I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t get out to the theater as much as I would like — for reasons including, but not limited to, the fact that the movie ticket prices in NYC don’t help me stick to my budget. However, thanks to VOD and DVD releases, I did manage to catch many of the movies I was excited to see in 2014. It was a fantastic year for Marvel Studios blockbusters, a rather lackluster year for young adult novels-turned-movies, and a particularly good year for Veronica Mars fans.
Although my list may not be comprised of the best movies released in 2014 (many of which I’m guilty of missing), these are my five favorites from the year that I’ll surely be rewatching even through 2015.
Set in a post-apocalyptic future where Earth is an uninhabitable frozen tundra, Joon-Ho Bong’s Snowpiercer follows the lives of humanity’s survivors on a perpetually-moving train. Chris Evans stars as Curtis, a man who has lived in the back of the train that becomes the leader of a rebellion against the more-wealthy front of the train. The film deals with classism and the difficult lengths to which man will go to survive.
For good reason, Snowpiercer became one of the most talked-about films within my circle of friends this summer as well as within the culture of critics and movie fans online. Snowpiercer is brutal and relentless in its take on the post-apocalyptic dystopian genre while also offering a critique on modern politics and society. As a movie, Snowpiercer is fantastic, but is manages to make people think as well, even after leaving the theater — or, for those that caught the movie in VOD release, closing the laptop.
After its cancellation in 2007, the television series Veronica Mars continued to grow a substantial cult following. In fact, the series had so much support that Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas — with help from stars Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, and Ryan Hansen — launched a Kickstarter campaign that helped fund a film continuing the story of the original show. The movie follows titular character Veronica Mars (Bell) as she returns to her hometown in order to help her ex, Logan Echolls (Dohring). It’s a standard murder-mystery — a Veronica Mars specialty — with plenty of fanservice and nods to the original series.
Although the plot of the movie isn’t necessarily reinventing the wheel of the murder-mystery and the film is essentially a longer-form episode, Veronica Mars was the fantastic capstone to a beloved series. There may have been talks of a sequel, but if that doesn’t happen the Veronica Mars movie was at least successful in what it set out to do. The film was fun and entertaining. It revisited the fans’ favorite characters, the best jokes, and offered more resolution to the storylines established in the show. Fans couldn’t have asked for much more.
Marvel Studio’s second release of 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy, seemed a little risky early in the year. The film wouldn’t tie directly into the studio’s other movies – though it would take place within the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and wouldn’t feature any of the Avengers. However, the story of a ragtag group of criminals who band together to save an entire planet became the breakout hit of the year, both critically and financially.
While Marvel’s movies that feature different members of the Avengers have taken on a more serious tone, Guardians of the Galaxy is a fun space adventure with a great cast, plenty of humor, and a fantastic soundtrack (seriously, “Hooked on a Feeling” almost made it onto my list of favorite music in 2014). Although Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t my favorite Marvel release of the year, it was certainly a good and entertaining film.
Written and directed by Gillian Robespierre, Obvious Child stars Jenny Slate as a comedian living in New York City who is dumped by her boyfriend, has a one night stand, and winds up pregnant. Unlike other films that deal with unwanted pregnancies, Slate’s character Donna Stern doesn’t spend the whole time debating whether or not to have an abortion (simply to end up with a miscarriage). Rather, Stern deals with her situation – which also includes losing her day job and forming a new relationship – in a way that’s true to life.
I went to the theater to catch Robespierre’s Obvious Child with my co-host from The Hash in order to take a look at the film from a feminist standpoint. Spoilers: it’s a fantastic film no matter which way you look at it. Obvious Child is a realistic romantic comedy that just happens to also deal with abortion better than any mainstream movie or television show previously. Plus, Slate is infinitely charming as Donna and easily allows the viewer into her fictional life.
My favorite movie of the summer blockbuster season (even though it was released in April) was Captain America: The Winter Soldier and it is my favorite movie of the year as well. Continuing the story of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) after his roles in Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers, The Winter Soldier pits Captain America against a terrible foe: his old friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan).
Of the Marvel’s Phase 1 films, The First Avenger is my favorite and so far The Winter Soldier is my favorite out of all the Phase 2 movies as well (though The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man have yet to premiere). The Winter Soldier is a thrilling comic book film with great characters and entertaining action sequences. It also managed to further develop the world in which all the Avengers inhabit, having a major impact that we will continue to see in future films. The Winter Soldier is successful on both these fronts: an individual film and part of a shared universe. Besides, it’s got humor and heart, which make this a fun film to rewatch.