Top 15 Best Movies of 2017

Finally! Onto the good stuff!

As I mentioned before, I decided to hold off on my list of the best movies of the year for a bit to catch up on some movies that I have yet to see. I can’t recall a more memorable year for film than 2017! From the breathtaking to the original to the haunting to the downright powerful, these are only several words on how I can describe these fifteen great movies on my list. Let’s get started!

Honorable Mentions: Coco, Darkest Hour, The Florida Project, Get Out, A Ghost Story, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2, I Am Heath Ledger, John Wick: Chapter Two, Logan, Logan Lucky, The Lost City of Z, Maudie, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected), Only the Brave, The Post, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Stronger, Wind River, Wonder Woman

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(Source: Vulture)

15. It – Starting off the list is the long-waited second adaptation of Stephen King’s 1,000+ page epic. Andy Muschietti’s first of two movies follows seven kids teaming up to take down Pennywise the Clown (a wicked terrifying Bill Skarsgard). This movie brought together some of the most talented child actors working today, including St. Vincent’s Jaeden Lieberher and Stranger Things’ Finn Wolfhard (laugh-out-loud hilarious as the trashmouth Richie). While a lot of people may not think this version of It is not entirely scary, I found it to be a little more than just scary. This is a funny, intense, graphic, and downright devastating coming-of-age story about the loss of innocence. I have a bad feeling the sequel is going to suck, but I’m glad I went to see this one!

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(Source: Billboard)

14. Baby DriverFresh from finishing his Cornetto trilogy with 2013’s The World’s End, Edgar Wright’s next feature is more personal. Not only did he direct Baby Driver, he–and only he–also wrote the screenplay. This throws every Fast and Furious movie out of the water! With Ansel Elgort leading a talented cast, this is fast-paced, slick, and darkly-funny action film featuring some of the best action and the best soundtrack of the year. It also contains perhaps the coolest warehouse shootout I’ve ever seen!

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(Source: Esquire)

13. Thor: Ragnarok After the disappointment of Thor: The Dark World, the MCU has improved quite a bit. I wish Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) would direct every film in the MCU. His direction and sense of humor has put into great use here. It’s a great opportunity for him to film in his New Zealand homeland, like Peter Jackson did with his Lord of the Rings franchise. While it may have emotional moments here and there, Thor: Ragnarok is a blast from start to finish. No one can play Thor better than Chris Hemsworth. Thumbs up for its amazing use of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”!

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(Source: Coming-Soon.net)

12. DetroitIt’s a shame this movie didn’t get the attention it deserved. Kathryn Bigelow’s portrayal of the 1967 Detroit riots is as heavy-handed as it is powerful. It focuses on the incident at the Algiers Motel where three black men were killed and nine others injured. With Mark Boal’s brilliant screenplay, fantastic performances by Anthony Mackie, a suave John Boyega, and a sinister Will Poulter, and effective use of the handheld camerawork, Detroit keeps you on the edge of your seat.

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(Source: The Playlist)

11. The Big SickIf you’re sick and tired of those cliched rom-coms (like myself), The Big Sick will help you forget about them. This movie is based on a true story about Pakistani-American comedian Kumail Nanjiani living in Chicago, who falls for a woman who goes into a coma. It’s funny as it is heart-wrenching. The 9/11 scene is nothing short of marvelous writing! Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan make a cute couple. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter are also great as the girl’s parents. I would be bummed if Nanjiani doesn’t earn an Oscar nomination as a fictional version of himself who wants to marry for love, not because of his culture. Easily one of the best comedies I’ve ever seen.

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(Source: IndieWire)

10. Mudbound – After a few mishaps, this is the first Netflix original movie I actually loved! The movie follows two families–one black, one white–as they face tensions in the South during World War II. This is a gritty yet moving picture with Carey Mulligan leading an excellent ensemble and tackles the topics of racism and PTSD. Definitely a Netflix movie I’ll watch for the rest of my life.

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(Source: The Atlantic)

9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Who knew a British filmmaker like Martin McDonagh would direct a future all-American classic? Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has the perfect blend of dark comedy and devastating drama. I hope Frances McDormand wins the Oscar for her performance as a mother fighting for justice and vengeance. Woody Harrelson and the underrated Sam Rockwell give some of the best performance of their careers as the two authorities who get in her way. Great stuff!

