BEST: EDGE OF TOMORROW
It's too bad that nobody saw Edge of Tomorrow because it was truly a great film. Filled with great performances, absolutely beautiful cinematography and stunning action, Edge of Tomorrow was simply fantastic and it's a film worth watching again and again. Tom Cruise breaks his recent slump and delivers a great performance while Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson are all brilliant in their supporting roles. This was one of the most innovative and terrific sci-fi films of the last few years and without a doubt, one of summer's best.
This movie was atrocious. Disney hasn't made a good big-budget flick since the second Pirates flick, but Maleficent was especially bad. Angelina Jolie is incredibly over-the-top and the supporting cast is terrible as well. The voiceover is grating, the story is uninteresting and the visuals are not very polished. Simply put, this is a bland, idiotic movie and one of summer's biggest disappointments (although I can't ever say that I was looking forward to it).
Boyhood was one of the most amazing cinematic experiences I've ever had. Seeing both the character of Mason and actor Ellar Coltrane grow up over twelve years was simply astounding. It's a true character arc and it's incredible to watch. However, Boyhood is not just an amazing experience. It's also a well scripted, well directed film with great performances from its entire cast. Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke are great and Ellar Coltrane anchors the film. Individual scenes pop with gravitas and power and it's just an amazing film. Boyhood will be remembered for a very, very long time.
WORST: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
I'm a fan of Michael Bay's work, so I actually didn't expect to hate Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (which he produced). But boy, it was awful. I can deal with cheesy humor and a terrible script. I'm even okay with an awful performance from the lead actress. But I'm not okay with a poorly filmed movie that it exceedingly bland and completely uninteresting. TMNT does almost nothing in its 100 minute run time and the action scenes are more disorienting than they are entertaining. It's just a bad movie from start to finish and one that I wish I could forget entirely.
Snowpiercer was a movie that surprised me in a very good way. This bold, provocative and well-acted sci-fi flick does all the right things and features a surprisingly brilliant performance from Chris Evans. The film is visually stunning and terrific in its pacing, with some of the greatest action scenes of the year. In addition to that, this film contains one of the most stunning monologues that I've ever seen. It's absolutely incredible. Snowpiercer is an almost perfect film and a movie that I will watch over and over when I finally get it on Blu-Ray.
WORST: THE PURGE: ANARCHY
The Purge: Anarchy is both an exceedingly stupid and terrible film and a morally questionable one. It glorifies the bloodsport of a night where all crime is legal, but it also wants to condemn the violence. The filmmakers don't realize that they can't have it both ways. Anarchy would certainly be better if it actually took one side, but let's not forget that it's also an exceptionally bad movie. All of the characters are idiots and the plot is non-existent. It was just a terrible film and one that I never want to see again.
In a summer full of delightfully raucous R-rated comedies, Neighbors stood out from the pack by being gleefully unhinged and packed with non-stop jokes. Seth Rogen is quite good as suburban dad Mac Radner, but the supporting cast, led by Rose Byrne, Zac Efron and Dave Franco, steals the show. All three give star-making performances and give the whole movie their all. In addition to that, the film's screenplay is great and the film succeeds at being both clever and dirty. This is simply one of the best frat comedies ever and a pure treat to watch.
WORST: GET ON UP
Get On Up was probably the biggest disappointment of the summer for me, simply because it had so much going for it. It's the story of James Brown with a great young actor in the lead role and a terrific soundtrack in the background. What could go wrong? The answer is a lot. Chadwick Boseman is perfect, but the rest of the film is a jumbled mess of a movie. Scenes feel out of place and characters pop up at random times. Some people loved this style, but I despised it and that's why I thought Get On Up was one of the summer's worst.
BEST: X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST
The X-Men franchise is incredibly inconsistent, but Bryan Singer undoubtedly delivered with the superb X-Men: Days of Future Past. This emotional, action-packed roller-coaster was one of the high points of the summer for me and James McAvoy gave one of the summer's best performances. The scenes with Quicksilver were brilliant, the future was appropriately bleak and the character work was exceptional. Without a doubt in my mind, this was one of the best superhero movies of all time.
WORST: WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL
When the Game Stands Tall is a perfect example of how to not make a sports movie. This dull and cliched drama runs through the motions and does nothing new or unique. The dialogue is pathetically bad and the characters are unlikable and uninteresting. Besides a few good moments, this is one huge misfire.
Calvary brought a bright light into the doldrums of summer with it's bleak, depressing look at the human condition. Brendan Gleeson anchors this beautifully shot character study and gives a monumental performance. The supporting cast is excellent as well and the script is brilliant. The opening scene is startling and the tragic ending is incredibly shocking. John Michael McDonagh did an absolutely fantastic with this film and it was one of the highlights of my cinematic summer.
BEST: LIFE ITSELF
An incredible documentary that examines the life of the world's greatest film critic, Life Itself is a painstaking, moving piece of cinema about the late Roger Ebert. Both entertaining and heartbreaking, Life Itself manages to create a simply terrific atmosphere of both admiration and sadness. It's a brilliant achievement by director Steve James and one that will not be forgotten anytime soon. A beautiful movie.
WORST: LET'S BE COPS
This summer had some great comedies. Let's Be Cops was not one of them. Although Damon Wayans Jr. and Jake Johnson have good chemistry, this film is overlong and incredibly light on the belly laughs that 22 Jump Street and Neighbors provided. The film is only 104 minutes, but it feels like 150 minutes, which is definitely not a good thing. Let's Be Cops is not aggressively bad, but it is incredibly forgettable.
BEST: 22 JUMP STREET
BEST: THE FAULT IN OUR STARS
What could have ended up being a forgettable teen tear-jerker eventually became one of the summer's best films. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort give breakout performances in this stunningly touching film that does everything write. The film is directed so well by Josh Boone and the supporting performances from Nat Wolff and Laura Dern are splendid as well. This sad, beautiful film does precisely everything that a romantic film should.
WORST: HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a perfect example of how to screw up your sequel. Make it super dark and depressing, barely further the story and take nearly a half hour to actually get going. Yeah, way to go Dreamworks. I know a lot of people were sad to see this movie disappoint at the box office, but I was in no way surprised. This bleak and inconsequential kids flick is rather dull and a complete misfire. Hopefully the filmmakers can recapture the charm of the first film next time.
BEST: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Guardians of the Galaxy had the potential to be Marvel's first misfire, but it ended up being one of their highest grossing films yet. And it's a ton of fun. The characters are great, the action is awesome and the soundtrack is still on repeat on my iPhone. Chris Pratt is going to be one of the world's biggest stars and Dave Bautista could end up being a huge success as well. Hopefully this film will encourage Marvel to create more odd, outside the box ideas.
Chef was one of the biggest independent films of the summer and it many ways it is the perfect summer movie. With a great soundtrack, a fun plot and terrific performances across the board, Chef is just a pure joy to watch. It's not a perfect movie, but it's so much fun and so enjoyable that you simply do not care.
That's it for my summer wrap-up. Hopefully we'll get to see even more great films in the fall.