Archive for the ‘Top Films’ Category

 

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Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.

Finally. DC Comics has made their first critically acclaimed film not starring Batman since 1978. Yes, its been that long.

Comic book nerd that I am, of course Wonder Woman is going to be my Film to Catch of the week. I’ll review WW next week, but here’s a quick run-through of the rest of this weekend’s releases.

The other wide-release film, Captain Underpants, is surprisingly not awful. If you liked the books, you’ll probably like this, and you can bring the kids to it and not leave the theater feeling like you’ve wasted your life. But you can do better.

In limited release, I, Daniel Blake is the film to see. It’s powerfully acted and a great underdog story. Past Life is a solid indy product that focuses on two Israel girls searching for secrets from their father’s past in WWII Poland. Churchill isn’t anything special, but Brian Cox in the title role gives a grand performance. Finally, Dean is a middle-of-the-road dramedy about life and loss. A standard tale, but well acted.

  • Must See: Wonder Woman
  • Worth Your Time: I, Daniel Blake
  • Take It or Leave It: Captain Underpants: the First Epic MovieChurchillPast LifeDean
  • Stay Away: None

 

 Where do They Come From?

Only wide release films count towards these numbers.

  • Wonder Woman: Adaptation of the DC Comics comic book series.
  • Captain Underpants: Adaptation of the book series by Dav Pilkey

 

Original: 19

Adaptation: 19

Sequel/Prequel: 13

Remake: 4

Oscarwatch

These ten films are the “Best of the Year,” IF THE YEAR ENDED TODAY.

This weekend’s releases not included.

They are ranked based on likelihood of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, with #1 being most likely. International films are not included until the end of year if Oscar potential exists.

DISCLAIMER: I may not personally recommend (or even like) all films on this list.

1) Get Out ( – )
2) Logan ( – )
3) Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 ( – )
4) John Wick: Chapter 2 ( – )
5) Their Finest ( +2 )
6) Norman ( -1 )
7) The LEGO Batman Movie ( -1 )
8) A United Kingdom (+1)
9) Beauty and the Beast ( -1 )
10) The Lost City of Z ( – )

 

Reviewing Silence resulted in bumping this segment back a few days, but today we’re dealing with that constantly nagging voice that whines that there’s nothing original left in Hollywood.

Its not the movie studios’ fault if folks choose to ignore good films they are not familiar with. Known commodities will nearly always win box office battles, because its easier to get people in the seats, but profit and box office receipts don’t equate to quality, and in this age there’s honestly no excuse for not seeing the amazing new films and ideas out there.

You’ll note that a star * = still in theaters, and +/- signs indicate how much more or less money the film made to its counterpart on this list last year.

Where Did They Come From?

There are four categories: Originals, Adaptations, Sequels (which include prequels and spin-offs), and Remakes.

To be fair, I’m only listing films that made it to wide release. If I counted limited release films as well, the original films would trounce the other categories in a landslide.

Originals

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Using the same qualifiers that the Academy Awards use, Original Films are films that are new screenplays, and not based on previously existing material such as novels, plays, television shows, etc. Basically, “Original” means not connected to any pre-existing work in print, screen, or stage.

Films based on events, but not creative works, are still original films. In 2015 there were 61 original films released. This past year (2016), there were 68.

The Top Five Original Films at the worldwide box office in 2016 were:

  1. Zootopia – $1.02B+$144M {Inside Out}
  2. The Secret Life of Pets $875.5M/ +$401.7M {San Andreas}
  3. Moana$555.2M/ +$311.4M {The Good Dinosaur}
  4. Sing – $488.2M/ +$250.5M {Spy}
  5. Passengers $292.9M/ +83.9M {Tomorrowland}

 

Adaptations

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Adaptations are all films based on already existing material, which can include novels (The Legend of Tarzan), comic books (Dr. Strange), plays (Fences), TV shows, etc.

Reboots are classified as adaptations because they are not sequels to existing material, but new versions of adapted material.

The emergence of shared universes is making classifying some films tricky. My guide is that if the focus of the film is on a character or characters that have not headlined a film before (Suicide Squad and Dr. Strange for example), then it is an adaptation.

In 2015 there were 38 adaptations, this year that number is 44.

The Top Five Adaptations at the worldwide box office in 2016 were:

  1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them$810.6M/ +$214.3M {The Martian}
  2. Deadpool$783.1M/ +$147.2M {Mockingjay, Part 2}
  3. Suicide Squad$745.6M/ +$202.9M {Cinderella}
  4. Doctor Strange$670.2M/ +$150.9 {Ant-Man}
  5. Warcraft$433.7M/ +19.3M {Kingsmen: The Secret Service}

 

Sequels/Prequels

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In this category are films that are sequels or prequels to other films. There were 30 sequels in 2016, that’s an increase of seven from the previous year.

The Top Five Sequels/Prequels in 2016 were:

  1. Captain America: Civil War$1.15B/ -$547M {Jurassic World}
  2. Rogue One$1.04B/ -$499.9M {Furious 7}
  3. Finding Dory$1.03B/ -$470.1M {Star Wars: The Force Awakens}
  4. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice$873.3M/ -$526.7M {Avengers: Age of Ultron}
  5. X-Men: Apocalypse$543.9M/ -$656.1M {Minions}

 

Remakes

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This category includes all remakes of feature films regardless of their country of origin. There were only 4 remakes in 2016, up one in number from the year before. Here are their international totals.

