Time to start my year anew; a new website for a new year. And what better way to start off the New Year than with a top ten list…a top ten list of last year’s movies, but you get what I’m trying to say.
Narrowly missing my list (in order):
14. The Martian
11. Secret in Their Eyes
And now, for the 10 best films of 2015:
10. Jurassic World:
The first of two on my list that successfully rebooted an entire franchise in spectacular fashion. Telling this story on a new and much larger theme park, built around Jurassic Park, this much anticipated film gave audiences the “more factor” (more CGI, more dinosaurs, more actual “park”) but for a 4th installment, director Colin Trevorrow more importantly gave fans a fresh story with likeable characters (starring Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard) all while not diluting the original product; as is the problem with many sequels.
9. The Big Short:
Directed by Adam McKay (who injects some welcome levity, cutting the countless scenes of “make me feel bad” Michael Moore-esque finger wagging) and starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt, who collectively attempt to make the housing bubble collapse of nearly 10 years ago somewhat understandable. “The Big Short” gets an “A” for effort, while also standing as the most important movie of the year (and undoubtedly the one the most pretentious among us will claim to fully understand in order to save face). The problem is, much like 2009’s “Up in the Air” (my favorite movie of that year) “The Big Short” will be almost entirely forgotten in a couple of years. Nevertheless, it still deserves a spot on my list because (say it with me) it is the most important movie of this year.
8. The Hateful Eight:
Taking an appropriate spot on my list, “The Hateful Eight” is the newest Quentin Tarantino film that only a Tarantino fan could love. Meaning, you have to look past the aggressive violence (in this case) aggressive abuse towards women and the aggressively defiant use of the “N” word (and the fact that this movie is over 2 ½ hours long) in order to see how well plotted, beautifully filmed (especially the 70mm showings) and exploding with unabashed entertainment value it is. Or, if you’re a Tarantino fan (like I am) you won’t have to look past any of that. Depicting a post Civil War Wyoming blizzard, where a collection of lively characters of feuding races are held up in a cabin for the duration of a storm. Thing is, someone isn’t who they say they are, which leads to arguments, which leads to killing. Oh yes, does it lead to killing. No, “The Hateful Eight” isn’t Tarantino’s best work. But, even an above average Tarantino whodunit is wildly entertaining and superbly unique. In short, it’s still better than watching high octane, zero-substance cinema, like “Mad Max: Fury Road”.
Not perfect and quite predictable, yet pulls every heartstring in reach. “Room” tells the story of a five year old boy and his mom, who are held prisoner in a shed. The shed is a prison for the mother, but is the only “world” the little boy has ever known. What gets this film on my list is Lenny Abrahamson’s direction (which is absolutely perfect) as she tells this story mostly through the eyes of the child. I dare you to watch this movie and not cry. It’s simply impossible.
6. The Visit:
The first movie on my list which I enjoyed from start to finish and also a surprise entry, as I may be the only critic in America (if not, the world) who enjoyed “The Visit” enough to give it a place on a top ten list, “The Visit” concerns two children who visit their estranged grandparents; and soon enough the grandparents begin to act strange…and violent. I understand that many were more frightened by the fact that this was a film from the much-maligned M. Night Shyamalan. But I am here to tell you, that “The Visit” is a return to Twilight Zone form for M. Night. And yes, the twist was worth it this time.
5. It Follows:
As more and more people got the chance to see “It Follows”, there have been are more and more who claim “It Follows” is more so flawed and dreadfully slow than it is scary and suspenseful. But I (a critic who has championed this film since its release) still stand by my initial praise that this is one of the scariest movies of recent years, not only because the feeling of suspense is palpable throughout the entire film (without rest) not only because the admittedly blunt allegory of a woman who has sex and then is relentlessly chased by an unseen monster is quite inventive (given the rules of this world) but mostly because “It Follows” will stay with you long after your viewing has ended. It will haunt you. It will follow you. And what more could you want out of a horror flick?
4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens:
Ripe with thirst quenching nostalgia; thanks to director J.J. Abrams, there may not even be a need for explanation as to why “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” gets a spot here. I mean, chances are, out of all the movies on my list, this is the one you’ve seen. But OK, allow me to play devil’s advocate for a second. Maybe this is a film that didn’t deserve a spot in a top ten list of “best films” of the year (let alone, a place so high on my list). I mean, the acting wasn’t anything spectacular, the visuals don’t rival a “space film” like “The Martian”, and the story is basically “A New Hope” warmed-over for a generation who had never seen “A New Hope”. But it’s my list. And I’m not lying when I say that watching “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was the most fun I had in a theater all year.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve, I suspect audiences who disliked “Sicario”, disliked it because it wasn’t a shoot-em-up, U.S vs. Mexico, Robert Rodriguez romp. “Sicario” is a calculated film that stands as the most accurate cinematic depiction of a war that’s going on in our very backyard. Concerning Mexican drug cartels and corrupt FBI agents, for me this film was as much eye opening as it was brutally alarming, as I viewed “realistic” U.S./Mexico relations which shook me to my core.
2. Beasts of No Nation:
Brutal, violent, heartbreaking, unflinching, grotesque, realistic, tragic, “Beasts of No Nation” (not “Beasts of the Southern Wild) a film from the great Cary Fukunaga, stands as the hardest, yet the most beautifully compelling film to watch on my list; one which deserves a second, third and fourth viewing, because of its truthful depiction of a fictional war fought using child soldiers (a savage practice that still occurs today). Wait. You haven’t heard of this movie, you say? A movie that has taken the #2 spot on my list?! Well that might be because the big chain theaters refused to show it, since it was bought by Netflix, with plans of simultaneous release on the big and small screen. I truly believe that because it was released primarily on Netflix, many don’t even know this film exists. What a travesty!
Over the years only one Pixar film has ever reached my #1 spot; “Inside Out” will be the second. I previously stated that “The Big Short” was the most important film of the year, but in that same breath (and I truly believe this) “Inside Out”, an animated film about human emotions, may be the most important children’s film not only of this generation, but ever made. Yes, the animation is high caliber, but it is truly the adult themes made palatable for children and (though fabricated) a creative look at how memories are stored, what happens to our childhood imaginary friends, how a pre-teen sees the world vs. how a child going through puberty sees the world vs. how a grown-up sees the world, which makes “Inside Out” a watershed film in children’s entertainment.
Bonus: The Worst Films of 2015:
I didn’t see a whole lot of bad movies this year, but I did see 7! And here they are (in order):
7. The Lazarus Effect
6. The Loft
5: Taken 3
4. Sinister 2
3. The Green Inferno
2. The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death
1. The Age of Adaline: (the only one on my list that actually garners a small explanation, seeing how there were people who actually liked it) The story of a woman who gets electrocuted and now can live forever, actually sounds like (in the right hands) it could’ve lead to an interesting narrative. While this isn’t technically the most inept film I saw all year, it was the most boring and lifeless. This is one of those movies where you could leave to use the restroom, go get some popcorn, go out to your car, drive to the nearest Red Robin, have yourself a burger, eat the burger, tip big, drive back to the theater, find your seat and not have missed a damn thing. With the most annoying voice-over narration throughout as the cherry on top; a narration which rocked me into a cinematic coma, “The Age of Adaline” stands as the worst film of 2015.
Follow me on Twitter @moviesmarkus