Hollywood takes perpetual criticism from all sides. If they’re not original enough, then they’re not pandering to accepted social conventions, or being racist, or greedy, or whatever other crime people can drum up.
…and yeah, sure…we’re not going to sit here and claim that Tinseltown is the perfect model of civilization. It’s a hyper-realized utopia/dystopia (delete as per your own view) with a few problems of its own. But there’s no shame in being superficial right now. It’s coming up to Christmas, New Year and hey, we just want to tell you the good stuff right now.
You’ll probably be spending a lot of time with family and friends (or trying to avoid them!), so this list of the year’s best movies should give you some inspiration when you want to either keep everybody quiet for a couple of hours or to simply avoid everybody before you murder them. Ahh, isn’t the festive season wonderful?!
X-Men: Days of Future Past
With Hugh Jackman appearing to be on a mission to play Wolverine in as many films as possible, this prequel set a number of decades ago still manages to squeeze in everybody’s favorite adamantium-clawed killing machine for a rather humorous cameo.
DoFP and its predecessor, First Class, gave the X-Men franchise some fresh impetus after the decline of the series that encompassed X-Men 3 and a couple of Wolverine solo efforts. Finally bringing in the much-loved and deadly Sentinels from the X-Men canon, DoFP incorporated time travel and paved the way for the creation of the characters we know and love today. Prof Xavier, played by James McAvoy, endures the accident that puts him in the chair we’re more accustomed to.
The cast is also a roll-call of some of Hollywood’s biggest and brightest stars, with McAvoy working alongside the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen Page and Michael Fassbender as well as series stalwarts such as Halle Berry, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart.
It’s pretty much universally accepted that David Lynch’s attempt to film Frank Herbert’s seminal sci-fi novel Dune didn’t really go to plan. With huge swathes of the text left out and many odd and unwelcome additions, the film was confusing, messy, boring and basically a load of garbage.
Jodorowsky’s Dune works on two levels: on one hand you see how rich the Dune universe is once somebody with a fertile imagination is let loose on it. On the other hand you just want to cry once you realize how close we came to the existence of what could have been the craziest (and longest) movie ever.
As is Hollywood’s wont however, things unraveled quickly. Jodorowsky’s option on the rights to Dune not only created amazing visuals but a 14-hour screenplay as thick as a phonebook with a projected budget running into hundreds of millions of dollars.
Since we’re living in an age of seemingly constant remakes, reboots and reimagining, perhaps it’s time Dune got a modern makeover. Please guys, we’re begging you!
Guardians of the Galaxy
Maybe we picked up the wrong vibe in the atmosphere, but the trailers for this superhero-fantasy adventure didn’t seem to hint at just how successful and well-loved this film would quickly become.
Guardians’ charm lies in its crazy ensemble cast and their fantastic get-ups. Vin Diesel, former WWE World Champion Dave Bautista, ex-Dr Who star Karen Gillan and Bradley Cooper are just some of the big names to get involved.
We talked about escapism early on in this piece and if you want to escape the trials and tribulations of modern life for an hour or two, then look no further than this colorful and exciting buffet cart of fun!
The Lego Movie
Lego, everybody’s favorite colored blocks and destroyers of soles of the feet, have been on something of a renaissance over the last few years. The range of Star Wars and Batman-themed video games have repositioned the famous Danish brand as one on the edge of cultural trends.
The Lego Movie, much like Guardians of the Galaxy, surprised many with its accessibility and across-all-ages appeal. Its leaning upon corporate satire was also a refreshing new angle from a film many predicted would simply be a corporate please-buy-our-product-NOW bullshitfest. Still, it’s nice to be proved wrong now and then, hey?
How To Train Your Dragon 2
Sequels are a funny thing. You may find yourself torn between deciding whether a sequel is a way of re-telling or telling a new story or simply a really obvious and heartless cash in.
Even with the success of the original standing tall, How To Train Your Dragon 2 seemed like a serious case of the latter. Was there really any need to revisit the mythical world of Hiccup and Toothless and get yet another coming of age tale? As it turns out we did need to see it as the sequel is just as fun as the original.
Matthew McConaughey is certainly Hollywood’s man of the moment, and his turn in this Christopher Nolan-directed has only served to raise his stock even higher. Alongside the eternally beautiful Anne Hathaway, and old hands John Lithgow and Michael Caine, this intricate sci-fi flick may soon come to sit alongside some of the best of all.
The Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
Those maniacs did indeed blow it up, but the modern reworkings of the Planet of the Apes series have proved to be both commercial and critical blockbusters.
Directed by Matt Reeves, Dawn…explores the nature of conflict, mistrust, commonalities and civilization itself. With main monkey man Caesar being played by the motion-capture wet dream that seems to be Andy Serkis, of Gollum fame, critics and audiences praised the range of its acting and emotional depth. Not bad for a few chimps, huh?
A lizard about 200ft tall, death and destruction, explosions and Walter White: now there’s a film we’d love to see. We didn’t get THE Walter White exactly, but Bryan Cranston still had to wear a wig while shooting this creature feature due to wrapping up Breaking Bad a few days prior.
Godzilla’s origins in the first batch of movies leaned heavily upon a societal fear and mistrust in Japan of the atomic age (can you blame them?!) and Gareth Edwards’ film harks back to those themes. It’s timely too, as Japan is still reeling from the disastrous consequences of the Fukushima disaster.
As for old Zilly G, let’s hope he doesn’t make a comeback when Tokyo host the 2020 Olympic Games.
Sometimes the problem with modern cinema can be the propensity to reimagine everything as “dark” and “edgy”. Batman has gone from the odd but charming philanthropist as played by Michael Keaton to the gruff, tough and sex-pest-voiced version made popular by Christian Bale. We won’t talk about Clooney as Batm….argh no the genie’s out of the lamp now!
Maleficent, the self-proclaimed Mistress Of All Evil from the original Sleeping Beauty, was already a little on the dark side and her resurrection and remorphing into Angelina Jolie for this live-action effort was pretty much the icing on the cake.
Maleficent went on to earn some serious cash at the box office and became Jolie’s biggest worldwide gross to date.
Directed by Brit Richard Ayoade and starring former Mark Zuckerberg, Jesse Eisenberg, The Double is a keen and welcome adaptation of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s classic novel of the same name.
Surreal, darkly humorous and a slow burner, The Double captures perfectly the dour Russian humor and outlook that characterizes the nation so well.