Author: Luke Guertler
The summer of 2017 was by far one of the best summers for movies we have seen in recent years. Some truly spectacular blockbusters were produced this season: examples including “Wonder Woman” and “Dunkirk.” Along with these massive films, we were also graced by one of the best showings of independent films. Breakouts like “Good Time,” “It Comes At Night,” and “A Ghost Story” may not have been playing at your local theater, but their superiority cannot go unnoticed. In this article I will give you the top ten movies of the summer that you should have watched. And if you haven’t seen them already, then hopefully you will now.
10. Ingrid Goes West
This summer saw an atrocious amount of comedies that were altogether… the same. They either had the dynamic of a buddy movie or a group party movie. These films, while they can be fun, usually fall flat from a narrative perspective, going for laughs rather than story. There was however one that stood out: “Ingrid Goes West.” This film takes a positive step forward from the rest of the comedies by making it about one single person, rather than spreading the story thin on multiple characters with little significance.
What really made “Ingrid” stand out though, aside from it being a clever social commentary, were its performances. Aubrey Plaza (“Parks and Recreation”) stars as Ingrid, a mentally disturbed individual who decides to move west to become friends with someone she has been stalking on Instagram. And while Plaza usually gets criticism for her deadpan style of acting, here she branches out showing what true talent she has. “Ingrid” can be dark at times, but Matt Spicer, the rookie director, does a great job at keeping quality equilibrium between comedy and drama.
9. Good Time
Strap yourselves in for one wild ride in this independent film put out by the young, but powerhouse production company A24 Films. “Good Time” follows Connie Nikas, played by Robert Pattinson (“Twilight”) as he races against the clock and the police to get his mentally handicapped brother, Nick, out of prison. And if that weren’t enough, Connie is the reason for Nick’s incarceration after a failed bank robbery.
“Good Time” has many redeemable qualities, firstly in its pacing. This film clocks in at about an hour and forty minutes, but it feels more like an hour. The reason this thrilling movie moves so quickly is because of an amazing score by Oneohtrix Point Never, the semi-real time shooting, and the impressive acting done by its leading male. Pattinson’s performance definitely locked in a spot for best actor, as he becomes a self-destructive criminal by immersing himself fully into the part. This truly is a good time, and while an independent film, I think even the big blockbuster fans will enjoy it.
8. It Comes At Night
Never have I seen a horror movie quite like this. “It Comes At Night” is a film surrounding a family of three living in the countryside doing what it takes to survive a zombie apocalypse. I say this film is totally original, because while it is about a zombie apocalypse, that is actually not the focus of the story. The focus is on the family and what they would be willing to do if something were to compromise their safety.
Trey Edward Shults (“Krisha”) who directed this film, in my opinion, is one of the most skillful directors from the rookie class, falling only slightly behind Damien Chazelle (“La La Land”). What Shults does with his screenplays is impressive, as he has a remarkable understanding of family dynamics and how to present them in an extremely raw fashion. It Comes At Night is truly harrowing because it depicts humanity in such a realistic, yet terrifying way.
7. War for the Planet of the Apes
I am not a huge fan of big blockbuster movies because I believe them to be more formulaic in plot and more of a money grab. The “Planet of the Apes” trilogy, however, is far from any of those things. This is one of the most impressive fra
nchises to date, as not only is each film immensely exciting and moving, but also continues to improve with each film.
Where “Apes” is obviously a technical achievement in its visual effects, it is also an acting achievement for its lead actor, Andy Serkis (“Lord of the Rings”). He not only voiced the main character, Caesar, but he also took part in the motion capture aspect. This took the likes of Serkis’ body language and facial expressions and put it on the actual animated character. This was the right call because Serkis’ performance is one of a kind. “Apes” is just beautiful in story as it can take an animal and give it more personality and drive than even some humans.
6. The Lovers
“The Lovers” revolves around a couple, played by Debra Winger (“The Ranch”) and Tracy Letts (“The Big Short”) who have fallen out of love and are having their own respective affairs. These affairs however turn into the same kind of relationship that drove them apart to begin with, and thus the two begin having an affair together.
