(In the opinion of CINSSU blogger Caroline Eisen)

 

1.     Guardians of the Galaxy

A surprisingly well-made addition to the Marvel cinematic franchise, Guardians of the Galaxy proved to be original and an entertaining superhero film that perfectly blended the action, comedy and drama required of a Marvel movie. Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill was, oddly enough, one of the most relatable characters of the Marvel franchise, whose taste in music has seen a renewed love of 1970s music from fans across the world (at least, according to iTunes’ Top 10). Overall, a very badass adaptation about an unlikely group of misfits whose combined efforts against the greatest threats towards the galaxy will make Guardians who are worthy of rivalry against the sometimes too-lofty superheroes of The Avengers. (Director: James Gunn)

 

2.     Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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This film outdid its predecessor (and even the Avengers, in my opinion) in every way possible. Throughout the course of the film, I almost felt as though I were watching a great spy-thriller, rather than a superhero film. This film brilliantly combined Die Hard-level action sequences with Ludlum-inspired suspense and the inner-workings of government organizations. In my opinion, this movie captured the essence of Marvel’s beloved American Super-soldier in ways that The First Avenger and The Avengers ultimately failed to achieve. (Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo)

 

3.     Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

This latest installment to the ‘Apes’ franchise was by far one of the most surprisingly powerful films of 2014. The film’s poignant satire, acting, and life-like visual effects were so expertly executed, that I was genuinely surprised that it has not caught the attention of the Awards shows so far. I realized then, that being a sequel-to-the-prequel film, whose main protagonists are apes, is not an ideal film to achieve Oscar glory. Nevertheless, the apes are dealt with so well in this film that one would almost think of them as simply being another group of people, rather than apes, who are struggling to coexist with humans, and have increasingly grown apart from them in the wake of a global epidemic. The film’s powerful satire was incredibly moving, haunting, and relevant to the current issues of today, which was as good of a reason as any to recommend this film to even those who do not usually enjoy science fiction films. (Director: Matt Reeves)

 

4.     The Grand Budapest Hotel

My favorite Wes Anderson film to date, The Grand Budapest Hotel was a highly original and artistic endeavor that combined the filmmaker’s typical quirky characters with a fast-paced murder mystery within a variety of meticulously detailed and lavish sets. Ralph Fiennes gave a terrific (and worthy of an Oscar nominated) performance in the lead of this film, with a fantastic debut from Tony Revolori as well. A refreshing addition to an almost lifeless set of films released in 2014, The Grand Budapest Hotel will go down in history as one of Wes Anderson’s most visually creative and intriguing storylines of his already impressive oeuvre. (Director: Wes Anderson)

 

5.     Calvary

A rather dark and relatively unknown film of the top five films of the year, but without a doubt, a very moving and thought provoking masterpiece dealing with the issues of religion, the religious institutions, and the virtues that have become all but lost within the corruptions of the Church. The film also dealt with the idea of what one must sacrifice in order to help others find their path in life and provide moral guidance to those who need it. Being a devotee of the McDonagh brothers (Martin and John Michael, who directed such films as In Bruges and The Guard, respectively), this latest work from John Michael McDonagh was a darker attempt at critiquing religion in contemporary Irish society and what it means to be a priest, who is meant to uphold God’s virtues, in the face of the new revelations that have tarnished the church’s reputation. With strong performances from Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly and Aidan Gillen, combined with McDonagh’s bold screenplay and direction, Calvary was one of the most underrated yet original films of the year. (Director: John Michael McDonagh)

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