Before I had kids my wife and I would see movies much more often. On a whim after work, we would say, “Let’s go to dinner and a movie tonight! Why not?” Now, those spur of the moment outings never happen. Dates like that need to be planned out ahead of time and sometimes we skip the movie in favor of a Target run. However, my two boys are now 3 and 5 and getting away is slowing getting easier. In fact, they are now old enough to mostly sit through a kids movie in the theater (which was impossible last year). So I’ve seen more movies in the theater this year than in the last 5 years, easy. So I thought I’d put together a short list of some of my favorites.
Before we get into that, here are a few I haven’t been able to catch yet that I’m pretty sure would make my list if I’d seen them.
I’m a bit ashamed that I haven’t made it out to see this one yet. I’m a huge Christopher Nolan fan and this looks awesome.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The first film of the rebooted franchise was so surprisingly good. I’m very interested to see where they take it in this new installment.
I’m fascinated by the concept and the patience it took to pull off this film. Richard Linklater is occasionally brilliant too. And now that the film is landing on lots of year-end lists, I want to see it all the more.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Reviews are decidedly mixed, but I love Middle Earth and have enjoyed these Hobbit films even if they have been over-long and a bit campy at times.
Edge of Tomorrow
So many people have recommended this one to me. Seeing Tom Cruise cast in it gave me pause, but I’m definitely going to give this one a view soon.
Like I mentioned, I saw a few kid’s movies this year that were quite good. Here are my 3 favorite kids movies:
1. The Lego Movie
This movie had no business (get it?) being good and yet everything about it was awesome (okay, I’ll stop). I love the zaniness, the creativity and the surprise twist of an ending. It helped that my boys fell in love with it too and that they become much more interested in Lego after watching it.
2. How to Train Your Dragon 2
I took the boys to see this one in the theater when my wife was out of town for a weekend. Yikes, I wasn’t prepared for how “grown up” the story would be. The boys loved it, but there was a lot of peril and even death to talk through with them. What I like about this franchise is how they’ve done a lot of world-building and character development. They aren’t afraid to flex a bit and make these more than just kids movies.
3. Mr. Peabody & Sherman
Another surprisingly great movie. Taking the bit characters from Rocky and Bullwinkle, this movie spins out a story about fatherhood, responsibility and family. It has some of the Lego Movie zaniness and some of that How to Train Your Dragon grounding too. Pretty fun.
And now my top 5 films of the year!
5. X-Men: Days of Future Past
When I read that the new X-Men movie would somehow combine the two film series from last 10 years, I worried instantly that it would be too bloated and messy. Somehow, they kept the focus where it should have been and built a complex story about violence, slippery slopes and consequences. It was actually pretty masterful. Taking some queues from the super-successful Marvel Studios series, they also injected some welcome humor into the story. And you can’t go wrong with the A-List cast they’ve assembled for this series.
America has tried to make a Godzilla movie before and failed miserably. This time around, with the right guys behind it, they knocked it out of the park. This film is visually stunning, perfectly constructed and unafraid to break the rules a bit. Like Pacific Rim before it, this movie doesn’t fall into the Michael Bay / Transformers trap of just filming explosions and filling in the story later. It’s well though out, realistically presented and lots of fun.
3. Captain America: The Winter Solider
When I saw this one in the theater, I came out believing this was the best Marvel movie yet. The powers that be decided to really throw a wrench into the universe they had built and use the Captain America character to drive things. They shook up the formula big time and it paid off in a big way. The tone of the film was reminiscent of 70’s conspiracy thrillers and the fight scenes were amazing throughout. The big takeaway is that Marvel is changing how they operate and keeping audiences interested in the process.
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
My top films are action-heavy, but I unashamedly love Wes Anderson. I love his style, his wit and his writing. With his newest film, took us to Eastern Europe just before World War II and spun a large story about a hotel and the employees and guests who occupy it. I see it as a telescoping story about love, loneliness and loyalty. The colors and settings pop like crazy in this film and it has a sweet sadness that has become a trademark of Anderson’s style. Repeated viewings are a must with this one.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy
Easily my favorite movie of the year. When this film was announced 2 years ago, people began talking about how this could very well be the first Marvel flop because it’s just too pie-in-the-sky to think that audiences will embrace all these obscure and goofy characters. And it could have been a flop if not for James Gunn’s direction, a fantastic script and spot-on casting. It’s an epic sci-fi action movie with all the trimmings, but with a core personality that you just don’t see anywhere else. And the music, oh the music just makes it. This is just a perfect, fun movie and shows that people really will see a science fiction movie space movie if you make it well. And it shows that Marvel is the top dog in the movie business right now.
Did I miss your favorite movie of the year? Let me know in the comments so I can add it to my viewing list!