Fourth of July evokes memories of fireworks, barbecues, parades...and some of movie history's biggest blockbusters (usually starring Will Smith). Going to the movies has been a holiday weekend tradition in my family since before my husband and I had kids, and sometimes it's nice (and necessary) to have a movie date night that doesn't include transforming dinosaurs or kid flicks. If you and your significant other have a few hours to deck out of the house and see a "grown-up" movie for a change, here are three suggestions.
The Weinstein Co.
So get a sitter, head to a theater near you, and walk right past the "Transformers" queue for a satisfying cinematic experience.
"Begin Again" (Rated R)
Directed by: John Carney | Starring: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine | Runtime: 101 minutes
Why It's Worth It: John Carney, who directed the charming musical love story "Once" is again mining the world of singer songwriters in his latest romantic feature. Knightley plays Gretta, a songwriter who moves with her personal and professional partner Dave (Levine, in his acting debut) to New York after he gets a major record deal. After Gretta predictably gets dumped by her cheating, rock-and-roll boyfriend, she ends up meeting Dan (Ruffalo), a just-fired record executive who thinks she's got that special something to make her a music star -- or at least a folksy indie album. Gretta and Dan have an easy rapport, and the director never makes their age difference seem creepy or his interest in her exploitative. Regardless of how you feel about Maroon 5, Levine does a killer job playing someone he must understand perfectly well, and Knightley turns up the charm to 11 (even without period dress!). Couples who loved "Once" will be happy to note that Glen Hansard contributed to the soundtrack. Music and love, what more could you ask for?
Critical Praise: "'Begin Again' may not always swing, but it makes up for that in sincerity and a welcome willingness to ambush expectations. "-- Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post; "Your heart and feet won't be able to resist what might be called -- despite the assumed objections of author Nick Hornby -- a 'High Fidelity' for the iPod generation." -- Matt Pais, Red Eye
"Edge of Tomorrow" (Rated PG-13)
Directed by: Doug Liman | Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt | Runtime: 113 minutes
Why It's Worth It: Think of the iconic Bill Murray comedy "Groundhog Day" and then reimagine it as a futuristic sci-fi war game. That's basically what Liman has done, with none other than Tom Cruise as the person whose life keeps resetting on the same day -- after he dies every. single. time. What makes "Edge of Tomorrow" so much fun is that Cruise, for once, isn't playing the kickass hero, Emily Blunt has that honor. Cruise's character is a cowardly military press officer who has absolutely zero battlefield experience. After angering a general, he's stripped of his rank and sent down to the front lines to fight the killer alien "Mimics." But after he teams up with Rita (Blunt), a scythe-wielding war hero nicknamed the "Angel of Verdun," he keeps finding her and learning how to become a better and better war machine. Their chemistry is intense, and Blunt has never looked more beautiful (despite being dirt smudged and cover in a sheen of sweat), so the romantic tension coupled with the action and funny dialogue should make for a perfect date night.
Critical Praise: "The conceit may sound constricting, but Liman (like Harold Ramis before him) gets exceptional mileage out of it, presenting his ever-revolving tale with visual style, narrative velocity, and a wonderful dose of dark humor. "-- Christopher Orr, The Atlantic; "In 'Edge of Tomorrow,' Mr. Liman brings Mr. Cruise's smile out of semiretirement and also gives him the kind of physical challenges at which he so brilliantly excels." -- Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
"Snowpiercer" (Rated R)
Directed by: Bong Joon-ho | Starring: Chris Evans, Ed Harris, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton | Runtime: 126 minutes
Why It's Worth It: Based on a French graphic novel this dystopian thriller is set in the year 2031 on a super long, long train called the Snowpiercer. The train houses the only living survivors of a global eco-catastrophe that has left Earth frozen and uninhabitable. Like on any train, passengers who live on the Snowpiercer (which goes around the world courtesy of a perpetual-motion engine) are divided by class -- the rich enjoy lives of luxury in the front half and the poor subsist on mush and resentment in the tail. Class warfare on a futuristic supertrain with an Eternal Engine? Sign us up -- especially if the head revolutionary is Curtis (Evans), whose had enough of the depravities endured by the steerage set. Some of violence is nearly unwatchable, but the action sequences are spectacular, and this is overall one of the most unique post-apocalyptic thrillers you'll see in a long while. And really, the main reason to see it is Tilda Swinton as a the duck-faced fascistic minister of the train, who believes in the classist idea of "know your place, keep your place."
Critical Praise: "[Bong Joon-ho] combines a great cast, a gripping idea and a gorgeously grimy retro aesthetic to keep this eerie examination of the train wreck of humanity racing along. " -- Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times; "Don't miss it -- this is enormously fun visionary filmmaking, with a witty script and a great international cast." -- Lou Lumenick, New York Post