5 Must-See Summer Movies

This year’s late-summer film releases are packed with veg-friendly fodder.

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So far, 2011 has been a great year for veg-related movies. Whether inspired by environmentalist issues, animal welfare, or the road to better health, more and more filmmakers are attracting mainstream attention while broaching vegan-related topics. The next time you have the urge to munch on some popcorn, relax in an air-conditioned cave, and dim the lights, check the marquee for one of these titles.

Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead
This inspiring documentary chronicles an Australian man’s personal journey in America from pill-addled obesity to juice-fueled wellness. The subject of the film, Joe Cross, finds himself in a bind when his weight reaches an all-time high, his health hits rock bottom, and traditional medicine seems to be providing little help. Cue a diet overhaul: Cross vows to consume only fresh fruit and vegetable juice for 60 days, and his total lifestyle transformation is underway. While on his quest for wellness, he also speaks to more than 500 Americans about their own health, and makes surprising connections with other people who are tired of relying on medication to treat their ailments.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
One of the biggest blockbusters in recent memory to tackle the issues surrounding animal testing, the newest interpretation of the Planet of the Apes series revisits the events that led to primate world takeover. The movie made headlines earlier this year when it was revealed that director Rupert Wyatt refused to use any animals in the production of the film—a move for which he was applauded by PETA—instead opting for eerily convincing CGI counterparts. Much of the plot is centered from a primate’s perspective, resulting in a compelling look at how animal testing makes monsters out of its propagators.

Project Nim
It must be the Year of the Chimp: Project Nim, much like Rise of the Planet of the Apes, tackles the ethical issues surrounding the use of primates—highly intelligent, sentient, and often human-like beings—as the subjects of scientific experiments. From the directors of the acclaimed Man On Wire, this documentary follows Nim Chimpsky, a baby chimpanzee who is taken from his family and sent to live in a human household as part of a 1973 Columbia University psychology study intended to discover whether a chimp could acclimate and communicate with a human family. When he learns more than 120 words in sign language, hopes run high, but as the once-tiny primate grows up, Nim’s family must face the reality that chimps are meant to be chimps. Packed with interviews and footage, Project Nim deeply explores the complex relationship between humans and our animal counterparts.

This hyped doc has been making the rounds at conferences for months, but has just recently raised enough funds for a broader release. Vegucated follows three meat-enthusiast New Yorkers who agree to go vegan for six weeks, initially lured by the premise of weight loss and improved health but gradually compelled by the ever-apparent, dark realities of the meat and dairy industries. The film will make its world premier at the Toronto Independant Film Festival in September. Combining comedy with compassion, the film has been likened to Super-Size Me and Food Inc.; you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll never want to eat a cheeseburger again.

Forks Over Knives
In a nation where one third of adults are considered obese, the Standard American Diet needs a major makeover, and T. Colin Campbell is coming to the rescue. The life and career of the Cornell nutritional biochemist, as well as that of surgeon and cancer expert Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, are the primary foci of this documentary, which delves into the hypothesis that the vast majority of diseases can be prevented or reversed by removing animal products from our diets. Additionally, filmmaker Lee Fulkerson agrees to adhere to a plant-based diet for a firsthand perspective on how our eating habits feed more than just our appetites. Along with Campbell’s best-selling books, this film and its diet plan have gained support from big names like Bill Clinton and Roger Ebert.

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