Summer 2019: A List of the Season's Movies and TV Shows
Updated: Sep 4, 2019
As August closes down, the summer movie season closes down with it. Though September is still technically summer, the fall film season begins with the Venice Film Festival (August 28th-September 7th) premiering the first autumn releases and Oscar contenders before Telluride (August 30th-September 2nd) expands the word-of-mouth, Toronto (September 5th- September 15th) continues it, and New York (September 27th- October 13th) confirms it until audiences finally see for themselves.
But more on that later, I’m going to look back before looking forward. The release of It: Chapter 2 marks the beginning of my fall movie season since I don’t attend any of these festivals; I can't wait for the second part of one of my favorite movies of the decade. The first It was a movie-going experience I will never forget and hopefully the new three hour sequel will send me to cinema heaven once again. Now for the movies and shows of the summer that gave me highs, some lows, and some definite no’s. This is not a ranking, only a list of everything I watched this summer from older movies relevant to summer (this summer and the summer of 1969 in particular), to 2019 releases and TV shows. Now I bid adieu to Summer 2019 with these quick thoughts on all the things I watched.
Yes, this is not a ranking, but Booksmart would definitely be close to the top if this was. This is a wonderful film, full of fun music, high-school set pieces and the two main protagonists are high school heroines. At least, academically they are. After studying and walking through the high school halls in their goody-two-shoes all fours years, Amy and Molly discover their perpetual partying peers succeeded just like them in making straight A’s and getting into top-tier universities. A long final night of make-up partying ensues on the eve of graduation in a refreshing, delightful high school comedy about friendship, acceptance and young love. Olivia Wilde directs with complete empathy and compassion. There’s one long-take involving a swimming pool and an emotional meltdown that is absolutely heartbreaking. Booksmart is the indie coming-of-age comedy of the year.
This was Disney’s first live-action reboot to come out this summer. As if one wasn’t already too much, The Lion King photo-realistic reboot came out in July. Yet I can’t really talk, because I bought a ticket for both and saw them both. I have to say, Aladdin was more fun. Will Smith’s exuberant genie was fantastic and while the film wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad. However, Disney’s live-action reboots have still peaked with Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast.
Seth Rogen is my guy. If he’s in a movie, I’m seeing it, especially if it’s a romantic-comedy. Long Shot was the talk of SXSW until it unfortunately came to theaters very quietly. Though I was lucky to see it with a crowded theater and didn’t stop laughing along with it. Long Shot is a fun ride with real emotion, crowd-pleasing jokes, and an uplifting experience that will make you feel optimistic about our world. Also, an unbelievable, The American President-type romance between Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron that you will want to believe.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe came to an end finally, for me at least. With Endgame culminating the previous 22 interconnected Marvel films perfectly, I’m checking out. Except maybe Spider-Man, which works out because he’s not even in the MCU anymore with Disney and Sony’s fallout on a new deal. Anyway, with Disney’s inexhaustible list of upcoming superhero movies and connecting the MCU to their Disney+ streaming shows (I’m too busy on the Criterion Channel to keep up with Disney’s streaming), Endgame is my ending and the best ending. Since 2008 I’ve been with Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America and the Avengers. It was revolutionary and very entertaining, and Endgame was the exemplary swan song. “I am… Iron Man.”
Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
Even though it had a dedicated Zac Efron as a lovestruck Ted Bundy, this Netflix film fell flat.
John Wick 3: Parabellum
Keanu Reeves has received some much-deserved love this summer partly thanks to his bad-ass, relentless, and, as Parabellum would have you believe, invincible character. The third film of this franchise was the best one yet and with a fourth one in the works, it might be hard to top. But John Wick is pissed so maybe he’ll engineer some even wackier ways to kill people. I’ll be there to see it, that's for sure.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
With Gareth Edward’s brilliant Godzilla in 2014, the first of Warner Bros. MonsterVerse, there was little hope for this sequel. There needed to be more monster mashing, and the studio made sure of that. I’m not complaining though, it was a ridiculous good time. It’s just that Edward’s Godzilla had something to say, this one did not. But that doesn’t matter when this is just another cinematic universe that is building up to the eventual showdown between King Kong and Godzilla. I’ll probably check out of the MonsterVerse after that.
