As the fall box office season comes to a close and the holiday box office season opens, I thought I’d take a look back at my summer movie-going experience. It’s no secret that I enjoy movies. I watched a total of 63 movies over this summer season (May 5 to September 4). I know this because I keep a record of the movies I watch, and when I watch them. This is excluding the short films and comedy specials I watched as well. Some call me a nerd, I call it the drive to watch every movie ever made. Sleep is for the week. No days off. Student Athlete pun.
I saw 6 movies in theatres this summer, all with people I enjoy spending time with. Whether they like seeing movies with me is another conversation.
I: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The first one of the summer I saw, like many people, was Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, in Penticton. I saw it with my wife, brother and his wife, and my little sister. We went opening night, a Friday. The movie was good. Really good. Not great though. As the summer went on, I forgot about this movie, and that says a lot. While the visuals were amazing, it felt far more like a bright lights loud noises popcorn flick that lacked the heart that made the first one such a hit. Again, a good good movie. But it really doesn’t live up to the first one. The soundtrack left something to be desired. The team split up and not enough time was spent on any of the storylines for me to care. The final fight was a big ole meh. Baby Groot was dope though. After the movie, we went to Carmen’s (my brother’s wife) favourite restaurant in the world, Salty’s, where we hung out and chatted about the movie.
I distinctly remember sitting in the theatre, watching GOTG V2, my wife on my left, and a big dude on my right. He was there alone. We shared pleasantries before the movie began, and hunkered down for another marvel movie. I could tell this guy was hyped. Any easter egg that appeared on screen, I felt him tense up with knowledge. SPOILERS: When Yondu died, this guy was full on sobbing. While I was critically analyzing everything on screen, every word spoken, this guy was so affected that he was just crying unashamed into his popcorn bowl. While I didn’t love this movie, there’s no question that someone, somewhere, will be deeply affected by said movie. This time, I shared my right armrest with him.
II: Baby Driver
The next movie I saw in theatres last summer was a full month later to watch my most anticipated movie of the summer, Baby Driver. Once again, I was joined by my wife, brother and sister-in-law on the drive to Penticton to watch this masterpiece. Now, this is not a perfect movie, and the third act falls apart fairly quickly. However, Baby Driver still has one of the best openings of all time, and it shows exactly why I believe Edgar Wright is one of the most talented directors in the world. He creates original movies, and directs them in creative ways. This isn’t an already existing IP like the countless superhero movies, remakes, or movies based on books that we get over and over. This was 100% original, created from scratch by Wright. That’s a rare feat, especially in the summer blockbuster months. The fact that Baby Driver finished as the 11th highest grossing movie of the summer is huge, beating out the likes of Alien: Covenant, The Mummy, Baywatch, and The Emoji Movie. The movie itself, coming from the mind that gave us Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, kicks off with the best car chase I’ve ever seen. The filming, the direction, and the fact that you always know what’s going on makes this better than all Fasts & Furious chases combined. The entire cast is amazing.
After the first 15 minutes, I was just sitting in the theatre, smiling like a goof. I didn’t care about what the rest of the film had to offer because that first fifteen minutes gave me so much joy. Believe me, it’s not for everyone, and some will think it’s mediocre, but it had me grinning like a dummy. So much joy from such great inventive direction.
Here’s the first six minutes with the car chase. I don’t consider it spoilers, because it’s only the first six minutes of the movie, and doesn’t spoil anything. If, after watching this clip, you’re interested, watch the whole movie. If you’re indifferent, maybe this movie isn’t for you. But it sure is made for people like me.
Following this movie was a trip to the coast two weeks later to watch Dunkirk on opening weekend. I will unashamedly say that my wife and I drove the 5 hours from Oliver to Coquitlam for one reason, and one reason only: to watch Dunkirk in 70mm IMAX. I will also say that this is not the first time we’ve driven to the coast to watch a movie in 70mm. As I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, I’m a fan of film, and as such, I will try to watch a film as intended whenever I can. In December of 2015, I took time off of work to make the trip to the coast, braving the winter Coquihalla conditions so I could watch Tarantino’s Hateful Eight in 70mm, complete with intermission, in Vancouver. Much like that December, Dunkirk was shared with one of the only other people who enjoys film like I do, my friend Kenny. Kenny’s wife and my wife grew up together, so we got to know each other through that, and we quickly realized we both love film. Sharing this experience with Kenny and his wife Jasmine, along with my wife, was my favourite movie going experience of the summer.
The 70mm IMAX theatre is an experience like no other. Watching a movie take up an entire wall amazed me, and I distinctly remember sitting in complete awe of the opening shot with paper raining down all around these soldiers in full 70mm IMAX beauty. The awe never left through the entire film. Though I don’t think it’s Nolan’s best film, it would rank in the top three for me. The pairing of a staggered timeline with the films content and the incessant soundtrack portrayed the acts of war brilliantly. And the only thing better than watching an amazing film with friends is getting to sit around pizza afterwards and discuss it. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
IV: War for the Planet of the Apes
I was very excited for the closing film in this trilogy. I was pleasantly surprised that Rise (the first one) was good, as I was expected it to be terrible. I mean, a remake of a franchise that had just tried the decade earlier to restart, but this time with comedic star James Franco? You can’t blame me for being skeptical. Dawn, the second one, was one of my favourite movies of that year, so to say I was anticipating this was is an understatement. In anticipation of this one, my dad, my brother and sister-in-law and I watched the previous two to prepare for this one, which is always a fun thing to do. It was very cool to revisit those two previous films that I’d seen at other points in my life, and to remember how well this story had been told.
