Movie Reviews - Summer of 2014 - Caleb Jones

Summer is now over, but these reviews can help you decide if you want to stream or DVD any of the movies that came out in the last few months. Any movies that came out in May I reviewed here.

As usual, many of the movies this summer were flawed but there were a few gems. I give a tl;dr summary at the end of this article if you want to quickly see which movies I recommend.

Transcendence – I heard this movie was bad, but it was on a Tuesday night when I was itching to see a movie and I had already seen everything else. It wasn’t bad, it was just blah. I’m surprised Johnny Depp made such an obvious mistake with this movie; most of his past movie choices have been very good. Oh well. This movie raises some interesting questions but I don’t think it’s worth two hours of your time.

The Railway Man – I’ve done a lot of research about Western POWs held by the Japanese in Singapore during World War II, so I was all over this movie as soon as it came out. It’s a historical drama, not a blockbuster, so it’s a little slow. Regardless, it’s engaging and thought-provoking. It’s also not quite as badass as the trailers lead you to believe, especially when you read the real-life story it was based on. This is a movie for history buffs only. If that’s not you, pass on this one.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – I was actually looking forward to this. My daughter loved it, I was bored for most of the movie. While Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are very good actors, this movie is full of stuff you’ve already seen many times before. Jamie Foxx’s villain is a carbon-copy of Jim Carrey’s Riddler and Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy from the 90s Batman movies. The character I was most excited to see, Paul Giamatti’s Rhino, had about 5 minutes of screen time. I’m not kidding. 5 minutes of screen time. This movie was a real waste of something that could have been very entertaining.

Neighbors – Not as funny as I expected or wanted. But as I’ve always said, it’s very hard to make a good comedy. Go for 22 Jump Street instead.

Godzilla – The last 20 minutes of this movie are fantastic, and I mean that. The problem are the first 100 minutes. Good Lord. After decades of monster movies, hasn’t Hollywood yet learned that we go to monster movies to see MONSTERS and not the stupid, boring human characters that we absolutely do not give a shit about?

Look, I realize that monster movies have to contain human characters. Okay, fine. But god dammit, that doesn’t mean these boring human characters have to take up 80% of the movie. Okay? Over and over again Hollywood directors and screenwriters make this mistake. It’s irritating.

The good news is that apparently a lot of people complained about this, so they’re going to give the monsters more screen time in the sequel. In the next movie, Godzilla fights Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah. Hell yeah. Now we’re talkin’.

X-Men: Days of Future Past – One of the best movies of the summer by far. Flawless. The script, acting, special effects, direction, all of it pretty much perfect. An impressive film. I still think X2 is the best X-Men movie and probably ties with Dark Knight as the best superhero movie ever, but Days of Future Past comes just a hair under that one. It’s that good.

I really like movies that adeptly juggle lots of different characters while still doing justice to those characters. I saw an interview of the screenwriter. He had to use multiple 3×5 cards to manage all the characters and plot points. Well, he succeeded. Even if you don’t like superhero movies, this movie provides a lot of action and history. Highly, highly recommend.

Maleficent – I’ll be honest; I was actually looking forward to this movie. Angelina Jolie really looked like she could make an evil villain interesting. The problem is the movie was a feminist manifesto on the greatness of women and the evilness of men. On top of that, they make the character of Maleficent a good guy. What the hell?

This is one of those movies that really ruined my day. Avoid it unless you’re a feminist.

A Million Ways To Die In The West – And here it is, the worst movie of the summer, and probably the worst of 2014. This movie is stunning in its badness. Seth McFarlane really screwed this one up. Ted was such a funny film, and Family Guy has its moments, but wow, A Million Ways To Die In The West is the most boring, un-funny movie I’ve seen in a long time. None of the jokes are funny. The entire middle of the film is a love story that will put you to sleep. You can’t believe the stupid stuff these actors are saying. Even Liam Neeson couldn’t save this film. Avoid this movie at all costs. It will age you ten years.

Edge of Tomorrow – Tom Cruise makes another great film. Whatever you think about him in real life, you have to admit this guy can do no wrong when it comes to film making. The plot and setting are very interesting. It pulls you in immediately and keeps you interested. There’s just the right amount of humor. It has the perfect amount of action and special effects; enough to entertain you but not enough to numb you to it like the Transformers movies. I recommend it if you like sci-fi even a little.

22 Jump Street – This was just as big a surprise as A Million Ways To Die In The West, but in the exact opposite manner. 22 Jump Street is one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. I laughed and laughed throughout the entire movie, and it’s rare that comedies can do that. I don’t remember 21 Jump Street being very funny at all, but this movie is great. It’s up there with Step Brothers and Horrible Bosses as one of the funniest movies of the last 20 years.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 – Another surprise. While I was surprised Maleficent was so anti-man, I was surprised to see that How To Train Your Dragon 2 wasn’t. Most animated movies these days focus on the strong female characters while showing men as bumbling idiots. This movie didn’t do that at all. The male characters were strong and important. There was a little of that Strong Woman™ stuff but not very much. It was surprising balanced and touching too. This is one of the few movies my daughter and I liked equally. Well done.

