Movie Features

The Best Movie Moments of the Summer

We’ve spent a decent amount of time talking about this already, but the summer 2017 movie season has been one to remember. Sure, the box office numbers have been on the…dour side, but the overall quality was remarkable and unusual. From blockbusters that defied convention and set new standards, to independent films that promised exciting talent, to seasoned auteurs who created some of their most technically polished films ever, it was a summer that saw DunkirkBaby Drive and A Ghost Story all rubbing shoulders in their release dates. There were some blunders, of course, but for the most part every weekend had a worthwhile film to go rush and see and more of then than not, two, as you scrambled to catch up.

That being said, we only recently did a list of the best films of the year so far. So, to buck trend, we decided to look at the best individual scenes of the summer season.

Let us know in the comments what would’ve made your list!

 

A Ghost Story – Travel Through Time 

Oh if only David Lowery’s immersive and mind numbingly paced A Ghost Story had all taken on the trajectory of it’s last half hour. A moving, lump in your throat, heart aching tale about a ghost who travels home after his death, trying to find a secret in the walls left by his wife, we spend most of our time, too, contained in that house, as trapped within the four walls as the ghost is through the barrier of death. But then, with a rip-roaring crunch, the walls are torn down and the ghost begins his odyssey through the future, the past and the present again. It’s a dizzying piece of filmmaking that makes you buzz with an electric hum with how perfect all of the pieces fit together from the painstakingly captured cinematography, to the music that ebbs and flows with the momentum of his journey, to that way time is portrayed as both devastatingly and reassuringly cyclical. In a film that is visually lyrical, the last portion of the film as the ghost travels time and space to watch as people come together and then get torn apart, built up and ripped down, these moments are its crescendo. [Ally]

Atomic Blonde – Stairwell Fight 

There are so many action movies out there that are desperate to catch your eye and create action scenes that they believe people will love in the moment, but few linger in people’s minds. Atomic Blonde by John Wick veteran David Leitch created a surprisingly unique twist in this Charlize Theron led cold war Le Femme Nikita homage. His version of 1989 Berlin is starkly cold lit with warm neon colors, and shows action choreography that matches the movie’s daring pulpy composition that most don’t bother to attempt in modern action films. As the film creates this slow boil noir with noticeable, but retrained, action sequences throughout, it’s in the third act which the action intensity really hits its high marks in a thrilling, nail biting and  mesmerizing tracking shot of a sequences in a stairwell. Now, tracking shots that get cleverly cut have been done before, we’ve seen it from Hitchcock’s Rope all the way to Birdman, but what puts this sequence above the rest among the likes of Alfonso Cuaron’s work in Children of men is the action being built in the frame. If you’re like me and come from the school of high standards on action scenes, you pay attention the way Hollywood cheaply cuts and lazily shoots around all kinds of fight choreography, both good and bad. Not only does Director of photography Jon Sela compose the shots in an intense close quarters way, but every brutal, emotionally charged hit is in frame, creating a claustrophobic, but not nauseating, dance of ugly punching, all culminating into Lorraine’s escape from the building and into an equally stellar car chase. [Evan]

Baby Driver– The Opening Car Chase  

Edgar write has always been a remarkable director. And while once may argue that he’s at his best when he’s partnered with Simon Pegg for the screenplay (where heart is a more frequent recurring emotion), Baby Driver is perfectly content, and successful with being a technical achievement. This is exemplified beautifully in the opening car chase which simultaneously accomplishes two things. First, it signals to the viewers the high octane level of contained madness that the rest of the film is going to be and, secondly, it dampens anyone’s want to complain about yet another “tired” car chase, as there’s nothing tired about it. It’s a demonstration of just why Wright is one of our most talented and meticulous directors working today and why when done right, an original action film is just as, if not more so, exciting as any superhero film today. [Ally]

