Honorable Mentions: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 99 Homes, The Gift, Black Sea, It Follows, Sleeping With Other People, While We’re Young, Inside Out, Phoenix
10) All This Mayhem
This was technically released in late 2014, but didn’t come to the states or at least to my attention until early this year, but I have to add it. The insanely true story of the Pappas brothers. Two Australian skateboarders who set out to conquer the skateboarding world and prove they were better than Tony Hawk could ever dream to be. Is it a little lopsided?….yeah of course it is, but that doesn’t change what both of them went through in their own personal lives.
9) Steve Jobs
Danny Boyle knows how to make a film. He knows how to make things simple, yet interesting at the same time as well, and he knows how to cast his sea of characters. Michael Fassbender does an amazing job of portraying Steve Jobs over the years, and doesn’t hold back from what a genius, and an asshole Jobs was.
Easily the best ensemble cast of the year, you could make the case for H8teful Eight though. The true story of how a news crew took down the Catholic church in Boston and exposed them for the molestation of 100s of boys. A great look in to how a team of journalists uncovers the truth.
At first this doesn’t sound like the most interesting film. A woman is stuck in room with her son, held by her captor. I’ve seen infinite 48 hour mysteries about the subject, so it seemed like yet the same thing. What takes the film to the next level is how this woman and her son interact with each other throughout the course of the film, and especially how they evolve halfway through the film and in to the end of the film. One of the best performances of the year by Brie Larson.
6) The Big Short
The fall of the housing market in 2007 is captured across multiple converging storylines. We follow bankers, we follow people who are in the know ahead of the collapse, or at least think they’re in the know, and we ride the rollercoaster with them. We all know for the most part what happened around that time, but The Big Short is an intricate portrait of the collapse. Probably one of my favorite “acted” films of the year, and also one of the more interesting in how these actors interact with each other and interact with the viewer.
5) James White
A film that really took me by surprise. Fantastic acting, and director Josh Mond does an unbelievable job of taking us through the phases of James White’s depression of dealing with the death of his father, and the struggle of taking care of his mother through her cancer. It’s an emotional film that speaks to you as a film-goer.
4) The Revenant
Leonardo DiCaprio is a lock for an Oscar here. He drives this movie. It’s a very simple story on the surface. A tale of survival and revenge in one of the toughest times in American history. An absolutely beautiful film, shot to perfection in every way, and acted perfectly in every way as well.
3) Ex Machina
One of the more interesting science fiction films I’ve seen over the years. The film makes you think on so many levels. IF Artificial Intelligence existed what would it look like, and how would we interact with it. Could it be so life-like to mimic feelings, or just be programmed to do so?
2) Mad Max: Fury Road
I almost had a brain aneurysm within 10 minutes of sitting through George Miller’s re-imagining of his Mad Max series. It is non-stop action from beginning to end. Edge of your seat, pulse-pounding action. It’s so simple too. Furiosa and her team need to escape from the big baddy all the way across the desert, only to have to go all the way back and take him down. A road movie, and a survivor movie done to perfection.
No I’m not kidding. Stallone gives the performance of the year, and director Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan prove they’re something special together. This turns the whole Rocky franchise on its head and does such a great job of tying in all the great things about ALL the Rocky films, while also tipping its head to a lot of things that happened in real life to both Coogler and Sly.
The 5 Worst films of 2015
5) The Fantastic Four
Not even a stellar cast can save this piece of garbage. This is what people are talking about when they say they’re getting sick of superhero films. A dumb plot, horrible writing, and horrible directing. Perhaps the worst superhero film of all time.
I’m not sure what the hell Cameron Crowe has been doing for the past 10+ years…but it’s not making good movies. This is strike two after Elizabethtown. I’m honestly not even really sure what the film is about. It is boring and confusing as hell, not funny, not dramatic, it’s just kind of there.
3) The Ridiculous Six
Adam Sandler will obviously never stop, but god I wish he would. Yet another straight up piece of shit. Dude is cashing paychecks like a mo’fo’. He’s just not making anything worth watching.
2) Project Almanac
The worst time travel movie I’ve ever seen. Filled with holes, and involves kids who somehow are smart enough to figure out a time machine….but not smart enough to go back in time with the correct numbers of a winning lottery. Dumb.
1) 50 Shades of Grey
It doesn’t get much worse than this. Soft porn for the eyes with the worst acting of the year. Although points do go to the film for the best line of the year…”I’m 50 shades of fu$%ed up!”
Brie Larson is slowly becoming a fan favorite of mine, especially considering the fact that she’s able to juggle comedy (Trainwreck) along with serious roles such as Short Term 12 and now Room.
Room is the story of a woman who was kidnapped and imprisoned at the age of 17. She is forced to become the slave of her kidnapper. It’s unknown how she was abducted, why she was abducted, and the motive of her kidnapper. All of which doesn’t really matter anyway. You can’t try to explain these sort of things. Unfortunately they happen. What does matter is the relationship she has with her son. The son of the kidnapper. A son that has never seen the outside world, and who has only known what he sees on the TV, and what he sees within ‘Room’.
