Glen’s Top 5 Geeky Movies of 2014

Well, this year definitely has been a great year for genre films. I struggled to find five films worthy of my list in 2013, but this year I’m struggling with leaving great films off the list. Unfortunately, of course, a few had to be omitted to make room for the very best. So, without further ado, here are my choices for the top 5 geeky films of 2014. (You can check out Laura’s Top 10 Geeky Movies of 2014 here.)

#5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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James Franco and director Rupert Wyatt rejuvenated the Apes franchise in 2011 with Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and the sequel with the equally wordy title, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, is even better than the former. Loosely based on the ’70s film, Battle for the Planet of the Apes (those titles!), the film shows us a world where humans are no longer dominant and must share the earth with the intelligent ape population.

Like its predecessors, it seems like a bizarre premise, but director Matt Reeves treats the material with sincerity and realism to create wonderfully emotional drama. The tension that’s built between the humans and apes who are both trying to survive in this new word is palpable and every actor, either on screen or using motion capture technology, gives it their all, especially Andy Serkis as Caesar. We care just as much about the ape characters as we do the humans and both groups display realistic strengths as well as flaws. And the special effects in this film are astonishing. This is some of the best CGI and motion capture you’ll see.

#4. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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Unlike its satisfactory predecessor, The Winter Soldier has a darker, even eerie, tone that fits this chapter of the Captain America story very well. The good captain has been introduced to a world with which he’s entirely unfamiliar, a world disturbingly close to our own. It’s engrossing watching him navigate an America that’s fractured, whose population might care more about security based on fear than freedom. This challenges Steve Rogers even more than most villains; he’s becoming disillusioned with the country he holds so dear.

The Winter Soldier feels more like a political thriller than a super hero film at times. Cap’s on the run from his own people and he doesn’t know whom to trust. There’s conspiracy, political factions, fact-finding and stealth. It’s a great spin on the super hero formula that could’ve done with a more subtle climax and less shaky camera techniques, but remains exciting nonetheless. Scarlett Johansson and Anthony Mackie are great sidekicks, playing Black Widow and The Falcon respectively, and the action is used primarily when necessary. And, finally, with his maturity as an actor and character, Chris Evans finally convinces this doubter that he’s worthy of wielding the shield.

#3. Interstellar

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Many film aficionados would argue that Stanley Kubrick was the master of ideas and Steven Spielberg is the master of emotions. Amazingly, like many of his films, Christopher Nolan’s wildly ambitious Interstellar takes a chapter from the books of both directors and creates something that will please both the brains and hearts of moviegoers. The Earth of the near future is in bad shape, so Mathew McConaughey must lead a mission through a worm hole to seek out suitable planets for humankind. The epic journey is enhanced by the use of dazzling special effects and a triumphant score by Hans Zimmer, which includes delightful organ music, to give the film a surreal quality and a heightened sense of importance.

There’s not a weak performance in this film whose cast includes McConaughey, who’s on fire as of late, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, John Lithgow and Jessica Chastain. The oddest, but most visually impressive character, is the robot, TARS, who looks like a big smart phone with appendages that are at one time hidden and immobile, at other times used for walking, lifting and rolling. Other breathtaking images include the inside of a wormhole, a hundred foot tidal wave, clouds made of ice and other cosmic anomalies. Coming in at a bold 169 minutes, Interstellar whizzes by and never ceases to amaze with its endless surprises and complex situations.

#2. X-Men: Days of Future Past

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This is an epic, super hero, sci-fi, action movie that shifts back and forth between the 1970s and the 2020s involving a dystopian future, giant mutant-hunting robots and time travel and it STILL places its focus on the development of characters and their relationships with one another! If that doesn’t indicate quality, I don’t know what does.

Days of Future Past takes what was great about its predecessor and makes it better. The action is downright breathtaking at times, the characters are fully realized with the relationships and dialogue completely engrossing and the plot actually makes you think beyond the movie. Technology and special effects have finally improved enough to make the fight scenes as innovative as those you’d find in the comics, especially when Blink takes a lesson from the video game Portal by creating her own portals that are used in the most creative ways. Quicksilver is also a welcome addition to the franchise and the kitchen scene is so creative and artistic that you’d swear you weren’t watching the 7th installment of a blockbuster movie franchise. But the best scene has no special effects and merely involves two men, Xavier and Magneto, arguing about their different views.

The film could have showcased the old-school sentinels a bit more and it creates somewhat of a continuity [email protected]#$, but this movie is exciting from start to finish. Its stakes are the highest they’ve ever been for mutants as their future relies on the cooperation of their past selves and the whole thing culminates into something that will leave you on the edge of your seat, possibly with a tear in your eye. This is what fans of the X-Men were waiting for all these years.

#1. Birdman

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We’ve seen the extended, single-shot scene quite a bit lately in movies like Children of Men and Gravity, but director Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu takes it to a whole new level, using cinematic wizardry in the near-masterpiece that is Birdman. In this daring and unique film about a washed up superhero film actor who puts on a play to revitalize his career, we see the goings-on backstage in a single, uncut scene that forms the whole of the film save for the last ten minutes or so. It’s a brilliant accomplishment. Obviously, the filmmakers didn’t film the movie all at once, and more than likely used digital effects to create the illusion of continuity, but the result is seamless.

The film has ‘self-referential’ written all over it as Michael Keaton’s character, Riggan, and Edward Norton’s character are more similar to their real life counterparts than they’d probably like to admit. And the film has very insightful messages about fame and show business. Oh, and Riggan seems to have superpowers. You find out in the very first scene as Keaton levitates in his dressing room. It leaves you stunned until you quickly sit back and go along with the beautiful, chaotic onscreen action which is supported by an equally chaotic score from Antonio Sanchez composed of abrupt, uneven percussion contradicted by beautifully inspirational melodies. Innaritu skillfully keeps us guessing as to whether or not Riggan is actually influenced by a real Birdman.

The movie contains several Oscar-worthy performances including that of Michael Keaton who’s been out of the spotlight for years. The paranoia, frustration and neuroses he imbues in Riggan produce a perfect train wreck of a character and you even feel empathy for him despite his many flaws. There might not be a simple explanation at the end, but that’s usually a good thing. Some of the best movies make you think well after the credits roll. I haven’t stopped thinking about this whirlwind of a picture since I saw it.

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Glen Ilnicki
Glen Ilnicki 271 posts

Glen has been reading comic books and playing video games his whole life. His unhealthy passion, however, is for film. He currently resides in Ottawa, Canada.