Captain Underpants – Mr. Krupps Quick Fire Transformation

An essential element of comedy is timing. If there is a joke to be had, it has to hit the audience, hold for a laugh just long enough and then set-up the next punchline. Looney Tunes were master lessons of whip-smart, lightening-fast comedy by using the endless limits of animation to play with how jokes can be delivered. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie has nothing on Bugs Bunny and co., but the feature film debut of Dav Pilkey’s tighty-whitey hero came damn close. In one inspired scene, elementary school BFFs George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch) have hypnotized their principal, Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms), into thinking he’s the movie’s title character. They learn that splashing him with water changes him back to the grumpy Krupp and snapping their fingers has him don the cape and Hanes underwear. In true immature silliness, the boys snap Krupp in and out of his alter ego in lightning-fast fashion, using everything from water balloons to a phone to mess with their arch adult nemesis. The snaps and water splashes come so fast and yet seemingly in such tight rhythm that it’s like watching Buddy Rich roll on the drums and every note he hits, someone gets a pie in the face. It’s the best way to do cartoon comedy. [Jon W.]

Dunkirk -The First Race to the Ship 

Whether it’s in a memory robbery or by flipping an airplane in mid-air, Christopher Nolan knows how to start a movie. In his latest feat of technical filmmaking prowess, Mr. Nolan opens with a few good men of the British military patrolling the streets of a small village near the beaches of Dunkirk in France. It rains flyers reminding these young men that their efforts have failed and their situation is near dire. Then, like a lightening bolt the spine, a shot rings out, one of those men goes down, and all that English pride goes out in the window for the most basic human instinct: survival. From there, Nolan switches from the slow-burning artist to heart-pounding action junkie as he uses handheld camerawork and Hans Zimmer’s creeping score to put the audience almost literally right behind the men in the fray. It sets up exactly what Dunkirk is going to be: not a story of heroism, but a moral tale of men trying to survive pure madness. [Jon W]

Girls Trip – Grapefruit Explanation 

There’s nothing like a trip with your best friends to make up for lost time! After the abysmal and not-so-funny female-led comedy Rough Night, Girls Trip made up for a summer of lackluster movies and a year of largely unsatisfying comedies. Starring Tiffany Haddish, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah, and Regina Hall, the film follows a group of friends who take a girls trip to New Orleans to relax and reconnect, but end up airing out some life grievances as well. While the film is full of all-around hilarity, one of the funniest, and hands down the standout scene, is where Tiffany Haddish’s Dina explains to her friends how to use a grapefruit as a sex technique. The grapefruit scene was inspired by a popular YouTube video and Dina goes on and on about how it works–she excitedly gives a demonstration, slicing up a grapefruit and uses it on a banana, just in case anyone may have been perplexed. The scene gets more outrageously funny the longer it goes and Dina gets even more into it, all while her friends look on with raised eyebrows and intrigue. Haddish is relentless and, paired with the expressions of all the other characters, the scene is spectacularly laugh out loud funny. Funnier still is when Jada Pinkett Smith’s Lisa uses the technique on a guy she picks up at a club and is horrified when it doesn’t go the way she planned. [Mae]

Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 – Opening Fight & Groot Dance 

We may be slightly divided over how successful Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 was in terms of reaching the high bar its predeccor had set (this critic is in the positive camp while our reviewer expected better) but it’s hard to scowl at such a tailor made for our enjoyment opening scene. Rather than show the action as the Guardians take on the first big monster of the sequel, director James Gunn instead chose something a little sillier. We see the Guardians out of our peripheral view as they fly in and out of focus while Baby Groot (as adorable as we anticipate) rocks out to “Mr. Blue Sky”. On top of that there’s the instantaneous vibrancy of the scene, the otherworldly setting and the immediate camaraderie between the team that sparks to life within seconds. It’s so perfect an entrance to these characters we grew so instantly fond of in the first film that the rest of the movie has a hard time recapturing that same, unfiltered joy. [Ally]

