As much as I love going to the movies, I feel like I don't actually do it that often. Part of that's money - if I had more of it, I'd do it twice a week (heh. That's what he said.). Part of it's access, since the closest theater to my house is a really small one. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense for someone like me to make a list of the best/worst movies of the year, since I missed out on so many of them, but here's a little recap of what I saw this year in roughly chronological order.
The Lego Movie
Ok, how the fuck was a movie based on Legos this great? It was one of the first movies that I saw this year, and I still feel incredible fondness for it. It's cute without being overly twee, ironic without being sour, fun, funny, and surprisingly heartfelt. Asshole Batman? The whole Cloud Cuckooland set? The theme song, appropriately titled "Everything Is Awesome," which will be stuck in your head for days after you hear it? Writing this review is making me want to go watch it again right now.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
You know how I said The Lego Movie was cute without being twee? That does not apply to this movie. This movie is twee as shit, and I don't care, because I would totally watch that that fake Wes Anderson horror movie that SNL made a trailer for because I love Wes Anderson and his particular brand of quirk. He's like my manic pixie dream director. What I loved about this movie is the deep undercurrent of sadness running through it, a beautiful melancholy for something that no longer exists (and likely never did in the first place), but which as been lovingly recreated.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
I was actually pretty impressed by this Marvel outing. I was worried that they'd end up with something more along the lines of Iron Man 2 (lots of buildup and bluster, no real sense of danger), but they did a really fantastic job shifting the narrative from comic book super hero movie to paranoid thriller. Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson have amazing platonic chemistry, and as The AV Club pointed out, it was pretty much the best depiction of a female superhero this year, and maybe for the last few years.
*sigh* This movie. I didn't watch the series when it first aired because I was annoyed by how similar it seemed to my beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but after years of hearing about how awesome it was, I finally checked it out. And lo, I saw that it was good. Better than good. Amazing. Even when an episode fell flat, Veronica herself was such a treat - smart, mouthy, prone to getting herself into trouble and even better at getting herself out again. I enthusiastically donated to the Kickstarter campaign to make the movie, and streamed it at home the first day it was available.
As great as it was to see the band back together, solving murders and kicking ass, there was just something missing. Too much fan service, when the show was devoted to sticking a knife in our guts and twisting. Too many easy answers to problems that used to just get thornier the deeper you dug. And they basically pulled an invasion of the body snatchers on Logan, who used to be frustrating and problematic but won me over despite my better judgement, and who is now both an officer and a gentleman. (I just realized how many movie references I packed into that last sentence, and wow. I don't know if I should be ashamed or amused.)
Basically, see it if you're already a mega-fan, but skip it if you're not. I still have hopes for a possible series reboot, but the movie fails to recapture the magic.
The humans are kind of annoying (although whathisface from Kick-Ass grew up hot), but Godzilla himself is everything you could want from a monster. He was mystical, unknowable, and terrifying, but also had a surprising amount of pathos.
Edge of Tomorrow
Easily the most underrated movie of the year for me. I don't care much for Tom Cruise, but his smarm actually works pretty well here - you get to see him make a fool of himself, get his ass kicked, and get killed over and over and over (and over and over) again. Eventually he does redeem himself, but it feels earned. I loved Emily Blunt in Looper, and she's a treat here as well. She's got a sexy toughness, a practicality, and a vulnerability that makes her really appealing in a role like this, which makes good use of all of her gifts. The movie not only makes you like the characters, it makes you worry about them. It's one of the few genuinely tense action movies that I've seen in a long time.
I liked this one more than a lot of other people did (see my original review in this post), but in retrospect, it's dulled a little bit in my memory. It was great seeing Angelina Jolie do her thing again, and the visuals were simply stunning, and the analogy to rape and how it was dealt with, and the fact that true love's first kiss was from a mother to a daughter... Wait, what was I talking about? Now that I think about it, I still really liked the movie.
Transformers: Age of Extinction
Not pictured: anything from that awful fucking movie. Deep breaths. Just look at the cute baby animals.
This movie was so terrible it made me angry. I literally walked out. If I remember correctly, the reason why was that the hottie in distress had just been taken by the alien menace, and her dad is all like "you're helping me rescue my daughter" to her race car driving boyfriend, and the boyfriend is all like "no, you're helping me rescue my girlfriend." Because of course she's not an actual person that they love, she's a social construct for men to use to prove their dominance over one another. Fucking patriarchy. *feminist nerd rage*
Guardians of the Galaxy
Just going to do this one in memes. Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas. Spooge. Saw it twice. Both funny, action packed, and not stupid. I like it when my superheroes don't take themselves too seriously.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, here's a movie that I was really excited about, but which was completely incomprehensible and kind of terrible. There were some interesting visuals, but the plot was labored and senseless, the performances were weak, every interpersonal connection clearly only existed to facilitate a particular plot point, and I seriously just could not move past the whole "human beings only use 10% of their brains" bullshit because they kept saying it over and over again. So much potential, wasted in the most annoying possible way.
Brian and I saw this one when we were in New Orleans, and I was so amazed. It's a long ass movie, but it felt like it just swept me up in its currents and took me along for a really amazing ride; I didn't even notice when my butt went numb. Part of that is because of the camera style - it looks like one long, unbroken tracking shot, following people around the theater, down the street, into bars. It's technically amazing, but after a while, you stop noticing it, and only realize that everything feels seamless, fluid in a way that's more reflective of real life than even the most well-crafted movies. The fact that it's also incredibly surreal actually works really well with that sense of real life unfolding before you. It gets into your head in the best possible way, and I left the theater feeling like I'd been reborn. On reflection, this is probably the best movie I've seen this year.
I just reviewed this one not too long ago, so I won't talk about it too much. I really enjoyed it - I thought it was slick, well made, and visually striking. There's an icy feeling to the whole thing, which is reflective of both Fincher's style and the content of the movie. I'd read the book, so the movie didn't really hold any surprises for me. It would be nice if there was more adaptation to book-to-movie adaptations, but as far as accurately reflecting the source materials, it did a good job. If you liked the book, you'll like the movie. If you haven't read the book, but like taut, twisty, slightly gory thrillers, you'll like the movie.
Happy New Year
I saw this Bollywood flick with a group of friends, and that was the perfect way to see it. It's so utterly ridiculous, filled with plot holes and nonsense and abs for days, that you can't help but love it a little bit. Here, this comic will help you.
The Vigil Idiot: Happy New Year
Big Hero 6
I was kind of surprised by how much I liked this movie. I saw it on a total whim, having heard mixed to positive reviews, and I'm really happy that I did. It's very sweet, and I think it deals with grief very well. I love the animation style, and they did a really remarkable job creating a Japanese influenced vision of the future without falling head first into anime tropes. It's a great kids' movie, but it holds up very well for adults in the audience too.
TLDR; Watch The Lego Movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Edge of Tomorrow, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Birdman; throw Transformers and Lucy in a fire, jump up and down on top of them, and then piss on them to put them out, and do whatever you want with the other ones on the list.
What did you watch this year? Anything you particularly loved/hated?