by Nathan Robertson
The summer of 2017 has had a good bit of variety when it comes to movies. We were given the usual superhero treatment with “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Wonder Woman,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2.” There was also plenty of action with “War for the Planet of the Apes” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.” We were taken back to our childhood with the third installments of the “Cars” and “Despicable Me” franchises. Many of us were left confused with the likes of a movie featuring emojis, creatively titled: “The Emoji Movie.”
But no one has time to watch every single movie. So here is my list of the top five movies from the summer that you definitely do not want to miss.
No movies with an “R” rating are included in this list.
#5: Icarus (NR)
Being an American tends to mean that by default you are supposed to enjoy certain things: cookouts, watching baseball, and maybe most important of all: having seen “Rocky IV.” We all remember watching Drago, the Russian boxer, cheat his way to being a champion by way of carefully administered steroids. We all remember the chill that went through our bodies when he tells Rocky, “I must break you.” We remember thinking, thank goodness this isn’t real. Well, unfortunately, the fictional story is not completely absent of the truth. The reality is that doping in sports is not only popular but also fairly simple to get away with if you are a professional athlete.
The documentary, “Icarus,” focuses on a massive doping scandal involving Russian sports, and more specifically, the entire Russian Olympic team. Filmmaker and amateur cyclist, Bryan Fogel, seeks to investigate the true effects of doping on an athlete. This leads him to test the process himself.
Through the guidance of the director of the Anti-Doping Centre in Russia, Grigory Rodchenkov, Fogel begins to discover the corruption that is taking place in Russian sports.
This thrilling documentary exposes the political corruption in Russian sports, and the consequences that come with telling the truth.
There are constant parallels to George Orwell’s “1984” throughout, as Rodchenkov struggles to right his many years of wrongdoing under the guise and influence of Russian leadership. “Icarus” is unique as it dives into a subject that is prevalent in our current times and is still an ongoing issue that has yet to be solved.
Also, the filmmaker is directly involved in everything that is happening, which gives the audience a perspective that is rare even among documentaries.
#4: Dunkirk (PG-13)
Christopher Nolan’s (“Memento,” “Inception”) newest film takes aim at a heavy target as it deals with the evacuation of British soldiers from the beach of Dunkirk during World War II. The film is written in three sections: land, sea, and air. Each has its own storyline that the film seamlessly weaves together through a creative timeline.
So what makes “Dunkirk” different from last year’s “Hacksaw Ridge” or even a classic like “Saving Private Ryan”? “Dunkirk” is unlike any other war movie for multiple reasons: First, rather than focusing on heroism and the glory of battle, the film focuses on the idea that it’s all right to be afraid. Fear drove so many of these soldiers to a point where they weren’t focused on fighting for their country, but simply fighting to survive.
Second, while the film does have key characters that drive each storyline, the purpose of the film is not to make those characters more important than everyone else.
Tom Hardy, one of the most popular stars in Hollywood, has barely 10 lines of dialogue. Why? Because the film is much more focused on telling its story through action rather than detailed character building.
Third, “Dunkirk” isn’t about Americans. There are no Americans in the film.
So, how does a movie about a British conflict in World War II, that requires a full Hollywood budget, get an audience in America? The answer is simple: the film’s message is universal.
We all face situations in our lives that culminate to a point of feeling impossible to navigate. Is it wrong for us to feel afraid in those situations? Absolutely not. Fear is a very real part of every person’s life, and “Dunkirk” shows us hundreds of thousands of soldiers who are terrified about what their fate will be. However, they understand that they must have courage, and with that courage, comes hope.
#3: War for the Planet of the Apes (PG-13)
“War for the Planet of the Apes” is the third installment of the recently rebooted trilogy, inspired by the classic 1968 “Planet of the Apes” starring Charlton Heston. Director Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield,” “Let Me In”) returns after the success of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” The story continues to follow Caesar (Andy Serkis), the ape who began the spread of a virus that allowed others to gain human abilities such as enhanced intelligence. If you couldn’t tell based on the title, this film shows humans and apes on the verge of war.
The film is incredibly well paced and is so dedicated to its character development that you never want to look away. The special effects are groundbreaking; each film in the trilogy has continued to push the envelope for what is possible with modern day technology. I would certainly advise watching its two predecessors, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” beforehand.
Aside from the different social commentaries that the film makes, it’s just a lot of fun to watch. The action is intense but never overwhelming, and the dramatic scenes are heartbreaking and always genuine. However, the social commentaries made really amplify the power of the film as a whole. The importance of being a voice for the voiceless is constantly present, as well as discussions involving the evils of viewing people who are different as less than human.
#2: Spider-Man: Homecoming (PG-13)
“With great power comes great responsibility” is one of the most quotable lines of all time. The original Spider-Man movies that we know and love starring Tobey Maguire (we won’t talk about “Spider-Man 3”) were heavily focused on the tragic part of Peter Parker’s life. However, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” does something different; rather than focusing on Peter Parker’s biggest tragedies, it follows him through the everyday struggles of being a teenager.
“Homecoming” is the perfect summer movie, because not only is it made for all ages, but it’s not necessary to have seen any previous films to understand it. The film possesses what other Marvel movies have been lacking of late: a quality story.
Marvel movies have become reliant on funny jokes and come-and-go sympathy for its characters. A good example is “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2.” The movie is so focused on making the audience laugh that a lot of key story moments take a back seat. While the movie is enjoyable and a lot of fun to watch, “Spider-Man” stands above it in just about every way.
At its core, “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is a coming-of-age story that anyone can relate to. The dialogue is well written and witty, in true Spider-Man fashion. With the Vulture (Michael Keaton), the film shows us a humanized villain that is easily one of the best movie villains created by Marvel in the past 10 years.
#1: Logan Lucky (PG-13)
“Country roads, take me home to the place I belong.” The underlying theme of Logan Lucky can be found in the classic John Denver song “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” The place that we belong can sometimes mean a physical location, but it can also mean a place among family. Staying true to family is a driving force for the characters in this film.
Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) is a West Virginia native and blue-collar worker who is working on a construction project under the Charlotte Motor Speedway. After losing his job, Jimmy comes up with a plan to rob the people who fired him with the help of a few family members (Adam Driver, Riley Keough, Daniel Craig).
In a surprising and wholly entertaining way, the film takes the classic heist, and turns it into a story about never giving up on family. If you encountered these characters in real life, you probably wouldn’t give them the time of day, much less genuinely care about them. However, this film finds a way to not only make you care about its characters but to make you root for them while they are conducting a major robbery.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh (“Ocean’s Eleven”) “Logan Lucky” takes what Soderbergh does best and combines clever and creative shooting with a warm backdrop of characters and location. The film talks quite a bit about “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” a West Virginia classic. It even comments on the fact that John Denver had never actually been to West Virginia. “Logan Lucky” has a similar effect; though we may be nothing like the Logan family, we still feel completely at home in the world the film has created.
Nathan Robertson is a Junior Broadcasting and Digital Media major and a writer for Cedars. He is an avid film watcher, an open-minded music lover, and a devoted Netflix binger.
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