I only count films that were released in theatres (not including on-demand, redbox, Cable ect), and those i saw within the dates of January 1st, 2015 to December 31st, 2015.
I saw a helleva lotta films this year, how many you ask? 101. In the theatre. So when it came to making this list i had quite a few to choose from, but when it came down to it I did miss a few films that are being critically acclaimed, such as: Anomalisa, The Danish Girl (pure Oscar bait), Carol, The Revenant, Brooklyn, The Big Short, Concussion and of course Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip.
20. Inside Out
19. The Gift
18. Straight Outta Compton
17. Crimson Peak
15. A Girl Walks Home, Alone at Night
13. Steve Jobs
12. The Martian
11. Love and Mercy
10. Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation
“You got your seatbelt on?”
-“You’re asking me that now!?”
Isn’t it quite sad that had a year of both James Bond and Mission Impossible, that Bond isn’t on this list? This might be the true passing of the baton, if the Impossible series keeps this up. What makes it better over Bond this time? Well having a concise plot where the bad guy doesn’t have daddy issues is the main thing, but also having real stunts that make the audience grab their arm rests helps a lot too. This is something that the Bond series has had and excelled at, but as of late, as been more and more reliant on CG that is quite boring. Enough about Bond though, this entry is directed by Christopher McQuarrie, a director i wasn’t exactly getting excited over, since his previous films had been mostly “meh” and nothing screamed at me to look out for this guy. Boy i love it when i’m wrong, this guy kicked my ass and i cant wait for what he does next.
9. Song of the Sea
“Are you a…selkie?”
I’m not sure if this technically counts since it had a very small release back in 2014 and our city didn’t get it till february of 2015, but damnit its my list and i can put whatever film i want on it. Song of the Sea is an incredible feat of 2D animation and is like a breath of fresh air to the eyes. Nearly every single frame of animation could be put in a museum, with story that had me in tears by the end. Not that the film was “sad” but genuinely affected me, as well as every adult in attendance to tears. While it does have a slow opening, by the time the film kicks into gear, its an incredible piece of art that deserves to be seen on the big screen. I actually feel bad when i mocked this film when we were doing our Oscar picks last year, cause it certainly deserved it over Big Hero 6.
8. Ex Machina
“However you would not be wasting your time, if you were dancing.”
How special is it when a Sci-Fi film comes out, whose motivations arent clearly shown or telegraphed by the advertising team, and becomes a film that completely blows my mind. Ex Machina is a film that does this in spades, while having subtext that i’m still discovering after rewatching it multiple times. Oscar Isaac gives an incredible performance, but the real treat here is Alex Garland, the first time director behind this wonderful maze of mystery that the film presents. I don’t want to give anything away for those who know nothing about this, but to put it simply, this films ending had me contemplating on much more than what it showed or didnt show. Sorry if that sounds vague.
7. What We Do in the Shadows
“The point is Deakon, is that you have not done the dishes in five years! Im so embarrassed when people come over here!
-“What does it matter, you bring them over, you kill them! Vampires dont do dishes!”
From a film that can be a mind-bender, comes a film that had me laughing on the floor the whole way through. To say this film is “hilarious” doesnt quite do it justice, its the single best horror-comedy since Shawn of the Dead. What We Do in the Shadows is about four vampires and their day to day lives while living in a house, done faux documentary style. Each character is memorable and the dialogue is extremely smartly written. Go watch this film as fast as you can, its just damn funny even after multiple viewings.
6. The Hateful Eight
“Startin’ to see pictures ain’t cha?”
OK, so i might be a bit biased in this one since Quentin Tarantino is my favorite living director currently working, but damn if this isnt a fine piece of filmmaking. It should be noted that i did see this on 70mm opening night. The Hateful Eight is a masterwork of filmmaking and having dialogue sequences that are as tense as a mexican standoff. At any moment the audience believes that anything could happen and will happen with Tarantino’s style of bloodshed about to cover the camera lens at any moment. Everyone gives an outstanding performance as horrible people locked up in a cabin during a snowstorm. One small detail that i wished i saw more of, is that it really did feel cold in every scene, with the set being so chilly to where whenever someone spoke, steam would come out of their mouth. Its a small thing but it really made me feel as though it was a real place. At over a three hour running time, The Hateful Eight never feels long, and yet feels like it could go on longer. Bravo.