Transformers: Age of Extinction – Oooookay, here’s the deal. This is the fourth Transformers movie. If you don’t know by now what you’re getting into when you go see one of these films, well, that’s your own fault. This movie was just like the three before it; a loud, in-your-face, abrasive, sometimes fun, mostly stupid action movie that blows your head off for about three hours straight. If you have the ability to shut off your brain temporarily like I do, and can enjoy the watching robots smash each other, then go for it.  If instead you are looking for logic or a well-written script, stay far, far away from these Transformers movies; they’ll just piss you off.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Ties for one of the best movies of the summer, without a doubt. This movie was the every first movie in my life were I completely forgot I was watching special effects. The ape effects and ape actors were that good. Simply amazing. Later I saw someone comment on YouTube that the “special effects” in this movie were really good, and my first thought was “What special effects? Yeah I guess the visuals of a ruined San Francisco were pretty good.” It actually took me a minute to remember that the apes were the special effects. While there were some cliches in this film, they were done so masterfully you weren’t aware of them while watching it. This really is a hallmark movie, and likely a trend-setter.

The Purge: Anarchy – Loved it and highly recommend it. The first Purge movie was dumb but this one was great. I wrote an entire article about it’s premise here. I really hope Hollywood gets good at producing interesting, lower-budget, higher-quality action films like this. One can only hope.

Hercules – Ripoff! An absolute bait-and-switch. Watching the trailers for this movie, you expect to see Hercules fight a bunch of high-fantasy beasts from myth and legend. Nope. Instead, everything in the trailer was part of a two-minute flashback at the start of the movie. The rest of the movie is a forgettable, by-the-numbers slog about humans fighting humans. A complete waste of time. Whoever put that trailer together should get a raise though. He certainly fooled me and millions of other moviegoers.

Lucy – As usual, I cringe at these tiny-women-beat-up-bad-guys-double-their-size movies. But I heard so much good stuff about this movie I gritted my teeth and saw it anyway. To my pleasant surprise, this actually isn’t a movie about a woman doing karate movies on guys double her size and winning. It’s more of a sci-fi fantasy about a woman with force powers like a Jedi from Star Wars. Sounds crazy I know, but it’s done very well. The ending is weird and falls flat, but the rest of the movie is very good. The first 20 minutes or so is some of the best film making I’ve seen. I recommend this movie as long as you shut your brain off during the last 10 minutes or so.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Good movie, a real popcorn film, just as fun as the very first Star Wars film. It’s not perfect and there are a few flaws with it, but I can’t wait to see this movie again on blu-ray. Great humor, great setting and world-building, great direction, and decent acting (except for Batista, but he’s a fucking wrestler so what did you expect?).  My biggest complaint is the villains were very boring and forgettable, but the rest of the movie is great.

Into The Storm – Not horrible, not good, very forgettable. Only recommended for special effects nerds like me.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – My daughter couldn’t wait to see it, and she loved it. I actually didn’t hate it. It was stupid-fun entertainment and I actually smiled at a few parts. It helps that it’s not as over-the-top as the Transformers movies even though Michael Bay produced this film and it’s directed in his style. Megan Fox has clearly had too much plastic surgery. Don’t get me wrong, she’s still hot, but she’s clearly dropped a few notches since her Transformers days because of her continued surgical procedures that she didn’t need. She’d better stop with this surgery stuff before she ends up looking like Joan Rivers.

Expendables 3 – A sad disappointment. I already talked about it in detail here.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – I loved the original Sin City. This film, while not bad, doesn’t come anywhere close. The style is still interesting to look at, but it’s just so weak compared to the first movie I found it hard to enjoy. And holy crap, why is Eva Green getting naked in every movie she’s in? Not that I’m complaining, but damn. Between 300: Rise of an Empire and this movie, you see more of her naked than probably the last 10 actresses with nude scenes in any of the recent movies you’ve seen.

November Man – Damn, I love Pierce Brosnan. What is it about Alpha Males becoming more badass and cool as they age? Interesting. The movie itself was fair, but Brosnan is just so awesome to watch. As with his 2005 movie The Matador, Brosnan makes a conscious effort to be different than James Bond, and he succeeds. He’s a real shithead in this movie, and it’s great. This is a spy movie, but this is not James Bond. I hope to see many more Pierce Brosnan films in the future. Rumor has it he’ll be in the next Expendables movie (if there is one).

tl;dr Final Recommendations

In my opinion, the five best movies during the summer movie season (which begins in May), in order, were:

1. Raid 2: Redemption

2. X-Men: Days of Future Past

3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

5. Guardians of the Galaxy

The funniest movie was by far 22 Jump Street, and Edge of Tomorrow deserves an honorable mention.

I strongly recommend all of them if you’re looking for something fun and cool to watch, especially Raid 2, which is probably one of the best action films ever made, no joke.

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