Tis the season for the best and worst of the year. I started my list in January of 2015 and updated it throughout the year. I was going to publish this in December but there were so many good films released in December that I had to wait a few weeks. I always want to have a list longer than 10 films, but it rarely works out that way. Last year
I had 11 films on my list. This year I have 10. Alas, I could only think of 10 films for my best list. The worst movie list is plentiful this year at lucky number 17.
My list originally included a huge smattering of all the best and worst of the year, but it became so long that I decided to split it into 4 parts. So next week you will see my choices for the most disappointing films of 2015
(not to be confused with the worst films of the year).
I of course preface all of my lists by saying that these are the films that I HAVE SEEN. I have not seen 'Spotlight
,' which I hear is exceptional. Nor have I seen 'Trumbo
,' 'Steve Jobs
,' 'The Walk
,' 'Beasts of No Nation
,' 'Hateful Eight
,' or 'Creed
.' If I haven't previously reviewed a film I added additional details. If I have previously reviewed the film I didn't see the need to review it again. Instead I provided a brief description with a link to the full review.
Please feel free to agree or disagree with me in the comment section. This is my list. I'm sure you have your own. Thanks.
WE HAVE TO HAVE THE CONVERSATIONS
OUR GOVERNMENTS CAN'T.
James Donovan [to Ivan Schischkin].
This was not necessarily my favorite film this year...as is clear with it's ranking, but considering the year, it was one of the better films released this year. I really wish I had seen another film deserving of this list. 'Bride of Spies' was a good film...but no where near a great one. Clear and concise, 'Bridge of Spies' draws you into the cold war era of 1950's espionage. Nobody does this better than Steven Spielberg
and Tom Hanks
. Nobody. Could it have been more thrilling? Yes. That shouldn't diminish that this was a solid film with a great cast. Had this been a better year for movies, this film may not have made the list. See my full review here
THE TRUTH IS LIKE POETRY.
AND MOST PEOPLE FU*$#!@ HATE POETRY.
-The Big Short
I'm sad to say that I almost didn't see this excellent movie. It wasn't on my list to see, but I'm glad I did. 'The Big Short' is based on the 2010 novel of the same name by Michael Lewis, which I started reading over the weekend. Most people are aware of (and have likely been directly affected by) the 2008 financial crisis. The ripple effect of which continues to this day. However, most people don't understand the particulars. 'The Big Short' explains it in layman's terms (with the occasional celebrity cameo). The movie frequently breaks the 4th wall and talks to the audience in a similar manner as 'House of Cards.' It's strange and theatrical, but it's brilliant. Most films about finance would put people to sleep, so this film is truly a rarity. It's exciting and interesting from beginning to end.
Plot: In 2005 a socially awkward former doctor, now hedge fund manager, Michael Burry (Christian Bale), stumbles upon a secret hidden in plain sight-- the U.S. housing market is about to crash. The banks were shoveling subprime mortgages into "highly rated" funds they knew to be worthless. They knew that these mortgages were going into default, but they still continued to give a mortgage to anyone with a pulse.
FRAUD HAS NEVER WORKED.
EVENTUALLY THINGS GO SOUTH.
WHEN THE HELL DID WE FORGET THAT?
Knowing a good bet when he sees one, Burry decides to create a credit default swap market
. Economics 101 don't fail me now... Basically Burry bet against the house. Everyone at the time (banks, government, brokers, realtors, etc.) thought that the housing market was bullet proof. Thus, they gladly purchased credit default swaps because the banks believed that people who invested in this contraptions were giving them free money. The purchasers of these credit default swaps would have to pay the banks whilst the housing market was doing well. Whereas, the swappers wouldn't receive a return on their investment until the housing market collapsed. Since the banks controlled the ratings agencies, it took longer for the housing market to "officially" crash.