5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
“We’ll use the force!”
-“Thats not how the force works!”
Well here it is, the film that every single film geek has been waiting for since 1983. How does it hold up? Wonderfully. Im sure by now that you have read a lot of reviews about this film, since everyone and their mother has seen it. My opinion? I loved it. If one really wants to get into my thoughts, Culturesmash did over a 2 and ½ hour podcast on it, so id go listen to that.
4. Me, Earl and the Dying Girl
“So if this was a touching, romantic story, our eyes would meet and suddenly we would be making out with the fire of a thousand suns. But this isnt that story.”
So this is a film that apparently no one went and saw. So id like to do an experiment, right now i want you to stop reading this and now go find a pen or pencil. Do you have one? Good. Now what i want you to do is place it in between your middle finger and ring finger, now with your other hand press your fingers together. You might have realized that this hurts a lot, because that is your punishment for not seeing this film in theatres. Me, Earl and the Dying Girl is a film that reminds me on why plot is so important in cinema. I went into this only knowing the title, and what i got was film with such heart, that i could fully relate to and had me and everyone else in the theatre in big sloppy tears. Its a film that will be discovered in the coming years and will hopefully find its audience that never showed up.
3. Kumiko The Treasure Hunter
“I want to help you, im just trying to figure out how.”
From a film whose audience never showed up, to a film who never got a wide enough release. Kumiko The Treasure Hunter is a film that i needed. Let me back up, when this came out it was around April and every film that was out was either a high octane action film, or generally a terrible film that didn’t know how to do Horror (Unfriended). This was like a palette cleanser of a film that knew how to take its time, that knew to let the audience breathe and to let the scene play out while having beautiful cinematography. Kumiko The Treasure Hunter is a film about a woman now stuck in a part of her life, boring day job, no social life, barely enough money to pay for food for her pet bunny ect. When she finds a VHS tape of the film Fargo, thinking it to be an American true story, she sets off in search for the money lost in the film. Runko Kikuchi, who plays Kumiko, gives an oscar worthy performance, with David Zellner having some incredible direction for a first time filmmaker.
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
“I AM AWAITED IN VALHALLA!”
There was a lot of build up for this one; would it be a cash grab designed to play to fans of the original? Would it be comprehensible in its action? Early test screenings said the film was “bat-shit crazy, and not in the good way”. Something just short of a miracle must have happened for Mad Max Fury Road to not only be a great film, but a damn near perfect spectacle of mayhem and chaos while still having extremely strong and memorable characters, each with their own arcs. Mad Max Fury Road is a masterpiece of death and destruction while having a simplistic plot that works in spades. Its a film that only comes around once every ten to fifteen years, and in this day and age when film studios are heavily reliant on CG, it’s more than a breath of fresh air to see real stunts and practical effects on display here. What a lovely day indeed.
“This is the land of wolves, and you’re not a wolf.”
Here it is, the big one, the one i put on a pedestal above all others, but i have to be completely honest Mad Max and Sicario could easily be my number one, depending on my mood at any moment. I did antagonize a bit about this one, but i finally threw up my hands in the air and said well which one did i buy on blu ray this year? But that argument quickly turned on itself cause i bought both Mad Max and Sicario day one. So before i change my mind again, this movie is damned amazing in every aspect. Cinematography, by Rodger Deakins (can he just shoot every film please?) is phenomenal, direction by Denis Villeneuve is the kind i’ve been searching for, for a while. Scenes play out in almost pitch perfect pacing, with each scene having tension and a forward movement to them while letting the audience breathe. Even the subliminal themes of rape, play on a subliminal level throughout the film, giving it a second life for multiple viewings to come. Emily Blunt was a huge surprise last year with Edge of Tomorrow and here she shows how that wasnt just a fluke. But the real surprise of the film was how completely bad ass Benicio Del Toro is in the film with him being an “advisor” to the team. This is the film that completely stunned me in the theatre and made me incredibly comfortable and excited for Blade Runner 2 (currently being made by the same team).