Many of us judge the beginning of Summer quite differently. For some, it's when that big ball of fiery hell comes out to play and never goes away. Others, its when your kids are all home from school and won't give you a moments peace. Now when it comes to me and you ask how I define the start of Summer? It's when the first summer blockbuster rolls out onto the silver-screen and demands the money from my wallet and the time from my life.
Okay so maybe I'm making out the summer blockbuster to be some maniacal money-hungry retina searing monster; but only because it is. It's the very best kind.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Captain America began the blockbuster season off right by launching us into the stratosphere with edge of your seat action, while coupling these thrills with a rich narrative webbed over with espionage and intrigue. With 'The Winter Soldier' we see Marvel renew their grasp on the Captain America license and with that bring forward a more confident and capable Avenger.
Before 'The Avengers' it was safe to say that Steve Rogers was by far my least favorite Marvel hero. This was unfortunate because I have nothing but love and respect from Chris Evans as an actor. In short, it wasn't his performance, but just the way the character had been envisioned up until that point. With 'The Avengers', Marvel really brought the child out of Steve and 'The Winter Soldier' solidified him as the hero we all expect him to be.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Originally, the 2012 reboot of the Spider-Man franchise was not something I thought I wanted. It just felt too soon; especially after the mess that was 'Spider-Man 3'. It wasn't until the hiring on of Marc Webb as director and the casting of lead actors Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone that I began taking notice of the burgeoning film. When I saw the finished film, I couldn't have been happier.
Sony and Webb made all the right moves. From the casting, script, all the way down through to the cinematography. It all just formed into what Spider-Man should have always been. And with 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' Sony Pictures, along with Marc Webb returning to direct were more or less able to recapture that same energy that made the first 'Amazing Spider-Man' so well-worth watching.
'Amazing Spider-Man 2' suffers in some ways from the same pitfalls that befell 'Spider-Man 3'. There are just too many characters to keep track of at any given time. This seeming lack of focus contributes to much of the narrative having an overall lack of impact by its conclusion.
This is at least what the pundits have claimed. I saw the movie and noticed what they saw, but the film still has a strong emotional core at its center. Also, there are really only two new characters that you have to be concerned about anyway. People really should just relax and enjoy themselves more. Perhaps I need to take a dose of my own medicine.
For the first time ever, Zac Efron and Seth Rogen team up for the ultimate Bro comedy ever! Okay, not really. 'Neighbors' begins with an excellent concept. An adult couple with a newborn baby move into a peacefully quiet neighborhood. All seems right with the world, that is until a moving truck pulls up and out pop thirty adolescents who turn the neighboring house into a full-scale fraternity dorm. The fun loving couple make a simple request to the fraternity boys, just that they keep the noise down after certain hours of the night. After the boys' first full scale party however, the war for the block is on.
'Neighbors' has some well earned laughs in it, but ultimately never really amounts to becoming more than its initial premise. There don't seem to be any lessons learned by its cast of characters, which makes the whole ordeal that was reaching the film's finale a rather forgettable journey. A day after seeing this film, I had already forgotten mostly what it had been about. If there is one thing to take away from 'Neighbors', it's that its cast work very well off one another. Watching Zac Effron, Seth Rogen, Dave Franco, and Rose Byrne together onscreen was almost worth the price of admission.
After the mostly fan hated but financial success that was the last 'Godzilla' movie in 1998 starring Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno; it was unclear when or even if we would see another film featuring the so called "King of Monsters". Well May 16th changed all that. Not only did 'Godzilla' debut big, it's probably the best out of all the Godzilla movies to date. Mainly because it succeeds at being more than just a monster movie. It also benefits from phenomenal pacing and creature designs.
Despite its title, 'Godzilla' really tells the story of one family and how the microcosmic events of their lives soon become a whole lot larger both in terms of scale and repercussions. The events of the film follow its lead character Ford Brody, who is probably one of the world's luckiest men, as he journeys across the globe to solve the mysteries of his past and fight nigh impossible odds to save his family and secure a place for his future.
X-Men Days of Future Past
'Days of Future Past' certainly deserves to be ranked among the highest installments within the X-Men franchise. Combining the series best elements, 'Days of Future Past' proved that it could be more than just a summer action blockbuster. Placed safely back in the hands of Bryan Singer and Mathew Vaughn, this new entry brings both past and future factions of X-Men together to fight a war for the survival of mutant kind. 'Days of Future Past' also achieves praise in righting some of the wrongs made in recent films, namely 'X-Men: The Last Stand'.
Breeding together the genres of political thriller, fantasy, and apocalyptic sci-fi is probably not an easy thing to do; but director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Mathew Vaughn accomplish this feat with such ease, it's as if they were just skipping over Everest while on their way to the Moon. I would be remiss in not mentioning 'Days of Future Past's newest addition to the X-Men line-up: Quicksilver. Tucked underneath all of the usual mutant melodrama is probably one of Comic Book Movie history's most hilarious tour de-force-scenes, and it belongs solely to this character. 'X-Men Days of Future Past' will be a movie I recommend to both comic book and X-Men fans alike for decades to come.
All spectacle and no magic. Aside from Jolie's performance, 'Maleficent' was another one of the few disappointments this summer. Told from the perspective of one of Disney's most well known antagonists, 'Maleficent' portrays both the untold origin story of the title heroine, the film also endeavors to shed light on many of the nefarious schemes brought down upon the heads of all those seemingly innocent people in her way.
