Rising Star: Chris Pratt
Nobody thought of Parks and Rec's funnyman/dunder-head Chris Pratt as a compelling choice for a blockbuster leading man - but hell if Pratt didn't prove it with Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy.
Coming off a big score in early 2014 with The LEGO Movie, Pratt totally quarterbacked the Guardians movie, turning Marvel's obscure oddball space heroes into mainstream rock stars - and making us laugh and cry and cheer all along the way. (He's just like Kevin Bacon!)
Falling Star: Sly Stallone
Like Schwarzenegger, Stallone's comeback in films like Bullet to the Head and Escape Plan have been flops at the domestic box office - and his Expendables franchise has shown diminishing domestic returns with each new installment.
You can blame piracy, or mediocrity, but whatever the culprit, Expendables 3 was a huge flop. With the novelty of that throwback franchise having seemingly worn off, there's little left in the Sly Stallone wheelhouse for us to get excited about - which is almost certainly why talk about Rambo 5 has started up again...
Honorable Mention: Jeff Bridges. That Rooster Cogburn drawling mumble from True Grit has been a curse on the actor two years running, as R.I.P.D. flopped hard last summer, and The Giver barely cracked even at the domestic box office this summer.
Best Chemistry: The Guardians of the Galaxy
A thief. An assassin. A madman and two bounty-hunting thugs. Who knew they would be so lovable together?
Marvel Studios President of Production Kevin Feige made the bold claim early on that James Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy script was the best that the studio has ever seen to that point - and audiences seem to agree. Crackling with offbeat wit and fantastic ensemble humor, Guardians made its introduction to Marvel's cosmic heroes the most enjoyable first impression yet.
If you need proof that this group of misfits lit up the screen (beyond Groot's phosphorescent light show), simply recite your list of favorite Guardians team quotables with friends. Should keep you occupied.
Worst Chemistry: Jessica Alba and the Mirror - Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For was a relatively fun return to the dark Noir world of Frank Miller's imagining - but man, did it end on a bad note.
In a story segment called "Nancy's Last Dance" created for the film by Miller - which nobody in their right mind asked for - we witness an epilogue to the "That Yellow Bastard" storyline from the first film, as Nancy (Jessica Alba) seeks revenge on Senator Roarke (Powers Booth) for the death of John Hartigan (Bruce Willis). Along her path to bloody revenge, we watch Nancy descend into the depths of depression and madness, before finally finding the wild abandon necessary to take down Roarke.
Apparently, somebody thought it was a good idea to end a movie with a showcase of Jessica Alba in a dramatic role, alone onscreen for quite some time. Unfortunately, Alba couldn't even manage to spark any chemistry between herself and a mirror and a phantom Bruce Wilis - making it that much more painful for the rest of us to watch.
Funniest Moment: The Literal Drax - Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians had a lot of great talent behind it, but one thing that had fans worried early on was the casting of former wrestler Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer. Bautista had been showcased in movies like Man with the Iron Fist and hadn't exactly stolen the show with his acting, so expectations for his Guardians role were understandably tempered at first.
The film makes great humor out of the fact that Drax's species of alien don't have linguistic flourishes like metaphor or figurative meaning; with Drax, everything is painfully, hilariously literal. Somehow, Bautista's lack of acting and comedic experience worked to his character's favor: Drax's awkward delivery and linguistic confusion made Guardians hilarious at several very memorable (and quotable) points.
Nobody who saw the film will ever again be able to hear the phrase, "That went over your head" and NOT smile. Your comedy reflexes are too fast. You would catch that joke.
HONORABLE MENTION: 22 Jump Street. Channing Tatum displayed comedic timing, energy, and athletic prowess in that hilarious scene where the horrible connection between Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) is finally revealed... with delayed reaction.
Most Frightening Moment: Between Rock and Bone - As Above, So Below
Summer 2014 was admittedly light on big horror movies - but as has become tradition, the season closed with the release of As Above, So Below, a found-footage horror flick about a group of explorers who literally go to the depths of hell in search of a mythical artifact (if you haven't seen it, read our review of the film).
Like The Descent, As Above, So Below uses the setting of underground caverns to give audiences a claustrophobic sense of what subterranean exploration is all about. When cameraman Benji (Edwin Hodge) gets trapped in a thin, collapsing crevice between hard rock and a pile of bones, his panic (and the agonizing length of the sequence) was enough to send any real claustrophobics in the audience into hyper-ventilation (audibly, in my theater).
We don't always need ghouls and ghosts to freak us out; practical fears work just as well.
