Best of Lists Popgeekery Smugglivus

Smugglivus 2014: Thea’s Best of the Rest (Movies, TV, etc)

Clearly, both Ana and Thea are bananas, and in addition to reading and reviewing obscene amounts of books, we also obsess over multiple television shows, movies, video games, and all other manner of geekery. With that in mind, we needed to create ANOTHER list (we are list makers, yes we are) for our end of the year celebration. We give you our very own BEST OF THE REST (everything that isn’t a book).

I apologize in advance for the length of this post.

Best Movies of 2014

Last year, I watched far more films than I did television (well, I’ll get to tv in a second). I love movies, especially of the speculative fiction/fantasy/scifi/horror variety – and 2014 was a great year for films of that nature.

Here’s my list of favorite films that came out last year, in no particular order.

10. Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy

Yes, yes, everyone has raved about this movie (or, you know, ranted about it). But I really, throughly enjoyed it because: it’s hilarious, it’s unexpected for Marvel, it features a sick soundtrack (that I listen to all the time, especially when running), and it’s amazing to see director James Gunn get his due. (In fact, immediately after watching Guardians, I went home and watched Slither because Gunn’s darkly comedic style and sense of timing are fantastic in both films. Hell. YES.) Is it a perfect movie? No. But it’s damn entertaining, and I loved it.

9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain-America-The-Winter-Soldier-2014

Speaking of Marvel, surprisingly it is Captain America who has become my favorite Avenger. The Winter Soldier was a fantastic film that changed everything we know about S.H.I.E.L.D., that gives Natalia Alianovna/Natasha Romanoff/The Black Widow some much needed screentime, that develops and grounds poor Steve Rogers in the new century as he struggles with the legacy of Hydra. Also: FALCON! BUCKY!!!!

8. X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men Days of Future Past

Yes, yes, I know that this is probably taboo. I understand why many people were outraged by the decision to take Kitty Pryde’s story and turn it into a Wolverine story – and I despise the fact that female superheroes are so quickly and easily marginalized in big blockbusters year after year. But I truly loved X-Men: Days of Future Past, despite its many flaws, because it’s a very clever reboot, featuring some amazing actors being amazing X-Men. Also, I firmly believe this to be Mystique’s film, not Wolverine’s, and everything she does and chooses is her own decision – an empowering, not disenfranchising, message in my mind.

7. Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer

Chris Evans, on the list twice! Snowpiercer is a bizarre dream of a post-apocalyptic dystopian science fiction yarn. The world is frozen, and its only survivors are aboard a perpetual-motion engine powered train that travels the globe endlessly – the eponymous Snowpiercer. Aboard the train, humans are split into the rich (at the head of the train) and the poor (at the end of the train) – until an uprising of the tail section, led by Evans’s Curtis Everett. Lots of really weird, bloody, fantastic stuff ensues. Bong Joon-ho’s directing is, per usual, made of awesome.

6. Particle Fever

Particle Fever

I always like to include at least one documentary on my list of favorite films of the year, and the 2014 spot goes to Particle Fever. The honest-to-goodness thrilling account of six brilliant scientists at the launch of the Large Hadron Collider, Particle Fever is literally having a front seat to one of the most important, game changing scientific discoveries of the era.

5. Mockingjay Part 1

Mockingjay Part 1

Damn, this movie is bleak. Of the original trilogy, Mockingjay was my least favorite book. Not because of its bleakness, which I appreciate thoroughly (and actually think Suzanne Collins does a heartbreakingly beautiful job of showing the true human cost of revolution), but because the book, like its predecessors, lacks subtlety, nuance, and depth – particularly where Katniss is concerned. In Mockingjay Part 1 the film, the bleakness is front and center – my heart breaks thinking of that last scene with a painfully skinny Joanna and Peeta and broken Katniss – but it is the depth of emotion that the filmmakers, the script, and most importantly, that Jennifer Lawrence brings to Katniss that make this movie soar. I am terrified, but eager, for the last triumphant volume in this film quartet.

4. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The reboot of the Planet of the Apes series isn’t really necessary, but so far I have thoroughly loved every moment of both Rise an Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. In this sequel, humans has been pretty much wiped out thanks to a mutated flu virus, and super-intelligent apes have formed their own society. Naturally, there is drama between the vestigial human clans and Caesar’s ape clans. War is inevitable.

3. The Edge of Tomorrow

Edge of Tomorrow

I wasn’t expecting much from this movie when I first saw the previews – to me, it looked like big damn hero Tom Cruise saves the world in a smaller version of Pacific Rim meets Groundhog Day. That’s not entirely untrue, but The Edge of Tomorrow (based on the awesome book and manga All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka) is so much more than just another forgettable action flick. It’s funny as well as clever, the special effects are pretty awesome, and truly the hero of the piece is Emily Blunt’s tough-as-nails Rita Vrataski, aka the Angel of Verdun, aka the Full Metal Bitch. I love the restraint and lack of sentimentality in this film just as much as I loved the action. Even if the ending doesn’t quite make sense, I very much loved this movie.

2. John Wick

John Wick

KEANU IS BACK! And he’s one angry, ridiculous, over-the-top badass former hitman with an axe to grind with that guy who plays Theon Greyjoy. This film is an unapologetic, hyper-attuned revenge vendetta, complete with awesome one-liners, a multitude of bullets and innovative weapons, and a super-high body count. This is not a movie for everyone, but if you want a Great Action Film that holds your attention from beginning to end, with both comedy and badassness in equal measure – John Wick, aka Baba Yaga, is waiting for you.

