Search This Blog

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The 15 Best Films of 2015

15) Dope
Written & Directed By: Rick Famuyiwa
Starring: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, & Kiersey Clemons.
STARS: 3 out of 4

Brief Description: Dope is the journey of Malcolm (Moore) and his two friends Jib (Revolori) and Diggy (Clemons) and their struggle of getting out of the slums of Los Angeles. The three high school kids are extremely bright and are looking to escape their circumstances by getting into college, until a bag of cocaine comes into their possession. Dope is all about the labels the world places upon you and what you can do escape those labels and be the person you want to become. While the tone does vary wildly between drama and humor, the performances of the cast, the amazing 90's hip hop soundtrack (plus the handful of original songs created for this film by Pharrell, and the performances of all the young actors make this film worth watching, As of this writing you can stream Dope for free on Netflix, and you should do.

14) Sisters
Directed By: Jason Moore
Starring: Tina Fey & Amy Poehler
STARS: 3 out of 4

Brief Description: No film made me laugh as much in 2015 as Sisters did. I laughed harder at Trainwreck, but more consistency at Sisters. (The other big comedy of 2015 was Spy, and that movie was chuckle-worthy at best). I was dragged to see this movie thanks to my friends being big babies and not wanting to see The Force Awakens on its opening day weekend, but I'm glad I was dragged. The movie is non-stop laughs, and Fey and Poehler are a delight as always (well, except Baby Mama, but that's another story). The film brings in a lot of current and former SNL alums, some of television's funniest people, and gives Ike Barinholtz his break-through performance. If you like to laugh, check out Sisters.

13) Beasts of No Nation
Written & Directed By: Cary Joji Fukunaga
Starring: Abraham Attah & Idris Elba
STARS: 3 out of 4

Brief Description: Beasts of No Nation tells the story of Agu (Attah), a young boy not even old enough to shave that loses his entire family in a fictionalized war torn Africa. He stumbles upon an army made up of young boys and teens led by The Commandant (Elba). Agu gets forced in this world of living on his own and as a soldier in a war he doesn't believe in, or really know much about, in order to survive. Elba is fantastic as this charismatic, yet despicable human being of a leader and the young Abraham Attah is incredible. Child actors can be so fickle and bad, yet you really believe this kid was pulled from the slums of Africa. Beasts of No Nation is a really powerful and engaging story.

12) Mad Max: Fury Road
Co-written & Directed By: George Miller
Starring: Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, & Tom Hardy
STARS: 4 out of 4

Brief Description: Mad Max: Fury Road is not a film I particularly cared for or enjoyed. Yet, Mad Max: Fury Road makes this list just because literally everything except for the story was excellent. The acting, directing, cinematography, stunt work, production design, editing, costume design and so on are incredible and at the top of their game. Further, this film revolutionized the action genre for the better. I enjoyed Ant Man, more than Fury Road, but I see the direction movies are going in thanks to Marvel and Ant Man and I don't particularly like it. However, I would love to see where movies are going thanks to Fury Road- and that's why the film earns a spot on my list.

11) The Martian
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Starring: Matt Damon
STARS: 3 out of 4

Brief Description: Based upon the book by Andy Weir and adapted by Drew Goddard, Ridley Scott comes back to the form with The Martian. It's not a great film, but it is really good, and the only people you can not enjoy this film are those who read the book first. The Martian is about Mark Watney (Matt Damon) being stranded on Mars, but it works thanks to its humor and belief in the decency of man. I know it's an easy target that this film was nominated in the Comedy section of the Golden Globes, but this film does have plenty of laugh out loud moments to ease the tension of the horrific situation Mark Watney finds himself in. Further, this film is about good people doing good things and helping each other out- and that's a great message all movies should espouse.

10) Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
Written & Directed By: Brett Morgen
STARS: 3.5 out of 5

Brief Description: Brett Morgen's documentary about the life of Kurt Cobain, produced by his daughter Frances Bean Cobain, takes you inside the mind of a tortured genius. Using boxes full of archival footage and unproduced and unreleased Cobain and Nirvana songs, Montage of Heck takes you to a dark place. This film is not an easy watch, but true Nirvana fans and hardcore music fans will appreciate the places the journey it takes you. It's a little disappointing learning later on that many of the scenes in the movie, including my favorite part where Kurt recounts the story of how he lost his virginity set to a classical version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is total bullshit, but I find it hard to believe that a film taken from intimate drawing and recordings of the late singer don't represent a decently accurate portrayal of one of music's greatest legends.

9) Steve Jobs
Directed By: Danny Boyle
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, & Jeff Daniels
STARS: 3.5 out of 4

Brief Description: Written by acclaimed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs is a non-traditional biopic that explores and chronicles Jobs's relationship with many of the important people in his life over the span of three separate product launches (The Macintosh in 1984, NeXT's "The Cube" in 1988, and the iMac in 1998). Almost all of the action, dialogue, and arguments take place behind the stage before a product launch, and of course those particular conversations at that particular time did not occur, but the relationships and the meanings behind them are (for the most part, it is a movie after all). If you can get past the play-esque structure the film uses (which I know a lot of people could not), then you'd find a really engaging film and an incredible performance by Michael Fassbender.

