It’s time for the lists! Yes, I know we’ve got a few weeks left in this month, and a few more movies I plan to see (The Hobbit conclusion, Exodus: Gods and Kings, and possibly Night At The Museum 3), but I’m doing this list anyway. I have a feeling that none of those three movies, except perhaps Exodus if it’s really stellar, would make any of these categories anyway. So here goes!
1. All of these are movies I’ve seen from start to finish. So you won’t see me bashing Transformers or Ninja Turtles, as I didn’t bother forking over money for those. On the flipside, you may believe that an art film like Boyhood was the best movie of the year, but I don’t tend to see movies like that in theaters. Most of these are blockbuster “big” movies. I’m a pretty mainstream person.
2. I have both “best” movie and “favorite” movie in here for a reason. My favorite movie is one I simply adored watching. The “best” film is one that’s good on a technical level: a well-written story, well-acted and well-told. My favorite movie will not win an Oscar, but I think the “best” movie ought to.
Legho! Also, mild spoilers!
Most Overhyped Movie – Maleficent
I was never super hyped for Maleficent, as the special effects in the trailer looked pretty lame. Also, Elle Fanning’s attempt at a British accent….blech. But the rest of the world seemed to think Maleficent was going to be a billion dollar hit for Disney, and everyone was falling over themselves over Angelina Jolie’s cheekbones. I started to get a little hyped when I saw a 7 minute sneak peek at Disney World, but that excitement soon dwindled when I saw this film in theaters. It is so forgettable, you guys. It was way too short to tell an interesting story, the character of Maleficent was diluted, and the ending was stupidly predictable in our post-Frozen era. There are characters in there, like the Prince, for literally no reason aside from their presence in the original Sleeping Beauty. And for, you know, red herrings.
Runner Up: Mockingjay Part One. I am kind of over The Hunger Games, ya’ll. But mostly, I am over books being split into multiple parts. This movie was alright – although it’s about as unexciting as the trailers make it out to be. Yeah, Jenn Lawrence is still fabulous. But the fact that they’re making me wait A YEAR for Act II and III of their movie is disgusting. I mean, I gripe about The Empire Strikes Back for failing to be a standalone movie, but at least it has three acts in and of itself. I strongly feel that movies should each stand alone on their own merit, and that if you want a longer story, you should tell it through TV or miniseries. Period.
Biggest Surprise – The Maze Runner
Now for something positive – I LOVED The Maze Runner. I didn’t expect to. It was better than it had any right to be. Aside from the self-insert protagonist Thomas, the great characters actually bring this one to life. It also fills in the much-needed intrigue that other YA stories miss these days (I’ll argue that intrigue is actually what made Harry Potter so great and popular. It’s just been missing from the genre since then).
It does end on a cliffhanger, which I could gripe about, but the main conflict of this installment does resolve itself. I do worry that its suspense-fueled plot may be tarnished on rewatches, which is why this isn’t my *favorite* movie, but it was certainly the most memorable experience I had at the movies this year. So many times I turned to my boyfriend and said, “OHHH SNAP.”
Runner up: Hercules. I did not have high hopes for the Rock and Brett Ratner. But hey, it wasn’t bad. It didn’t take itself too seriously. It was like The Avengers with Greek myths. I don’t really care to see it again, but I’d probably go see a sequel. I think it had the Hansel and Gretel problem of “we’ve set up some cool stuff in an hour and a half, but you don’t really want to see more until the last ten minutes.”
Movie That Deserves a Rewatch – Godzilla
A lot of people ragged on Godzilla. I was one of them. Bah, the main character is dull; bah, there isn’t enough Godzilla; bah, Bryan Cranston! At least, that’s how it was after the first watch. On one hand, I respected what Gareth Edwards was trying to do – he was trying to homage the original 1954 Gojira. I loved that he kept the man-in-a-suit design. I love that he kept the laser breath. But did it have to be so dull?
A friend told me to give it another chance, and I’m glad I did. The second time around, I adored it. I think the combination of 1) seeing it initially after an exhausting day at Disney World, 2) seeing it with expectations of Lots of Godzilla, and 3) seeing it with poor sound all warped my initial thoughts. On the second viewing, I could just relax. I knew Godzilla was coming, and I knew he’d be awesome when he was around, so I wasn’t looking at my watch thinking, “Is there going to be any Godzilla?!”
So I hope you give Godzilla a second chance if you were lukewarm about it the first time. It definitely improved on a repeat viewing.
Runner Up: Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This was an awesome movie the first time, but it became even more fun the second.
Biggest disappointment – X-Men: Days of Future Past
Let me start by saying that I liked this movie. And after a hurter like X3, I really can’t complain. It was one of the better X-Men films, I loved seeing the old X-Men blended with the new, performances were great, Quicksilver was awesome, etc. Bryan Singer’s return to the franchise was more than welcome.
But. Guys. I was out of my mind with hype for this movie. I was so excited. I followed news about it for literally two years up to its release date. It was such a big undertaking, so epic in scale, and was coming off the heels of, IMO, the best X-Men movie ever made (First Class). McAvoy and Fassbender made X-Men First Class, so I was psyched to see them on screen again. Their Charles/Erik dynamic gives me so many feels (and not at all to diminish the performances of Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen of course, but Ian and Patrick show this relationship after the dust has settled. McAvoy and Fassbender show this relationship at the height of interpersonal character drama.)
But oh my God, two huge things nearly ruined this movie for me. For one, Magneto and X had about three scenes together. There was HARDLY ANYTHING to address where they left off in First Class, what had happened to them since, and then it ends on such an unsatisfying note with them still hating each other (now more than ever before.) I’m hoping that Apocalypse takes care of a lot of my beefs with that, because the focus will once again be on the 1980’s cast. This was just too much of a Wolverine movie, once again.
