For the film fan who couldn't summon even the most half-hearted of fucks to give about where Wonder Woman came from, or whether Spider-Man can possibly save New York and grow his first facial hair, summer can feel like a long season.
Yep, superheroes are pretty inescapable at the box office these days, and sometimes finding a more intelligent movie to watch, be it a quirky comedy, a nailbiting thriller or a Gothic horror, can feel like a serious challenge. That's why I put together this list of the best movies being released in summer 2017 which don't feature men in capes. They do feature Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and a giant pet hippo-pig hybrid, which feels like a good trade-off. Below are your ten movies to watch in summer.
1. Atomic Blonde (July 28)
Watch it because: Cold war Furiosa is busting balls.
David Leitch, the John Wick director who'll next take on Deadpool 2, clearly has designs on another new franchise, this time with a woman doing the ass kicking. Charlize Theron is the atomic blonde of the title, and post-Mad Max, it's the kind of role she could perform in her sleep. Critics who saw the film at SXSW were wowed by a deliriously violent five-minute, one-take action sequence which demonstrated exactly why Theron is in a league of her own among Hollywood's ladies.
While some have described Blonde as a little too cold for its own good, it's '80s Berlin setting, neon aesthetic and a strong supporting cast including James McAvoy and John Goodman should make this one of the most downright fun movies of summer.
2. The Beguiled (June 30)
Watch it because: Sofia Coppola is back, this time with Nicole Kidman in tow.
A group of sexually repressed women become a ticking time bomb when an injured soldier enters their abode, an all-female Christian school in Virginia lead by Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman, having a year to die for in multiple buzzy projects). Colin Farrell is the soldier, and his presence guarantees trouble. Hearing him yell the immortal line "What've you done to me, you vengeful bitches?!" in the trailer is a delight, and the film itself promises to be even more of a thrill ride.
Could this be Coppola's best work since Lost In Translation? If nothing else, the fine cast (also including Elle Fanning and Kirsten Dunst) and Coppola's luxurious visual palette should make The Beguiled a must-see for those bored of blockbusters.
3. Death Note (August 25, Netflix)
Watch it because: Hollywood might finally get an anime right.
The high thumbs down-to-thumbs up ratio on youtube for #Netflix's Death Note teaser suggests anime fans are going to give this one a seriously hard time, and after Ghost In The Shell, can you blame them? Still, of all the popular Japanese anime with a reputation in the West, Death Note has perhaps the most straightforward, and delicious, premise — a young man comes into possession of a supernatural note book which has the power to kill those whose names are written inside.
This adaptation is directed by Adam Wingard, whose excellent horror flick The Visit suggests we could be in for something decent here (let's gloss over Blair Witch). In the lead role of Light Yagami (or Light Turner here) is Nat Wolff, who does a suitably good job of looking freaked out by all the trippy shit going on in the trailer. The jury's out on Death Note, but for now I remain optimistic.
4. Detroit (August 4)
Watch it because: This story of police brutality has never been more relevant.
It's a sad reminder of how little progress America has made that, despite being set in 1967, the events of Detroit could just as easily play out in 2017. Kathryn Bigelow is comfortably one of today's most vital directors, far moreso than her self-important ex-husband James Cameron, and this story of a racially-charged riot which lasted five days and claimed 16 lives (with almost 500 more injured) looks seriously intense and utterly unmissable. Expect major Oscars love.
5. Dunkirk (July 21)
Watch it because: It's Nolan. Do you really need a reason?
Christopher Nolan is one of just two or three filmmakers whose name and reputation alone are enough to put asses on seats. Nobody else makes blockbusters with the same intensity, the same scale or jaw-dropping visual flair. Interstellar may have been a disappointment ultimately, but Dunkirk looks like the work of a director firing on all cylinders, turning his precise lens on the incredible evacuation of 8,000 soldiers from the beach in Dunkirk, France during World War II.
Nolan favorites like Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy join Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance and Harry Styles, but the real star of the show could be cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema's IMAX cameras — no movie has ever utilized handheld IMAX before. Prepare to have your mind well and truly blown (if the metaphor isn't too insensitive in a film about war).
6. Baby Driver (June 28)
Watch it because: Edgar Wright's newest movie is a high-speed U-turn for the Scott Pilgrim director.
There's a good chance you've don't have a clue who or what Ansel Elgort is, but you soon will. In an A-list cast featuring Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Lily James and Jon Hamm, Elgort plays Baby, a talented getaway driver working for a crime kingpin. When a job goes sour, Baby finds his life, and a burgeoning romance with a waitress, in very real danger. His only way out is to drive — fast.
7. Logan Lucky (August 18)
Watch it because: Steven Soderbergh, freshly un-retired.
Less than three months from release, this comeback movie from the Traffic and Ocean's Eight director (hey, who said retirement was permanent?) still doesn't have a trailer, which could be seen as a bad omen. But Soderbergh is consistently solid, and an all-star cast here including Daniel Craig, Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Katherine Waterston and Riley Keough is definitely enough to win my optimism.
Logan Lucky revolves around three siblings who set out to commit an elaborate heist during the annual Coca-Cole 600 NASCAR Cup race. If it's even half as much fun as Soderbergh's Ocean's films, Logan Lucky could be the comedy of summer.
8. My Cousin Rachel (June 9)
Watch it because: Rachel Weisz as a possible murderer cannot be wrong.
The second thriller on this list with a seductive femme fatale at its core, My Cousin Rachel from Fox Searchlight is told from the perspective of Philip (Sam Claflin), who, after receiving word that his guardian Ambrose has died, begins to suspect that their cousin might be responsible for his death. Rachel is gorgeous, intoxicating, and quite possibly a whole lot worse.
Upon investigation, Philip begins to fall under Rachel's spell — which makes absolute sense, because she's played by Rachel Weisz — and the melting pot of intrigue, suspicion and lust which results looks likely to be an irresistible combo in this Gothic period thriller. Expect My Cousin Rachel to be a fixture in smaller/arthouse theaters all summer.
9. Okja (June 28)
Watch it because: It's the best, and strangest, movie ever made for Netflix.
Hoping to replicate their success with TV series like #13reasonswhy, Netflix have been dipping their toes in the original movie game recently. It's not been smooth — Brad Pitt's War Machine just hit the streaming site, and reviews are unkind to say the least. Idris Elba's Beasts Of No Nation didn't make a huge splash either.
Okja is likely to reverse that trend. Korean director Bong Joon-ho reteams with his Snowpiercer star Tilda Swinton for the equally out-there story of a genetically engineered, monster-size farm animal named Okja, whose burgeoning friendship with a young girl runs into trouble when the corporation who birthed her attempts to take her in for slaughter. Critics at Cannes have been wild in their praise for Joon-ho's fresh voice and satirical skills. Okja could be the movie which gives Netflix its big cinematic breakthrough.
10. War For The Planet Of The Apes (July 14)
Most Hollywood franchises have a tendency to treat their audience like idiots. Not Planet of the Apes. These movies are told with a genuine sense of purpose and rely on well-crafted storytelling, not just glossy CGI work, to engage your sympathies with the titular apes, who are preparing to face off with a rogue military man leading a troupe of human survivors in the wasteland of America.
The brilliant final trailer makes quite clear that this a war which can only have one winner, and the genius of these films is in how much you want a group of rebel apes to triumph over those who represent mankind at its most bloodthirsty. Andy Serkis's motion capture performance as Caesar and the VFX work that renders him are astonishing. Just make sure you watch the second film, Dawn Of The Planet, first.
Which movie are you most stoked to see in Summer 2017?