2015 was a decent year in film, for the most part. There was plenty of bad to go around, but the good was great and so here it goes. My personal ten best films of 2015.
SPY- While it may not be the most original film of the year, SPY was the best comedy I saw all year long. Melissa McCarthy does some of her best work with writer/director Paul Feig and this is one of the best. Feig’s script pushes the envelope, yet he and McCarthy seem to know just how far to push it and still keep it fresh and funny. The rest of the cast from Rose Byrne, Jude Law and Jason Statham (who knew he could be funny) and Miranda Hart round out a stellar cast that hits all of the right spots. This film made me laugh more than any other comedy.
The Revenant- Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s successful follow up of last year’s Birdman is an even better film which has Leonardo DiCaprio exacting revenge on his fellow friends who have left him for dead after he is mauled by a grizzly bear. There is more to this story than just the bear mauling, but the acting is spectacular especially by Leonardo DiCaprio. He does not have that much dialogue but is in the film in just about every seen and he shows why this year could be his year for taking home the Best Actor. Inarritu’s decision to use only natural light could have been a disaster, but together with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki that have crafted a simply gorgeous picture that is stark, cold but lovely to look at. Bryce Dessner, Carsten Niolai (also known by his stage name, Alva Noto among others) and Ryuichi Sakamoto ‘s piercingly beautiful.
The Hateful Eight- Quentin Tarantino’s eighth film is a boisterous mix of an Agatha Christie who-dun-it mystery and a Sergio Leone spaghetti western told in the fashion only Tarantino could do. Another well written character study that features well defined characters who may or may not be who they say they are. Tarantino is one of the few directors that could keep us cooped up in a cabin in the middle of the Wyoming frontier for almost three hours and make it smart, funny and worth the wait. Brilliantly acted by an all star cast, most notably by Walton Coggins who steals the show, Hateful Eight is feels like an on screen play, before it erupts into the Tarantino blood bath in the last act of the film and I loved every minute of it.
Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films- Made in 2014 but not securing a release until June of 2015, documentary filmmaker Mark Hartley tells a wild and true story behind the Golan and Globus team of Israeli filmmakers who made their mark on Hollywood, for better or for worse. I mean who else could have given us the Chuck Norris Missing In Action franchise or Dolph Lundgren in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe but still be able to land Franco Zefferelli’s Otello which garnered SIX Academy Award nominations? This is a fascinating, sharp and sometimes brutal observation of Meneham Golan Globas and his cousin Yoran Golan Globus who created a studio out of nothing, made it into a billion dollar enterprise only to see it come crashing down. The countless interviews of everyone involved are some of the best I have seen. Their reactions are priceless.
The Martian- Ridley Scott is back to fine form with his stirring, funny and poignant, The Martian. Matt Damon does some of his finest acting as Mark Watney, an astronaut left behind on Mars by accident. Things being as bleak and with all of the odds stacked against him, Damon’s Watney still manages to see the positive in every situation as he fights to stay alive until a rescue mission is attempted. I loved his attitude towards every situation not as a chore, but as a challenge to be met. Scott shows why he can be such a terrific director crafting a solid story with multiple storylines and somehow he makes them all work together and keeps them fresh, intelligent and intriguing. I especially enjoyed seeing Jeff Daniels in this picture. He is a vastly underrated actor and he is particularly effective as the head of NASA. He does such a fine job as a character who must battle the public relations, politics and still have enough humanity to make us believe he genuinely wants to save Watney. Daniels is simply terrific, as is the entire cast, as well.
Beasts of No Nation- Cary Joji Fukunaga’s minuscule budget of six million dollars did not stop him from making a powerful film about a boy who is turned into a killer soldier after civil war invades his African village. Heartbreaking and but still managing an ending that gives us hope, Beasts of No Nation is not flashy, just painfully and agonizingly real. Idris Elba is tremendous as a character simply called, The Commandant and newcomer Abraham Attah in a star making performance is the boy killer, Agu. Attah should be considered for a Best Actor award. He was able to convince me why he became a little soldier, shocked me with his brutality while still battling his own conscience between good an evil. The final scene in which Agu talks to a social worker is particularly sad, but still is able to give you hope for Agu’s future. This was a Netflix film that played in very select markets in theaters, too. It is available on Netflix with your paid subscription.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation- Christopher McQuarrie’s joyride marks the return of Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Jeremy Renner and the pleasant adding of Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris and the lovely Rebecca Ferguson (who is nothing short of stunning and is expected to return for the Mission Impossible Six). The action is nothing short of amazing and the tightly written script by McQuarrie has guaranteed him returning as writer and director of the next MI film. This film was just a blast from the opening scene in which Cruise hangs onto an A400 cargo plane as it takes off to the final chase scene. This is a franchise that keeps outdoing itself from the previous film (also one of that year’s best films). Say what you want about Tom Cruise, but this guy is the consummate entertainer, in which he commits to a role and plays it so well almost to perfection. Composer Joe Kraemer’s score is one of the best he has ever done and one of the year’s best.
