The Most Bizarre Summer Festival Ever, and 7 Other Movies You Should See (or Not)

30 Jun

Thumbs up, Spider-ManIt’s summer, and if you’re like most people, you’re looking for a good movie to see in a cool, air-conditioned theater. Thankfully, I’ve seen a bunch in recent weeks and I want to tell you about them — starting with one that probably isn’t on your radar, but should be.

“It’s like another world.”

Midsommar posterThe less you know about Midsommar going in to it, the better. But suffice it to say, you should be warned: This is not a movie for the faint of heart.

Here’s the basic premise: Following a devastating family tragedy, Dani (Fighting with My Family’s Florence Pugh) joins her begrudging boyfriend, Christian (Sing Street’s Jack Reynor), and his friends, Josh (The Good Place’s William Jackson Harper), Mark (Detroit’s Will Poulter), and Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), on a summer trip to participate in a festival in a remote part of Sweden. What, at first, looks like a peaceful, quirky event soon turns into something else completely, and some truly crazy shit happens to every member of the group.

Writer-director Ari Aster (Hereditary) has conjured up an idyllic setting — photographed beautifully — and turned it into one more sinister than can be imagined. And sure, some plot points are telegraphed pretty obviously early on, but the horror of the movie is in watching how those things you know are going to happen actually do.

Aster is a true visionary filmmaker (as the press materials note right up front), but that vision is twisted, to say the least, and it’s definitely not for everyone. Whatever your feelings on Midsommar, though, it’s undeniable that, with the help of production designer Henrik Svensson, Aster has constructed a mesmerizing and unique world from the ground up, complete with its own language, history, mythology, and traditions. The result is a dark and hallucinatory fairy tale.

The film takes its time to get going, and it’s a bit too long overall. But as it goes on, the more compelling it gets. You’ll have a hard time looking away.

A day after seeing Midsommar, after I’d washed off the shock of what I’d seen and thought a bit more about it, I found myself really respecting Aster’s work and enthusiastically recommending the film. This is a bright movie with a pitch-black heart, and it won’t soon be forgotten.

I’m giving Midsommar a B+.

“It’s not Coldplay. It’s not ‘Fix You.’”

Yesterday movie posterThe question at the center of Yesterday could not be more provocative: What if the Beatles were erased from history, as if they never existed, and you were the only one who remembered them? Unfortunately, from such an inspired foundation, writer Richard Curtis (Love Actually) and director Danny Boyle (Steve Jobs) spin a tale that, while enjoyable and crowd-pleasing, is nevertheless derivative, pandering, and kind of disappointing.

If you see Yesterday, you won’t regret it. The film definitely gets your toes tapping, and its charming performances will put a smile on your face. But I say stick to the original versions of the songs and be happy we live in a world where the Beatles do exist.

I give Yesterday a B.

“I think Nick Fury just hijacked our vacation.”

Spider-man: Far from Home is a very funny teen-superhero comedy, that, while not as good as Homecoming, is a still an upbeat and welcome palette cleanser after the heaviness of Avengers: Endgame. Jake Gyllenhaal is surprisingly well cast as Mysterio, but what works best, again, is that the conflict for Peter is a personal one, rather than a world-at-risk one. Also: The two end-credits scenes are true cliff-hangers that will make you want more, and SOON! (The first one, especially.) I give Far from Home a B+.

“You don’t get to hate it unless you love it.”

On the surface, The Last Black Man in San Francisco is the story of a man (and his friend) trying to hold on to the house his grandfather built. But it’s really a story about a city in transition and a man in search of a place, and a portrayal of complicated relationships of multiple kinds. The film is beautifully directed by Joe Talbot, gorgeously shot by cinematographer Adam Newport-Berra, and perfectly portrayed by Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors, and it should not be missed. Last Black Man gets a B+.

“This was a folk rock special.”

Echo in the Canyon posterJakob Dylan (Bob’s son, the lead singer of the Wallflowers) leads viewers on a tour of the Laurel Canyon music scene of the 1960s in Echo in the Canyon, an entertaining but conventional documentary in which music legends from bands like the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and the Mamas and the Papas tell memorable anecdotes of days gone by, and contemporary musicians perform some of that era’s biggest hits. (Jakob’s cover, with Jade Castrinos, of the Mamas and the Papas’ “Go Where You Wanna Go” is a standout.) I give it a B.

“Let’s caboom!”

Toy Story 4 is predictably sweet and satisfying, even if it’s not of the same quality that the last three films in the series were. I give it a B+.

“You really think a black suit is going to solve all your problems?”

Unnecessary, unfunny. That’s all I want to say about Men in Black International. I give it a D.

“Welcome to my world, zombies.”

The Dead Don’t Die? Well, this was a movie I saw. I give it a C.

What movies are YOU planning to see this month?

2 Responses to “The Most Bizarre Summer Festival Ever, and 7 Other Movies You Should See (or Not)”

  1. Dr Andrew Albert July 2, 2019 at 7:32 am #

    What say you about the Beatles movie?

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