The new year has arrived and that can only mean that awards season is bearing down on us. Soon, a select few films will be showered with accolades at the countless of events littering the winter months. But, like every other year, some compelling and perhaps less “important” films go without rousing speeches and universal acclaim. Here are five compelling films that mark high points for the creative teams that brought them to life, regardless if they garner the praise of the cinematic establishment.

Edge of Tomorrow
Tom Cruise has taken his lumps in recent years for his bizarre behavior and his commitment to the Church of Scientology, but this sci-fi marvel marks a remarkably-realized performance for the aging superstar. Christopher McQuarrie’s enthralling and seriously-fun script is a testament to repetition’s power in storytelling as opposed to dead weight for this heady actioneer.

Yes, this dark and brooding tale has caught the eye of the elite, but I’m of the mind that this film is still not getting the credit it deserves. Like the horrific child of Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, this LA story hits the mark with moral conundrums and some terrifying dialogue. This is Dan Gilroy’s first outing as a director, but it will certainly not be his last. Moreover, many have said that 2014 was the year of the McConnaisance and that very well may be true, but last year marked the arrival of Jake Gyllenhaal as we’ve never seen him before. Gyllenhaal is progressing into a daring and exciting period in his career.

Those who entered the multiplex expecting a Biblical story from this film don’t have my sympathy. If so, they haven’t seen a Darren Aronofsky film before. Whether his projects are irritating or engrossing, Aronofsky always promises to show you something you’ve never seen before, and at this point in film history, that really says something. This film has problems, but it also offers some truly unique and stirring visuals coupled with a story we all know by heart re-imagined for a new age. Part of embracing his films is admitting it doesn’t all fit neatly together, and why should it?

John Wick
For children of the ’90s, this slice of throwback mindless action was a sheer joy from start to finish. From the get-go, this one had no intention of taking itself seriously, and in an era when every film is trying to capture the weighty gravitas of The Dark Knight, this Keanu Reeves vehicle sparkles with economic gusto. Here’s hoping this marks only the beginning of Reeves’ return to prominence, because damn, he’s fun to watch.

With Prisoners, Denis Villeneuve proved he could balance restrained feeling with a slow-burning thriller. On his second outing with Gyllenhaal, he created a truly unique and unnerving piece of work. Equal parts existential foreboding and surrealist imagery, Enemy is a confident exploration of eerie unrest in a college professor’s life upon realizing he has a doppelganger. Those with a fear of spiders, you’ve been warned.

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