Posted on Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 by Peter Sciretta
Godzilla was the fun theme park ride I was looking for this summer, and Godzilla was the popcorn film of my Summer. I’m the type of guy who loves the long tease, and Godzilla brilliantly stretched the reveals of the title creature and the film’s other monsters, slowly building a sense of dread inside me.
When the action happens, director Gareth Edwards presents sequences that feel more Spielberg than Spielberg. I love how 99% of the action is grounded from a human point of view — most monster films opt for the epic wide-shots from impossible vantage points. Strangely, the script for Edwards’ film feels more like a Roland Emmerich movie than Emmerich’s 1998 Godzilla movie. Which again, I had less of a problem with than most critics. That said, it would be nice if the announced sequel beefs up the story a bit.
3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Rupert Wyatt’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes was the big surprise of the Summer of 2011. And while I really dug that movie a lot, the human characters left a lot to be desired and the film contained some real cringeworthy moments, like Draco Malfoy yelling “Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!” Matt Reeves’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is to Rise as Empire Strikes Back is to A New Hope — it improves on the promise, world and characters in every single way imaginable. Dawn does what all great science fiction films do, in this case making us ponder big questions about our world while watching a story about intelligent ape characters in a setting we will never experience in real life.
Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell’s ape performances are the greatest motion capture performances to ever grace to silver screen — truly next level. Having the film start from Ceasar’s point of view instead of that of the humans was a brilliant yet risky choice. I love that the first 15 minutes of the movie is basically a silent nature film with few words spoken and mostly sound language. I could watch a whole movie of just the apes living in their community, no humans needed.
Even the human badguys were not black and white villains, offering us a chance to empathize with their dire situation. This film actually had me tear up twice, which is a huge feat. I’ve seen this film three times in the theater. In any other year this might be my favorite film of the year, but this Summer was just so packed with great movies.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy was the pure-fun movie of this summer (and year so far). It makes me happy that such a story with such bizarre characters and settings has been fully accepted by the mainstream public. While this film is adapted from the Marvel comic book series, it may as well be a Marvel-branded original movie directed by James Gunn. Its great to see such a fully in big budget sci-fi film in a world with movie studios struggling to try to make science fiction movies less sci-fi and more human so that they’ll appeal to the mass audiences. I hope Marvel lets Gunn explore even weirder sci-fi territory in the sequel.
Everyone loves Rocket and Groot, but thats to be expected. The biggest surprise of the movie has to be Dave Bautista as Drax — Bautista perfectly handled the humor and brought the character to life. Chris Pratt is hilarious and makes a great misfit hero. The 1970’s/1980’s “awesome mix” soundtrack is amazing, and the group actually has a good proper theme song (something other Marvel films lack).
This is another film that I’ve seen two times in the theater this summer. I use to see a lot of movies multiple times during their theatrical runs, but as I grow older that practice is happening less and less. I’m not sure if as we grow older I am finding my free time to be more valuable or if I’ve become more picky and am only returning for those films that deserve another viewing on the big screen. Either way, I plan to return to see this a third time on the big screen — I have yet to see it in IMAX 3D, which I’ve heard expands and plays with the 3D in ways that no other film has. Also kudos to James Gunn for supervising Marvel’s first good 3D post conversion.
This is the third film on this list that I’ve seen more than once in the theater, and considering its almost three hour running time, its the equivalent of seeing a Pixar movie like Toy Story almost 4 and a half times.
Boyhood is a small epic. Richard Linklater has truly created something special with Boyhood — a remarkable, beautiful, cinematic achievement, like nothing you have ever seen before (or are likely going to see again). I had been looking forward to this film for many years now and the film surpassed every expectation. Boyhood is more than just a gimmick or experiment, its a great movie about how our lives are built and rebuilt and changed over the course of our formative years. Its not just the best film of this Summer but is likely going to top my best films of the year list. Its a movie I expect to revisit regularly for years to come, a modern classic.
Discuss: Which films was I right about, which movies was I wrong about? What movies did I leave off this list or possibly not see? Did anything fly under the radar this summer? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!