  1. The Jungle Book$966.6M/ +$871.1M {Poltergeist}
  2. Ghostbusters$229.1M/ +$148.9M {Point Break}
  3. The Magnificent Seven$162.4M/ +$152.4 {The Loft}
  4. Pete’s Dragon – $143.7M

 

In Conclusion

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Though the sequels brought in the most money in 2016, it was less than the previous year, with most of that shortfall moving to original films (especially the animated variety) and The Jungle Book.

Once again, the myth of Hollywood losing its creativity is debunked.

Now that January 2017 is past, and I’ve had some extra time to see more of last year’s films, its time to look back at 2016 in the movie world. Later, you’ll be hearing from “Where Did They Come From?” – detailing the source material for all of 2016’s films, and Friday brings “Oscarwatch,” my first round of Oscar winner predictions.  will be the 10 films I’m most looking forward to in 2016.

Today though, its my ten favorite films from 2016, and (as a bonus) the ten films I’m most looking forward to this year.

10. Eye in the Sky

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The acting is a little thin as you go down the cast list, but Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman (R.I.P), and Barkhad Abdi do more than enough to carry this very topical film. Forced to choose between letting a suicide bomber go free and saving the life of an innocent family, a seasoned military commander (Mirren) must navigate through both political bureaucracy (Rickman), and agents on the ground (Abdi), as she decides whether or not to push the button and blow up a Middle-Eastern compound.

9. Kubo and the Two Strings

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One of the most beautifully animated films to come along in years, Kubo is another chapter in the amazingness of stop-motion film-making. The story is pretty standard, but the beauty of the film will take your breath away. Oh…and Matthew McConaughey voices a giant anthropomorphic beetle.

Of significance is also this film’s Best Visual Effects Oscar Nomination. It is only the second animated film ever to garner such a nomination, and the first since The Nightmare Before Christmas in 1993.

8. Green Room

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In the “you learn something new every day” category is Green Room. I had no idea that a green room was a real thing (it’s where bands/singers/etc. hang out and wait to go onstage).

Anyway, this is a great indie film. A small-time punk rock band find themselves performing in an isolated, neo-Nazi, bar. They see something they shouldn’t, and end up in a battle for their lives. This is one of those “real-life” horror films that shakes you up a bit.

7. The Jungle Book

12891156_1173244646027634_7360654356410055621_oI’m a sucker for Kipling and the animated version of this story is one of my favorites, so of course this film makes the list.

Not only does this version end better than the classic one, but there’s Easter eggs galore, if you know Kipling’s original work, and the cast is priceless. Who wouldn’t want to hear Bill Murray sing “The Bare Necessities?” And mad props to Neel Sethi, who played Mowgli and was the only actor physically on set during filming.

6. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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This film, fresh from New Zealand, hits all the right buttons. There’s humor, tragedy, a great villain, compassion, a fun car chase, and a talented youngster (Julian Dennison) that carries the film, with help from Sam Neill. The comedy might be too dry for some folks, but if you’re a fan of that sort of humor, make sure you see this one.

5. Hell or High Water

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This is a film that sneaks up on you, both in real life and on screen. I was one of the few folks who had this film on their Oscar list going into last October (I was able to snag 100/1 odds on it on GoldDerby), and it surprises plot-wise as well.

Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Jeff Bridges are the driving forces here, but what really makes the film is the slow burn of a story. This modern-day western only gives scraps of motivation and back-story at the start, but when you get to the finish line, everything comes together and hits you between the eyeballs.

4. Doctor Strange

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Although it suffers a little bit from “origin-story-itis,” the latest addition to the big screen portion of the MCU is a resounding success. The cast of this film may give the best combined performance in an MCU film since The Avengers, with Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Benedict Wong all perfectly cast.

Of course, the visuals are what separates this film from every other film made this year. Anyone who missed seeing this on a theater big screen is really out of luck.

3. Captain America: Civil War

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Spider-Man was in it. ‘Nuff said.

2. Hacksaw Ridge

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You can read my review here for why exactly I liked it so much. In this space, it can just be said that you will very rarely find a film like this. A true story of sacrificial heroism that will tear at your heartstrings and bring you to applause.

1. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Ha ha. Just kidding. No way.

1. La La Land

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It wasn’t the suburb acting chops of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, the gorgeous cinematography, the catchy music, or even the fulfilled dreams that made this film the best of the year. Instead, it was how well the story can relate to our own lives. It’s a Hollywood story without a “Hollywood ending,” a reality wrapped up in a fiction for most of us, whether we are in La La Land or not. And even if we do reach our dreams, we never forget what we lost along the way.

BONUS!!! The 10 Films I’m most looking forward to in 2017. BONUS!!!

  1. Spider-Man: Homecoming
  2. Thor: Ragnarok
  3. Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2
  4. Beauty and the Beast
  5. My Friend Dahmer
  6. Logan
  7. It
  8. Murder on the Orient Express
  9. The Dark Tower
  10. Marshall

 

2016-oscar-nominations

With nominations announced this morning, its time to see how my predictions fared. This year’s nominees are amazing diverse, and fantastic reminders that Hollywood is still a hotbed of creativity and art.

I’m copy/pasting my prediction lists (in condensed form). Incorrect predictions will be crossed out, and replaced by the correct ones, which have a number in parenthesis indicated where I ranked them on my original prediction list (out of 10). Correct predictions are in bold.

Best Picture

1) La La Land

2) Moonlight   

3) Manchester by the Sea

4) Arrival

5) Hell or High Water

6) Hacksaw Ridge   

7) Hidden Figures   

8) Lion 

9) Fences

A perfect nine for nine! My super-secret algorithm comes through again!

*Note: Anywhere from 5-10 films can be nominated for Best Picture. I always pick the maximum because there’s no way of determining how many films will be picked. My 10th pick, 20th Century Women, was not nominated, meaning my top 9 picks were.

