Summer is arguably the best time of the year for the cinema because it gives audiences the chance to see a variety of films. While there are some films I didn’t get the chance to see, here is my personal ranking of the films that were released this summer, from best to worst:
My favorite film of the summer is absolutely “Wonder Woman.” Directed by Patty Jenkins, “Wonder Woman” stars Gal Gadot as Diana Prince, an Amazon warrior who becomes involved in the battle and terror of World War I after U.S. Pilot Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine, crash-lands in her world. I never realized how much I needed a female-led superhero movie until I saw Diana become Wonder Woman on-screen. Jenkins takes the time to set up each of the characters, forging emotional ties between them and the viewers. Gadot and Pine are delights to watch, their chemistry completely charming and believable. That’s not to mention the action sequences, which are emotional and enthralling. Diana’s battle in “No Man’s Land” ranks among the best action-set pieces in any film, with Junkie XL’s score building up the tension. Yes, the third act is weaker than the first two, and yes, the villain could have been developed more. But Patty Jenkins created a film unlike anything I’ve seen in a long time, and it remains the only film this year that has deeply affected me after seeing it. For that reason alone, “Wonder Woman” is, in my mind, the best film of the summer.
Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver” is unquestioningly one of the best films of the year. “Baby Driver” follows Ansel Elgort as Baby, a getaway driver with tinnitus who uses music to drown out the ringing in his ear. Wright first conceived of the film’s concept while in his 20s, and his passion shows. The construction of this movie is a marvel; the soundtrack is timed perfectly to the action that appears on screen, giving the film a lively, rhythmic pulse. Elgort also shines as Baby, showing off his theatrical background. Although the ending feels stretched-out, I was completely strapped in for this original ride of a film.
"The Big Sick"
A quieter release this summer, “The Big Sick” stars Kumail Nanjiani as himself, depicting the true story about how he met his wife Emily, played by Zoe Kazan, and the struggles he must face when Emily contracts a life-threatening illness. This film is a special one, blending comedy and drama in a realistic way. Nanjiani and Kazan charm on-screen, making me feel like I was watching a real couple having conversations and interacting with one another. Nanjiani and his real-life wife co-wrote the script together, and their experiences come across with how genuinely and honestly the story unfolds.
“Dunkirk” is movie that, despite its title, is not a “war” movie. Director Christopher Nolan presents a non-linear story encapsulating the evacuation of troops in the city of Dunkirk, France, weaving perspectives from the beach, air and sea. Those expecting a character-driven story may be disappointed; this is entirely an experiential film, placing viewers in the boots of the troops enduring this frightening time, rather than focusing on the characters’ backstories. Credit for that goes largely to the sound design and Hans Zimmer’s atmospheric score, blending deafening gunshots, plane engines and the ticking of a stopwatch. I found myself completely tensed up the entire time, so much so I had to shake my arms and legs out after leaving the theater. While it’s not my favorite Nolan film, it was one of the most visceral viewing experiences I’ve ever had.
"War for the Planet of the Apes"
Director Matt Reeves rounds out this stellar “Planet of the Apes” prequel trilogy with “War,” following Andy Serkis as Caesar, who squares off with Woody Harrelson’s Colonel in a battle for the planet. This is another film that, despite what its title states, isn’t a “war” film; it is a much more personal, emotional battle being fought between Caesar and the Colonel, which may take some viewers by surprise. That said, it is flawlessly directed and completely engaging. The CGI, as expected, is spectacular, and Serkis deserves acclaim for his motion-capture work throughout this entire franchise. Michael Giacchino’s score also feels like a character of its own. The story does get exposition-heavy, but the emotional undercurrent really propels this movie to a satisfying and tear-jerking conclusion.
"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2"
Director James Gunn keeps the momentum from the first “Guardians” movie going with its sequel. This MCU installment is a more personal story, following Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill as he reconnects with his father, Ego, played by Kurt Russell. What “Vol. 2” lacks in action-packed sequences, it makes up for with emotional depth. Gunn takes time to flesh out his characters—some more than others, but effectively nonetheless. It also features a formidable—and arguably Marvel’s best—villain, upping the stakes more so than any previous MCU film. I don’t think it’s quite as good as the first “Guardians,” but it’s damn close and a great time to watch.
I adore the two original “Alien” movies, and while I didn’t enjoy “Prometheus,” I was excited to see director Ridley Scott return to the “Alien” franchise with full force, and to me, he didn’t disappoint. This installment is a prequel to the original franchise, following a crew ship with the intent of colonizing a distant planet. “Covenant” blends and retreads on some of the plot points seen in previous films, but I found myself completely riveted from start to finish. Star Michael Fassbender shines as the androids Walter and David with a performance that gets under your skin.
“Homecoming” is the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the third on-screen adaptation of the web-slinger. Tom Holland brings to life the best version of Spider-Man I’ve seen, depicting Peter Parker as an awkward, yet charming high schooler learning to control his super powers. Michael Keaton also stars as the Vulture, Peter’s antagonist. The MCU isn’t exactly praised for its villains, but Keaton humanizes the character to make the audience empathize with him. While I enjoyed “Homecoming,” I don’t believe this is the best Spider-Man movie. It’s too long, which threw the pacing off, and I felt there was too much focus on connecting Spider-Man’s story to Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and the rest of the MCU.
"The Dark Tower"
The latest Stephen King book-to-film adaptation, “The Dark Tower,” stars Idris Elba as Roland Deschain, a Gunslinger tasked with protecting the Dark Tower (a mystical structure that holds the universe together), and Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black, a powerful being who tries to bring it down. As a whole, the film was thin and poorly-paced. “The Dark Tower” has a brisk 90-minute runtime, which didn’t feel like nearly enough time to set up this fantastical world I am supposed to care about. The scenes where Idris Elba’s character is actually “gunslinging” are pretty entertaining, and I was intrigued by the mythology the film was setting up but, unfortunately, “The Dark Tower” fell short of my expectations.
Charlize Theron stars in this Cold War spy thriller as an M16 agent who is tasked with bringing down a group of criminals who killed an undercover agent. While the film has done fairly well critically, I can’t get past the glaring issue of style over substance. Theron certainly kicks a lot of ass in this film, and there’s a jaw-dropping action sequence that takes place in a stairwell which almost got me on board with it. But a film’s story is always the most important part for me, and “Atomic Blonde’s” was confusing, convoluted and lacking in emotional punches—even if it delivers on the physical ones.
Not even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s charisma can save this drowning mess of a “comedy.” The Rock, along with Zac Efron and Alexandra Daddario star as a group of lifeguards who attempt to bring down a criminal drug ring—all the while keeping watch over their beach. While The Rock and Efron have promising on-screen chemistry, the story is muddled, and I struggle to come up with one joke that landed during its lengthy 116-minute runtime. Save your money and don’t see this stink-bomb.