Sunday, January 3, 2016

Day 1494 - Movie Roundup of 2015

2015 was another year where my movie intake decreased.  I only watched 138 movies this year.  Yes, yes, I realize that there are a number of people who don't even come close to that total, but for myself it was on the low end.  However, that being said, I think it actually proves the quality of television this last year, because I watched a bunch of TV.  Stupid TV.

And, just like last year, there are movies that haven't been released in Cleveland yet, so this list will morph and shape over the next month.  For instance, I saw Whiplash in 2015.  As a 2014 release, it moves into my #2 spot in my favorites of 2014.  It's amazing.

But without further ado, here's my list of my favorite movies of last year.

1. Ex Machina - Oscar Isaac builds a robot, Domhnall Gleeson questions it to see if it has real artificial intelligence, and Alicia Vikander crushes it as the robot.  No movie made me think about it as much as this one did this year.  And, like the best movies, it rewards multiple viewings.  That ending is perfect.

2. The Hateful Eight - With the exception of Jackie Brown (which I don't like), I don't think any Tarantino movie has been as divisive as this one.  I personally love it.  It's brutal, profane, violent, and a whole lot smarter than a lot of people seem to be giving it credit for.  And that name in the opening credits (but not in the poster) - classic!  Whether it was worth the 70mm presentation will be decided when I see it again in a regular theater.

3. Steve Jobs - Michael Fassbender made a believer out of me.  His performance as the title character is riveting, and makes you care about a man who is nearly impossible to care for.  Warts and all, Steve Jobs, the man and the movie demand your attention.

4. Mad Max: Fury Road - Oh how I love cars chasing each other and things blowing up.

5. What We do in the Shadows - The funniest movie I saw this year.  A houseful of vampires have to deal with the mundane aspects of life (somebody has to do the chores) all in front of a documentary crew.  Petyr, the Nosferatu-looking vampire is a complete hoot.  And who doesn't love Stu?

6. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation - Man, I'm a sucker for these movies.  I love the characters, I like the stunts, I try not to think about the mission too much.  Entertainment for entertainment's sake.

7. Room - A young woman raises her son in a tiny little room. What he doesn't know is just about everything, since he's never been outside of it.  Until one glorious day.  This is less of entertainment than it is a brilliantly acted take on how one can survive such a situation, and how one could possibly deal with the after-effects of said situation.  Jacob Tremblay, as that little kid, is astonishing.

8. The Big Short - How a group of wall street guys bet against the housing industry a few years before it collapsed.  They saw the signs, and the movie explains it to you in layman's terms.  Even so, it's some complicated stuff.  But the actors (especially Steve Carell) keep you invested (pun intended).

9. Brooklyn - Saoirse Ronan is an Irish immigrant who comes to Brooklyn and eventually finds a fella.  When she has to go back to Ireland for a time, things get complicated.  As a viewer, my emotions were all over the map, but the last 15 minutes or so made it for me.  Not splashy, just good.

10. The Walk - If I hadn't seen this in 3D, I don't know if it would have been as good.  But since I did, I thought it was amazing.  No, I haven't seen Man on Wire, and that may have influenced me as well.  But watching Joesph Gordon-Levitt's Philippe Petit make that walk between the two towers was one of the most breathtaking things I've seen this year.

11. The Martian - I've got the book ready to read this year.  However, having not read it, I really dug the movie. Who doesn't love a good Robinson Crusoe on Mars story?  And the fact that there was a minimum amount of dumb in the movie made me happy.

12. SPECTRE - No, it's not the best Bond movie ever made, but I still like it tons more than Skyfall (of which my opinions are quite clear).  It's overlong and has some stupid plot points, but it still felt like a Bond movie to me.  And I love me some Bond movies (except Skyfall).

13. Ant-Man - What could have been just a bit too much is just handled deftly enough.  Funny when it needs to be, dramatic when it demands it, and, yeah, worth it just for that first post-credits sequence.

14. The Final Girls - Yeah, here's the one you've never heard of.  A girl and her friends are somehow transported into a schlocky horror film.  However, that girl's deceased mom is one of the actresses in that movie.  Very meta, sometimes absolutely hilarious (the song Lollipop will bring a smile to your face every time you hear it after this),  and has more heart than you could possibly expect from a movie like this.  The only reason this went straight to video is because the marketers had no idea what to do with it (I'm convinced).  I knew I'd love it when I saw the trailer and it didn't disappoint.

15. Trainwreck - Forget the love story between Amy Schumer and Bill Hader.  That's conventional stuff.  The real stuff is the triangle between Schumer's character, her dad, and her sister.  The family drama is so, so strong and moving, that I wouldn't have minded if the movie had just dealt with them.  Alas, we also get the weak romantic story.  Not Schumer or Hader's fault - they both do well, it's just that the other stuff is so good.

16. The Babadook - Scary little movie on its own, but even better when you read peoples' theories on what they think it was about.  Scared me more than It Follows, which I liked, but didn't love as much as many others.

17. Furious Seven - Not as joyously insane as the previous two installments, but Paul Walker's final ride ended on a perfect touching note. You could tell there were certain things that the filmmakers probably wanted to do, but Walker's death prevented it. 

18. Dope - From the opening credits which give the different definitions of the title word (all of which are in play), I was in.  A nerdy high school senior gets embroiled in things way above his head, and it's funny, crazy, and frightening (in a real-life sort of way).  Sure the ending is a touch of a cop out, but the rest of the movie is solid.

19. Sicario - This got a lot of play from a lot of critics.  If you look at it from the point of view that the very capable Emily Blunt's character is in things way, way over her head, then the movie works just fine.  But if you were looking for her to kick major butt, then you're going to be disappointed.  But Benicio Del Toro - oooh, he's cold-blooded.

20. The Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse - This one is the gimme of the year.  I saw the trailer, and all I did was hope that it lived up to it.  I thought it did.  If you're going to make an extreme movie, then please go all out.  This movie did just that.  It wants to make you laugh and sometimes wince and sometimes groan, and it succeeded at all three.

And, yes, there is one major (major!) film that I saw this year that didn't make my top 20. I liked Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and I'm sure I'll see it a number of times.  That being said, there are just some insurmountable things that are in the movie that I can't get behind.  I still like it, but yeah, Scout's Guide gets a place in my top 20, and The Force Awakens doesn't.

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