Monday, December 22, 2014

Best and Worst Movies of 2014



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. 

'Fury' was by no means my favorite film this year, but it had a few bright spots. This quote was one of them. 
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'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. 
There are so very films with perfect casting, but 'Gone Girl' was one of them. Whether you loved her character or hated her character, Rosamund Pike was flawless as "Amazing Amy." David Fincher even went as far as to acknowledge that one of the reasons he casted Pike was because like her character she too was an only child who had spent her childhood surrounded by adults. Likewise Ben Affleck was a perfect casting choice as the "husband you wanted to punch" from the book. Amazingly Affleck managed to bring a sense of humanity to the character and caused viewers to feel empathy for him, much more so than the character in the book. So Kudos to Fincher, Pike, and Affleck. 'Gone Girl' was a job well done. 
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'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. 
'Lucy' was not a film without flaws. The whole "we only use 10% of our brains" was the first major flaw, because it's just so grossly inaccurate, but just go with it. ScarJo and Luc Besson take us for a wonderful ride. It's also not your typical Americanized blockbuster. 'Lucy' had a very European feel to it, similar to Besson's other films (La Femme Nikita and The Fifth Element). So it was a mindless popcorn flick, but with lots of flair. 
Honorable mentions: 'John Wick,' 'Non-Stop,' 'RoboCop,' 'Purge: Anarchy,' and 'Hercules.'
'Dracula Untold' was just so bad. It started out ok, but it quickly descended into absolute madness. I wanted so badly to like this film because I'm a Luke Evans fan, but alas, I just couldn't. The film glossed over the most interesting aspect of Dracula's creation and attempts unsuccessfully to make Dracula into a sympathetic heroic figure just trying to save his wife and son. Oh...come...on.

Dishonorable mentions: 'Divergent,' 'The Signal,' 'Monuments Men,' 'The Giver,' 'Godzilla,' 'X-Men: Days of Future Past,' 'As Above, So Below,' 'Exodus: Gods and Kings,' and  'Interstellar.'
Whomever did the 'Nightcrawler' posters is an incredible artist. The pumping 80's feel of this poster makes me want to see this film, which I assume is what the poster is supposed to do. This poster is just delicious. 
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. 
Honorable mentions: Both 'Gone Girl' and 'Godzilla' also had incredible trailers. Out of the three films, only 'Gone Girl' lived up to its hype.
'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.
Via (I gotta give a shout out for this gif set to Sati over at Cinematic Corner!)
'Enemy' was the kind of film that I may not be smart enough to understand. It has dopplegangers, spiders, and more spiders. I'm still super confused.

'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. 
Putting aside political correctness for a moment, I really don't care about the ethnicity of an actor, because ultimately people are people. There's one race of people--human...with a smidge of Neanderthal in our DNA of course. I just didn't think that Christian Bale was well cast as Moses. Bale was a great Batman, but he doesn't have warm fuzziness to be an effective Moses. However, I can understand some of the criticism because Sigourney WeaverAaron Paul, and Joel Edgerton don't exactly scream ancient Egyptian to me. Mind you Egypt, like the United States, was a melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities, but the story of Moses is set before the Ptolemys, so yes the casting is a little odd. I will say I loved Yul Brenner as Pharaoh in the 50's version of 'Moses,' but Joel Edgerton is no Yul Brenner. Way, way too much glitter and bronzer.

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.


If you haven't seen the ending of 'Interstellar' then I don't want to spoil it for you. I will only say one word "tesseract." The tesseract was the dumbest thing I've seen all year. I still cant believe an actual physicist signed off on this film. You can see my full review here. I'm just so sick of writers using black holes as easy plot points. Geez, I felt like I was watching the 1979 Disney film 'Black Hole.'
Jake Gyllenhaal is on the list again for 'Nightcrawler.' 'Nightcrawler' is one of Gyllenhaal's best performances in years. His facial expressions almost look non-human. His transformation into petty thief/sociopath Lou Bloom is complete. You can see more about his role in 'Nightcrawler' here
This was a really close call between Pike and Johansson. Ultimately, it goes to Rosamund Pike because of the transformations that she goes through in 'Gone Girl.' Pike is simply incredible as Amy. Hands down (in my opinion) the best female performance of the year. Rosamund was phenomenal in this role and will hopefully win something! 
As I said it was a toss up between Johansson and Pike because Scarlett Johansson had one heck of a year. She had three huge hits in 2014 and had a baby, but Johansson's performance in 'Under the Skin' is by far my favorite performance of hers this year. Johansson's performance in 'Under the Skin' is just brilliant and definitely award worthy. It's unfortunate, but there seems to be a type of reverse discrimination with attractive actors. The prettier you are the more difficult it is for you to get taken seriously during award season. 

