Back in 2014, I thought that 2015 was gonna be a HUGE year in films. So many high profiled movies were coming out and all of them trying to gather the attention of audiences before a certain film called Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes out. We had an Avengers sequel, the return of Jurassic Park, a highly anticipated Fast and Furious sequel etc.
Then, when all’s said and done…..it wasn’t quite the bloodbath that I thought it was gonna be. Some of these films did better than I thought they were gonna do (Jurassic World) others were meet with disappointment (Avengers: Age of Ultron). But…that doesn’t mean we were lacking good movies this year.
As I do these list every year….EVERY year is a new discovery of new films to be excited about. New films that I didn’t even know existed that will last with me for years. That’s the fun of looking back on a year of film…seeing the movies that I was excited for exceed my expectations, and seeing the movies that surprised me.
Of course….every year also means I end up not seeing many films, so here is a list of movies that I didn’t see in 2015 but have heard good things about and I do wanna see them.
The films I missed in 2015 but still wanna see:
Love and Mercy
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Now….on to the honorable mentions.
These are movies that I legit really liked…but they didn’t stick as strong with me as some of the others. But many of these films will be movies I will end up rewatching, and in due time, I might even love them more than the ones that made it to the top ten list.
In no particular order…..
-Marvel Tie: Ant-Man and Avengers: Age of Ultron
Folks…I am just as surprised as you. But it was bound to happen. There would be a year in which a Marvel movie just wouldn’t make it to my top ten. Hell, the idea that a Joss Whedon written/directed film didn’t make it to my top ten surprises me. But try as I might…I knew I didn’t love Age of Ultron nearly as much as the first Avengers film. Did I still like it? YES! A lot! There are so many great character moments, action sequences and pure Marvel goodness that I still had a great time with it. But the film’s real flaw was trying to do too much. It was stuffed, and some of the ideas that I knew Whedon was trying his best to make work (the much controversial romance between Bruce Banner and Black Widow) just didn’t connect 100% with the fans. BUT, there’s still enough of Whedon’s wit, visual action flair, and the cast’s damn charm to make the film still extremely enjoyable. I do feel that time will be kinder to Age of Ultron, and we might look back on this one with charitable eyes.
Ant-Man has quite a history with me. Knowing that one of my favorite directors left this movie, it created a film that had it’s own kind of expectation. The end result is a fun, energetic movie that sadly also feels like the closest thing to “by the books” for Marvel Studios. There is a charm to the movie, but what holds it back is really sensing that the film is hastily put together. It doesn’t have the craftsmanship of Guardians of the Galaxy and even Age of Ultron but good god the film gets more entertaining the more I watch it.
–The Night Before: Because damn it if I didn’t laugh a ton while watching this movie. I kinda adore this. It’s a true Christmas movie…a dirty Christmas movie….but a Christmas movie nonetheless. And while the movie has plenty of jokes, it still has that heart that makes me give a damn about the characters. When I left the theater I was not only happy that I dug the film a lot…but I was equally happy that I have a new Christmas movie to include in my Holiday Movie watching list.
–Crimson Peak: Guillermo Del Toro promised a romantic ghost story…and man did he deliver. Like all of Del Toro’s film, it’s is beautifully crafted. The designs from the ghosts to the house is meticulously thought out and the story is so much fun. Tom Hiddleston shines the most out of an already impressive cast, but he seems the most at home with Del Toro’s sensibilities.It’s like watching a classic historical film with a huge dose of wicked darkness.
–Ex Machina: An amazing sci-fi morality tale, this movie feels like a great lost Twilight Zone or Outer Limits episode. Armed with a tremendous cast (Alicia Vikander being real discovery for me with this.) and a talented crew, writer Alex Garland made his directorial debut seem effortless. This movie haunts me, and while it didn’t hit with me as hard as it connected with my fellow film fans, I don’t doubt that the more I see it the more I will love the film.
