Chuck’s Top 10 Films of 2014
1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
All due respect to the Avengers, but Cap 2 is the greatest superhero movie of all time. Sure the acting is top-notch, the action some of the best choreographed this side of the Raid and the introduction of the Winter Soldier was handled perfectly. To me, however, the most noteworthy aspect of this flick was the effect that it had on the Marvel universe as a whole. NO other movie, or franchise of movies, has been brave enough to use one single movie to totally change the way we see everything in a consistent universe. And this is the Marvel universe…which is substantial! It’s also of note that Marvel managed to get Falcon to not only be relevant but to get his costume to look cool (which is a feat in and of itself). I would also like to give super kudos to Chris Evans, whose acting really shines in the last third of this movie; he brings real emotion to a role and movie sub-genre that is typically not known for it. This movie declassifies the term “Great…for a superhero movie” and moves into just “Great Movie”. Thank you, Marvel.
2. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
The follow-up to my beloved Rise of the Planet of the Apes delivered on every note that I needed it to. Great acting, great action, great writing, great tension…this movie had it all. The main to me here was Koba; yes, he made an appearance in Rise but he is the prominent villain here. And man, does he sell it! The best parts of the movie, aside from the very touching moments with Caesar and his son in Caesar’s old house, all belong to Koba. I mean, he duel wields machine guns on horseback for god’s sake! I also really need to make mention of how spectacular of an actor Andy Serkis is. His skills at mo-cap are at the top of the pecking order, but he is so much more than that. Maybe one day the suits at the awards shows will get it right and put him on the ballot.
3. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Yet another in the long list of amazing superhero movies this year. I was a fan of the original X-Men trilogy (yes, even The Last Stand) and I absolutely LOVED First Class. When the producers kept adding more and more characters, I was very skeptical. Part of what First Class soooooo good was the small(ish) cast and the amazing chemistry. There’s no way they can add a bunch of new mutants and keep the chemistry, right? WRONG! This movie is awesome! Even the Avengers didn’t pull off choreographed superhero fights to this level; it’s that good. I mean, they even got time travel right! The most surprising moment of the year came when Quicksilver (who I un-apologetically crushed the look for) had one of the best scenes in movies in the past few years. I cannot tell you how stoked I am for Age of Apocalypse!!
4. Guardians of the Galaxy
I was admittedly skeptical when this movie was announced. I mean, who are these guys and why should we care? Well, after the incredible title sequence (with Chris Pratt dancing to Redbone), I was sold and sold hard! I can’t remember when I had that much fun at a movie. The chemistry between the cast, especially two fully CG’d characters, was spot on and really sold the rest of the movie. Groot, in particular, had so much charm and heart that I found myself missing him when he wasn’t on-screen. I am now a big fan of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and am looking forward to seeing what a Guardians/Avengers team up might bring.
5. Big Hero 6
Man, I love a good animated film! Big Hero 6 brings that trademark Disney charm and adds in a ton of excellent action. Mix that in with the crazy amounts of comedy and you get one of the best animated movies of all time. The real stroke of genius here is the introduction of Baymax. Even though his base model is as generic as it gets, his attachment to Hiro is heartfelt and genuine. Disney Animation is on a helluva role now and they nailed it with BH6.
6. Gone Girl
Man, this movie was good! I love a good thriller and a good mystery…lucky for me that this movie had both! The acting was spot on and the writing was damn near genius. Even though Ben Affleck was top billed, the real draw was Rosamund Pike. Not since Heath Ledger showed us what crazy is has someone tried to thoroughly and effectively emulate true crazy…and this is one crazy lady! Watch this movie just to see her performance, but the movie overall was quite good.
7. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Well, it’s finally over…there’s no more Middle Earth for Peter Jackson to use. Bummer. Lucky for us he pulled out all the stops with this sweeping epic! The effects, with one notable exception, were immaculate and the battle sequences were ridiculous! I really wish that Thorin wouldn’t have been an a-hole for as long as he was, but it was a small price to pay for what we got in the end. The final scene felt natural and tied the entire franchise together. Well done.
8. The Babadook
Horror movies are a dime a dozen. Most of them are poorly written schlock that are cranked out to grab some money from gore crazed maniacs. The Babadook is as different from that as it gets. Very solid acting, mixed with a truly terrifying antagonist, gave me the creeps! Add that to the excellent use of lighting, which is unprecedented in this genre, and you’ve got one of the most original and intriguing horror movies in decades. An instant classic!
Most movies these days leave you with this dirty taste in your mouth…bad things happen to everyone and here’s another example. Not Chef. This movie epitomizes the term “Feel Good Movie” more than anything that has come out in years. It has a tremendous amount of heart that culminates in one of the most touching moments I’ve seen on film in a while. But the music…oh, the music!
