It’s difficult to describe this year in terms of film, because for the most part, the first half ’s been relatively lackluster, with only a few “hits” worth mentioning, such as Wes Anderson’s dark farce The Grand Budapest Hotel or the surprisingly hilarious 2-hour advertisement that was The Lego Movie by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. The summer, as always, brought in a bunch of big blockbusters ready to entertain theatre-goers, but only a few managed to succeed. This is just a brief rundown of five of the summer’s best movies, hidden amongst all the bombs and all the terrible comedies.
Seeking to bring the beloved reptile into the 21st century and add in the most amount of realism since the original Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Gareth Edwards’ take on kaiju cinema was relatively polarizing. Some felt the new monsters took up too much screen time, while others were bored with how much screen time the emotionless Aaron Taylor-Johnson got compared to the much more talented and charismatic Bryan Cranston. Regardless, the film took a lot of risks and managed to still be a fun ride once one accepts the fact that Godzilla is somewhat of a side character in his own movie. After doing so, it’s fun to witness the destruction the new creatures bring while waiting for the undeniably satisfying third act, where all hell breaks loose. In the words of Ken Watanabe, we can all hope that for the sequel in 2018, Edwards decides to just “Let them fight.”
22 Jump Street
Lord and Miller delivered two hysterical hits this year, as 22 Jump Street threw everyone for a loop by doing the exact same thing again and still managing to make it feel fresh and entertaining. Comedy sequels have often been criticized for being just shameless rehashes, and while 22 Jump Street is that as well, it plays with its identity, becoming so self-aware and meta that it becomes an outright intentional parody of the first film, sort of like an American Hot Fuzz. Just about every joke and buddy cop cliché is present in full form but subverted just enough that it feels strangely original. Tatum and Hill have amazing chemistry, there’s nary a dull moment, and the ending, while really just a single, very long joke, is probably the funniest one we’ll see in a long time.
Edge of Tomorrow
A film that unfortunately had a very short run in theatres, Edge of Tomorrow made Tom Cruise cool again, casting him into a Groundhog Day/video game-esque scenario where he keeps reliving mankind’s last day every time he dies, and somehow throwing enough ridiculous Hollywood logic at the audience that they buy it. The film is an absolute rush, and contains a great deal of physical comedy, particularly from Cruise’s attempts to escape his being sent to what basically amounts to a Normandy landing scenario between humans and aliens while at base camp. Emily Blunt is the perfect sympathetic badass, and the film has such an amazing charm for such an incredibly depressing scenario, which, when combined with the rapid pace of the events, keeps the audience smiling and hopeful throughout.
A post-apocalyptic film about lower-class rebellion on board a colossal train circling a frozen Earth may sound a bit ridiculous, and that’s because it is, but Snowpiercer somehow made it work. Featuring fantastic cinematography that makes great use of shaky-cam, astounding fight sequences, creative locales aboard the train’s countless cars, and an astounding performance by Chris Evans let one suspend their disbelief just enough to revel in this tale of desperation and survival. While some effects can look unfinished and certain points blur the line between Terry Gilliam-level satire and the dark tale the movie is clearly trying to be, the film is mostly consistent in its ability to make one empathize with the desperate protagonists and root for them in their riot against the dictatorial train conductor. The fact that an independent film can pull of what would appear to be such a cost-worthy plot so well on its budget makes the effects rather forgivable. It’s pitch-black grim in tone towards the end, and, much like the titular train, it’s a chilling, claustrophobic, breakneck experience that one won’t soon forget.
Guardians of the Galaxy
The film that one-upped The Avengers. Expected at first to just be an interesting side film about a Marvel “B Team,” Guardians of the Galaxy was funny, heartfelt, and was probably the best space opera released in the last half-decade. Each character was memorable, with former wrestler Batista being of particular mention as one of the few WWE-stars-turned-actor that has ever succeeded at giving a convincing performance outside the ring. Vin Diesel surprisingly managed to say so much in literally only three words and let amazing visual effects and motion capture do the rest for plant-man Groot. But the real show-stealer was Bradley Cooper, who voices an amoral CG-I raccoon that won the hearts of audience members everywhere. While the villain was jarringly one-note and forgettable, the journey was loaded with amazingly splendid setpieces, such as a brilliant, madcap prison break, and filled with little nods to past films and comics sure to make Marvel fans chuckle or even cry out in glee. Far less cliché-ridden and certainly less cringe-inducing than audiences feared, Guardians of the Galaxy may well be one of the year’s absolute best motion pictures. Add to that a brilliant soundtrack of all your favorite 60s and 70s hits, and you have without a doubt the best comic book film since Iron Man.
That and it has the best post-credits scene Marvel has ever done.