The Wannabes Best Of 2014 – Movies

2014 has been an interesting year for pop culture. It’s the year that made Chris Pratt a star, that almost saw North Korea dictate what we could watch, when comic book franchises decided they would never end, the Bible became the new hit with Hollywood, and diversity became the watchword. But like every other person does at this time of year, we felt the urge to distill the past year into just a few favorite highlights. Each day leading up to the new year, The Wannabes will be presenting their favorite pieces of pop culture from 2014. Up first: Movies. 

Megan: Whiplash is about two unlikeable people being driven to madness, within the walls of a music school. But for everything great the movie is, I really loved what it wasn’t. It avoids teacher-student cliches, and it doesn’t have you rooting for the underdog, because although Miles Teller’s character is the student, he’s not a kind kid. He’s the protagonist, but the audience is never sure if he will or should succeed. The film also avoids unnecessary B plots, which was insanely refreshing. And the performances of Teller and J.K. Simmons are not to be understated. At times Whiplash had me covering my eyes—not because of violence or gore—because I truly felt the characters’ fear, hatred, annoyance, and desperation. It was almost too much to handle. It doesn’t matter if you know much about jazz or the songs played; the film itself is a masterpiece.

Amanda: The way I measure favorites is how much I want to be in the thing, and how much I think about the thing after it is over. And I’ll tell you this about Guardians of the Galaxy – I put silver beads in my hair like Gamora and have not stopped listening to the soundtrack yet. This movie had heart, wit and action scenes. Also: bald Karen Gillian! Marvel wisely took the risk on Chris Pratt and a talking raccoon, and I found myself totally delighted by the whole thing. I am Groot.

Andrew: I’ve also got to go with Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s just great on so many levels and everyone loves it.

Kate: For me it was a tie. Boyhood blew me away with the length of the project and the dedication of the actors. (Who would sign up to age 12 years on camera?) For more details see my previous post here. However, for pure enjoyment of a movie, Chef was such a winner. It was so light and fun and left me starving for food truck food by the end. Both films were completely different, but equally enjoyable.

Madeleine: The best film of 2014 was Chef — a charming, unexpected father-son story about food trucks. This unknown indie film made a surprising splash as a heartwarming yet not-too-sweet story. Go ahead and make a Cubano sandwich because you’ll have a major hankering for one after you watch.

Chelsey: My personal favorite film of 2014 was also Boyhood, but since Kate so expertly laid out why, I’m going to also mention my other favorite, The Lego Movie. Extremely clever, excessively funny, and exceedingly charming, I haven’t had as much fun and felt so many emotions with an animated film since Toy Story 3. In addition to the hilariously perfect animation (Lego ocean!), the twisty plot, nonstop jokes, and voice actors really helped bring this movie to life and pushed it past smart product placement into a legitimately brilliant franchise. Everything about this movie was, well, awesome.

Maricela: Weird, bombastic, and subtly heartbreaking, Snowpiercer illustrated just how successful action sci-fi genre films can be outside of the Hollywood system. Thank the Film Gods Harvey Weinstein didn’t get to chop up the American release like a butcher.

What were your favorite films of 2014? Let us know in the comments!

Up next: TV

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The Wannabes Best Of 2014 – Movies

It’s Raining Superheroes. Hallelujah?

avengers-poster

Good heavens there has been a lot of comic book movie news of late.

A few months ago, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige announced that the studio has their movie lineup planned until 2028. Just so we’re all clear, that means they know what movies they want to be making for the next 14 years. Just in time for me to maybe have an early mid-life crisis.

Then last week, DC and Warner Brothers decided to announce their movie lineup for the next six-year, but, in what I can only assume was a move to one-up Marvel’s announcement, they actually identified what those movies were going to be.

Finally this week, a full six days ahead of schedule, Marvel released the first trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron shortly after it was leaked on the web.

(Edit: As of 28 October, Marvel has confirmed nine more movies and dates through till 2019.)

If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Marvel and DC are trying to stoke the flames of a fanboy war.

While many fanboys have already taken the bait to engage in an unwinnable argument online, I worry more about the oversaturation of these comic book movies. It’s almost impossible not to feel a little skeptical now that we can expect an average of four to five of these films every year instead of the two a year we used to get a decade ago. Many already feel oversaturated, believing most superhero movies are identical in everything but name (although most go and see them regardless).