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.  
'Edge of Tomorrow' was such a pleasant surprise. It was a fantastic scifi film. I'm not sure why it didn't do better at the box office, if only due to the casting of Tom Cruise. I also think the marketing of the film left much to be desired. The powers that be seemed to catch on to this a little late in the game when they attempted to change the name of the film to "Live, Die, Repeat," once it had already gone to rental. Yeah too little too late. 
'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!

34 comments:

  1. Depp does need a vacation.
    No Guardians of the Galaxy? That's my number one pick for the year. Winter Soldier is right behind it.
    After seeing Godzilla again, I still really dug it. I like the director and his style. Although I'm sure there will be more Godzilla in the second one.
    And I guess I just didn't get the Babadook.

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    1. Alex-- You were so right! 'Guardians of the Galaxy' should have been in my honorable mentions. I really did like that film.

      I liked the fact that the director didn't show Godzilla too much, but I do wish they had a better storyline with better (human) characters. They didn't use Cranston enough.

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  2. Really great post here! Glad to see The Babadook make your top 10, because it surprised me in the best way possible! Also in complete agreement with your picks for best actor and actress...Pike's transformation throughout Gone Girl was unreal :)

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    1. Thank you!! Yes, it was very scary imo. Pike just nailed it. Hands down!

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  3. Still need to see quite a few of these. Of the 5 I've seen on your 'best' list I really like four of them (Apes, Under the Skin, Edge of Tomorrow, Winter Soldier), hate the other (Only Lovers Left Alive). I'll be watching Belle this week, and hopefully I'll get to sneak in Gone Girl, as well. After those two, I'm most looking forward to seeing The Babadook.

    On your worst list, I've only seen Vampire Academy, Transformers, and The Marked Ones. Agreed, they are all rotten. I do have Transcendence near the TV waiting for me to watch, though. Not in a rush. I'll definitely be seeing Expendables 3, too. The 2nd was so bad it's awesome. I'm hoping for a similar experience this time around. I would certainly add Godzilla to this group. It was so so bad. Ugh.

    Great post. Love all the gifs.

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    1. Yes, I could see why "Only Lovers Left Alive" would be on a few hate lists. It was one of those films that people either loved or hated.

      I really liked Belle. It was a sweet movie. I think you're going to really like Babadook. That one surprised me. I actually liked Expendables 2 ok, but the 3rd one was just vanity.

      Thanks!!

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  4. Love these lists!

    Gone Girl! Under the Skin! Currently, they are my top two of the year. I'm with you on the perfectness of the casting for Gone Girl. Why is that not being recognized for the ensemble? It's probably the best of the year.

    I feel bad for Winter's Tale. It was such a disappointing film, but the novel is SO GOOD...like, possibly my favorite of all time!

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    1. Oh thank you!! Yes I loved 'Gone Girl.' Fincher did such an amazing job with the cast. I haven't seen a cast match the source material that well before.

      Yes, what were the creators of 'Winter's Tale' thinking? Oy. I haven't read the novel so I may need to read it to understand what the heck that movie was about.

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    2. Yes, the book makes more sense...even though it oddly leaves it more ambiguous. The film tries too hard to fit it in a box, which limits the impact. The book understands that leaving open ended answers actually answers so much.

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    3. I have been very curious about that book. If you recommend it I will have to read it. I just saw the Maze Runner, so I'm still trying to figure out the reasons for the maze in that film. I may have to read that book as well.

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  5. We currently have the same #1 film, though I want to check out a few more before finalizing my list. It's refreshing to see well-made blockbusters like Captain America and Edge of Tomorrow on your list. I'm with your husband on being really bored by Godzilla. I expect it would play better in the theater, but it didn't translate at home. Nice job!

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    1. Ha Dan! We have good taste. Yes, my husband literally started snoring. That's when I knew it was boring. Thanks!!

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  6. Nice list! Thankfully I haven't seen anything on your worst list. I skipped all of those. I cannot accurately describe how perfect Gyllenhaal and Pike were in their respected roles. I just love them so much.

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    1. Thanks! Ha, yes it's fortunate you haven't seen some of these on the worst list. I wish I hadn't seen them either. I need to be more discriminating! Loved Pike and Gyllenhaal this year.