At first glance we are presented with the horrible story of captivity. We live inside room with a mother and son, and we feel the sickening and gut-wrenching disgust for this man that has taken her. We view their world in a 10 by 10 space. We try to understand how they cope and survive, and also try and figure out…why haven’t you done everything in your power to escape in the SEVEN years that you’ve been held captive. All these questions will soon be answered.
What we learn, and really need to understand, is that Brie’s character will do anything for her son. It is HER son. The kidnapper may be the father but he has no claim to that child. The film really begins to pick up steam and head in another direction around the halfway point. No spoilers, but the film shifts from being about the little boy to being about the mother, and how childhood keeps you ‘plastic’ from the atrocities around you. It’s not that easy for an adult who knows better. It’s not easy for someone who understands evil, and horror, and has to explain that to the eyes of an innocent child. An innocent child by the way who has always felt the comfort of the four walls that he has known his entire life.
Brie carries Room, but it shouldn’t be understated that Jacob Tremblay, who plays her son Jack, does an absolutely fantastic job as well. Director Lenny Abrahamson plays a chess game here. He puts us in the mind of Jack….and then he puts us in the mind of his mother. It’s very calculated. It’s very effective, and it results in one of the best films of the year.
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have been cash cows in the vein of 1990s Adam Sandler films over the past decade+. They’re the writer/producer team behind Pineapple Express, Superbad, and This is the End to name a few. It’s not that these films are amazing, but all of them have a few epic scenes that make them semi-classics. I use that term loosely. The Night Before is no different and offers up a ton of laughs, and a few epic scenes as well that make them riot-fests.
The film follows Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Leavitt), Issac (Seth Rogen), and Chris (Anthony Mackie) on Christmas Eve through the past 14 years. This year on Christmas Eve will be the last that the three friends will spend together in epic blowout fashion. Their tradition began years ago when Ethan’s parents were killed in a car crash and he was left alone for Christmas. Issac and Chris promised to be his family from here on out.
As the years have passed, life has changed for Issac and Chris. Issac now has a family, and Chris is working on a burgeoning NFL career. They just don’t have the time to do this every year anymore with Ethan. Ethan on the other hand hasn’t progressed much in life over those years. In fact he’s regressed. He can’t move forward even in his relationships. Diana (Lizzy Caplan), Ethan’s Ex, show’s up in the film as well and we soon learn about all the hang-ups that Ethan has had over the years, explaining his current predicament.
As the three guys meet up on their last Christmas Eve adventure, Ethan is holding something very special. Something they’ve been on the search for ever since they started this ritual. Issac is holding a boatload of drugs, much of which he’ll be doing on his own. Chris is holding on to a few secrets. They’re ready to take this night by storm for the very last time, and they’re bring us with them…along with their drug-dealer Mr. Green.
What follows is pretty much what you would expect from a movie of this kind. Hijinx, after hijinx, after hijinx. There’s a lot of great hilarious scenes, and a couple that will get you non stop laughing. There’s fart jokes, and weed jokes, and dick jokes, and all other kinds of juvenile and childish humor, but that’s what you want from this type of movie. You want to go in to this type of movie without any real desire for substance, and that’s why it works. That’s why it’s fun. That’s why you should see it.
I’m just going to come out and say it immediately. The Force Awakens is the Star Wars film that fans of the series have deserved for over 30 years. It’s also one of the best films of the year, and that is all due to J.J. Abrams vision.
The film opens with pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) on the hunt for a piece of a very important map. He is aided with the help of his droid BB-8, but the Order is after that piece as well. Soon Poe is captured, but his droid escapes running in to Rey (new-comer Daisy Ridley). Rey is a scavenger from the desert planet Jakku, who is waiting for her family to return. This droid will soon change her life.
Meanwhile supreme evil dude Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is interrogating Poe in an attempt to find the missing map piece, but Poe doesn’t crack. He’s also about to find himself very lucky with a little help from a disgruntled stormtrooper, Finn (new-comer John Boyega), and like that we’re off and running without looking back.
It’s very hard to continue on without spoiling… well without spoiling basically anything. I can say the story is full of tons of surprises, and it really is a must see for Star Wars fans and film fans in general. I was really impressed with Daisy Ridley and her growth throughout the film. Really exciting to have her part of this universe.
Creating a new Star Wars film is a tall order, and not a lot of people would be able to take this vast world thats been around for over 40 years and create something that ties the original films together, while also being an entirely unique take on that world as well. The Force Awakens is perfectly paced and slowly brings these new characters in along with the old, always getting us to want more and more and constantly guessing along the way.
Abrams is not afraid to make bold decisions with The Force Awakens. He’s also smart enough not to give away all of the secrets that he has in store. He drips them out to us, and gets us begging and wanting for more. When all is said and done, this new trilogy will most likely be on par with the originals.
I cannot wait until director Rian Johnson helms the second chapter of this new trilogy. He’s one of my favorite science fiction directors making films today, and I’m sure it’s going to be nothing short of amazing. For now though we’re given The Force Awakens, and awakening the greatest trilogy of all it has done indeed.