It’s that time of year again when we look back at the previous year and remember the best of the best. Oscar season is done and they’ve had their say, but now let’s have ours. 2015 was a pretty good year for movies, I think we had about six outstanding films this year, which is fantastic.
Worst of the Year
Let’s start from the bottom and give a quick shout out to the worst of the worst.
- Minions – awful
- The Green Inferno – I can’t believe I actually went to see this
And the honour for absolutely worst film of the year of course goes to…
- Fantastic Four – I really should give this to Green Inferno but this movie was just terrible through and through.
There’s always a few movies that don’t quite make the top ten for the year but deserve a shout out just the same. If I was Steve Harvey, I would have accidentally named one of these as best movie of the year for sure.
- The Martian – good, clean fun.
- Seymour: An Introduction
- Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation
- Song of the Sea – although technically a 2014 movie, this only got a North American release in 2015. I thought it was perfect and have to mention it, even better than Secret of Kells.
Top Ten of 2015
Although, let’s get right into the good stuff and do a countdown of what I consider to be the best movies of 2015.
10. Wild Tales
So technically this is a 2014 movie but didn’t get a North American release until 2015, it was just too special to not give it a mention.
It’s a really fun collection of several short stories, two of which are outstanding, one is really good and one...just good.
It's a Spanish movie from Argentina and Spain originally titled "Relatos Salvajes." It's muy importante to see it in its original language (with subtitles) as opposed to seeing it dubbed. You don't want to miss any of these performances.
The first two stories are so insanely good, I wanted to rush out the theatre and tell everyone within shouting distance that they HAVE to see this.
9. Listen to Me Marlon
Great documentary on the life and times of Marlon Brando. I really enjoyed it, not knowing that much about him before either in his professional life or his personal life (I didn't know anything about his kids).
Makes me really want to see Mutiny on the Bounty, where it seems he started coming apart some. I also had no idea he was that involved in civil and human rights issues.
It's a super tightly-wound documentary, building climaxes at key moments in his life using a combination of music and some of the more dramatic scenes he performed in. Very good storytelling all around.
The fact that it uses his own recordings and narrative makes it really compelling as well since you get to know the man inside and out. His views on love alone were worth the price of admission for me.
8. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
This is a tough review to write. I had to see it a second time to have a proper viewing without my sky-high expectations getting in the way. People say expectations were low because of the prequels, but it's still Star Wars and it's JJ and the sky isn't the limit when it comes to how great this could be.
After a first viewing, I got the impression it was a movie that I loved watching but didn't really like. The 2nd viewing was much better (IMAX) and I certainly did like the movie very much. The movie FEELS like Star Wars which in my mind means that it is a total success. There are scenes I totally loved (Rey on Jakku, x-wing attack over water) and some which gave me pause. But the former far outweighs the latter. I loved the use of humour, the flawless special effects, the characters.
When you have strong characters, casting becomes primordial in importance. Rey is fantastic and I was surprised by how much I liked Oscar Issac as Poe Dameron. Not once did I think I was watching Inside Llewyn Davis, which means the performance was strong enough to not draw me out. Where the movie loses the most points with me is the casting of Gwendoline Christie as Plasma, Andy Serkis as Snoke and Greg Grunberg as Snap Wexley. With Plasma, you can't cast these iconic voices amongst shared fan base franchises. Everytime she spoke, I was in Westeros. I don't want to be in Westeros. I want to be on the Star Destroyer scared out of my mind. Snoke looks and acts way too much like Gollum. Thank goodness it was a holographic image, I hope it's not worse when this flimsy CGI character isn't as distorted. And the second I saw Greg Grunberg not even partially disguised, I was the taken out of the movie at light speed. Oh, it's that guy from other JJ materials like Felicity and Lost. JJ likes this guy, i get it. But he also likes Simon Pegg who I didn't even recognize in this movie. That's how you should do it.
Now that's a lot of real estate in this review on casting but it's SO important to get right in movies that require such a strong suspension of disbelief. Lots of people had a problem with Carrie Fisher in this capacity but I loved that you FELT her age in this. I didn't feel like they tried to mask it or anything. Here's a wise older woman, no longer a princess, who coordinated the retreat from Hoth and surely learned much from Mon Mothma... like I said, I could feel all of this from her.
