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.
Spider-Man: Far From Home marks the eighth time in 17 years that your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man swung into theaters for a solo film. It wasn’t until the webhead’s sixth appearance in Spider-Man: Homecoming that you could truly say Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios had perfected the Spider-Man formula. By following Homecoming with the jubilant animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and the European vacationing Spider-Man: Far From Home, it’s clear the studio giants understand that with great power there must also come great responsibility.
Joe Talbot and Jimmie Fails, two San Francisco natives, met in middle school before working together on a short film and eventually a feature about the unprecedented changes facing their city. Launched as a Kickstarter campaign in April 2015, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is as unique as the story of its production.
High Life, the first English-language film by French auteur Claire Denis, made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2018. Planned by Denis for 15 years, High Life finally saw a limited release in the United States in April 2019. In comparing the film to genre heavyweights, it is closer to The Phantom Menace’s meandering than A New Hope’s quality. High Life would’ve been better off unrealized.
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.
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.
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).