Another summer has come and gone, and with it a series of action blockbusters, comedies, animated features, horror films, book adaptations, and hidden gems. The summer of 2014 unfortunately turned out to be a rather lackluster one for movies overall, but that doesn’t mean there still weren’t some great films to come out of it. Below is my list of what I think were the five best movies of the summer. Click the links to read my full review of each film. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment at the bottom with your picks for this summer’s best movies.
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Directed by Steve James, the documentary “Life Itself” examines the life and career of late film critic Roger Ebert through film clips, interviews with family, friends, and colleagues, and home videos. Ebert’s impact on the industry is apparent in every moment. It’s an emotional journey through the life of a man who truly lived his to the fullest, right up to the end.
"Guardians of the Galaxy"
Directed by James Gunn, the latest contribution to the Marvel cinematic universe is a welcome departure from the “Avengers”. Set in space, "Guardians of the Galaxy" features a host of misfit characters led by Chris Pratt’s 80s loving Star Lord, and includes a talking raccoon and a giant walking tree named Groot. The cast has great chemistry that provides a lot of hilarity on top of the thrilling action sequences, making this the perfect summer blockbuster.
"22 Jump Street"
It’s rare that a sequel turns out better than its predecessor, but “22 Jump Street” does it—mainly by making sly jokes at the fact that it is a sequel with a plot almost identical to “21 Jump Street”. The film’s awareness of this makes it all the funnier, and Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill continue to have a weirdly wonderful chemistry as two cops going undercover at a local college. It’s the best comedy of the year so far.
"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"
Speaking of sequels that are better than the first movie, “22 Jump Street” wasn’t the only one this summer. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”, a sequel to a reboot of the classic sci-fi franchise, is set 10 years in the future, when disease has destroyed much of the human population, and war between the remaining humans and a clan of intelligent apes is imminent. The characters and their relationships with each other—both man and ape—are richly developed and completely believable. On top of that, the special effects continue to be amazingly real, contributing to the overall experience. “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” is the rare blockbuster that is as intelligent as it is thrilling.
Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” is not only the best movie of the summer, it’s the best movie the year so far. Filmed at intervals over twelve years using the same actors, Linklater presents the story of a family centered around a boy, Mason, who begins the film at age five and ends at age eighteen. Along the way we watch him grow and change and question his purpose. Stunning performances are given all around, particularly Ethan Hawke as Mason’s wisdom-spouting dad, and Linklater’s script is funny and touching. It’s amazing how, over the course of nearly three hours, you feel like you get to know this family so intimately. For a film that could have gone wrong in so many ways, “Boyhood” got everything just right.