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By now youíve all no doubt read all about how the summer of 2014 has been one of the weakest in memory, especially from a financial point of view, with no movies breaking $300 million domestic, yada, yada, yada. Truth is, this hasnít been an especially great summer, with big-budget tentpoles like THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 and TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION failing to live up to their hype, and regurgitated franchises like TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES coasting on nostalgia to relatively lucrative runs at the box office. Meanwhile, once unbreakable franchises like THE EXPENDABLES and SIN CITY fell flat with new installments that failed to please the fans, and suffered major losses of revenue as a result.
However, it hasnít all been doom and gloom. If anyoneís going to emerge from the summer of 2014 a winner, itíll no doubt be Marvel studios, which Ė earlier this year Ė dominated the box office with CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER. Their summer entry, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY seemed way more risky, but now itís not only the top grossing movie of the summer, but may actually out gross WINTER SOLDIER Ė with tremendous reviews to boot. The same goes for Foxís X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST, with allegations surrounding director Bryan Singer making it seem like the movie was sure to fail, only for it to emerge as the biggest film in the franchise so far.
And letís not forget this summerís indies, with Richard Linklaterís masterpiece, BOYHOOD, BEGIN AGAIN, and the long-delayed SNOWPIERCER all emerging as sleeper hits, alongside Jon Favreauís CHEF which went on to become the word-of-mouth hit of the summer. Whatís the lesson to take away from the summer of 2014? Basically, if the movie is good, people will go. Then again, even if itís bad, if the franchise is big enough, they still might go, so does that make the summer of 2014 any different from other years? Not really.
The following is the official JoBlo.com ďTop 10Ē of the summer, with links to our original reviews. Did we get the list right? Strikeback below!
When I saw BEGIN AGAIN a year ago at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, I knew it had the potential to be a sleeper hit. Itís pretty much the movie equivalent to a warm hug, and if you liked director John Carneyís last film, ONCE, youíll like this, which is his slightly slicker, big-business take on a similar story. It has all the heart of ONCE, and a solid comeback part for Keira Knightley, who also does all of her own singing, opposite Mark Ruffalo as a rumpled, former producer. If thereís one thing that kept BEGIN AGAIN from becoming an even bigger hit, itís the generic title. CAN A SONG SAVE YOUR LIFE, which was the title it played under at TIFF, was much better.
- Chris Bumbray
If I had to use only one word to describe SNOWPIERCERÖ I just couldn't do it. And if you asked me to explain it in one sentence, I would hardly be able to do it justice. ("The poor section of an endlessly-running locomotive revolts against the rich section." "Oh, okay.") The glory of Bong Joon-ho's exciting, timely post-apocalyptic tale is that it is several things at once - fantasy, allegory, straight-up insane action thriller - and yet it's all part of the same singular vision of its director. With an A+ team working for him in front of and behind the camera, Bong has crafted a uniquely gloomy roller-coaster ride; a summer popcorn movie for people who like to be wowed by sights other than explosions and computer-generated creatures.
- Eric Walkuski
There were plenty of special effects unleashed in theaters this summer - talking turtles, robots, trees, etc. - but the most special of the bunch required no digital magic: We watched a cast of characters, and the real people inhabiting them, age before our eyes in Richard Linklater's engaging, quietly fascinating BOYHOOD, which simply documents a young protagonist (Ellar Coltrane) as he goes from child to young adult. The film is just short of three hours long (it seems much shorter), but it manages to encapsulate a section of a person's lifetime in a way we've never really seen before. If we define movies that have major scope and emotional stakes as "epic," then BOYHOOD is the epic of the year.
Few expected a 21 JUMP STREET big screen treatment to be good, let alone as good as it ended up being. So with the filmís success, a lazy cash-in sequel seemed like it would never live up to the original. Thankfully, the delightful Channing Tatum/Jonah Hill combo proved to, once again, be a fantastic pairing. There is much to love with this sequel that constantly makes fun of sequels. And while the cameo appearance here werenít quite as hilarious as the first film, it was still a fun tribute to the original series with a ton of energy thanks to a game cast. Hell, this was almost worth it for the end credits sequence alone.
