From “The Dead Don’t Die” to “Fast Color,” this summer’s best movies ranged from the horrifying to the hilarious.
Notably Missed: “Dora and The Lost City of Gold,” “Crawl,” “The Farewell,” “Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark”
“The Last Black Man in San Francisco”: Inspired by a real person, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” is striking. From the beginning to the end it fully captivates. Tender, funny and somewhat absurd, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” follows Jimmie Fails’s (Jimmie Fails) love for one particular house in San Francisco. Not just one of the best films of the summer, but one of the best of the year.
“The Dead Don’t Die”: Okay, hear me out. “The Dead Don’t Die” is absolutely bizarre. It’s meta to the umpth degree, has an Adam-Driver-Star-Wars joke and Selena Gomez is in it for some reason. But, take it or leave it, “The Dead Don’t Die” is a zombie movie that is about something other than zombies (although the zombies are used to great comedic effect), thus keeping to the tradition of Romero and the original zombie film. Jim Jarmusch makes it clear, he has something to say. “The Dead Don’t Die” is about climate change; it’s about the disappearance of the rural towns in America; it’s about the sense of inevitability we all carry on our backs when we believe the world is ending.
“Fast Color”: Anything Gugu Mbatha-Raw is in is worth watching, and “Fast Color” is no exception. “Fast Color” is a superhero indie film with some fascinating twists and turns. The rules established by the well-lived-in and thoroughly explored universe provide a different palate than expected. A slow build up to the ending, “Fast Color” is empathetic in its catharsis and hopeful in its disillusionment.
“Dark Phoenix”: I’ve always had a soft spot for the X-Men, and “Dark Phoenix” solidified that for me. Less of an action film and more of a parable for living with trauma, “Dark Phoenix” is far more interesting to me than the other Marvel fodder we’ve gotten this summer. It has two stunning action sequences, the kind where you know what is going on. Sophie Turner is understated and perfectly plain as Jean Grey. It’s a lovely, character-centric film that ends the “X-Men” film series on a downbeat rather than on a crescendo.
“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”: Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to old Hollywood is surprisingly gentle considering it takes place during the time frame of the Manson Murders. Centered on the story of Rick Dalton, (Leonardo DiCaprio) an actor on his way to has-beendom, and his stuntman and best friend, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” has some of the most heart I’ve seen in a Tarantino film.
“Midsommar”: Ari Aster’s second film hits most of the same beats as “Hereditary” in the even more polarizing “Midsommar.” Florence Pugh stars as the grief-stricken Dani, who takes a trip with her boyfriend and some of his grad school friends to Sweden. The trip takes a turn for the cultish and the film ends in a spectacle of technicolor meadows and graphic violence. After a lot of thoughts, “Midsommar” beat out “Hereditary” for me in both its cohesiveness as well as in its filmography. Aster’s mean streak is solidified by “Midsommar,” but also used more effectively, with great comedic effect. One thing’s for sure — “Midsommar” is fully unique in itself, and worth the theatrical experience.