• David Lee / Lionsgate

    Keanu Reeves as John Wick in a scene from the film, "John Wick."

  • Fox Searchlight

    Ralph Fiennes, left, and Tony Revolori in "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

  • Fox Searchlight

    Sam Nixon

  • IFC Films

    Ellar Coltrane at age six in a scene from the film,"Boyhood."



The year’s just about wrapped up, and it’s time to turn back toward some of my favorite movie releases of 2014. The last 12 months saw a lot of quality flicks and it’s a bit hard to narrow down the best of the batch, but a few have stuck in my mind long after I left the theater. I don’t see the point in ascribing each a personal ranking, so think of this as a scatter-shot approach.

I’ll start off with “John Wick,” the movie that may have single-handedly revived Keanu Reeve’s career. The plot’s simple: Bad guys kill a retired assassin’s exceptionally cute puppy, a gift from his late wife, so he gets back in the game to hunt them down. “Wick” invests just the bare minimum into the story to get the ball rolling toward the action sequences, the strongest aspect and main draw of the movie.

The fights all have a feeling of follow-through as Reeves dispatches faceless flunkies left and right, and it’s just damn fun to watch. Adding to that are the layers of the underworld assassin society that are slowly doled out as the plot progresses, amplifying the coolness quotient. The whole thing’s about as intellectual as being socked in the jaw, but it gave me exactly what I wanted out of an action movie.

Departing the action route, the next movie that had a lasting effect on me this year was “Boyhood,” from director Richard Linklater. Filmed over a span of 12 years with the same cast, the movie doesn’t so much tell a linear story as much it highlights transitions in the life of Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane, as he fumbles from ages 6 to 18. It’s a collection of moments in a life, and so many of them made me think back to seemingly insignificant and mostly forgotten bits of my own childhood.

Seeing Mason go from digging holes in the dirt with his friends as he enters grade school, to brooding and trying to act cool around older kids as they break boards in an abandoned house is frighteningly relatable. The lack of a traditional plot progression may put some viewers off, but I have to encourage everyone to give it a try.

To round things out, I have to go with “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” the latest from hipster favorite, Wes Anderson. “Budapest” holds on to the style that Anderson has built for himself, but I enjoyed it more than his earlier flicks. The characters are flashy and over-the-top in their respective ways, especially Ralph Fiennes as Monsieur Gustave H., the hotel’s concierge. Elaborate and whimsical sequences riddle the film, including my favorite setup that has Willem Dafoe stalking Jeff Goldblum through the darkened halls of a closed museum. It’s goofy and creative without ever becoming muddled. It’s certainly worth a watch.

I didn’t get a chance to watch every movie I wanted to in 2014 (not catching Kevin Smith’s “Tusk” during the one week it was in theaters was a missed opportunity, for sure), but these three impressed me. If I had more space and you had a longer attention span, I’d talk up some of my other favorites from this year, with “Birdman” and “Edge of Tomorrow” coming to mind, but this sampling works for now.

Sam Nixon’s “Words From a Nerd” runs every Wednesday in the Colorado Daily.

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