At the end of the day, I only cared about one movie this summer, so I’m happy. It’s not that the summer of 2014 was bad, it was just the epitome of “ho-hum.” There was plenty to like, but it had this overwhelming feeling of mediocrity, and “been there, done that.” The box office certainly reflects this, as not one movie hit $300 Million domestic, which is astounding. Guardians of the Galaxy might get there, but that’s not a slam dunk. If anything became apparent this summer, it’s that the days of repeat viewings are dead. Something opens, and the next weekend we are on to the next thing. You couldn’t have a movie more praised and beloved than Guardians of the Galaxy, yet it was still overtaken by a horribly reviewed Ninja Turtles film. With the recent announcement of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opening in March of 2016, the summer movie season as we know it may cease to exist. But I’m not here to pontificate about the future. I’m here to break down the good, the bad, and the downright terrible of this year. There were nice surprises, along with some atrocious disappointments. So, for one last time – grab your canister of ooze, sit back with your favorite ape, and get hooked on a feeling, as we break down the summer movie season of 2014!
TOP 5 FILMS OF THE SUMMER
5. 22 Jump Street: While only #5 on the list, this was the movie I was worried least about. With wonder boy directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller at the helm, I knew this was going to be top quality. Nothing more needs to be said about Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. They are the funniest duo we’ve seen in a long time. 22 Jump Street was the funniest movie of the summer by a landslide. It might also have the best end credit sequence in the history of cinema. Read Daniel Cohen’s review of 22 Jump Street here.
4. Edge of Tomorrow (which has been rechristened as Live. Die. Repeat):If it weren’t for a certain Transformers film that we’ll talk about later, this would have easily been my biggest surprise of the summer. I can’t remember a movie that was more horribly marketed than this one. It was tough to sit through those trailers. And while the box office wasn’t great, if it weren’t for pure word of mouth, this movie would have done a lot worse. This is a smart, entertaining, and intense sci-fi epic that needs to be seen. Emily Blunt shows why she is one of the most underrated actresses working today, but I want to focus on Tom Cruise. Despite this guy being one of the biggest movie stars of our lifetime, he hasn’t gotten the credit he deserves in recent years. This guy can still carry a movie with the best of them. If you are still one of those people who can’t get the Oprah jumping on the couch thing, or the Scientology shenanigans out of your head, you really need to get over it, and start appreciating what this guy is doing on the screen. He’s been in some truly underappreciated material the last few years. If you missed this one in the theaters, please Netflix Edge of Tomorrow. You won’t regret it. Read Mallory Delchamp’s review of Edge of Tomorrow.
3. Boyhood: A lot of you probably haven’t had a chance to see this one, but I’m thinking you will soon enough. It’s going to be one of those movies that hangs around during award season. Much like The Artist in 2011, I walked into this film a negative nelly, thinking critics were only fawning over it because of its gimmick. Filmed over a twelve year period with the same actors, director Richard Linklater doesn’t sit back on his laurels of just having a creative concept. He delivers with truly engaging characters, and two knockout performances from Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke. The film is almost three hours, but it doesn’t feel like it, and that is a true testament to how great this movie is. Read Daniel Cohen’s review of Boyhood.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy: I thought I was going to absolutely loathe and detest this movie. It had the most obnoxious marketing campaign I can remember in a long time. I wanted to take the song “Hooked on a Feeling,” and throw it against the wall. I walked in expecting overly clever one-liners and snarky humor, but what I got were characters that I truly loved and cared about. Unlike Marvel’s previous films where the comedy comes from shock humor or Robert Downey Jr. doing a bunch of improv, this time it came from the characters. I’ve said it a hundred times, but this is Ghostbusters in space, and I loved every minute of it. Read Luke Kalamar’s review of Guardians of the Galaxy.
1. X-Men: Days of Future Past: Like I said, I cared about one movie this summer, and it delivered tenfold. I love this film. And while it’s been praised a lot, and made more money than any other X-Men film in existence, I still think it’s being under-appreciated. I don’t think people are truly understanding the scope that went into this film. There aren’t many directors that could have done what Bryan Singer did. While Singer certainly deserves most of the credit, you can’t speak highly enough of what the cast was able to accomplish. Even if you were someone like Shawn Ashmore who was only in a handful of scenes, and barely got any lines, he made every ounce of screen time with Iceman memorable. This film has everything you could ever want in a movie, and by far the best this summer had to offer. Read Daniel Cohen’s review of X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Now with the top five out of the way, we still got plenty of summer goodness (and crapness) to go over.
