According to our almanac, summer 2014 doesn’t end until September 22 (at
, if you really want the specifics). But this is Hollywood. We make our own rules. To us, the 10:29pm EDT begins on the first weekend in May and is officially over on Labor Day weekend, at which time all the studios dumping as much crap as possible into September, making room for holiday weekend wide releases and art house fare to hype during Oscar Season. That means that, as far as movie lovers are concerned, summer is officially over and it’s time to take stock of what the heck just happened. summer blockbuster season
By anyone’s estimation, the 2014 summer blockbusters were kind of a lame bunch. We had some highlights but several of the most hyped movies of the year turned out to be real turkeys, and even some of the really good ones tanked at the box office due to overcrowded multiplexes full of tentpole releases and not enough people to fill each tent. We saw franchises rise (
, Guardians of the Galaxy ) and we saw franchises fall ( Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles , The Amazing Spider-Man 2 ). We saw The Expendables 3 and we saw apes on horseback dual-wielding machine guns die hundreds of times. We had some fun, but compared to years past when imaginations were set on fire and whole new generations of movielovers were treated to unforgettable events the likes of which the world of entertainment has never seen… yeah, the blockbusters were a bit of a letdown. Tom Cruise
But we still had plenty of great summer blockbusters this season, peppered into marketplace otherwise filled with crap. So let’s take a look at both sides of the equation, with this, our picks for
The 10 Best (and 10 Worst) Summer Blockbusters of 2014. Some of these films impressed us more and more as the months went by. Others got worse and worse. Some were intended to be a big deal but failed to attract a proper audience. Some were a big deal but had absolutely no right to be.
Slideshow: The 10 Best (and 10 Worst) Summer Blockbusters of 2014
William Bibbiani is the editor of
and the host of CraveOnline’s Film Channel and The B-Movies Podcast . Follow him on Twitter at The Blue Movies Podcast . @WilliamBibbiani
The Best & Worst Summer Blockbusters of 2014
10th Worst: Deliver Us From Evil
Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson may have wowed horror fans with his smart and scary Sinister in 2012, but his follow-up Deliver Us From Evil was frustratingly dumb and familiar. Eric Bana stars as an NYPD sergeant whose latest case involves gates to Hell and demonic possession, but the cop movie clichés sap any emotion out of the story, emotion that the horror movie clichés needed to have any impact. Deliver Us From Evil's two genres essentially cancel each other out, but to the film's credit, the cinematography by Scott Kevan is gorgeous, and Edgar Ramirez stands out as a charismatic exorcist.
10th Best: The Purge: Anarchy
The Purge had a fun "Twilight Zone" concept but a cheesy home invasion execution. James DeMonaco's sequel wisely brings the action outside, into a world where violent crime is legal for one night out of the year, and the grizzled Frank Grillo finds himself accidentally escorting a gang of innocents through a war zone of homicidal maniacs and sociopathic One-Percenters with private armies who do their killing for them. The Purge: Anarchy is a tense, mean-spirited, grungy thriller in the vein of early John Carpenter and Walter Hill flicks. We don't have enough of those.
9th Worst: Lucy
Scarlett Johansson is pretty great in Luc Besson's strange sci-fi/action hybrid about a normal woman named Lucy who gets super brain powers and has to fight off an international crime ring before she can evolve into a God, but the action is utterly pointless and the sci-fi isn't nearly as smart as the movie pretends it is. We're happy that a film with a female action hero tore up the box office, but we're a little disappointed that it wasn't a better one.
9th Best: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The special effects are utterly phenomenal in Matt Reeve's follow-up to the unexpectedly thoughtful and dramatic 2011 sci-fi blockbuster
Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and the plot - about one last group of human survivors trying to stave off war against their intelligent ape neighbors - is refreshingly simple. In an age where films about robots that turn into cars can have labyrinthine storylines, it's wonderful to see a summer blockbuster that's easy to follow and dares to try to be meaningful, even though Dawn kinda devolves at the end into goofy action stereotypes.
8th Worst: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The reboot of the mighty
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise was silly, incoherent and overstuffed with advertising... not unlike the generation of kids it so obviously caters to. At least it never pretends to be anything else, but it's still nowhere near as good as this admittedly goofy franchise can be, and it's a disappointment to long-term fans who were hoping for something that was at least a little coherent.
8th Best: Neighbors
This uncomplicated but incredibly funny early summer comedy stars Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne as new parents who start a feud with their new frat boy neighbors, partially because they're keeping the baby awake, but mostly because they resent being grown up enough to have a baby in the first place. Every member of the cast gets equal time to shine, and director Nicholas Stoller keeps the prank-heavy comic set pieces escalating and escalating until they explode into a mushroom cloud of pot smoke and a flurry of off the wall dildo attacks. We guffawed.
7th Worst: Transformers: Age of Extinction
Michael Bay's fourth onslaught of giant robot fights, product placement and cynical indictments of humanity - within the film and even in the audience - is actually easier to follow than most of the other films in the
Transformers franchise, but that's small consolation. it's still a sloppy mess that pummels your soul into submission with ear-shattering noise and pointless spectacle. And besides, there weren't nearly enough scenes with the Dinobots.
7th Best: Edge of Tomorrow
Domestic audiences stayed away in droves (it did okay internationally), and that's too bad because they missed a real treat.