Ingrid Goes West – The Confrontation

To be honest, this was a scene that can be seen coming even without seeing Ingrid Goes West. The story of a mentally unstable woman (Aubrey Plaza) who takes Instagram fame a touch too seriously ends up stalking a lifestyle guru (Elizabeth Olsen). But when her coke-head brother (Billy Magnussen) exposes her, she’s confronted about it and tries to explain herself. It’s routine in any other film, but what Ingrid Goes West has in its corner is context. Co-writer/director Matt Spicer sees no heroes in his film (sans O’Shea Jackson Jr.’s lovable Batman nerd) as both the titular Ingrid and her prey, Taylor, are both equally terrible in their own ways. Although Taylor rightfully calls out Ingrid for her disturbing behavior, Ingrid shoots right back at Taylor calling her a phony celebrity and that she doesn’t care about anybody but herself, let alone her followers. With that, the audience is stuck between a rock and a basket case. Plaza, in her most emotionally fragile role to date, is so heartbroken that she can’t even see her own mental anguish. And Olsen, a stone old beeotch, plays the victim card so well because this is the first time that it’s legitimate and not her using it as an excuse. It’s a real loop thrown at the audience at the last minute just when everything seems clear. [Jon W.]

It Comes at Night – Paul Snaps 

Writer/director Trey Edward Shults’s second feature is a pressure cooker. You don’t know what’s in the dark, you don’t know why the world is in chaos, and you don’t know where the movie is going. But when It Comes at Night hits its climax, it’s damn-near blinding. In the midst of an undetermined aerial parasite wiping out the world’s population, Paul (Joel Edgerton) has been trying his hardest to protect his wife (Carmen Ejogo) and son (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) by keeping as far away from others as possible. But when Joel takes in another man (Christopher Abbott), his wife (Riley Keough) and their young son, he starts to suspect that they might be infected. When Joel’s suspicion gets the better of him and his family, he forces Will and his family out of the house. Will is apprehensive and tries to get his family out on their own terms, but guns are pointed and yelling ensues. Shults pumps the energy up to 11 and puts it right in the audience’s faces. When a gun actually does go off in the end, it ends the movie on a horrifyingly somber note that’s better left unspoiled. [Jon W.]

Photo: Jojo Whilden.

Landline – Mother and Daughters Share a Cigarette

There are quite a few delightfully small moments in Gillian Robespierre’s follow up to 2014’s Obvious ChildLandlineJenny Slate, as always, is wonderful, the film has a keen eye (unsurprisingly) for female sexuality and the exploration of it, it’s main focus is how a family grows and develops beyond their misdeeds and faults and it’s equal measures funny and heartbreaking. However, the most significant and touching moment of the film comes after it’s biggest tragedy, when Edie Falco’s character learns her husband, played by John Turturro, has been cheating on her. She and her two daughters played by Slate and Abby Quinn hole up in their bathroom, and share a smoke, commiserating on how lousy their lives have been recently. There’s a calming naturalism to the moment, sparking that feeling of been there, done that in us that only the best movies can, reaching a hand out to offer something familiar. [Ally]

Logan Lucky – Game of Thrones Convo 

After going into “retirement” for a few years, Steven Soderbergh is back with Logan Lucky, a heist film that takes him back to his Ocean’s 11 roots. Logan Lucky has the Soderbergh charm with its delightful characters and the unusual situations that they get into. While the film was a blast all the way through, there is a scene that is especially hilarious. When Jimmy (Channing Tatum) and Clyde (Adam Driver) break Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) out of prison, Joe has his fellow inmate create a diversion by starting a prison riot in the cafeteria. It starts out as a typical fight with inmates throwing punches and food at each other. However, it quickly escalates into a meta jab. When the convicts tie up the guards, they give the warden their demands (written on a spare napkin). The first demand: getting the remaining A Song of Ice and Fire books in the library. The warden agrees to get A Dance With Dragons but says that the other two haven’t been published yet. What ensues is a hysterical back and forth about how the inmates don’t believe him because George R.R Martin promised to publish them two years ago. It feels like Soderbergh was airing out his grievances about having to wait for the famous book series to finish. We all may not be able to relate Logan Lucky’s lower class setting, but we all know the pain of waiting for the next Game of Thrones book to come out.