 

Best Director

1)  Damien Chazelle – La La Land

2) Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

3) Martin Scorsese – Silence     Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge   (#7)

4) Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

5) Denis Villeneuve – Arrival

 

Best Actor

1) Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

2) Denzel Washington – Fences

3) Ryan Gosling La La Land

4) Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge

5) Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic

 

Best Actress

1) Emma Stone La La Land

2) Natalie Portman – Jackie

3) Isabelle Huppert – Elle 

4) Amy Adams – Arrival     Ruth Negga – Loving   (#6)  

5) Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

 

Best Supporting Actor

1) Mahershala Ali – Moonlight

2) Dev Patel – Lion

3) Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water

4) Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea

5) Liam Neeson –  Silence     Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals   (#6)

 

Best Supporting Actress

1) Viola Davis – Fences

2) Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

3) Naomie Harris – Moonlight

4) Nicole Kidman – Lion

5) Greta Gerwig – 20th Century Women     Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures   (#6)

 

Best Foreign Language Film

1) Toni Erdmann

2) Land of Mine

3) A Man Called Ove

4) My Life as a Zucchini     The Salesman   (#6)

5) Tanna

 

Best Animated Film

1) Zootopia

2) Kubo and the Two Strings 

3) My Life as a Zucchini

4) The Red Turtle

5) Moana

 

Best Documentary Film

1) O.J.: Made in America

2) 13th

3) Cameraperson     Life, Animated   (#7)

4) I Am Not Your Negro

5) Weiner     Fire at Sea   (#10)

 

Best Adapted Screenplay

1) Moonlight  

2) Fences 

3) Arrival

4) Silence     Lion   (#6)

5) Nocturnal Animals     Hidden Figures   (#9)

 

Best Original Screenplay

1) Manchester by the Sea

2) La La Land

3) Hell or High Water

4) Jackie     The Lobster   (#6)

5) The Edge of Seventeen     20th Century Women   (#8)

 

Best Film Editing

1) Moonlight  

2) La La Land

3) Hacksaw Ridge

4) Jackie     Hell or High Water   (#9)

5) Arrival

 

Best Cinematography

1) Moonlight

2) La La Land

3) Arrival

4) Jackie     Lion   (Not ranked)

5) Silence

 

Best Production Design

1) La La Land

2) Jackie     Hail, Caesar!   (Not ranked)

3) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

4) Arrival

5) Silence     Passengers   (Not ranked)

 

Best Costume Design

1) Jackie

2) La La Land

3) Florence Foster Jenkins

4) Love & Friendship     Allied   (#6)

5) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

 

Best Make-up and Hairstyling

1) Florence Foster Jenkins     Suicide Squad   (#4)

2) Star Trek Beyond

3) A Man Called Ove

 

Best Original Score

1) La La Land

2) Jackie

3) Moonlight 

4) Lion 

5) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story     Passengers   (Not ranked)

 

Best Original Song

1) “City of Stars” La La Land

2) “How Far I’ll Go” – Moana

3) “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” – Trolls

4) “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” La La Land

5) “Heathens” – Suicide Squad     “The Empty Chair” – Jim: The James Foley Story   (Not ranked)

 

Best Sound Mixing

1) La La Land

2) Hacksaw Ridge

3) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

4) Doctor Strange     13 Hours   (Not ranked)

5) Arrival

 

Best Sound Editing

1) Hacksaw Ridge

2) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story     Arrival   (#6)

3) La La Land

4) The Jungle Book     Deepwater Horizon   (#7)

5) Doctor Strange     Sully   (#8)

 

Best Visual Effects

1) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

2) The Jungle Book

3) Doctor Strange

4) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them     Deepwater Horizon   (#6)

5) Kubo and the Two Strings 

 

Best Short Film

1) Graffiti     Ennemis Intérieurs   (#7)

2) Timecode

3) Bon Voyage     La Femme et le TGV   (#8)

4) The Way of Tea     Silent Nights   (#10)

5) Mindenki (Sing)

 

Best Animated Short Film

1) Piper

2) Pearl

3) Inner Workings     Pear Cider and Cigarettes   (#6)

4) Borrowed Time

5) Blind Vaysha

 

Best Documentary Short Film

1) The White Helmets

2) Extremis

3) Joe’s Violin

4) The Mute’s House     Watani: My Homeland   (#8)

5) 4.1 Miles

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“I’m not gonna kill you…I’m just gonna hurt you…really, really bad.” – The Joker

That line really encapsulates Suicide Squad. After the Batman v Superman mess, DC/WB delivers us this film, which spares the DC Expanded Universe the bullet to the head, only to riddle it with the pain of knowing that folks in high places don’t know what they are doing.

First of all, Suicide Squad is miles better than Batman v Superman. Not even close. Suicide Squad actually gives us characters we care about, some awesome big screen debuts of iconic comic book characters and clear character motivations (mostly). The acting is also generally solid (like BvS). But that all gets bogged down in issues that come from the top down, namely the directing, editing, and writing. But good before bad, right? SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Good Stuff. 

