You hear that, moviegoers? That slow death rattle? That’s summer movie season coming to another sad close.Yes, every summer starts off with a bang and ends with an Expendables, but for the first time in a while I can honestly say that this was a pretty solid summer. Sure, there were the obvious “too big to fail” winners (Transformers, Maleficent), but there were also some surprises (Edge of Tomorrow, A Million Ways To Die In The West) in between those blockbusters built to cleverly pacify audiences (Godzilla, Lucy).

So what were the clear winners of summer 2014? The Action A Go Go task force has finally crawled out of the summer movie battle zone to tell you. Somewhat surprisingly, our diverse collection of cinephiles picked the same two  champions.  By an overwhelming majority,  Guardians of the Galaxy and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes made our season.

But what made these two films special?  Out of all the “boom boom shake shake” that hit theaters between May 2, 2014 and August 22, 2014 (the official start and end date of Summer according to the calendar deficient folks of Hollywood), why is it that Dawn and GotG stood out? Our boys share a few of their theories below.  -Troy


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes  (Zak Attack)

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Zak’s Rating: 4 Arnolds Out of 5

While the human characters could have been a touch more fleshed out, I haven’t felt more emotion for a group of 1s and 0s since, well… Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  Dawn did a great job of expanding the story of the earlier installment and just doing everything (action, character development, special effects, story) better.

Without a doubt my favorite movie of 2014 so far, Summer or otherwise. -Zak


Guardians of the Galaxy (Sy Shackleford)

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Sy’s Rating: 5 Arnolds Out of 5

It’s a Marvel movie, but fun and playful in a manner that its compatriots aren’t.

The adult humor of Star-Lord’s  “ Jackson Pollock line” clinched it for me. Officially, at that moment, I knew that I loved this film.

Hopefully, with Guardians’ introducing twisted humor to the Marvel Universe, it’ll means  that Marvel Studios may finally give the time-of-day to their darker, adult-oriented characters. Characters  like the Punisher, Daredevil or anyone else who had a Marvel Knights series. -Sy


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Andrew Allen)

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Andrew’s Rating: 5 Arnolds Out of 5

A stunning surprise, this sequel to 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes set the bar this summer for big-budget blockbusters.

Intelligent, engaging, beautiful and heart wrenching, director Matt Reeves has created one of cinema’s all-time greatest sequels with this. While  drawing from, and ultimately fulfilling, the story that began with its predecessor, Dawn is allowed to stand firmly on its own two feet as a narrative unto itself.

Stellar performances from Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell, paired with the best motion-capture visual effects ever put onscreen, makes Dawn of he Planet of the Apes an unmatched cinematic experience, one that must not be missed for Apes fans and casual viewers alike. -Andrew



Guardians of the Galaxy (Greg Sahadachny)

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Greg’s Rating: 5 Arnolds Out of 5

I’m quite well-versed on film —  in and out — but when it comes to Marvel movies, I can only criticize them on the filmmaking aspect, never on the origin point. At least not 9 times out of 10. (I can always reference the Marvel cartoons I grew up on, but never the comics.) In that regard, for good or bad, Marvel fans are like Game of Thrones book readers: They have the frame of reference to criticize the depiction of the source material in  spades.

My favorite film of Summer 2014 is, without a doubt, Marvel and James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy. (It’s followed closely by Snowpiercer, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Edge of Tomorrow. It really was a great summer for escaping into science fiction dreams; so many head trips.)  Why GOTG? Well, it’s not typical for me to ride the coattails of populist, Hollywood entertainment, but I believe everything I ever wanted from a summer movie is embodied in GOTG. It’s also in my Top 3 Marvel Cinematic Universe films, based  on sheer personality alone.

I agree with some of the perceived problems of the film. Especially those from my comic fans/ friends. The criticisms out there range from “too fleeting” and “surface junk food” to “uninspired” and even “cannibalizing other Marvel properties.” That being said, Guardians managed to do something for me that no other Marvel film has to this point: It’s the first time in both phases that I felt on even ground with the comic fans.

Whenever people speak about Spider-Man or X-Men or The Avengers, I’m mostly on the outside looking in. I was never an avid comic reader growing up (though I dabbled), so most of the arcs and twisting, turning stories that are secondhand knowledge for others places them ahead of me and other mainstream viewers. Particularly, in terms of knowing what was going to happen next.  But, with GOTG, something was different. Most of the people I knew were not familiar with “Cosmic Marvel,” and if they were, Silver Surfer was the extent of their knowledge. So, most of us – mainstream and comic fans alike – were watching GOTG for the first time on an even playing field.

I agree and think Ronan is an uninspired bad guy, quite akin to the big bad in Thor 2. The Avengers influence is quite noticeable too; but I’d argue that Guardians uses that audience knowledge as shorthand in bypassing what has, in the past, been Marvel’s shortcoming in handling origin stories (most comic fans can’t wait to get to the second or third entries anyway, when the stories really take off and we’re not just having Peter Parker learn his powers).

With few criticisms aside, the pros of GOTG elevate it to true blockbuster status. The Han Solo-ness of Chris Pratt, the sleek moves of Zoe Saldana —  the ’70s AM radio pop and soft rock, the comedy of Rocket, Drax and Groot —  the emotional bits that really pushed tears out from my eyes…not to mention enjoying seeing  James Gunn’s (one of my favorite indie directors) star finally rise…hell, Michael Rooker makes the movie worth the price of admission alone…Guardians is edgy, fun, eye-candy that is fronted by characters I believe have come to respect and love each other through the struggle of their mission. It’s the first comic book movie I’ve seen in a long time that doesn’t need an origin story, appendices, or a club membership to be in on the joke. The humor holds it all together. And so does Dancing Groot.

I know it’s not a perfectly made movie, but it’s the most fun I’ve had in a theater seat this summer, and it will most definitely be in my Top 5 at the end of the year. -Greg


 As  usual, if you want to make something out of it, hit the comments section. However, I got to warn you…we look forward to a fight.