I usually do three separate list every year, but this year I'm consolidating it into one list. One list takes long enough. I've also included a few non-scifi films in my best and worst list this year. Please feel free to add some of your own or disagree with me! First lets start with the meat of the best and worst list...the best movies of the year (in my humble opinion). The films have a scifi or fantasy focus, but there are a few non-scifi/fantasy films on the list this too. If you scroll further down you'll get to the fluff. Let's start with the best of the best.
A newly married couple Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadway) go into the woods for a romantic getaway... Hmmm, that never ends well. It all goes downhill when Bea suddenly disappears one night and wakes up naked in the woods. The Bea that returns from the woods is not the same woman he married. It's a macabre take on 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers.' Overall, an entertaining little horror flick.This film was the biggest creepshow I've seen all year. 'The Babadook' is a truly frightening film about a recently widowed single mom, Amelia (Essie Davis), trying to cope with her troubled young son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). The question of course becomes what is it that's actually troubling her son? The film is more than just a traditional boogeyman creature feature, as it explores some heavy themes like the difficulties of motherhood, but ultimately it's about a mother's love of her son.
'Only Lovers Left Alive' is one of those perfect imperfect films. It's not so much about the construction of the film (because there are some plot holes), but it's about the emotion that the film conveys. Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) are two vampires who have been married for centuries. Whereas Eve is bright and warm, Adam is dreary and suicidal. I read somewhere that Adam was originally supposed to be played by Michael Fassbender, who is a good actor, but would not have been as well suited for the role. Now that I think of it, I think Hiddles is better suited for everything. Yes, I'm biased.
'Captain America' is a fun film to watch. It's not meant to win awards or accolades. It's just there for the sake of being there. I'm more of a Superman fan than a Captain America fan, but Chris Evans does a great job as Captain America. He has just enough nuance to make the character and the film entertaining. In hands of another actor, this role could go so wrong.
Scarlett Johansson plays a detached alien succubus in 'Under the Skin.' It's one of those art house films similar to 'Only Lovers Left Alive,' in which the emotion and the atmosphere of the film carries it. I haven't read the book, but I've seen enough about it to wish that the film gave a little more background on her origins and her mission. There are a few disturbing bits throughout, but overall a very brave film with an exquisite performance by Scarlett Johansson.
'Belle' was one of those rare historical films that had just the perfect tone of sweetness and authenticity. It also touches on an historical figure that has not yet been explored in film, about a mixed race aristocrat in 18th century England. I really enjoyed this movie. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is such a wonderful actress. I really hope she receives more work in Hollywood.
'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' was another sequel that was better than the original. I'm not a James Franco fan, so perhaps his absence improved things for me. I don't know. The good thing is that the filmmakers were able to focus on the storyline instead of focusing on a particular actor, excluding Andy Serkis of course. Per usual, Serkis is a master physical actor and does a fantastic job here.
Wow, 'Edge of Tomorrow' really surprised me. Perhaps it's because I went in not expecting too much. I'm not sure why the powers that be unwisely decided to change the title to the boring "Edge of Tomorrow" instead of keeping the book title "All You Need is Kill?" What a provocative title that would have been. I think the marketing and title change...and perhaps the casting of Tom Cruise fighting aliens again caused the film to do poorly at the box office. There's no other reason I can surmise because 'Edge of Tomorrow' is a great little film. It's funny, thrilling, and well acted.
What can be said about this movie that hasn't already been said. 'Gone Girl' is an excellent film based on an excellent book. It's one of those few films that stays very true to its source material. Likewise, the cast is incredible and the writing is spot on. The only negative I would give the film was that it felt a little cold at times, but David Fincher got a lot of things right in this film. The material was definitely meant for a Fincher treatment. In the wrong hands this film could have been very bad.
'Nightcrawler' definitely deserves a spot on the list this year. It was very well written and precisely crafted. I wrote a full review here. Loved, loved this film. First time director Dan Gilroy nailed it. Jake Gyllenhall and Rene Russo are on a whole new level in this film.
