for this action-Western based on the celebrated radio serials. Depp plays Tonto, a Native-American spirit warrior who teams up with John Reid (Armie Hammer), a lawman who is brought back from the dead, to fight corruption in the Old West. All $250 million of the rumored budget is up there on the screen, and Depp and Hammer do their best to make the proceedings fun, but at 2.5 hours—and crammed with monotonous, seemingly repetitive action sequences—The Lone Ranger is a messy, overlong, and tonally inconsistent flick.

Disney/Pixar,Pixar

SEE

Monsters University

Pixar looked like it was in trouble. Its last two films, Cars 2 and Brave, were uninspired efforts that were a far, far cry from the greatness we’re used to, and its big-name filmmakers Brad Bird and Andrew Stanton had jumped over to the live-action realm. Thankfully, the CGI dream factory’s latest, Monsters University, delivers the goods. Directed by Dan Scanlon, the film is a prequel to 2001’s Monsters Inc. and centers on monsters Mike (voiced by Billy Crystal) and Sulley (voiced by John Goodman) during their days as rivals at Monsters University. While not the most original film—it’s a prequel, after all—the visuals are stunning, and there are some fantastic supporting characters, including the stern Dean Hardscrabble (voiced by Helen Mirren), and Art, a hilarious frat member voiced by Charlie Day.

Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment

SKIP

Despicable Me 2

This sequel to 2010’s CGI-animated film Despicable Me, a surprise hit grossing $543 million worldwide off a $69 million budget, once again follows Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), a would-be super villain. When Vector (voiced by Jason Segel) steals the Great Pyramid of Giza, Gru must do him one better: shrink and steal the moon. But, once again, Gru runs into constant roadblocks during his mission, including three orphan girls who warm his cold heart. While the animation is still top-notch and the story hasn’t lost all its charm, this sequel is a basically a retread of its predecessor with fewer cool gadgets and witty jokes.

Suzanne Hanover/Columbia Pictures,Suzanne Hanover

SEE

This Is the End

Based on the 2007 short Seth and Jay Versus the Apocalypse, this is the directorial debut of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the writing team behind Superbad. It’s an apocalyptic comedy featuring a gaggle of A-list stars from the Apatow universe playing exaggerated versions of themselves, including Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson. The six so-called friends become trapped in Franco’s house after a raucous party, just as the apocalypse strikes. While the film occasionally feels like an extended Funny or Die sketch and the final third drags a little, the laughs are fast and furious, highlighted by a hilarious vocal interplay between Franco and McBride about masturbation habits, as well as a number of cameos by the likes of Emma Watson, Michael Cera, Rihanna, and others.

Gemma La Mana/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation ,Photo: Gemma La Mana

SKIP

The Heat

Director Paul Feig’s follow-up to the 2011 hit Bridesmaids sees him reteam with Melissa McCarthy for a rowdy, R-rated all-female buddy cop comedy. FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is a ferocious go-getter at work who has no friends as a result. With a promotion in her crosshairs, she’s assigned to track a murderer who’s chopping up bodies in Boston, and she must join forces with local Det. Shannon Mullins (McCarthy) to catch the perp. While Ashburn goes by the book, refusing even to curse on the job, Mullins’s modus operandi involves swearing like a trucker and cracking skulls. The chemistry between Bullock and McCarthy is pretty solid, and it’s about time we saw an all-female buddy cop film, but only about 40 percent of the jokes land, and McCarthy’s endless string of F-bombs eventually gets tiring. Also, the best sequence in the film is when McCarthy and Bullock get piss drunk together. It really makes you wish for more such bonding scenes.

Jaap Buitendijk/Paramount Pictures,Photo credit: Jaap Buitendijk

SEE

World War Z

There was plenty of bad buzz surrounding filmmaker Marc Forster’s zombie epic World War Z before it hit theaters, including reshoots, a new ending, a team of script-fixers, a ballooning budget—north of $200 million—and rumored infighting between Forster and his star-producer, Brad Pitt. But miraculously, the 3-D film is an entertaining blockbuster-thriller featuring a strong performance by Pitt as a father and former U.N. worker who splits from his family to investigate the origins of a zombie pandemic, traveling to South Korea, Israel, and the U.K. The siege of Jerusalem sequence is worth the price of admission alone, as is the performance of Daniella Kertesz as a badass female Israeli soldier who helps Pitt on his mission.

Clay Enos/Warner Bros. Pictures,Clay Enos

SKIP

Man of Steel

Zack Snyder’s $225 million Superman reboot essentially combines the plot of the first two Superman films into one, weaving flashbacks of Clark Kent’s (Henry Cavill) life growing up on a farm in rural Kansas with the present, as he discovers his otherworldly identity and squares off against the power-hungry General Zod (Michael Shannon), who wants to annihilate the human race. While the early scenes on Krypton are fascinating, including Russell Crowe’s noble turn as Superman’s father, Jor-El, the film soon devolves into a monotonous loop of bodies being hurled through buildings. There’s also precious little chemistry between Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and Superman, and all the fun and eye winking have been sucked out of our superhero ideal, replaced with a brooding, reticent superhero.

A24 Films

SEE

The Bling Ring

The Bling Ring is based on a true story and centers on a group of privileged, celebrity-obsessed Angeleno teens who loot unsuspecting celebs’ homes while they’re away on film shoots. With the exception of Emma Watson, filmmaker Sofia Coppola shrewdly cast a group of unknown actors, who in turn deliver fine, naturalistic performances. (Watson is also excellent, and nails down the Valley Girl inflection.) The camera work by the late Harris Savides is fantastic, including a robbery sequence filmed on a hill overlooking a mansion that is one of the most exquisitely shot scenes of the year to date. Plus, the soundtrack is infectious.

Paola Ardizzoni/Emilio /Sony Pictures Classics,©Paola Ardizzoni/Emilio Pereda

SKIP

I’m So Excited

Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar has been rather hit (The Skin I Live In) or miss (Broken Embraces) of late. Unfortunately, this zany comedy about an airline crew trying to cheer up their passengers when it’s discovered the plane is probably going to crash is packed with tired jokes and recycled conflicts, and is far too campy for its own good. It’s trying to be a hilarious sex-farce when it’s really closer to a series of telenovela story lines strung together—or perhaps it’s a far less witty version of the comedy classic Airplane. I think Almodóvar still has some gas left in the tank, but this still ranks among his worst efforts.