What a busy year! We took in more content this year than ever before, reading more books, watching more TV series, and reviewing more movies. Wading through all that Hollywood had to offer, we try to hone in on the genre films and TV series we think are worth our time. We went back and looked at it all and pulled together our picks for our annual “Best of the Best” list. Today we reveal the best content focusing on movies. Come back for more of our picks tomorrow. If you missed any of these films this year, check them out when they arrive on video or digital release.
Edge of Tomorrow — Best Film of the Year, Best Science Fiction Fix, Best Action Fix, Best Actress (Emily Blunt), Best Supporting Actor (Bill Paxton). The benefit of Blu-rays/DVDs is the ability to go back and verify whether a movie was as good as you remembered it in the theater. Of all the top genre films of the year, including Guardians of the Galaxy and X-Men: Days of Future Past, it was Edge of Tomorrow that became an addictive re-watch, to see all those great, funny scenes, like Tom Cruise’s demoted soldier rolling under the jeep, and Emily Blunt’s Rita Vrataski destroying all those aliens. Rita was the best character we saw this year–anywhere–and Blunt provided the best performance. Superb sci-fi components? Check. Superb action sequences? Check. With top-notch acting by Blunt and Bill Paxton. This will be the movie of 2014 that we one day will re-watch just like we re-watch Aliens and Predator today.
Guardians of the Galaxy — Best Superhero Fix, Best Actor Runner-up (Dave Bautista), Best Supporting Actress (Zoe Saldana), Best Villain (Lee Pace), Best Soundtrack, Best Rock Album. It was the perfect blend of B-level superheroes and a space fantasy like we hadn’t seen since the original Star Wars. A surprisingly fun ride. Guardians introduced the world to Dave Bautista, who will likely get more and more popular in 2015 and beyond. His serious but comedic Drax may have been the best part of a great cast of new characters. Zoe Saldana created her best genre role so far and Lee Pace’s Ronan was a perfect comic book villain. And those tunes on Starlord’s Walkman! What was more fun this year than Rocket and Groot?
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies — Best Fantasy Fix, Best Supporting Actress (Evangeline Lilly), Best Supporting Actor Runner-up (Lee Pace). Whether or not you liked The Hobbit trilogy as much as The Lord of the Rings, you’ve got to admit that no one can create visuals in the fantasy genre like Peter Jackson. Quibble all you want about the details of the final installment of The Hobbit, ounce for ounce it provided spectacle like no other movie in 2014. The challenge will be Hollywood creating something that can come close in 2015, our first year without a Tolkien movie in three years. Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel was a high point, even if her character wasn’t it in novel, and Lee Pace offered as compelling a performance as any actor in the Middle-earth saga as the grandiose Elfking.
The World’s End — Best Comedy Film. You never know what you’re going to get with a Simon Pegg and Nick Frost flick, but you can be sure it will be funny. The most laughs this year came from their bar-hopping, alien encounter in The World’s End. The alien effects were also a plus, and nice performances by Martin Freeman and Rosamund Pike.
RoboCop — Best Movie Borg. Of all the borgs visualized in 2014 we think the reveal to Joel Kinnaman’s Alex Murphy of his own cybernetics in the better-than-expected reboot of RoboCop was the best borg scene of the year. Like the similar scene with Jake Gyllenhaal in Source Code, RoboCop’s creators gave us a real view of what a cybernetic human would look like if technology catches up with fiction. And with a reboot of The Six Million Dollar Man coming our way in 2016, RoboCop has set the bar pretty high for how moviemakers address how an almost entirely destroyed human wrestles with bionic limbs.
The Imitation Game. Best Actor (Benedict Cumberbatch), Best Actress Runner-up (Keira Knightley). This historical drama/war movie slipped into 2014 at the last minute (see our review last week here), but the acting by Cumberbatch and Knightley was worthy of everyone’s attention. A very gripping, moving film.
X-men: Days of Future Past — Best Scene. It’s a scene that almost propelled the latest X-men to our best film of the year. Evan Peters’ cocky and confident mutant Quicksilver must break Ian McKellen’s Magneto out of prison at the Pentagon. To the tune of Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle,” he gives us the best scene of a superhero being a superhero in any movie. Ever. The Flash series needs to aim for this. A different Quicksilver in Avengers: Age of Ultron already has the movie set up for disappointment. Peters needs to come back in future superhero films as this great character.
Jaws Original Reel at Alamo Drafthouse — Best Retro Fix. We’re lucky to have access to many great screenings of classic films on the big screen in art-house and other theaters, like The Birds and The Wizard of Oz. This year the original negative of Jaws was a real treat, and something you don’t see too often for any movie in an era where you could simply project a crystal clear, re-mastered DVD edit onto the wall. But this allowed us to see the film as originally seen by viewers in 1975. And that was a great opportunity to enjoy this classic all over again.
Transformers: Age of Extinction IMAX 3D Blu-ray — Best DVD/Blu-ray. We reviewed several new Blu-rays in 2014 and many in 3D. The release that included the 3D Blu-ray, standard Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy, with the expanded edition as seen in IMAX 3D, was the best buy, and the 3D IMAX version provided the best 3D imagery that has yet been created for home theaters. The high-wire escape scene atop skyscrapers provided incredible clarity and heart-pounding excitement for anyone with even a basic 3D television and 3D Blu-ray player. Michael Bay knows how to make a big budget splash that kids of all ages will love. That all easily translated to a great home theater experience and a new standard in 3D entertainment.
Predator 3D — Best DVD/Blu-ray Re-release. How Predator was selected for an early upgrade to 3D is anybody’s guess, but what a great choice. The concept of the natural world as the best way to dazzle with 3D was proven with this jungle adventure. The direction and cinematography seemed designed for 3D and yet it wasn’t. Fans of the film are sure to be impressed with what feels like a brand new movie in this new type of movie-watching experience.
Star Trek: The Compendium — Best Blu-ray/DVD Features. So many versions of the 2009 Star Trek reboot and sequel Star Trek Into Darkness were released in different stores with different extra content that fans demanded one edition that combined all the special features in one box. The Star Trek Compendium gave fans all that they asked for and hours of enjoyment digging into every aspect of the films’ behind-the-scenes production.
Terminator: Genisys — Best Movie Trailer. With all the trailers for films that hit the marquee in 2014 and the previews issued for 2015 releases including the eagerly anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens, nothing was more exciting than the first look at the next Terminator film, with returning mega-star Arnold Schwarzenegger. Terminator: Genisys may not ultimately get the box office take that Star Wars VII will receive, but we’re guessing it will be well worth the admission price.
Poltergeist Alamo Drafthouse Halloween event — Best Movie Poster. We waded through dozens of posters advertising 2014 movies and none of them were as dazzling and eye-popping as Bryan Fyffe’s new look at my old nightmares from Poltergeist, created for a Halloween screening this year. Look close at every nook and cranny of this piece. It’s uber-creepy and appropriate for this horror classic.
Come back tomorrow and we’ll reveal our take on the best of what TV had to offer for 2014.