I can’t believe it’s the last day of 2015. It feels like it was last week that I was sitting at home excited to see “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “The Force Awakens.” The buildup felt like it would go on forever. Finally, these films and many more graced the big screen and it’s time to see which ones ended up on my Top 10 and which ones barely didn’t make it! This has been the year that I’ve had the opportunity to go to the most advanced screenings of my reviewing career and the most films I’ve seen in theaters ever! I can’t thank the guys here on CineSportsTalk enough for bringing me in to review movies. Through all the hits I’ve taken to the phenomenal pieces of art I’ve witnessed, I wouldn’t trade my year in film for anything.
At number ten, we have “Spotlight.” This was a true ensemble piece. It’s based on a true story of the investigation of the Catholic Church by the Spotlight writers at the Boston Globe. It’s a really compelling story in that it dumps us in the middle of the team investigating something else that’s completely unrelated. Once their new editor shows up, he sets them loose on the church. Everyone on the cast was phenomenal, but I would sleep on Mark Ruffalo. We forget when he hulking out that there’s a ridiculously talented actor under that green skin. By the end of the film, I came out astonished at the events that took place and that it went for as long as it did. I grew up Catholic so these accusation weren’t anything new to me, but the added drama helped hit it home.
My last experience with Ridley Scott was the Alien prequel, “Prometheus.” I hated this movie. It was droll and I couldn’t stay awake. From what I hear, it’s a polarizing film, but for me it made me less excited for this picture. I was dead wrong and I’m very proud of that. From the first trailer I thought it would be a little more on the serious side, but I was delighted to see that this movie was really funny! It was “Castaway” in space, but it didn’t take itself that serious. Matt Damon’s character wasn’t the type to cave under the pressure and get all dark and gloomy. I really appreciated how cynically he approached the entire experience. Ridley Scott still is in the dog house for me, but this entry definitely makes me excited to see what he does next.
This movie fell under a lot of people’s radar. Netflix has been making original content for quite some time now and, for the most part, it has been some high quality stuff. I haven’t been shy about how much I love Daredevil and Jessica Jones, so I wasn’t afraid to dive into an original movie. Man, is this some powerful stuff. Idris Elba is a monster in this move, both metaphorically and literally, but the real star is the kid. Abraham Attah has a bright future ahead of him if his agent picks his projects right and doesn’t soil his talent. It’s a frightening look at the concept of child warfare and how these kids have their childhoods torn away from them.
I should never doubt Pixar, but this idea seemed very hard to pull off. The main characters are emotions inside a girls head? What? But it hit me right in my invisible childhood that I keep by my bed. Riley reacts to things exactly how you would think a kid would react, but personifying her feelings was a brilliant way of explaining why she acts the way she does. Just because the main character is a girl doesn’t mean men can’t relate as well. Certain emotions are triggered at different times of the day and affect our memories of things differently. My favorite aspect of this movie is how it made Sadness a pivotal part of growing up. We have to know sadness to really appreciate happiness.
I never saw the other three films in this series, so I expected a by-the-numbers action movie. The presence of Tom Hardy really pulled me in. However, after seeing the movie, I couldn’t help but come out in awe all three times (that’s right, three!) at the scope of what George Miller and company did. My experience was elevated more after seeing the special features on the blu ray where they showed how they blocked a lot of the stunts. It’s crazy to think there were actual men on those swinging stilts as the cars drove. How can I not mention the flaming guitar player? I also loved how Furiosa ended up really being the main character. Max was there to set the wheels in motion and his partnership with Furiosa made for a powerful team, despite the actors themselves supposedly hating each other on set.
Such a long movie! In typical Tarantino style, “The Hateful Eight” is here to keep you for the long haul. By the time the intermission surprised me, I realized it had been two hours already, but I didn’t even notice. The action didn’t really kick in until the second half, but Tarantino’s specialty is getting you invested through dialogue. I don’t think he could’ve picked better actors. While there was more gore than usual, the murder mystery wasn’t as cliché as one would think. I absolutely loved Sam Jackson’s character, being that Jackson doesn’t add much to a lot of films he’s in. It’s not because he’s a bad actor, but being that he’s in so many movies, the same passion isn’t there in all of them. This role, however; was written for him and it showed. Looks like I’ll be buying another blu-ray when it comes out.
