The year has come to an end, and frankly I couldn’t be happier to put these last twelve months in my rear view. It’s been a year of loss and change, and I realize the older I get the more this will become the norm rather than the exception.
That being said movies have always been an escape for me, a chance to get out of my own head and into the world of those talking pictures. My all-consuming love of film brought me to see some fantastic movies this year, and this is my list.
#15. Sleeping With Other People/The Overnight
So here we have two smaller independent films featuring fantastic casts featuring some of my favorite actors today (Adam Scott, Alison Brie, Jason Schwartzman, Jason Mantzoukas to name just a few). I couldn’t pick between these two as my number fifteen, so I’m cheating and tying them up together. Sue me. Sleeping With Other People was on my radar from the moment I heard about it and went out of my way into Boston to see it in theaters during its limited release. I was surprised how conventional it was, and despite a few flourishes here and there (the masturbation scene specifically, Mantzoukas especially) the movie basically made an updated version of When Harry Met Sally.
The Overnight proved to be a far more radical and experimental experience, and would be a divisive movie to see with friends of a narrower viewpoint of sexuality, friendship, and love. In that regard perhaps it was a good thing I ended up seeing this flick alone. The third act takes some unconventional turns (though if you were paying attention you could see it coming a mile away), but if you love Adam Scott as much as I do, you’ll relish his performance in this. Plus Schwartzman doing his Schwartzman things turned up to 11. Can’t go wrong with that.
#14. The Gift
The Gift got put on my radar fairly early thanks to both Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall starring, and was intrigued about where writer/director Joel Edgerton would take this small thriller about marriage, lies, and revenge. Things stayed appropriately tense up until the very end, but in that end I found myself frustrated with how everything wrapped up (or not wrapped up as it were). Thankfully that doesn’t change everything that came before it, plus asshole Bateman is always a treat to watch.
#13. The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Who knew Henry Cavill could be so charismatic? An updated version of the 1964 TV series based on Cold War espionage directed by Guy Ritchie? Sign me up. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. ended up being far more conventional then I hoped it would be, but the performances by Cavill and Armie Hammer (with a little Hugh Grant added in for flavour) made it one of the more pleasant surprises of the year. Disappointing box office returns mean there will be no sequel, but sometimes that’s okay.
#12. American Ultra
Okay, I’ll admit it.
I’m a closet Jesse Eisenberg fan. Since being branded as ‘Not-Michael Cera’ I’ve enjoyed almost all of Eisenberg’s work, with Adventureland and The Social Network as my two standouts. Seeing him reunite with Adventureland’s Kristen Stewart was an easy gimme, and American Ultra ended up being exactly what I thought it would be based on the trailer. Can’t say I was disappointed in the least. Funny, quirky, surprisingly sexy, and violent. American Ultra ended up being perfect summer entertainment.
#11. Furious 7
I unabashedly love the “Fast & the Furious” franchise. Yes, they’re objectively ‘bad’ movies. And yes, I know NOTHING about the underground world of street racing or cars in general. But that shit doesn’t matter when these lovable characters get together for an adventure that defies all human logic.
I remember watching the first Fast & the Furious on TV and not thinking much of it, just a really poor ripoff of Point Break. The second F&F movie became a long running inside joke among my friends after my friend Tim had his Bachelor Party involve a viewing of 2 Fast 2 Furious. But I do remember going to see Fast & Furious (the fourth one, minus the “the”) and liking it well enough, and that made me an easy lay for Fast 5 which was just The Avengers of the F&F universe.
I’ve been hooked ever since.
Adding in The Rock, bringing all the characters back together, cheesy earnestness, time paradoxes, amazing practical set pieces, and of course the all-important Family. I absolutely love it. Bringing Jason Statham & Kurt Russell into the franchise, losing director Justin Lin, and knowing Furious 7 would be Paul Walker’s final send off, the seventh entry into this fantastical franchise had a lot of hype to live up to, and still somehow delivered despite the insane pressure put upon it.
Take a listen to the How Did This Get Made podcast about Fast 7 when you have an opportunity. Everything they say is spot on (and hysterical). I love it anyway. Ride or Die.
#10. Misson: Impossible- Rogue Nation
You pretty much know what you’re going to get with a Mission: Impossible film. Tom Cruise doing insane stunts… Ving Rhames in a hat… Simon Pegg pegging it… Me wishing Emilio Estevez would have somehow survived the first Mission: Impossible. Things like that. The fifth (!) flick in this franchise, Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation, changed everything up with one very important addition.
Smart. Beautiful. Sexy. Kick Ass. Sexy.
I know you think I’m talking about Tom Cruise, but I’m not! Well not in this instance anyway. Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust ended up being the best damn character in the movie, with Rogue Nation’s story really being hers and her arc which just happens to feature Ethan Hunt & the Superfriends.
#9. Mad Max: Fury Road
I’ve never been a huge Mad Max fan.
My most vivid memory of the franchise is watching Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome at my Nana’s while I was waiting for Skinemax to come on. The Road Warrior is pretty good, and Mad Max hasn’t aged very well (in my opinion). But none of that matters because Mad Max: Fury Road is very insular to the franchise it comes from. Maybe that’s because Tom Hardy is Max instead of Mel Gibson. Maybe it’s because Charlize Theron nearly steals the whole damn thing as Furiosa (they need to get on that Fast & the Furiosa team up STAT). No matter the reason Fury Road is one helluva experience and something I was blown away by watching it on the big screen.
