It was a good year for Chris Evans as you’ll see later. He has grown quite a bit as an actor and it’s good to see him get challenging roles. Snowpiercer was a hard film to find but I was very lucky to do so. This is one of those word of mouth type films. Set in a post-apocalyptic ice age, Snowpiercer tells the story of humanity’s last survivors aboard a train that spans the globe. As a reflection of our own world, the train is divided into the have’s and have not’s. Evans character, Curtis is one of the have not’s and he leads a revolt against their oppressors. Very well made and thought provoking.
Jake Gyllenhaal can be quite creepy as seen in this film about an ambitious scavenger and not so ethical would-be cameraman named Louis Bloom. Seeing that there was money to be made filming grisly images of crimes and death, Bloom goes to great lengths to catch these images no matter the cost to anyone else. It’s a disturbing look into our own selves and the stuff that catches our attention. We are by nature a train wreck society and this film exposes that animal instinct.
I’ll never make a dull grilled cheese sandwich ever again thanks to this film. That’s just one of the many delights from this small yet delightful independent film by Jon Favreau. Favreau stars as Chef Carl Casper who after quitting his job as head chef of a posh L.A. restaurant, must figure out what’s next on the menu of life. He launches a food trucking business and along with his best friend and son go on a cross-country venture. His quest to regain his passion for cooking and the food he creates become the metaphors for life and love itself. Warning, you will be hungry after seeing this wonderful film.
7. Gone Girl
For years I wasn’t much of a Ben Affleck fan more so as an actor as oppose to being a director, which I think, he has incredible skill. But he has grown on me now as an actor as well. Gone Girl tells the story of Nick and Amy (Rosamund Pike) Dunne who on the surface seem like the perfect couple. But when Amy goes missing on their anniversary and Nick becomes the prime suspect, what you thought you knew and what actually was, is two different things. The story telling is very well paced and without saying too much, Pike makes a very good femme fatale. With the exception of a questionable ending, Gone Girl was about as good as it gets in 2014.
6. Begin Again
This was a fun film with a great soundtrack that speaks to anyone who has ever been wronged or hurt by someone they love. They say misery loves company. Begin Again fits that cliché perfectly. When Gretta (Keira Knightly) is discovered by Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a down and almost out record executive after her breakup with singer/boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine) their passion for music binds them together and breathes new life to their fading hopes of a better future. For those who inspire to be artists of any medium, this film will be your muse. To her credit, Knightly does her own singing and quite well I might add.
5. John Wick
Keanu Reeves will probably never win an Oscar but who cares, because this is one of his best roles ever. Straight up this was probably the best action film of the year. There wasn’t a dull moment to be had here. Reeves plays retired assassin John Wick who after the death of his beloved wife goes into secluded mourning. But when mobster wannabe Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen) steals his car and worse, kills his puppy, a gift from his wife, all hell breaks loose. They say hell hath no fury as a woman scorned. Try killing man’s best friend and see what happens. Although not a box office success by any stretch, John Wick was a smart, witty and action filled adventure that I hope gains a following when it hits stores on Blu-ray.
4. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
There are rumblings that actor Andy Serkis the man behind the CGI ape-leader, Caesar should be looked at for an Oscar nod. This isn’t the first time either thinking back on his role as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings series. I have no objection if such a consideration was given. Serkis gave Caesar the life this great character deserved. Taking place ten years after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the simian flu has all but wiped out the human race. Under Caesar’s leadership, a thriving ape colony has been established. When a small band of human survivors stumble upon the ape colony, Caesar must decide between protecting his own or rebuilding a relationship with the humans. The CGI was nothing short of perfection in Dawn. It took decades for a worthy successor of the Heston classic to emerge. Dawn and its impending sequels may have finally reached that honor.
Much like Snowpiercer, Birdman was a hard film to find and I am grateful to have found it. This film should give Michael Keaton at the very least an Oscar nod for his portrayal of Riggan Thomson, a former cinema superhero (sound familiar?) who’s trying to make a comeback on a Broadway production of his own creation. So much of this mirrors Keaton’s post-Batman career that you find yourself immersed in the story and root for his success. Keaton has always been an underrated actor and it’s wonderful to see that the buzz behind his performance has gained a well-deserved recognition. If you can find it, please see it.
2. Guardians of the Galaxy
The biggest hit of the year was also the biggest surprise for Marvel. Usually films that come out in August have little expectations. Any success they may have was an added bonus. Guardians not only sported one of the best soundtracks of all time, it solidified itself as one of Marvel’s best films in their cinematic universe. Some have called it the Star Wars of this generation. That’s high praise. Whether or not it will be remains to be seen. What I do know is that Marvel’s gamble on lower tier characters has yielded them high results and has put actor Chris Pratt on the map and has made Groot and his signature phrase “I am Groot”, one of the most lovable characters in recent memory.
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
For my money, The Winter Soldier transcends the a-typical comic book film. It works on so many levels ranging from a political thriller with a social commentary that mirrors many of today’s issues regarding government interference and national security, to its edge of your seat, well choreographed action scenes. Of course at the very heart of this is its source material of the comics themselves. There was nothing short of great characters led by Captain Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) that make their way onto this film. TWS served as a critical point in the overall landscape of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The events here not only set into motion what’s to follow but it helped propel the series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to new heights and added a necessary need to watch on a weekly basis to satisfy our hunger between films. To that I say, Hail Hydra!
May the Dork be with you,
The Dork Knight