Headed into summer 2014 it looked as though there were a few bright spots in the schedule, but it was likely to be a mere appetizer on the road towards an utterly packed 2015. Lo and behold, Batman V. Superman got pushed to 2016 and Star Wars Episode VII was moved to late 2015, taking the shine off next summer.
Who could’ve predicted 5 months ago that Captain America’s second outing would successfully marry 70’s paranoid thrillers to modern action movies, or that the next Planet of the Apes would rocket the series into deserving A-list status? It was truly a summer of overachievers. Here’s a rundown of the best blockbusters that hit, in order of release date:
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Cap’s second outing continues Marvel’s Phase 2 and delivers characterization, story , and epic action beats in equal measure. As directors, The Russo Brothers pivot from the first film’s gung-ho WW2-era jingoism to a more modern authority-questioning plot. Chris Evans continues to prove that he is the best choice for the role and brings a welcome lightness. The casting coup of Robert Redford pays thematic dividends and the rest of the cast shines as well: Anthony Mackie’s PTSD Falcon, Scarlett Johansson’s sly Black Widow, and even Sammy J’s squinting Nick Fury all get their moment in the sun. This is simply a well-balanced flick that set a high bar to clear in April (!) – which, I know, is not technically summer.
Secret Weapon: Sebastien Stan’s tortured and badass turn as Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier. Chris Evans’ Marvel contract is 6 films – when that’s up could Bucky Barnes fill Cap’s shoes? It would bring the Marvel Cinematic Universe closer in tone to the comics and could make for a nice redemption story. Falcon could slot in nicely here as well.
Seth Rogen has become such a ubiquitous screen presence (last year’s This is the End mined similar territory and this fall sees him re-teamed with frequent collaborator James Franco for The Interview) that a new movie of his is hardly an event. Thankfully Neighbors shakes off the fatigue and brings the funny in spades. As opposed to the “Slobs vs. Snobs” plotlines of 80’s films, Neighbors has “Slobs vs. Slightly Older Slobs” as rowdy frat boys next door – led by Zac Efron and Dave Franco – face off against Seth Rogen & Rose Byrne’s new parents. Sharp writing, a stellar supporting cast, and an overall contagious party vibe make this another notch in Seth Rogen’s belt and contribute to a movie that is perfect for throwing on and hanging out with.
Secret Weapon: Zac Efron as the Alpha frat bro Teddy. He’s a surprisingly nuanced character in a movie that actually has empathy for both sides. Efron brings dimension to what could’ve been a one-note character and, (more…)