The Best Movies Of 2015

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It’s my favorite time of year and my favorite review to write – MY FAVORITE MOVIES (OR FILMS) OF 2015!!!! This year was a solid year, especially in the genre films department. Now I have a couple of disclaimers.

  • I go see at least three or four movies a month, but it’s hard to catch everything. So films on other peoples’ lists like Straight Outta Compton, Room, and Carol won’t be on the list.
  • I really wanted to see The Revenant, but it won’t be out until a week after the new year, so it’s unfortunately not a contender.
  • There are a few movies you’ll see on this list and think, “Hey, why didn’t you review or mention this?” It’s because I either saw them before I launched this blog or after they were released on video.
  • A grade doesn’t mean I have to rank an A+ over an A. There’s even a movie I gave an A+ that’s not on the list at all!

On that note, I have some honorable mentions that didn’t make the cut, but are still worth mentioning:

  • Beasts of No Nation (the only A+ movie not on the list) was a beautiful and harrowing war film about innocence lost, featuring Idris Elba’s finest performance to date.
  • Creed restored my faith in the Rocky franchise, thanks to Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone.
  • The End of the Tour is the best road trip movie I’ve seen in the last few years and featured Jason Segel’s finest work.
  • Ex-Machina was a disturbing and suspenseful sci-fi thriller that had great commentary on objectification.
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service – was the best spy movie I saw in a year loaded with spy movies, and featured one of the most innovative and memorable fight scenes to date.
  • Trainwreck was a very funny and surprisingly dramatic comedy that introduced me to the talented Amy Schumer.

And now let’s get down to it! My top 10 favorite films of 2015 are:

10) It FollowsIt Follows may have the ridiculous concept of a dark sex comedy, but it’s also a very disturbing commentary on teen sexuality and a strong message to young kids about safe sex.

9) Sicario – Perhaps the darkest and most nihilistic movie on my list, Sicario shines through the darkness, thanks to Denis Villeneuve’s visceral direction and powerful performances from both Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro. This is one cartel thriller that isn’t for the faint of heart.

8) The Hateful Eight – Quentin Tarantino’s newest Western is also not for the faint of heart, but still an absolute blast. Part murder mystery and part classical Western, Tarantino’s beautiful direction brings out the best work from its cast, particularly Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins.

7) Love & Mercy – I hate music biopics, but Love & Mercy is more of an engaging psychological study of a broken man than a generic Brian Wilson biopic. Paul Dano plays young Wilson with frenetic energy while John Cusack portrays the older fragile version of Wilson in this unique music film.

6) Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – Thank you, J.J. Abrams, for giving us a great Star Wars movie for Christmas. New and old blood, nostalgia mixed with more character-driven storytelling, Star Wars ranks among the best Star Wars installments to date.

5) The Martian – Ridley Scott returns to form and directs the year’s most optimistic movie featuring this year’s most likable protagonist, Mark Watney (Matt Damon in his best performance). This is a survival sci-fi tale that will have viewers laughing while engaged in science and disco music.

4) Steve Jobs – Director Danny Boyle and writer Aaron Sorkin crafted the best film that no one saw this year! Shame on the film goers for skipping a visionary fast-paced biopic, featuring a brilliant performance from Michael Fassbender as the titular character.

3) Spotlight – Likely this year’s Best Picture winner, Spotlight is a gripping and important journalism piece that follows people (not heroes or villains) and their struggles writing an investigative piece on molestation in the Catholic Church. Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel MacAdams all deliver standout performances as our protagonists.

2) Inside Out – Pixar is back with the very beautiful, funny, and emotional Inside Out. Director Pete Docter (Up, Monster’s Inc.) continues to combine basic genre formulas with innovative storytelling in the form of an animated film. In this case, a disaster movie with insight on emotions.

1) Mad Max: Fury Road – What a film! WHAT A LOVELY FILM! That’s the fanboy part of me talking, but the reason why Mad Max is #1 is because George Miller rebooted his own franchise and topped his previous installments. Between the action sequences with stuntmen and reliance on basic props for visual effects, we rarely get an action movie with as much effort put into it as Mad Max: Fury Road. Also, I can’t remember the last time I saw an action movie that treated an ensemble of female characters as powerful people and passed the Bechdel test. These reasons are enough to please all film goers and not just action fans.

Thanks a bunch for reading this countdown! At the bottom, tell me if you agree or disagree with my list. Also, what was your favorite film of 2015?

 

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“The Hateful Eight”

Restraint has been quite popular this year for a few filmmakers who had seemed to forgotten the meaning of the word. Quentin Tarantino is the latest with “The Hateful Eight”.

“The Hateful Eight” is Tarantino’s second Western film, and it’s set in a violent blizzard in Wyoming. Colonel Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson) sits on a pile of dead bounties and a stage coach featuring fellow bounty hunter John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell) and convict Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) offer him a ride.

Along the way, they pick up a dimwitted sheriff named Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), and the four find themselves in a lodge with four other strangers – retired confederate general Smithers (Bruce Dern), cowboy Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), British hangman Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), and lodge owner Bob (Demian Bichir).

It’s when the eight characters meet each other that “The Hateful Eight” turns into a bloody Western play with elements of dark comedy, murder mystery, and even a brief moment of body horror. This is not “Django Unchained” (which is good, but not his best) or “Inglourious Basterds” (which I loved). This is a glimpse of what Tarantino’s future looks like as a playwright/novelist.

Tarantino uses 70mm film stock to beautifully photograph exterior landscapes and pay close attention to detail within the elaborate lodge set-piece. His script is cleverly written since he’s restrained his humor and ego. I mean that we hear Tarantino’s character’s talk; not Tarantino.

The characters are by far the best part of “Eight”. Jackson’s Warren is a menacing vengeful sociopath who takes pride in bounty hunting and his role in the civil war. Russell’s Ruth is an arrogant and misogynistic bounty hunter who respects his hardened allies. Leigh’s Daisy starts as a foul and quirky convict who gets increasingly psychotic throughout the film. Goggins’ Mannix is the most dynamic character, seeing he’s a bigoted-yet-noble sheriff.

The first half of “The Hateful Eight” is all about mystery and tension, which is masterfully built and paced, thanks to Ennio Morricone’s mesmerizing score, eerie shots reminiscent of John Carptenter’s “The Thing,” and interactions between the characters. The second half gets meta and over-the-top with loads of blood splatter and revelations.

I love Tarantino and I was greatly impressed with his execution in “The Hateful Eight”. It was less of a film tribute and more of an actual film. Even with the trademark heads blowing off, the racial slurs, and the similarities to “Reservoir Dogs,” it’s one damn innovative Western.

Grade: A