While the summer typically produces Hollywood's most brain dead, effects-driven, franchise-friendly, action movies, I'm a genre guy and I love the summer movie season. With how much money tickets cost ($13 for a standard ticket in most NYC theaters now), I like going to the movies for the spectacle, the laughs, and the 'splosions. But I need a good story, characters, and talent to get me through it all, and I saw more than enough of that this summer. True that there were quite a few disappointments (The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla), but there were also a few surprises. Here are five of the best movies I saw this summer; movies that I really liked or even loved, and will likely be getting a spot on my blu-ray shelf sometime soon. KEEP IN MIND I missed out on 22 Jump Street, A Most Wanted Man, Snowpiercer, and I have yet to see Boyhood, so don't freak out if you think I didn't like them. I'm assuming you value my opinion, please comment below if I am mistaken.
5.) X-Men: Days of Future Past
Finally! An X-Men movie that lives up to the standards set by the first two films... twelve and fourteen years ago... but whatever. Seeing Days of Future Past was like getting an apology from your boyfriend after he's been a schizophrenic asshole for a whole decade. And just as you're out the front door, there he is with chocolates. It's never too late to say you're sorry.
4.) Edge of Tomorrow
Talk about a surprise. When I saw the ads for Edge of Tomorrow, I couldn't be more disinterested. Generic post apocalypse setting, Tom Cruise doing lots of running around, CGI effects, and a story based on the tired cliche that is the Groundhog's Day plot. But word of mouth was too good to ignore, and I can't tell you how happy I was to see an original, hilarious, and smart story about a man living the same shitty day over and over that goes beyond its gimmick and keeps you guessing--and interested--in what's going to happen next.
3.) Guardians of the Galaxy
I know I've already proclaimed this as being the funniest superhero movie of all time, so I'll try not to gush here. But holy crap, I just love these characters. Rocket and Groot are just so charming and well-realized that I just wanna take them home with me. The human (or human-like) characters have such great comedic timing and chemistry that there's no possible way a sequel could botch it up (KNOCK ON THE HARDEST WOOD YOU CAN FIND RIGHT GODDAMN NOW). Energetic, perfectly paced, and side-splitting at every turn, you just can't not love this movie.
2.) How to Train Your Dragon 2
I make no secret of the fact that I absolutely love animation, so I was bummed when I looked at the summer movie roster and didn't see a new Pixar movie. But hey, who needs Pixar when you have Planes: Fire and Rescue? That'll keep those little bastards quiet for an hour and a half while we take shots in the back row every time a new toy flies onscreen. Well anyway, I didn't know what to expect from How to Train Your Dragon 2, especially with its predecessor being one of Dreamwork's most charming and beautiful movies in their history. But once again, word of mouth was just so damn good, so I opted for the IMAX experience and got my money's worth for shit sure. An exhilarating, emotional, funny, and gorgeous experience to behold, Dragon 2 was good enough to give me my Pixar fix for the year. And I haven't gotten a good Pixar fix since Toy Story 3.
1.) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Maybe I'm biased, maybe I had high expectations, and maybe it's just that damn good, but I absolutely loved Dawn. I like Rise a whole lot, and would have been totally satisfied with a sequel that was as good or close to it. But Dawn is not just the best Apes film to come out since the original 60s adaptation; it's in my top sci-fi films of all time due to its ape characters, visual effects, complex themes about racism, and ANDY FREAKIN' SERKIS, and yeah... that was some really impressive camera work, too. Until something better comes along, this is my favorite movie of 2014.
My pick for the most disappointing movie this summer: Godzilla. A really effective trailer mislead us into thinking that this was going to be an epic disaster/horror movie, finally doing 21st century justice to one of the most iconic monsters in all world history. What we get is a character drama without the characters, and actors who are clearly doing too much work to compensate for the fact that they have nothing interesting to work with. Loved those kaiju fight scenes, just didn't love everything else.