The best (and worst) of summer movies

Noah: You know what, Jonah, I think it was actually a good summer for movies. I think I tend to go see more arthouse/independent stuff, and I feel pretty satisfied with what I saw. There were quality movies coming out like every two weeks—it wasn’t like 2017, which, to me, seemed like a real drought in terms of quality. It was the summer, too, of the Fall of Moviepass, which I’m sure we’ll get into. But what were your overall impressions and favorites?

Jonah: You know, Noah? I agree! This was an especially solid summer for indies. We had “Sorry to Bother You,” one of the most original and energetic movies I’ve seen in awhile (even if it’s got a few problems that hold it back). I absolutely adored “Eighth Grade,” Bo Burnham’s powerful portrait of adolescence. As of now, it’s my favorite movie of the year. We also got a great Ethan Hawke performance out of the faith driven drama of “First Reformed” and the best horror movie since “Get Out” with the terrifying “Hereditary.” Finally, there’s Spike Lee’s return to form, “BlacKkKlansman,” which is the auteur’s best work in years. Far from a drought indeed.

Blockbuster-wise, this summer also had a lot of good ones, maybe just a notch below summer 2017. We got “Incredibles 2” and “Mission: Impossible–Fallout,” two flicks that prove filmmaking craft is far from dead in “big” movies. I didn’t go crazy for “Avengers: Infinity War” or “Deadpool 2,” but they’re both above average superhero fare. As far as I can tell, the only real stinker was “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” Does that sound right? What did you think of this summer’s crop of spectacle? Any indies that I missed?

Noah: I have a confession to make: I didn’t see any blockbusters this summer beside “Incredibles 2.” Maybe it’s because “Solo” left such a bad taste in my mouth, or that we had so many quality arthouse films to choose from. Besides the ones you mentioned, my favorites were “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” and “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot.”

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor” is the documentary about Fred Rogers that’s been really successful ($20 million domestically). It’s great getting to dig deeper into the life of a man who affected so many Americans through his show—plus we learn that he was not, in fact, a sniper in Vietnam with 25 confirmed kills. I feel like it’s a sure hit for anyone who watched “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” or is just feeling worn out by the lack of visible decency in our modern media age.

“Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,” is a biopic about John Callahan, an alcoholic, who, after a devastating accident that leaves him almost completely paralyzed, comes to terms with his disease and eventually becomes a renowned cartoonist. The movie has a lot of love for its flawed characters: Joaquin Phoenix brings warmth and vulnerability, and Jonah Hill gives a career-best performance as Phoenix’s leisure suit-wearing AA sponsor. Jack Black steals the film as an alcoholic friend named Dexter—what more could you want?

There were no big duds for me—or at least, maybe they didn’t hurt as much because I wasn’t paying full price for each ticket. This summer was the first time I used MoviePass, and it dramatically changed moviegoing for me. Has it changed how you go to the movies—and, more importantly, are you still a subscriber after their pretty massive changes?

Jonah: Oh absolutely. For those who don’t know, MoviePass is a subscription service that, for ten dollars a month, will let you see a movie a day. A deal too good to be true, MoviePass has had a tumultuous summer as the company has run out of cash and has slowly been limiting customers at every turn. MoviePass worked for me most of the summer and I’m sure to miss it—in the last week, I canceled my subscription and joined their competitor, the “AMC Stubs” program. It’s a far more reliable option, even if it is a little more expensive.

Two more final movies of note: “Three Identical Strangers” and “Crazy Rich Asians.” The former is a fascinating documentary (alas, I didn’t make it to “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”), and the latter is a below-average rom com. It’s nothing short of revolutionary for a major Hollywood movie to feature an all-Asian cast, but the film itself is a derivative affirmation of global capitalism. I was not a fan. To answer your earlier question, summer 2018 gave us a lot of movies that I would have paid full price for. But I’ll still miss MoviePass.

Noah: Farewell MoviePass, you were too good for this world. I hope some more competition appears, because getting to take risks on movies you’re not totally sure about is awesome. Here’s hoping for an even better fall.

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