Now 2014 has been a terrible year for music, but a wonderful year for movies. Especially blockbusters. Month after month, big movies have impressed both creatively and financially. Only one of my favorite movies so far this year isn’t a blockbuster, and it was pretty popular in its own right. But see for yourself:
Captain America: The Winter Soldier: The strongest outing from a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie yet, except The Avengers, which is in its own class. The plot deftly takes every one of their franchises in a new direction, the action is the clearest we’ve seen yet in terms of execution and motivation, and Chris Evans continues to fill out the boundaries of Cap’s underratedly nuanced character. Now where’s our Black Widow movie? It can’t be any worse than Lucy.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Fascinating combination of visual effects and legitimate drama. The year’s best movie so far is about talking apes, and you can’t help but take it seriously. We live in strange times.
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Peak Wes Anderson is still 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom for me, but Grand Budapest Hotel comes close. But Kingdom was Anderson harnessing his powers; Grand Budapest Hotel is Anderson unleashing them.
Guardians of the Galaxy: So remember how I said The Avengers is in its own class? Well, Guardians is in the same class, and it just set the curve. The Avengers sequel is gonna have to cram hardcore or pull several all-nighters to top this one. Pure chaos in a film reel. Or, I suppose, a USB drive, nowadays…
The Lego Movie: Speaking of chaos, I felt like this movie had enough for a whole year of movies. But, like James Gunn with Guardians, directors Lord & Miller know precisely how to modulate the craziness. It’s the kind of craziness a kid can relate to, but it all builds into a sweetness that isn’t sickly at the end, avoiding the trap most animated movies fall into.
Chris Pratt, Guardians of the Galaxy: Look, he’s not getting nominated for the Oscar or anything, but it takes a special performer to get the audience on your side when there are characters like Rocket Raccoon and Groot on the screen. People are calling him the new Han Solo, which let’s all slow our rolls for a second, but give this movie a little time and I may come around on that. That’s how charismatic he is.
Andy Serkis, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: He won’t be getting nominated either, but it’s only because there’s too many layers between his performance and what we see onscreen. The effects department obviously deserves some credit, but if you’ve seen Dawn, the fact that there is a real person emoting as Caesar is undeniable, and that emoting is magnetic for the entire movie.
Shailene Woodley, The Fault in Our Stars: Ansel Elgort has the flashier performance, but what Woodley has to do is more challenging. Her character, Hazel Grace, keeps the story grounded from its potential for sap. And it’s her appreciation for love in the end that allows the story to bring you to tears.
Most Anticipated Movies of (the rest of) 2014
Exodus: Gods and Kings: After Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, the trailer for Ridley Scott’s Exodus makes me think this could be a banner year in great biblical epics directed by people who don’t believe the Bible.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1: Hard to top Catching Fire, but I’m excited to see Lawrence & Co. try.
Interstellar: I’ll follow Christopher Nolan anywhere at this point.
The Interview: I wonder if Kim Jong-Un will make a cameo.
Unbroken: I was skeptical of this sports-war movie, but the trailer blew me away. If they can give Louis Zamperini’s live even a modicum of the justice he deserves, this will be worth seeing.