To those up for a July 4th trip to the movies, our critic David Edelstein has some recommendations:
Here's the problem facing a critic telling you what to see around July 4th. You have "Incredibles 2," "Jurassic World Whatever," and some Marvel insect-superhero nonsense, they're on 18 different screens at the multiplex (in IMAX, 3-D, 2-D, Smell-o-Vision). The great smaller films are harder to find because there's this vast gulf, this distribution chasm, between movies budgeted at a zillion dollars and everything else.
So, I'll split the difference. First, the big.
In the event you haven't seen "Incredibles 2," go, not because it's a terrific animated movie, but because it's proof that someone (not just anyone, director Brad Bird) can make a superhero picture that's fleet and shapely, with action sequences that are stylish, rather than bloated and noisy.
That said, Marvel – however much it gobbles up screens – has its virtues. "Ant Man and the Wasp," which opens Friday, is an agreeable, family-friendly slapstick comedy, over-busy but with good sight gags in which the Ant Man and Wasp go teeny, then HUGE, then teeny again, so you laugh at every crazy lurch in scale.
On the other hand, "Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom" proves the kingdom hasn't fallen far enough. The first time a dino chases a little girl around a house is exciting; the second, less so; and by the third, the movie's just chasing its own dumb tail.
Getting into weirder territory: If you're one of those nutty masochists who lives to be emotionally ripped to shreds by horror movies, the love of your life might be "Hereditary," with Toni Collette in a performance almost too raw, as a woman who can't tell if demons are infesting her family or if it's just, you know, dysfunctional family business as usual … or both! (Spoiler: It's both.)
Almost as masochistic, and devastating, is Paul Schrader's brilliant "First Reformed," in which Ethan Hawke plays an alcoholic pastor torn apart by the church's failure to act in the face of environmental catastrophe.
Look for two documentaries – one enraging, the other healing. "Three Identical Strangers" centers on triplets adopted by three different families who meet by chance and bond as if they'd known one another all their lives.
But what begins as a goofy, "Parent Trap"-like tale in which Nature trumps Nurture drifts into more horrific, tragic territory – a diabolical study that will confirm your worst fears about science and the government.
For your best hopes, see "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" and celebrate Fred Rogers, who loved you unconditionally. It's a wonderful breather from reality – from which you come back more dismayed than ever by the hate that runs the world.
And mark down on your calendar July 13, opening day of comedian Bo Burnham's debut feature "Eighth Grade," starring an amazing girl named Elsie Fisher.
If there's a more wrenching, more hauntingly accurate portrait of growing up now, well, I'm not sure I could take it.
Story produced by Aria Shavelson.