Blockbuster season went out with a whimper instead of a bang this year, as the box-office numbers are among the worse for a summer slate since the early ‘00s. However, that doesn’t mean that there weren’t good films to see over the last few months, just maybe a little harder to fine. I know I still have to catch up with some hidden gems, but in the mean time, here are my top 10 films from this summer.
10. Battered Bastards of Baseball
Okay, so “Battered Bastards of Baseball” didn’t even play in theaters this summer as it premiered exclusively on Netflix, but it’s my favorite documentary so far this year and it compliments the dog days of summer with one of baseball’s most endearing teams. The film chronicles the story of the Portland Mavericks, an independent minor league baseball team in the 70s that was made up of a slew of wacky characters, from the batboy (Oscar-nominee Todd Field) to the owner, (TV star Bing Russell). This underdog team will steal your heart like they nearly stole the minor’s in their few years of existence.
9. A Most Wanted Man
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final completed role is a great example of why his loss was such a tragedy, but it’s also just a well-constructed and taut thriller from Anton Corbijn. From spy novelist extraordinaire John le Carre, “A Most Wanted Man” captures a post 9/11 world where the threat of a potential attack is just as important as stopping the actual one. This film will have you at attention for the duration despite a gun never being pulled and with no ticking of a bomb to a massive explosion. Hoffman, no surprise, is also very strong in the film.
“Neighbors” is a great comedy from the early part of summer that we kind of forgot about. Once people catch it again (or perhaps for the first time) though they’ll remember just how funny of a film it was. Zac Efron is at his career best and has surprisingly great chemistry with Seth Rogen. The supporting cast is also filled with standouts from Rose Byrne to Jerrod Carmichael. “Neighbors” ability to hit in both the late 20s/30s crowd and with college kids will help it build a lasting fan base.
7. X-Men: Days of Future Past
The usual staple of superhero movies in summer landed was surprisingly thin this year. The best of the bunch was definitely “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” The return of Bryan Singer after Matthew Vaughn reignited the franchise with “X-Men: First Class” helped bring Hollywood’s first team of superheroes back into its original form, both with old cast members returning and in terms of overall quality. If there are complaints it is that the villains in the film, including Michael Fassbender’s Magneto, disappointed, but a shift of focus to Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique and James McAvoy’s Xavier’s relationship added something new and interesting to the franchise.
6. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Why can’t more summer movies strive to do what “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”
does? Not only does the film feature some strong action sequences, but it is also one of the smartest films to come out over the last few months. Couple that with brilliant visual effects and great performance capture work from Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell, and you get a dynamic movie that will entertain you and make you think at the same time.
5. Edge of Tomorrow
Maybe the film will have a better life on DVD with the more interesting title of “Live. Die. Repeat,” but this rose, by whatever name, has always been sweet. The film formerly known as “Edge of Tomorrow” is a wild ride that keeps the fun coming for its entire run-time and features a change of pace from blockbuster staple Tom Cruise. The story may be “Groundhog Day” set in the future, but watching Tom Cruise play out the same day over and over again has plenty of its own merits. If nothing else we get to watch Cruise die in some pretty cool ways.
4. The Fault in Our Stars
Summer is typically for action and comedy, but one of the surprises of the season was “The Fault in Our Stars.” It’s box-office success probably wasn’t a huge surprise since it had a large fan-base of young girls dying to see it, but its delivery of a lovely and well acted piece was the pleasant discovery. A fantastic adaptation from Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter, combined with Shailene Woodley’s dazzling turn make “The Fault in Our Stars” probably the best young adult adaptation yet. Don’t be surprised if there’s a dark-horse Oscar campaign for the aforementioned parties either.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy
Arguably the most fun you’ll have at the movies this summer, August did something it rarely does, deliver a hit. Previously I mentioned that “X-Men” was the best superhero movie of the summer, and I stand by that, because despite the Marvel billing “Guardians of the Galaxy” is not a superhero film, it’s more of a space western with Chris Pratt and the rest of his crew making up their own version of "The Dirty Dozen." Marvel continues the winning theme of the summer, as its humor is probably its most valuable asset… well that and a dancing baby Groot.
2. 22 Jump Street
By far the funniest movie of the summer, “22 Jump Street” is a sequel that improves on the original in nearly every way, all while making fun at the very idea of Hollywood sequels. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are a comedic match made in Heaven, and Chris Miller and Phil Lord confirm that they are the best comedic duo working in Hollywood right now. It may have been a joke, but if the “Jump Street” team can even make a follow-up half as good, I’ll gladly dish out $10 to see “Jump Street: Med School.”
It’s not often that you get to see a true cinematic masterpiece, but that is exactly what we got this summer when Richard Linklater’s 12-year odyssey paid off in the form of “Boyhood.” The film has so much to offer; a beautiful portrait of a young boy’s growth, a brilliant performance from Patricia Arquette, and it is a time capsule of all the big culture moments over the last 12 years. This isn’t your typical summer movie, but it doesn’t matter when this film was released, the film will be one of, if not the, best film released this year.