This premise alone shows the brilliance of writer/director Azazel Jacobs (“Terri”) as he is able to make something that seems totally farcical actually have a practical basis. The way he showcases what it looks like to be in love with the idea of someone versus the actual person is impeccable. On top of just a superb screenplay, Winger’s performance is off the chart as she adds a whole other dimension to the film. The lesson to be learned with “The Lovers” is that “love” doesn’t just affect you, but those around you as well.
Kathryn Bigelow (“Hurt Locker”) is one of the best working directors in Hollywood today. “Detroit” marks her third successful collaboration with screenwriter Mark Boal. The film is based on the true events of the Detroit riots and the sickening Algiers Motel Incident. Her direction style shines in this film as her use of the shaky cam adds an extra sense of urgency to the story. While a lot of critics praised Bigelow for her direction—and the actors across the board—they were critical of the script, saying it was too heavy-handed. And while this may be true, I believe it to be the only way this story could be told. There are a lot of things about the incident that are a mystery, but Boal fills in the blanks to the best of his ability with a great narrative.
This film is an ensemble piece. With that, actors fall to the wayside to make way for the actual story. And while that happened for most of the actors, Will Poulter (“We’re The Millers”) gave a truly menacing performance as Phillip Krauss, a racist Detroit policeman, the main antagonist. If you watch “Detroit” just keep in mind that this is based on true events, and not what actually happened. If you go into it with that state of mind, you will be fully engrossed and on the edge of your seat.
4. Baby Driver
Edgar Wright is a masterful director of genre films. He has brought us a zombie, a buddy cop, a comic book, and a disaster film. In his latest film, “Baby Driver,” he tackles the heist genre. Get ready for a grand old time as you watch the chaos unfold around a prodigy getaway driver who goes by the name of Baby.
“Baby Driver” has a lot of solid performances, but that is not what makes it so great. Baby Driver is every action movie fan’s dream come true. There are car chases, heists, gunfights, and free running. On top of that we see a directorial masterpiece by Wright, who uses his influences from past directors to give us an amazing film. With the opening scene we know that Wright has full control of this film. Ninety-seven percent of the effects are practical effects, which means that everything you see actually happened without visual effects. “Baby Driver” is a one-of-a-kind movie and Wright’s crowning achievement. Be prepared to hear it in the conversation during awards season.
3. The Big Sick
Some love stories are just better if they are true. Well “The Big Sick” is the true story of how Kumail Nanjiani (“Silicon Valley”) and Emily V. Gordon (“The Carmichael Show”) met. On top of that, they wrote the screenplay together. This alone makes this film a poignant experience from the beginning. Be prepared to laugh and cry as you are taken through an emotional rollercoaster of love, culture, and sickness. “The Big Sick” is such a well-told story; it shouldn’t be overlooked by anyone.
Christopher Nolan (“Inception”) is a household name and one of the highest grossing directors of all time. If I were to come up with a title for Nolan, it would be “The King of the Blockbuster.” Dunkirk is the inspiring story of the rescuing of the English soldiers at Dunkirk, France during WWII.
Nolan is a true pioneer of cinema, and seeing that he was directing his first true story, I was curious to see how he was going to do it. He is well known for his unconventional scripts that break all the rules of storytelling. He can tell stories non-linearly, backwards, or in a way that makes you question time itself. Well, Dunkirk did not disappoint. It was what’s to be expected of Nolan, which is the unexpected. Along with Nolan’s direction, the score by Hans Zimmer wove itself into the story, feeling like it almost became another character. Dunkirk is a wonderful film, and I can only imagine watching it as a proud British citizen.
1. A Ghost Story
I don’t know if I have just been ignorant of their existence or what, but independent films are becoming the cinematic standard for greatness. Join director David Lowery (“Pete’s Dragon”) as he takes you on a cinematic journey about time, love, and everything existential. Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”) plays a recently deceased man who is stuck in between life and death as a ghost. And while you would expect him to be on screen, which he is, it’s not in the way you would imagine. He is literally a ghost in the sense of “Charlie Brown,” a white sheet with two holes cut in it. This seems gimmicky, and even foolish, but it works so well. It makes it less about the actor and more about the character itself.
“Ghost Story” is my favorite film of the year thus far, and one of my favorite films ever. There is something extremely therapeutic about watching this character journey through almost another life, as he searches for a reason to move on. This movie doesn’t have a lot going on in it, but that is the point as the simplicity allows for you to focus on the character itself and truly understand him.