The reason I chose 'Snowpiercer' is because my husband and I were talking about this film for days after we saw it. Very few films have that affect on us. I wouldn't say we loved the film enough to want to watch it over and over again, but it had such a refreshing concept and a fantastic cast. The metaphors in this film are crazy good. Sometimes people forget just how good of an actor Chris Evans is because he plays Captain America. Evans is truly a gifted actor and he brings great depth of emotion to this role. Lest we forget the wonderful supporting cast: Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Ed Harris. The list goes on and on. This was the must see film of 2014.
'Snowpiercer' is set in the distant future. Humanity has endured a manmade ice age, which has forced people to live on a speeding train in constant travel around the earth. The train develops its own distinct ecosystem with class systems and all. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.
'Interstellar' was a decent movie, but it had some serious problems. One of which was the ending, but some of the quotes were sweet, but some made no sense, like this one:
"We're not meant to save earth, we're meant to leave it."So it's less difficult to travel through a wormhole and colonize a planet near a blackhole or a frozen world with frozen clouds than to try to save your own planet? Really? Yeah, I don't think so. If worse came to worse, I would think the colonization of Mars would be much easier.
'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' was probably one of the few sequels that was better than the original film. It was fun, cheeky, and over the top, but well constructed. Chris Evans hams it up as Captain America, but he does a really great job bringing Captain America down to earth. ScarJo (Black Widow) and Samuel L. (Nic Fury) are equally wonderful in supporting roles.
Honorable mention: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' should also be recognized as just missing the cut. 'Guardians' was just so mindlessly entertaining. I loved it.
'Godzilla' literally made my husband fall asleep. The first time I saw it, I enjoyed it. Admittedly it was slow moving at times, but I thought it was ok. Then I saw it a second time and oh boy was I bored. Yes, I was watching it a second time, but I rewatch a lot of movies and I'm not necessarily bored with them.
There were so many bad movie posters this year, but if I was to pick a worst of the worst they both would include Kevin Costner. Costner starred in two stinkers this year, including 'Draft Day' and '3 Days to Kill.' I can't speak to 'Draft Day,' but I did see most of '3 Days to Kill' on Netflix. At some point I just had to turn it off because it was so bad. Both Costner posters are basically glamour shots. Seriously, shell out a few bucks and hire a graphic designer.
It's rare that a trailer makes me tear up, but the trailer for 'Interstellar' did. Whoever Christopher Nolan gets to work on his trailers deserves their own Oscar because they literally spun yarn into gold. 'Interstellar' was not nearly as good as it was portrayed as in the trailer.
'Mad Max: Fury Road' - Am I the only one who doesn't think killing small animals is entertaining? That's our first introduction to the new Mad Max. Mad Max steps on a small lizard just for fun. Yes, we get it Charlize Theron looks cool, but overall the rest of the film looks like a CGI nightmare. No thanks...at least not from the trailer. Edit: Boy was I wrong. Best film of 2015. Hands down. I like being wrong. A lot of the stunts were physical stunts, not CGI. Yes, George Miller is just that good.
'Exodus: Gods and Kings' - Bring on the bronzer and the eye-liner y'all. Seriously Pharaoh (Joel Edgerton) looks like a glam rocker from the 1970s. Perfect for the film 'Velvet Goldmine,' not so great for 'Exodus.' What the heck was Ridley Scott thinking? Just when I think Ridley has got his grove back with 'Prometheus,' he goes on to direct an awful movie like 'The Counselor' and now 'Exodus.' It's so frustrating. The casting of course has been controversial. Admittedly, the casting of some of the other roles leaves something to be desired.
But the biggest problem with 'Exodus' isn't the casting, it's that Scott is aiming for hollywood epic, but ends up with a CGI monstrosity of men running around in skirts. 'Exodus' doesn't do anything new or interesting to the biblical film genre. At least Darren Aronofsky's 'Noah' was weird and quirky. 'Exodus' also has a touch of schizophrenia. It goes back and forth between skepticism and religiousity. Is Moses looking at a burning bush or is he hallucinating from a head injury? Was the Red Sea parted by God or a massive tsunami? It just makes no sense. Also, what happened to the line, "let my people go?" I was seriously waiting for that line.