Spider-Man: Homecoming – Peter’s Pep Talk 

Every superhero needs that “heroes” moment and they tend to be larger than life. These moments in particular tend to come in big, bombastic, crucial scenes where the crux of the “super” part of the character is fully discovered. In Spider-Man: Homecominga beautifully human hero tale set to the backdrop of giants, it was only fitting that this moment was just as internal as the remainder of the film. Peter up until this point has tried to be the hero that he thinks he should be, that he thinks would earn a place on the team with the rest of the Avengers and its lead to greater messes that he could originally fathom. After another loss, as the Falcon dropped an entire building on him, his first reaction is that of a scared kid. Alone, defenseless, and injured he cries for help before realizing he needs to be his own hero, suit or no suit, in order to save the day. A scene about finding the power within yourself, your inner strength, the hero in all of us, if you will, it’s immensely poignant and powerfully acted by Tom Holland. It’s a scene that is just as moving for adult fans and the kids in the audience that need that sort of reminder. [Ally]

Step – Graduation 

Amanda Lipitz’s Step spends so much of its runtime following its young female dancers that it’s often easy to lose sight of the fact that they’re teenagers in their final year of high school. When the time finally comes for them to graduate it’s a poignant reminder of how far they’ve come, both as characters in Lipitz’s narrative and as young women forming their own identities. Watching each girl cross the stage to get their diploma after watching them struggle with personal demons, both of their own creation and societally, you want to cheer them and dammit they deserve it. They’ve danced, lived and loved with all their hearts, and the audience knows that upon entering the world they’re about to set it on fire with an equal fervor.  [Kristen]

The Beguiled – Dinner Scene

Union soldier Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell) probably thought he’d hit the jackpot when he found himself in a girls boarding school after he’d been wounded. Not only do the women take him in and tend to his injuries, he’s also the only man in the repressive, sumptuous environment. And all of its inhabitants, young and old alike, seemed utterly charmed by him. At first. It makes him grossly underestimate not only them, but the consequences of going too far in such an isolated, matriarchal world. McBurney doesn’t see the undercurrent of malice until it’s too late, during the movie’s climactic dinner scene, which epitomizes how the school’s toxic atmosphere has literally become poisonous. All the ladies are dressed to impress and seem docile enough to let bygones be bygones. Farrell thinks he’ll be able to depart relatively unscathed, unaware that beneath headmistress Nicole Kidman’s gentility there has always been a steely, ruthless intent and a fierce protectiveness of those under her charge. And McBurney’s actions have led her to perceive him as a threat. The fact that she epitomizes the proper southern lady has merely become another weapon in her arsenal, allowing her to smile in your face as she presents you with a fatal repast. [Andrea]

The Big Sick – Awkward Conversation 

To find a rom-com that is both funny and heartfelt with something to offer is a difficult feat these days. The Big Sick does this with so much ease that it was actually a breath of fresh air to watch a film about a man’s girlfriend falling into a coma. Although it may be hard to believe, the film is based on actor Kumail Nanjiani’s real-life love story. In the early months of his relationship with his then girlfriend, now wife, Kumail is forced to meet (for the first time) and get to know her parents through these very bizarre circumstances. A standout scene in the movie is an awkward conversation in which Emily’s dad Terry tries to bond with Kumail, by asking him about 9/11. On the surface, the conversation Kumail has with Emily’s parents sitting in a hospital cafeteria might not seem all that memorable. With the context of the situation, however, it becomes one of the best moments in the film. The awkward tension of meeting the parents for the first time, and being in the situation of having ended things on bad terms with your girlfriend who is now in a coma, leads to some inability in finding topics of conversation. Kumail, Ray Romano and Holly Hunter gave some pretty brilliant performances in the moment. That scene was comedy at its best, as Terry stumbles into making the questions seem casual and Kumail fails to recover from his 9/11 joke. While Hunter’s deadpan throughout makes it all the more funny. [Melissa L.]

