Even though it’s only August 20th, the summer movie season is basically over. Nothing noteworthy is coming out for the rest of August (I never saw the first Sin City so I can’t say I’m excited for the new one, but it looks cool). But for what it is, it’s been a pretty interesting summer. We’ve had lots of crap, lots of exciting summer tentpoles, and there have even been some hidden independent gems throughout the summer. I’m writing today to tell you the films that I thought were really exciting this summer, and were worth the money I payed to see nearly every single one of them. So, sit back, and enjoy my list of the ten best films of the summer 2014 season.
10. Jersey Boys
A lot of folks didn’t like Jersey Boys, the adaptation of the hit Broadway play from director Clint Eastwood. I however, loved the film. It’s honestly one of my favorite film adaptations of a Broadway musical. Eastwood directs the film with his typical bleakness, but one of Eastwood’s best attributes to his direction is the fact that he can direct actors very well, and this is very much an actors movie. The cast has terrific chemistry together, with the actor playing Frankie Valli, John Lloyd Young, being a standout. This is one of Clint Eastwood’s best films in quite some time, and hopefully the film will find a second life on Blu-Ray.
9. 22 Jump Street
I had a lot of fun watching Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s sequel to the already hilarious reboot of 21 Jump Street. The brilliance behind the sequel is the fact that it’s more of the same, as the plot and conflicts follow the same beats of the previous film, and the film is fully aware of it. It’s a great commentary on how Hollywood works as a whole, and what occurred during the credits of the film is probably one of the funniest jokes I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are just as bromatic as they were in the original film, and Ice Cube returns with some killer lines and jokes flustered around the film. It was probably the funniest straight up comedy I saw all summer.
8. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Easily the best film of the long running franchise, Bryan Singer returns to direct this fun and exciting time traveling epic. What makes Days of Future Past such a blast is that it’s a terrific blend of this great 70’s period piece that’s full of fun visual gags and humor of the era, along with this dark and moody post apocalyptic future where everyone is a target. Hugh Jackman does fine work as usual as Wolverine, along with the rest of the cast, including James McAvoy as a young Professor X and Michael Fassbender nearly stealing the show once again as a young Magneto. The film will be released on DVD in October, so I highly recommend you check it out then if you missed this fun and exciting comic book film earlier this summer.
7. Edge of Tomorrow
This was one of the bigger surprises of the summer for me. Tom Cruise stars in one of the smartest and coolest blockbusters that nobody saw. Edge of Tomorrow, which was directed by Doug Liman, is another wild and very exciting science fiction time travel epic that could have been as much of a disaster creatively as it was commercially, unfortunately. Tom Cruise kicks ass as usual in this role as a glorified Marine PR guy turned soldier, and Emily Blunt delivers some of her best work here as the female lead in the film. I had a lot of fun watching the movie in the theater, and hopefully you will be able to join in on the fun when the film comes out on Blu-Ray in a few months.
6. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Matt Reeves took over directing duties to make a darker and better sequel in Dawn, the follow-up to the already stellar Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The film is a dark and beautifully shot apocalyptic tale of humans vs. apes. Andy Serkis continues to blur the line between motion capture acting and the real deal in his portrayal as Caesar. We also get some good work here from Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, and so on. It’s one of those rare blockbusters where the visual effects dazzle, and so does the story and characters. For a big budgeted summer tentpole, Dawn has times were it can be very quiet and intimate, and those sequences are truly beautiful. The film is still out in theaters, so I highly recommend you go check it out before it’s too late.
Locke is one of the best European films that I’ve seen in years. Featuring what may be his finest performance yet, Tom Hardy plays a man driving in a car for 80 minutes. That’s the entire film, but nearly every minute of this film was enthralling to me. Hell, I even saw the film twice in theaters. Written and directed by Steven Knight, Locke is not an action packed film, but the real thrill you get from the film is through Hardy’s performance in this brilliant and complex character study. This was a really special film, and the film is now available on Blu-Ray for purchase, so I highly recommend you go check this one out before the end of the year.
