Top 10 Films of Summer 2021

7. Free Guy

Release Date: August 13

Well, this was unexpected. Free Guy’s various trailers, that were released under its many different release dates, felt like they were selling three different movies where you couldn’t quite track what the plot would be or even what the inciting incident would be (two different trailers show Ryan Reynolds’ Guy discovering his world is fake and it felt like they had reshot the film). However, the finished product actually flows rather smoothly and is probably the biggest surprise of the summer, given it is an original idea that feels like it harkens back to high concept big-budget films that relied on a star to sell their unique. Think the high concept comedies of Jim Carry like The Mask or Bruce Almighty.

Here we have Ryan Reynolds playing an optimistic NPC video game character who becomes sentient and realizes he is in a video game. In effect, he not only begins to change the world of his game but the world outside of it as well. While Reynolds is the star, and him playing against his more cynical pop-culture spouting Deadpool really lands, it is Jodie Comer who steals the show and basically live auditions to be the next big action star. While Act 1 takes a bit of time to get things going, once Act 2 rolls around the film becomes a lot of fun, and Act 3 then pivots into true sincerity that one can’t help but smile throughout. It delves into deep concepts of sentient, artificial intelligence and just questioning the very idea of what existing means in a world where you feel like everything is set before you. It does what the good science fiction stories do, offering a nice commentary on the world at large. If anything, Taikia Waititi’s evil video game developer actually seems like an understatement compared to the real horrors that have come to light recently.

6. The Green Knight

 

Release Date: July 30

The Green Knight was just weeks away from its world premiere at SXSW 2020 when the pandemic caused the film to be delayed by a whole year. A24 always had this position as a summer film (despite it taking place at Christmas and you know there was somebody who wanted to sell this as ‘the different’ holiday movie of the season) and regardless of the finished film, there is a sort of braveness to pitch this very thoughtful, meditative, and strange film and sell it as a big indie arthouse event film, even if the marketing did sell an action film when it was never that. David Lowery, who previously directed films like Pete’s Dragon, A Ghost Story, and the highly underrated The Old Man & The Gun, weaves a truly modern take on a more obscure Arthurian tale that reimagines the classic Arthurian legend through a distinctly modern lens. Dev Patel as Gawain is essentially a slacker who needs to grow up but needs to find out what being an adult means. He wants the notoriety of being a knight but doesn’t quite understand what that means or why he should want it, it’s just what he thinks he should want. It is that thoughtful filmmaking connecting ancient traditions with modern sensibilities that helps keeps these myths alive. With exceptional cinematography by Andrew Droz Palermo that captures a bold striking Camelot and a deeply unsettling but also moving score by Daniel Hart, The Green Knight is a film that may not appeal to everyone, but is one that swings for the fences and offers something that may be a first for an audience member, and will be held in high regard for years to come.

5. Snake Eye: G.I. Joe Origins

Release Date: July 23

Is Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins a better movie than The Green Knight? Absolutely not. But I can’t help but say I enjoyed Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins so damn much it had to rank high for me. The review published here is probably the highest amount of praise the film got, and given the box-office, this franchise won’t be continuing in this form anytime soon. But Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins was just the right kind of movie at the right time this summer. It was a popcorn flick in its truest form: big action, star-making performances by talented actors, a little dumb but in the best way, and a very different almost crazy attempt to revitalize this franchise. Nothing about this film is safe, because nobody would expect them to reboot G.I. Joe with a more grounded low budget film based on Snake Eyes that so drastically pairs down a lot of hallmarks of the universe. It shouldn’t work, but it does. Regardless of if it gets a sequel (based on the box-office that sadly won’t happen) will still exist as a fascinating piece of taking the old toys and doing something interesting with them.

4. Luca

Release Date: June 18

It is a slight shame that after almost over a decade of primarily sequels and prequels, Pixar’s return to original films that were were to kick off a new decade have been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and forced onto Disney+ and unable for audiences to witness on the big screen like the classic Pixar films. However the strength of these films still shines, and Luca is no exception. Luca works so well because of how different it plays from other Pixar films. While still maintaining a sense of emotional maturity and pathos you expect from the company that made you tear up at a toy cowgirl monologue, or fall in love with silent trash compacting robot, Luca actually has a much more low-key vibe to it. Instead of dealing with high concept ideas like Inside Out, Coco, or Soul, Luca is very much a hangout movie. It is chill and relaxed in a way a Pixar film probably hasn’t been since A Bug’s Life back in 1998. It is very much a film about childhood, friendship, and discovering what you want your life to be. Even the animation style is uniquely different from other Pixar films, offering a much more cartoonish almost claymation vibe to its characters. The movie looks and feels like what summer should be: relaxed, carefree, and reminding you of childhoods where you didn’t worry about anything in the world but enjoying the wonders of youth.

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