–Straight Outta Compton: I don’t like biopics….but this film was something more than a simple biopic. It was a reminder. It was a reminder of how no matter how much has changed, things also stayed the same. It gave us a chance to reflect back on the men of NWA and remind us that they were just kids who were ballsy enough, talented enough to help shape pop culture. I’ve seen NWA’s music been miss used in many TV shows, movies, Vine’s and this film reminded us what the music of NWA was really about. Yeah, it did lose me a bit when the film DID go into typical biopic tropes in the third act…but when the film was focused on NWA’s music and their message….it was at it’s most powerful and it’s most memorable.
Well shit guys, it’s time. Here are my Top Ten personal favorite films of the year. These are the movies that affected me personally. I feel that most of the movies on my list are movies that are not only entertaining, but somehow feel like a real personal statement from the filmmakers (the cast and all the crew included). Let’s stop wasting time….first up.
- Turbo Kid
Pastiche movies are fun in theory. They make great trailers, but the idea of the movie is usually better than the actual movie. Turbo Kid is the exception for me. Yes, it has fun playing in the aesthetic but the story is legitimately solid and the characters are legitimately entertaining. The characters of The Kid and Apple are sincere and really likable, and that’s the element that makes it (in my opinion) more enjoyable to watch than Hobo With a Shotgun and Kung Fury (both I like but both are filled to the bring with crazy characters to hard to connect with). And it’s the sincerity of those characters (and the strong performances of Munro Chambers and Laurence Laboeuf as The Kid and Apple) that makes watching their bloody, hyper violent, comic booky adventure tons of fun to watch. Oh…and the score kicks ass.
This is a feature that starts as one thing and then soon shifts and makes you realize that the movie you saw in the beginning was NOT the real film. Many folks who just saw the trailer kept asking WHY this film was a stop motion movie. Once you get to the moment when the movie delivers on the answering the WHY, everything comes into focus. I found the film to be an amazing character study done in the most artistic way (kudos to Kaufman’s co-director Duke Johnson co-creating these beautiful imagery). I found it to be heartbreaking and funny, but most of all I found it to be fascinating. The film challenges your perception of the lead character. It somehow allows you to understand him better, yet it doesn’t ask you to like him or hate him more. This is classic Charlie Kaufman writing. Amazing ideas and execution while still being very human and incredibly real.
- Inside Out
Here is Pixar in top form. Inside Out is the kind of films that Pixar are better remembered for, and this might be one of their all time best. The movie is incredibly original, emotional, real, imaginative and powerful. Inside Out is just an all encompassing movie that hits all the marks. It’s insanely entertaining and one of the most layered films from last year.
- Kingsman: The Secret Service
Plenty of Spy movies came out this year but of all the ones that came out (and man did I really dig Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation) it was this spin on spy movies that I rewatched over and over again. Awesome action sequences, a fun look at how to train a super spy, a star making turn for Taron Egerton, and I get to see one of my favorite actors (Colin Firth) be a mega badass? Yes, this movie simply put…rules.
- The Hateful Eight
Oh Quentin…..you are one sick little bastard. This film has more Tarantino in it than Django Unchained. In a weird way it feels like Quentin making a semi-redo of Reservoir Dogs, but upping the character count and the stakes. It still has all of Quentin’s amazing dialogue, his knack for casting (this might be one of the best roles that Sam Jackson has done in years.) and his excellent structure. And a brand new western score from the legendary Ennio Morricone? And that score is great?! It may not be one of my personal faves from Tarantino, but damn is it a wild ride.