HBO’s limited series took the world by storm in May and June. Nominated for 19 Emmy Awards, Chernobyl is a devastating look at how a devastating tragedy was handled. In only five episodes, this portrayal of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster is haunting, bleak, shot with overwhelming dread, and manages to stay with you long after, leaving you constantly clambering for the truth in a misinformed world.
Black Mirror Season 5: Striking Vipers/Smithereens/Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too
Season 5 of Black Mirror was very disappointing. Striking Vipers set up so much to explore with its weird concept, but instead took the safest, most superficial route and ended it on the most outrageous note. Smithereens was the best episode of the new season, with plenty of tension and a very Topher Grace (That 70’s Show) role for a Topher Grace performance but there are a handful of better Black Mirror episodes than this one. Then there’s Miley Cyrus in Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too who proves that she is still a great actress, but this episode is all over the place and too grandiose for its own good. Bandersnatch anyone? Nah. Black Mirror may have outrun its course.
Rocketman is what Bohemian Rhapsody could’ve been but didn’t want to be. At all. But I don’t want to waste this writing time about Bohemian Rhapsody when I can gush about Rocketman. A refreshing biopic centered on the life and music of Elton John, played with accurate flamboyance and ferocity by Taron Egerton (Kingsman: The Secret Service), this musical-esque film captures the glorious Elton John and his music with surreal energy and enthusiasm, a fantastical look into the legendary singer.
In a Lonely Place (1950)
After being on my watchlist for a long time, the Criterion Channel allowed me to watch Nicholas Ray’s masterpiece on my birthday and what a gift it was. Humphrey Bogart gives his best performance in this romantic noir, his acting being the sole reason the mystery can’t be solved. Gloria Grahame is just as magnificent as she deals with the lonely place, trying to discover who her husband really is and pleading for the worst to not be true until the truth is revealed, and it is too late for love.
Another birthday watch, continuing the tradition of watching my all-time favorite movies on my birthday and sometimes discovering new favorites (see above)! Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster masterpiece and Hans Zimmer’s quintessential and 2010s defining score will never get old. The spin is clearly about to topple over, he’s in reality. That’s what I like to believe anyway.
Toy Story 4
While not necessary, Toy Story 4 was an exciting conclusion to Pixar’s first hit. Forky is the hero we didn’t know we wanted in 2019 and while Toy Story 3 ended with Andy leaving for college, making us sad for Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the toys, the fourth and final Toy Story ends with another cathartic denouement, making us both sad and happy with a more fitting ending for Woody and the toys.
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
I watched this great film for the first time one hot day just before it was leaving Netflix and it lived up to all the hype around it. Paul Newman was an American treasure, and playing a cool hand as the quiet prisoner Luke Jackson is absolute proof of that. George Kennedy won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in this sweaty prison drama, the essential summer story for a hot summer day. A wonderful movie with a moving story.
Paths of Glory (1957)
I finally watched Stanley Kubrick’s WWI masterpiece on the Criterion Channel. Kubrick’s anti-war satire is a more serious statement on the futility of war than Dr. Strangelove, and also a more moving one. While Strangelove was a comedy, Paths of Glory is a frustrating and thoughtful look at the injustices and cruelty of war not just on the battlefield, but behind the scenes as well. Kirk Douglas is great in this brilliant film and if the ending doesn’t at least wet your eyes, then maybe you should be on a battlefield.
There’s a lot of issues to be had with Netflix, but when they allow another music video collaboration between Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke and one of the greatest living directors today, then all of that can be forgotten. Anima is too great to be relegated to YouTube. This one-reeler showcasing Thom Yorke’s new solo album to exquisite choreography is a spellbinding achievement, the best music video Paul Thomas Anderson ever shot, and an ode to true love that will leave you mesmerized and yearning for this 15-minute masterpiece to be 3 hours longer.
“Martin, it’s all psychological. You yell barracuda, everybody says, ‘Huh? What?’ You yell shark, we’ve got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July.”