Having said that, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the abundant slew of superhero movies will be unsuccessful, it just means that both Marvel and DC need to change-up the formulas for how they make them. They’ve done it before, which is why I’m of the belief that they can avoid some of the feelings of oversaturation if these movies bear traces of other genre films.

Spider-Man 2

Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2 broke largely from the mold of its predecessor by focusing less on the action and more on the fact that it was, at its core, a superhero drama. Furthermore, part of the reason I believe audience and critics received both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy so well is because they, like Spider-Man 2, diverged from stereotypical superhero movies and tested other genres. Captain America felt much like a spy thriller movie like No Way Out with hints of The Bourne Identity, while Guardians of the Galaxy, with a few exceptions, felt more like Star Wars and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy than a traditional superhero movie.

So imagine with me now that more comic book movies broke from the norm and became something else entirely. How about a Batman movie that legitimately tries its hand in the horror/thriller genre? What about a romantic-comedy Spider-Man film? A mystery movie with Iron Man? Or a musical with Superman?

OK, that last one might be a stretch to imagine – although I suddenly want to see some director make Superman: The Musical. Preferably with Nic Cage as the Man of Steel.

cage-superman

Without variety in their excessively huge movie lineups, Marvel and DC risk losing those movie-goers who haven’t already lost interest in their films. Before they realize it, audiences will likely stop saying things like “I can’t wait to see the new (insert superhero here) movie” or “That movie looks really good,” and instead will say, “I’ll Redbox that in a few months.”

It’s Raining Superheroes. Hallelujah?

End the Summer Movie Season

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy

August is coming to an end, the summer movie season has finished and I’m left delightfully pleased with most of this summer’s lineup. Films like Edge of Tomorrow, Godzilla, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy (which came in an extremely close second to Dawn in my opinion) either met or wildly exceeded my expectations and helped to make this summer of movies truly glorious. Even the ones that I haven’t seen yet like Boyhood, Snowpiercer and 22 Jump Street received hearty welcomes from crowds and critics alike.

And yet despite the large number of quality movies released in the last four months, many of which hold an approval rating in the 90’s on the Tomatometer, this summer is being lauded as the lowest grossing summer movie season in over eight years. What gives? It’s obvious that some of these movies should have made more money than they did, but fewer people are going to see them and instead waiting for the inevitable release at their local Redbox.

It hit me that the format of the summer movie season itself may be the actual problem we’re facing here. And this is coming from the guy who sometimes looks forward to this time of the year more than Christmas. Actually, Christmas is the perfect example to explain my point.

Let’s imagine for a second that Christmas were actually a three-month holiday instead of one day in the year (or a month if you consider Black Friday the beginning of Christmas). It’s too much, right? If the holiday carols didn’t drive you crazy, the constant drive to buy people gifts would. In short, it’s oversaturation of an idea, one that Sesame Street taught me years ago when Elmo wished (in the third person, of course) that every day was Christmas and single-handedly caused the collapse of society as we know it … Thanks a lot Elmo.

With ticket prices rising, and different movies either competing on the same day or within following weeks of one another during the summer, movie premieres seem less and less special on their own, which means there’s a greater likelihood that fewer people are going to see and support good movies.

Nowhere was this more apparent than with the release of The Fault in Our Stars and Edge of Tomorrow a few months back. It’s a sin how few people saw the latter, although admittedly Edge of Tomorrow is about as generic of a title as you can get. I mean, come on, the source material was called All You Need is Kill. How much more awesome of a title do you need?!

It’s still a shame in my eyes that so few people took the time to watch this incredible piece of action, sci-fi and Groundhog’s Day.

Regardless, both films premiered at the same time with decent or great critical reviews, but only one brought home buckets of cash. I’d like to think that had you spaced out their release dates by a few weeks, more people might have seen both films.

In this respect, I applaud Marvel studios for setting the release date of Captain America: The Winter Soldier to spring, a full month before the summer movie season officially kicked off. Had it been released any closer to May, it would have competed with The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which means both films would have made less money.

While it’s unlikely that this will happen, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, I think it’s time that studios start disbanding the idea of packing as many big budget blockbusters in just a few short months and instead spread them out. Make them special again. Because even though some of us are willing to dish out the money to see a different movie every week, most need a break in between.