  • Acting. Will Smith’s Deadshot was the best part of this film. We get some great scenes, including an amazing background flashback and some awesome action sequences. The script really undercuts his performance at times, but that’s not Smith’s fault. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is gold at times, and the voice she uses actually works, minus the couple times her British accent gets in the way. Everyone else does their job well, although the jury is still out for me regarding Jared Leto’s performance as Joker. Sometimes it was brilliant, and sometimes not.
  • Easter Eggs. As we all knew, Batman’s around for a little bit of the film, and another hero drops by as well. That hero’s interaction with a particular Suicide Squader is direct from the comics in its feel, look, and atmosphere. Also, seeing Joker dancing with Harley in her red and black harlequin outfit was magical. One of those “This is straight from the comics and I can’t believe how it is on screen!” moments.
  • Effects. Ok, no. Not the SFX used in actual action. Those were cheesy as all get out. The opening montage of sorts kicked off the film just how you want it to, with attention grabbing backstories and flashy letterings. We get to see where some of the Squad came from, and their run-ins with their superhero counterparts. Harley’s origin wasn’t her classic one, which was lame, but that didn’t take away from the film.
  • We Actually Care! In BvS we didn’t care about anyone on screen. Superman is mopey and broody and he dies…for no reason…because Wonder Woman could have been the one to kill Doomsday. Lois is a jerk, Batman wants to kill people, and well…you get the idea. In SS, the story and characters give us enough to care about. Yes, these are bad guys, but we actually can sympathize with their struggles, we care about Deadshot primarily, but also El Diablo, Harley, and even a bit for Flagg and Killer Croc. Its not just a bunch of villains running around that we have no emotional attachment to.

The Bad Stuff. 

  • The Script. I get that Ayer only had six months to write this (for some inexplicable reason), but boy is this screenplay a stinker. You can tell that they tried to shoehorn some comedy in, because almost every one-liner sticks out like a sore thumb. This is unfortunate, especially when Harley Quinn’s character should have made this easy. Robbie’s comedic timing actually seems pretty good, but there are some spots where a poor script and choppy editing render that skill useless. There are several groan-worthy lines that feel like they were written by a 5th-grader, and they are bad enough to take you right out of the film.
  • The Editing. Very jumpy. It chops up the story rather than progresses it.
  • The Pacing. There are several scenes that could have been used for emotional gutpunches and or profound moments, but these scenes were really rushed through way too fast. There was very little time to process things before the next scene was already there.

The other problem, the main problem, is the plot. Though generic, it made sense as it stood. But once again, motivations and decisions made by characters within that plot too often make little to no sense. This causes a real lack of depth that really twists things into nonsense way too much, because there’s nothing beyond the surface activity. This is a carryover from BvS (although it was much more handicapping in that film. Nobody even knows why Lex Luthor was motivated to do anything in that film). So here are some questions this lack of depth caused.

#1) Why send the SS into an American city under a blatant super-human attack?

The main concept behind Task Force X is using super-villains instead of soldiers so that other countries will believe the U.S. government when they say “we had nothing to do with this action that would be usually interpreted as an act of war.” Basically, they are black ops mission runners who are expendable. So why send the SS into an American city under a blatant super-human attack, when none of the Suicide Squad members actually have powers that would be better than ordinary soldiers? Deadshot, Katana, Captain Boomerang, yeah, they are good with their weapons, but are they really any better than just sending in more soldiers. The only one that actually has superpowers is the only one that refuses to use them. I know Waller wants to hide her connection to the Enchantress, but she already sends in ground troops with the SS! Its no secret that there’s tons of debris floating above one of the biggest cities in the U.S. No reason to choose volatile criminals in this case.

#2) Why didn’t Waller destroy the Enchantress’ heart?

She specifically finds and keeps the heart to control the Enchantress. The understanding is that if the Enchantress steps out of line, the heart gets destroyed. So why does Waller just stab the heart instead of destroying it.

#3) Why did Waller kill all her “co-workers.”

The obvious reason is that it would make her look more like cold, cruel, BA woman. The reason Waller gives is that they have seen too much. But Waller brought those very same people in. The room is militarily labeled in the building. This all goes back to the fact that if all Waller wanted was an extraction, why send in Task Force X? And there are plenty of folks that work for top secret military functions. They all don’t get shot.

#4) Why didn’t Enchantress notice that the only weapon that could cut her heart out was sitting right in Harley Quinn’s reach?

#5) Why does the Joker get jealous of the guy he “gives” Harley to when he’s the one who “gave” Harley too in the first place?

Yeah, I dunno the answer to either of those either. Basically, this films could have been great, but suffers from way too much dumb decision making. The actors did their best with what they could, but it wasn’t enough to make a flawed film great.

Verdict: 2 out of 5 stars.

(The remainder of this post is the usual weekly TWIC features.)

Where do They Come From?

Only wide release films count towards these numbers.

  • Suicide Squad: Adaptation of the DC Comics comic book series.
  • Nine Lives: Original film written by Dan Antoniazzi and Ben Shiffrin.

Original: 34

Adaptation: 22

Sequel/Prequel: 23

Remake: 1

Oscarwatch

These ten films are the “Best of the Year,” IF THE YEAR ENDED TODAY.

This weekend’s releases not included.

They are ranked based on likelihood of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, with #1 being most likely. International films are not included until the end of year if Oscar potential exists.

DISCLAIMER: I may not personally recommend (or even like) all films on this list.

1) Zootopia ( +2 )
2) Sing Street ( – )
3) Love and Friendship ( –2 )
4) Hunt for the Wilderpeople ( – )
5) Captain America: Civil War ( – )
6) Finding Dory ( – )
7) The Jungle Book ( – )
8) Indignation (NEW)
9) Eye in the Sky ( -1 )
10) Don’t Think Twice ( -1 )

 

Down to the wire this year! Here are my much awaited predictions. I was 100% correct on my Independent Spirit Award predictions yesterday, so here’s hoping these are as good!

Predictions are listed in the order I think they are likely to win. Bold indicates the predicted winner.