Spider-Man: Far From Home
Spider-Man’s last adventure in the MCU, dealing with the death of Tony Stark and getting swindled by a very game Jake Gylenhaal as classic Spidey villain, Mysterio. Zendaya is wonderful as always and while it doesn’t live up to its predecessor Homecoming, Far From Home was a fun ride. It’s a shame Sony and Disney couldn’t keep things going, because this left a very clever setup for Spider-Man’s future in the MCU. However, I have hope Sony can do some good with a solo Spider-Man, if Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is anything to show for. Also, Tom Holland. What a freaking awesome guy. I wouldn’t mind if he was Spider-Man for the rest of my life.
Dark Season 2
I don’t remember what initially prompted me to watch Netflix’s Dark last year.. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I did. While Stranger Things is the poster show for Netflix, Dark is the mature, devalued alternative. Though it is unfair to compare these two shows, the only similarity being they’re both science-fiction, because they are very different. Dark, a German series, is a more dramatic, complex, and mind-bending story that is strangely impeccable in every way to the writing, the interwoven plot, and casting. Seriously, there are numerous timelines where actors are playing the adult or child version of a character and somehow they all look like that character grown up or as a child and not one of them is a bad actor. It’s a tense, emotional, and wild journey of a show. If you’re an American who complains about subtitles, then this show is too good for you anyway.
Stranger Things Season 3
While Dark is the better show, there’s no need to dog on Stranger Things. I love Stranger Things and season 3 further reinforced that with its improvement from season 2. The kids are growing up and it’s fun to watch them tackle the hardships of romantic relationships and friendships while battling, yet again, another monster. I was reminded of Harry Potter and the Half Blood-Prince and how well the book and movie captured these human moments of teenage jealousy, love, and the struggle of growing up amidst a world of magic. Season 3 of Stranger Things taps into that just as well but in a world of science-fiction.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Do you ever drive through your hometown and ruminate on how much has changed? That hotel didn’t used to be there. That neighborhood used to be nothing but trees. Places change and grow, against our better judgment. In The Last Black Man in San Francisco, San Francisco is the urban victim of change and gentrification. Jimme Fails (himself) is the eponymous black man meandering through his home city, trying to decipher its new identity. Directed by Fail’s childhood friend Joe Talbot, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a touching and beautiful film about art, home, friendship, and family.
A24 had a good summer. The indie distributor knocked it out of the park with Last Black Man in San Francisco and also unleashed Ari Aster’s massive followup to his horror breakthrough Hereditary. Where Hereditary tackled the horrors of motherhood, grief, and guilt, Midsommar takes a once-sided, bursting-at-the-seems relationship to the summer festivities of a Swedish Pagan Cult. This film can’t really be explained, it has to be seen. The incredible, insane climax with its swelling, operatic score is one of the greatest cinematic experiences of the decade. Hereditary is a domestic horror story that will make your jaw drop, but Midsommar is a horror fairytale that will make you smile. Ari Aster gets a lot of underserved ridicule for his “pretentious” filmmaking and subversion of horror expectations. That’s ridiculous. He knows how to make a movie and that is not a sin. I can’t wait to see what else Ari Aster has in store, I will always be watching his camera maneuvers (in Midsommar, the camera literally does a somersault in one simple, dread-inducing scene) in his indelible films.
Big Little Lies Season 2
There was something off immediately at the start of season 2 of Big Little Lies. Who knows what really happened behind the scenes with Andrea Arnold and HBO, but the problem with these seven superfluous episodes about the Monterey five was the writing and editing. Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, and the rest of the cast anchored the second season and made it entertaining when it was borderline unwatchable due to the unsteady editing and drug-out, melodramatic writing that dismissed everything that was so great about season 1. The first three episodes were fine and then things took a turn in episode 4 and only got worse until the open ending that can (unfortunately? I don’t even know anymore) allow a third season. It should’ve ended with season 1 and stayed as a limited-series.
For All Mankind (1989)
The moon landing has always fascinated me, so on the week of the 50th Anniversary I watched For All Mankind on the Criterion Channel. Documenting astounding footage from the Apollo missions from 1969 to 1972 with the astronauts' voiceover and Brian Eno’s now famous atmospheric score made for a really interesting documentary about the moon, the importance of space exploration, and why these astronauts, in their own words, do what they do.
