Writer-director Quentin Tarantino has regularly repeated his desire to carefully craft a 10-film filmography. In what would be his penultimate film (counting the two-part Kill Bill saga a single movie, as Tarantino does), his latest effort, Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, combines the director’s best qualities and most frustrating attributes to deliver a polarizing experience that has remained on my mind since I left the theater.
Fans of Ari Aster’s instant-classic horror movie Hereditary will recognize a similar framework in the writer-director’s sophomoric film, Midsommar. Although Midsommar has more in common with the thriller and mystery genres, Aster’s imprint is as clear as a sunny Scandinavian day. What Midsommar lacks in scares, it makes up in genuine laughs, captivating lore, and haunting imagery.
Review: First Reformed
Screenwriter and director Paul Schrader is best known for writing Taxi Driver and co-writing Raging Bull. With First Reformed, a movie written and directed by Schrader, the filmmaker can step out of Martin Scorsese’s long shadow and add an accomplishment all his own to the list of his most prominent credits.
Review: Avengers: Endgame
In Avengers: Infinity War, the Sorcerer Supreme, Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), willingly gives the all-powerful time stone to Thanos (Josh Brolin), a galactic-conqueror and freshman-year philosophy major. When Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) questions Dr. Strange’s decision, the sorcerer responds, “We’re in the endgame now.” After 21 Marvel movies, he’s right. Avengers: Endgame is a fitting conclusion to Marvel’s first 11-year cinematic story.
Review: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
New York Stories and V/H/S are among the most notable anthology movies, but the best known of all is already 2018’s The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the most recent film from Joel and Ethan Coen. In Buster Scruggs, the directors open and close each of the movie’s six short films by flipping through the fictional book of short stories that the tales emanate from. This is apt imagery from a collection of unconnected, darkly comedic Westerns that belongs on a list among the best short stories in any medium.
Review: If Beale Street Could Talk
Set in Harlem in the early 1970s, If Beale Street Could Talk is a story of family, hope, and despair. Released in 2018 and based on a book of the same title by famed author James Baldwin, If Beale Street Could Talk reveals what we already knew: writer-director Barry Jenkins is a master of the craft.
Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Whenever the superhero genre begins to lose its luster, a movie like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse swings into theaters to recapture the feeling we had watching Tobey Maguire web his way across New York City for the first time. Like Guardians of the Galaxy before it, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse came at the right time to combat superhero fatigue.
Review: The Favourite
Director Yorgos Lanthimos’s third movie in four years, The Favourite, was released at the end of 2018. A period piece about the reign and relationships of England’s Queen Anne, The Favourite isn’t afraid of having fun at the expense of its subjects’. Movies like The Favourite rarely allow the audience the lavish pleasure of believing that its characters were living, breathing, fallible human beings at one time or another. The Favourite is different. Its characters are cutthroat, duplicitous, and petty, and the result is worth witnessing.
As in the last 30 minutes of The Wolf of Wall Street or Goodfellas, Vice is the unusual extravagance that will have you watching through your fingers. Equally maddening and nauseating, writer-director Adam McKay’s messy Dick Cheney biopic is a must-see for historians and the politically interested alike.
Review: Black Panther
Created in 1966 by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Black Panther was the first black superhero published by Marvel Comics and the first notable black comic character published in the United States. Black Panther’s unique characterization as the genius king of a hidden, technologically-advanced African nation made him an obvious target for an adaptation in an era of the superhero-dominated box office. Comic book fans had been clamoring for a Black Panther movie for years, and writer-director Ryan Coogler, alongside the powers that be at Disney, did not disappoint.