The Hitman’s Bodyguard – Samuel Jackson’s Fight in the Background 

As one of the funniest movies this year, The Hitman’s Bodyguard had a lot going for it. Between the seamless banter between Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, paired with the swift pacing, action, and random moments of humor, the comedy really held its own. The film follows a hitman and his shamed bodyguard as they traipse through Europe to make the deadline of Jackson’s, who plays Darius Kincaid, testimony against a criminal warlord. It sounds easy enough, but things certainly get complicated when said criminal warlord keeps sending his henchman to kill Kincaid and Reynold’s Michael Bryce. But perhaps the most memorable scene in the film is when Bryce, having just discovered a major secret about his past, winds up in front of a street seller’s cart complaining incessantly about Kincaid. All of this is going on while Kincaid himself is being attacked in the background, every kick and punch punctuated by Bryce’s ranting. The action moves in and out of the frame, but the oblivious acting on Reynolds’ part, paired with Jackson’s humorous body language and cursing in the background is spot on and really elevates the scene. Comedy can be hard to master, but this scene from The Hitman’s Bodyguard proves that it can look so easy. [Mae]

Their Finest – Bill Nighy’s “Death”

We might as well have just put “Anytime Bill Nighy Appears Onscreen” and it would’ve delivered the point as succintly. Nighy, a perpetually, twinkle in his eye, scene stealer plays an aging actor whose only hope is to have people take him seriously once again. While performing in the proaganda film Their Finest circulates to help bolster the peoples morale, he ends up turning out a moving performance he could be proud of. Both slighly absurd but oddly touching, the movie within a movie moment is both another element of surprising delicacy for the film but also a moment sheer talent on Nighy’s part. Not that were ever in any doubt. [Ally]

War for the Planet of the Apes – Cave Fight Scene

Our critic was rather tepid in his reaction to War for the Planet of the Apes, but if there’s one thing both those who called it a triumph and an underrated mess could agree on was that the visuals were superb. Juxtaposing both startlingly new age technology with the demonstrations of what motion capture can do these days with movements the felt more like Jim Henson puppeteering then anything remotely modern, the film captured a feeling of timelessness, best exemplified in the first showdown between Caesar’s apes and the Colonel’s men in the former’s home. Shot largely in darkness, what we can see is lit up my flashlights that bump against the wall and are dropped or crushed. It’s a visceral moment of tension as we hold our breath, waiting for tragedy to strike. It captures that feeling of claustrophobia but cutting out what we’re able to see and exemplifying the sounds, making sure that the shadowy figures fighting are still largely engaging. [Ally]

Wonder Woman – No Man’s Land

For all that Wonder Woman achieved, and it truly met stratospheric and beautiful heights, if there’s a moment that is definitive of just what the series means (especially to women watching it for the first time) it’s on the deadly wasteland of “No Mans Land”. After having been told repeatedly that she can’t reach the civilians stuck on the other side of this piece of land, that they are at the mercy of the evil that has corrupted men’s souls, that no man has ever crossed it alive, she drops her “modern” garb for that of her Amazonian armor. Unapologetically feminine and so determinedly powerful, she stands tall in the middle of the battlefield, continuing to truly recolonize her own strength. It’s not just her decision to step foot into the fire of battle that makes it so beautifully poignant but the confidence that grows with her in every step, Gal Gadot smirking against the gun fire and how it’s she who rallies the rest of the soldiers, giving them the spark of life they needed. Chill inducing and ready to split your face in two with a grin, it’s this moment that cemented Wonder Woman as one of the finest superhero films to come out in years, fully understanding the significance of what we were watching. [Ally]