Sunday, January 4, 2015

End of the year list 2014

2014 was a doozy. Quite frankly I'm fine leaving it behind. This year saw some amazing movies and albums released. I have a hard time ranking things because I often feel guilty for leaving things out. Hence there will be many honorable mentions.

Top 3 Films of the year:

For a self proclaimed geek, it was a pretty danged good year. Of course it will pale in comparison with 2015 where we get Fast and Furious 7, Jurassic Park 4, Avengers 2, and Star Wars 7....but we still had some winners this year. I've honestly not seen any of the Oscar contenders thus far so my film viewing this year will pretty much be just the films I saw in the theater. So here's my top 3 films and a few blurbs about the honorably mentions.

3rd Place: Edge of Tomorrow
I love me some good sci-fi, but too often the sci-fi movies that come out are stupid and R rated. This makes for low financial returns and a focus on the gore instead of the story. Enter Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt in a really surprisingly well put together movie. It was much like Groundhog's Day, only instead of Bill Murray living every day in Pennsylvania, we get some really witty actors living and dying daily in a battle against alien organisms. I found that the best part of this movie turned out being the actors and their chemistry. A movie like this with other actors could have ruined it, but Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt were perfect together. The most underrated part of the film was Bill Paxton as the leader of a bunch of grunts in the military. He was hilarious and snarky, which for me made the movie. A perfect character, no matter how big or small, can make or break a movie. 

2nd Place: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
I went back and forth on this for a while. The number 2 and number 1 spot were hotly contested and I had to give this one 2nd place though if you asked me tomorrow I could easily put it to number 1. The first Captain American film was simple and in retrospect was really underwhelming, however because it was a period piece we need to treat it as what it was...and it was pretty good. As the Avengers and other comic book movies continue to dominate the box office it was easy to look at this April release as just another super hero flick that would make 200  million dollars and leave quietly. However if I had to label this movie, it wouldn't be as a "Super Hero Movie." It was a spy thriller  much akin to Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. The climax of the film was an incredible action sequence which had some of the best visuals I've ever seen in an epic fight scene. It was a smart movie, balanced with great performances by Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Redford. I bought this one on Blu-Ray the day it came out and have enjoyed going back through such a fun movie. 

1st Place: The Guardians of the Galaxy

As great as Winter Soldier was, there's no way I could top this movie. There are only a handful of movies that I have left the theater thinking, "that was a flawless film." Some of these include: Pirates of the Caribbean: the Curse of the Black Pearl, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Avengers, and other classics. This movie was the funniest film of the year as well as one of the best action pics ever I did see. I think this movie can be summed up by this: Pretend that Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and the A-Team had a baby. BANG! That's guardians of the galaxy. Vin Diesel's "I am Groot" lines were among the most memorable of the year. Rocket Raccoon as voiced by Bradley Cooper was flawless and the entire cast was given great lines that got a chuckle out of the audience. The 80's references combined with the fact that the soundtrack, made up entirely of oldies, hit the top of the charts, made this a must see as well as a must own. It was even the top grossing film of the year which is impressive. I loved it.

Honorable Mentions: X-men Days of the Future Past, The Hobbit: The Battle of the 5 Armies, Godzilla, Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit, Big Hero 6

Dishonorable Mentions: That stupid 300 sequel, Spiderman 2, Ninja Turtles

And now to Music....
K I'm super biased on this section and rightfully so, I'm not going to listen to something that I consider crap. The world is full of crappy music. These are the songs that are popular at 2 high school dances that I chaperon and by the third dance are no longer cool. Seriously, like this summer when everyone, myself included, thought that "I'm so Fancy" song by Iggy Azalia was really cool, but now it's SOOOO overplayed and done. I need music that sticks, and I found 3 albums/acts this year that I found to be incredibly interesting and of high quality.

3rd Place: Lorde: Pure Heroine. 
Thank goodness for Lorde. I have nothing against Katy Perry or T-Swift, I think both of those ladies or girls or whatever they are (I don't know, I'm 33 now, what do I call them?) put out great pop music that is a cut above the rest, but the radio becomes too saturated with that one poppy sound and once in a while it's nice to go elsewhere. Enter Lorde. Funny thing is, last year when that "Royals" song came out, I couldn't stand it, and I still don't like it. However, songs like, "Tennis Courts" and "Team" came around this summer and I really liked it.  I'm excited to see which direction she takes with her music, but her whole personae and vibe right now are pretty darned cool. Sometimes the bright poppy world needs a bit of edgy darkness thrown in the mix. There's a huge spectrum of emotions and too much focus on the "happy poppy people" grows bland. Good on her for going dark and being her crazy self.

2nd Place: 311: Stereolithic

I've been listening to 311 and attending their shows for years now. I believe that this summer was my 11th show overall. To be honest, the last 3-4 albums from 311 had their highlights, but overall they just didn't flow from track to track with greatness like "Music" or "The Blue Album" from years past. I guess this album caught me off guard because I figured it'd be another "2-3 good songs and the rest filler" kind of effort, but boy was I wrong. Track for Track this is the 3rd or 4th best album that 311 has ever put out, and that is saying a lot. In fact any fans of the band reading this would probably punch me in the throat and disagree with me but I don't care. I love it. The album reached perfection for me when I started hitting tracks found later on the album and I discovered "Friday Afternoon" "Simple True" and "Make it Rough." I think that Make it Rough was the nail in the coffin for me as far as this being a great album was concerned. At about 2 1/2 minutes in, they break into a really cool riff that makes me want to punch trough my window whenever I'm driving to my night job in Provo. I totally advise picking this album up. It was TERRIFIC live by the way. TERRIFIC!

1st Place: The Smashing Pumpkins: Monuments to an Elegy 
I know I know, big surprise that the guy who named his kid after the singer/songwriter from the Smashing Pumpkins just picked their latest album as his number one for the year. I have to be honest, even if they weren't my favorite, this would be my number 1 album of the year. There are only 9 tracks, which is very short for a Pumpkins album, but each one is SO good that it 's like I'm listening to 13-14 great tracks worth of quality. I read a lot into the fan pages and the opinions of those fans on facebook and on articles written about the band's recent release, and some people get it, some people don't. This album is in my opinion, as near flawless as a rock album can be. If your criteria for listening to rock and roll is, "there was a guitar and drums, so this qualifies as rock right? Am I cool now because I listen to rock?" then you have failed. Billy Corgan released the bands most recent drummer and brought in legendary rocker Tommy Lee to fill his shoes. The drums on this album dang near shatter my skull on some of the tracks. The first track: Tiberius, may be one of the best songs the Pumpkins have written in the last 10 years.
Every other track is full of so many highlights and interesting tones that I've listened to it at least 15 times in the last 3 weeks and I'm still finding little nuances and tones that I didn't catch the first time. They'll always be my favorite band and this album goes to show that regardless of how old the band gets, and how bad the music on the radio is today, Billy Corgan can still write really really really great rock songs.

I could write top 3 comic books, top 3 tv shows, top 3 sports thingies, but you know what? I'm tired. Bed time. Lates- JR

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