I love movies and saw close to 70 movies in a theater this year. In 2011 I made a list of my Top 11, so for 2015 I chose 15. Here we go in ascending order…
15. The Martian
Ridley Scott brought his A-game in a crowd-pleasing return to form. A commercial success that depends on the audience’s love of Matt Damon, which is luckily a lot. The movie balances intensity and comedy very well with the right amount of melodrama to keep you emotionally invested.
14. Jurassic World
It was almost the most commercially successful movie of the year and deservedly so. Playing on our nostalgia as well as taking our childhood fantasies to the next level, “Jurassic World” gives you the “Jurassic Park” sequel we’ve always wanted. I loved the movie for not trying to be anything that what the audience wanted.
13. The Big Short
I really liked this movie but I wanted to love it. The cast is great and everybody comes through, the script is very funny and brutally blunt with the facts. What made this movie rank low on my list is that I feel as much as they have dumbed down the situation for the audience it still doesn’t convey everything and could have been great had it been slightly more accessible. Either way it’s still a very well made and dare I say, important film.
12. The Good Dinosaur
Probably an unexpected and interesting choice for this list, arguably the lesser Pixar film in a year that gave us two. I liked this movie more than “Inside Out” point blank but can see why that might be difficult to believe (“Inside Out” was amazing). My reasons for liking this movie are quite simple: this movie harkened back to darker animated films of yester-year and it was a classic boy and his dog story. It was well executed and emotionally manipulating enough to stay with me well after the credits rolled.
Another movie I wanted to like more. It’s well shot, acted, edited, and just as competent as a movie can be. My problem is that the movie held no surprises for me, what you see is what you get. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I can only fault my own expectations for not liking this movie more.
10. Welcome to Me
In contrast to “The Revenant” I went into this movie with no expectations and was very surprised. I have a soft-spot for comedies, especially comedies that push your boundaries of comfort. Kristen Wiig carries the movie with a performance that is as credible as it is hilarious.
“Steve Jobs” was a good movie but truly only worked because Fassbender gives such a wonderfully watchable performance that’s equaled by some of his co-stars. In “Macbeth” Fassbender is way better matched and he almost seems to compensate by really giving his all and bringing Shakespeare into the modern age. The movie is also one of the most beautiful versions of “The Scottish Play” I’ve ever seen.
8. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I don’t want to overthink this one, it is what it is. I loved it and even enjoyed it more the second time. It’s a freaking “Star Wars” movie that’s almost as good as the originals. I have issues with it but the best thing I could say is that both times I watched it I didn’t want it to end.
7. It Follows
I’m not the biggest horror fan but this is a very nuanced and well made movie. It’s as much throwback as it is groundbreaking. It has a great mythology that isn’t fully explained but doesn’t need to be. This movie works for cinephiles and hardcore horror fans.
6. Ex Machina
Go into this movie with as little knowledge as possible. Just know that it stars 3 great actors and is the directorial debut of an already very accomplished screenwriter and they all knock it out of the park. A Hitchcockian mind bending thriller that plays with big ideas.
5. What We Do in the Shadows
The best comedy of the year in my opinion. Very funny and visually well put together. The movie plops you into a world that’s convincing, new yet familiar, populated with likable characters. Please seek this out and enjoy.
4. The Hateful 8
This is probably my favorite Tarantino movie since “Kill Bill Vol. 2”. Beautiful to look at, very funny, and gruesome in the best way possible. I watched the 70mm version that’s a little over 3 hours and was satisfied and could have easily watched more. Sure to be on many critics’ list, it’s a film experience that must be enjoyed on the big screen.
Crime dramas are at their best when the shades of gray are ever present. “Sicario” blurs the line of good and bad so well that not since “Goodfellas” have I enjoyed rooting for the bad guy so much. “Sicario” has a bad guy as a hero that scares both the bad guys and good guys, that it pays to get over your fear to have him on your side. Benicio Del Toro gives my favorite performance of the year. Had it not been for the next 2 movies on my list this movie would have easily been number 1.
Probably one of the few movies I went into this year totally blind, not even seeing a trailer. I feel I was thoroughly rewarded for that. Charlie Kaufman’s script is taut and front to back impeccable. Easily the best original screenplay of the year and probably a lock for best animated film. Heartwrenching and thought provoking.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
This was the year for sequels/reboots of popular franchises but none was more daring than “Fury Road”. George Miller has made a comeback in a very big way. I’m scared and excited to see what he does next. No matter what he does next he’s made an impression on everybody in what is hopefully a game-changer for Hollywood.
These are my choices, let me know what you think. Hope you agree or share some of my opinions, if not let’s discuss!