The hype was in full effect heading toward December 18, 2015. When the Jakku dust cleared Star Wars: The Force Awakens finally helped wash the taste of the Prequels out of fanboys mouths after years of anger and frustration. The biggest question coming out of Episode VII was pretty basic… Was it good?
It was pretty damn good.
Rey, Finn, and Poe easily took the reigns from the original cast and integrated themselves beautifully into the Star Wars galaxy. Kylo Ren? Probably the best villain they’ve had since Darth Vader himself.
The problems I had with The Force Awakens will likely be squashed come Episodes VIII & IX, but I have to say this. I’ll be pretty bummed if Rey is Luke Skywalker’s kid. I’ll expound upon this another time, but it makes the world feel small (and makes Luke a deadbeat Dad).
#7. Ex Machina
Oscar Isaac deserves all the awards. Inside Llewyn Davis was fantastic. In his limited screen time as Poe Dameron Isaac made a huge impact thanks to his personality and warmth. The dude’s going to be fucking Apocalypse in X-Men.
And then of course there’s this—
Ex-Machina was one of the creepiest movies I saw in 2015, with Alicia Vikander absolutely crushing it as Ava. The scariest part about watching this play out? Knowing how close it is to reality.
After the overstuffed Avengers sequel in May, Ant-Man was the perfect pallet cleanser and one of my favorite entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Captain America and his movies still top the list for me, in case you were wondering). The chemistry between Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, and Rudd was charming and breezy, and Michael Pena stole every scene he was in. Ant-Man and The Wasp can’t come soon enough (or 2019 anyway).
Sicario is a movie with a hidden agenda. Our lead character (the always amazing Emily Blunt) is passive and taken out of the narrative at every turn. She’s a sucker to the system, and the system uses her like the film uses us as the helpless viewer. Our expectations are constantly subverted, but such is life. Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro do some amazing work, but it’s Blunt’s inability to get herself into the story that absolutely captivates– and frustrates.
#4. The Martian
The biggest surprise about The Martian is just how funny it is. Maybe I should have realized considering Drew Goddard adapted the film for Ridley Scott, but at the end of the day my biggest takeaway from watching this was how funny it was. Matt Damon does some fantastic work all by himself, as does Ridley Scott which is amazing considering he gave us Prometheus just a couple years ago. The film is also incredibly uplifting, and wouldn’t be shocked to find many kids join NASA someday after watching The Martian.
The Night Before is the funniest movie of the year for me by far. As I continue to compile my Seth Rogen Power Rankings™ this flick will easily rise to the top of that list once I’ve finished my research, re-teaming Rogen with director Jonathan Levine and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50) for the ultimate Christmas bro-down.
Loaded with an insanely talented cast of side characters, classic Rogen shenanigans, and Lizzy Caplan. You name it? They’ve got it. Trying to explain why The Night Before is great will do it no justice, but considering it made me enjoy Miley Cyrus I’d say this movie is doing God’s work. Enjoy.
Creed is so fucking good. Like REALLY fucking good. I’ve seen it twice, and both times I’ve found new wonderful moments in between all the other great moments, elevating this spin off into one of the best movies in the entire Rocky franchise. Michael B. Jordan is stellar as Donnie, the unknown son of the larger than life Apollo Creed. It should be a crime that Jordan wasn’t nominated for an Oscar, but nothing can take away from his performance, especially when stacked up against the emotional powerhouse that is Sylvester Stallone playing his most iconic character.
By somehow making a sequel to Rocky IV (the most ridiculous Rocky, I mean there’s a robot people) writer/director Ryan Coogler made one of the most realistic boxing movies ever. Needless to say I’m psyched he’s directing Black Panther.
I cannot get this movie out of my head. The 8th film by Quentin Tarantino has invaded my brain like his best work before it (Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, & The Inglorious Basterds). The Hateful Eight is an event like no other, which is why I was thrilled to be able to see the 70MM Road Show with my Mom the day after Christmas in Providence. Samuel L. Jackson is crazy good here, which makes it another crime he was ignored in the Academy Awards.
Kurt Russell also relishes his role as ‘The Hangman’, but this movie is all Walton Goggins from where I sit, stealing the show as Chris Mannix. I’ll need to get another viewing in before I can truly get this out of my head, but the entire experience from the overture, the program, to the intermission, and of course the gorgeous 70MM photography made The Hateful Eight my absolute favorite movie of the year.
(+ OTHER THINGS I LOVED IN 2015)
- Mr. Robot took me by surprise, as I had completely ignored the USA hacker series up until its Season Finale. With the finale delayed due to the shooting that happened on local TV I ended up binge watching the show On Demand out of curiosity only to find myself completely obsessed. I watched all the episodes in a weekend, and no regrets were had. If you haven’t already, get your ass that Season 1 DVD and get to business son!
- CHVRCHES. After picking up their new album in September I’ve found myself listening over and over again until I went out to find their old stuff to facilitate the completest in me.
- If you haven’t gotten to watch this insane HBO docu-series The Jinx yet, please don’t ready any articles about Bob Durst. It will ruin it, trust me. Of course, I know you’ve already watched The Jinx. And listened to Serial. And binge watched Making a Murderer. We all have. It’s okay.
- Vacationing. It’s been years since I went on vacation, but my December family vacation to Florida was one of the best experiences I had this year, and I’m determined to make more time for myself in 2016 and actually work to live, rather than live to work.
2016, let’s do this…