On the Radar: Summer 2017

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Summer’s here, and with it comes a whole lotta good stuff. From video games to music to film, The Highlander looks at what’s on the radar of releases this summer.


Pyre

Courtesy of Supergiant Games

One of the most important purchases I made during my first Steam sale last year (it took me a long time to get into PC gaming) was a pair of games called Bastion and Transistor, by indie developer Supergiant Games. Both of these games are simply incredible, with beautiful art styles, powerful atmospheric soundtracks, and unique storytelling, not to mention fun and challenging gameplay.

It made me very happy to hear, then, that Supergiant will be releasing a new game called Pyre on July 25.

Aside from being developed by Supergiant, which alone is very promising since their first two games have been outstanding hits, Pyre is shaping up to be a strong game on its own. The screenshots and trailers out on the Internet reveal a stunning, colorful art style and an interesting combat system (notably, it will include the ability to play against a friend in a separate arcade mode). The same music team that worked on Bastion’s and Transistor’s soundtrack is also going to return for Pyre, which means I for one will be buying the soundtrack — from experience I can tell it’ll be totally worth it.

They say the third time’s the charm, and since Supergiant hit home runs with its first two games, Pyre may very well be the top indie game of the summer. I am sure it is not a game to be missed.

-Quinn Minten, SSW

Baby Driver

Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

The prospect of Edgar Wright directing “Ant Man” was one nobody would have suspected back in 2015. Of course, he left the project before he could direct it, leaving fans of the English filmmaker anxious for the moment he announces a new film. “Baby Driver” is that film, and it looks to be to a great addition to Wright’s filmography.

The Cornetto Trilogy creator is starting the summer off strong with “Baby Driver,” an action-comedy starring Ansel Elgort alongside an ensemble cast including the likes of Kevin Spacey, Lily James and Jon Hamm. When first viewing the trailer, it’s easy to see it functioning like a “Drive” parody on the surface — Elgort plays a skilled getaway driver with a newfound love interest but his criminal past is jeopardizing his shot at a normal life. Where it shines, however, is in the characters Wright’s come up with, paired with his hallmark editing style and sense of humor; nevermind the fact that the protagonist’s name is Baby (a curious touch, admittedly), his relationship with his criminal costars promises to be full of humorous potential. Considering everything Wright has done thus far, it’s safe to say his latest project is going to be something to catch.

– Julian Medranda, SSW

A Ghost Story

Courtesy of A24 Films

At this point, it’s a safe bet to go out and catch anything A24 puts out. They have their duds here and there, but the company behind films like “Moonlight,” “20th Century Women” and “Green Room” has a knack for producing unique and boundary-pushing films from talented up-and-coming filmmakers. “A Ghost Story” is the company’s first summer film, which stars “Manchester by the Sea” star Casey Affleck as a man who dies and becomes a ghost — represented by the tried and true bed sheet with eye holes — and his posthumous following of his then-partner (Rooney Mara) throughout the years.

The trailer lays forth this simple premise effectively, with the stars managing to evoke an authentic tenderness in the few seconds we see them despondently reflecting on their separation. Part of it draws parallels to the Domnhall Gleeson-starring episode of “Black Mirror” wherein the death of a lover and accompanying pain is accentuated by a technologically-induced crutch. What “A Ghost Story” seems to hold in store come early July is a wistful contemplation on the passing of time.

– Julian Medranda, SSW

Dunkirk

Courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures

“Dunkirk” is Christopher Nolan’s attempt at capturing the evacuation of Dunkirk, France that occurred between May 26 and June 4 of 1940 through three perspectives: Sky, land and sea. Admittedly, it seems to be the least cerebral of his previous lineup of films, and it’s interesting if slightly disappointing to see Nolan’s creativity being dedicated to a film based on actual events. But at this point, it’s difficult to lose trust in him, to fear that he won’t do justice to the events.

Aside from the names attached, “Dunkirk” seems like a film to keep an eye out for due its reportedly minimalist approach to dialogue and visually driven, detail-oriented nature — a field of filmmaking that would be a pleasure to see Nolan embrace. Hans Zimmer is helming the film’s music too, with the composition featured in the trailer suiting the film’s visual style overall. While there’s an overabundance of films set in World War 2, the three-way narrative “Dunkirk” sports is a unique twist to the setting. That, paired with the fact that it’s more of a suspense-driven thriller than traditional war film, is enticing enough.

