Serving up a Fight for Equal Rights
Battle of the Sexes, the new film from Little Miss Sunshine directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, is to 2017 what Hidden Figures was to 2016. The movie tackles the subject of equality by seamlessly transporting us to a time when conditions were much worse than they are today, showing us at the same time how far we have come and how far we still need to go. Whereas Hidden Figures focused on racial equality along with women’s rights, Battle of the Sexes focuses not only on women’s rights, but those of the LBGTQ community. And it does so in an incredibly entertaining fashion.
Woody Allen Light
Director Marc Webb had a big hit with his first feature, 2009’s (500) Days of Summer, and like most young directors these days who have a big hit right out of the gate, he was offered the keys to a blockbuster franchise. But the Amazing Spider-Man films felt more like studio projects than they did a vision of their director and so it is nice that in 2017, Webb returns to smaller projects with not one, but two new films. The first was the charming, heartstring-puller Gifted, released earlier this year and the second is The Only Living Boy in New York, a Woody Allen-esque, New York City-based drama.
A Snowy Mystery
Coming off back-to-back critical successes as a screenwriter with Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan has earned the opportunity to direct that he gets with Wind River. The film is not Sheridan’s first directorial effort—that would be 2011’s low-budget horror flick Vile—but it his first with a halfway decent budget and a couple of prominent actors in the lead roles (two Avengers, no less). The resulting film, like Hell or High Water, is a compelling story about a part of the American landscape that has been all but forgotten by those outside of it.
Not the Epic You’re Looking For
For decades, the novels and short stories of author Stephen King have been adapted into dozens of movies, miniseries, and television shows, but the one saga that his fans have perhaps most been clamoring for is a big budget adaptation of King’s The Dark Tower series. Considered by many to be the author’s magnum opus, it is an epic eight-book fantasy series that tells its own story, while also bringing in many of King’s other properties into one giant shared universe. The film project has started and stalled multiple times over the years, but finally director Nikolaj Arcel is bringing The Dark Tower to the big screen.
Spray Painted, Neon Action
Action movies—particularly the R-rated ones—have been going through something of a transition recently. While the past decade was dominated by the shaky camera work and rapid editing popularized by the Jason Bourne movies, movies like 2011’s The Raid: Redemption and 2014’s John Wick have returned action movies to a time when the camera followed the action, rather than took part in it. While looking back, these films have also moved the genre forward by adding a definite, almost balletic style to the action and a smoothness to the images presented on screen. The latest example to hit theaters is Atomic Blonde, starring Charlize Theron, shortly after she completely stole Mad Max: Fury Road from its title character.
A Whole New World
In a box-office world dominated by sequels, reboots, and cinematic universes, it is refreshing to get a movie that strives to be something completely new, at least from a visual standpoint. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is just that, as director Luc Besson returns to the sci-fi fantasy genre he previously succeeded in with 1997’s The Fifth Element. Unlike that movie, though, the ambitions of the story cannot quite match the ambitions of the visuals in Valerian, but the visuals alone are certainly worth checking out.
A Time Puzzle of a War Drama
Director Christopher Nolan has made some bulky movies in his career, with the last two—Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises—clocking in at closer to three hours than two hours. So it was a bit of a surprise to find out that his new World War II drama Dunkirk had a runtime of only 106 minutes. That runtime makes Dunkirk the second shortest of all Nolan’s features, longer only than his debut Following, which clocked in at a brief 96 minutes. The movie also has a PG-13 rating, a rarity among recent war films. But Nolan’s purpose with Dunkirk is not to tell a bloated drama graphically depicting the horrors of war, but rather to tell the true-life heroic story of survival in the time needed to tell the story. For the most part, Nolan succeeds with Dunkirk, but time factors into the film more than just its runtime.
Return of the Webslinger
The character of Spider-Man is a huge part of the Marvel universe in the comics, but because his film rights were held by Sony and not Marvel Studios, he could not be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe shared by the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor. But after Sony’s last two Spider-Man films performed poorly, the studio executives there decided to make a deal with Marvel to share the character. This latest version of the character, now played by actor Tom Holland, made his MCU debut to great acclaim in last year’s Captain America: Civil War. Now the rebooted Spider-Man is back to make his solo debut in this summer’s delightful Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Summer’s Most Genuine Comedy
The summer movie season is typically filled with big-budget action spectacles, animated kids movies, and broad comedies. But every good summer movie season also usually has at least one breakout independent movie that serves as counter-programming to the blockbusters. Typically, these movies become big hits in their own right thanks mostly to good word of mouth and The Big Sick has been getting good word of mouth ever since it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.
Car Chase Karaoke
A year before his breakout hit Shaun of the Dead was released in 2004, Edgar Wright directed a music video for the group Mint Royale and their song “Blue Song.” The video featured a getaway driver lip-synching and dancing along with the tunes in his car while waiting for his crew to rob a bank. With his new film Baby Driver, Wright has taken that brief concept—reenacted in the movie’s opening scene—and turned it into a hip thrill ride of a motion picture that should pump some gas into the summer movie season.
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