It’s officially that time of the year to escape into your local air-conditioned movie theater. Luckily, this weekend’s new releases give us plenty of reason to beat the heat in the multiplex—with a superhero sequel, a much anticipated in-depth documentary, a politically pointed horror prequel, a bone-chilling exercise in Scandinavian gallows humor, and…whatever you want to call Sorry to Bother You. All of these movies put our contemporary condition under a microscope (and through a kaleidoscope), and even while they keep you cool, they’re guaranteed to make you think. Or at least, drink. Please enjoy this cinema responsibly:
The First Purge
Uh, is it just us, or are these movies starting to feel more and more like documentaries? While horror franchises like The Purge saga may not be for everyone, there’s no denying their social relevance. This prequel is unique because what it reveals changes the premise of the saga itself: That the Purge might not have succeeded had it developed more, let’s say, organically.
But with various US states increasingly experiencing states of emergency due to natural disasters, pollution crises, riots, and addiction epidemics, the idea that feeling panicked and unsafe could be relegated to one twelve-hour period per year is kind of seductive. It beats full-time survivalism, right? Yikes. If you like state-sanctioned violence with a side of class warfare, then The First Purge is the movie to watch with your most “wake up, sheeple” friend — we all have one. And if you don’t, it’s you.
Sorry To Bother You
Lakeith Stanfield. Tessa Thompson. Armie Hammer. Boots Riley. What’s not to like? If Michel Gondry directed Idiocracy, it still wouldn’t be as delicious, mind-bending, and biting as Sorry to Bother You, which takes on, among other things: Corporate oligarchies, respectability politics, and the laws of time and space. Some of us will have to wait a week or so until Sorry To Bother You gets a wider release, but for the lucky ones who inhabit the major metropolitan areas, don’t sleep on what’s sure to be one of the most talked-about movies of the year. As for us? Been there, done that, and already wrote the review.
It’s already been such a fabulous season for nonfiction film, what with the Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and the RBG of it all. Whitney promises to be a less inspirational documentary than a document of a tragedy. It’s a story of talent and trauma and love and addiction and secrets. There’s clearly a fascination surrounding Houston, her angelic voice, and her chaotic personal life — rapper Pusha T just used a photo of her bathroom for the cover of his album Daytona, in fact — but underneath all of the frenzy, there is some serious, resonant stuff. Whitney is and always will be an icon, among the most beloved and lauded vocalists of all time, and she deserves to be seen for that. She also deserves her humanity, and to be seen in all of her complexity as a woman, daughter, sister, mother, and partner. So go watch it with somebody (all together now) with somebody who loves you!
Ant-Man and the Wasp
It’s been seventy days since the last Marvel movie release. So much has happened since then! If you’re itching to go back to the days before Infinity War blew everything up, you’re in luck, because Paul Rudd’s charming, stubbly mug is back to shrink another day. We just have one question: Is it okay to root for (the) Ghost? The “health goth” gas mask and the power to glitch out (and walk through walls) is pretty dang cool, after all. Director Peyton Reed is back for a second rodeo with this obscure superhero storyline, and here’s a fun fact: He also made the cult high school comedy Bring it On. Hmm. That explains a lot, actually…
Under the Tree
This delightfully nasty little bit of Icelandic cinema is billed as a black comedy, but we have a feeling that any laughter it prompts will be the nervous kind…especially once the house pets in the trailer get involved! In the grand tradition of Yorgos Lanthimos and Michael Haneke, Under the Tree takes a domestic micro-drama and blows it up (into some seriously dark corners).
Everything here happens under the guise of bourgeoise civility and entitlement, rather than the cathartic chaos of The First Purge. Both new releases serve as perverse mirrors of one another, in fact: Under the Tree exposes the violent rage that lurks just beneath the surface, and The First Purge exposes the machinations behind what seems like anarchy. If you watch them both in one weekend, maybe you’ll get sucked into a quantum instability, like our favorite supervillain! Only one way to find out.