The 2017 summer movie season is about halfway over. When people are not risking their lives water skiing, being eaten alive by mosquitoes while sitting by a fire or relaxing on hot sand for fun, they like taking advantage of their free time and go catch a movie.
Does May count as the summer? Who knows, in this case it does.
May releases included the incredible “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2”, the surprisingly great “Alien: Covenant” and sadly the critically despised “Baywatch.”
June and July have seen a solid array of films come through the theaters including a couple that will go down as some of the best of the year.
“Wonder Woman” 3.5 / 5 Stars
After the understandably divisive “Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and the giant stinky piece of garbage “Suicide Squad,” Warner Brothers and DC knew they needed “Wonder Woman” to genuinely be good to reassure faith back in their fans. Thankfully they succeeded. Director Patty Jenkins (“Monster”) and company played it a little safe to the chest with a more typical superhero origin story but it ended up working in their favor. With a great surprise of a villain with Hades (David Thewlis, “Fargo”) and the excellent chemistry between Diana (Gal Gadot, “Keeping Up With The Joneses”) and Steve Trevor (Chris Pine, “Star Trek Beyond”) “Wonder Woman” ended up saving the DC Extended Universe’s day by being the fun summer blockbuster they needed.
It is also worth noting that the film’s opening focusing on Diana’s home of Themyscira and the other warriors of the Amazon, with strong performances from Connie Nielsen (“Stratton”) and Robin Wright (“House of Cards”) is both beautifully designed and has probably the most visually stunning action scene of the whole film.
“It Comes at Night” 3 / 5 Stars
The second film from independent filmmaker Trey Edward Shults (“Krisha”) was sadly terribly mis-marketed, which may have affected its limited box office run. Making it appear as more of a monster movie than a virus movie, “It Comes at Night” still has a lot of great moments. The film’s best element is hands down the cinematography, each shot is beautifully set up and captured as the narrative unfolds. While Joel Edgerton (“Loving”) is always fantastic, it was nice to see Christopher Abbott (“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”) put on a great performance as the worried, protective father and husband. Abbott will no doubt start appearing in more big budget studio films any day now. Also featured was Riley Keough (“The Girlfriend Experience”) who brings a unique voice and perspective to any project she’s in, another young actor that deserves more roles.
“Baby Driver” 4 / 5 Stars
Edgar Wright (“The World’s End”) is one of the most talented filmmakers working today. Even though he had been working in television before his big screen debut of “Shaun of the Dead,” he saw immediate success in filmmaking. “Baby Driver” is no different, an instant success with so much going one can notice things they hadn’t before their fifth or even sixth viewing. The visuals have layers, Wright is able to sneak in jokes visually, as he has done with all of his films, alongside perfectly synchronizing the soundtrack with the action. This is not just putting a cool song over a rambunctious car chase or shoot-out sequence. This is deliberately planned choreography. Each pull of a gun’s trigger, turn of a key, and punch in the face hits a beat in the music and makes it appear as one seamless product. “Baby Driver” has an all-star cast featuring Ansel Elgort(“Allegiant”), Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”), Jamie Foxx (“Sleepless”), and Jon Bernthal (“The Accountant”), but the Bonnie and Clyde-esque couple of Buddy (Jon Hamm, “Tour de Pharmacy”) and Darling (Eiza Gonzalez, “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series”) stands above them all. A film that feels effortlessly slick and is more fun than most of the bigger budget action movies that the summer usually sees.
“The Big Sick” 3.5 / 5 Stars
Judd Apatow (“Trainwreck”) has been investing in young talent throughout his entire career. From Seth Rogen (“Sausage Party”) to Lena Dunham (“Girls”), Apatow produces a variety of projects filled with diverse themes and features all sorts of people. “The Big Sick” is co-written by Emily Gordon (“The Meltdown With Jonah and Kumail”) and Kumail Nanjiani based on their real life relationship of how Emily was put into a medically induced coma after dating Nanjiani (“Silicon Valley”) for a few months. Nanjiani’s Pakistani heritage plays a large role in the narrative and his interactions with Emily’s parents, played by Holly Hunter (“Song To Song”) and Ray Romano (“Get Shorty”), are the most entertaining moments of the film. Whether it is a heavy dramatic scene or one full of humor, their chemistry with one another is just dazzling and proves Romano needs to venture in more dramatic material. “The Big Sick” is hurt by its slightly too long runtime for what is one of the most authentic romantic comedies in a long time.
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” 4 / 5 Stars
Director Jon Watts (“Cop Car”) has the pleasure of knowing that himself and co-writers Jonathan Goldstein (“Vacation”) and John Francis Daley (“Horrible Bosses 2”) that they have crafted the best Spider-Man film yet. “Homecoming” stands out from all of the Marvel movies even though it fits perfectly within the universe. It feels as much like a John Hughes film as it does a superhero one, like if Peter Parker was put in detention with the rest of the breakfast club, this would be it. Tom Holland (“The Lost City of Z”) is stellar as Parker, he brings out the youth in the character and for once you believe what Spider-Man would act like if he was really just a high schooler figuring out his super powers. The spin of Spidey being more of Iron Man’s apprentice at this point in his crime fighting career closes in on the scope of the story even though the stakes feel just as big. The young cast shines and as always, Michael Keaton (“The Founder”) is just fantastic as the villain. You almost do not blame for what he is doing. Hilarious with great action, just what a Spider-Man film should be.
“War for the Planet of the Apes” 3 / 5 Stars
With all of critics clamoring over this film, it is disappointing that after the first fantastic 50 or so minutes, the film turns to a predictable narrative with an even more predictable ending. An ending that is honestly borderline generic, even though it is well done. Director Matt Reeves (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”) did create a visual stunner, the shots of this film, especially during the first act are simply gorgeous, almost portrait like. Not to mention the visual effects and motion captures performances of those playing apes in the film. It is also disappointing that for a movie with the word “war” in its title, there is only one battle scene and of course, it’s in the beginning. It is intense and raw, just like Caesar’s quest for revenge. Once the narrative slows down, the only good thing to happen on screen are the face to face showdowns between Caesar and The Colonel (Woody Harrellson, “Wilson.”)
“Dunkirk” 4.5 / 5 Stars
Christopher Nolan (“Interstellar”) is another director on this list that can be considered one of the greatest working today. Known for his nonlinear storytelling techniques and brilliance behind the lens, Nolan has crafted what could possibly be his most well-made film, technically speaking at least. Shot with IMAX cameras, each shot appears nearly perfect. With IMAX sound and high quality cameras used to film, this is a truly immersive experience. One almost feels a part of the action no matter what is happening on the screen. Whether it is Tom Hardy (“Taboo”) dog fighting in the air while piloting, fearing bombs from above while on the beaches or anxiously looking for a way off of a boat, the story uniquely unfolds. With three intersecting storylines that are each a little off from one another on the timeline, but somehow appear as one conscious story. It is not a film filled with dialogue, each line has a purpose that moves the film, alongside the intense, visceral suspense that Nolan builds up between each scene. The enemy is not focused on once during this WWII film, which is fascinating. It makes it even more impressive how invested and engaged with the characters the audience grows throughout the film. And yes, Harry Styles is actually kind of great in “Dunkirk,” it will be interesting to see him in a more focused role in the future.
While the summer will still be around for another month or so, the studios still have more movies to release. This August will show us Katheryn Bigelow’s based on real life events film “Detroit”, Taylor Sheridan’s directorial debut “Wind River”, and “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” which could be one of the few actually decent comedies this summer.
This September has some exciting projects such as the highly anticipated “It” adaptation, the wild “Kingsman” sequel, the list goes on and on.