What’s the most efficient (laziest) and click-baitey (the death of journalism as we know it) method by which I can retroactively review this summer’s features? Why, a “Top 5” list of course. So since you Millenials have the collective attention span of a newt, let’s not stand on any more ceremony and get right into it…
5. Alien: Covenant
Admittedly, this is not one of my 5 favorite or the 5th best film of the summer by a long shot. But I placed it here to make a point. If Hollywood is going to continue rebooting and remolding classic films from the 70′, 80’s at least try and pretend audiences aren’t mindless seals clapping their hands together at every morsel of nostalgia you dangle in front of their noses.
Alien: Covenant is a big swing and miss, but Ridley Scott and crew can at least say they were swinging for the fences. There are truly great sequences of tense, visceral sci-fi horror, nearly every frame is a stunning portrait in and of itself, and it asks big questions about humanity and creation (team Genesis myself). But it’s actually that last point that pulls the whole thing down. Mr. Scott gets so caught up in trying to make a sequel to Prometheus, where all these big questions can be explored, that he shorts the Alien plotline and ultimately demystifies what makes the Alien so terrifying: that it’s an unstoppable, seemingly random force of nature with the sole purpose of killing.
Nevertheless a far more valiant effort than say Pirates of the Caribbean, Jurassic World, Indiana Jones, and who could forget (though we all desperately wish we could) Terminator: Gynysys (or however they misspelled it).
Anyways, this review is already going much longer than I wanted, hope I haven’t lost all of you yet. The next 4 will be more cogent.
4. Wonder Woman
A wonderful (semi-pun) throwback superhero film pitting an uncompromising force for good against a force for evil manipulating mankind’s nature into war and confrontation. Love vs. Hate. And spoilers: Love wins (topical pop-culture reference, +5 mana).
Of course I could dig deeper, but I promised I’d be more cogent, so I’ll leave it at this: Wonder Woman is a great action, period piece with an even greater hero at the heart of it all, perhaps one of the best we’ve seen on film to date, so check it out if you haven’t already. But considering it’s up over 800 million at the box office so far, I’m assuming you’ve seen it.
3. Baby Driver
Finally a mainstream hit for Edgar Wright. How it took this long for one of the best filmmakers working today is beyond me, but better late then never. And if you don’t know who I’m talking about, just look up his filmography, and likely you’ve seen (and loved, laughed) at his films, like Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz.
Baby Driver is a fantastic entry in the car chase, thriller/heist genre (or however you want to define it) full of action, romance, suspense, and comedy all cut to one of the best soundtracks for a film in recent memory. It’s a near perfect summer movie experience that almost demands to be seen in the theater.
There’s still time…get to a theater and watch it…with people. The more the merrier.
2. War for the Planet of the Apes
The title of this film is essentially a mis-market for the product…and that’s not a bad thing.
This film is the conclusion to one of the best trilogies and overall character arcs, really, in cinematic history. Our hero chimp, Caesar, struggles to pull his people out of an unwanted conflict with what’s left of the human race as they desperately try to evade extinction and replacement by this new species of intelligent ape, in what is ostensibly a biblical epic. The film becomes a quasi retelling of Moses and the Great Exodus of his people to a “promised land” where they can live peacefully.
It’s a complex character study that digs deep into the human condition, ironically, through the lens of an ape. And wow, does it succeed. I literally teared up multiple times watching the strife of a cgi chimpanzee. Well played Hollywood. At least you rebooted one franchise successfully.
I’ll openly admit, without exception, I have leaped joyfully into the Nolan bandwagon with every feature he’s made declaring him the greatest filmmaker of all time, and of course with passage of time a few of his films are placed into context a bit more *cough* Dark Knight Rises, Interstellar *cough* But with Dunkirk I confidently say he has produced a masterpiece in cinema. This is his best film to date (not my favorite, that belongs to the Dark Knight, sometimes Batman Begins depending on my mood but that’s an argument for another time).
From the heart-stopping pace of the non-linear narrative structure intertwining 3 different perspectives of the event, to the larger-than-life images all magnificently captured in stunning IMAX, this film will never let you look away or let your mind wander elsewhere. But the real star of it all, is the synergy between what Nolan shows you and what Hans Zimmer makes you hear. Zimmer’s score ratchets up the tension and anxiety and along with the 65 mm IMAX images immerses you the viewer into this nightmare of survival as much as a film possibly can.
This film should win some oscars come February. Go see it in theaters. IMAX. It’s worth it. Then maybe grab a double feature and check out Baby Driver while you’re there. Between the two, there’s a chance they could induce a panic attack but whatever, live a little.
Note: I’m behind on the smaller, indie films getting good buzz around the film snob get-togethers like the Big Sick, and I just saw Wind River hours before posting this so I can’t in good faith put it on this list until I’ve let it marinate in my mind further.