by Patrick Bromley
We're still a few weeks away from publishing our Top 10 lists for the year at F This Movie!, which I'm both super excited about and dreading at the same time because I don't think there's any way I can narrow down to just 10 movies. It's been a great year.
How great? So great that even the $100 million tentpole movies -- the sequels, franchise films, reboots and remakes -- have even been terrific (for the most part; there are still a few that are among the year's worst movies...I'm looking at you, Maleficent). While I don't think any of these will make my list of 10 favorites for the year, there's a few that certainly could have. They are movies that succeed on the level on which they are intended and beyond -- big, sweeping, expensive and entertaining movies that even manage to have something on their minds beyond CGI spectacle. They made going to the movies fun in the best way.
Here are my 10 favorite blockbusters of the year:
1. Guardians of the Galaxy (dir. James Gunn) One of the year's biggest gambles turned out to be the highest-grossing blockbuster (domestically) as well as the most unabashedly entertaining movie of 2014. Here's a superhero movie based on a comic very few people were familiar with (it's the first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to take place outside of the Avengers series) and directed by a guy who got his start working for Lloyd Kaufman at Troma. It's a funky, funny space opera with a sentient tree and a talking raccoon and they steal the fucking movie. That audiences embraced this movie -- which could have been a disaster for Marvel -- in such a big, big way is a testament to the power of MAKING A GOOD MOVIE. James Gunn made a very good movie. Great characters, funny dialogue, gorgeous production design and tons of fun make GotG the kind of film that you want to revisit again and again.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (dir. Matt Reeves) The prequel/reboot series of Planet of the Apes takes a giant leap forward in its second installment courtesy of director Matt Reeves, who opens up the scope and doubles down on the premise, devoting as much time or more to the apes as to the humans. It's the right call, as the series still has a human problem but is fucking awesome when it focuses on the now-grown Caesar and his attempts to lead the ape civilization outside the influence of the now-decimated human population. The script and Reeves' direction are unusually thoughtful for a movie of this size. The motion capture effects are remarkable. Toby Kebbell's Koba is one of the best and most sympathetic villains of the year. I really, really like this movie.
3. Edge of Tomorrow (dir. Doug Liman) I wanted to call this the only "original" movie on the list, but Edge of Tomorrow (aka All You Need is Kill, aka Live Die Repeat) is actually based on a 2004 novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka...which means there's not a single "original" movie on the list (though I guess Noah counts despite being based on a story that's 3,000 years old). This is smart, thrilling science-fiction with two great movie star performances and an impressive ability to keep its potentially one-note premise fresh. Like so many BIG movies (actually, like so many movies period) this one has a hard time sustaining itself all the way to the finish, but it's a testament to the power of an intelligently made spectacle -- the kind that's all to rare these days. Except maybe in 2014.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (dir. Joe and Anthony Russo) If not for Number One on this list, the second Captain America movie might just be my favorite Marvel movie to date. Moving the action up to present day and doing the superhero film as '70s-era (era) paranoid thriller, The Winter Soldier features great action, major stakes for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and gives its excellent cast plenty to do. Chris Evans continues to be perfect as Cap, but it's Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow who really steals the sequel. This is one of the few superhero movies that manages to be about something more than its about, and the "team" dynamic that slowly develops through the movie pays off in ways that made me almost as happy as I was watching The Avengers. If you're a movie fan, Robert Redford's last scene is one of the most subversive things you'll see this year.
5. The Lego Movie (dir. Phil Lord/Christopher Miller) There are so many ways this movie should have been a cynical, marketing-driven piece of IP shit. Instead, it's an endlessly inventive comedy and one of the year's funniest movies. Even the animation fails to grow tiresome, as Lord and Miller keep coming up with new ways to create both wonder and jokes out of how they represent things with Lego blocks. The story is overly familiar and there are some problematic messages about the female character, but there are some wonderful messages about the importance of creativity and how adult collectors can lose sight of the fact that toys are meant to be fucking fun. This was just supposed to be a mindless commercial for a popular toy; instead, it advocates throwing out the instructions and using your own imagination. It did the exact opposite of what I thought it was going to do -- and is still a great commercial for Lego.
7. X-Men: Days of Future Past (dir. Bryan Singer) Yes, there are far too many superhero movies on this list, but those are the blockbusters that Hollywood is making now -- and it just so happens that we got three good ones this year. After leaving the franchise for two sequels and two spinoffs, Bryan Singer returned to the series and made what might be the best X-Men movie to date. It cleverly combines the best elements from his series and Matthew Vaughn's prequel, tells a good story with a focus on character (even if Mystique is given too much do, but J. Law's gotta J. Law) and even manages to retcon the series to undo most of the damage done by The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It's not an all-timer, but it's a solid summer movie and one that will actually be worth revisiting in the future.