Chef was a fricking blast. I had such a good time watching Jon Faverau’s latest film earlier in the summer. The film may have its cliché moments from time to time, but I truly had such a good time watching the film, and I left the theater feeling good. Faverau’s story of a chef who decides to go on a road trip across America (including sunny Austin, Texas) cooking cuban sandwiches for his fans. The film is part road trip film, part buddy comedy, part redemption story, and almost all father/son bonding. Featuring a cast that includes Dustin Hoffman, John Leguizamo, and Scarlett Johnansson just to name a few, Chef is a welcome return to Faverau’s independent film roots. It’s a shame that Faverau is returning to the blockbuster filmmaker with next fall’s The Jungle Book, but hopefully after that film wraps, Faverau has a great follow-up to this classic.
3. Life Itself
I had been waiting years to finally see Steve James’ documentary adaptation of Roger Ebert’s autobiography of the same name. It’s just a shame that Roger wasn’t around till the end to see the finished product of this beautiful and heartfelt documentary. The film chronicles Ebert’s life, from humble beginnings in small town Illinois, to alcohol addiction to eventual recovery, and to of course becoming the most renowned and famous film critic of all time. The film not only celebrate’s Ebert’s life, but also of his love of the movies. Roger Ebert could either make or break a filmmaker’s career with his review on Siskel and Ebert, and we see filmmakers such as Errol Morris, Martin Scorsese, and many more discuss how Roger helped get them to where they are today. Without Roger Ebert, I wouldn’t be writing these sentences to you right now. The man influenced my life and thinking in so many ways, so it’s understandable that I broke down quite a bit watching this film. Roger Ebert’s legacy will continue to live on for years and years to come, and I urge you to please honor his legacy by watching this beautiful, beautiful film. The film is currently on Demand.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy
This is the best film that Marvel Studios has made, ever. I say this because as much as I enjoyed The Avengers and the other films in this billion dollar franchise, nothing comes close to the amount of joy and laughter I had watching James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy this summer. Gunn writes and directs this quirky and downright bizarre superhero film that is the vulgar, red-headed step child that Marvel had tried to keep away from the public, until now. Chris Pratt has become a movie star overnight for his role as Peter Quill, which is incredibly well deserved. We also get some great work from Bradley Cooper as Rocket, Vin Diesel as Groot, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, and Dave Bautista in another breakout performance as Drax. The film is very aware of how strange and offbeat it is, and it has a lot of fun with it. What makes it even better is that audiences are responding very well to the offbeat nature of the film. The Avengers 2 better blow the doors off in order to be in the same ballpark as Guardians of the Galaxy. The film is currently still playing in theaters.
This is a film that no matter how many films I see this year, good or bad, they can’t come close to Richard Linklater’s masterpiece, known as Boyhood. Shot over 12 years, it follows the story of Mason, a Texas boy who goes through life, from age 6 to 18. I’ve written a couple of articles about Boyhood, and why it’s so great, and I would like to reiterate it once again. Boyhood is a beautiful film because it’s relatable. I don’t know how many folks related to it (people who I’ve talked to say it’s great), but the film connected with me on a large level. I saw the film twice, and with my second viewing, I was in tears by the end of the film. I didn’t want to say goodbye to Mason. I had seen this kid, and actor Ellar Coltrane, grow up in a matter of 3 hours. I had this bond with Mason and his family that I don’t believe I’ve had with any other character on film, to be completely honest with you. Richard Linklater’s last film, Before Midnight, was my favorite of the previous summer, and while I love his Before trilogy, and it’s one of my five favorite trilogies of all time, at this point in my life, they don’t stick with me like Boyhood. I’m getting a little misty eyed just reminiscing about the film. The film is still playing in theaters, and if you haven’t seen Boyhood yet, then what are you doing?
So thank you for reading this list, and I look forward to the rest of the movie year.