Edit: Rather than posting an entire new article about them, here are my results. I was 18 for 24. 18 for 21 not counting those pesky short film categories. I picked the two big upsets of the night correctly: Spotlight for Best Picture, and Mark Rylance for Best Supporting Actor.

Green text means the prediction was correct. Red text with a strikethrough means it was not. The actual winner will be bolded in that case. 

Best Picture 

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  1. Spotlight
  2. The Revenant
  3. The Big Short
  4. Room
  5. Brooklyn
  6. The Revenant
  7. The Martian
  8. Mad Max: Fury Road
  9. Bridge of Spies

Wow. What a close race. Spotlight is not the current favorite, but I’ll pick it regardless.

Best Director

An Alternative View Of The Premiere Of 20th Century Fox's "The Revenant"

  1. Alejandro Inarritu (The Revenant)
  2. George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
  3. Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)
  4. Adam McKay (The Big Short)
  5. Lenny Abrahamson (Room)

Best Actor

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  1. Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)
  2. Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
  3. Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)
  4. Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)
  5. Matt Damon (The Martian)

Best Actress

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  1. Brie Larson (Room)
  2. Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)
  3. Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)
  4. Cate Blanchett (Carol)
  5. Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)

Best Supporting Actor

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  1. Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
  2. Sylvester Stallone (Creed)
  3. Christian Bale (The Big Short)
  4. Tom Hardy (The Revenant)
  5. Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)

I may regret not going with Stallone, but history is against him. He didn’t get a SAG or BAFTA nomination.

Best Supporting Actress

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  1. Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)
  2. Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)
  3. Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful 8)
  4. Rooney Mara (Carol)
  5.  Rachel McAdams (Spotlight)

Best Original Screenplay

  1. Spotlight
  2. Bridge of Spies
  3. Inside Out
  4. Straight Outta Compton
  5. Ex Machina

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. The Big Short
  2. Room
  3. The Martian
  4. Brooklyn
  5. Carol

Best Animated Feature Film

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  1. Inside Out
  2. Anomalisa
  3. Boy and the World
  4. Shaun the Sheep Movie
  5. When Marnie Was There

Best Documentary Film

  1. Amy
  2. The Look of Silence
  3. Cartel Land
  4. Winter on Fire
  5. What Happened, Miss Simone?

Best Foreign Film

  1. Son of Saul
  2. Mustang
  3. Theeb
  4. A War
  5. Embrace of the Serpent

Best Cinematography

  1. The Revenant
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. Sicario
  4. Carol
  5. The Hateful 8 

Best Costume Design

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Cinderella
  3. The Danish Girl
  4. The Revenant
  5. Carol

Best Makeup and Hair

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Revenant 
  3. The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

Best Production Design

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  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Revenant
  3. Bridge of Spies
  4. The Danish Girl
  5. The Martian

Best Film Editing

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Revenant
  3. Spotlight
  4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  5. The Big Short

Best Visual Effects

  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. The Revenant
  4. The Martian
  5. Ex Machina

Best Original Score

  1. The Hateful 8
  2. Carol
  3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  4. Bridge of Spies
  5. Sicario

Best Original Song

  1. “’Til it Happens to You” (The Hunting Ground)
  2. “Writing’s on the Wall” (Spectre)
  3.  “Manta Ray” (Facing Extinction)
  4. “Simple Song 3” (Youth)
  5. “Earned It”

Best Sound Editing

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Revenant
  3. The Martian
  4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  5.  Sicario

Best Sound Mixing

  1. The Revenant
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  4. The Martian
  5. Bridge of Spies

In both sound categories, its so close. Almost a tie between Revenant and Mad Max. I picked one for each to cover my bases.

Best Live Action Short (Total Crapshoot)

  1. Shok
  2. Ave Maria
  3. Everything Will Be Okay 
  4. Day One
  5. Stutterer

Best Animated Short 

  1. World of Tomorrow
  2. Sanjay’s Super Team
  3. Bear Story
  4. Prologue
  5. We Can’t Live Without Cosmos

Best Documentary Short  (Total Crapshoot)

  1. Chau, Behind the Lines
  2. Body Team 12
  3. Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
  4. Last Day of Freedom
  5. A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness

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To conclude coverage of 2015’s film slate, here are my predictions for Oscar nominations.

Oscar nominations are not announced until the 14th. However, with the Golden Globes this weekend, I’m releasing my predictions now. This is because, in years past, folks at sites like IMDB, Gold Derby, and the now-defunct Rope of Silicon always found themselves changing their picks drastically after the Golden Globes. This happens for two different reasons. The first is that they are eager to jump on bandwagons created by Golden Globe wins, which actually aren’t always that great of a predictor. The second is that they have to stop themselves from looking silly by distancing themselves from stupid picks they previously made which had very little chance of actually being correct.

This isn’t to say that it is somehow not kosher to change picks. Everyone’s free to do so. If I do, they will be noted here. The important part is transparency, to see how accurate things are as time goes by.

Here we go! Bold picks are ones I consider to be locks.

EDIT: The Oscar Nominations have been announced. I picked 75% correctly. Below, you’ll see that my correct predictions are in bold, and my incorrect picks have been crossed out, and replaced by the actual nominees. 

Best Picture 

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  1. Spotlight
  2. Room
  3. Brooklyn
  4. Carol
  5. The Revenant
  6. The Martian
  7. Mad Max: Fury Road
  8. The Big Short
  9. Bridge of Spies
  10. Sicario

As I said below, this category can have from 5-10 nominees. Carol and Sicario were not nominated, but all other films were accurately picked.

