During its entire first hour, and at random times during its second, Now You See Me 2 is something I never thought it would be: fun.


At nearly any given moment in its two-hour running length, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster has the power to make you laugh or cry. If you choose to laugh out of derision or cry with frustration, that’s your business, and it’d be hard not to empathize with either reaction. If, however, you find yourself on Lanthimos’ and his movie’s shared, absurdist-deadpan wavelength, you might find the Greek writer/director’s latest tragicomedy – and first English-language one – both extraordinarily funny and almost embarrassingly moving. Never before has the mere sight of a Shetland pony made me chuckle, or well up once I registered exactly what it was I was chuckling at.

Friday, June 3, 10 a.m.-ish: Maybe it’s because I go the full eight-hours-plus without eating, but by the end of my latest quadruple feature, I can’t help but think of the day’s collective screenings as a cinematic four-course meal. In retrospect, I should’ve skipped dessert.


Michael Fassbender in X-Men: Apocalypse

Everyone knows that when the world is imperiled in a comic-book movie, the world is never truly in peril; it’s not like costumed characters, after the Earth’s destruction, are gonna take their in-fighting to Mars for the inevitable sequel. But despite its foreboding title, the stakes in director Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Apocalypse are particularly low, given that the action takes place in 1983, a full 17 years before the events of Singer’s 2000 X-Men. Clearly, as evidenced by the franchise forebears, Michael Fassbender’s Magneto and James McAvoy’s Charles Xavier will survive the climactic devastation, considering they still need to turn into Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart. Cyclops and Storm and Jean Grey are all on safe ground, as are Mystique and Beast and Nightcrawler. The winged bad guy Angel can probably go, unless he finds a way to remain a teenager for two-decades-plus and turn into 2006’s good-guy Angel. But are the filmmakers really going to kill off recent recruit Quicksilver when, as personified by Evan Peters, he’s been the best reason for the series’ last two films to exist?


The Angry Birds Movie

Like many adults, I tend to bemoan the prevalence of easy fart, poop, pee-pee, and mucus jokes in animated kids’ movies – conveniently forgetting, of course, that when you’re a kid, those jokes tend to be hysterical. Well, this past weekend brought with it The Angry Birds Movie, and I guess I don’t have to tell you that it, too, boasts a fair share of gross gags for the pre-teen set. But I should perhaps mention that when a giant eagle voiced by Peter Dinklage took a full minute to urinate, visibly and loudly, and a trio of birds stared at the repellent sight with unblinking, slack-jawed disgust, I would’ve better registered the audience’s delight if I myself weren’t laughing too hard to hear them.


In Money Monster’s opening sequence, you can sense director Jodie Foster and her cast going for the slick, workplace-comedy pizzazz of Aaron Sorkin’s walk-and-talks in The West Wing and Steve Jobs and not quite getting there. George Clooney, as the braying host of a Mad Money-esque financial-advice program, alternately smooth-talks and ignores technicians and guests minutes before air time, and Julia Roberts, as the show’s director, trails him with exasperated good humor. Yet something feels off. You recognize the jokes as jokes, but because they’re delivered with such over-calculated disregard and nobody appears emotionally connected to their dialogue, they’re not very funny. However, right after the live broadcast begins, a young man with a gun and bomb-lined jacket interrupts the proceedings, and threatens to kill the host unless his demands are met. And then the oddest thing happens: Money Monster starts to become really funny.


It’s no secret that Marvel Studios routinely tosses a bonus scene or two into the end credits of its comic-book movies as a means of jacking up anticipation for adventures, and Avengers, yet to come. I rarely stay for these things, as I’m usually more than ready to leave the auditorium by the time “Directed by ...” flashes on-screen, and I didn’t stick around for the credit cookies in Captain America: Civil War, either. (From what I understand, one of them is designed to build interest in Ryan Coogler’s forthcoming Black Panther. Personally, I was on-board with the project the instant I saw Coogler’s name attached.) But about halfway through the good Captain’s new solo outing – one that’s really an Avengers sequel in everything but title – I suddenly found myself nearly giddy with excitement for an upcoming Marvel flick without having to wait for the inevitable teasers. Halfway through, you see, is when Spider-Man arrives.


In the first minutes of Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some!!, freshman pitcher Jake (Blake Jenner), at the tail end of a 1980 summer, arrives at his new college digs: a frat-less frat house populated entirely by fellow members of his baseball team. Upon entering, he walks to the kitchen, and the moment he gets there, the kitchen’s ceiling cracks and crunches and ever-so-slightly caves in; the guys upstairs, it turns out, have been filling a waterbed that’s clearly heavier than the second floor will allow. They come down to survey the damage, which is considerable. They marvel at how bad things almost got. And then they pop open some beers and move on to other matters.


One of the most revered sketches from Comedy Central’s Key & Peele – the sublime Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele series that ended its five-year run in September – is titled “Phone Call.” In it, Key stands at a street corner talking with his wife on his phone, sweetly promising to take her to the theatre. Out of a nearby building walks Peele in a black jacket and baggy jeans, dialing his own cell as he approaches the crosswalk. The men make fleeting, wary eye contact, and after they do, Key’s yuppie, assuming the role of street tough, resumes his conversation substituting “dem” for “them” and “dat” for “that,” and telling his wife, “I’mo’ pick yo’ ass up at 6:30, den!” Peele, who began his own phone convo with “’Sup, dawg?”, gives Key a nod of recognition and crosses the street. But the instant Key is out of earshot, Peele’s own tough-guy façade crumbles with his phone friend. “Oh my God, Christian,” he says with swishy panic, “I almost totally just got mugged right now!”

Chris Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain in The Huntsman: Winter's WarTHE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR

Imagine a live-action version of Disney’s Frozen minus the songs and charm, and designed by the production team behind HBO’s Game of Thrones. That’s The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Now stop imagining that, because it’ll give you nightmares – though probably more coherent ones than the nightmare that is this tonally baffling hodgepodge of suffocating seriousness, incoherently staged combat, and baggy-pants comedy.