8) Brooklyn
Directed By: John Crowley
Starring: Saorise Ronan, Emory Cohen, & Domhnall Gleeson
STARS: 3.5 out of 4

Brief Description: Brooklyn is a romantic film about Ellis (Ronan) who immigrates from Ireland to New York in the early 1950's to make a better life for herself. She meets an Italian boy named Tony (Cohen) and the two immediately hit it off. The film follows their relationship, and the beauty of it is that is defies conventional and melodramtic romantic tropes. In its place is a sweet and charming love story about two kids who are crazy about each other. There is some tension in the third act when Ellis goes back to Ireland and becomes very chummy with Gleeson's character, but overall, the film works despite the lack of tension. Ronan gives one of the best performances of the year and steals the show in a perfect date night flick.

7) The Big Short
Co-written & Directed By: Adam McKay
Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carrel, & Ryan Gosling
STARS: 3.5 out of 4

Brief Description: I find it incredible that this film ever got made. Heck, Michael Lewis, author of The Big Short was even surprised this film got made. The script is essentially a 2 hour long Econ lecture about the specifics and nuances that led to America's financial collapse and the housing market in the mid-2000's. The language is extremely technical and it assumes the audience will be able to keep up with everything (they assumed correctly). But in order to make this lecture worked, it needed humor and to ground the action. Adam McKay did both, and created a smart, inventive, creative, and informative film and a film no one else in Hollywood could have made.

6) Inside Out
Co-written & Directed By: Pete Docter
Voices Of: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, & Richard Kind
STARS: 3.5 out of 4

Brief Description: After a brief creative hiatus with Brave, Monsters University, and Cars 2, Pixar returns back to form with Inside Out. The film follows the five voices in Riley's head: Joy (Poehler), Sadness (Smith), Anger (Black), Fear (Hader), and Disgust (Kaling). On it's face, it's a straight-forward adventure story as Joy and Sadness get lost in Riley's brain and need to find their way back. However, that's just the story we're telling the little kids. Inside Out is actually about puberty and adjusting with difficult life decisions. This is a great film and one really perfect for everyone of all ages. One of Pixar's best.

5) Kingsman: The Secret Service
Co-written and Directed By: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, & Samuel L. Jackson
STARS: 4 out of 4

Brief Description: The first film I saw in 2015 just happened to be one of my favorites. Being a disciple of Guy Ritchie, Matthew Vaughn films are extremely stylized, extremely violent, and just a bloody good time. A throwback to 90's action movies, Kingsman spits in the face of Nolan and Daniel Craig's James Bond to create a movie that gets your adrenaline going and gets up pumped for the next scene. Matthew Vaughn set out to create his version of a James Bond film and what we got was an entertaining film filled with actions, explosions, and overall fun kickassery.

4) The Hateful Eight
Written & Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Demian Bichir, Michael Madsen, & Bruce Dern.
STARS: 4 out of 4

Brief Description: As much as I love Quentin Tarantino, his films can be hit or miss for me. Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Basterds are some of my all-time favorite films, while others like the Kill Bill duo and Django Unchained which are good, but I never want to see again. It seems history will place The Hateful Eight in that latter category, but I put it in the former. I loved this film and thought it represented all that was great about Quentin Tarantino. It had pithy dialogue and fun banter, it has charismatic and entertaining performances, and  and it had brief, but extreme bouts of bloody violence. Because it was set in the 19th century we don’t get the pop culture references like (inset link here) like the “Like A Virgin” talk at the beginning of Reservoir Dogs, but the dialogue is still catchy enough that it vaults itself into the top tier of the QT legacy.

3) Creed
Co-written & Directed By: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, & Tessa Thompson
STARS: 4 out of 4

Brief Description: Even though I am not a fan of the Rocky franchise (I've only ever seen the first eponymous film), I loved Creed. That speaks volumes to Ryan Coogler's ability to create a great stand alone boxing film while also reinvigorating a dead franchise that also appealed to the franchise's core. Certainly many, if not all, of the aspects make Creed more of a Rocky remake, but to see a film through a visionary's fresh eyes was just refreshing. I loved Adonis Johnson's (Jordan's) arc of trying to make it in the world of boxing with a chip on his shoulder, and having Rocky Balboa be the side character helping him out. I wanted to go along for this journey, and I can't wait to do it in the sequel. 

2) Spotlight
Co-written & Directed By: Tom McCarthy
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, & Brian d'Arcy James
STARS: 4 out of 4

Brief Description: Who knew a film about investigative journalism could be so entertaining? Spotlight follows the Boston Globe's investigation of the Catholic Church's sex abuse and cover-up scandal in the early 2000's. What seems like a mainstay issue of the times now was something that used to be known but not talked about before the Boston Globe starting doing their digging. Spotlight thrusts you into the action and never lets up until the ending credits start to roll. To engage the audience this much when following around newspaper reporters if even more impressive. Tom McCarthy, best knows for being the reporter who forges news stories in the fifth season of The Wire, does incredible work stepping out of his own way and let all the great people who worked on this film do their own thing. Spotlight is an incredible piece of film making and an incredible film. 

1) Anomalisa
Directed By: Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson
Voices Of: David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, & Tom Noonan
STARS: 4 out of 4

Brief Description: For the longest time I had Spotlight at the top of my list, but as time passed, the more I kept thinking about Anomalisa and the less I kept thinking about Spotlight. No film touched me and moved me and made me think about it more than Charlie Kaufman's latest animated film. While I cannot personally relate to it as the film revolves around a deeply depressed and mentally unstable middle man struggling with the banalities of life, there's something about it that's deeply moving. Anomalisa is most certainly not for everyone the same way that Spotlight and Creed are, but this is my list and feel strongly that Anomalisa belongs at the top of it. 



If you would like to comment on this post, please visit our Facebook page