I continued my tribute to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins with this 2019 release, a documentary about Apollo 11’s trip to the moon. Director Todd Douglas Miller took 65mm footage recently found in the National Archives and transferred it into a crisp, clean, digital collection. It’s like someone was filming everything with an Iphone in 1969, the footage is so clear and present you feel like you’re there. While the footage in space isn’t enough to wow (the astronauts didn’t film a whole lot besides out the window and here and there on the moon) the ground footage before they take off is truly a scene to behold, especially knowing what these brave men are about to embark on. It just makes you wish we could anticipate another moon landing, or hell, a Mars landing.
First Man (2018)
One of the best and most under-appreciated movies of 2018. I’ll be looking for the day when First Man get its due praise from general audiences because this is a tour-de-force character study of the icon who first stepped one small one for man. It’s quiet and restrained, practical and earnest just like Armstrong himself, proving that Damien Chazelle is the best young filmmaker working today. Ryan Gosling (the king of subtlety) gives a heartfelt, subtle performance and Justin Hurwitz surpasses his La La Land score with his First Man score, an original sound making brilliant use of the theremin and adding to not only the astonishing moon landing sequence, but to the complicated emotions of the complicated man that was Neil Armstrong.
The Lion King
Now, back to Earth. Disney’s other “live-action” reboot of the summer. The photo-realistic effects are pretty cool but you can’t beat the original hand-drawn animation. All this movie did was help in finally discovering something the multi-talented Donald Glover is not good at: voice acting. When I revisit The Lion King it’ll always be the classic animated 1994 version, the real version, not the 2019 too real version.
I already wrote about Crawl and the good time I had. But louder for those in the back: it’s fun and it’s absolutely worth the watch.
An interesting concept with so many holes but those holes don’t need to be filled for a sweet movie like this. While it could have used a little more structure, Yesterday is a fine movie, a saccharine breath of fresh air where Ed Sheeran gives a hilarious performance as himself and The Beatles are given a lot of love (bad news for millenial Beatle haters), and love ultimately wins the day. The John Lennon thing was kind of weird though. That’s a typical Richard Curtis script, overflowing with schmaltz and a lot of things don’t work, but in the hands of director Danny Boyle it manages to be a delight rather than an upchuck.
A24’s last summer release and one of my favorites of not only the summer, but of the year so far. A true story about a lie, The Farewell is an original, deeply moving film about a separated family and the grandmother that brings them together. Lulu Wang’s first feature will make you want to call your grandparents and tell them you love them.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Definitely not the first to say this but I don’t care: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is my favorite film of the summer. Tarantino’s ninth film is a blast, a touching tribute to Sharon Tate, and a fairytale revision of history that only he could make. Brad Pitt is the ultimate cool-guy while Leonardo Dicaprio gives another standout performance. Forget the controversy and ludicrous discourse; Tarantino is an artist, he just made the movie he wanted to make, and it’s a wonderful ride. This is the type of original and vital stuff I wish studios could go back to.
Easy Rider (1969)
I watched some summer 1969 movies to prepare for Tarantino’s film and because of the profuse relevance the summer of ‘69 has to our culture, I wanted to see the hype around these films. First was Easy Rider, and while I enjoyed the counterculture characters played by Peter Fonda (RIP) and Dennis Hopper smoking a joint with the rising star Jack Nicholson, the movie as a whole didn’t impress me much. This road-trip, drug-trip movie with a good soundtrack has its moments, even ending with a bang, but it takes awhile to get there. These drug-fueled movies with bright colors, unhinged editing, and drug-induced filmmaking are just plain boring to me. That’s why a director like Nicolas Roeg is a hard director for me to get behind, but that’s a discussion for another time.
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
This was a much more preferable ‘69 movie. John Voight is the hotshot hustling cowboy and Dustin Hoffman is the poor New Yorker who befriends him. This was a lot darker than I had anticipated and so much more than a simple, sweet friendship movie, but lively and heartfelt nonetheless. This classic won Best Picture, Best Director (John Schlesinger) and Best Screenplay, understandably so.
Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice (1969)
Another ‘69 movie piercing right through the heart of the moral crisis that was going on in America at the time, this film is a sexy study of two married couples trying way too hard to be new and modern and overly honest when all they really want deep down is to love and be loved by the one person they’ve chosen to love. The bedroom argument scene between Ted (Elliot Gould) and Alice (Dylan Cannon) as well as the ending are some of the best things I’ve ever seen, making this my second favorite to come out of 1969 (The Wild Bunch holds that crown). “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.”
