FIVE FAVORITES OF SUMMER ’14

5. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 / Guardians of the Galaxy

“What?! How dare you even put these two in range of each other, much less tie them. Hack!”
Oh sorry, just having imaginary, displaced fanboy screeches in my head again.
Yes, this is a pairing you won’t likely find on any similar lists, as the general consensus seems to be that everything about Guardians of the Galaxy needs to be worshiped while, conversely, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 deserves nothing less than to be shit upon.

All that is sort of weird to me because, by and large, both movies have more similarities than differences. They’re both colorful, jaunty, visual effects-filled comic book adaptions; they both rely on a good bit of humor; both have villains that don’t live up to their potential; you’ll likely roll your eyes at some point during both; and both have a significant use of music throughout.

In fact, the only real place the two films diverge the most is in each one’s respective shortcomings. Spider-Man, while definitely having some good ideas, is a studio hatchet job that never becomes one coherent story. On the opposite end, Guardians is stitched together well but can thank its willingness to stick to formula for that.

But whether messy or tame, each film lives up to its promise of summer blockbuster fun and is a blast in its own respective way.

4. Edge of Tomorrow

Not only is Edge of Tomorrow a bunch of fun, it’s a wholly surprising bunch of fun. Like finding $10 in a pile of leaves. Seriously, my interest in this one went from low beforehand to very high after.

The joy in watching Edge of Tomorrow is in seeing Tom Cruise adjust his decisions each time the day resets to either better or more disastrous results. And hey, Tom Cruise is pretty fun to watch too, as he goes from milquetoast figurehead to badass warrior. It’s action-y, funny(-y), and pretty dern clever(-y).

The ending could have used a little bit of work but by that point the film has gotten way too much mileage out of the premise to care all that much.

It’s a shame this one didn’t catch on with audiences the way it really should have, actually not sucking and all, but home video has a talent for giving new life to under-appreciated films.

Color me impressed.

3. X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past, like its signature letter, is a bit of a crossroads. Old meets new. Established story meets artistic interpretation. Somber meets humor. Story momentum meets character introspection.

Thankfully, DOFP is one of those movies that can pull this blend off in a very focused way. It has many memorable moments but none of them seem to demand more focus than they’re worth. Not to mention it’s kind of a blast to see this cast interact, most of all McAvoy and Fassbender again.

My personal hope is that, for the sequel, director Bryan Singer (or whoever picks up director’s duties for next time) brings more of a tangible visual style to X-Men: Apocalypse, more in line with what Matthew Vaughn did with First Class. But if that story is as good as this films is, then they will at least still have their priorities straight. ¬†

2. Snowpiercer

When Hollywood fails, look elsewhere. What’s remarkable about Snowpiercer is that, as a foreign film, it actually manages to beat Hollywood at its own game.

There’s no shortage of sci-fi action thrillers out there. There are, however, not that many that can pull off a film as thoughtful, gritty and memorable as this one. Anyone inclined to think a bit during their gun fights should find reward in Snowpiercer as the pointed commentary keeps things perpetually interesting.

And lookey here, you don’t even have to leave the house to watch the film. It’s still available to rent on most on-demand services (good luck finding one of the, like, seven theaters it’s still playing at).



1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

There were many good sci-fi films out this summer and a refreshing amount of movies that didn’t treat the audience like complete idiots. This film is the best in both categories.

It’s hard to talk about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes outside the context of squeeing about every little thing in it. But this is my favorites list so I’m allowed, dammit!

Where to start? The stunning motion capture performances by the hero and villain? The four or five times where Planet of the Apes iconography seemed on the verge of bursting through? Gary Oldman’s archetype-defying character? Maybe the emotional intensity that starts right away and just does. not. let. up.?

If all that sounds good, it’s because it is. It so, positively, is.

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