10. Earth to Echo
Out of everything on this list, no other movie surprised me like Earth to Echo. I’ve never been a huge fan of “Found Footage” movies, but this movie captured me with its heart and engaging story. Someone asked me to describe this movie and the best I could come up with was E.T. meets the Goonies…it’s that good.
Chuck’s Top 10 Games of 2014
1. Dragon Age: Inquisition
I am admittedly a huge RPG fan…and this game hits all of my buttons. Mix in some of the best action RPG controls to a good story with plenty of world creating lore and you’ve got a winner! Not to mention the fact that this is, by far, the biggest game world I have ever seen and there’s no way you could go wrong. Also, I cannot tell you how much it added to the overall experience adding the jump button…it made a big difference. The main antagonist was terrifying, menacing and brought the stories from all the previous games together. Admittedly, however, the end battle left me a little…wanting, but it’s not bad enough to detract from the overall experience of awesome that this game is. If you’re an RPG fan, then this is the total package.
2. Valiant Hearts: The Great War
This game is hard to describe. Sure I could go on and on about how uniquely gorgeous it is. I could also drone on about how this game uses music better than almost any game I have ever played. It would be easy for me to chew your ear about the connection that you make with the main characters in a truly deep, meaningful way. However, the real hook here is the emotional draw of the game. The ending of this game effected me in a way that I could have never seen coming and I thank UbiArt for giving me such a powerful experience.
3. Far Cry 4
I absolutely adore this game. It has great graphics, an engaging story and tight shooting mechanics. I will say that even though the story is very good, it kind of gets lost in the MASS amounts of things that you can do in this game: racing, hunting, assassinations…and even though they are all integral to the overall experience, it’s hard to get back into what the story at times. The real for me in this game is the co-op. I’ve hard more fun running around Kyrat taking out Outposts, liberating Bell Towers and just causing random mayhem. It’s amazing fun!
4. TellTale’s The Walking Dead: Season 2
I will admit that this game surprised me somewhat. Not because of the storyline, which was amazing and something that I have come to expect from Telltale, but in the gameplay. I didn’t think that controlling Clementine would draw me in the way that protecting her did in the first installment…and I was wrong. This game is everything a story based adventure should be and I cannot wait for Season 3.
5. Sunset Overdrive
Microsoft needed a console exclusive to bolster sales of the Xbox One; something fun and engaging that will get people talking about their system in a positive light…and they nailed it! Here’s a PSA for you though before you pop this into your system: Don’t go to Sunset for a killer story. Sure the story picks up towards the end and the final boss is one of my favorites in years, but it’s not what you play this game for. You play it for the unadulterated fun. And Sunset Overdrive has fun down pat! Mix in the fact that SO has one of the most innovative traversal systems in games, and an original, fun multiplayer and you have a winner for Microsoft and a damn good time.
6. The Jackbox Party Pack
Speaking of fun, enter the Jackbox Part Pack! This is a collection of five party games that will have you rolling with laughter as soon as you start playing. The incredibly accessible way to play through tablets and phones, not to mention Twitch streaming to where you don’t even have to be in the same house, is a stroke of genius. If you have $25 and some buddies, grab this game and have a helluva time!
7. Shadow of Mordor
There have been several games that have tried to emulate the Batman Arkham games in so far as tone and combat structure; no other game has duplicated that structure like Shadow of Mordor. The combat was very fun and the story filled in a few gaps to the Lord of the Rings franchise that brought familiarity and joy to the game. The most noteworthy aspect to this game is the extremely innovative Nemesis system; it’s not perfect but the ambitiousness of the system is very exciting for future games. The biggest drawback, and what kept this game from my top five, was the end. It took everything that made the game fun to begin with and totally changed the formula…very unfortunate.
8. BioShock: Burial at Sea
I am a HUGE Bioshock fan. Ever since the original debuted in 2007, I have been hooked into the lore and the fantastic settings that are presented. Burial at Sea does an impeccable job at filling in all the gaps between the original classic, the underwhelming second installment and the amazing Infinite. I loved playing as Elizabeth, but the stealth aspect was under developed and felt off; it changed what made the series so intriguing in the first place. However, if you’re a Bioshock fan then this will be right up your alley.
I was totally on board with Titanfall as soon as it was announced early in 2013. MOST of what I was wanting hit the nail right on the head: unprecedented tight shooting mechanics and very innovative traversal for a FPS hooked me immediately. However, the totally shoe horned single layer story left a huge gap in a full priced game…it felt like I was short-changed a bit.
There have been several games that have come out trying to emulate the insanely successful formula to the Halo franchise and this is as close as it gets…just what you would expect from the guys at Bungie. An underwhelming story is really what gets this so far down on my list as an unapologetic Halo fan…it was confusing, boring and felt like an unfinished product; the worst of it being the fact that 90% of the story was hidden in the b.s. Grimoire cards that was all online…unnacceptable. The overall gameplay, gun mechanics and world were all top-notch, though, and shooter fans should pick it up.