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(Source: Vice)

8. KediThis is the best (and only) documentary I’ve seen from last year. It follows the lives of seven out of thousands of stray cats roaming the streets of Istanbul, Turkey’s capital city. I love how positive the residents are about these wonderful creatures. Ranging from a bakery worker using his tips for vet visits to a middle-aged man explaining how cats helped him recover from a nervous breakdown. Istanbul native Ceyda Torun creates a gorgeous ode to her “cat metropolis” and reminding how they are one-of-a-kind animals. In the beginning of the movie, one of the residents says, “Without cats, Istanbul would lose part of its soul.” Cat lovers and animals will certainly love this documentary!

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(Source: IndieWire)

7. Blade Runner 204935 years after the original Blade Runner, Ridley Scott returns to his sci-fi world as a producer. Denis Villeneuve takes his place as director to expand the gritty future. Ryan Gosling is no stranger for playing dark, violent characters with subtle emotions. Along with a massive cast, he does a wonderful job as Officer K, the new cop in the LAPD assigning to take down old replicants. Combining Roger Deakins’ impressive cinematography and thought-provoking ideas, Blade Runner 2049 is slightly better than the original. I’m glad Harrison Ford returned as Officer Deckard.

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(Source: IMDb)

6. Phantom ThreadLegendary actor Daniel Day-Lewis teams up with Paul Thomas Anderson for the first time since There Will Be Blood. Phantom Thread is perhaps Day-Lewis’ last film before his retirement. I hope he decides to return to acting one day. From My Left Foot to Last of the Mohicans to Lincoln, he has had an impressive filmography. In this movie, he delivers one of the best performances of his career as Reynolds Woodcock, London’s most successful fashion designer during the 1950s (some of the dresses he makes takes your breath away!). One day, he falls in love with a woman named Alma (the lovely Vicky Krieps). Things get real intense. Through PTA’s marvelous direction, writing, and cinematography and Jonny Greenwood’s breathtaking score, there is so much beauty and suspense that Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of! Surprisingly enough, Phantom Thread is also pretty damn funny!

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(Source: Hollywood Reporter)

5. War for the Planet of the ApesWhen Matt Reeves took over to direct Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, it exceeded everybody’s expectations. While Rise was a great set-up, Dawn took the beloved sci-fi franchise to new heights! With War, he finished one of the best trilogies of all-time! Through the motion capture, Andy Serkis’ Caesar makes a kick-ass hero! Newcomers including Woody Harrelson’s Colonel (paying tribute to Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now) and Steve Zahn’s Bad Ape provide enough humanity this gritty, action-packed, emotional conclusion. I’m hoping for more Planet of the Apes movies in the future.

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(Source: Washington Post)

4. DunkirkAfter the sap-fest known as Interstellar, Christopher Nolan goes back to an important time in history. The Dunkirk evacuation (a.k.a. Operation Dynamo) of 1940; where 300,000 troops from Britain, Canada, Belgium, and France were rescued off the coast of Northern France surrounded by the Germans. Dunkirk might not be an easy movie to follow. It follows three different storylines in non-linear fashion–one on the beach; taken place over the course of one week, the other out to sea; taken place over the course of one day, the last in the air; taken over the course of one hour. Trust me, I had to see it twice in theaters in order to place the pieces of the film’s timeline together.

Nevertheless, this movie pinned me to my seat with its high tension, historical accuracy and authenticity, refreshing use of practical effects (rare in summer blockbusters nowadays), Hans Zimmer’s eerie score, and powerful performances by Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, and Harry Styles (who never breaks into song and dance). Peter Travers went as far to call Dunkirk “the greatest war movie ever made”. It sure is one hell of an experience!

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(Source: The Atlantic)

3. Lady Bird – This is perhaps the best directorial debut in recent memory. Known for collaborating with director Noah Baumbach in Frances Ha and Mistress America, the delightfully quirky Greta Gerwig makes a film based on her early life in Sacramento. Saoirse Ronan gives yet another miraculous performance as Lady Bird, a senior at an all-girl Catholic high school. And we follow her throughout her school year set a year after 9/11, joining in the school plays, having two boyfriends, and attempting to get accepted at a college in New York. Most importantly,  she wants to be loved by her hard-working mother (a spectacular Laurie Metcalf). The mother-daughter dynamic is one of the reasons why this coming-of-age story as hilarious as it is poignant. Gerwig has literally hit home with Lady Bird. Finger crossed that she directs more great movies in the near future.

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(Source: Vox)

2. The Shape of Water – It’s hard not to appreciate the vision of Guillermo del Toro’s films. From Hellboy, Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak to his masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth. His new film, The Shape of Water, is a fairy tale, love story, Cold War thriller, and a tribute to cinema all wrapped into one. Sally Hawkins is a revelation as Eliza, the mute janitor who develops an attraction with Doug Jones’ Amphibian Man (a nod to the Creature from the Black Lagoon). This bizarre fantasy has enough of everything to carry through–humor, violence, beauty, and suspense. With an Oscar-worthy score by the great Alexandre Desplat and a gifted supporting cast including Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, and a deliciously evil Michael Shannon, The Shape of Water is most certainly likely this will take home the big prize at this year’s Oscars. However, this is not my favorite movie from 2017.