Biggest Surprise: Transformers: Age of Extinction I fear when I watch this on Netflix, I’m going to have a “What was I thinking!” type reaction. For those new to reading me, let me make this clear once again – I hate the Transformer movies. Hate them. But I have to give credit where credit is due. This fourth installment improved on all the elements that make the previous three movies unbearable. The 4-year-old humor is gone. The actors are much stronger. The action is well filmed. And for crying out loud, I cared. Optimus Prime has a legit character arc. This is one where critics already wrote their reviews before seeing the movie. I’m not saying this is some masterpiece, but if you can’t see that it’s significantly better than the previous installments, I can’t help you. Read Daniel Cohen’s of Transformers: Age of Extinction.
Most Overrated: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Okay, everybody calm down. When I say “Overrated,” that doesn’t mean I hate the film. In fact, this is a very good movie. The praise it got though is completely ridiculous and absurd. Empire Strikes Back comparisons?! That’s the overreaction Twitter age we live in I guess. Caesar is great, it had a good villain, but other than Gary Oldman, the human characters sucked. It’s a good movie, but seriously, let’s calm the ape down. Two honorable mentions for this category – Chef and Neighbors. Read Jason Stives’ review of Dawn of the Planet of Apes.
Most Underrated: Edge of Tomorrow: I already talked about it, but if you skipped this one because of the trailers, I get it. Please do yourself a favor though and rent it.
Most Disappointing: Godzilla: That’s what I get for getting excited about a Godzilla movie. This was total garbage. Look, I understand wanting to hide Godzilla for a lot of the film, and playing that card close to the vest. I really do. But if that’s the direction you want to go, your human characters better deliver, and holy matza ball soup, they do not at all. It’s clear Aaron Taylor-Johnson can’t carry a film. His scenes were mind numbingly boring. And it’s not so much they hid Godzilla through 90% of the movie, it’s the way they did it. Oh, they cut away to a little kid watching a newscast, or look, here’s the aftermath of a city being destroyed. Also, the monsters Godzilla fought could not have been more boring and lazy. Really? That’s what we get? Aside from one bad ass 8-second shot, this movie blew bags. I will never get suckered into a Godzilla movie again. Review Jason Stives’ review of Godzilla.
Best Performance of the Summer: The entire cast of X-Men: Days of Future Past: Yeah, it’s a cop out. Whatever, they all deserve it. What makes this film work so well is that every single actor involved took it dead seriously, and left it all out on the field. There isn’t one frame of this movie where there isn’t great acting going on. If you are forcing me to pick one stand out though, I’d probably go with James McAvoy as the young Professor X, who I felt had the toughest job. When I reviewed the film, I had Michael Fassbender, but there are days when its Hugh Jackman. Bottom-line – everybody kicked ass.
Worst Performance of the Summer: Jason Segel (Sex Tape): Granted, he had nothing to work with, but this was gloriously unfunny. I don’t find Jason Segel funny, and I never will. The end. Read Daniel Cohen’s review of Sex Tape.
The Movie I Was Too Hard On: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: I don’t regret many reviews, but this is one I was a little unfair too. I think it’s because I have such an emotional connection to the turtles. While I stick by how awful Shredder was, and still maintain Michelangelo was too creepy on April, they do get a lot right. You buy into the camaraderie between all four turtles, and that really is the most important element to their story. When I see this one again, I think I’ll appreciate it more. Read Daniel Cohen’s review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The “Let’s Give Him a Break” Award: Seth MacFarlane (A Million Ways to Die in the West): Yeah, this was a miss. But whether it’s Bill Murray, Steve Martin, and even the late great Robin Williams, in the game of comedy, there are always going to be misfires. I’m not one of these people who now think Ted 2 is going to suck because of this. I’m still excited. I do hope Seth MacFarlane learns that it’s better for him to do voiceovers and be behind the scenes though. This was a bad one, but I still think MacFarlane is one of the better names in comedy, and I look forward to what he does in the future. I’ll give him a mulligan. Read Laura Dengrove’s review of A Million Ways to Die in the West.
