Halfway thru 2014, the finest films of the year (so far)

I know it’s a huge cliché but time absolutely flies. It feels like just yesterday we were watching the ball drop on Times Square with a glass of champagne and 12 grapes and now we’re exactly halfway through 2014. Where has the year gone?!

Let it sink in

Only three months after my definitive list for the year 2013, I offer you what I think were the best releases from January to June 2014, a semester with not a whole lot of great offerings but still definitely some gems among them.

 

5. Noah

The perfect biblical adaptation for a Marvel-obsessed world; this Noah-as-action hero epic is thoroughly entertaining. Occasionally corny and overwrought (the source material is not known for restraint or subtlety, after all), but that is quickly forgotten with riveting action set pieces, impressive visuals and a very talented cast where Jennifer Connelly absolutely shines. Darren Aronofsky does a terrific job at handling the darker elements of the story, and even amidst the overload of CGI, you can tell this is the mind behind Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan.

 

4. Edge of Tomorrow

Can we please keep Tom Cruise for 50 more years? The man still has it and it’s all on display in Edge of Tomorrow, a thoroughly satisfying and unexpectedly solid actioner. At 51, Cruise is every bit the action hero he was decades ago, his charisma unscathed by all the couch-jumping and Scientologizing, and his precise comedic timing resurfacing as it not so often does. He’s matched by Emily Blunt, fantastic in a different sort of role for her: a sexy, strong soldier, nicknamed “Full Metal Bitch”. While EOT does lag around the middle a bit, it’s an inventive and very fun flick, filled with sweat and dirt and blood and metal and testosterone; in other words, a near-perfect summer blockbuster.

 

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

While it’s not as emotionally stimulating and it loses the period piece appeal the first film had going on, the action in this sequel is the best we’ve seen so far from Marvel and it’s more than enough to satiate this fanboy’s geeky needs.

 

2. The Grand Budapest Hotel

With all its pinks and lilacs and pale yellows, it’s like a cute little pastry you don’t want to bite into in fear of ruining it; one of those times where style clearly trumps substance but you don’t mind anyway. The inhabitants of this dream are characteristically offbeat but not alienating, which means you care about what happens to them, unlike Wes’s last film. Not caring for the characters would be such a waste of a fantastic, talented cast, possibly the finest Anderson’s assembled to date.

 

1. X-Men: Days of Future Past

…and just when you thought comic-book adaptation fatigue might just finally set in, comes a movie that knocks it out of the park and convinces you that not only is the genre here to stay (it continues, after all, to rake in the big bucks), it actually deserves to. Days of Future Past’s script is not without flaws (what movie is?) but when you get a film that is not afraid to go big or to mess with timelines in a spectacular way, and that lets its marvelously talented actors thrive in its geekiness, you can’t help but sit back, clench the armrests and have loads of fun.

 

Honorable Mentions

The Fault In Our Stars 

300: Rise of an Empire

 

Worst

Godzilla

So, what did you think of my picks? Agree? Disagree? Care to share yours?

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