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(Source: Variety)

1. Call Me by Your Name – I have been waiting for Call Me by Your Name ever since it premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. While I didn’t have the time to read André Aciman’s novel before seeing the movie, I became anxious to see what the praise was about. From its first image, I have never seen a more beautiful romance in my entire life! Through Luca Guadagnino’s spectacular direction and James Ivory’s astounding screenplay, this is less of a gay love story than a coming-of-age story. Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer are downright magical as Elio and Oliver, the two lovebirds who decide to spend the long summer together in northern Italy. While this movie can be compared to last year’s Oscar winner Moonlight, these movies are different in their own right.

As a 17-year-old, Elio–the main character–is living a happy life with his parents (Michael Stuhlbarg and Amira Casar) in his Italian country house. He loves his books and music. However, he’s struggling to come to terms with his identity. Everything changes when the handsome Oliver visits his family for the summer as an intern. Throughout the first hour, they begin teasing and flirting with each other until they develop a friendship unlike any other. This is a summer they will never forget. Kudos to marvelous chemistry between the two, it’s hard not to smile whenever these two are together. It’s impossible not to get teary-eyed during father’s monologue near the end of the movie. Call Me by Your Name is one of these movies I’ll watch for the rest of my life!

Guadagnino said he might direct sequels to this movie; like Richard Linklater did with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight. I don’t see why it won’t happen. I would love to see how Elio and Oliver evolve as they get older!

It’s hard to believe this decade is almost over! Only two more years to go until I compile a list of the top 100 best and worst movies of the decade…I guess it’s about that time to get started on that.

Anyway–I hope you enjoyed reading about my picks of the best and worst movies from this past year as I did writing about them. Please feel free to leave a comment about what your favorite movies of the year are. Here’s to another great year for film in 2018!

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“War for the Planet of the Apes”: The Ending to Something Extraordinary

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Caesar (Andy Serkis) returns, and he is not happy, in War for the Planet of the Apes. (Source: Screen Rant)

“War has already begun. Ape started war. And human will not forgive,” says Caesar at the end of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. This is a send-up to the next film in the beloved franchise.

It has been almost 50 years since Planet of the Apes revolutionized the science-fiction genre with its groundbreaking sets and costume design, thoughtful ideas on faith and evolution, and its shocking twist ending. The franchise has come a long way with the reboots. In Rise, a scientist created a possible Alzheimer’s cure tested on apes including Caesar. While Caesar and his apes are given enhanced intelligence which leads to a battle on the Golden Gate Bridge, the humans are given a virus. In Dawn, the so-called Simian Flu wipes most of humanity. The remaining survivors go into an all-out conflict with Caesar and his fellow apes, while Koba betrays him and begins his trek to kill every human soul. War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) returns director Matt Reeves and screenwriter Mark Bomback to focus more on the apes, and give a much darker, grittier, and devastatingly powerful conclusion to one of the best trilogies ever made.

A military group called Alpha-Omega, led by vicious Col. McCullough (Woody Harrelson), begins to emerge. In a breathtaking opening sequence, they attack the apes’ sanctuary in the heart of Muir Woods. Caesar (Andy Serkis), who wanted to offer peace between his fellow apes and the humans for so long, is driven mad after seeing many lives lost. He has plans of relocating his homeland in the middle of the desert, so no humans can be in sight of the apes. Before he could do that, however, he must begin his quest for revenge. Along with Luca (Michael Adamthwaite), Maurice (Karin Konoval), and Rocket (Terry Notary), they encounter a mute girl named Nova (Amiah Miller) and a chimpanzee named Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), who directs them to the facility on the border, operated by McCullough. Once they arrive there, Caesar sees his apes captured and used for slave labor to build a wall to protect his army (I won’t make any Trump jokes, I promise). This immediately becomes the battle of wits.

It’s no surprise that the original Planet of the Apes gained controversy for its allegory of American slavery and the racial tensions of the Civil Rights Movement. To be fair, we still live in a world where racial tensions are the norm. A different race will be discriminated anywhere at any time.  In the case of the Planet of the Apes movies, the irony is that the humans are the least dominant species. War, the ninth film in the franchise, is relevant to the Trmup era (again, no jokes). Reeves directs this social sci-fi movie to his full advantage with the themes of supremacy and prejudice. It asks the question: What does the future hold if the apes are the most dominant species, in terms of evolution?

