The Top 5 Movies of Summer 2014
The end of August is always a relief for this movie critic. Like all good fan-boys, I spend the majority of the rest of the year drooling over the upcoming summer tentpoles, and every year I am disappointed. The grand scope of the majority of such films usually outweighs the character and structural elements necessary for great cinema. Luckily, this summer we where in for a treat. Although the overall box office is down 15% from the amazing performance of 2013, the following five films delivered big on the critical front. Two of the following films were even largely successful, hopefully pathing the way for zanier and smarter sci-fi.
5. Edge of Tomorrow
Last year I was fortunate enough to see a working draft of this film. Unfortunately, the special effects were around 50% done at the time. In other words, the majority of monsters and military equipment where nothing more then gray blobs, and I still loved it! The film takes a Groundhog Day-esk concept, and incorporates it into humanity’s last stand against an alien invasion. The concept and execution is new and very refreshing in a summer jam-packed with spandex glad super humans. However, the real selling point is Tom Cruise. Cruise turns his charm up to 11, and proves once again that he can confidently lead a blockbuster of this size.
Rotten Tomatoes (“RT”) Score: 90%
Budget: $178 Million
Domestic Revenue: $99.8 Million
Foreign Revenue: $264.1 Million
4. Blue Ruin
Other then the #1 spot, this is my other “call to arms” inclusion. The film focuses on a down on his luck protagonist Dwight, living out of his car near the ocean. After he receives word that the man who murdered his parents is being released out of jail he sets off on a quest for vengeance. Blue Ruin takes an intimate viewpoint in both its concept and execution. Writer/director Jeremy Saulnier lets us experience Dwight’s pain, loss, and motivations for revenge first hand. Saulnier’s economical approach to filmmaking is a refreshing change of pace when compared to the exposition heavy films usually released during summer. Do yourself a favor and seek this film out on VOD or DVD.
RT Score: 96%
Domestic Revenue: $258,384
Foreign Revenue: N/A
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
Who in their right mind saw this one coming? This movie was Marvel’s true test of the longevity of their production studio. Sure, teens and young males will always turn out in droves for blue chip superheroes such as Captain America and Thor, but how successful can Marvel be outside of its bread and butter? The answer: extremely. It was a pure streak of genius hiring cult director James Gunn for the project (if you haven’t seen Super or Slither check them out for more Gunn madness). Gunn brought an innovative visual palette, emotional storytelling, and heaps of wit to a story that seemed ridiculous on paper. GOTG is the most fun you will have at the cinema’s this year, and at the time of this articles publication, GOTG will be the highest grossing film of the summer. I for one can’t wait to see what other surprises Marvel has in store for us.
RT Score: 92%
Budget: $170 Million
Domestic Revenue: $251 Million
Foreign Revenue: $237 Million
2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
DOTPOTA is one of the most harrowing, and emotionally accurate depictions of war ever set to film. Going against the grain of the typical blockbuster, in which the audience cheers and celebrates the on-screen destruction, DOTPOTA hits you right in the gut. The violence is felt – Every bullet, every death. As a viewer you can’t help but agonize over the inevitable plight of both sides of the conflict. In this vein, the film is absolutely brilliant. War is not black and white, and Matt Reeves beautifully portrays this fact is his science fiction masterpiece. You really have to give credit to Fox for its reboot of this classic series. They gave both this film, and its predecessor, the complex and emotional treatment that they deserved. With Reeves already signed on for the sequel, this series may go down as one of the best franchises in recent history.
RT Score: 90%
Budget: $170 Million
Domestic Revenue: $203 Million
Foreign Revenue: $350 Million
This film is very difficult to describe. If Terry Gilliam and George Orwell remade Wizard of Oz set on a train, you would have Snowpiercer. On its surface, the apocalyptic film is about a man, Curtis (Chris Evans), leading a violent revolution against his Bourgeoise oppressors. The film is set in a world in which the apocalypse has struck and what remains of humanity is surviving on a massive train that encircles the world. The train is starkly divided among the upper, middle, and lower class societies, each quarantined to their respective cars.
The revolution aspect of the story makes for one of the most visceral action films of the summer. The massive battles are expertly shot by Bong Joon-Ho, making his English language debut. However, the film is largely allegorical throughout. The train essentially represents capitalism or the western culture, and the struggles within it. As Curtis makes his way up the train, Joon-Ho breaks down the class system in remarkably engaging ways. After I first watched the film I spent hours dissecting the meaning and symbolism behind each scene.
Thus, Joon-Ho has essentially made the perfect blockbuster film. One that can be enjoyed for its scope and entertainment value alone, and one that will keep you thinking long after the credits have rolled. As you can see from the numbers below, Snowpiercer was largely unsuccessful domestically. Due to Joon-Ho’s unwillingness to cut the film for a wide release, it was given a limited release without any sort of large marketing push. This is not only the best film of the summer, but one of the most engaging and creative science fiction films ever made. Support great filmmaking and check out this film on VOD.
RT Score: 95%
Domestic Revenue: $4 Million
Foreign Revenue: $81 Million