Ex Machina- Having come out in April, hopefully the Academy will not forget this terrific science fiction drama. Domhnall Gleeson is a computer programmer who wins a competition which pits him against his boss, Nathan (Oscar Isaac). Nathan is a reclusive multi millionaire who may or may not have created Artificial Intelligence in the form of Ava (Alicia Vikander). Caleb (Gleeson) is supposed to evaluate Ava to see if the AI can think independently. But who is playing who? Writer and director Alex Garland has created a masterpiece; strikingly beautiful, intelligent characters and smart philosophical questions and wrapped them up in one of the best sci fi dramas I have ever seen.
Mad Max: Fury Road- Simply put this was the best action film I saw all year long. Thirty plus years in the making, George Miller releases the best of the Mad Max Franchise and one of the best action films of all time. No one knew what to expect from Miller. He has directed very few bad films so his track record is pretty good. But no one could have seen just how well he has not only written Fury Road, but the action set pieces are a the kind of stuff that made me giddy with glee. Charlize Theron steals the show as Furiosa and shows what a strong woman is all about. But she does it with depth as well as strength and is terrific. Tom Hardy, although he does not have much dialogue, convinced me he is the perfect choice to play the road warrior, himself. Miller is a rock star and has made a wildly inventive, imaginative and bold statement for this franchise and he is here to stay.
Star Wars The Force Awakens- Not in my lifetime has the bar been set so high for a film. With such big shoes to fill from the original trilogy of the 70’s and 80’s, J. J. Abrams has out-Lucased George, himself especially from the films released in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. The Force Awakens not only met the bar but crushed it in a wild and wonderful film that captures all of the majesty and prestige of the originals and ups the ante. This film takes off from the first scene and never puts one foot wrong. Sure it was great to see Harrison Ford return as Han Solo, Carrie Fischer, as well as Chewie, R2D2, C3PO and Mark Hamill as Luke, but the intentional casting of two relatively unknown actors in the form of Daisy Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn gives the new Star Wars battle between good and evil, some added heft. Ridley and Boyega shine in two star making performances. Humor, sadness and a terrific bad guy, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver also a star making performance) and a visual feast of mostly practical effects make this the best time at the movies I had all year.
Some honorable mentions are deserved here, as well. Denis Villenueve’s Sicario features Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benecio Del Toro in a cat and mouse game with the Mexican drug cartel that was well written, acted, directed, scored and BEAUTIFULLY shot by the legendary cinematographer, Roger Deakins. This film fires on all cylinders. Intense and graphically arresting. I watched most of this film with a knot in my stomach.
Avengers Age of Ultron and Ant-Man are two more Marvel films from a studio that hardly makes a mistake. I knew I would love Avengers but not knowing anything about Ant-Man probably helped me in my love for this film, as well. Paul Rudd owns the Ant-Man role the way Robert Downey Jr. owns Iron Man. Both of these films are the visual extravaganza we have come to expect, but they maintain the clever humor, smart dialogue and interesting characters that we have come to crave; fresh, funny, exciting and immensely entertaining.
Everest tells the tragic true story of the late 90’s attempt to summit the world’s tallest mountain. Standing at about 30,000 feet, Everest is the referred to a mountain that is as high as the “cruising altitude of 747”. Everest is a visual spectacle, to be sure, but director Baltasar Kormakur and script writers William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy put the human element first and foremost. I mean, if you can’t connect to these characters then what happens to them won’t affect you. Everest does a great job of fleshing out the climbers and as a result I connected to them and became invested in their well being. This is a sad film but the acting is standout especially by Jason Clarke who nails it, perfectly. It is a grand adventure about nature overwhelming man with tragic consequences.
SPECTRE, although not as good as Skyfall or Casino Royale, is still everything you expect in a bond picture. Daniel Craig once again nails the Bond character and this time even shows some signs of humor that has been left behind in the previous Craig editions of Bond, with good reason. The Craig Bond films have been much darker and truly focused on strong characters that drove the stories. I loved Casino Royale and even more so, Skyfall. Quantum of Solace is the weakest of the Craig Bond films but still a solid film, to me. SPECTRE is a whirlwind of solid action, terrific performances, exotic locales, and another great Thomas Newman score. Director Sam Mendes (his last Bond film as director, sadly) ties up the previous films with a classy introduction to the nefarious group, SPECTRE and Bond’s arch-nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz).
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a highly anticipated recreation of the 60’s TV show and although some disliked this telling of the story, I found it playfully engaging with solid performances from Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer and Alicia Vikander. Director Guy Ritchie who also penned the script with Lionel Wigram, knows just how to craft this film. It takes itself seriously but not too seriously and has a ball doing it. Everyone seems to be having fun and it was infectious to me. Everything from the technical aspect of the film is spot on from the production design, sets, costumes and especially Daniel Pemberton’s score is pleasantly crafted into an enjoyably frothy picture.
There you have it, folks. Thank you all for watching our videos and visiting the movieslackers.com website. We all appreciate your support more than you will ever know. Here is to more of everything coming in 2016. But first I will be back with the WORST of 2016 coming very soon.