– Julian Medranda, SSW

Atomic Blonde

Courtesy of Focus Features

“Atomic Blonde” is the latest action film in the same vein of “John Wick” and “The Raid” series that boasts long-take action sequences performed by skilled professionals over that shaky-cam cookie cutter bullshit prevalent in the genre today. Speaking of “John Wick,” “Atomic Blonde” is directed by the film’s uncredited director, David Leitch, a stuntman whose previous works set this film up as one to champion the raw, engaging type of action scene the industry seems to have abandoned.

Theron is capital b Badass in the film’s trailer, and her sensuality compliments her poise to add a deadly mystique to her character. The plot seems to appear around her character discovering the reason why her fellow M16 operatives are being murdered beyond reason, which sets ups a paranoid game of who-done-it that likely results in numerous confrontations with enemy cronies. This film really need only succeed in one category, and that’s the department of fighting choreography and stunt work. Luckily, the cast behind the spy feature bodes well for the film outside of those merits and “Atomic Blonde” seems like the perfect wrench to log in the works of the industry’s action film prototype.

– Julian Medranda, SSW

Japanese Breakfast – “Soft Sounds From Another Planet”

Courtesy of Dead Oceans

OK so technically I’m cheating. Japanese Breakfast, the project of Little Big League vocalist Michelle Zauner, is slated to drop their latest release, “Soft Sounds From Another Planet” mid July, but I’ve been blessed to have been listening to it for some time now.

J Brekki’s latest project takes some sonic departures from previous album “Psychopomp,” cultivating an array of sounds ranging from country to synthpop and the emotionally-charged indie pop-slash-rock they’re previously excelled in. While these departures are new for Japanese Breakfast, it’s nothing completely out of left field and allows the group to play around with sounds that fit them wonderfully. Plus, the songwriting still hits hard and demands attention.

– Julian Medranda, SSW

FYF

Courtesy of Flickr

Ah, summer music festivals. Pricey, but worth it! Once again, Frank Ocean is set to headline FYF — hopefully he doesn’t bail like he did two years ago (on the bright side, I got to see Ye) — alongside the likes of Missy Elliott, Bjork and Nine Inch Nails. Given his recent performances following a string of cancellations, there’s a good chance he will grace the stage in July. Now, the festival is expanding to become a three-day fest, opening its gates on Friday, which will (in theory) give those in attendance more bang for their buck.

Per usual, FYF is packing their lineup choc full of must-see artists like Bjork, Angel Olsen, A Tribe Called Quest, Anderson.Paak and more. It’ll burn a hole in many a college student’s wallet, but the assortment of artists is too tempting not to consider buying a one day pass at the least. Expect lots of sweat, pushing and shoving, running back and forth, overpriced food and great music (essentially, the entire festival-going experience).

– Julian Medranda, SSW

Jay Z – “4:44”

Courtesy of Roc Nation

Hov’s got another project on the way due this summer called “4:44,” reportedly a visual album exclusive to Tidal (but history tells us that its exclusivity will soon mean nothing). Like his wife Beyonce’s “Lemonade,” this isn’t a project anyone should expect to shed its exclusivity anytime soon considering his stake in the streaming service — unlike Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo.” “4:44” will be the Brooklyn rapper’s 14th album, coming in four years after his last release, “Magna Carta Holy Grail,” an album which, despite an abundance of talented artists involved, received less-than-stellar critical reception.

One has to wonder, what’s the point of these service-exclusive releases? Clearly the answer is money, which conflicts with the notion of art for art’s sake. On the one hand, “Lemonade” is the best example of an album loyal to its platform of release — it’s an incredible record worthy of a physical release or, at least, a wider release outside of a single website — but staunchly remains conjoined to Tidal’s hip because of the money it pulled for the site. In any case, new Jay-Z is exciting news, and a Jay-Z visual album to rival the likes of “Lemonade” and “Endless” is even more of a reason to keep up with digital content.

– Julian Medranda, SSW

Filmstruck on PS4

Courtesy of Filmstruck

My Playstation 4 is my source of home entertainment: I watch movies on it, listen to music through Spotify on it and play video games on it. Kanopy doesn’t stream on it, and Filmstruck hasn’t granted film buffs the gift of an app of the console, which means no Criterion Collection films on the big screen. In due time! In due time …

– Julian Medranda, SSW

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