Steve Carell is fantastic as grumpy hedge fund manager Mark Baum (aka real-life Steve Eisman). Side note: Burry is the only character's whose real name was used in the film. Similar to Burry, Baum decides to invest against the housing market, as do a few others. Baum is the most empathetic character in the film, as he seems to be the only one who feels extreme disgust with the powers that be for screwing over average people. Carell is superb in this role. Thankfully he was nominated for last year's 'Foxcatcher.' I hope he gets a nod this year. If I were to have a second choice to win the best actor category it would be Carell. My first choice is Leonardo DiCaprio for 'The Revenant.'
The swappers are not necessarily the good guys in this equation, but they are definitely not the worst. They are just people who happen to see an opportunity and take it. The really terrible people in this film are the bankers. The film brutally illustrates the level of psychopathy, arrogance, and fraud that contributed to the sub-prime mortgage crisis. The banks who participated in creating this crisis essentially got off scott-free. They nearly brought down the U.S. economy, not to mention other world economies and barely got a slap on the hand. Brad Pitt's character (Ben Rickert) reminds the viewers to look beyond the numbers to see the people who lost jobs, pensions, insurance, houses, lives, etc.
This movie was a little difficult to understand, which is why it was helpful to have the layman explanations provided by celebrities. My favorite of which was Margot Robbie. The levity and humor of the film enhanced it, despite the difficult subject matter. If you are able to follow the film, your chin will hit the floor a couple of times. It really was a great movie. Go see it.
IF YOU WANT TO QUESTION MY MORALS
...DO IT LATER.
John Brooder [to the group].
Before seeing this film it should be noted that there are some things you cannot unsee after watching this film
. When I tell you that there is one scene in this film that nearly made me vomit, be afraid, very afraid. The film started off as a wonderful western tale of woe then it descends into abject horror and ultra-violence. The first part of the film is very much a true western. The real surprise comes when the film shifts gears and becomes a horror film in the tradition of 'The Hills Have Eyes
.' I personally love the western-horror genre and I wish this mashup was more common, but I haven't seen a film with this level of gore in a very long time. If there's one positive I would note that most of the violence takes place at the very end of the film.
' will become (if it hasn't already become) a cult classic. The entire cast is fantastic. I say this with great trepidation as I am NOT a fan of Matthew Fox
. This is the same Fox who got arrested (and later sued) for punching a female bus driver in the whoo-hoo
. Then his 'Lost
' co-star openly accused him of beating women...frequently. Considering the 'Party of Five
' episode dedicated to domestic violence, I am very disappointed!
It's also an unusual allegation. Most people do not get accused of punching a woman in the vajajay, which leads me to believe that given his documented problems with alcohol
...it's likely true. However, I don't feel right about reporting one side of the story. Fox said the woman simply got in the way when he was trying to punch a man
. So much better right? So there you have it. There are many forms of bad behavior I can tolerate from celebrities...most of which I consider to be none of my business, but when you punch a woman in the whoo-hoo for not letting you get on a bus because you're drunk that's where I draw the line.
Ok enough of the groin punching story because Fox is crazy good as the cocky gunslinging lothario John Brooder in 'Bone Tomahawk.'
It's probably his best work in years. His last scene in the film was probably my favorite in the entire film: "I'm too vain to be cripple." Patrick Wilson
is more tolerable than usual. But it's Jenkins who truly steals the show. Jenkins is so good you almost forget he's acting.Plot: Kurt Russell
needs no introduction as a rugged honest lawman, Sheriff Franklin Hunt. Russell is the ultimate man's man. In addition to his role as Wyatt Earp in the cult classic 'Tombstone
,' and his long acting career, Russell is also a former baseball player, race car driver, and stuntman. Meaning: Russell is perfectly cast in this role. Set in the 1890s, Hunt is sheriff of a small town named Bright Hope. Hunt and his slow, but sweet deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins
) discover there's trouble in 'dem dere hills' when a drifter (David Arquette
) comes to town.
