Every year to start off July I look at my five favorite movies of the year so far. This year has been filled with surprises and a few unfortunate letdowns. What’s really taken me by surprise are the number of high-quality blockbusters. We have had some multimillion dollar stinkers, but there have been several big-budget movies that have been great. Obviously there are tons of movie still on the 2014 calendar so there is no promise that any of these films will make my end of the year ‘Best of’ list. But so far all of these have impressed me enough to be called my favorites of 2014 (so far).
#5 – “The Lego Movie”
I can’t believe I’m putting this ahead of “Edge of Tomorrow”, a movie I really loved. But what can I say? “The Lego Movie is…well AWESOME. Anyone who frequently reads my stuff knows that I am probably one of the pickiest people when it comes to animation. It takes a lot for an animated feature to win me over. “The Lego Movie” won me over big time. Not only is it the best animated film I’ve seen in the past few years, it is also one of the best comedies. The script from Phil Lord and Christopher Miller is smart, sweet, and downright hilarious at times. Then there is the entire look of the film. I was amazed at how incredible the characters and the landscapes looked. There is also tons of hidden humor, inside gags, and an emotional payoff that never felt lame or manipulative. This was a great film and all I can say is “Everything is Awesome”!
#4 – “X-Men: Days of Future Past”
I was excited for this film the moment I heard it was coming, but I was also a bit skeptical. The joining of all of the major X-Men cast members from the past series to the prequel-boot seemed a bit gimmicky and it had the potential to fall flat. I’m glad the returning Bryan Singer didn’t allow that to happen. In fact, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” is the best X-Men film since the first installment way back in 2000. A very smart and clever story anchor this time-jumping superhero film. It isn’t wall-to-wall action, but it builds upon some great character interactions and a compelling central hook. It also has a clear focus which kept it from being messy and convoluted. There are also some great performances particularly from McAvoy and Fassbender. For me this film reinvigorated the X-Men franchise and I hope the next film can do the same.
#3 – “Godzilla”
I think ‘nostalgia’ is going to play a big part in the remainder of this list. It is definitely one of the things that really sold me on “Godzilla”. I had absolutely no expectations for this film whatsoever, but what I found was a movie that beautifully hearkened back to the original Godzilla and so many of the other creature features of the 1950s. I liked how every character, regardless of the star who portrayed them, worked to serve the greater plot. I liked how the movie intentionally holds back and doesn’t take the modern day approach of barraging our senses. I liked how some of the characters are written as though they were plucked right out of the 1950s. There was so much about “Godzilla” that took me surprise. Many of the complaints some have shared I consider strengths, and I appreciate the approach from director Gareth Edwards. What a fun surprise.
#2 – “The Monuments Men”
I know I may receive some flack for this one but so be it. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve went against the majority. I loved “The Monuments Men”. I understand that many didn’t go for what director George Clooney was doing. I thought it was fantastic. He took a truly remarkable story and told it in the style of the buddy war movies of the late 1960s and early 1970s. That nostalgic approach was easy for me to warm up to. Even the end credits and Alexandre Desplat’s score hearkens back to those old films. I’ve watched “The Monuments Men” twice and my enthusiasm for the film hasn’t waned. I know many people wanted a different movie than what Clooney crafted and I certainly respect that. But I loved the cast, loved the remarkable true story, and I loved how it took me back to movies from a different time.
#1 – “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
Even with all of my excitement and incredibly high expectations for this film, I was still caught off guard by how much I love this movie. In fact I went back to watch it again expecting to see my enthusiasm tempered. It definitely was not. I thought this was fantastic from start to finish. It succeeded in capturing the characteristics and nuances of the comic book character blueprints while telling a story that opened up the characters, was filled with nostalgia, and brought back memories of old-school action films. Every detail, every performance, and every plot twist worked for me on some level. And the Winter Soldier himself couldn’t be any better. I’m a huge fan of the Captain America comics, but even with my critical eye I had an absolute blast.
I cannot believe that this list is so blockbuster heavy, but that is the kind of year it has been. The big budget pictures have really surprised. Now the question is how will they hold up against the rest of 2014’s movies we have ahead of us. Time will tell but it has been a surprising year so far.