Hard to believe that summer is already over. We won’t be seeing fighting robots or superheroes causing hijinks for another nine months. This past summer has largely been seen as a disappointment in terms of delivering constant excitement. In reality, there were several great films but most of them were released in May and early June. Most of July passed without many sure-fire hits. The blockbuster movie season finally ended when Ninja Turtles was released and movie fans threw up their arms, asking it to be over.
Here are some of the best and worst movies of the 2014 summer movie season.
Best New Movie Star – Chris Pratt
It’s no secret that Marvel knows how to print money. Apparently they also know how to manufacture movie stars as well. While he has always been able to steal scenes in Parks and Rec, his most common movie roles were as “The Chubby, Goofy Friend” in many romantic comedies. Since his casting announcement as Star-Lord in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, he managed to win audiences in his role in The Lego Movie. Being the snarky Peter Quill in Guardians solidified his newfound success. In fact, he has already wrapped production in next summer’s Jurassic World. After that, he has the sequels for Lego and Guardians to look forward to. He has natural charisma which will take him pretty far.
Worst New Movie Star – Seth McFarlane
Yes, Seth McFarlane is not exactly new to theaters. He did write, voice and direct the raunchy stuffed animal comedy, Ted, after all. However, he was only doing what he does
best… decently…a lot – doing voices. He must have received a ton of confidence after the success of Ted and thought that would carry over into a leading man role. His popularity must have had some weight at the time. He was able to get Charlize Theron and Liam Neeson to be supporting characters in his western-comedy, A Million Ways to Die in the West. The smug, slapstick comedy fell flat, however. That failure is largely due to the dead doll-eyed behavior of McFarlane himself. This movie may have been salvaged with someone else in the lead. I think we’ll see him doing another Peter Griffin impression in Ted 2 before he ever thinks about leading a movie again.
Best Animated Movie – How to Train Your Dragon 2
I’m normally pretty harsh on animated movies. I think they’re always trying to find a balance between providing juvenile slapstick for the kids and subtle references for the adults in the crowd. Most animated movies get lost in this balance. How to Train Your Dragon 2 has a terrible title, but is a fantastic movie that is touching, beautiful and funny. It was great to see a continuation of the story rather than just a repeat, with slight variations, of the first. At any given moment, there is always something to see on screen. This isn’t your typical big screen babysitter, rather a movie you’ll ask your kids to watch with you.
Best Indie Film – Boyhood
Just when popcorn movies bombard you with ‘splosions and 3D carnage, a smaller movie comes out and cleanses your palette. Director Richard Linklater has won this award two years in a row (last year for Before Midnight). If you’ve heard anything about Boyhood, it’s probably in reference to the 12 year filming period this movie took place in. This is a truly original and beautiful film about the random moments you experience while growing up. It feels like less of a 3 act movie and more of a glimpse into the window of a real boy and his family living their lives. At 2 hours 42 minutes, it may be too long for general audiences, but film fans in need of an experience owe it to themselves to see it. I don’t think any film has ever made me long for my childhood more than this one.
Most Disappointing – Maleficent
The early trailers for Maleficent showed a glimpse into the dark and fantastical world that takes place around the story of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. The casting and costuming of Angelina Jolie as the ultimate Disney villain was perfect. However, the movie attempted to be creative and turn the story on its head. Instead of being an indescribably evil villain, they completely neutered the character. The comic relief and dramatic tension were all wrong. This movie was a giant success, so I’m sure we’ll see more of our favorite Disney characters be ruined as well. Hopefully they’re done with the rape allegories.
Best Sequel – Tie: X-Men: DOFP and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Typically, being a sequel can mean that a movie is “less than.” In this case, these movies improved on the originals in so many ways. Days of Future Past overcame the odds and reinvigorated the X-Men franchise. Sure, First Class helped, but this movie balanced the old cast and the new and it became the most entertaining movie of the summer. Not only that, it righted every wrong done by X-Men: The Last Stand. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes followed the surprising success of Rise, but also managed to improve on it in every way. Unlike a movie like Godzilla, where you only follow humans, this movie puts the apes in the central roles. You actually care what happens to these motion-captured beasts throughout the inevitable war between man and ape.
Worst Sequel – Transformers: Age of Extinction
This movie was meant to reboot the Transformers franchise and launch a new trilogy. Based on its box office success, it is the movie no one asked for but everyone saw. There was so much critical dread for this movie that Michael Bay pulled every pre-screening and commented that it didn’t matter what critics think because they’re still going to pay to see it. He’s not trying anymore, if he ever was. This nearly 3 hour advertisement was more of the same and it got dull fast. Not even the Dinobots could save it.
