Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Good, The Bad and The...Meh: Cynic's Films Of 2014 In Review

     Well, another year has come and gone, so you know what that means!  Ya ha, retrospect lists!  I didn't do one of these last year because I only saw two 2013 releases in the theatre (Jurassic Park 3D trumped Thor: The Dark World, although I did really like that one too) and I didn't really keep track of any home releases I may have seen.  Well, this year I did much better on that front so we're gonna start at the bottom and work our way up through the nine releases I managed to catch this year.  Just as a safety disclaimer, possible spoiler warnings to the films featured here.  Also, if you're just here to see where Insterstellar or Gone Girl ranked, I never got around to seeing them, so...yeah...

     Without further adieu, let's get started with the bad...
     9.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
     I try not to count my chickens before they hatch, but I knew that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was not going to be a terribly great film.  What I DIDN'T know was just how terrible of a film it would turn out to be.  I already tore this film a new poop-shoot when I torrented it in September after curiosity got the better of me (no way I was paying to see this one) so I'll skip the reasons why I hated it.  However, what I neglected to mention in that review was that all of those points against the film culminated into one thing that I just cannot forgive it for: the producers took the excuse of "It's just a kid's movie, so we can slap whatever stupid thing we want together and the little shits will eat it up because we tell them to."  Well, how about we just try to make a good movie, regardless of how old the intended audience is?  Kids are smarter than a lot of people give them credit for and considering how much crap they have to put up with from other aspects of their lives, they don't need escapism like movies to insult their intelligence.  By far the worst Turtles movie to date and easily the worst of the year.  Next.

     The 'meh...'
     8.  The Amazing Spider-Man 2
     Okay, for the record, I liked the first Amazing Spider-Man and I still do, probably my favorite web-slinger movie thus far so when the sequel was announced, I was all for it.  Never got to see it theatrically so I pre-ordered it on Blu-Ray and immediately watched it once it arrived in the mail.  All I could say was, "Wow...that was pretty disappointing."  Don't get me wrong, I still really dig leads Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone and there were some neat ideas within the movie.  However, for everything I liked about this movie, there was at least another thing or two that I didn't like about it.  At first, I felt like Sony was making the same mistakes that they had with Spider-Man 3 whereas they had too much going on within the story for it to flow smoothly.  However, upon further reflection, I realized that the case with Amazing Spider-Man 2 wasn't so much that there was too much going on within the story but, in fact, there wasn't enough story to go around and the stretched veils of the plot were filled in with hints and setups for further sequels.  Needless to say, there's a lot of hints and setups for what's for dessert (quote unquote) when they should've focused more on what's currently on our plates.  Not awful, not Amazing as its namesake would let you believe, just kind of a "middle of the road" type of movie.

     Alright, now that we've gotten the stinkers out of the way, how about we start talking about the enjoyable films, eh?

     7.  Hercules
     Okay, I can hear the collective, "Whaaaa," coming from the readers but just because I like to review movies as a hobby doesn't necessarily mean that I'm looking for something that's gonna trigger thought-provoking conversation about the film or whatever it may be trying to do.  Sometimes, you just need a good way to kill an hour and a half and that's exactly what Brett Ratner's Hercules is: harmless entertainment to kill a slow night.  The trailers reminded me of Dwayne Johnson's first headlining film The Scorpion King and that's more or less what I expected.  To be fair, Hercules takes its premise more seriously than Scorpion King and it actually delves into ideas of whether Hercules actually accomplished his amazing feats on his own and at one point debates whether or not he is truly the son of Zeus (although when he pushes over the giant statue with his bare hands and turns John Hurt into a bowling pin with it, I'm pretty sure that answers that question).  To tell the truth, had it not been for the involvement of Dwayne Johnson and Ian McShane, this film would've found it's way into the 'Meh' category with Amazing Spider-Man 2, so if you're stuck on a slow night with nothing to watch, give this one a chance.  At best, you'll have an entertaining action movie.  At worst, hey, at least you're not watching Ninja Turtles.

     6.  X-Men: Days Of Future Past
     I'm kinda surprised that this one is as low as it isI loved the first two X-Men movies, I even didn't mind the third film and I think First Class is the best of the franchise.  I didn't get a chance to catch this one in the theatres so we rented the Blu-Ray the first chance we had and this one is probably the third best of the series, in my eyes.  It was a really good blend of the original series cast with the First Class cast and while I was a little disappointed that Ian McKellen's Magneto and Michael Fassbender's Magneto didn't share screen time the way that James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart's Professor Xavier did, this one kept me glued to the screen and I am looking forward to what the series has in store for us down the road.

