With Booksmart, Olivia Wilde becomes the third rookie director in a year to kick her career off with a coming-of-age story. Wilde joins a list that includes Bo Burnham (Eighth Grade) and Jonah Hill (mid90s). Burnham and Hill, coming from comedy and acting, respectively, made the transition with ease. Wilde’s lively, pensive debut about female friendship and identity makes her the third new director to find success in the genre.
Long Shot, an R-rated, politically-set romantic comedy starring Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen, enters theaters as streaming services continue to dominate the genre. Charming and surprisingly raunchy, Long Shot could serve as a litmus test for the future of rom-coms at the multiplex. Fortunately, subverting comedy norms and relying on its stars is enough to make for an enjoyable trip to the theater despite the film’s tendency to step into worn genre tropes like a pair of old shoes.
Raw is the most apt word to describe mid90s, a 2018 coming-of-age skate film and the directorial debut for actor-turned-director Jonah Hill. Though thin on plot, mid90s finds redemption through its authentic characters and genuine story.
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.
Damien Chazelle’s third feature film, First Man, salutes the ingenuity and sacrifice necessary to launch rickety spacecrafts into the great unknown. The film spends its 141-minute runtime as a cross between a Neil Armstrong biopic and a recounting of the Apollo space program. Despite Chazelle’s technical mastery and the intrinsic allure of the subject matter, the film is unable to replicate the feelings that inspired a generation of scientists.
With 2017’s Get Out, comedian-turned-filmmaker Jordan Peele burst onto the scene in a full sprint. With just one film under his belt, Peele was already dubbed this generation’s Alfred Hitchcock, setting expectations unreasonably high for Us, Peele’s 2019 sophomoric follow-up. Although Us isn’t Peele’s second masterpiece in as many tries, the ponderous plot and themes may make Us, not Get Out, the longer standing fixture in the cultural conversation.
Marvel Studios released 20 movies before Captain Marvel, its first helmed by a solo woman, came to theaters. Semantics will say that women co-starred in Ant-Man and the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly’s titular Wasp) and in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (with Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow), but the Brie Larson-led Captain Marvel is a new experience altogether (and a refreshing one, at that).