Nicholas Sparks Award – The Fault in Our Stars
It’s an insult to author John Green to even make this comparison. However, this tragic tale of young love relied on the melodrama and saccharin in heavy doses. The book sets itself apart because it’s well-written. The movie feels better than most of Sparks melodramas, but could easily be confused as the sequel to A Walk to Remember.
Best Original Movie – Edge of Tomorrow
If there’s one movie that deserved better this past summer, it’s Edge of Tomorrow. Three factors led to its failure. First, people can’t get over their hatred of Tom Cruise (get over it). It has a terrible title. Also, it should have been released in July, not in June against bigger movies. The audiences that have seen it, loved it. There’s nothing better than walking into a movie thinking it’s going to be a generic sci-fi action flick and finding yourself loving it for intentional comedic reasons. We’ll probably never see a sequel at this point, but as far as non-sequels go, this is the best of the summer.
Popcorn Movie of the Summer – Guardians of the Galaxy
The wiktionary defines a popcorn movie as “A motion picture without serious dramatic content, a weighty message, or intellectual depth, which serves simply as enjoyable entertainment.” I think this summarizes Guardians of the Galaxy. It may even be worthy of the Will Smith Effect Award. It’s surprising and funny on the first watch, but movie humor never lasts on repeat viewings. Yes, I’m harder on this movie than 99% of the movie-going population. I saw nothing more than The Avengers in space. That said, this is an entirely watchable flick. Put that quote on the poster, Disney.
Worst Popcorn Flick – Transformers 4
I’m often asked, “Why can’t you just sit back and enjoy a movie for what it is?” The Transformers franchise is why I cannot. It’s the perfect example of a production where everything should go right, but doesn’t. They have the budget, a “capable” director, the stars and lastly, giant robots fighting each other. Instead of putting care into the movie, Michael Bay and his yes-men create movies strictly for selling movie tickets. While Transformers 4 was only the second worst in the series, it was still unwatchable. How do you manage to make a robot war movie dull? The worst part of this story is that I paid for my ticket. I’m part of the problem.
Best Reboot – Godzilla
This movie deserves several awards. And not all of them are good. It would easily win “Worst Use of a Great Actor” for the poor handling of Bryan Cranston’s character. It would also take the cake for “Least Use of Title Character” for not showing Godzilla until the final half hour. Honestly, there is a lot going wrong in the reboot. However, it made us excited about Godzilla again. The fighting scenes it did show were fantastic. More importantly, it made us forget about the 1998 travesty. I look forward to Godzilla 2 in 2018. Here’s hoping they get rid of every human. We just don’t care about them, we want to see the monsters! Let Them Fight!
Worst Reboot – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Compared to the disaster I was expecting, I was surprised that this reboot wasn’t an ultimate train wreck. Sure, the movie wasn’t very good, but it could have been Transformers 4 bad. The problem with this movie is that the turtles just weren’t likable. The movie kept the same silliness of the cartoon, but lost the characterization of the turtles. Also, Shredder was nothing more than a tall angry Japanese man with no gripe against the Ninja Turtles. This movie is getting a rushed sequel in 2 years. Let’s hope they make the turtles more than stereotypes.
Worst Audience Identification Award – Jersey Boys
Why was this movie released during the summer? This is an October movie in spirit. Perhaps director Clint Eastwood knew it was an uneven mess and wanted to hide it among far bigger releases. I know the Broadway musical is off-color and even slightly vulgar, but if you adapt a musical for the general movie-going audience, you should, I dunno, cut the F-words. It’s hard to be clear about what movie you’re watching when there are scenes that might belong in Goodfellas and then Christopher Walken is fox-trotting down the street just five minutes later. Some levity could have also helped this movie. A dour tale of a former supergroup is not really summer movie fare.
Best Action Scene – Quicksilver in the Pentagon Escape
There have been several noteworthy action scenes at theaters this past summer. None of them packed the genuine surprise as Quicksilver’s big moment in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Early images of the character made fanboys nearly implode. His style was completely changed for the movie and he looked cheesy at best. However, he managed to steal the entire movie in just 10 minutes. Immediately after breaking Magneto out of his underground prison, Wolverine, Xavier, Magneto and Quicksilver are surrounded by guards in the kitchen of the Pentagon. Before Magneto even has a chance to fork everyone’s brains out (play on words?), Quicksilver steps into action by pushing play on Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle.” He then runs around the room and messes with the guards in glorious Matrix bullet-time. This 2 minute scene is worth the price of admission alone. I can’t wait to see more of Quicksilver in X-Men: Apocalypse.