The Lazy Award: Hercules: This was so cookie cutter and Brett Ratner-ish, not even Dwayne Johnson could save it. Ugh. Read Daniel Cohen’s review of Hercules.
The “What the Hell Happened” Award: Hans Zimmer’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 Score: For someone who’s composed some of the most iconic movie scores of the last ten years, this was a real head scratcher. What the hell happened? This was awful. It’s important to note this wasn’t all Zimmer. Pharrell also had a hand in this one. Now before everyone lynches me, Pharrell is a perfectly fine performer. All I’m saying is maybe he shouldn’t be involved in superhero scores, okay. Relax. This was painful to listen to, but I’m sure even Michael Jordan had a bad basketball game or two in his career. It happens. Read Logan J. Fowler’s review of The Amazing Spider-man 2.
The “They Can Do Better” Award: Melissa McCarthy (Tammy): I talked about this at length in my Tammy review, but there is better material out there for McCarthy. I slotted Tammy into my worst of the summer pick before the season started, and it certainly wasn’t that, mostly because McCarthy was able to elevate the material. She’s a much more talented actress and comedian than falling over and yelling, and we may see that sooner then you think with St. Vincent coming out later this year. Read Daniel Cohen’s review of Tammy.
It Might be Time for TV: Sylvester Stallone (The Expendables 3): Granted I didn’t see The Expendables 3, but I have seen the previous two, and gotten enough feedback on this one. The box office speaks for itself. Look, I’ll always love and appreciate Sylvester Stallone. The man gave us Rocky and Rambo. He’s had a hell of a career. There’s no shame in admitting at age 68 that you aren’t an action star anymore. I think Stallone has something left, and a really good HBO or AMC show could be the ticket for him. As far as big time Hollywood movies go though, I think it’s time to hang it up, Sly. Read Bill Bodkin’s review of The Expendables 3.
The Worst Movie of the Summer: The Amazing Spider-Man 2: In terms of pure movie quality, is this the worst? Maybe not, but I don’t care. This movie is everything I hate and detest about Hollywood filmmaking, especially when it comes to superhero movies. I have so much to say about this one, but I won’t be able to express half of it in this article.
This is what happens when you try and shamelessly duplicate another studio’s success. I really enjoyed the first Amazing Spider-Man. I thought it was hampered a little bit by having to retell the origin, but it laid a great foundation, and the cast was excellent. It was a gritty serious take, yet still managed to be funnier than any of the Sam Raimi movies. It was a great balance. So what happened? Sony saw the massive success of the Avengers and said, “We want that.” They manufactured a movie that was overly lighthearted and fun (like the Avengers), and completely took out a plot to set up for a shared Spider-Man universe (like Iron Man 2). Jamie Foxx plays a 90’s superhero villain, and it’s just as awful as you would imagine. This doesn’t even feel like it’s in the same world as the previous film. It was shameful. Pathetic. And what warms my heart is that everybody called the film out on it. While it did fine at the box office, it’s the lowest grossing Spider-Man film to date. The third entry has been delayed, it was the superhero joke of the year, and nobody gives a rat’s ass about the Sinister Six movie. Sony deserves all the trash that’s being flung at them.
At the end of the day, I hope a lesson can be learned from The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I’m looking at you, DC. You need to forge your own path. Don’t listen to all the criticisms of “make it more fun,” “It’s too dark,” “Mmmmra, mmmmmra, mmmmmra.” Tell the story that you want to tell, because if you try and make a Marvel movie, everybody will notice, and it will fail.
Daniel Cohen is the Film Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from reviews, Daniel does a weekly box office predictions column, and also contributes monthly Top Tens and Op-Ed’s on all things film. Daniel is a graduate of Bates College with a degree in English, and also studied Screenwriting at UCLA. He can also be read on www.movieshenanigans.com. His movie crush is Jessica Rabbit. Follow him on Twitter @dcohenwriter.