And, in my opinion, War really brought it all together. Many I’ve talked to were disappointed with this movie, especially since the trailers hyped the movie up like a real war, when it actually wasn’t that in the film. I really enjoyed this film which drew so many parallels to real life, as well as taking from plenty of Biblical stories and second world war nods. Woody Harrelson proves he’s more than just that stoner character he’s known for, putting in a real performance here. The set pieces worked well, the characters (both old and new) all served their purpose, and this movie closed the trilogy out very nicely.
V: The Big Sick
Going to The Big Sick capped off my favourite anniversary weekend yet. My wife and I celebrated 5 years of marriage by going to a little BnB on Okanagan Lake, and just hung out. We went to the beach, ate lots of food and had a great time relaxing. On the Sunday, after check out, we caught the afternoon showing of this movie, and it was an awesome end to an incredible weekend. I’ve been a huge fan of Kumail ever since Silicon Valley started, and getting to watch a movie he co-wrote was something I was looking forward to. And this movie did not disappoint. Some have said that rom-coms are dead, but this one breathed life into the entire genre. It’s beautiful, it’s moving, it’s funny, and incredibly well written. Adrienne and I both enjoyed it, and it’s something I’ll revisit in the future, no doubt. Watching a love story, that’s based on a true story, on our anniversary, was just a great way to cap it all off. I highly recommend this movie, and it will probably end up on my top 10 of the year list.
This cast came together with such cohesion that is rarely seen on screen, especially Ray Romano and Holly Hunter, who absolutely shine in their roles. It’s real dialogue and raw moments that make this so heartwarming. I cannot recommend this movie enough. Please, please give it a watch.
VI: Spiderman: Homecoming
The last movie I saw this summer was Spiderman Homecoming, which is funny, because it had been out since mid-June. But on the last weekend of the summer, Adrienne and I once again made our way to the theatre to catch what we’d heard is one of the best superhero movies in a long time (which is saying something). Now, I loved the Sam Raimi Spider-mans, both 1 & 2, and felt pretty exhausted from the perpetual restarting of the franchise. But I’ll be honest, this movie lived up to the hype, in large part due to Michael Keaton just being Michael Keaton. It’s amazing to see his renaissance, from Birdman to Spotlight to The Founder, he’s been putting in some incredible performances, and this one is no exception. Tom Holland puts in a very engaging and believable portrayal as teen spider-man, which the comic-book fans have been wanting since day one. My biggest gripe with this film is that the set pieces really fall flat for me. None of them are really memorable. That being said, I think Holland’s Spiderman is a great addition to the MCU, and a welcomed change in what is becoming a stagnant Universe (in my opinion).
Bonus: Film Festival
Finally, I went to a short film festival called the Tumbleweed Film Festival in Washington State this summer with my parents, wife and sister. We watched 15 short films, ranging from cringingly bad to awe-worthy good, and everything in between. I’ll link to some of my favourites down below here. This was a cool experience. It was just across the border, and there was a good mix of Canadians and Americans. While the nationalities differed, one thing was consistent: They were all over the age of 40. I’m pretty confident we were the only young ones that were there. The crowd was also pretty boisterous, often calling out at the screen. At the beginning of the very first short, one lady had her phone on, and another lady loudly shouted at her to turn it off. After one of the more abstract short films, a lady behind me loudly proclaimed “I don’t understand that one at all.” After a particularly gruesome short film, many people called out the violence, saying it was too much.
All in all, it was quite the experience, but it confirmed in me what I’d wondered for a while: Do I really understand film? Or am I just regurgitating what others say online? Well, after hearing people around me say they didn’t understand when I did was a moment of clarity. I do understand. Maybe not everything, and not all the time, but I get the language of film. I know when something is alluded to. I can draw parallels. Maybe it’s because I’ve become more of an active film watcher instead of passive. Whatever it is, I like where it’s going.
The entire summer was awesome, from start to finish, and getting to look back at the people I shared it with through film, and the growing I made as a person was quite fun. From the sobbing man over an adoptive father dying to elderly being shocked by violence, there were so many moments where film transcended the screen to truly become part of our lives, and that’s why I love movies so much. We get the opportunity to interact with them, share them, and reflect on them with others. Engage in the whitewashing conversation around why Marvel chose to go with the Peter Parker (white) storyline instead of the Miles Morales (half black, half latino) storyline which they borrowed a large portion of the story from (including spider-man’s sidekick), and how does this reflect on the subtle racism that still exists today? Find parallels between the exodus story and Caesar and the apes building the humans haven. Dive deeper, and do it with family, friends, and films.