By Emma Bernstein | The Playlist May 25, 2012 at 5:01PM
Fill up the cooler, slather on the sunscreen, and find all your white clothes that have been moldering in the back of the closet since Labor Day: it’s Memorial Day Weekend! This year, film studios are celebrating the armed forces and the unofficial start of summer with aliens, nuclear holocaust, drug addicts, and puppy love. So whether you’re on your way to the beach, to the plains, to the city, to the country, or just staying home to enjoy three-to-four days of freedom and fireworks, we wish you lots of happy movie watching!
Well-suited dudes in Ray-Bans are back to protect humans from “the scum of the universe” in “Men in Black III,” the third installment of the franchise, once again from director Barry Sonnenfeld. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return as Agents J and K, respectively, government agents that police alien activity throughout the universe. This iteration of the franchise sees J going back in time in order to protect K from a disgruntled extraterrestrial he put behind bars. See, the alien, a prison escapee, also plans to go back in time, where he will kill K before the agent can arrest him. Josh Brolin plays K’s younger self, and quite well, managing to adapt many of Jones’ cultivated behaviors perfectly. Our review says, “Smith and Brolin have an undeniable chemistry reminiscent of Smith and Jones in the first film, it is visually fantastic (this is one of the few 3D films out there actually worth seeing in 3D), and towards the end even manages to have an unexpected emotional kick,” and while “it might not be the most elegant or sophisticated summer blockbuster out there, but you won’t feel the desperate need to neurolize yourself afterwards, either.” Rotten Tomatoes: 66% Metacritic: 58
The horror genre takes on the terrors of nuclear fallout in the Bradley Parker-directed “Chernobyl Diaries,” opening this weekend. On vacation in Eastern Europe, four friends (Nathan Phillips, Jesse McCartney, Devin Kelly, and Olivia Dudley) decide to take the road less traveled, and follow a tour guide (Dimitri Diatchenko) into the Ukrainian city of Prypiat, once home to workers at the Chernobyl nuclear power station, abandoned when the station had its infamous meltdown in 1986. Of course, upon arrival, the American tourists and their guide realize the town isn’t quite as abandoned as expected, and the extreme sightseeing bent turns into a gory nightmare. Co-written and produced by Oren Peli, of “Paranormal Activity” fame, “Chernobyl Diaries” adopts the same extreme stylization of faux-found-footage done in Handycam, along with much of the former’s subject matter and tenor. A predictable script sticks to the genre standards and the actors generate little to no interest. Not much to see here but pretty faces that turn into pretty big messes. RT: no reviews yet MC: no score yet
Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom” also hits theaters this weekend. The film, co-written by Anderson and Roman Coppola, follows 12-year-old couple Suzy (Kara Hayward) and Sam (Jared Gilman), very much in love in 1960s New England, as they decide to run away from home. Their escape sends the town’s adults – Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, and Edward Norton – into a tizzy, illustrating their childlikeness in the face of quite adult behavior from the young heroes. Our review says the film, “like all of Anderson's films, is a very beautiful and funny movie about grief and sorrow, and the never-was 1965 the film takes place in is both a meticulously-crafted triumph of design and decor and an emotionally rich setting, full of objects you could almost reach out and touch, with feelings and yearnings that reach out to you.” RT: 97% MC: 82
Wealthy aesthete Philippe (Francois Cluzet) hires the down-on-his luck Driss (Omar Sy) to assist him after being paralyzed from the waist down in France’s “The Intouchables,” opening in limited release this weekend. Though Driss seemingly gets the job because he is the least unqualified in a long list of unqualified candidates Philippe has interviewed, he becomes ever more capable as he and Philippe develop a strong familial bond. And although initially skeptical of Philippe’s urbane ways, Driss eventually embraces them, while bringing street smarts to his counterpart’s sophistication. Our review says, “the film doesn’t miss a chance to draw a line between the sophistication of Philippe and the simplicity of Driss,” nor “miss a beat as far as following the formula of non-threatening crowd-pleasers,” ultimately finding the film crudely one-note in its concept of “one man as knowing all the words to the book, and the other understanding the code of the street.” RT: 80% MC: 56
“Oslo, August 31st,” the sophomore feature from Norwegian director Joachim Trier (“Reprise”), is a 24 hour visit to the titular city, counting down to the last day of August, as seen through the eyes of a recently rehabilitated heroin addict. Anders (Anders Danielsen Lie), now clean and unemployed, is looking for a job in Oslo so that he can give his life a fresh start. Throughout the day, he reconnects with people from his past, but doesn’t quite seem able to gain the hope or reconciliation he’s looking for in these brief meetings. Our review calls the film “an insider's postcard and love letter to Oslo, and a nostalgic reminder of youthful exuberance that gives way to middle age passivity,” and says that it “showcases a director with a tremendous talent for character and a striking, at times painterly, eye behind the camera.” RT: 96% MC: 81