22 Jump Street (dir. Phil Lord/Christopher Miller) An improbable sequel to an improbable smash hit, 22 Jump Street is this year's most meta blockbuster (yes, I'm getting sick of that word too) and also one of the funniest. Though it loses some of the sweetness that made 21 Jump Street such a pleasant surprise, 22 Jump Street works overtime for laughs and succeeds much more than it fails. How did Phil Lord and Chris Miller get two movies on this list?
9. Noah (dir. Darren Aronofsky) Here's a blockbuster to come from the unlikeliest of places: a $100+ epic made by an indie auteur that retells one of the most famous of all biblical stories but removing many of the religious aspects. There's a lot of the movie that doesn't work, particularly in the third act, but the movie is so ambitious and sincere and willing to be weird that I can't help but respect it. Rather than the traditional religious epic, Aronofsky has turned the story of Noah into a kind of science fiction fantasy complete with giant rock monsters. When it's great, Noah is truly great. Even when it isn't, it coasts by one the strength of its earlier greatness. I love that we live in a time in which big spectacle movies aren't being given to music video or commercial directors (as much, at least) and are instead being given to deeply personal, idiosyncratic filmmakers like Darren Aronofsky, James Gunn and Rian Johnson.
Godzilla (dir. Gareth Edwards) I'm the first to admit that a lot of this movie did not work for me, and it goes beyond a general lack of screen time for Godzilla. I don't think it's a great movie, but it belongs on the list for the chances it takes -- there are parts of Gareth Edwards take on Big G that feel like the summer blockbuster as art film. While I might not agree with some of the choices he makes, I respect that they are very specific, very conscious choices with more on their mind than just appealing to the lowest-common denominator with crowd-pleasing bang for the buck (that parts of the movie still feel very dumb is a shortcoming of the script and not necessarily deliberate pandering). Plus, the moments that work really, really work. Half a year later I'm not remembering the non-existent characterization and problematic plotting. I'm remembering the aerial shot of Godzilla swimming silently through the water and how the theater seemed to shake the first time he let out his roar and, of course, the atomic kiss, one of the most satisfying moments of any movie this year. Godzilla may not be the year's best blockbuster, but for better and for worse it is one of the most interesting.
The lack of marketing and attendance for "Edge of Tomorrow" is baffling to me. It's the definition of a sci-fi blockbuster.ReplyDelete
I loved "21 Jump Street" but after a promising start to the film, I thought "22" was woefully unfunny.
I have come to think the EoT trailer created too much of a somber sci-fi mood rather than fun action. Then there was the unfortunate timing of being released against two other blockbusters. Hopefully EoT will continue to find its audience over time.Delete
After re-watching I see what you mean. I also think the trailer is typical of most in that it gives way too much away. These days I intentionally avoid most trailers and think it's more fun to go into a film knowing as little as possible.Delete
Yay quality! It's been a great year for movies.ReplyDelete
• Edge of Tomorrow now lies alongside Aliens among my list all time favorite movies. I like the performances more and more upon repeat viewings, and really appreciate the pacing and humor. I have come to accept the epilogue as the film-makers' desired end point for the redemption storyline.
• Lord and Miller deserve recognition for creating entertaining, commercially successful movies with relatively moderate budgets ($800 million worldwide box office this year from $110 combined production budgets).
• I enjoyed Interstellar for the audio-visual experience. Admittedly, the script is problematic.
I could have put Interstellar on the list for the same reasons Godzilla is on there -- I'm glad we have this kind of blockbuster, even if the movies don't totally work for me. I only gave the advantage to Godzilla because it has a much larger green lizard in it.Delete
Well, it's no green Zoe Saldana. :-)Delete
So little is.Delete
Don't tell anyone, but I genuinely like Godzilla. It helps that I was a fan to begin with, but even without that, I think the movie delivers enough of the good stuff to make it worthwhile.ReplyDelete
I'm still mad about Cranston, though. That irritates me more than Godzilla's lack of screen time.
I definitely agree with you No. 1 pick. Guardians was the most fun I had at the movie theater in a long time. That movie just played so well. I loved it way more than other Marvel film (although I like all of them, save Iron Man 2), and it will definitely be the first I pick up on Bluray. Edge of Tomorrow probably comes in a close second, though.