End the Summer Movie Season

Marvel Movie Predictions

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) continues like the juggernaut it is (pun intended for those comic book savvy fans). With Kevin Feige’s announcement earlier this month that Marvel has movies planned through 2028, I’ve wondered what new heroes Marvel could introduce to keep its movies interesting and expand the universe.

“Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Ant-Man” and likely a film version of Doctor Strange are all new movie franchises that Marvel is tapping, but they’re going to need more if they are going to fill 14 years worth of movies with something other than sequels. Plenty have voiced their desire for certain franchises, but I’m more interested in figuring out which franchises are most likely to be made.

Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel

Ms. Marvel

She can fly, has super strength, is impervious to most physical damage and at one point in time could tap into the powers of a “white hole” (the opposite of a black hole). For all intents and purposes, she has powers akin to DC’s Superman – minus the lasers, X-ray vision and cape. More importantly, she’s a female superhero – something that Marvel movies have sadly lacked.

Yes, I know Scarlett Johansson has played Black Widow in three Marvel movies and has done a wonderful job in my opinion, but she’s always taken a back seat, playing a secondary character instead of the central protagonist. And you better believe I’m going to ignore the “Elektra” movie altogether.

Ms. Marvel, whose powers she got from a freak accident with an alien device, has the most potential to claim the title of being the first major female superhero with her own film franchise in the MCU.

Black Panther

Black Panther

There are two Batman-type characters in the Marvel Universe. The first is Iron Man: he’s rich, a genius and a self-made hero. The second, Black Panther, is perhaps not as well known, but probably has more in common with Batman than the former. He dresses all in black, takes after a predatory animal, has an insane amount of money, can go toe-to-toe with some of the most overpowered heroes in the Marvel Universe and he makes most of his own tools and weapons.

He has no relation to the Civil Rights movement, but he does bear the mantel of being the first black superhero in comic books.

Oh yeah, and did I mention he’s a king?! Albeit the king of a fictional African nation, but how cool is that?

Fans have been calling for a solo Black Panther movie for years now, and there were rumblings for a while that Wesley Snipes was set to play the titular hero, although nothing was ever set in stone. Chances that if Marvel has movies planned till 2028, we’re bound to see the king of Wakanda in the next decade or so.

Inhumans

Inhumans

Since Marvel doesn’t own the rights to make X-Men movies, the Inhumans should be the next place producers look to for super powered people. A race of superhumans that live on the moon, the Inhumans remained hidden from the people of earth for a long time. Tensions ensued when humanity finally discovered the Inhumans and realized that a superior race lived a relatively short distance from the planet.

With the numerous characters and story arcs within the Inhumans comics, Marvel would be foolish not to see this as a possible new movie franchise within the MCU that could last for years without getting old.

Blade

Blade

Vampires are still cool, right? OK, maybe they’ve taken a bit of a hit since teenage girls decided to plant their pop culture flag on them, but I’m still a believer that the vampire image can be redeemed. And who better to do that than the man who hunts them as a past-time?

Blade is half man and half vampire, which means he gets most of the cool perks of vampirism with only one of the cons (he has an appetite for human blood that he has to control). And no, he isn’t the offspring of some weird teenager/vampire romance; rather his mother was attacked and bitten during the last few weeks of her pregnancy.

While a trilogy of movies based on the character already exists, a reboot could introduce viewers to the supernatural side of the MCU – minus any unnecessary romances. However, of all the movies on this list, Blade is probably the least likely to be made given that the material is inherently darker and more violent than any other movie in the current MCU.

(To avoid any SPOILERS for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” stop reading here. You’ve been warned!)

The Winter Soldier

Winter Soldier

The Winter Soldier made for a terrifying villain in the new “Captain America” movie, although I would argue that he didn’t get nearly as much screen time as he deserved. Revealed to be the presumed dead friend of Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes resembled Arnold Schwarzenegger’s terminator with his cold and calculating assassinations and unstoppable nature. The fact that he was able to take on both Captain America and Black Widow singlehandedly and hold his own should tell you something about him.

With the fact that he started to overcome the brainwashing that made him into an assassin at the end of the movie, I wouldn’t be surprised if Marvel did what James Cameron did with the Terminator and cast him as the protagonist in his own film. I’ve also theorized (as have many other people on the Internet) that he could probably take up the Captain America mantel when Chris Evans decides he no longer wants to play the character anymore.

Marvel Movie Predictions