The year 2014 is almost at an end. While it’s been a tumultuous year in the media, from celebrity controversies to strange choices in long-lasting franchises, there have been plenty of stumbles along the way. But there have also been countless things to celebrate, with creativity and originality often triumphing over the corporate machine that so often fuels the media we consume.
Like much of the focus of this blog, I’ve chosen to focus on the positives. The things that we love give much more life than the failures and frustrations. Negativity is focused on plenty in the news and social media, so I’ve chosen to focus on the best things to come out in the past 365 days.
From movies to comic books to podcasts, these are some of my favorite things from the year 2014. Have your own favorites? Let me know in the comment section below!
5 Favorite Movies
Captain America: The Winter Soldier – The best superhero movie ever made? Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Solider is a potent blend of action, conspiracy, and political commentary, all wrapped in a flawless superhero package. Best of all, Chris Evans’ Steve Rodgers is done justice, showing him as the fantastic character he truly is.
Edge of Tomorrow – An overlooked gem that is outstanding fun in every sense, Edge of Tomorrow is a dizzying display of sci-fi adventure. Stars Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt are magnetic in their lead roles as a tale of time loops and alien invasions plays out. It’s thrilling, executed in fantastic fashion, and surprisingly hilarious. Check it out!
The LEGO Movie – An animated movie that has no right being as wonderful as it truly is. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller took a toy property (an idea that has led to no shortage of bad movies) and turned it into an ode to creativity and the greatness within everyone. It plays an many amazing levels, being equal parts subversive and heartwarming at the same time.
Guardians of the Galaxy – The offbeat sci-fi action film that took the world by storm, who knew that a science fiction film based on a little known comic book property could be the feel good hit of the year? Powered by a fantastic soundtrack, perfect casting, dizzying imagination, and countless hilarious lines, Guardians’ greatness is due to director/writer James Gunn.
The Raid 2 – A sequel to one of the best action movies or recent years and a fantastic film in its own right, The Raid 2 features some of the best action sequences ever committed to film. From brutal prison fights in the mud to one-on-one knife ballets in a kitchen, the inventive nature and fantastic execution of each battle keeps The Raid 2 a jaw-dropping spectacle from start to finish.
Favorite TV Show – The Flash
Superhero television shows have been hit and miss for as long as they have been on the air. Finally, Arrow got it right, especially in its second and now third seasons on The CW. But it’s The Flash that has truly hit the heights that serialized superhero stories are possible of reaching. Star Grant Gustin is eminently likable as Barry Allen and is magnetic both in and out of the Flash costume, with his relationships quickly growing with every character. Just as important, it’s clear that the showrunners have a clear direction in mind, planting seeds for long-term stories and quickly building the mystery around the death of Barry Allen’s mother and The Reverse Flash. Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess, but The Flash is off to a thrilling start.
Runner-Up: Community – The little show that could. The return of showrunner Dan Harmon revitalized Community and brought about another fantastic, but short, season for our favorite Greendale students. Six Seasons and a Movie!
Favorite Song – “Latch” by Disclosure featuring Sam Smith
Incredibly infectious and charismatic due to the bubbling techno sounds of Disclosure and the fantastic, unique voice of singer Sam Smith, “Latch” is the kind of song that gets stuck in your head, but you never want it to get out. It’s the kind of song that’s just as appropriate for the club as it is for the car. Yes, it actually was first released in 2012, but “Latch” hit the United States in 2014, so let’s let this one slide.
Runner-Ups: “Magic” by Coldplay, “Congregation” by Foo Fighters, “A Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay, “Supernova” by Ray LaMontagne, “Love Me Again” by John Newman
Favorite Film Soundtrack – Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix, Vol. 1
It’s an integral part of not only the story of Guardians of the Galaxy, but the emotional core of the film, as well. Not only that, but it’s a rocking good time on its own. Writer/Director James Gunn took offbeat pop hits from the ’70s and ’80s and deeply rooted them to the character of Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, as his only connection to Earth and his deceased mother. From “Hooked on a Feeling” by Blue Swede to “Fooled Around and Fell In Love” by Elvin Bishop, each song feels great and has a perfect touchstone in the film. Extra points to go “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone for the opening dance sequence and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” for bringing great closure to Peter Quill’s story arc and Guardians of the Galaxy as a whole.
Runner-Up: How to Train Your Dragon 2 bu John Powell – Taking everything great from the first film’s score and expanding it. The familiar refrains and themes return, but this time are propelled to greater heights for a welcome return with still plenty of new surprises.
Favorite Comic Book – Daredevil
Writer Mark Waid brought his lengthy run on Daredevil to a close with artist Chris Samnee, the perfect match for his tone and storyarcs, only to immediately come back with another volume of amazing work. Waid has returned a fun and swashbuckling tone to Daredevil, who has long been Marvel’s darkest and most depressed hero. Here, there’s a constant sense of fun and adventure, but there is still emotional depth and growth. While the cancellation and relaunch of Daredevil was at first a worrisome development, Waid’s new direction for the hero, which saw his identity once and for all becoming public knowledge and the hero moving to San Francisco, has brought brand new ideas and a fresher take than ever on The Man Without Fear.
Runner-Up: Ms. Marvel – The little comic book that made humongous waves, Ms. Marvel isn’t just a giant step forward for diversity in comic books, it’s a wonderful book all on its own. Kamala Khan is the Peter Parker for a new generation – a true outsider who is equal parts inspiring and relatable.
Favorite Podcast – Harmontown
Community, Rick & Morty, and Heat Vision & Jack creator Dan Harmon discusses everything from pop culture to racism in front of a live audience with all manner of special guests, then plays a rousing round of Dungeons & Dragons every week. It’s haphazard and unpredictable journey every week, but it’s always funny, often thought-provoking, and frequently challenging. Take a peak inside Dan Harmon’s mind and be simultaneously terrified and amazed.
Runner-Up: How Did This Get Made? – Can bad movies be as enjoyable as great ones? Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas watch some of the worst movies ever made and listeners get to hear the aftermath. Always hilarious, there’s never an episode you should miss! The best episode in 2014? Jack Frost with guest Dan Harmon.
Daredevil by Frank Miller – One of the greatest comic book runs of all time and possibly the most influential work ever done on The Man Without Fear, writer/artist Frank Miller’s work in the ‘80s on Daredevil set a new dark era for the hero.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – No, not the new Michael Bay produced film, but just about every other TMNT work is enjoyable in its own right. The new IDW Comics reboot in particular is fantastic, with new but still familiar takes on beloved characters propelled by a thrilling new storyline.
The Blacklist – The hit NBC show is in its second season now, but it’s a story that will hook you from the very beginning. While the mysteries and characters all help hook in viewers, it’s James Spader as Raymond Reddington who makes the show as great as it is. Do not watch unless you want to be hopelessly hooked!
Adventure Time – In its sixth season and stronger than ever, Adventure Time is the psychedelic trip into a world of dungeons, dragons, and candy creatures that is never predictable and always imaginative. As Finn and Jake continue their adventures in The Land of Ooo, the stakes get higher, the stories grow larger, and the show only gets better.