I'm looking forward to Battle of the Five Armies (yes, yes, I know. Butter over too much bread.) as my capper for the year. People like to fuss (and I often can't argue with them), but I'm very much sold on Peter Jackson's version of Middle Earth. I can't get enough, and I'll be sad to see them go.
Overall, it was a pretty good year for big movies. Here's hoping 2015 keeps 'em coming.
I'm just so thrilled that some of the BEST movies of the year have also several of the blockbusters. To me, it feels like that doesn't happen enough. Maybe I'm wrong and it actually does, but DotPotA, GotG, Gone Girl, Edge of Tomorrow, Captain America: The Winter Soldier (and I would add The Fault in Our Stars, but I know that's just me) are all going to end up on my top 10 list for sure.ReplyDelete
*also been severalDelete
No Hunger Games or Interstellar... interesting.. I would probably switch out Interstellar with 22 Jump Street. Even though were many hilarious laugh out loud moments in 22, much of the movie I also thought fell flat.ReplyDelete
Still a very solid top ten, some years you'd be hard pressed to find five legitimate blockbusters you liked, let alone ten. So in that way it's actually been a very good year for these movies, even if post-Guardians there's been a decline.
Exodus is receiving poor reviews, and The Hobbit needs to far surpass its predecessors to make my list. So that top ten is probably set in stone, unless The Interview could be considered a blockbuster.
I guess the only thing lacking is that none of these would be considered legitimate Oscar contenders. Gone Girl might be the exception and get a few nominations, but I don't think anything beyond that.
As if the Oscars are legitimate barometers of quality anyway. ;)Delete
I think Edge of Tomorrow was my favorite blockbuster all year, but it's hard to be sure because it had such a "pleasant surprise" factor for me. Despite the big marketing, I really wasn't expecting much from it. I had high hopes for The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, and they both came through for me. I also had high hopes for Godzilla and Interstellar, which both let me down (For my money Interstellar is the better of the two, just for ambition).ReplyDelete
Guardians may have been legitimately better, but the trailer and reviews were so good that I was expecting it. There's alot of power in a pleasant surprise, and it may take some time for me to look objectively at Edge of Tomorrow. I had the same experience with The Grey, but I still like it so hopefully the same will happen with "Live-Die-Repeat."
2012 and 2013 were a pattern of six months of anticipation followed by intense meh for Prometheus, Oblivion and Elysium. This year renewed my faith in big budget sci-fi.Delete
For some reason, big-budget got a little smarter this year. It may be a product of Marvel raising the bar, or maybe just the mass internet feedback system making bad word-of-mouth a death sentence for studios. Either way, you're right.Delete
My expectations have been so wrong the last two years that I'm really worried because Inherent Vice opens Friday, and it's probably my most anticipated movie of the year. Fingers crossed.
I'm gonna refrain from talking about this subcategory best-of, because I don't think blockbusters should be judged on a seperate level of enjoyment as other films, but I definitely agree that this year was great for spectacle-based type movies.ReplyDelete
I gotta respectfully disagree. Blockbusters get all of the advertising, all of the hype and the biggest budgets in which the studio expects a massive return on. These films are generally made to generate revenue and showcase the latest in technological advancement in film. I definitely believe Blockbusters are to be judged with different criteria in mind than other films.Delete
I don't really separate them, meaning if any of these was among my 10 favorite movies this year they would have absolutely been on my Top 10 list. I only gave them their own list because while none of them will make my top 10, they deserve to be recognized for how good they are.Delete
No doubt. A movie is a movie regardless, so maybe that's what you meant, Kino. In that I agree. Any movie can make a top ten. My point was that I still believe Blockbusters hold a different criteria in which they are judged. They are essentially built that way on purpose. The last Blockbuster to make my top ten of the year was "Inception" (was that even really a Blockbuster?) and I agree in that making a list of the best movies of the year include ALL movies.Delete
I meant it in the "a movie is a movie" sense, but what I tend to search for in any movie is an emotional reaction. My favorite movies are the ones that elicit the strongest emotions, and that isn't necessarily bound by genre.Delete
But I understand the reasoning for this list if they wouldn't be mentioned otherwise. Ten is such a small number sometimes ~
I think sample size comes into play. Someone who sees 20-30 new movies this year might include two or three blockbusters in his/her top ten. By contrast, a reviewer or hard core film junky who sees 100, 200, or more new releases will probably have a higher threshold.Delete
I answered my own question - $160 million budget; Domestic Total Gross: $292,576,195.ReplyDelete