Movies and TV
Five Favorites from the Movies and TV Channel

The Escapist Staff | 15 Dec 2014 16:00
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Every year, we talk about what we loved about the past 12 months of geeky entertainment. It's usually under the guise of discussing what to honor with our Escapist Awards, but we always seem to gravitate toward that list of five unique things that especially moved us this year. It could be cute, it could be have emotional impact, it could be just downright silly, but each of the things on these lists means something to us.

Here's what the writers from the Movies and TV channel picked for their five favorite things from 2014.

From the desk of Marla Desat:

Reflecting back on the movies and televisions shows I loved in 2014, it's the big fight scenes that come to my mind. The episodes and films that beckon me back to watch over and over again weren't just about well-choreographed action sequences, but also built an interesting world and empathetic characters around those fights. That kind of effortless world building adds weight to the action, and my list of favorites this year is all about delivering incredible worlds.

5. Guardians of the Galaxy

I can't stop quoting Guardians of the Galaxy. I get giddy whenever I hear one of the songs off its soundtrack. It's a joyful space adventure, living somewhere in my mind between Firefly and Galaxy Quest. Of all the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe it is the only one that has inspired my friends to start reading comics. It dives willingly into the strangest cosmic spheres of Marvel Comics, and does it with enough swagger and confidence that it manages to make a dance-off a convincing final fight (well, distraction). From the almost slapstick fighting styles of Peter Quill and Groot, to Rocket's propensity for explosions, Gamora's expert precision, and Draxx's unbridled power, these misfit heroes stole my heart. And who can say no to baby Groot?

4. Outlander "Sassenach"

Of all the fantasy and romance novels that I've read, I never quite expected Diana Gabaldon's Outlander to be made into a television series. I thought it might become an underwhelming movie someday, packing the events of the first book into ninety minutes of Hollywood romance. Instead, the Outlander series delivers a slow build, effectively translating the time-traveling romance from book to screen with an impeccable understanding of its fans. I love how slowly the premiere progresses, devoting its first half to spending time with Claire and her husband Frank as they reconnect after the war, showing us the details of their sex life as they rebuild their relationship. It's not rushed, and it means that when Claire is whisked back in time, we share her sadness at his absence. Even more, the jarring change in accent and language, culture, and even clothing is given time to develop. The willingness to tell this story slowly makes this not only a fantastic adaptation, but also an outstanding television series.

3. John Wick

Make all the "I know Kung Fu" jokes you like, this Keanu Reeves action flick won't flinch. As a hyper competent but retired hitman for the Russian mob, John Wick lives quietly until some mobster punks steal his car and kill his dog. I'm a sucker for revenge stories, and this one stalks towards its conclusion with relentless confidence. It builds a fully imagined and broad underworld effortlessly through characters, locations, and their interactions, without resorting to straight exposition. Once Wick has his motivation, the film is all breathtaking shots of brutal one-against-the-mob fights. Wick uses expert wrestling and handgun skills to efficiently dispatch his enemies. It's gritty and deep enough without putting it all in your face, with big satisfying fights that don't hide the action with cuts or blurring. It's the kind of movie that, as a child, I'd rewind on VHS to watch the same moves over and over again before trying them out on my brother.

2. Lucy

I've spoken before about how much I enjoyed this movie, and how ignoring the misconception at its center -- that we only use 10% of our brains -- is a fundamental part of my enjoyment. If you consider it either a metaphor or a gross error by Morgan Freeman's character, Professor Samuel Norman, what remains is one of the most interesting action flicks of the year. Scarlett Johansson, as Lucy, goes through a slow evolution from party girl to calculated, efficient killer to a solemn, selfless being. That evolution takes the standard action movie progression a step further, committing itself to exploring a science fiction premise. I went in expecting an action movie that would deliver on the promise of fantastic-drug-gives-protagonist-the-power-to-kick-ass with a series of jaw-shattering fights, and instead it asks: what is the best use of knowledge?

The movie suffers from some faults (other than the obvious 10% problem). Its Korean mobsters are flat and stereotypical, and as further salt in that wound the background set dressing makes big errors, with its background graffiti reading like a takeout menu. As a sci-fi character study though, it managed to really enthrall me. If we do expand the power of our minds -- through drugs, like Lucy, or through gene manipulation or technology - to what ends do we use that power? Lucy uses her new skills first for self-protection, and then for convenience and violent revenge, but by the time Lucy reaches its climactic fight, her purpose has changed. I don't want to give too much away, but it is illustrated beautifully in how she deals with the final fight, and her last actions are choosing betterment of mankind through shared knowledge.

1. Game of Thrones "The Mountain and the Viper"

Every moment of "The Mountain and the Viper" makes me grin. The Boltons are scheming, the wildlings are at the wall, Sansa starts to play the game, Jorah Mormont falls out of favor with Daenerys, and Arya laughs at her misfortune. And, of course, the Viper fights the Mountain. The great character moments and that painful judicial battle make this my favorite television episode of the year.

Watching Pedro Pascal trade barbs with the Lannisters as Oberyn Martell this season was bittersweet. Having read A Song of Ice and Fire, I knew that every great scene with Oberyn was one more step towards his grisly death. Still, I eagerly anticipated the fight between Oberyn and Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane, and it definitely satisfied. I loved how Oberyn tries to toy with Gregor, and how Gregor rejects precision for power. I could talk for hours about how the difference in their choice of weapons influences their range and targets, and how their armor affects the same (and if you love historical combat as much as me, you'll love martial arts instructor Matt Easton's review of the fight). For me, this fight is the core of the season, the critical event that changes Tyrion's life forever and also has far-reaching implications for Westeros, and Dorne in particular. Though, to be honest, I still can't think of the sound of Clegane crushing Oberyn's skull without flinching.

Those are my Movies and TV favorites for 2014: a lot of action with a dash of romance! And I didn't even bring up Arrow, which consistently delivers great fight scenes, or Captain America: Winter Soldier, my favorite serious Marvel flick so far. Now, to finally start watching True Detective...

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