These past few years, the nomination race has been very fun to watch. This year, there are three films that intrigue me. The first is Mad Max. Usually action films like this get passed over by the Academy. But with nominations by the Golden Globes and Critics Choice circles, I can’t count it out. Not only that, its looking pretty good for a nomination.

Beasts of No Nation is so hard to get a read on thanks to its Netflix-only release. Its as good as the last few films on here, but I think it doesn’t quite make it.

Finally, there’s Creed. I think it can sneak in, but I’m wondering if nostalgia is kicking this one up the ladder a bit. On the bubble perhaps.

Also, remember there doesn’t have to be 10 nominations, so we could see some fall by the wayside.

Best Director

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  1. Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)
  2. Alejandro Inarritu (The Revenant)
  3. Ridley Scott (The Martian) Lenny Abrahamson (Room)
  4. George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
  5. Todd Haynes (Carol) Adam McKay (The Big Short)

Best Actor

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  1. Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
  2. Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)
  3. Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)
  4. Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)
  5. Johnny Depp (Black Mass) Matt Damon (The Martian)

On the bubble: Matt Damon (The Martian)

Best Actress

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  1. Brie Larson (Room)
  2. Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)
  3. Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)
  4. Cate Blanchett (Carol)
  5. Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road) Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)

On the bubble: Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)

Best Supporting Actor

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  1. Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
  2. Paul Dano (Love and Mercy) Christian Bale (The Big Short)
  3. Sylvester Stallone (Creed)
  4. Michael Shannon (99 Homes) Tom Hardy (The Revenant)
  5. Idris Elba (Beasts of No NationMark Ruffalo (Spotlight)

On the bubble: Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)

Best Supporting Actress

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  1. Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)
  2. Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful 8)
  3. Rooney Mara (Carol)
  4. Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)
  5. Helen Mirren (Trumbo) Rachel McAdams (Spotlight)

On the bubble: Rachel McAdams (Spotlight)

Best Original Screenplay

  1. Spotlight
  2. Bridge of Spies
  3. Inside Out
  4. Sicario  Straight Outta Compton
  5. The Hateful 8 Ex Machina

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. The Martian
  2. The Big Short
  3. Room
  4. Steve Jobs Carol
  5. Brooklyn

On the bubble: Carol

Best Animated Feature Film

  1. Inside Out
  2. Anomalisa
  3. The Peanuts Movie Boy and the World
  4. Shaun the Sheep Movie
  5. The Good Dinosaur When Marnie Was There

On the bubble: Home

Best Documentary Film

  1. Amy
  2. The Look of Silence
  3. Going Clear Winter on Fire
  4. Listen to Me, Marlon What Happened, Miss Simone?
  5. Cartel Land

Best Foreign Film

  1. Son of Saul
  2. Mustang
  3. Theeb
  4. A War
  5. Embrace of the Serpent

On the bubble: The Fencer

Best Cinematography

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Revenant
  3. Sicario
  4. Carol
  5. The Hateful 8 

On the bubble: The MartianBridge of Spies

Best Costume Design

  1. Cinderella
  2. The Danish Girl
  3. Brooklyn
  4. Carol
  5. Far from the Madding Crowd

On the bubble: Mad Max: Fury RoadThe Assassin

Best Makeup and Hair

  1. Black Mass  The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
  2. The Revenant 
  3. Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Production Design

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Carol The Revenant
  3. Bridge of Spies
  4. The Danish Girl
  5. The Martian

On the bubble: BrooklynCrimson Peak

Best Film Editing

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Revenant
  3. The Martian Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  4. Spotlight
  5. The Big Short

Best Visual Effects

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Martian
  3. Ex Machina
  4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  5. The Walk The Revenant

Best Original Score

  1. The Hateful 8
  2. Carol
  3. Spotlight Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  4. Inside Out Bridge of Spies
  5. Sicario

Best Original Song

  1. “See You Again” (Furious 7) “Manta Ray” (Facing Extinction)
  2. “Writing’s on the Wall” (Spectre)
  3. “’Til it Happens to You” (Hunting Ground)
  4. “Simple Song 3” (Youth)
  5. “Better When I’m Dancing” (The Peanuts Movie)

Best Sound Editing

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Sicario
  3. The Martian
  4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  5. The Revenant 

Best Sound Mixing

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Martian
  3. The Revenant
  4. Bridge of Spies
  5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Live Action Short (Total Crapshoot)

  1. Ave Maria
  2. Shok
  3. Everything Will Be Okay 
  4. Winter Light Day One
  5. Stutterer

Best Animated Short  (Total Crapshoot)

  1. World of Tomorrow
  2. If I Was God Bear Story
  3. Sanjay’s Super Team
  4. Carface Bear Story
  5. Prologue

Best Documentary Short  (Total Crapshoot)

  1. Chau, Behind the Lines
  2. My Enemy, My Brother Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
  3. Last Day of Freedom
  4. A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
  5. Body Team 12

After finally seeing American Sniper last night (my friend will apologize later for making me wait so long), I’m ready to put the lid on 2014 (Oscars aside of course) with my 10 Favorite Films of 2014. And so, without further ado…

#10) Selma

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There were some really great things about this film, the best being David Oyelowo, who was one of the few true Oscar snubs this year. It would be higher if the story was a little more driven. The film is pretty much Point A to Point B, which is fine, but it doesn’t feel propelled forward. Plus Tom Wilkinson is pretty unbelievable (in a not so good way) as LBJ. His performance is great, but he doesn’t look a thing like the former POTUS.

#9) Coherence

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A little-known indie flick available to watch on Amazon Prime, this is a true sci-fi thriller. And by sci-fi, I mean actual science fiction, with actual science. It is amazing what some great editing and a small, tightly-knit cast of actors can do. I love being drawn into a film and experiencing what the characters are, and this film accomplishes that in spectacular fashion.

