We’re more than halfway through the year and only a few months from Oscars season, and movie buffs around the world are breathing sighs of relief. After last year’s strain of god-awful films and mediocre Oscar winners, this summer’s films are breathing life back into the industry that seemed to trip and fall during 2018. Here are this summers’ headlining films, all of which you can find online on Google Play and other sites.
Aladdin – May 24
This summer started off strong with Aladdin being released on May 24. Aladdin’s mediocre Rotten Tomatoes score comes in at 57 percent rotten but is met with a 94 percent user rating, introducing the increasing split between popular reviewers and modern watchers. Despite memes circling of the blue-faced genie played by Will Smith, this ended up being the highest-grossing film of Smith’s career. With live-action Disney becoming an extremely lucrative field, more films like Aladdin, including Mulan, are sure to grace our screens in the coming years.
Booksmart – May 24
Booksmart faced the same, but opposite, audience/reviewer split as Aladdin: while earning a meager $25 million in the box office, Booksmart boasts a 97 percent reviewer rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film also solidified the current trend in teen films of type-A female protagonists who are smart, strong-willed and ambitious without being nerdy or geeky. They’re neither cool nor lame, and instead serve as realistic mixtures of both, seemingly abandoning societal archetypes to make more believable and relatable, not to mention beautifully feministic, characters. This type of character also starred in the wildly successful Lady Bird in 2017.
Rocketman – May 31
Despite being achingly predictable, Rocketman wasn’t all bad. Taron Egerton’s brilliantly real performance as Elton John saves the film from letting its boringly traditional biopic setup ruin what is actually a meaningful story. Start with the highly emotional low-point, rewind to see how the character ended up there, twist all of the negative events in the character’s life in a way that makes their eventual redemption even more heart-wrenching — this movie did it all. The creative musical numbers were stunning, but can’t erase the film’s cringey montages of screaming fans and shopping sprees and endless performances. All in all, the film is worth watching, especially for movie lovers who are eager to see the film’s unique portrayals of music.
Dark Phoenix — June 7
X-Men: Dark Phoenix wasn’t too bad a film. I wouldn’t have such harsh opinions if it weren’t the end of the X-Men, a fiercely beloved franchise that spans nearly twenty years. Ending the X-Men with this film, especially without an appearance from the beloved Wolverine, was a weak choice. Why not end it all with Logan, a film which garnered a 93 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and would have audience members wiping tears in packed theater after packed theater? It’s true that Jean’s storyline epitomizes the mutant struggle, but that’s because it’s painfully cliche, despite Sophie Turner’s stellar acting. This film just didn’t feel like an ending. We got only a taste of Professor X’s newfound moral flaws, of Nightcrawler’s capacity for violence — why wait until the final film to add these plot points? This movie wouldn’t have garnered such awful reviews if it weren’t the finale and if more explanation was promised. The harrowing fight scenes and believable acting weren’t enough to save the unclear plot, and Dark Phoenix brought the X-Men series to an unclear and unsatisfying end.
Toy Story 4 — June 21
Somehow, Toy Story 4 manages the impossible: depicting the fact of mortality, confusion toward life’s purpose, the pain of watching old friends grow and change and the beauty of accepting destiny…while still being funny, lighthearted and kid-friendly. The movie’s relatable emotional pull draws watchers into a film which many critique for being an unnecessary addition to the franchise. It’s true that this plot could’ve been shifted to several newer franchises, like the Wreck It Ralph series. However, it was nice and meaningful to see our old characters go through the same life-altering tilts and emotional journeys that original watchers are currently going through. In this way, the latest addition to the series was timed well to be relatable to the now-adults who have been with it since the beginning, similar to and a bit more successful than The Incredibles 2 shift toward political polarization in an attempt to be modern.
Spider-man: Far From Home — July 7
As someone who isn’t the biggest fan of superhero movies, I wasn’t expecting to like the latest Spider-man film. I’m happy to say, though, that this movie was a pleasant surprise. I can’t pinpoint exactly what I liked about it. It was just a great movie. Using the beloved Jake Gylenhaal as Mysterio was genius and it’s absolutely impossible not to love Tom Holland in what seems like the role he was born to play. Although the climax’s trip through holograms abandoned the boundaries of the film’s logistics, the CGI was cool to watch and the action was followable and intense. Overall, this is an extremely watchable movie, even for people who don’t love the Marvel Universe.
The Lion King – July 24
Ah, The Lion King. It was impossible not to be excited for this film. I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, especially since I was on the verge of tears for the entire two-hour movie. However, the CGI wasn’t great. The lack of expression or emotion from any of the animals (it sounds ridiculous, I know) was unfortunate, and the quick jumps from scene to scene left the beginning of the film difficult to get into. Once the film slowed down and allowed the plot to develop, it came into its own and led to a tense and beautifully designed climax between the lions, Scar and the horde of hyenas. The film achieves all of the same emotional and family pulls the original had, and the feelings are all the more real in the stunning African landscape.
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – July 31
To be honest, I’m not sure how to review this movie. It’s a classic Tarantino flick, with a slow build and a messy, violent number at the end. Is it the best movie ever made? No. Is it Tarantino’s best? No. Is it getting positive attention simply for being a Tarantino movie? Maybe. The movie is okay. It’s good. I liked the characters. It’s not a movie to write home about and it’s not something I’ll remember a few years down the line, but the tension-building was stunning, the characters well-developed and easily loveable, the history-rewriting bittersweet and the directing exquisite. It’s worth watching, but don’t go in expecting a Tarantino masterpiece or you’ll risk being unimpressed.
Story by Samantha Joslin