The Best and Worst Films of Summer 2014

by Bill Gibron

2 September 2014



10. Get On Up, in which Chadwick Boseman proves Oscar worthy as the late, great Godfather of Soul, James Brown.

9. 22 Jump Street. The meta comedy gets a meta sequel and the meta laughs just keep on coming.

8, How to Train Your Dragon 2. This is as adventurous and full of heroism (and heart) as the original.

7. Edge of Tomorrow. Tom Cruise shines as a cowardly military PR officer forced to relive his death in an alien invasion over and over again. Exciting and very entertaining.

6. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. With the origin story out of the way, Matt Reeves makes one of the great sci-fi follow-ups in the history of the genre. 

5. Mood Indigo

After the one-two punch of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep, Michel Gondry seemed to abandon the magic realism that made his career, and instead tried his hand at high concept comedy (Be Kind Rewind), the Hollywood blockbuster (Green Hornet), and the oddball indie drama (The We and the I). So we are happy to say that the Wizard of Whimsy is back, bedeviling the viewer with a Rube Goldberg-like film experience, which deconstructs the standard cinematic romance with as much heartrending and head scratching invention as possible. Some called it twee and overly arty. We call it fantastic.

4. Godzilla 2014

A few decades ago, “cool” music critics loved to lambast the Beatles, calling them everything from “a boy band” to a cultural anomaly. Time has rectified such nonsensical criticism. The same thing is happening right now to the King of the Blockbuster, Stephen Spielberg, and if Gareth Edwards’ homage to the man and his moviemaking is any indication, we’re glad there are artists willing to stand up for him. By keeping the title creature in the shadows, by establishing the world in which he and his sequels will live, this new Godzilla gives us everything we loved about the giant lizard without any of the Toho tackiness or man in suit shenanigans.

3. Snowpiercer

Harvey Weinstein wanted to cut 20 minutes out of this movie and offer up title cards and narration to make it “more friendly” to filmgoers in the US. Director Bong Joon-ho refused, and the compromise was a limited (very limited) release of the original cut. The result: one of the most brash and visually arresting sci-fi allegories in a long time. Using a dystopian society set on a train, with each car representing another social class level, the filmmaker perhaps most famous for The Host deconstructs the genre, allowing for elements both political and fanciful to infiltrate his ideas. Weinstein wanted less. All we want is more.

1. It’s a Tie: Boyhood and Guardians of the Galaxy

In some ways, we’re talking about the same movie, here. Well, maybe not the same movie, but the same overall motion picture experience. Richard Linklater’s sprawling epic of everyday existence, Boyhood, was shot over 12 years, allowing its actors and actresses the opportunity to literally age, or “grow up”, on screen. In so doing, he highlighted the changes we all go through both personally and within our families as time trudges along. Boyhood s a reminder of childhood, a reflective experience which taps into your own “awkward” years and allows you to meditate on all the little things that added up to the person you are today. It’s also an amazing bit of artistic chutzpah.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a similar experience, in that it makes you feel like a pre-adolescent all over again. Yes, this is what the Star Wars experience felt like for those of you too young to have spent six hours online opening weekend to see George Lucas’ space opera when it opened way back in 1977 (I was there). It’s a high tech throwback, a blockbuster that remembers that the key to any popcorn entertainment is fun. James Gunn, taking all of his Troma training to heart, unleashes a sprawling spectacle overloaded with repeat viewing opportunities and wisenheimer happiness. No wonder Guardians of the Galaxy is currently the biggest moneymaker of 2014.

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