a quick review of the sf/f movies of 2014

2014 IS ALMOST OUT THE DOOR, and I was fortunate enough to see quite a few science-fiction, fantasy, or superhero movies.  Here’s how I rank them:

5 Stars

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  “The man out of time” (as Loki called him in The Avengers) is a fish out of water in the morally ambiguous post-9/11 world of today.  Backed up by the always-intriguing Black Widow and a brilliantly-imagined Falcon, Cap uncovers the resurgence of HYDRA, altering forever the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy.  I’ll be honest: I thought this movie would suck.  An action-comedy with comic book characters you’ve never heard of and a cheesy ’70’s soundtrack?  It shouldn’t work, it couldn’t possibly work, but somehow, it does. I’m happy–very happy–to be wrong.  GotG is great!
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past.  Great cast, great characters, great story, great effects (this was the first X-Men movie where I thought their powers didn’t look cheesy).  Watch it twice to catch all the stuff you miss the first time.

 

4 Stars

  • Lucy.  The premise–that people only use 10% of their brains, and could manifest superhuman abilities if they managed to use more–is hooey, but if you ignore that, it’s engrossing to watch Scarlett Johansoon’s college student rapidly approach godhood while losing her connection to humanity.  The end sequence, where she travels back in time to observe the Big Bang and what came before it, is almost as trippy as the conclusion of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

3 Stars

  • Godzilla.  As I mentioned in my review, this movie suffers from a lack of the titular monster.  Next time, more Godzilla, damn it!
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay–Part 1.  By splitting Mockingjay into two films, the filmmakers give us all wind up, no pitch for the first installment, with a fantastic cast given not much to do.  In particular, poor Jennifer Lawrence is stuck portraying Katniss as an ever-reluctant Miss Everdeen, who has to be constantly coaxed, cajoled, and shocked into rising up against the oozingly creepy menace of Donald Sutherland’s President Snow.
  • Maleficent.  Usually I despise re-tellings of fairy tales that cast the villain in a sympathetic light, but Maleficent (mostly) avoids the all-too common pitfalls of such efforts.  If you can overlook Sharlto Copley’s annoying and one-dimensional King Stefan–and the date-rape allusions that might make you squirm–it’s a decent fleshing out of Sleeping Beauty.

 

2 Stars

  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  This movie never lives up its potential, with the otherwise capable Jamie Foxx spewing cheesy lines and ruining what could have been an interesting interpretation of a sub-par supervillain.  One never buys into Peter Parker’s supposed friendship with Dane DeHaan’s Harry Osborn, whose transformation into the Green Goblin underwhelms.  Given the chance to do something different with the 40-year old “Death of Gwen Stacy” story, ASM2 punks out, eliminating the chemistry between Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone from future films–assuming they make any more.

1 Star

  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  I caught this movie on a long flight back from Europe, when I had already watched two other films and there wasn’t much else available.  When I was a kid, I liked the original PotA movies, but the reboot (and this, its sequel), don’t do anything for me.  Yes, the visuals are much better, but the characters aren’t engaging, and the story is trite. Andy Serkis’ work as Caesar is a good effort, but it’s not nearly enough to save this flick…or this series.

Didn’t See, But Wanted To:

  • Big Hero 6
  • Divergent
  • The Maze Runner

My younger daughter is a big fan of the Divergent novel series, so even though I don’t know anything about it, I’d like to see it.  Plus, it has Shailene Woodley, who was fantastic in The Fault In Our Stars.

Didn’t See, And Don’t Want To:

  • 300: Rise of an Empire
  • Dracula Untold
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  • I, Frankenstein
  • Transformers: Age of Extinction

I’ve enjoyed and studied J.R.R. Tolkien’s works for many years, and the novel of The Hobbit is one of my favorites.  I also really liked director Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film trilogy.  But after the farce that was The Desolation of Smaug, there’s no way I’m going to watch the third Hobbit movie.  Unless maybe I’m stuck on a long plane ride back from Europe….

 

Kenton Kilgore is the author of LOST DOGS, the story of a German Shepherd and a Beagle-mix who survive the end of the human world, only to find that their struggles have just begun. Kenton also wrote DRAGONTAMER’S DAUGHTERS, a two-part young adult fantasy novel based on Navajo culture and belief.  Follow Kenton on Facebook for daily posts on sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction. 
 
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