In the end, it's a movie that's meant to evoke feelings. In fans primarily. I felt great watching it and it left my heart full and happy. My mind struggled with parts but overall it was happy too. I'm looking forward to the next iteration.
7. Shaun the Sheep
Fantastic film. Even more so for adults but kids will love it too (my 5-yr old really liked it even though the humour got away from her most of the time).
I have a personal bias here being a huge fan of Wallace and Gromit but this is top drawer entertainment. Much better than Chicken Run as well (not having an anti-Semitic protagonist helps).
There are just so many little beautiful moments and you know it'll take repeated viewings to catch everything and savour all the details put into each frame that is shot. Claymation is a labour of love and this guy just loves his characters and his world so much, you can feel it all the time.
Just a perfect movie to take your kids out on a rainy day. Between this and Inside Out, we're getting quite spoiled as parents bringing our kids to truly fantastic films.
Most highly recommended. The movie just picks up more and more as it goes on. Well worth it.
Very powerful but rough film to watch. Not the best date movie it turns out. I loved it, however, and was notably emotional several times in the movie. I went in ignorantly thinking it was going to end up being a feel-good movie without really thinking about how this type of traumatic experience would severely frame a family's functionality afterwards. I wasn't expecting that to be covered so well in the film.
The performances are stellar, especially with the leads of Brie Larson and little Jacob Tremblay who are both incredible. Supporting cast is very strong too. I very much like William Macy's control-freak father character completely unable to deal with what's happened to his little girl. I could identify with him and his reactions.
The less you know about the movie the better. The girl I went with had no idea what was going to happen and was notably far more stressed than I was in watching the movie. I would have liked to been in her shoe's, must be harrowing.
I don't even know if this is based on a real story or not and i'm afraid to check. There's just honestly no way to accurately describe what this movie makes you go through, the experience is well worth it.
Really great and deeply moving film. It'll unsettle you completely but the highs and payoff are worth it.
I went into this documentary not really knowing much about Amy Winehouse and certainly not a fan of her music, mostly only knowing "Rehab."
This film really blew me away on several levels at once. Firstly, I was never a fan of jazz singing and to see how powerful poetic lyrics are when put into song, especially coming from the person that lived those personal experiences, well...it makes for a heck of a haunting performance.
Secondly, this is a film on addiction. It'll speak to many of us who have loved ones that we know have problems with addiction. The way the media handled her reminds me so much of the Craig Ferguson monologue on Feb 20, 2007, and how he spoke of this as something to not joke about. I can't help but wonder if he was also thinking of Amy in that monologue, who was maybe having troubles at that time.
The way she interacts with Tony Bennett for the recording of Duets II will make you think of the work he's doing today with Lady Gaga and it really hits home an immense sense of loss of talent from losing Amy so young. Again, I went into this not having a positive view of her at all.
This documentary is amazing because it can transform, it will challenge, and through it all it will frame everything through some amazing vocal performances and beautifully-written songs.
I think it's essential viewing because it might be enough to help push you to help someone you love when you recognize they might be in trouble. I'm actually frightened to hear her music now, knowing where these songs come from and what they represent.
Very, very moving.
Now here's a good date movie. I had no idea this was an Irish movie either, imagine my surprise. I loved this flick, it takes you on a bit of roller-coaster of worry at one or two points in the film but the ride is worth it.
Loved the supporting cast, loved the leads. Everyone is great in this one. Saoirse (pronounced Seer-Sha) Ronan gives a performance worthy of her Oscar nomination. Jim Broadbent is bittersweet as the guardian-angel priest who sponsors the heroine's trip to America.
The world-building of 1952 Brooklyn is fantastic. I love seeing the Irish traditions that you'd think would have evaporated by now but I still attend those Irish social dance evenings like the one portrayed in the film. And they are just as boring as they appear in the film :)
Oscar’s favourite for the year wasn’t mine, but I do think this was a fantastic picture.
