Keeping the Cinematic Experience Alive

For as long as I remember, I’ve always loved going to the movie theater. One of my fondest memories is the little routine my Dad and I had for going to the movies: we would drive to a gas station, my dad would give me $.50 to buy the paper (or $1.50 for the Sunday edition), I’d throw the entire thing away except for the entertainment section, and we’d use it to decide which movie to watch. Things are a bit different now, as I pull out my iPhone to check movie times on the Fandango or MoviePass app. My love for going to the movie theaters hasn’t changed as I revel in escaping my world to experience another. Theater time encapsulates two hours I don’t have to look at my phone or worry about making rent for the month. However, cinema is changing every day, and technology advances have made a huge impact. Between online streaming services and film prints being replaced in favor of DCP, people are going to the movies less and less. Fortunately, that has not stopped directors in 2017 from crafting movies specifically for the big screen, continuing to reward fans for their dedication.

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Summer blockbusters have finally hit their stride in July, with many big spectacles headlining the box office. The obvious film that has been at the top of this conversation is Dunkirk, the latest from visionary director Christopher Nolan. Nolan has made waves in interviews calling out Netflix for ruining the cinematic experience. After seeing Dunkirk for myself, his words do have some weight. It is a movie made to be experienced in the theater setting as Nolan places you right in the trenches with soldiers, experiencing every bomb and bullet for yourself. Hans Zimmer’s score is breathtaking and compliments the film in a way few composers know how to do. With real ships, hundreds of extras, and 70mm screenings, Nolan really went the extra mile to make this a special experience for those who love cinema. Fans have been clamoring about Dunkirk calling it “the perfect cinematic experience.” Only time will tell if Dunkirk will suffer from the “Avatar Effect,” losing some of its magic once it leaves theaters. For now I’m happy to enjoy the moment because for me, that’s what the cinematic experience is all about: getting lost in a new world for a couple hours. 2017 has had some fantastic examples of the cinematic experience. Here are my Top Five movies of the year that demanded to be seen on the big screen:

1. Get Out – Of course, with me being a horror guy, I have to start my list with the unexpected Jordan Peele sensation. Horror is easily my favorite genre to watch in the theater. Getting scared in a room full of strangers is so much fun in a good (or even bad) film. But, when it’s a REALLY good one, that is the best. Get Out benefits from being equally as funny as it is chilling. It also tackles a tough social subject with a protagonist you consistently root for played wonderfully by Daniel Kaluuya. When I went to see it, my audience was audibly cheering by the third act.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2Summer blockbuster season is not complete without a Marvel spectacle, which this summer has given us in double doses. Guardians 2 opened the season with a bang as Marvel’s most gorgeously shot film to date. James Gunn really treated filmgoers to a colorful space adventure set to yet another “Awesome Mix.” I saw this one twice in theaters, one of them in 3D. Despite not always being a fan of the 3D gimmick, I’ll be damned if Yondu taking his ship back wasn’t spectacular. Thank you, Mr. Gunn.
3. Kong: Skull Island – This was one of my biggest surprises of the year. I was so not excited to see Kong: Skull Island, and to this day I still haven’t seen the latest Godzilla film. However, this movie won me over with two words: money shots. Jordan Vogt-Roberts managed to string together a series of really cool shots with the help of Larry Fong behind the camera. The action set pieces are brutal from the very start, with Kong destroying helicopters left and right. Is the plot of this movie the best? No. Are all of the character storylines engaging? No. Does Kong kick a lot of ass? Oh yes he does. And, he looks good doing it. Kong: Skull Island is the definition of fun.

 

4. John Wick: Chapter 2 – In this sequel to the 2014 sleeper hit, The Boogeyman is officially back and shooting more people in the head. The John Wick series so far has hearkened back to the good ol’ days of 90s action movies about bad asses being. . . bad asses back when every movie was a blockbuster. Stahelski delivers a bigger, flashier follow up with some of the coolest action set pieces of the decade. From the opening car sequence reintroducing us into the JWCU to the almost magical mirror sequence, John Wick: Chapter 2 is entertainment from start to finish that was a BLAST to see on the big screen (twice, I might add).

 

5. Baby Driver: This film was literally marketed as needing to be watched as “big and loud as possible.” Championed by another cinema advocate in director Edgar Wright, Baby Driver lives up to the hype of being one of the coolest and most entertaining films of the year. Literally choreographed to its groove-filled soundtrack, Baby Driver features multiple sequences that will make you say “wow.” Watching it in the theater felt like watching a sporting event, with car chases and shootouts pumping adrenaline through the audience’s veins. Baby Driver will be found in the theaters for midnight showings in no time due to its inevitable cult following, but also because this film deserves to be on the big screen forever.

 

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From bombastic comic book movies to creepy social thrillers, 2017 has offered something to every kind of cinema-goer. We still have another month of blockbusters to go before the film world transitions into Oscars season, with movies like Thor: Ragnarok, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Blade Runner 2049, and more still to come throughout the year. You can even still see plenty of cinematic treats in theaters right now like Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, War for the Planet of the Apes, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Dunkirk. This year, so far, hasn’t lived up to the past couple of years, but it has not been short on fun films to watch. Whether it be spectacular visuals, intense action scenes, or beautiful scores, there has been a lot to experience in 2017. Though the cinematic landscape is always changing, the cinematic experience doesn’t have to. As long as we keep going to the movies, talented directors like Christopher Nolan and Edgar Wright will continue to treat us to more theatrical delights.

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Holler Box