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens
You are all shocked this isn’t number one aren’t ya? I get it. Here’s why. Yes, I DO agree with most of the criticism. It does echo the original films WAY too much. There are holes in the plot and the logic. So it yes, it’s these reasons why the film is not higher on this list….but man does the film work in all the other areas. Thanks to equal parts the writing and the fantastic cast the new characters come alive and are just as memorable as the original characters . The original characters are used perfectly (yes….even Luke) It’s damn funny (let’s remember the two smartest Stormtroopers out of all Star Wars movies and their reaction after another one of Kylo Ren’s tantrums.) It’s exciting and thrilling. It’s fun. It’s fun. It’s fun. And more importantly….it made me remember why I loved Star Wars again. The film’s flaws are there, but they are so minor compared to what I did love and I loved a lot of it. Star Wars is back…and I couldn’t be happier.
Much like The Force Awakens echoes Star Wars, Creed echoes the original Rocky . But…I would argue that Creed’s dejavu isn’t as severe simply because of how much this feels like it’s own film. That’s one of the elements of Creeds success. It’s ability to be a legacy film and a film that can stand on it’s own two feet. The film has a pulse and energy that is unique to its own. Michael B. Jordan shines in the title role. Stallone doesn’t just give one of his best performances as Rocky…but he gives one of his best performances period. Creeds drama works beautifully, and the friendship of Rocky and Adonis is fantastic. Ryan Coogler makes a big statement as a writer/director of this film and I can’t wait to revisit this.
3. What We Do in the Shadows
Technically, this came out in 2014 but the wide release in America was 2015. So…deal. This film just blew me away. It’s the kind of movie that you have to share. You see it, you love it,and you need more to watch it. Why? Because you want the rest of your friends to quote the movie with you at a drop of the hat. This is a film filled with clever writing. They used the documentary style (a film style so tired it usually is a turnoff for me) to it’s full advantage. Along with the brilliant humor it’s got a ton of heart, and for a movie about vampires who suck the blood of the innocent it’s surprisingly sweet and sincere.
- The Martian
There are a lot of great scripts this year, but the work from The Martian screenwriter Drew Goddard is top notch. His script delivered a story that is an honest to god crowd pleaser. The Martian is dramatic, thrilling and damn funny. The characters are realistic and likable (this being the best use Matt Damon in YEARS) and I love that the film has no “bad guy”. It’s a story of survival, finding the best answer, and using your brain to save the day. Because seriously, I can watch Mark Watney figure how to build stuff on Mars all day. Thanks to this great script director Ridley Scott FINALLY has a movie that uses his incredible visual eye to good use. This is the kind of movie that could inspire future scientist simply because it’s an entertaining movie that celebrates intelligence.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
Simple can not only be good, it can be great. I’ve heard some people complain that the plot to the newest installment of this franchise is too simple to which I go….there is nothing really wrong with that. A movie like this doesn’t need to be complicated. The films simplicity is one of my favorite things about it. One of Age of Ultrons issues is that it got too complicated for it’s own good. Fury Road was simple in plot….which allows it to be complex in other areas.
The character work on Furiosa, Max, the brides and Nux is is subtle because once you examine them you see will how much depth they honestly have. These are characters of very few words, but everything in terms of the way they are written, the way they are designed and the way the actors performed showcased more storytelling than any mere line of exposition.
This of course is all due to the craftsmanship of director George Miller. The man who popularized the post-apocalyptic genre with the first Mad Max film (and clearly inspired my number 10 film) , Miller’s return to the wasteland is pure cinema. This is filmmaking at it’s finest. Everything is perfected to the minute detail. The cinematography is gorgeous, the editing is masterful, the score from JunkieXL is a beast and a joy to listen too, and the action is expertly staged to showcase all of the adrenaline pumping mayhem.
Some folks tend to brush movies like this off because “it’s just an action film.” I feel that’s missing the point of movies. Movies aren’t just about emotion, they are also about MOTION and man does Mad Max: Fury Road move.
HUH…..I didn’t mean to do this…but I started my list with an apocalyptic movie and I ended my list with one. Funny.
That’s a hell of a good year, but we’re just getting started with 2016. Can’t wait to see how the films of the new year will turn. Hope you guys will look forward to taking that journey with me.