Most Disturbing Moment: Tail & Engine Politics - Snowpiercer
The phrase, "You know what I hate about myself?" is a loaded grenade anytime it lands on your ears, but the movie Snowpiercer found a way to make the answer to that question even more disturbing than usual.
For Chris Evans' character, Curtis, the battle to the front of the Snowpiercer locomotive had been bloody hell marked by much tragedy and loss - but it was nothing compared to the life Curtis had left behind in the tail section. Recounting his past to cohort Namgoong Minsoo (Kang-ho Song), Curtis reveals a side of himself horrifically different form the hero we've come to know. It's that dark will that the train's conductor, Wilford, is interested in, as he tries to recruit Curtis into the terrible job necessary to keep Snowpiercer society both literally and figuratively in motion.
If you've seen the film's climactic philosophical quandaries, you know why we shudder whenever our own Anthony Ocasio keeps stating that he 'sides with the train.' We only hope real human society is nowhere near how Snowpiercer paints it. We hope...
Most Emotional Moment: Fault in Our Stars Final Act
We won't spoil the ending of The Fault In Our Stars - but come on, the film begins with two kids (who are both very sick) falling in love. You don't need a crystal ball to see this ends in an empty box of tissues and bleary eyes for the audience.
Try to watch the final act of this film without crying. We dare you. Even if the sad parts don't get to you, the beauty and grace the characters show in dealing with those hardships just might. Right in the heart, bro.
Most WTF Moment: Howard the Duck Cameo - Guardians of the Galaxy
By now fans are used to the game: if you go to see a Marvel movie, you sit through the entire credits to catch a bonus scene (or two). Sometimes the scenes tease major plot developments to come - other times, they're just for fun and kicks. Guardians of the Galaxy, however, managed to throw fans a curve ball that added a whole new level of WTF to the Marvel post-credit scene experience.
Howard the Duck may not be that well-known anymore, so a lot of people were definitely left saying "WTF?" (audibly, in my theater) when the obscure character (who IS part of the Marvel universe, BTW) showed up in the remains of The Collector's collection.
Best Frankenstein Job: TMNT
We reserve this award for films that manage to make a mint of cash out of the mess of footage and half-realized ideas they found themselves with during post-production (See also: World War Z, our 2013 winner).
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles went through a lot of versions - and left a lot of footage unfinished and/or on the cutting room floor - before the studio came away with a lean (shallow), 100-minute, kids movie that managed to open at the top of the box office and guarantee Ninja Turtles 2 coming in 2016. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't easy, but they got there.
...Hopefully the sequel is more Adonis and less Frankenstein job.
Parasitic Twin Award: Hercules
Brett Ratner's Hercules starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is the second Hercules film to come out - and quickly flop - in 2014, following the prequel story Legend of Hercules (starring Kellan Lutz) earlier this year.
Lutz' version took place before Hercules' fabled twelve labors; Johnson's film took place after them. The result of skipping over the most famous part of the mythos? Hercules was a two-time loser at the box office.
It's little consolation, then, to say Johnson's version was the better of these two conjoined freaks.
Most Meme'd: Guardians of the Galaxy
Sorry kids, Captain America 2's "Hail HYDRA" and "On your left" meme storm does. Not. Count. That was a spring movie; these are summer movie awards.
Now, those "Star-Lord (WHO?)", Rocket/Groot and Literal Drax memes you're starting to (or have been) seeing? Yeah, that's only going get prolifically worse before it gets better. Just like Kevin Bacon!
Sub-Genre Killer: Into the Storm
We like to add a new award every year, and this year that award is for a movie that was so bad in its stylistic approach that it (nearly) burnt us out on a whole sub-genre of film. (After all, genre as a larger entity can never really be killed.)
In its inaugural year we give this award to the found-footage tornado disaster film Into the Storm for making us wish the whole found-footage trend would die back down into sporadic use, by purposed filmmakers, with well-developed ideas.
Alas, for now found-footage still remains a cheap way to make a movie which could potentially reap big bucks from audiences ultimately disappointed with their (semi-)cinematic experience.
Summer 2014 had its highlights (Guardians, Apes) - but who isn't looking forward to the forthcoming years of summer movies? With over 40 superhero films and countless big tentpole genre films all competing for box office dollars, the competition for our summer movie awards is only going to get more vicious - and the categories we have to create only more outlandish and geeky. Should be a blast.
Do you agree with our picks? Did we leave anything out (cue Edge of Tomorrow mentions...)?
Either way, come discuss the summer in movies with us in the comments, or chat with us @screenrant.