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2019 Summer Movie Preview: 10 Films We're Excited About

The Thursday night crowds have now seen "Avengers: Endgame," so you know what that means—the summer movie season has officially started. And what a summer it might just be, featuring the latest from Quentin Tarantino, a whole heap of festival-adored films, a Godzilla-kaiju bash, another Spider-Man movie and much more. 

To cut through the massive list of films headed to a multiplex or art house near you, we're sharing the top ten most enticing movies on the horizon (with all release dates subject to change). We'll be covering these films among many others throughout the summer at RogerEbert.com, so be sure to check back for our reviews. 

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As with every preview, there are titles not on the list that we can also endorse from having seen them at previous festivals. Viewers should absolutely keep an eye out for Joe Talbot’s heartbreaking gentrification drama “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” Victor Kossakovsky’s apocalyptic melting ice documentary “Aquarela,” and Julius Onah’s adoption drama “Luce.” And also, we had Ava DuVernay’s Central Park Five drama “When They See Us” (May 31) on this list early on, but it was taken off when we remembered it was a miniseries. So consider that an honorary mention. 

10. "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" 

Quentin Tarantino is one of the few remaining directors whose name creates a mainstream event itself—his status of one of the most popular American directors, love him or not, always creates an event out of whatever feature finally trickles out from his creativity. So even if I’m not waiting on bated breath for Tarantino’s take on the Manson murders with “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” I’m very curious about the massive discussion that’s about to follow, especially as he takes his revisionist brand of grindhouse filmmaking to both a horrific event and a very specific era in filmmaking history. At the very least, I’m sure we’ll get a great role from Leonardo DiCaprio, who is reunited with his “Django Unchained” director among a cast that includes Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning, Al Pacino, Kurt Russell, Luke Perry, Margaret Qualley, Tim Roth, Damian Lewis and more. (July 26) 

9. "Booksmart" 

“Booksmart” was one of the more instant favorites at SXSW this past year—our own Brian Tallerico loved it at the festival, and praised director Olivia Wilde’s debut directorial efforts. As a fan of actors Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever, both who are bound to do great things across genres and movie sizes, I’m eager to see how they help Wilde tell her story of friendship in high school. Last year’s “Eighth Grade” captivated viewers across age ranges with its honesty about the process of growing up and removing oneself from isolation, so here’s hoping that “Booksmart” adds more ideas to the concept, especially as it remains the fascination of audience members and filmmakers alike. (May 24)

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8. "The Farewell" 

“The Farewell” would be on this list even if we hadn’t already seen it at Sundance—one of the delights this summer is certain to be moviegoers discovering this lovely and delicate story about a woman (Awkwafina in a true dramatic breakout) helping her family have a gathering in China without their grandmother finding out that the grandmother is terminally ill. Writer/director Lulu Wang is about to break some hearts and make viewers laugh in the most sincere way, and I can’t wait for more people to discover this film. (July 12) 

7. "Spider-Man: Far From Home"  

One of the best comedies of 2017 was “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” full stop. The way it embraced awkward teen humor, and translated that into a young man discovering his powers, helped create a unique tone that made Jon Watts’ film stand out from previous Spidey iterations. At the same time, the action proved to be the least memorable facet, large as it was, so here’s hoping that “Spider-Man: Far From Home” delivers there as well. Add in Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio, one of the better villains from Spider-Man lore, and it’s bound to be another charismatic, not entirely self-serious take on the teenage hero. And if you’re wondering how this movie could be possible after the events of “Avengers: Infinity War,” well, have fun with “Avengers: Endgame.” (July 5)

6. "Godzilla: King of Monsters" 

I was one of many who felt like 2014’s “Godzilla” played things a little too close to the chest, especially when it came out to doling out the screen presence of its title mega monster. The ambition and restraint I can respect, but, it’s Godzilla. Why can’t we see him destroy some more stuff? Well, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” seems to be an answer to that rhetorical question, throwing beloved kaiju Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah into the mix. I’m more than ready to just sit back and watch a bunch of monsters fight, all on a summer tentpole’s dime. (May 31)

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5. "The Kitchen"  

Not much is known about “The Kitchen” (there’s no trailer), but there is plenty of elements of intrigue: the directorial debut of Andrea Berloff, Oscar-nominated writer for “Straight Outta Compton,” working with the likes of Elisabeth Moss, Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Margo Martindale in a story with this IMDb synopsis: “The wives of New York gangsters in Hell’s Kitchen in the 1970s continue to operate their husbands’ rackets after they’ve been locked in prison.” That sounds a bit like Steve McQueen’s bafflingly under-appreciated “Widows” from last year, but you know how much we love “Widows.” (August 9)

4. "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" 

I remember reading Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark as a wee lad only vaguely, but I certainly remember some of the creepy monsters and ghouls from the book. With those memories, I’m very curious to see how director André Øvredal taps into the text and its unsettling creatures. And given how “It” played so well with fears that one doesn’t simply lose as they get older, here’s hoping that some of that magic carries over here. (August 9)

3. "Hobbs & Shaw" 

Just as the “Fast & Furious” franchises is now about so much more than street racing, its series is also larger than Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto and his family’s international action shenanigans. “Hobbs & Shaw,” a spin-off for Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs and Jason Statham’s Shaw, is bound to be a blow-'em-up bonanza, especially under the vision of director David Leitch ("John Wick," “Deadpool 2”), whose values for kinetic, over-the-top action line up with mine. Even though I’m a huge fan of the "Fast & Furious" movies, the only thing I demand fulfilled is some #JusticeforHan, given how the friendship between DSA agent Hobbs and assassin rapscallion Shaw was formed by the two just forgetting that Shaw killed Sung Kang’s charismatic Han. (August 2)

2. "Wine Country"  

Amy Poehler makes her debut as a feature film director (she did helm three memorable episodes on “Parks & Recreation”) with “Wine Country,” an ensemble comedy about reunited friends. It boasts an amazing cast: Rachel Dratch, Ann Gasteyer, Maya Rudolph, Paula Pell, Emily Spivey (who also co-wrote), Jason Schwartzman, Tina Fey, and Poehler herself. As a “Saturday Night Live” reunion and then some, our hopes are incredibly high. (May 10) 

1. "Midsommar"  

Ari Aster’s “Hereditary” was number one on my film list for 2018, so it only makes sense that his follow-up is on my most anticipated with his second feature, “Midsommar.” Brief glimpses offer the impressions of a “Wicker Man”-like story, set at a European festival, with Florence Pugh, Will Poulter, Jack Reynor and William Jackson Harper on board. But what has me most intrigued is the concept's emphasis on daylight—Aster has quickly made a creepy authorship out of what is just out of sight, or below, a character’s point of view. Just imagine how he could excel—or fail—with the horror of an open field, in the middle of the day. If he pulls it off, it could very well be another technical achievement for a director who is quickly making a horror style all his own. (July 3)

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