In a recent interview with Stephen Colbert,[1] Andy Serkis explained that he had no idea he would return to motion capture after doing The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. “This is the end of type casting as we know it,” he said. “Anyone can play anything.”

I can’t agree with him more. Motion capture is certainly the future of film acting. And hopefully for the better. Serkis has fully embraced the instinct of Caesar. Take note on how grayer and wiser he’s getting in each of these movies. In War, we finally get to see the darker side of this brilliant character. We see him evolve from a pet to a leader through compassion. Now—he is getting revenge on losing something so dear to him. With numerous references to the Bible and films of the past, he can be looked at as a Clint Eastwood-type protagonist (one of the film’s biggest inspirations is The Outlaw Josey Wales). He also resembles the biblical Moses.

When we finally get our first glimpse of Col. McCullough, we see a spine-tingling image of him wearing black war paint on his face (one of the references to Apocalypse Now). Later on, we learn more about his motivation and his ties with the Simian virus. With Caesar in his office, he explains how he made the ultimate sacrifice to kill those infected with the virus, which makes humans have the inability to talk. . “The irony is we created you,” says the Colonel. “And nature has been punishing us ever since…no matter what you say, eventually you’d replace us. That’s the law of nature.” From watching the original movies, this makes perfect sense about the humans living on this particular Earth now!

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Comparing behind-the-scenes to the final product. (Source: IMDb)

Zahn, a newcomer to the franchise, provides the film’s comic relief. His Bad Ape is one of the franchise’s most fascinating supporting characters. Originally from the Sierra Zoo, he becomes exposed to the virus and has been hiding out in the snowy mountaintop for years. He becomes their guide leading them to the facility on the border. This results in a funny scene where they make their way through a tunnel.

The beginning and the end of War features two big action set pieces that are as nerve-wracking as they are breathtaking. With the gritty nature going on, what carries the movie through is the simple moments of poignancy. Miller’s Nova represents the innocence during the dark times. Her moments with Maurice are so sweet I want to choke up as much as the rest of the movie. Her moment of grace, however, is during one powerful scene where she sneaks into the facility. She sees Caesar tired and hungry from working on the wall. What does she do? She gives him food and water before escaping from the army. We see one of the apes holding two fists together side-by-side; indicating that “apes together are strong.” The other apes later repeat the act. Accompanied by Michael Giacchino’s outstanding score, it’s impossible not to get teary-eyed.

(As much as I loved Patrick Doyle’s score in Rise, his doesn’t quite capture the gritty nature and simple poignancy of Giacchino’s score in this movie and in Dawn.)

War for the Planet of the Apes may be the end of the trilogy, but the franchise is most certainly not over, according to Matt Reeves. “The idea would never be to remake the ’68 film,” said Reeves in a 2014 interview with JoBlo.[2] “But it would be sort of a re-telling of those events from a new perspective. And the events themselves would probably be a bit different since they will have grown out of these films.” I’m definitely looking forward to seeing exactly where the franchise will go.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64mWOoj68qo

[2] http://www.joblo.com/movie-news/exclusive-matt-reeves-talks-dawn-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-169

2017 Summer Movie Preview: July

Two months down, two months to go.

Sometimes, I forget to talk about movies that came out this past month. Case in point, The Hero, starring Sam Elliott. This is the role that he was born to play! An aging Western icon with a stellar voice who comes to terms with his life once he is diagnosed with cancer. Starring alongside Laura Prepon (That ‘70s Show, Orange is the New Black) and Nick Offerman, it might sound clichéd, but I have a feeling this is going to be delightful.

Without further ado, let’s talk about what has yet to come this July.

July 7

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Source: IMP Awards

Spider-Man Homecoming – Spider-Man made his MCU debut in Captain America: Civil War. He might have been added in at the last minute, but he certainly deserved to be in it. It was a joy to watch an actual teenager—given Tom Holland was 19 at the time—tackle the web-slinging superhero that everyone knew and loved. Holland gave a much better performance than both Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield.

Fresh from giving a powerful performance in The Lost City of Z, Holland returns to play the title character in Spider-Man: Homecoming. It’s surprising to see Michael Keaton play the villain this time. I guess it takes a hero to become the villain. I’m pretty certain we’ll keep seeing different interpretations of Spider-Man for years to come. Bring it on!

