This portrait of 1890s lightkeepers Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) and Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) studies the madness that comes from boredom at sea. Drawing upon deep cultural myths — “Bad luck to kill a seabird,” Wake tells Winslow, virtually quoting “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” — the film is a thoughtful reimagining of what it meant to live in Atlantic isolation at the turn of the century. With hardly any plot and no other actors, Dafoe and Pattinson lead us through two hours of superstition and fright, enacting Wake’s opening observation: “Doldrums, doldrums, eviler than the devil.” —Isabel C. Ruehl
We reviewed “The Lighthouse” and gave it 4.5 stars. Read more here.
Though it initially appears to be a glitzy dive into the lives of a group of strippers, “Hustlers” is actually an investigation of how these women with seemingly little power turn this profession on its head after the 2008 recession. Featuring a star-studded and magnetic cast of actresses and artists including Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, and Cardi B, this film is both bold and refreshing. What makes it that much better is Jennifer Lopez’s stellar performance, which is already generating much-deserved Oscar buzz. —Aline G. Damas
Although it retains much of what made Scorsese’s earlier works great (such as the indulgent lifestyle of “Goodfellas”) and features the most iconic actors of the genre (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci), “The Irishman” succeeds most as an evolution in the gangster genre. At its core is a story of friendship, loyalty, betrayal, and the crippling costs of such an inhumane lifestyle. “The Irishman” remains in constant conversation with Scorsese’s filmography, and its sobering, heartbreaking conclusion is a reminder as to why the acclaimed director continues to be such a groundbreaking auteur 46 years after “Mean Streets." —Lanz Aaron G. Tan
We reviewed “The Irishman” at the New York Film Festival and gave it 5 stars. Read more here.
Following 2018’s critically acclaimed “Hereditary” about a disintegrating family, director Ari Aster had big shoes to fill for his next horror installment. This time, in “Midsommar,” Aster traces a rather toxic relationship crumbling as couple Dani and Christian tag along with friends who are visiting a rural Swedish midsummer festival. The village’s traditions turn from quaint to sinister, dragging the Americans into a terrifying competition for survival. Contrasting the increasingly disturbing imagery with the gorgeous, highly-saturated colors of the environment, Aster delivers one of the most beautiful horror films ever, equal parts sickening and captivating. —Samantha J. O’Connell
“Ad Astra” is a space epic that fittingly joins the ranks of the most immersive — and most thoughtful — standouts in the science fiction genre. Brad Pitt gives a career-defining performance as Roy McBride, traversing shock, loneliness, and fear in a role that thrives off of restrained subtlety. As McBride ventures further into space, the film’s messages draw closer to humanity; from a thematic study on fatherhood to focusing on making the most of the present, director James Gray takes an introspective and breathtakingly-shot look into what it means to be human. —Lanz Aaron G. Tan
We reviewed “Ad Astra” and gave it 5 stars. Read more here.
5. “Avengers: Endgame”
Look up “Avengers: Endgame” today and you’ll find dozens of articles still buzzing about the film seven months after its release. While it might not be a certain Italian-American filmmaker's cup of tea, the now highest-grossing film of all time achieved exactly what it set out to do — it got the world talking and made a whole lot of money along the way. Not only does this satisfying conclusion to 11 years of build-up mark a momentous cinematic achievement, but it also gives Robert Downey Jr. the chance to shine in an unparalleled character study of one of the world’s greatest superheroes. —Hunter T. Baldwin
We wrote about Iron Man's character arc. Read more here.
The highly-anticipated spiritual successor to “Get Out,” Jordan Peele’s “Us” is a horror-shrouded look at society and class structures. “Us” follows the Wilson family as they take a vacation to Santa Cruz, California. Unfortunately for the Wilsons — and everyone else in the United States — demons from matriarch Adelaide’s (Lupita Nyong’o) childhood return and the family has to fend off scissor-wielding doppelgangers. Unlike “Get Out,” “Us” contains more classic horror film tropes like jump scares, gore, and a creepy theme park. Like its predecessor, “Us” delivers political commentary through a chilling psychological thriller. —Annie Harrigan
We reviewed “Us” and gave it 4.5 stars. Read more here.
Perhaps the most talked-about movie of the summer, “Once Upon A Time...in Hollywood” is Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to Los Angeles. For nearly three hours, the film meanders through the Hollywood Hills and studio movie lots until it abruptly turns into the over-the-top, nearly comical violence that characterizes a Tarantino film. For a movie that can’t decide if it’s an homage to old Hollywood or a retelling of the Manson murders, it’s still three hours that you won’t want to miss. —Caroline E. Tew
We reviewed “Once Upon A Time...in Hollywood” and gave it 4 stars. Read more here.
The best “Parasite” review you will read will be a strongly-worded injunction to just go and see it (director Bong Joon-ho has been rightfully adamant about preventing spoilers in reviews). The only way to write about the film is to write around it: It serves as a reminder that we’re all helplessly ensnared by, and responsible for, the psychic condition that is capitalism, as class tensions bubble over in a disquieting urban Korean setting. Then there is the delicious and sickening thrill of an unforeseeable plot twist that, like an avalanche, drags down everything in its wake. — Claire N. Park
We reviewed “Parasite” at Cannes Film Festival and gave it 4 stars. Read more here.
Gone are the trite archetypes and drama that plague teen movies — Olivia Wilde’s feature directorial debut, “Booksmart,” is an electrically sincere and hilarious story about two girls’ last hurrah before their high school graduation. The central lesson is the realization that nobody’s a stereotype — including, for the comedic duo, the dumb jock going to Stanford. Starring Beanie Feldstein (of “Lady Bird” fame) and Kaitlyn Dever, “Booksmart” is like “Superbad,” but better: With a witty, feminist screenplay and stellar cast, it’s an exploration into the complexities of female friendships that cements the teen movie as one of the most promising genres to date. — Kaylee S. Kim
We interviewed Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Katherine Silberman, and Olivia Wilde. Read more here.