#8) The Grand Budapest Hotel

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What a work of art by Wes Anderson. This is the most beautiful picture of the year, with great set pieces, make-up, and costumes. The cinematography was incredible as well. This is storytelling at its cinematic finest. Ralph Fiennes is perfect in his deadpan quasi-humorous lead, and the rest of the cast follow suit.

#7) American Sniper

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I’m not really sure what all the controversy is about. Oh, gosh, Middle Easterners are depicted as evil people…well that’s what happens when all the good people get out of town because the aren’t terrorists and don’t have interest in staying in a war zone. Were they supposed to throw a few Australians or French folks in there to make it more fair? Anyway, this is truly a masterpiece from the heart of Bradley Cooper and Clint Eastwood. Of course, with the trial of Chris Kyle’s real-life murderer beginning today, this story is still being written.

#6) The Lego Movie

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Yes, I’m a bad person for putting this above American Sniper, but this film was just a blast of fun. A hilarious script, wonderful animation, and a good story as well. It would have been so easy to go the “do whatever you want and break all the rules” route, but this film actually shows kids that there are certain instructions that need to be followed, and from there we are free to let our imaginations roam.

#5) Boyhood

Boyhood

This film is more of an experience than a movie. I don’t think any other film has captured what growing up is like as well as Boyhood does. Its an emotional ride, a journey through a life. You can really see the American experience through the lens of this film. Broken families, broken hearts, triumph over adversity, mistakes, successes, wonderful coincidences, its all here in a tapestry of humanity.

#4) Captain America: The Winter Soldier AND Guardians of the Galaxy

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I really felt it wasn’t fair to everyone else that Marvel is doing so well, so I’m putting both of their films here. What a year for Marvel Studios (again)! In a year where all other comic book films were either awful (Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesThe Amazing Spider-man 2, and Sin City and 300 sequels) or members of the “The-Effects-Are-So-Good-I’m-Not-Gonna-Think-About-How-Lame-and/or-Nonsensical the story actually is (Big Hero 6X-Men: Days of Future Past) Marvel Studios released two more gems. Can’t wait for their 2015 work, including Avengers: Age of UltronAnt-Man, and their new Daredevil Netflix series.

#3) Birdman

Michael Keaton in Birdman

Michael Keaton in Birdman

Its true, some people just don’t understand this film. I think its because they are looking for a straightforward story, but this is more of a parable, just like Gravity last year. You know how in the Bible, Jesus always is explaining his parables to his apostles because the general public seem clueless as to what they mean? I used to think that perhaps people just were dumber back then, but now I know that isn’t true. Most people seem to have a lack of ability to see past the base foundation of a story. In the case of Birdman, people see a story about a washed up actor who kinda goes crazy. They miss the internal warfare between fame and art, the mirror within a mirror of this film. Its brilliant, it really is.

#2) The Imitation Game

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I love puzzles, I love problem solving, and Benedict Cumberbatch is one of my favorite actors. He’s uncanny in this film, and so is the story. A great biopic with a sad ending, every American and Englishman should see this film and learn about the man who saved thousands of lives and helped halt Adolph Hitler’s reign of terror.

#1) Calvary

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Another parable-like film that some people couldn’t wrap their heads around. Brendan Gleeson and Chris O’Dowd carry this film, which is possibly the most painful film of the year. Its hard to watch, but it perfectly encapsulates the current tumult afflicting the Catholic Church. But this isn’t a film shaming Catholics, or the Church, or victims, this is a film about sacrificial love from a person who is deeply flawed himself. Its not a crime-thriller, but it does solve the mystery of the priesthood, and why so many men are still around, still following God’s call, still standing up for truth. The priesthood isn’t convenience, its about sacrifice, down to the bitter end.

Bonus Round – My 10 LEAST Favorite Films of 2014 (#1 = Least Favorite)

The gang's all here!

So disappointing…

  1. The Interview
  2. Noah
  3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  4. The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies
  5. Fury
  6. Muppets Most Wanted
  7. Magic in the Moonlight
  8. Dear White People
  9. Locke
  10. X-Men: Days of Future Past

Ok, now that I’ve sucked you in with that headline, let me clarify. Nobody needs to be fired, just reassigned, away from the job they have now, which is supposed to be telling us who the frontrunners are for the Oscar nominations being announced tomorrow morning.

You can find my predictions here. Variety published a rundown of the films they thought to be Oscar favorites. Yes, this was back in November, but still, what were they thinking? This is shoddy. As a major news source, you can’t rely on hype, or you’ll get things wrong, but that seems to be about all that they did, just pick films with lots of hype and/or special effects, with no interest in actual film quality.

There are the films they listed as Oscar favorites:

American SniperBig Eyes, Black or White, Boyhood, Calvary, The Fault in Our Stars, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Foxcatcher, Fury, Gone Girl, The Homesman, The Imitation Game, Inherent Vice, Interstellar, A Most Violent Year, Into the Woods, Nightcrawler, Mr. Turner, Selma, Rosewater, Still Alice, St. Vincent, The Theory of Everything, Unbroken, Whiplash, Wild.

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Now again, I’ll let it slide a bit because these predictions were made in November. But the fact remains that, even in a list of 27 films, there are some that belong nowhere near a list like this.

Black or White isn’t even eligible for an Oscar, Big EyesExodus, and Unbroken were hyped for months but none of them delivered; The Fault in Our Stars is blatant sucrose for your tear ducts and films like The Homesman and Rosewater have never been on anyone’s radar. So how many of these films will garner even a single nomination? Furthermore, with Variety insisting that these are Oscar frontrunners, how many will get any above-the-line nods? Not many. Here’s a breakdown of my predictions by film nominations.