Also, if you are really pretty in order to win an Oscar you have to "ugly" yourself up a bit...(For example, Charlize Theron in 'Monster,' Halle Berry, 'Monster's Ball,' or Nicole Kidman in 'The Hours'). Good looking male actors seem to have an equally hard time. I still can't believe Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio haven't won an Oscar. ScarJo is truly one of the best actresses of her generation and one of the hardest working. So for that Ms. Johansson I salute you.
Honorable mentions: I really loved Emily Blunt's role in 'Edge of Tomorrow' and Chris Evans in 'Snowpiercer.' Both of them did such sensational jobs in their respective roles.
As I said earlier, 'Fury' had a few bright spots, but was not without serious flaws one of which was the sheer number of war movie cliches.
'Interstellar' was by far the biggest disappointment I had all year. I went into the film with exceedingly high hopes. Perhaps that was part of the problem. One of the big disappointments for me was the launch or lack thereof. I was so looking forward to seeing the launch in the film, but there wasn't one. Seriously the launch was glazed over. I don't even remember them showing the same launch footage from the trailer. What the heck? Why wouldn't Nolan show perhaps one of the most exciting scenes in the film? Just another thing about 'Interstellar' that made no sense.I'm sorry but the worst of the worst this year aren't even worth the time it would take me to pull together gifs or make graphics. I wanted to spend most of my time discussing films worthy of discussion. The films on the worst list are just that...the worst of the worst...as in should not have been made.
'Ouija' and 'Paranormal Activity 5: The Marked Ones' - Please stop making these demony non-sensical horror films. It gives frightfully wonderful films like 'The Conjuring,' 'Insidious,' and most recently 'The Babadook,' a bad name.
'If I Stay' - Chloe Moretz is very young, so I'm hoping that as she gets older she gets better at choosing her roles. So far she's been in quite a few stinkers, 'If I Stay' is just the latest. Last year's 'Carrie' remake was bad. 'If I Stay' is worse.
'Winter's Tale' - Just crap piled on top of crap. I really hope that Jessica Brown Findlay (formerly Lady Sybil of 'Downton Abby') didn't let the writers kill her off on 'Downton' for this crap? This is one of the worst films I've ever seen. Colin Farrell continues his descent into Nicolas Cage territory.
'Transcendence' - Please, please, please. Someone stop Johnny Depp from making movies for a while. Sometimes people need to sober up or go on vacation or perhaps actually read the scripts before they accept them. Either of the three would work. I really don't know if Johnny Depp is reading these scripts before he starts work on these films. I really wonder.
'I, Frankenstein' - What the heck happened to Aaron Eckhart? Why is he in movies about a super human/modern Frankenstein? The first clue was the January release.
'Vampire Academy' - Please no more high school teen vampire dramas. Doesn't the genre need a rest? Give us at least a decade.
'Expendables 3' - The first one was a novel concept. Note to Hollywood producers - there is a such a thing as too much of a good thing or too much of a bad thing.
'Transformer's Age of Extinction' - UNCLE. No more. Please stop. The first one was tolerable. The last few are just obnoxious and unnecessary. Again, please stop.
The Worst Movie of the Year goes to: 'Deliver Us From Evil' - Yet another non-sensical demony film. That in of itself wouldn't have placed this film on the bottom of my list. What places it on my list is that I hate movies that harm children or animals just for the sake of harming them. I'm just so sick of it. Of course we know that bad things happen to children and animals, just like bad things happen to adults, but why do horror films have to always play to the lowest denominator, by continually featuring brutality towards animals and children just to shock us? 'Deliver Us From Evil' is that movie. I actually read the book it was based on ("Beware the Night"), and no where in the book were the scenes in the film depicted in the book. No where. So my conclusion is that the script writers added it for shock value. So for that reason, you get a big fat 0 from me. Eric Bana you should know better. Boo!