They soon learn that the drifter didn't come back alone. The storyline is simple--unsung western heroes mount a rescue mission despite overwhelming odds and unspeakable danger. It's a tried and true formula because it works, deserving of my best of the year list.
IS HE DANGEROUS?
ONLY IF YOU HAVE BOOBS.
This movie made me love Melissa McCarthy
. I have never seen a plus-sized action star...until now. There was one scene in this film that made me laugh so hard that I thought I would pass out or pee my pants. One or the other. Perhaps it was because I was watching that scene with my dad who thought he was going to see a 'James Bond
'-type film. Sorry daddy. I psyched you out on that one. I don't know, but whatever the reason is, I loved this film. Screw film critic (and overall disgusting human being) Rex Reed
for referring to the lovely McCarthy as a "tractor sized" "female hippo."
It did go on about 15 to 30 minutes too long for my taste, but that's ok. I don't typically like Paul Feig
comedies, because I don't like potty humor, but this film was so well done. Feig and McCarthy compliment each other so well. It's a funny comedy, but it's never slap stick. It has an edge of seriousness, but it never takes itself seriously. It's one of the few comedies that broke the mold for me. McCarthy's genuineness and warmth really shines through here. It also helps that she had incredible chemistry with Jason Statham
. Who would have thunk? The supporting cast is equally incredible. This movie just gives me the "feels."Plot
: CIA analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy
) goes into the field when her partner Bradley Fine (Jude Law
) meets an unfortunately "end." Unprepared and placed in over the top disguises (cat lady), Susan has an adventure like no other.
HE KNOWS HOW FAR
I CAME TO FIND HIM.
This movie is one of the most anticipated films this year and thankfully it does not disappoint. Say what you will about director Alejandro Iñárritu
--he's a madman, a narcissist, recipient of a groin punch
from Tom Hardy
, etc. (lots of groin punching going on in this post
), but he knows how to make movies. It's likely that he's an insane savant in the same vein of Kubrick
. Kubrick also did a film with just natural light, 'Barry Lyndon
.' It's a near impossible feat, which is why no one does it. Thankfully, Inarritu has an equally brilliant cinematographer. If Inarritu is the potter, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki
brings the clay to life. The cinematography of this film is stunning.
There are several takes in the film that are absolutely spectacular. I am in awe that Inarritu managed to capture these shots in one take, let alone at all. Leonardo DiCaprio
also does exceptional work here. DiCaprio is at his best in this film. You feel his character's sorrow, his will to survive, and his heart wrenching loss. Given his body of work, I do not understand how DiCaprio has not won an Oscar yet. I'm very hopeful that this will be his year. If he doesn't at least get a nomination then I won't be watching the Oscars this year. Hardy does great work here too and is worthy of a best supporting nod. Hardy is sensational as the hair-raising sociopath, John Fitzgerald.
LEO WILL LIKELY BE SNUBBED AGAIN!!Plot
: The film is based on Michael Punke's 2002 novel, which itself was based on the real-life survival story of Hugo Glass (Leonard DiCaprio). Living in the Rockies in the early 1800s was hard and this film pulls no punches. I don't think I've ever seen a survival tale this brutal. This may sound strange, but this film reminds me a little bit of 'Gravity
,' with regard to the main character's dedication to survive. Similar to 'Gravity,' the storyline is simple, but effective. It also evolves (rightfully so) into savage tale of revenge.
Glass is a trapper who guides a group through the vast wilderness for fur trapping. When they are attacked the survivors splinter. Through a series of unfortunate events, Glass accidentally stumbles upon a mama bear with cubs. Mama bear does what mama bears do. Thus, begins the terrible chain of events that befall Glass. I kind of know why people joked (I hope they were joking) that DiCaprio's character was raped by a bear
in the movie because the bear attack is so horrific. However, it's repulsive that people made such a big deal about the alleged bear rape, when there is an actual rape of a woman depicted in the film
. These same people didn't seem to bat an eye about that.
