As I write the actual copy for my top ten list, I'm looking at the full list of my top 50 films from 2014, compiled and ranked as I narrowed things down, and I have to say, there was a nice batch of popcorn movies this year.
For those keeping score, I already covered #50 – #46, and I wrote a bit about my #45 pick, “The Overnighters,” which I still say you should see knowing nothing at all about it. There's a cluster of popcorn pictures next, and I think all of them are smart and efficient and thematically sound and prove that we don't have to accept crap if we want to be entertained by something big and spectacular.
I liked “Edge Of Tomorrow,” “How To Train Your Dragon 2,” “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes,” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” all for similar reasons. In each case, the films surprised me. They either dug deeper than they needed to, or they contained surprisingly human or quiet moments or they just treated the audience with respect. They're all better films than they had to be, and that counts for something these days. Studios are perfectly happy to turn out junk as long as there's a marketing hook they can identify. Films don't have to be good to get the big push.
When you're putting out a sequel to “Captain America” after the release of “The Avengers,” you have a pretty good running start at success, so there's no imperative need to make the film a smart examination of our own relationship with civil liberties and secrecy right now. When you're making a sequel to an animated family film, you don't really have to include a moment as adult and human as when Hiccup's father first sees his mother alive again. You don't have to make Koba a fully realized character in “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes” in order for people to go see your talking monkey movie. These films are special precisely because you can tell that no one's on autopilot, and I appreciate that more and more as we sink into a morass of pre-digested properties and sequels.
Here's the list so far:
41. “Edge Of Tomorrow”
42. “How To Train Your Dragon 2”
43. “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes”
44. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
45. “The Overnighters”
46. “The Theory Of Everything”
47. “Goodnight Mommy”
48. “Shrew's Nest”
49. “St Vincent”
50. “The Imitation Game”
Lots more to come between now and Tuesday.