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Love, violence gleams on the summertime silver screen

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Collin, played by Daveed Diggs, and Miles, played by Rafael Casal, walk around their lively Oakland streets in "Blindspotting."

The first week of May up to the last week of August marks the summer movie extravaganza, when studios roll out their biggest blockbusters with the most hype in theaters around the world.

This year, with Avengers: Infinity War coming out in the last week of April, audiences were treated to an early summer. And with so many movies coming out every week, it was difficult to keep up. I did what I could and took in more than 20 films.

I didn’t see every movie, but there are enough to recommend and enough to deny seeing again. I can see some of these already being contenders for next year’s Oscars, an exciting feat for the summer stretch going into fall.

  1. Crazy Rich Asians

Within my top 10 films that I saw this summer, my choice at No. 10 reminds movie-goers that cinema can still be new, even with a familiar storytelling formula.

Keeping with a story that we’ve heard about before; Crazy Rich Asians stands out in the romantic comedy genre by casting Chinese and Chinese American actors.

It’s a symbolic film, telling audiences that there are other places outside of the United States with rich culture and beautiful souls. We, in America, don’t always have the pleasure of seeing foreign countries with their citizens in the limelight.

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures Publicity

Henry Golding’s Nick introduces his girlfriend, Constance Wu’s Rachel, to his upper-class and stuck-up mother.

Christine Wu and Henry Golding have the chemistry of two real lovebirds. Crazy Rich Asians also allows secondary characters to shine and have their moments of comedy and emotion, especially Awkwafina as Rachel’s comedy relief best friend and Gemma Chan as Nick’s cousin.

It’s heartwarming to know people are pushing for more diversity, and Hollywood is listening.

  1. Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Transitioning to a more traditional summer blockbuster, Mission: Impossible – Fallout takes ninth place among the best movies I saw this summer.

Action and stunts galore are what makes this sixth installment of the Tom Cruise-led franchise so great.

Whenever there’s a new Mission: Impossible, the next thing I think is ‘What stunt are they going to attempt this time?’

Fallout takes this thought, amplifies it, and asks me ‘What aren’t we going to attempt?’

HALO Jumps from tens of thousands of feet in the sky, flying and divebombing a helicopter, and a dangerous rooftop jump are only a few stunts that Cruise subjects himself to, and it doesn’t deviate from the story.

Although at times it feels like Fallout is too smart for its own good, director Christopher McQuarrie makes sure to balance both the action and the thrilling pace of an undercover spy/destroy-the-world plot.

  1. The Incredibles 2

It’s no secret Pixar’s resume is filled with hit after hit, but to say that their newest film is just as great as its previous films is an understatement.

The Incredibles 2 had a difficult barrier to overcome: Justifying 10 years of waiting.

Courtesy of Walt Disney Media

Elastigirl, Jack-Jack, Violet, Mr. Incredible and Dash are saved by an explosion by Violet’s force field powers.

Fortunately, the wait was worth it. The Incredibles 2 is one of the best animated sequels of all time. The zany family dynamic between all of the members of the Parr family is once again the dominant feature of the film, with superpowers and villainous plans leaning into secondary concerns.

Bob Parr, also known as Mr. Incredible, lacks the self-control to bring superheroes back into the real world, after years of them being illegal. It’s up to Helen Parr, aka Elastigirl, to work with a wealthy company’s CEO to bring them out of hiding, all while a mysterious and unknown supervillain is preventing her from succeeding.

The Incredibles 2 swaps gender roles, touches on themes like death and adolescence, and has one of the best scenes ever involving a baby and a raccoon — plus, the Pixar animators make the world look pretty as hell.

The one-two hit combo of Superheroes and animation can’t get better than The Incredibles franchise.

  1. BlacKkKlansman

It’s a task to see as many different movies in theaters as you can. Not all of them I’ve been able to review. However, I can rate them on my top 10 list.

Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman is lucky No. 7 on my list because of its incredible story that’s both hilarious and thrilling.

I can’t see another director like Lee to bring a story of a black cop and a white cop working together to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan in 1979. With sensitive material like race and all-too-real police brutality, making light of these topics while taking them seriously is the best way to portray BlacKkKlansman.

Lee walks the line well, as he does with most of his films like Do the Right Thing and She’s Gotta Have It.

I was in my seat laughing and cringing at some of the racist and absolutely ridiculous things that some of these KKK members said. Lee shows us that white America can be entertaining from a distance.

Take note though, BlacKkKlansman does contain a ton of language normal for the situation, time and adventure Lee is taking the audience on. If you can get past the subject matter — pull up your socks and accept it — then BlacKkKlansman will take you on a ride to the most artsy way in film this year to say, “All power to all people, you jive turkey.”

  1. Eighth Grade

Movies like Dazed and Confused or The Breakfast Club or Napoleon Dynamite are about nothing and everything at the same time.

They are coming of age stories that are generally about the person growing and learning as a human being. Eighth Grade tells a similar story like that but in one of the scariest moments of puberty: the transition of finishing eighth grade and going into high school.

Bo Burnham is a stand-up comic who has acted in and written productions in sketch comedy. He made his directorial debut with Eighth Grade and, damn, does writing and directing shine.

Bo Burnham’s amazing coming of age comedy is gut-bustingly funny, uncomfortable, sad and brave when it needs to be. There are moments of comedy and cringworthiness, but it does that on purpose to mirror the moments of being a young teenager.

If I were to compare this to a specific film, I would consider Eighth Grade the comedic version of Requiem for a Dream. I love both movies and praise them both for telling a story that movie-goers don’t normally get to see; however, some scenes were uncomfortable enough to not make me want to see it again.

I’ve lived through puberty once. Not doing that again. Thanks for the reminders of some of my most beautiful and horrifying memories, Bo Burnham.

  1. Deadpool 2

Yes. Deadpool 2 is the only superhero movie on my list. Sue me.

Then again, this foul-mouthed schizophrenic superhero — the comic book version — reflects my bias. I love Deadpool and will always love him, over and over again.

Deadpool 2 had a similar task to pull off like The Incredibles 2: to live up to the first in the franchise. Why does Deadpool 2 succeed better than The Incredibles 2? Pixar has shown to have the chops to make fantastic movies, including sequels. 20th Century Fox is much more hit or miss with its superhero movies. Examples include: Fantastic Four — or better known as Fant4stic — and the widely panned X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

It’s safe to say that these failures, and successes, were fuel for Ryan Reynolds and his writing staff to create a competent sequel to the fourth wall-breaking Merc with a Mouth. Uproarious and touching, in every way you can think of, Deadpool 2 is the most fun superhero movie of this summer.

Conspiracy theory: Deadpool killing the Marvel Universe starts with taking out Thanos. Disney would definitely allow that, wouldn’t they?

  1. Hereditary

Hereditary is a film that might not sit well with some audience members. The audience score says it all on Rotten Tomatoes.

Like A24’s The Witch in 2016, the independent horror genre can cause controversy. Do people understand it? Is it deeper than the surface shows?

Whatever it is, Hereditary nails the wire between artsy and mainstream. The movie was tension-filled and my palms were sweating the whole time.

The one scene that everyone talks about is not for the faint of heart. I wasn’t expecting the turns that director Ari Aster demonstrated with his fleshed out characters.

If Toni Collette isn’t considered for best actress, I will curse the Academy using a Ouija Board. She is outstanding as a mother dealing with various deaths in her family and haunting visions that foresee violent actions.

This upcoming Halloween, if you are having trouble picking a movie that doesn’t just scare the hair off your skin but also leaves viewers in a state of shock during and after the runtime, then Hereditary is the perfect summer movie for October.

  1. Upgrade

Probably the quietest movie on my list that breaks the top five, Upgrade flew under the radar of the mainstream, opening number six in the box office its first weekend.