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  7. Okay I agree with you plenty, you have some solid points and my sleeper film... well the one I fell asleep was Transformers... boring, stupid and I just didn't care. I want to see most of your highlighted films and want to stay far away from your don'ts...

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    1. Ha, yes. Stay away from the ones on the worst list. They were the worst of the worst!!

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    2. seen Gone Girl... wow just wow. [follow-up]

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  8. Excellent list! I'm waiting with mine until I see couple of movies, especially Whiplash and Foxcatcher. Ros is my win too, Jake is currently a tie with Ruffalo in Begin Again. Love your choice for the dumbest moment, I was seriously shocked when it happened. i couldn't believe someone actually wrote it, greenlit it and shot it.

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    1. Hi Sati! Thank you!! I can't wait for yours. Your list is always so epic. I love it. I haven't seen Whiplash or Foxcatcher or Birdman. I probably should have waited a few more weeks. I just loved Gyllenhaal in 'NIghtcrawler,' but I agree Mark was fantastic in Begin Again. He was so endearing.

      Yes, that moment in 'Interstellar' completely ruined the movie for me! I think this is something that you and I are in 100% agreement on!!

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  9. Entertaining read! I really liked Nightcrawler, Gone Girl, Under the Skin, and Snowpiercer from your top 10. Saw The Babadook this week and that's a great little horror movie, I wonder if Babadook story is purely fictional or actually was based on something. I've never heard of Honeymoon(your #11), sounds good! Only Lovers Left Alive had great potential, but I found it tedious, maybe a rewatch is required. like with other Jarmusch films.
    The Nightcrawler poster is quite mysterious, agree does make you want to see this film. There were a number of visually inventive posters this year, did you see the top 20 posters The Playlist compiled? http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/the-20-best-movie-posters-of-2014-20141215

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    1. Oh thank you! I do wonder that too. Since the 'Conjuring' was supposedly based on true events. 'Only Lovers Left Alive' definitely felt tedious at times. But overall I felt like the atmosphere and the emotion of the film carried it.

      Thanks for the link. I will check out the posters. I really feel like movie posters are an artform...or at least it should be.

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  10. Great stuff here! I'm doing a Best/Worst list too and might borrow some of your categories here :D YAY, I'm so thrilled to see. BELLE and The Winter Soldier on your Best List, they'd definitely make mine too. Hey I'm more of a Superman fan than a Captain America fan too, but I REALLY love the two CA movies and Evans definitely owned his role. Yep, the last Transformers and Winter's Tale would make my worst too, absolutely awful!!

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    1. Hi there! Feel free to borrow whatever categories you'd like. I'd love to see your choices!

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  11. Great list! I agree that Rosamund Pike's performance in Gone Girl was wonderful.

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    1. Hi Irene! Thank you for your comment. I really loved Pike's performance too. She is a wonderful actress.

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  12. A great list Ms. Mariah. I rented Belle, so I'll check it out based on your recommendation. I enjoyed "Interstellar" even with the plot holes, but that quote is inane.

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    1. Ha, hi Maurice! Thanks for the comment! Yes, I really loved 'Belle.' I think you'll really enjoy it. 'interstellar' was hit and miss for me. I liked the beginning the best.

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  13. Wow. What a masterful coverage of the year in film. I always enjoy the blog because you cover films that have not yet been released in Europe and you're a good weather vane as to if a film is worth viewing. This is an excellent post. Thank you you and a Happy New Year.

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    1. Oh thank you Paul! I hope you had a wonderful New Year!

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  14. This was hilarious! Glad to see Fury's quote in there, I agree that the movie had its ups and downs. And I'm happy that someone else found that blackhole scene ridiculous, it completely blew the whole thing for me. And then the "love" thing, baaahh.

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    1. Hi Sofia thanks! I still liked the movie ok, but that scene kinda ruined the movie for me.

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  15. So much to write about haha.
    Very happy to see Gyllenhaal and Pike make your list.
    I agree Interstellar definitely had some bad dialogue, I mean wow.

    Edge of Tomorrow was a big surprise for me too. I watched it last night and really loved it.

    Unfortunately I wasn't a big fan of The Babadook.

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    1. Hi there! Thanks for the comment. Yes, I really loved some of the films on the list, but 'Interstellar,' definitely had some problems. I can understand what you're saying about The Babadook. It was hit or miss for some people.

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