Edge of Tomorrow is a clever, witty and action-packed sci-fi yarn about a coward who gets stuck in a time loop, living out the same day in a deadly alien war again and again and again until he actually grows a backbone and gets good at being a soldier. The seemingly endless montage of Tom Cruise getting murdered is a comic delight, and director Doug Liman does a great job of making what could have been a complicated plot seem easy to follow. Emily Blunt also deserves ample credit for playing one of the most convincing action heroes of the year.
6th Worst: Into the Storm
Into the Storm is a disaster movie that seems a little afraid to admit that it's a disaster movie: the documentary aesthetic says you should be taking its situations seriously, but the one-dimensional writing says the exact opposite. Some of the tornado effects are cool but the handheld camerawork does little to show them off. If it had been smarter, we might have cared. If it had been dumber, we might have turned our brains off long enough to have fun.
6th Best: X-Men: Days of Future Past
X-Men franchise went completely nuts this year with a time traveling, genocidal robot building, post-apocalyptic 1970s history potboiler that finds Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) going back in time to force a drug addicted Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and a true believing terrorist Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to work together. The truce doesn't last long. Bryan Singer keeps the drama intense and the action fun in a somewhat complicated but highly entertaining entry in this sometimes spotty series.
5th Worst: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
The bloom has finally fallen off the rose that was Frank Miller's
Sin City. This sequel to the original cult classic kept the style intact but adapted repetitive stories with faulty emotional beats that make the whole "style as substance" enterprise seem hollower than ever. Eva Green is great, and so is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but they belonged in a better film.
5th Best: Earth to Echo
The most underrated mainstream movie of the summer (and one that barely anybody saw) was actually an engaging, wonderfully acted ode to the sci-fi/fantasy kids movies of the 1980s. Three believable, likable and funny kids stumble across a broken alien robot and embark on a daring middle-of-the-night scavenger hunt to fix him up before a mysterious government organization can stop them. Director Dave Green captures the interpersonal dynamic of young characters better than most other filmmakers have in years, and he makes an honestly heartwarming family adventure to boot.
4th Worst: The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Marc Webb's follow-up to the already problematic
The Amazing Spider-Man was a little more fun but a lot less coherent. What's worse, it feels incomplete: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is so busy building a franchise that it forgets to tell a proper story, stealing plot points from Say Anything instead of giving the obviously talented young romantic leads a story of their own, and shoving one villain after another down our throats without giving us any actual reason to care. It speeds through the important moments and lingers on the dumb ones, like the scene where genius science whiz Peter Parker resorts to YouTube videos to explain to him the basic concept of magnets. It's not a step in the wrong direction, it's a flying leap.
4th Best: Godzilla
Some folks complained that there wasn't nearly enough
Godzilla in this movie called Godzilla, but we disagree. Director Gareth Edwards does a pretty masterful job of keeping Godzilla at arm's length so that his every appearance inspires excited cheers. If the human characters had been a little more interesting, it might have been the best blockbuster of the summer, but for its sheer spectacle and sense of majestic, dangerous scale, Godzilla was still one of the most impressive.
3rd Worst: Blended
Adam Sandler's latest comedy wasn't nearly as mean-spirited and grotesque as his other recent live-action movies, but it also wasn't funny. Sandler and his former
Wedding Singer co-star Drew Barrymore find themselves stuck on a South African vacation with their respective, bickering kids and wind up in one hackneyed situation after another until finally the film gives up and agrees to stop. Sadly, "it could have been worse" still doesn't mean it's any good.
3rd Best: How to Train Your Dragon 2
The follow-up to the unexpected fantasy sensation
How to Train Your Dragon is the best kind of sequel, one that evokes the best parts of the original story without ever repeating it, progressing the franchise into an exciting new mythology with real dramatic consequences. The animation is as beautiful as anything you'll see this year, and although it's technically made for kids, Dean DeBlois's film never panders to them... it captures the imagination instead.
2nd Worst: Think Like a Man Too
Think Like a Man was problematic but it had a stellar cast of characters to keep audiences involved. The sequel tried to coast on their charms but couldn't get away with it: the tired subplots and limp Las Vegas clichés gave them too little to work with. There's only one or two laughs in the whole movie, and Kevin Hart's storyline about destroying his finances is such a downer that it throws a pall on even Think Like a Man Too's simplest charms.
2nd Best: 22 Jump Street
The funniest movie of the year (so far, but it doesn't look like there's much competition left) blatantly rehashes the plot of
21 Jump Street and completely gets away with it, smartly commenting on every dumb aspect of the Hollywood sequel machine while simultaneously mining them for an endearing storyline about romance, bromance and working relationships. "Something cool," indeed.
The Worst: Jersey Boys
It probably shouldn't have been marketed as a summer blockbuster in the first place, but that's not the real problem with
Jersey Boys. Clint Eastwood's adaptation of the hit Broadway musical about the rise of The Four Seasons was just really, really, REALLY dull. The script is brisk and lively but the pacing is slow and ponderous, and the musical numbers never seem like they're any fun until the closing credits have already started rolling. We couldn't wait to take our eyes off of it.
The Best: Guardians of the Galaxy
We'd almost feel guilty praising yet another Marvel superhero movie if
Guardians of the Galaxy wasn't one of the studio's very best films. James Gunn's wry sci-fi story features a cast of unrepentant a-holes who save the universe only because they happen to live in it, winning over audiences with quotable dialogue and unusual set pieces and the best soundtrack in years, which plays like a character of its very own. Guardians of the Galaxy is the kind of summer blockbuster we hope and pray for every single year, but rarely ever get.