People are missing out on one of the coolest and darkest films that could happen in the near future. It’s also violent as all hell.

When Grey Trace, played brilliantly by Logan Marshall-Green, is paralyzed after a gang terrorizes him and murders his wife, he is given a computer chip named Stem that gives him the ability to walk again and the ability of superhuman reflexes and hand-to-hand combat.

With this chip, he’s now able to find those who killed his wife and get revenge. However, getting to his ultimate goal is blocked by other people with guns in their hands, who also have superhuman combat skills, and a suspicious conspiracy about who killed his wife.

Blumhouse Tilt is the production company helming this science fiction B-movie. Considering some of its repertoire pays homage to this type of filmmaking, it isn’t surprising that Upgrade is released under their name. What is surprising is how good it came out to be.

Upgrade is violent, fun and gritty. Still, Marshall-Green is able to add its moments of comedy to his performance.

Stem is able to control Trace’s body without Trace actually thinking or doing anything. In these moments, Marshall-Green allows his face to react as though he’s an audience member saying, “Oh crap!” and “That’s disgusting” while his arms, legs and the rest of his body do the fighting.

The premise of augmenting people with technology isn’t at all a new thought in film. What Upgrade does to elevate the story is adjusting a creative ending that leaves the audience overwhelmed with depressing thoughts on whether or not the future is safe for the tech we’re creating now.

  1. Blindspotting

Bay Area pride.

Blindspotting was on my most anticipated list since the trailer came out in April. With gentrification, racial divides, police encounters and the hipster takeover, Blindspotting hits on themes and topics that are important to many cities around America, especially Oakland where the movie takes place.

Written and starring Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, both Bay Area natives, hard-hitting subjects that people deal with in reality are dealt with in Blindspotting with comedy and drama.

Like Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, moments comedy and thrilling drama are found scattered throughout the movie, and they both complement each other, not letting comedy stand out in front of drama or vice versa.

Courtesy of Lionsgate Publicity

Collin and Miles argue outside of a Oakland convenient store about owning and handling a gun on the streets.

What I found incredibly powerful in Blindspotting is the acting. Both Diggs and Casal have presence on the screen and on stage, in other projects. They’re friends in real life and I can see their true chemistry in comradery on screen.

I didn’t think this would be so high up on my list. I thought I would just like it. But it has much more of a profound impact on me, being of Latin American descent and having lived in Oakland and the Bay Area my whole life.

I see Blindspotting as a day in the life of the average Joe in Oakland trying to make a living, having fun with friends and experiencing the out-of-hand injustice on Oaktown streets.

Sometimes the only thing between you and a bullet is silence. Blindspotting makes the noise to shake hearts and I hope that this movie gets the attention it deserves around the country and around the world.

  1. Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Think about all the sadness and hurt there is everywhere. Now scale it down to one person: you. Think about what can make you happy; what can make you smile and dance and tell someone that you love them.

One person can make a difference, regardless of what others may tell you.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor is a reminder of the good one person can do.

I grew up with Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood. Even if you didn’t, this Morgan Neville-directed documentary will light up your world, even if just for a second. That subtle second can have a deep impact.

Neville takes the audience on a journey of Fred Rogers’s life during the taping of his PBS show. In the most meaningful way possible, Rogers had the weight of a future on his shoulders. He cared for the children watching his show and established that by speaking to children as real people.

He talked about death, divorce, racism, war and various other issues that were on the news and in the household. He believed in love and how that could be everybody’s savior.

To tell one person that you love them means a whole lot to that person. Think about who you love most and say it that you love them. Even if they aren’t there; even if you’re in a coffee shop; even if you’re in a train; even if you’re in a room by yourself, you are loved and will always be loved.

2018’s summer was filled with great and terrible films. But even if all the audience gained was Won’t You Be My Neighbor, I’d say that this summer was successful.

I’m not crying, you’re crying.

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