Jurassic Park (1993)
Every re-watch of Jurassic Park I see something more than just the groundbreaking special effects. There are so many camera movements that make me wish I could call Spielberg and ask “How? How did you do that?” It’s this reason I am always reluctant to bad-mouth a film because it is so damn hard to make a movie, especially under a studio’s time-constraint which Spielberg definitely had. But every astounding shot in this masterpiece requires planning and preparation, not to mention the proper blocking on however many takes it gets to nail it. Spielberg is the man and always will be.
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
I managed to tackle this behemoth of a movie one hot August day. Clocking in at 4 hours, Once Upon a Time in America is the type of epic some of us cinephiles long for these days. Sergio Leone is the master of both silence and sound, though using his Once Upon a Time in the West techniques to a lesser degree, this extremely long movie is engaging even in the quietest moments. Robert De Niro is great as always as is James Woods while Ennio Morricone’s score is one of cinema’s most memorable. That famous shot on the poster with the Manhattan Bridge lingers in your mind forever but that’s not the only perfect composition in this stunning film.
Jackie Brown (1997)
I rewatched a couple of weeks after seeing Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and while Hollywood is close, it still doesn’t dethrone Jackie Brown as my favorite Tarantino. There’s just something to be said about a toned-down, mature Tarantino directing the hell out of a movie that is not his original creation. Adapted from the novel Rum Punch by Elmore Leornard, Tarantino’s signature, extravagant violence is not here and instead, he uses his other techniques to tell a dazzling story about a very smart woman swindling both cops and criminals with the help of a very nice bail bondsman named Max Cherry. If there is a Tarantino-esque character in this film, it’s Samuel L. Jackson’s Ordell Robbie, being the most charismatic and annoying. I’m not saying Tarantino doesn’t write compelling characters, it’s just nice to see him working with characters that aren’t initially from his head because he can make anybody interesting on-screen with his direction. In this case, he makes these characters that are not his own, real and insecure and relatable human beings.
Mindhunter Season 2
Sidelining Agent Holden Ford and giving Agent Bill Tench and Dr. Wendy Carr their due, Mindhunter season 2 was another fascinating and captivating watch. While the serial killer interviews weren’t all the rage this time (Charles Manson’s interview was good but not one of the better scenes of the show), this season really went full force with the investigation on the Atlanta child murders from 1979-1981. Ford and Tench use their studies on multiple murderers to profile the Atlanta killer and find him. While David Fincher only directs the first three episodes, the show doesn’t lose its luster at all in the remaining episodes, keeping the show elevated along with the best this decade. Season 3 will probably be another long wait, but I’m already waiting.
This comedy about innocent 12-year olds trying to make it to a kissing party without getting grounded or busted with older kids’ drugs is a cringe inducing, mouth gaping romp. It has its moments, including a frat-house scene that I am sure producer Seth Rogen had a say in because it is hilarious, but Good Boys gets more uncomfortable snorts than belly guffaws with its original idea and all-star kid actors. At least we got one decent comedy this summer, what happened to comedies?
The greatness in this complicated film is all in the acting. Kelvin Harrison Jr. as the eponymous Luce is mysterious and complex, sympathetic but creepy, always hiding something he may have already done or is about to do and his mother, a hesitant but honest Naomi Watts (just as amazing), is just pleading for answers about her adopted son. Tim Roth doesn’t have a lot but his screen presence is there, while Octavia Spencer as the angry, example-setting Ms. Wilson is stoic and spiteful, ready to explode like the fireworks in her classroom that Luce may or may not have put in there. Without them, this film wouldn’t be as tense or fulfilling, especially with its didactic script.
Peanut Butter Falcon
There’s no need to point out its flaws. This film exists for only one good reason. It’s a heartwarming southern, sweaty story with a raw and cool Shia LaBeouf and an energetic 22-year old kid named Zak with Down Syndrome. They journey through the southern woodlands and marshes like Huck and Jim, finding their way through the world together and building a beautiful friendship. It’s a genuine, tender film that will make you cry tears of joy.
Other summer releases I have not seen yet:
Blinded by the Light
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Ready or Not