1. Oculus

Oculus

Last but certainly not least, I cannot end a best films of the year list without at least one horror movie. Oculus stars Karen Gillian (aka Amy Pond from Doctor Who) and Katee Sackhoff (aka Kara “Starbuck” Thrace of Battlestar Galactica), who both deliver solid performances in this horror story about a haunted mirror and the death it has bestowed on the family that owns it. While ultimately it is a supernatural horror movie, the tension of memory versus reality and the frayed family dynamic between father and daughter, mother and son, are beautifully, horrifically portrayed. If you only watch one horror movie this year, Oculus should be it.

Notable Mentions:

Because what list of mine could just be limited to 10 picks? I also watched and enjoyed the following films very much this year and whole-heartedly recommend them:

  • The Sacrament – Found footage horror flick of two journalists looking for a missing sister and stumble across a creepyass cult.
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – It’s a flawed movie and there is absolutely no reason for The Hobbit to have been broken out into three films, but some parts of this movie (Legolas being a badass, the charge of Thorin and the dwarves as they join the fray, Bilbo and his return to the Shire) made me remember how much I love the Lord of the Rings films…and that magic, no matter how fleeting, is always worth it.
  • Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones – Yes, this series is entirely unnecessary and bloated and the last two movies weren’t very good. But I was very pleasantly surprised by this latest installment, which explores other lives touched by the coven who promise firstborn children to the devil.

Best TV Shows of 2014

This year, I did not watch as much TV as I would have liked – the result of a combination of time issues and major life changes in 2014. That said, there was one show that I (re)discovered, devoured, and rewatched multiple times this year and thus I choose to dedicate my entire TV section to it..

The Clone Wars, the animated series

The Clone Wars

The animated series originally aired in five seasons from 2008 through 2013. Though the series was effectively canceled, in March of 2014 the entire series was distributed via Netflix – including the previously unaired sixth and final season of the show. I had dabbled in some Clone Wars episodes in years prior, but never had watched the series from beginning to end or in any official order. (Side note: Star Wars officially canonized the series earlier this year and put up a chronological viewing order, for the interested!)

So, in 2014, I watched all six seasons of The Clone Wars in order. And then I watched it again. And then I watched it again.

This is the series I had so desperately been looking for. It is a powerful counterpoint to the not-so-great prequel era of Star Wars. It gives Anakin Skywalker depth as a character (I prefer animated Anakin to any iteration of him in any of the films), and it highlights the brotherly, fatherly relationship between him and Obi Wan perfectly.

Anakin and Obi-Wan Clone Wars

It gives Star Wars a female presence with Ahsoka Tano, a padawan who learns the ways of the force from her Jedi masters, but also learns that there is corruption and misdirection at the heart of even her beloved Jedi council. Like her ill-fated master Anakin, Ahsoka learns to question instead of blindly follow authority – though this eventually leads to her own separation from the Jedi Order.

Ahsoka and Barris

It introduces new viewers to Asajj Ventress – former Sith Apprentice to Count Dooku and new bounty hunter with a conscience in one of the best freakin’ character arcs ever. It also shows fans women like Jedi Master Luminara Unduli and her padawan Barriss Offee, tragic characters with their own reactions to the failures of the Jedi order and their role in the ongoing violence of war.

Asajj Ventress

It gives the politics of war – Republic versus Separatist – actual depth and nuance, showing both sides of the battle in a way that does not demonize or judge. It gives Padme Amidala a voice of her own, showing her as a capable, intelligent, political figure and leader – the type of woman her daughter Leia would have looked up to and would unconsciously emulate in years to come. It also introduces viewers to Duchess Satine of Mandalore, the pacifist leader of a neutral system that would become a hotbed territory for Separatist foes and radical elements like the Death Watch.

Satine and Obi Wan Clone Wars

It gives the Clone Troopers themselves a voice, as they question their birth, breeding, and training. It shows rebellion from within the ranks of soldiers, just as it shows the loyalty of other who truly believe in the cause for which they have been created.

Fives and Rex Clone Wars

It questions the vital issues of choice, of slavery, of oppression and fear. It exposes the corruption and sickness at the heart of the Republic, just as it explores the hope and balance that could (and will) eventually win the war between dark and light.

I count The Clone Wars among the best shows I have ever had the pleasure of watching. And I urge everyone – Star Wars veterans and new fans alike – to watch it.

Ahsoka Clone Wars

SO that’s it! My favorite Movies and TV shows of 2014. Here’s to an equally exciting 2015!

4 Comments

  • Paul (@princejvstin)
    January 2, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    One of the players in my RPG was so taken by the image of the Angel of Verdun in Edge of Tomorrow as to use her as the model for her roleplaying character in my campaign. Your .jpg reminded me of that. 🙂

  • Pam Blome
    January 2, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    If you haven’t watched Orphan Black, you have missed a fantastic show. It starts its 3rd season this spring…. and should be available at the usual web locations.

  • BDG
    January 2, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    Out of curiosity have you’ve seen/heard of the Babadook? Personally I think it’s one of the best horror movies in years. It really ties together it’s central themes and often straddles the line between supernatural and mental breakdown. It’s so about the relationship between a mother and her child. I highly recommend it.

  • Thea
    January 6, 2015 at 9:45 am

    Paul – That is awesome! Emily Blunt does an amazing job in the film, and I love the idea of creating a character inspired by Rita for an RPG.

    Pam – Yes! I have seen (and love) Orphan Black. I dropped off about 1/2 through season 2, but only because of lack of time. I need to catch up before season 3 commences!

    BDG – It is on my to-watch list, and I just saw it was added to VOD last week! I’ve heard wonderful things about it, and I’m very interested to see how the film tackles the tension between supernatural menace/mental illness. Thank you for the rec!

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