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Source: IMP Awards

A Ghost Story – Believe it or not, this is perhaps my most anticipated movie of the entire summer. A Ghost Story is far from a horror movie. This is a drama about a man’s ghost (in a white sheet with two holes for eyes) exploring the afterlife after dying in a car crash. Director David Lowery—of the sluggish yet decent tribute to Terrence Malick, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and the surprisingly exceptional Pete’s Dragon—reunites Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara from Ain’t Them Bodies Saints to make another hit at this year’s Sundance. I’m hoping A Ghost Story will find an audience. Every shot is like a painting in motion. Totally looking forward to it!

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Source: The Film Stage

City of Ghosts – This is a documentary following a group of Syrian journalists risking their lives to stand up against ISIS. Documentaries and journalism are two of my biggest interests. Seeing a preview of City of Ghosts opened my eyes. Hearing about journalists and soldiers getting killed in the Middle East (particularly by ISIS) is downright devastating. It’s fascinating to hear about the lives of people living across the ocean.

July 14

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Source: IMP Awards

War for the Planet of the Apes – Hell yeah! The new Planet of the Apes trilogy is about to come to an end. While the 1968 film is a timeless sci-fi classic with one of the most iconic twists in film history (so iconic that it’s on the DVD cover), I actually prefer the new films. Rise was a marvelous build-up. And Matt Reeves brought the franchise to another level with Dawn, which is my personal favorite in the franchise. In War, the apes begin their civil war with a group of soldiers led by a vicious Colonel (Woody Harrelson). The reason why I prefer the new films over the original is not just because of the gorgeous visuals and motion capture being brought. But—rather the emotional appeal. The sequels of the original films are often dry and downright silly. It’s time for Reeves to end the trilogy on a high note.

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Source: IMP Awards

Wish Upon – *sigh* Another horror movie with a dumb premise? Next!

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Source: IMP Awards

Lady Macbeth – Whenever you see Lady Macbeth as the title of your movie, you might expect a prequel, of a sort, to Shakespeare’s Macbeth. This is anything but. One review described Lady Macbeth as: “Wuthering Heights, as if it was directed by Alfred Hitchcock” (not the exact quote, but you get the idea). Seeing the preview before Manchester by the Sea (twice), I saw something that might be tense.

July 21

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Source: IMP Awards

Dunkirk – Christopher Nolan has directed some of the best films in existence—from The Dark Knight trilogy and Inception. His last film, Interstellar, had the potential of being a wonderful space film, but faltered from a manipulative script and a syrupy final act. This time, Nolan goes back to the past to depict the Battle of Dunkirk, where 400,000 allied forces from Britain, Belgium, Canada, and France are evacuated from the battle and are surrounded by the Germans. This movie doesn’t seem to follow the “war is hell” structure compared to most WWII films, which is a good thing. With a brilliant cast including Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, and One Direction’s Harry Styles (quite unususal, but hopefully, he’ll give a surprisingly good performance) This seems to be more of an intense war thriller than anything.  Please don’t disappoint me again, Christopher Nolan.

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Source: IMP Awards

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (try saying the title three times fast) – Known for directing Leon: The Professional, The Fifth Element, and Lucy, Luc Besson adapts a graphic novel, originally published in France (his home country). While I’m not familiar with comics, it doesn’t change my mind that Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets looks horrible although visually stunning. I wouldn’t be surprised if it flops.

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Source: IMP Awards

Girls Trip – Yay…another black comedy. Moving on.

July 28

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Source: IMP Awards

The Emoji Movie – Another corporate sellout appealing to kids rather than adults? No, thank you.

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Source: IMP Awards

Atomic Blonde – Charlize Theron continues her repertoire starring in action movies in which she plays a badass. Atomic Blonde is no exception. Teaming up with James McAvoy, this seems to be some brutal fun.

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Source: IMP Awards

Menashe – In the orthodox Jewish community of New York City, a widow is struggling to live his life after the passing of his wife. Mostly told in Yiddish, Menashe seems to be fascinating sociological outlook of a least-known culture. While this is the first PG-rated film by A24, this movie seems to be more for adults than children (I guarantee they will be bored to death). I don’t know if I’ll see it, but it might be pretty good.

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Source: IMP Awards

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power – The 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth brought forth some deep discussion about the climate change in our world. Al Gore is back to talk about how the Earth’s climate change has evolved since then. It might be okay, but I’m not entirely interested.

Recap:

Most Anticipated: Atomic Blonde, City of Ghosts, Dunkirk, A Ghost Story, Spider-Man: Homecoming, War for the Planet of the Apes

Least Anticipated: The Emoji Movie, Girls Trip, Valerian and the City of Thousand Planets, Wish Upon,

I hope you all enjoyed what my thoughts on upcoming movies for July are. Please feel free to leave comments on what you are looking forward to this July. Stay tuned at the end of this month as I give my thoughts on what has yet to come in the month of August. Take care.