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Inside Out 2, Hit Man, Furiosa, and More

Inside Out 2, Hit Man, Furiosa, and More

Somehow, summer is fully upon us (wasn’t January just last week?), which is already making us nostalgic for the first half of the year. Which movies aren’t just some of our favorites but ones we consider the best of 2024 so far? Zendaya and Austin Butler star in two of them, another didn’t get the credit at the box office it deserved, three feature some sizzling romance, and one has made an action star of a 94-year-young Oscar nominee. Read on for our thoughts on the movies that have risen above the rest so far this year.

Jeff Nichols’ The Bikeriders is a movie about nostalgia that itself feels like a product of a bygone era. “It’s like I was looking at a movie that was made in the ‘80s that has been part of pop culture for a really long time,” the writer-director told Entertainment Weekly of his latest film. Maybe that’s because it brings to life some of the iconic images from Danny Lyon’s 1968 photobook of the same name. Based on interviews Lyon recorded during his stint with the Outlaws Motorcycle Club, The Bikeriders chronicles the rise and fall of a fictional Chicago biker gang led by Tom Hardy’s Johnny and Austin Butler’s Benny. A love story at heart, the film is narrated by Jodie Comer’s Kathy, who falls for Benny after he sweeps her off her feet (literally) when they meet at a biker bar. Goodfellas on wheels, The Bikeriders romanticizes an alternative lifestyle forged with good intentions that ultimately spirals out of control.

Director Luca Guadagnino delivers the most delicious film of 2024 with Challengers, a love triangle between three tennis players whose codependency both threatens and amps up their game. Star tennis player Tashi Donaldson (Zendaya) finds herself caught between husband Art (Mike Faist), and washout former flame Patrick (Josh O’Connor), when the two meet in the titular Challengers match. The film experiments with audience expectations and camera angles, crafting a zippy, playful, electric tale of competition and eroticism. Anchored by three exhilarating performances, Challengers turns tennis into a metaphor for sex, probing the darker sides of ourselves with a knowing wink. Who knew tennis could be this titillating?

Alex Garland directed some of the most visionary sci-fi films of the past decade, but his newest one feels painfully real. Though much debated online, Civil War’s few political details (including an alliance between California and Texas against a fascistic federal government led by President Nick Offerman) aren’t as important as Garland’s poetic imagery of unleashed violence. The viewer rides along with a crew of photojournalists (led by an indomitable Kirsten Dunst) on their harrowing journey to the heart of American darkness. Civil War may not tell you who to vote for in the upcoming election, but it can inspire some serious reflection about how we visualize and process the crises around us.

Visionary director Denis Villeneuve returns to the desert planet Arrakis to finish his adaptation of Frank Herbert’s legendary sci-fi masterpiece, Dune (1965), the first book in the beloved, wide-spanning series. The sequel picks up where the first film left off, with Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides teaming with Zendaya’s Chani and her native Fremens to avenge his family and save his adopted planet from the ruthless Harkonnens and their imperial backers. Featuring return performances from Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin, along with franchise newcomers Austin Butler, Florence Pugh, Christopher Walken, and Léa Seydoux, Dune 2 is the rare sequel that outshines its predecessor — which won six Oscars at the 94th Academy Awards. Both a critical and box office hit, Villeneuve has proven himself to be sci-fi’s Lisan al Gaib.

The sheer joy and whimsy of The Fall Guy got buried in the flurry of discourse about its opening weekend box office, which kickstarted a wave of anxiety about the state of the industry. But we’re here to remind you that the movie is a hoot and a half, delivering everything you could want from a popcorn flick. Ryan Gosling stars as stuntman Colt Seavers, who agrees to return to work to help his one-time lady love, Jody (Emily Blunt), as she directs her first film. From incredible stunt sequences to the potent chemistry between the two Oscar nominees to the giddy sense of humor threaded through all the danger, The Fall Guy is the stuff that summer movie dreams are made of.

Mad Max: Fury Road is a perfect action movie, one of the very best of the 21st century. Needless to say, it’s a tough act to follow. So visionary director George Miller decided to dive even deeper with his prequel, expanding the world of his wasteland and really showing what it would feel like to grow up as a woman in this hellscape. There are still some spectacular car chases, and Anya Taylor-Joy does an admirable job of stepping into Charlize Theron’s shoes, but Furiosa is most interesting when it diverges from Fury Road, such as with Chris Hemsworth’s charming new villain Dementus.

2024 is indisputably the year of Glen Powell at the movies. After stealing scenes from Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick, Powell has now emerged as a movie star in his own right. Anyone but You proved there’s still a theatrical audience for rom-coms, and Twisters is looking to demonstrate that summer blockbusters don’t have to be about superheroes anymore. For now, though, Hit Man is the most impressive proof of Powell’s power. As philosophy professor turned undercover police operative Gary Johnson, Powell gets to demonstrate his range by shapeshifting into a number of hilarious fake “assassin” personas — but it’s his sizzling chemistry with Adria Arjona that really gets the movie cooking.

For anyone dying for movies to be sexy again, The Idea of You delivers and then some with its age-gap romance between suburban mom Solène (Anne Hathaway) and boy-band heartthrob Hayes (Nicholas Galitzine). It is at once a soapy, exuberant love story and a heartfelt look at the ways in which we push women and their dreams and desires to the background as they age. Hathaway channels her own hurts and history into this coming-of-middle-age story that is littered with frothy falling-in-love sequences, erotic interludes, and genuine heartbreak in the midst of maternal sacrifice. It’s earnest and cathartic, and everything we hope to see more of in big-screen romances.

While the first Inside Out hit on the bittersweet notion that you can’t have Joy (Amy Poehler) without Sadness (Phyllis Smith), the second film delves even deeper into the vagaries of the mind, introducing a slew of new emotions as Riley enters puberty. The most notable of them all is Anxiety (Maya Hawke), who, in an attempt to help Riley navigate her summer hockey camp, takes over her brain. The film bursts with all the things that make Pixar movies great, from sly puns (Brainstorm! Sar-chasm!) to gut-wrenching truths about life (maybe we all do just have a little less joy as we age). But it’s the film’s rendering of Anxiety as a live-wire frenetic force with good intentions that makes it one of the animation studio’s best in several years. Inside Out 2 gives a visual language to our innermost struggles with warmth, humor, and empathy — and that makes us pretty darn emotional.

If you thought Tom Cruise was pushing the boundaries of age when it comes to action heroes, wait until you see 94-year-old June Squibb kick ass and take names in Josh Margolin’s delightful new comedy, Thelma. The Oscar-nominated nonagenarian stars as the titular granny, who takes matters into her own hands when she’s conned out of $10,000 in a phone scam. Margolin based the story on his own grandma, Thelma, who was targeted in a similar scam but fortunately escaped unscathed. Also starring Parker Posey, The White Lotus’s Fred Hechinger, and the legendary Richard Roundtree in his final role, Thelma delivers the laughs while cleverly borrowing visual cues from action classics such as Mission: Impossible and James Bond. Just swap the Aston Martin for a motorized scooter and the spy gadgets for hearing aids, and you’ll start to get the idea.

Source: Entertainment Weekly