Disclaimer: Obviously, I can only rate the films I’ve seen. So if a movie isn’t mentioned… I probably haven’t seen it yet. That includes most of the hopefuls for the Oscars, which will only be making their way into the theatres over the next two months or so. Chill.
Most Unsettling Film – Nightcrawler
Runner-up: Gone Girl
While Rosamund Pike’s turn in Gone Girl as a scheming, manipulative (but loving in her own unique way) wife would be the obvious pick here, first-time director Dan Gilroy upped the ante when he delivered a movie with a nuanced and horrifyingly haunting screenplay. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a petty thief who discovers the profession of “nightcrawling”, combing the streets of LA at night to shoot footage of accidents and crime to sell to news stations. Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of the sociopathic Bloom makes the movie, his body language and eyes convey the twisted determination of one man’s rise to the top of his profession but also his slow sinking into pure obsession.
Best Superhero Film: Guardians of The Galaxy
Runner-up: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Unsurprisingly, this category is stacked as the superhero business keeps getting bigger. No DC movies here as they didn’t even release one this year. X-Men: Days of Future Past had time travel and awesome action set pieces but the series’ continuing continuity issues (see what I did there?) bog it down. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a solidly made flick, blending 70s style political thriller elements with the action packed thrills of Marvel universe… it was so good that the twist of HYDRA’s agents in S.H.I.E.L.D even managed to breathe second life into TV’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series.
But it’s Guardians of The Galaxy, with the antics of good-hearted doofus Star-Lord, its irrepressible sense of fun, joy and adventure, jokes and… dancing that lead the way. Oh yeah, lots of dancing. Groot, take it away.
Most Endearing: Boyhood
Richard Linklater’s “took 12 years to film” flick AKA the best movie of the year is all about the passage of time and the moments in between: the big things, the life changing events and coming of age rituals… but it’s also very much about the little things that you totally shouldn’t remember about growing up but do. The petty squabbles, the parental issues that you never really understood, the little compliments, the friends you’ve missed as people and life move along… it’s perfect.
Most Hilarious: 22 Jump Street
How do you make a sequel to a movie that didn’t really need a sequel? You make an entire movie mocking that. Hilariously meta, plus the ending credits is the funniest thing I’ve seen all year.
Biggest Mess: The Amazing Spider-Man 2
Runner-ups: Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Sony hack recently revealed Marvel Entertainment President Alan Fine’s comments after reading the script: “I wanted to burn the draft after I read it, never mind thinking about buying the DVD.”
Sounds legit. All our fears from the trailers were realised in the movie: too many villains, an overstuffed plot that makes no sense, killing off Gwen Stacy and hence one of the only good things about the series, Emma Stone, off. Not to mention, the numerous things that make no sense. The stupidity of the New Yorkers in the movie, who seem to stick around and crowd whenever something blows up. How is Gwen Stacy able to suddenly inform Peter Parker that she’s leaving for England later that day? What kind of human being gets a scholarship and leaves immediately? And how is she able to read power grid schematics when she’s a bio-scientist? (Best thing: The power grid is re-activated by a big red button. Well done.) Just a cringe worthy effort all around and now, Spidey needs a reboot again! Well done.
Quick thoughts on the runner-ups:
Sin City 2: Unneeded, timeline is confusing as hell and misogynistic as heck. Yeah, it just unnecessary.
TMNT: A narrative and visual mess. Nothing about this was entertaining except for that one scene in the elevator where they play music with their weapons. Ouch. Awful.
Most Eyeroll Inducing Movie: Vampire Academy
Runner-Up: I, Frankenstein
This young adult adaptation was supposed to a be Twilight meets Mean Girls. They even got the guys behind Mean Girls to do it! You know when you get into a bad movie and you start looking at your watch, wondering how long more? Well, this movie took me all of 3 minutes to start glancing at mine. Even at just 104 minutes, it was way too long… stretched out with ultra lame jokes and predictable plot twists.
As for I, Frankentstein, how do you make a movie with 3D, monsters and make it a complete snoozefest? Answer: Remake Underworld, fill it with forgettable characters, give Frankenstein abs and not give a damn whether anything makes sense or not.
Most Enjoyable: Chef
The little film that could. Jon Favreau’s Chef is about many things. At its core, it’s about a father and son reconnecting. It’s about the impact of social media on instant feedback and reviews. It’s also about a man reigniting his passion for his first love after becoming jaded. But above all, it’s a celebration of food and people’s emotional connection to them. Just check out Favreau making what might be the tastiest looking grilled cheese sandwich ever in the clip. Yum.
Most Underrated Movie: Edge of Tomorrow
People have been vocal in their clamouring for more original fare instead of sequel after sequel. So when an original and innovative movie is out in the theatres… of course, it under performs. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt star in this time-looping war against aliens set in the future. Cruise plays Major William Cage, a cowardly public relations officer who is thrown into the frontlines of war. He inexplicably gains the power to die and relive the events of the war over and over again, becoming a key player in the conflict. It’s gripping, well-acted (Cruise is especially sympathetic and Blunt is a complete badass) and narratively ambitious. Save for the murky ending, director Doug Liman is constantly pulling tricks from his hat to keep it all fresh despite the repeating nature of the plot, keeping it fresh and exciting while still appealing to the masses.
Most Surprising Performance: Shia LaBeouf in Fury
It’s been a hell of a year for Shia LaBeouf. He got caught for plagiarism, become a walking performance art piece and got arrested for being drunk and disorderly at a performance of Cabaret where he spanked Alan Cumming. So it was quite the surprise when David Ayer’s World War II tank movie Fury was released, with Shia playing tank gunner Boyd “Bible” Swan, a religious soldier able to cry on whim and who suffers through the effects of many years out on the battlefield. It’s even better when you learn about what he did to prepare for the role: the day after he got the job, he joined the US National Guard, got baptised (accepted Christ in his heart), tattooed his surrender and became a chaplain’s assistant to Captain Yates for the 41st Infantry. He then spent a month living on a forward operating base, before linking up with his fellow cast members at Fort Irwin. He pulled his tooth out, knifed his face up and then spent days watching horses die. He also didn’t bathe for four months.
Now that’s commitment, Shia.
Best Animated Movie: The LEGO Movie/Runner-Ups: Big Hero 6 and The Boxtrolls
Big Hero 6 was basically the best Disneyfied superhero movie that could be and it gave us Baymax! The Boxtrolls charmed me with its sophisticated sense of humour… but The LEGO Movie wins with its ingenious way of making a movie about a bunch of toys totally relevant. (Sorry Battleship.) Beautifully animated, an all-star voice cast, razor sharp satire that’s always funny, with just enough of a sentimental feel-good family vibe to make it suitable for the whole family, The LEGO Movie stands out as this year’s best animated offering.
And hey, best cinematic representation of Batman ever!