  • 10 – Birdman
  • 9 – The Grand Budapest HotelThe Imitation Game
  • 6 – BoyhoodThe Theory of Everything
  • 5 – SelmaWhiplash
  • 4 – Gone Girl, InterstellarInto the Woods
  • 3 – NightcrawlerUnbroken
  • 2 – American Sniper, Dawn of the Planet of the ApesFoxcatcherGuardians of the Galaxy, IdaThe Lego MovieMr. TurnerWild
  •  1 – A Most Violent YearBegin Again, CakeGlen Campbell: I’ll Be MeGodzillaThe Hobbit: The Battle of the Five ArmiesThe Judge, Maleficent, NoahInherent ViceStill Alice, all other animated, foreign, documentary, and short films.

Of Variety’s films that I’m leaving out, Big Eyes and Fury both have outside chances at getting in. That leaves Black or White, Calvary, The Fault in Our Stars, Exodus: Gods and KingsThe Homesman, Rosewater, and St. Vincent to be placed on the “what the heck are they thinking?” list. That’s a good 30-40% of the films they picked as “favorites” that won’t get a single nomination. That percentage could get even bigger. Its possible that American SniperInherent Vice, and A Most Violent Year also will fail to get nominated. Not good enough if you’re Variety. Do better.

Of course, you can follow my Oscar predictions here and make fun of me if I’m wrong as well.

Let the end of the year wrap-up commence. Today is “Where Did They Come From?”, a recap of the year in film source material, and next week will be “Top 10 Lists” (the best of 2014 and hopefully 2015), and my official Oscar predictions.

Today we’re dealing with that ugly little monster that keeps saying that Hollywood is losing its creativity. Listen, its not the movie studios who are at fault if you choose to ignore films you’re not familiar with. Known commodities will nearly always win box office battles, because its easier to get people in the seats, but profit and box office receipts don’t equal quality, and in this age of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Redbox, there’s no excuse for not seeing the amazing new ideas out there. So…

Where Did They Come From?

There are four categories: Originals, Adaptations, Sequels (which include Prequels), and Remakes. I’m dropping re-releases this year, there are so few and they are usually pretty limited in scope.

To be fair, I’m only listing films that made it to wide release. If they have already announced wide release dates for early 2015, but have been out already in limited release, then they have been counted. If I counted limited release films as well, the original films would be the clear winner.

Originals

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Using the same qualifiers that the Academy Awards use, Original Films are films that are new screenplays, and not based on previously existing material such as novels, plays, television shows, etc. Basically, “Original” means not connected to any pre-existing work in print, screen, or stage. Films like Selma, based on events but not creative works, are still original films. Last year there were 50 original films released. This year, that number falls by one to 49.

The Top Five Original Films at the worldwide box office in 2014 were:

(* = still in theaters)

  1. Interstellar* – $648.9M (Written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan)  
  2. The Lego Movie – $468M (Written by Phil Lord and Chris Miller)
  3. Lucy – $458.9M (Written by Luc Besson)
  4. Neighbors – $268.2M (Written by Andrew Cohen and Brandon O’Brien)
  5. Non-Stop – $222.9M (Written by Ryan Engle, John W. Richardson, and Chris Roach)

Adaptations

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Adaptations are all films based on already existing material, which can include novels (The Maze Runner), comic books (Guardians of the Galaxy), plays (Annie), TV shows etc.

Reboots such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are classified as adaptations because they are not sequels to existing material, but new versions of adapted material. Films like The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One are considered adaptations as well. These are not actually sequels in the sense that Captain America: Winter Soldier or Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb are, but actually new adaptations of works that continue the story adapted in the first film.

With 50 total adaptations, they were the most common film in 2014. This is the first time in at least four years that there have been more adaptations than original films. Last year there were just 40. Its still important to note that most adaptations have never been adapted, so they are still new material, aside from the anomalies like Mockingjay.

The Top Five Adaptations at the worldwide box office in 2014 were:

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy –  $772.5M (Adapted from the Marvel Comics comic book series)
  2. Maleficent – $757.8M (Adapted from the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty)
  3. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1* – $671.9M (Adapted from “Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins)
  4. The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies* – $580.7M (Adapted from “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien)
  5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – $477.2M (Adapted from the Mirage Studios comic book series)

Sequels/Prequels

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In this category are films that are sequels or prequels to other films. Spin-offs like Annabelle are also included. Easy huh? There were 20 sequels in 2014, that’s an increase of two from last year.

The Top Five Sequels/Prequels in 2014 were:

  1. Transformers: Age of Extinction – $1.1B <— Yes, billion. How do these crappy films keep making money?!?
  2. X-Men: Days of Future Past – $746M
  3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – $714.1M
  4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – $709M
  5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – $708.3M

Remakes

Joel Kinnaman

This category includes all remakes of feature films regardless of their country of origin. There were only 3 remakes in 2014, here are their international box office totals.

  1. Godzilla – $525M (Remake of 1954 film Godzilla)
  2. RoboCop – $242.7M (Remake of 1987 film of the same name)
  3. About Last Night – $49M (Remake of 1986 film of the same name)

In Conclusion

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The majority of 2014 films are brand new to the screen, either by way of Original Screenplay or an Adaptation. In the next few years we’re going to be seeing a whole new slate of long term projects make it to the big screen. We have Deadpool, the continuing Marvel Cinematic Universe, DC Comics big guns, new Star Wars films and even Lego getting amped up. I look forward to it. Hope you do as well.