There is some great acting in this movie, especially from the supporting cast. Ruffalo is great but I'm loving Stanley Tucci and Brian d'Arcy James in this. I don't really know why McAdams got nominated and I'm not feeling Keaton's performance in some places. But overall it's just clicking along really well and every scene is fantastic. The only casting choice that's hard to swallow is the choice of McAdam's husband. That's the new standard for "marrying-up."
This film should makes a strong case against the 24-hour news cycle without even trying to do so. Does investigative journalism even exist anymore? Honestly, is John Oliver's Last Week Tonight the closest thing we have now? And it's not even making a dent. We're just overwhelmed with news media that isn't saying anything anymore. I think the last non-puff piece I've seen was when Time magazine did that expose on health care costs. That was as close to the level portrayed in this film that I've seen in recent history.
Loved this movie.
2. Inside Out
I took my 5-yr old, Emily, to this on a rainy Sunday afternoon. In typical Pixar fashion, they succeed once again in getting me to both laugh a ton and cry a little. This is an excellent film, Pixar's finest in years.
I was just trying to explain Boyhood to someone the other day and how the 'random' moments featured in the film and probably core memories for the kid, like when you remember playing with your dad and sister around some rock monument somewhere. Inside Out explores that further in how various core memories make up who you are.
The movie is top notch hilarious and I couldn't get enough of Lewis Black's anger emotion. Super smart screenwriting as well.
I lost it when Riley ends up forgetting her imaginary friend. I guess it happens to all of us but boy, was that sad. Luckily it helped me remember mine, Crazy Marvin, and how we used to play board games together (Risk, Buck Rogers, Dungeon!).
Totally awesome movie. My girl was less engaged in this one than she was in Song of the Sea (her last animated outing). I think it's because some of the themes in this flick are pretty adult. Also she couldn't understand why I was laughing so hard. I actually don't think there's enough kid-stuff in here for them.
Strongly recommended just the same.
Which brings us to what I think was by far the best movie of the year…
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
It's rare that a movie not only lives up to high expectations but exceeds them by a entire night's drive. I should mention that I have never seen the original Mad Max movies and that I did not see this in three dee the first time (I’ve seen it five times).
I don't even know where to begin. You know how many of us went back to see The Phantom Menace two or three times just to see the saber duel? Not only do I feel the same way about the scene of War Rig versus Dirt Bikes (the music alone I think does it, but the perfect action of skeet-shooting combined with Kirby dropping bricks on you from Super Smash Bros just makes this one of the most enjoyable movie sequences I've seen in years). Except unlike Phantom Menace, you get to see an amazing scene surrounded by an incredible movie. You don't have to sit through anything bad, this movie is just incredible.
There are some genius directing choices made in what to not show on camera, and what to only show half of on camera. I also love that this action movie doesn't spoon-feed the audience with everything they should know. You will feel lost in the beginning of the movie and will want things explained to you, but they won't, I love that. Even at the end of the movie, not everything needs to be explained. This movie leaves quite a bit to the imagination which is a great gift you give to an audience that you respect.
Can we talk about the breeders for a second? I love that they made sure that everyone would be insanely attracted to at least one of them. I thought it was amusing that one of them is sort of pulling a Khalessi look. I was partial to the redhead myself.
I think the acting was absolutely top drawer. The main antagonist villian was incredible. Hardy was perfect (what's with him and masks?). Theron was consistently great and stealing most scenes she was in. I have to big it up to the supporting cast as well for really delivering the goods. Nicholas Hoult (from Warm Bodies) was honestly amazing as a conflicted zealot. I adored him in every scene.
I really like one of the fundamental questions this movie is asking. Is it better to hope in something that might not exist or try to fix your current situation? For a movie that has been sometimes described as lacking plot, that's a pretty big and deep item to explore in an action film.
Finally, the way this movie is shot is just beautiful. The night scenes where either the headlights or the moon are gleaming off the characters' eyes... it's hauntingly well shot.
I didn't mention the action scenes (read: the whole movie) because I have no idea how to describe them.
I ended up seeing this five times in theatres. It’s by far the most I’ve ever seen the same movie repeatedly in while still playing in cinemas.
There you have it, thanks for reading and if you’ve missed any of the above, be sure to look them up for a good rental one of these nights.