Top 5 Movies of Summer 2019

We are now into the first week of September, and that means that the summer movie season is officially at its end.  But before we look forward to awards season and holiday blockbusters, it’s time to look back on the summer that began with what is now the highest grossing movie of all time, “Avengers: Endgame.”  While the majority of this summer’s blockbusters were more misses than hits, there were still some great movies released in theaters, from Quentin Tarantino’s latest feature to the female-driven indie darling “Booksmart.”  I’ve chosen five of the best movies I saw this summer to spotlight below; click the links to read my full review of each film.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt play friends struggling to make it in a changing industry in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

The ninth feature film from writer/director Quentin Tarantino is set in 1969 Los Angeles, where aging star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime friend and stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) struggle with their increasing sense of uselessness in a changing Hollywood—a Hollywood that is also seeing the rise of young star Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and the Manson family.  Tarantino simultaneously pays homage to the Hollywood he grew up in while also rewriting history.  The cast is fantastic all around, with DiCaprio turning in what may be his best performance to date.  It’s a clever, funny, shocking, and emotional epic that will go down as one of the greatest movies in Tarantino’s filmography.

Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever are best friends going out for one wild night before graduation in “Booksmart”

This debut feature from Olivia Wilde stars Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever as Molly and Amy, best friends and high school seniors who realize on the eve of their graduation that while they’ve been studying hard, they’ve missed out on having the full high school experience, and decide to go to one big party before it’s too late.  But the night takes a series of unexpected turns, ultimately challenging Molly and Amy’s relationship.  “Booksmart” is packed with witty dialogue and hilarious situations that it executes in a unique way, but its focus never wavers from the female friendship that is at its center.

A family struggles to deal with the impending lose of their matriarch in “The Farewell”

This comedy/drama centers around Chinese-born but American-raised Billi (Awkwafina), who travels to China with her parents to visit her grandmother, who is dying of cancer.  The only thing is, the rest of the family is keeping Nai Nai’s diagnosis from her, prompting a moral conflict in Billi.  Through a thoughtful script from director Lulu Wang and moving performances from the cast, “The Farewell” demonstrates the importance of family as well as the differences between cultures.

Friends Montgomery and Jimmie fight to save Jimmie’s family home while confronting their identity in “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”

This drama partially based on true events is directed by Joe Talbot and follows a young black man named Jimmie Fails (played by Fails) who fights for ownership of the house his grandfather built in a rapidly changing San Francisco.  The film beautifully portrays the friendship between Fails and artist and writer Montgomery Allen (Jonathan Majors), and simultaneously pays tribute to and mourns the San Francisco that was.

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) has a price on his head in the third chapter of his story, “Parabellum”

Keanu Reeves returns as the titular action hero in this third installment in the series directed by Chad Stahelski.  “Parabellum” continues to up the stakes, with even more impressively choreographed action sequences, while also further embellishing on the intricate world of assassins that the first two movies established. 

Taron Egerton plays music legend Elton John in the musical biopic “Rocketman”

HONORABLE MENTIONS: The fantasy-driven Elton John movie musical “Rocketman,” (in which Taron Egerton turns in a remarkable performance as the music iconic) and Pixar’s moving and beautifully animated “Toy Story 4.”

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