After seeing the film I understand why this film was so miserable to shoot. 'The Revenant' is merciless, primal, and unrelenting. Thankfully the film's difficult subject matter is juxtaposed against the breathtaking beauty of the wilderness and incredible cinematography. The word "revenant" is defined as "a person who returns" or "a person who returns as a spirit after death." Lets just say that the book and the film are well titled. If you haven't seen the film yet I won't spoil it for you as to why.
IT'S GOING TO
Hugh [to Jay]
Filmed in Michigan on the micro budget of $2 million dollars, 'It Follows' is an ingenious low budget horror film in the tradition of 'Evil Dead.' Considering the pit of "creative hell" that is Hollywood, I'm surprised this movie was actually released. It is a 2014 film, but it was technically released in March 2015, which is why it's on my 2015 list. It's a bold and slick modern teen horror flick--and it's awesome. It's what 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' should have been, but wasn't. I'm sure there are more good things to come from first time Writer/Director David Robert Mitchell.
The relatively unknown cast holds their own here too. The soundtrack (and the film itself) reminds me a lot of one of John Carpenter's early films: rudimentary, primitive, and brilliant. Similar to John Carpenter's 'Halloween,' the film takes place in a typical middle class neighborhood with seemingly normal teens. Mitchell's writing is tense, well constructed, and the dialogue is just fantastic. The characters react to situations like you would imagine a teenager would. There is another direct homage to 'Halloween' when the main character sees the creature while sitting in a boring high school literature class. Plot
: Jay (Maika Monroe
), a young woman becomes infected by a “sexually transmitted” paranormal curse. Wow, that's a new one. You can see from the trailer that her new lover has “issues.” He sees things that aren't there and chloroforms her immediately after they have sex. Jay embarks on her own personal odyssey to find Hugh, all the while trying to avoid this nameless fear following her.
MATH TIME!The movie is not without flaws. Serious flaws. For example, this demon creature follows you at a snail's pace, but it eventually catches up with you...walking. This means whenever you drive somewhere it takes a while for it to catch up. They're in Michigan, so why not drive to Florida? That's a 17 hour drive. If you go to Google Maps it calculates that it will take a walker 376 hours to walk to Florida. Since I assume the thing doesn't sleep, it will arrive in Florida in about 2 weeks. Within that two week span you take a plane overseas. Let's see how fast that thing catches up through an ocean. It seemed to avoid water so I assume it wouldn't cross an ocean.
Even if it does, all you need to do is solve the equation of how fast the thing travels versus how fast you can travel. Mind you, traveling requires money. So if you needed to settle down in a place you would need to live somewhere where you can commute to where you worked and went to school. So if you lived in suburb of Detroit, Michigan you would need to commute to 2 hours to somewhere in Indiana. It would take the demon about 15 hours to follow you one way. Mind you commuting would every day and worrying about having to flee in a moment's notice would totally suck. You wouldn't be able to have a family...especially not a baby or a toddler. Ain't no way I can leave the house in 5 minutes. Clearly I have thought far too much about this.
I THOUGHT HE WAS A MYTH?
I don't usually list huge films like 'Star Wars' in my top movies list, but it was a wonderful film, deserving of being on my list. Thankfully J.J. Abrams
learned a few lessons from 'Star Trek Into the Darkness
.' There were no lens flares and no ludicrously placed half naked women. Daisy Ridley
(Rey) was a multi-layered female character that was competent and driven-- no easy task in a big budget Hollywood film. Rey's character is well written and magical.
Unlike other supposedly strong female character's Rey isn't the least bit angsty, bitter, or cynical. For some reason Hollywood has a tendency to depict strong female characters as "bitchy"-- case in point this year's 'Jurassic World
' and 'Terminator: Genisys
,' or even the original Princess Leia. Portraying a strong female character as a male hater full of piss and vinegar is Hollywood's favorite cliche (next to showing women in bikinis in action movie trailers
). I am so grateful to J.J. Abrams and writer/director Lawrence Kasdan
that my little girl can watch 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens
' and look up to Rey as a future geek girl in training (and dare I say it...even buy her action figure). That may not seem like a big deal, but it is.