Who would have ever thought Seth Rogen and Zac Efron would make such an incredible on-screen team? Anybody who has ever dealt with an a-hole next door will more than appreciate NEIGHBORS. Not only does this incredibly funny Nicholas Stoller directed flick manage to make the fellas funny, Rose Byrne is absolutely hysterical as Rogenís frustrated wife. This is one of those rare laugh-out-loud comedies that still had me cracking a smile after the movie ended. It was nice to see a couple of truly hilarious R-rated flicks this summer.
Itís a real shame that EDGE OF TOMORROW didnít do better at the North American box office. Its failure to crack $100 million reminds me of the fate that befell PACIFIC RIM last summer, in that you had a movie that should have been stale and unimaginative, subvert audience expectations and deliver blockbuster thrills that would have pleased everyone Ė if only they had gone to see it. Part of the blame goes to the fact that it maybe looked too familiar to star Tom Cruiseís last sci-fi film, OBLIVION, or that it had a horrible title, but this deserved to do a lot better. Itís Cruiseís best film since MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE Ė GHOST PROTOCOL, and a terrific launching pad for Emily Blunt into the realm of action heroines. Luckily, it covered a lot of ground internationally, but itís still sad this wasnít bigger here.
- Chris Bumbray
CHEF was a wonderful surprise Ė as well as a fun way to write about food metaphors. The Jon Favreau written/directed/starring film is a sweet slice of cinema with an all-star cast and visually a wonderful treat for the audience senses. What is especially impressive is how Favreau and young Emjay Anthony (who plays his son) performances stuck with me well after my first viewing. This is a simply a great film that hopefully will find a massive audience on home video. The food, the music and the heart all made for one of the best films of the year, and one that I will be revisiting quite often.
Has there been a more inconsistent comic book film franchise than X-MEN? Bear in mind, Iím not saying worse. Iím saying inconsistent. The first film was so-so, X-MEN UNITED was great. The third, holy cow it was bad, and things didnít get much better for X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. But, Matthew Vaughnís X-MEN: FIRST CLASS redeemed the saga, proving there was still some life in it, and THE WOLVERINE was solid. But, leave it to director Bryan Singer to take all the strands left open by the various sequels and prequels, and make them work in a film that fixes where the franchise went wrong, all the while providing the best all-around installment of the series since X-MEN UNITED. This is slam-bang summer entertainment, and a blast from start-to-finish.
- Chris Bumbray
DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES is a wonderful sequel to the impressive RISE. This continuation towards world domination by apes relied on story just as much as it did on action. Thanks to Matt Reeves for creating a visual spectacle with some of the most engaging performances mixed with incredible motion capture. It is no surprise that Andy Serkis is perfection in the lead role of Caesar. If there was ever an example of a mo-cap performance that deserved award consideration, this is certainly it. DAWN is the rare sequel that is better than the original, one that builds my anticipation for what is yet to come.
- Jimmy O
A cocky mercenary, the daughter of a galactic tyrant, a hulking, pensive warrior, a talking raccoon with a chip on his shoulder and a sentient tree are the unlikely superstars of 2014: Who says summer moviegoers prefer seeing the same old crap? Every instinct leads one to believe that GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY shouldn't be the massive hit that it is; it features no widely recognizable comic-book characters, doesn't rely on an A-list director or cast and it's so snarky and self-aware that it may as well be laughing at its own jokes. But director James Gunn has, against all odds, knocked one out of the park with this loony sci-fi romp, which may indeed be as sarcastic as its hip protagonist, but also wears its heart on its sleeve while consistently displaying a spirit of adventure (something very undervalued at the movies today). GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is cool, unpredictable and entertaining as hell - and never once doubts it's giving you a good time.
- Eric Walkuski