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The Top 5 Summer Movies of 2014

Updated on September 8, 2014
X-Men Days of Future Past
X-Men Days of Future Past | Source

5. X-Men Days of Future Past

X-Men Days of Future Past may feel familiar to fans of the first two X-Men movies, and for good reason. Bryan Singer returns as a director for this movie and the result is one of, if not the best, movie in the franchise. X-Men is an adaptation of the Sentinel saga from the X-Men comics. While most comic book movies, especially X-Men, are ensemble affairs, this movie is decidedly Wolverine-centric. That doesn't mean that the movie revolves around Hugh Jackman's character as in the previous Wolverine movies, but rather the character is a catalyst for the entire series of events and connects all of the characters together as well.

Some of the newer characters are the best part of the movie, namely Quicksilver, Bishop, and Blink. Evan Peters' portrayal of Quicksilver is so good that some can't help but feel apprehensive about Aaron Taylor Johnson's upcoming role as the same character in the new Avengers movie. This is a credit to the film's good use of every character, even Halle Berry who only has two lines in the entire film feels crucial to the plot.

This isn't to say that the film isn't without its flaws, there's a reason it's at number five of course. Even though the characters and plot are written fairly well, some of the dialogue falls flat and even worse, some of the dialogue suffers from being relegated to simple exposition for the sake of keeping the audience along for the ride, rather than serving the plot. Another complaint is that Jennifer Lawrence's character Mystique is essentially the most important character in the movie, and it seems the movie was written around her A-list status, as the plot involving her and the Sentinels makes less and less sense the more you think about it. It would have made more sense for Rogue to be the reason for the Super Sentinels.

All in all, however, the movie is a great experience and possibly the best X-Men movie so far. Let's hope that Apocalypse can continue this trend.

Godzilla | Source

4. Godzilla

This was easily the most anticipated film of the year, and it's easy to see why. This was America's second chance at creating a Godzilla film, and after 1998's disaster of a movie, fans of the franchise were understandably apprehensive about a new film. Gareth Edwards directs this film, and if that name doesn't sounds familiar to you, it's because he's only directed one other film. Edwards' previous film "Monsters" was a well received indie cult classic so fans were relieved that the series was in capable hands.

The film is fairly well written, but has some of the best cinematography ever seen in a monster movie. Every scene in which Godzilla or the MUTO appear is a fantastic visual experience, and as beautiful to look at as they are action-packed. Ken Watanabe and Bryan Cranston are great in their roles but severely underutilized in the film. One major argument against the film is that the strongest and best parts of the film, Godzilla, the monsters, and the two aforementioned actors, are not in the film enough. This is a valid complaint as the rest of the film is populated with weaker characters and Aaron Taylor-Johnson isn't a strong enough lead to carry the story through and justify the lack of Godzilla in a Godzilla movie.

All of that aside however, this is one of the best Godzilla designs and portrayal of the character in any film in the franchise. The design of the king of the monsters is one of the best, and it is the perfect example of how to update a classic design without losing the timelessness of the original and keeping the spirit of the creature. The MUTO designs are also great and while some complain that they feel generic, they are actually some of the more original monster designs used in the last few years. For as little of the big G as we got, every second he was on screen was well worth the price of admission.

Edge of Tomorrow
Edge of Tomorrow | Source

3. Edge of Tomorrow

Two years ago you would never in a million years think that the next big Sci-Fi movie star would be Tom Cruise. Cruise starred in Oblivion and Edge of Tomorrow, the latter of which was one the best movies this summer. Based off of a manga series that was based off of a novel, Edge of Tomorrow is the story of a soldier fighting in a war against aliens that relives the same day every time he dies after being exposed to alien blood, allowing him to do a bit better in battle every time he's on the field. The overarching story being about how the main character uses his power to find out how to destroy the aliens and save the earth. This is a very efficiently paced movie, that wastes no time in introducing characters and getting the plot moving from the start. Another credit to the writing/directing of the movie is the genuine feeling that comes from the world and it's characters. Everything from the humor to the romantic elements in the movie feel natural and take nothing away form the movie.

What would normally feel like generic action with simple tropes is pulled off very well thanks to a great feelign of character growth and the way the story is told. Emily Blunt plays opposite to tom Cruise and she is one of, if not the best part of the film. Even the supporting roles are played well and help create a world that, while not really different from our own, still feels interesting and original. It's refreshing to see a film like Edge of Tomorrow in theaters because of just how good it is. It's not often we get something as original and new in theaters that's as good as this movie, and while we may not get a franchise or spin-off from it, it's a fantastic film on it's own and should absolutely be seen by any fan of Sci-Fi.

Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy | Source

2. Guardians of the Galaxy

The last film that James Gunn wrote and directed before Guardians of the Galaxy was Movie 43. In that context, fans were reasonably apprehensive when it was revealed that he would be directing the next big Marvel film. That's not meant to discredit James Gunn, as he's written and directed some great movies, namely Super and Dawn of the Dead. James Gunn shows that he has what it takes not only to direct a Marvel movie, but a great Sci-Fi movie as well. Not only is Guardians a very well written and well acted movie, it's also fun, something movies haven't been in a really long time. James Gunn is also known for having the same actors in all of his films, namely Chris Pratt, Lloyd Kaufman and Peter Serafinowicz, and that works great in this film, since the casting is near perfect. Every role feels like it was tailor made for those actors, and it's hard to imagine anyone else in those roles.

Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie set in the outer reaches of the Marvel universe, and the Guardians series of comics was hardly one of Marvel's A list franchises before this film. The story was ripe for translation to film however, and it was only a matter of time before an outer space adventure of this type was turned into a movie. Guardians of the Galaxy is a fun movie, and while that might sound like generic and overused praise for an action movie, ask yourself this: when was the last time you actually had fun watching a movie? Guardians is fun without relying on being too cheesy or over-the-top in order to appeal to a certain fanbase. It's a genuinely engrossing movie that knows how to build a deep and fascinating world that only gets realized upon repeated viewings. Not only that, but the emotional and serious moments are in perfect juxtaposition to the campy fun and humor, and none of it feels forced or dragged on. That's hard for any film to do, let alone a Sci-Fi movie with a talking raccoon. This movie feels like Star Wars in the best way possible.

That's not to say the movie is perfect, there are a few points that might knock the movie down from #1 status, but nothing that takes too much away from the overall experience. For one, the movie suffers from overloading the audience with information at come points, and those unfamiliar with the comics or even this branch of the Marvel universe might feel lost or have trouble with all of the names and locations being introduced. This is a minor complaint since the film does a good job of keeping all of the characters distinct enough for the audience to clearly know who's who. One more admittedly minor complaint is the unshakable feeling of cliché that some of the characters have, such as the main villain Ronan or even the romance between Star Lord and Gamora. This is fairly minor though and in the context of the movie it works just fine amidst some of the fantastic characters. All in all, expect to be hearing "I am Groot" for a long time.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes | Source

1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Movies are never perfect, it's impossible to encapsulate life and all of the aspects of a particular story in just 2 and half hours, but Dawn of the Planet of the Apes comes closer than most films have in the last decade. That's a bold statement, and there are quite a few critics that staunchly disagree and even say the film is nothing special or even lacking in a lot of areas. These are valid complaints, since no film is perfect, but this is a movie that's needs to be seen to be believed. There's no way of knowing how much you'll enjoy (or hate) the film until you see it. Simply put, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes just works, it's a fantastic movie that doesn't do very much wrong, and the things it does get wrong can be forgiven.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes place about 8-10 years after the first film in the prequel series, and the planet is all but lost to the "Simian Flu" as it's called in the film. The remaining human survivors find themselves needing to cross through Ape territory in order to access a dam and have a supply of fresh water. This is the main conflict of the film, the apes don't trust humans, and vice versa. The apes also have an internal conflict with their leader, Caesar, being challenged by Koba, another ape who believes all humans are evil and that war is the only solution to the conflict. The same type of conflict occurs with the humans which makes for a genuinely interesting, multi-faceted conflict towards the end of the film. Ultimately this movie is about the apes, and the humans, while being a focus of the movie, are ultimately throwaways in the context of the franchise. This is where a lot of critics base their complaints about the movie. They complain that the human characters and even some ape characters are overly cliched and the movie becomes predictable because of it. While yes, the weak human characters are easily the films weakest point, the cliché ape characters and scenarios are acceptable due to them being apes. As hyper-intelligent as they may be, they're still apes and since cliches are the most basic and simple human conflicts and tropes, it only makes sense from a story telling perspective.

Even with it's faults, the movie has some of the best characters ever to star in a Sci-Fi movie, and they're apes. You'll find yourself immersed in the world and genuinely rooting for the downfall of humanity just to see more of these apes and watch their society progress and grow as they slowly start to resemble the humans you learn to disregard in the movie. The best part of the movie by far, however, is the lack of James Franco.

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Honorable Mentions

Boyhood- while the concept of the movie is very interesting, and watching characters literally grow up (and older) on screen is a unique and fantastic experience, the somber and melancholy tone of the movie doesn't fit well with the other movies on the list. Not only that, but the main character is a bit of a drag at times, and feels like a surrogate for Richard Linklater to give the audience some his philosophies on life. Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette are arguably the best part of the film, however.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For- This sequel is about 9 years overdue, and while it's a good movie on it's own, it doesn't have the grim and brooding tone of the original. The film is visually stunning, but there's much less overly stylized comic style scenes in this film and it gets noticeable as the movie goes one. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is easily one of the best parts of the movie, and his story will be the one you skip to the most on the Blu-Ray version.


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