'The Force Awakens' is not a deep film discussing an important social topic, but it's a passionate love letter to the fans, dripping with nostalgia. 'The Force Awakens' was filled with so much love and a much needed homage to the original 'Star Wars: A New Hope
.' People may get irritated that 'Star Wars' is over hyped and it is, but the reason this franchise is so popular is because it makes people happy. That's what George Lucas
couldn't understand in the prequels.
The dialogue has been greatly improved with Abrams
taking over from Lucas. I know Lucas gets a bad wrap (and rightfully so), but he did create three epic films in the late 70s/early 80s. It doesn't mean that he kept up with the times. If you've seen the prequels...it's clear that he didn't. Hayden Christenson's
wooden acting, the awful construction of Padame's character (Natalie Portman
), the cheesy dialogue, and the oh so strange storylines of the prequels prove that sometimes your best years are behind you and it's time to retire.
I had originally wrote a lovely sentence about how gracious George Lucas was to bow out and let someone else take over...then Lucas opened his mouth. Not content to take his $4 billion dollars and shutup, Lucas decided to have a temper tantrum. He claims that he sold 'Star Wars' to "white slavers
." Yeah that actually happened. Lucas has since apologized
, but outbursts like this make it even harder to take Lucas seriously.
IF I WANT WATER,
I'LL HAVE TO MAKE IT FROM SCRATCH
FORTUNATELY, I KNOW THE RECIPE.
Well constructed and taught, 'The Martian
' draws you into Mark Watney's (Matt Damon
) stark martian world. 'The Martian' is one of Ridley Scott's
best films in years, partially because the material he had to work with was so exceptional. Author Andy Weir's
brilliant novel gives Scott a near perfect blueprint to work from, making this film "almost" impossible to mess up. Thankfully Scott delivers.
Damon is well cast as the sarcastic and humorous Watney and the rest of the cast is equally wonderful. The film is not without flaws. Thankfully Scott knows his way around a scifi film. Like most Scott films, the character development could have used a little work, but 'The Martian' is still one of the best films of the year. See my full review here
WHO DO YOU WORK FOR?
I GO WHERE I'M SENT.
This film was the only other film I gave 5 stars to this year. It was nearly flawless, with very few missteps along the way. Emily Blunt
is an ingenue FBI agent tasked with bringing the fight to the cartel. Director Denis Villeneuve
is such a brilliant director. He manages to convey a true sense of dread and violence without actually showing much violence on screen.
The real show stopper is Benecio Del Toro
, who plays his best role in years. In the hands of a lesser actor this role could have been over the top, but Del Toro knows subtlety. Most of Del Toro's scenes are expressed with little to no dialogue, just with his eyes and body language-- all the marks of an incredible actor. Del Toro definitely deserves at least an Oscar nod this year. See my full review here
IT WAS HARD TO KNOW
WHO WAS MORE CRAZY.
ME...OR EVERYONE ELSE.
There simply is no comparison. I saw this film in May and I have yet to see it's equal in 2015. This was the best film of the year...hands down. In fact I haven't seen a film as good as this one in a very long time. I never really considered myself to be a fan of the 'Mad Max
' franchise. Like every child of the 80's, I saw highly edited versions of those kooky films on lazy Saturday afternoons on broadcast television. Never having seen these films in the theater I just never paid much attention to them. They were intriguing, but weird and didn't hold much interest to me.
So when 'Mad Max: Fury Road
' came out I was reluctant to see it. Boy was I wrong. 'Sicario
' is a close second, but this movie is by far my favorite film of 2015. Unfortunately Hollywood is way too pretentious to give this film any accolades, but if I were giving out Oscars, this film would receive Oscars for everything. EVERYTHING. See my full review here
NEXT UP: BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS OF 2015.