Much like the recent 'Snow White and the Huntsman' film by Universal, 'Maleficent' is kinda all over the place tonally speaking. It never knows whether it wants to be a kid friendly Disney film, or a dark style fairy tale. At the same time, the film contained decent visual effects and a remarkable performance by actress Angelina Jolie
Edge of Tomorrow
Probably one of the more surprising films of the summer. I don't think anyone expected this film to be as enjoyable and well received as it was. If you haven't seen the trailers for 'Edge of Tomorrow', then really all you need to know is: Tom Cruise's character gets himself caught in a time loop ala 'Groundhogs Day' in which he must relieve the same alien invasion day after day, week after week, month after month. If you had to relive the opening scenes from ' Saving Private Ryan' every day, just imagine how traumatic that would be.
'Edge of Tomorrow' boasts strong performances from both of its leads and impressive creature designs. The screenplay keeps the premise of backtracking through time interesting by interspersing strong thematic themes and much welcomed humor throughout. On top of this, it's always fun to watch Tom Cruise go against. character type.
22 Jump Street
Now we all see sequels come and go. The majority of the time, these spin-offs do very little to separate themselves from what made their predecessors popular and I've honestly never seen a film follow the exact same formula set in place by the first with such self-aware arrogance. The best part is that it works, at times to hilarious effect.
Characters Jenko and Schmidt return to their offices on Jump Street and this time around we find them going through college in order to stop another drug dealer. '22 Jump Street' largely relies on the same jokes and story beats, so in short the film plays things safe this time around. I found this somewhat disapointing, but the movie is still humerous all the same.
How To Train Your Dragon 2
Let's just say that it's always a good idea to never let your expectations reach too high. I suppose I'll also let it be known that I didn't quite see eye to eye with all the critics who seemed more than willing to heap unequivocal amounts of praise upon Dreamworks' new 'How To Train Your Dragon' sequel. Beginning on the plus side of things, this sequel bore with it absolutely gorgeous animation and all the dragons were made just as lovable as they were in the first.
Sadly not all of the positive qualities that made the first film so glorious carried over into the follow-up. All of the great returning characters were largely left on the back burner. They were unfortunately replaced with characters who were, aside from one, stale and largely uninteresting. What was even more wavering was the lack of focus by the film's narrative. I had never felt as uninterested by the end of a film as I had by 'How To Train Your Dragon 2'; too bad since it was the movie I wanted to see most at the beginning of the summer.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
We haven't seen a 'Planet of the Apes' movie since 2011. For some, they might count those days as a blessing. Nevertheless here we are. 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' returns us to the world of Caesar taking place post-pandemic that changed the fate of the world. Caesar finds himself leading a tribe of apes located on the outskirts. They share this fragile existence trying to coexist with a small sect of surviving humans. Its safe to say that the peace doesn't last long.
'Dawn' relies heavily on your own ability to take a computer generated ape seriously. However the guys over at Weta Digital, the same company responsible for 'The Lord of the Rings', 'King Kong', and 'Avatar' know just how to make you feel like you're watching real life events with spectacular animation and emotional resonance.
Transformers: Age of Extinction
With some movies and even some filmmakers, you know just about what you're going to get out of a movie experience before you have even seen the film. When a person goes to a Michael Bay film, they are likely to fall into one of two groups by the time they have left the theater. The first being, those who leave having enjoyed themselves and felt as though they've had a decent summer blockbuster experience. Then there is the latter; viewers such as myself who feel like asking for their well earned dollars back would be just one of the few reformations the theater could provide to make up for the loss of that was their lifespan spent watching computer generated mech porn duke it out for nearly three hours.
A lot of us know what we're about to get ourselves into these days when we see something with Michael Bay's name attached to it. It use to mean a fairly decent action film with insurmountable spectacle firing on all cylinders. Unfortunately this hasn't been the case since 2009 when 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen' reared up its ugly head. Most Bay films these days rely around a lot of paper thin plot with overbearing CGI absurdity. Bay needs to return to a genre in which he holds a firmer grasp on, namely 'Bad Boys'. 'Transformers' has clearly gotten away from him and either needs to die or at the very least be put into the hands of someone else.
Now readers are probably going to fall into two groups when it comes to 'Snowpiercer'. Those that are confused as to why I would consider this film a summer blockbuster and those that don't even have a clue what this movie is. Why I consider 'Snowpiercer' as a summer blockbuster is for two reasons: its cast and its premise. Starring Chris Evans, Jaime Bell, John Hurt, and Ed Harris among others; 'Snowpiercer' tells the tale of the last reminants of the human race as they struggle to survive the new ice age in a speeding bullet train.
On paper 'Snowpiercer' may seem like another summer one-off, but it isn't until you first see it and view how director Joon-ho Bong weaves the themes put forth by Jacques Lob's Graphic Novel and adapts them into one of the most thought provoking films of the summer.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Quite possibly the biggest and best surprise of the summer blockbuster season. I went into 'Guardians of the Galaxy' completely open minded and only sub-par expectations. Having no real prior knowledge of the source material to speak of, is what actually helped make the film as enjoyable as it was. From beginning to end I found myself smiling and laughing and doing what all Summer Blockbusters are meant to do: make sure you have a good time.
I won't go into any great detail about the narrative behind 'Guardians' because in all honesty it's fairly irrelevant in the overall context of the film. This movie is really all about it's characters and the hilarious bond they all share with one another. 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is stuffed to the brim with pulpy sci-fi action and it really makes action & adventure film enthusiasts feel nostalgic. I would argue that 'Guardians' is capable of standing tall with just about any sci-fi action film to date. Good news is that this film is just the first of many installments in the Marvel movie franchise to come.