Another movie that fell under people’s radar, “Love & Mercy” tells the beautiful, yet tragic story of Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. Everyone likes to think that artists are messed up in the head, and Wilson is a good example of that. It’s the circumstances that he grow up in and his relationship with his father that shaped him. It’s not only a great psychological look at Brian Wilson, but a great insight into how the music was made. You listen to a Beach Boys album and think, “It’s just fun beach music”, but the brilliance that went into making it is astounding. He was hailed as the best music composer by everyone he worked with and after watching the film, it’s hard to disagree!
“Kingsman” spent nine months as my favorite movie of the year. I won’t lie, the trailer didn’t wow me and the idea of young agents just seemed stupid. Then I realized Matthew Vaughn is directing. After seeing this, he’s my number one favorite director at the moment. It was a funny, action-packed spy film that was self-aware of how corny it could’ve been. Taron Egerton was great as Egsy and I really wanted him to be the new Spider-Man, but the new young Han Solo wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Also, leave it to Hollywood to make Colin Firth, an older man, be as intimidating as James Bond with those fight sequences. The church scene alone was worth the price of admission, which I also paid for three times!
Another series of movies I have never seen was the Rocky franchise. I’m not really into sports or sports movies so I never gave it a shot. If they’re as any good as “Creed” or better, then you got another Rocky fan in me! Michael B. Jordan, as always, is wonderful, but the actor that really wowed me was Sylvester Stallone. Let’s be real…he’s not an actor you go to a movie for to see his dramatic spots. His movies are those by-the-numbers action flicks that I’d wait for Netflix to get, but man…if he doesn’t get nominated for this, I might riot. I wanted to cheer and clap the entire time and it’s a truly inspiring piece. It made me want to work out more! Will I do that in 2016? Probably not, but the idea is there!
Before I get to my number one movie of the year, here are some honorable mentions that would probably still be in my top 20.
This was small comedy about a group of kids trying to survive in a rough neighborhood and they get mixed in the business of a couple of drug dealers. The decisions they made narratively for this movie are ahead of its time. I don’t know much about bit coins, but it seems like it’s worth reading into. I feel really bad leaving this out of the top ten, but it’s a solid number 11.
This isn’t on the top ten?! Blasphemy! I’m mentioning TFA because I feel like it’s expected. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the movie, but the top ten is for the movies that I loved! There are a lot of parallels to “A New Hope” and it didn’t bother me at first, but upon re-watching it I realized that I love the characters they’ve laid out, but the story is alright. I fell in love with all the characters, but BB8 is the best! Fans are a bit underwhelmed by Kylo Ren, but I found his motivations fascinating because he’s not your typical dark side user. I’m super excited for episode 8 and I hope they don’t hold back because this movie was just…safe.
The movie under so much scrutiny during the Sony leaks. It’s surprising that this film was even made, let alone be incredible! As much as I love Tarantino’s dialogue, Sorkin is the king. For a movie to make you feel intensity through just words is a merit to the writing. It’s a straight drama that shed light to the behind the scenes behavior of Steve Jobs and his team during three separate launches. Of course, he didn’t really talk to the same five people at every launch, but the conversations held truth in them. It told the story of his rise and fall while not shying away from his skeletons whether it was his baby mama(?), his daughter, or his childhood. It’s the most quotable movie I’ve seen this year. It bombed at the box office and that breaks my heart. Fassbender continues to show what a force he is in this industry.
Well, that’s my top ten! What did you think of my choices? It’s important to know that I couldn’t see everything this year, so don’t wonder why movies like “Straight out of Compton” and “Ex-Machina” are missing. Hopefully I’ll get to them eventually! What are your top films of 2015 and what are you excited to see this upcoming year? I know I can’t wait for the little indie film about a bat fighting a strong guy. Happy new year, everyone!