     5.  Guardians Of The Galaxy
     I can hear you sharpening your pitchforks and lighting your torches now, "How is Guardians Of The Goddamn Galaxy only number five, Cynic?!"  Well, apparently this year was really good for good movies and just because this only ranks at number five doesn't take anything away from it.  I'll admit, when I first heard that this one was greenlit, I was a tad confused as to who the Guardians Of The Galaxy were but more importantly, was grumbling why Guardians was greenlit and not Deadpool.  However, in case you couldn't figure it out before, Marvel knows what they're doing and this movie probably wasn't greenlit on a whim.  The plot of this film sounds so insane on paper but in context, by God, it just works.  The real wildchild of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that's just loads of fun any way you look at it.

     4.  Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
     Ho.  Lee.  Shit.  I never did see Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes in theatres because I figured, "Yeah, Apes prequel.  Whatever."  It wasn't until all of the feedback for Dawn started spreading like wildfire that I bought Rise on Blu-Ray.  Best $10 I've spent in the Wal-Mart Blu-Ray bin in some time, so naturally that got me more curious and a tad eager for DawnYou liked RiseDawn destroys Rise in terms of quality, and that by no means is a small feat.  The story is better and more emotionally gripping, the set pieces and motion capture is absolutely astounding, there's plenty of drama on both the human and ape sides and the whole tension between Caeser and Koba gets me just thinking about it.  When the next Planet Of The Apes film hits, I'll be checking it out in the theatres, as I hope you all will too.

     3.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier
     Confession time: I did not particularly care for Captain America: The First Avenger.  I had a hard time buying Chris Evans in the role, it didn't do much for me in the way of action scenes, it just seemed subpar in comparison to the rest of the Marvel films, it wasn't my favorite.  Suffice to say, The Winter Soldier had some fair obstacles to overcome and oh boy, did it do so.  As much as I liked Guardians Of The Galaxy, I liked this one just a little bit more.  Evans is far more believable as Steve Rogers, the action sequences are some of the best I've seen in a while and this movie hits both the audience and the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the Hydra within S.H.I.E.L.D. angle that makes everyone go, "Oh what's gonna happen?  How's this going to effect the next few movies?"  I didn't think I'd see a Captain America movie that I could firmly stand behind, let alone see two sequels that surpassed their predecessors in the same year.

     2.  The Lego Movie
     My son and I were in town the night this one opened so I figured, "Meh, while we're here, let's catch a movie."  I honestly didn't have high expectations for this one and just figured that it'd be a fun little movie for the kids that while entertaining, still exists mostly as a toy commercial.  Boy, was I wrong.  So very, very wrong.  The Lego Movie isn't so much a movie about Lego but it is its own story merely being told using Lego.  Big difference.  I haven't laughed this hard at an animated feature in a long time and The Lego Movie is a nice reminder that just because your movie is marketed more towards kids doesn't mean it can't be clever.  I've even gone so far as to say that The Lego Movie will probably be appreciated more by adults than it will be by its intended audience and as someone who collects memorabilia from their childhood, the last twenty minutes or so really hit hard.  This was by far the most surprising movie of the year and if you're one of those people who won't give it a chance just because, "It's animated," or, "It's just for kids," then I outright feel sorry for you.

     Alright, some of you might see this coming but my number one movie of 2014 is...

     1.  Godzilla
     I know I'm going to (and already have) caught a lot of crap for having this at the top of the list but I had very high expectations going into this movie, not to mention having riding the hype train for two years, and you know what?  Those expectations were met, as I explained in my review.  Story focused more on the people?  Check.  Characters that felt like ordinary people instead of action movie tropes?  Check.  Creatures held back until later in?  Check.  Godzilla not appearing until an hour in?  Check.  Having everything come together for a spectacular third act finale?  Check and mate.  Okay, I didn't expect Bryan Cranston to die in the movie but frankly, in this day and age where movies can be spoiled at a few taps of a keyboard, heaven forbid something comes along and surprises us.  Had this movie not delivered, I doubt I'd have it in me to get excited for another movie ever again.  Hell, my wife even said that if Godzilla had disappointed, she would've written a letter to Gareth Edwards telling him to fix her broken husband.  One thing that I noticed upon a repeat viewing was that even though the film is two hours long, Godzilla is paced in a way that it doesn't overstay its welcome and feels like 90 or 100 minutes long at most.  Are there objectively better films on this list?  Totally, but in the end of the day, Godzilla was the one to beat in my eyes and none of the other films on this list were able to do so.

     I love looking at "Best & Worst Movies Of The Year" lists, even if I don't agree with them.  I've shared mine, now how about yours?  What were your favorite films of 2014?  Which ones were just kinda there and which ones downright pissed you off?  Leave a comment, I do read them.  Happy New Year!

-The Cynic