But the biggest problem I had is that the trailers sucked every ounce of suspense out of it. The first two trailers were fabulously vague. The third was the kicker though, because despite the amazing Led Zepplin backing track, it spelled out the entire plot of the movie. So when I was in the theater, it was all very predictable. I actually felt like I’d seen this movie before. So boo you, Fox marketing department! When Apocolypse comes out, I might have to avoid trailers altogether.
Runner up: 300 – Rise of An Empire. Not that I expected this way-too-late and these-graphics-somehow-look-worse-than-the-ones-in-2007 sequel to be brilliant, and Eva Green’s costumes are still worthy of envy, but ugh. This one was such a snooze. The only thing I remember is that uproarious “love” scene on Artemisia’s ship, because it added a much-needed dose of wit to the film.
Best Netflix Find – After The Dark
So, not all of these movies came out in 2014. But I discovered After The Dark this past spring, browsing through Netflix, and it has jumped up to my “top 10 movies of all time” list. I’ve done a few RPG/LARPs, so I had a special appreciation for this indie gem. You’ll probably recognize most of the faces in the cast, from Ginny Weasley to that kid from Spy Kids.
Because many of you may be unfamiliar, the plot is this: A very handsome Benedict Cumberbatch clone is a philosophy teacher at an international school in Indonesia. His final exam for his class of ~20 teenagers is to imagine a disaster scenario. In this exercise, they must cohabitate in a bunker for a year – but there are only enough supplies for half their group. Based on everyone’s assigned fictional careers, the group must decide who is worth saving and who is not “useful.” With every run of the simulation, the locale changes, caveats are introduced into each person’s persona (the surgeon who was a shoe-in during the first simulation announces that she’d recently encountered the Ebola virus on the second trial. So, everyone’s supposed “worthiness” changes throughout the story).
It’s really a beautifully shot, darkly humorous, easy to watch film that will teach you about, or remind you about, a bit of philosophy on the time. Since their nuclear LARP is ultimately a philosophical exercise, a lot of different philosophies (nihilism, objectivism, Marxism…) are presented by the outlooks of various characters. Is a person’s worthiness defined by their personality or by their skills? Can someone’s life be held to higher protection if they are simply loved? Can someone with great skill be unworthy of survival because they are dangerous? But in the end, it is not overly deep and it definitely isn’t dull. There’s a lot of humor, especially with the comic relief characters. Go watch it on Netflix!
Runner up: The Cabin In The Woods. There were a few horror films I enjoyed on Netflix this Halloween, including Scream, but there is nothing else out there like The Cabin In The Woods. That movie sticks with me. All the gushing blood made me a bit queasy, but it’s so fantastically meta, darkly funny, and well-written that I don’t care about the gore.
A Movie You May Have Missed – Non-Stop
What is this, the sixth installment of the Liam Neeson With A Gun series? But this time it’s on a plane! This was a February movie, so you may have missed it in theaters. But if you get the opportunity to see it as a rental or cheap DVD, it’s a fun two hours. The suspense is well done and the ending is not predictable. And who can argue with a couple of hours of Liam Neeson being awesome?
Runner up: Transcendence. Yeah, nobody saw this movie. Which I find kind of sad, because it didn’t deserve to bomb. It was slow-moving and cerebral, but it certainly wasn’t a bad film. There are a lot of interesting theories about the singularity at work here, and while many folks found it anti-technology and preachy, I have to disagree. Honestly, this movie was not anti-technology at all – I think it was just anti-hubris.
Most Visually Interesting – The LEGO Movie
Sometimes I don’t care about plot or purpose. Sometimes I just want to be awed. The LEGO Movie was fantastic film in pretty much every way, but it had especially impressive graphics. Unlike previous CGI renderings of LEGO properties, these LEGOs were animated to behave like LEGOs. It was all animated to look like stop motion. Probably the best creative choice they made with this flick, tbh, because it’s amazing how creative they got with making LEGO fire, LEGO clouds, etc.
Runner Up: Dawn of The Planet of The Apes. It may not tell a new story, but the creature animation is scary good. It’s worth the price of admission just to see Andy Serkis’s performance as Caesar.
Best Film – Interstellar
Christopher Nolan never fails to disappoint me, especially in pulling great performances out of actors I normally despise (Matthew McConaughey, I’m looking at you). I just wish people would stop comparing it to 2001. It wasn’t like 2001. I don’t even think it was trying to be. So stahp.
Runner Up: The Monuments Men. Too bad this film got pushed to February, and was therefore ineligible for Oscar season. Hopefully this year’s Oscars will remember it came out and give it a few nods. I love Matt Damon, and I love him even more when he’s standing beside George Clooney. The cast made this movie lots of fun, and the history/emotional element of it was sobering amidst the humor.
Favorite Movie – Guardians of The Galaxy
What else were you expecting? I went as Gamora for Halloween! This movie was stupidly fun, gorgeous, hilarious, and created with the love of James Gunn behind it. I don’t think it’s this generation’s Star Wars, but I still can’t wait for the sequel.
Runner Up: Lucy. I love Luc Besson, and if you don’t love Luc Besson, you’ll probably hate Lucy. Or you’ll just wonder what the heck is happening. Lucy was just such a cool film to watch because of the bizarre asides, weird editing, really interesting visual clashes. The filmmakers did a great job at imagining and representing the unfathomable. I love weird movies, and this was delightfully weird. And finally, a role that ScarJo seems naturally fit for!
Phew! Thanks for sticking that out with me! What were your favs this year? Anything surprise or disappoint you?