Wow. It has been awhile, hasn’t it? Believe me, I know. I am sorry about that. January has been a strange month of projects and issues, like my DVD collection condensing project (which is still ongoing). I am planning on getting back into the groove and providing you faithful followers with a bunch of new reviews. To that end, I figured I should try to get my top 10 for 2015 up at least before February hits. As a bonus, I have decided to give you my top 15 instead. How’s that sound? I am not sure what a list like mine actually means, but I like to share.
As always, this list is based solely on eligible films I saw theatrically.
15. Straight Outta Compton. I can honestly say I never thought I would see a movie about NWA. It seems like an odd choice. With that said, I am glad it was made. It may gloss of some things, but looking at the bigger picture, you can get a different perspective on things. I came out with a different understanding, not that I ever looked down on it or anything, but it gives a look at a reality I have never experienced and cannot rightly relate to. The best I can hope to do is understand. With this movie, we can get that. AS a bonus, there are some solid performances. good music. and just a really good movie.
14. Trumbo. Funny, I have often said I am not much of a fan of biopics, and here is the second one on my list! This one is the story of Dalton Trumbo and the blacklisting era. It is another movie that does not really stray far from the usual biopic formula, but it benefits from a great performance from Bryan Cranston in the title role. It also helps give an entertaining look into a rather dark time for Hollywood. The movie is downright fascinating and well worth watching.
13. The Connection. The best I can say about The Connection is that it is a wonderfully executed crime film with performances that will hold your attention and draw you in to the dangerous world in which they are operating. It builds to a big climax that had an emotional impact that I did not see coming. The movie plays out like the European side of The French Connection. It is perfectly executed, well acted and very entertaining. As a side note, I got to see it theatrically screened from a 35mm print, which just added to the 70’s feel.
12. Cop Car. This movie plays like two different movies that got mashed together. Two decks of cards, one facing up and the other down, shuffled into each other. We do not get the full story of either film, just the confusion, tension, and humor that is created where the two meet in the middle. Am I interested in the full story? Sure, but I also do not want anyone telling me what it is, I am more content to make it up as I go along based on the clues laid out here. It is like mashing Stand By Me and Training Day.
11. Creed. Creed is a movie that will touch your heart and make you cheer. It is a movie that takes the familiar and executes so well that you forget that what you are seeing, you have seen before. It does not seek to bust down walls so much as use a familiar character to introduce a new one, trading on its past for a new future. All that is old is new again. I honestly did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did. It would be hard not to recommend it.
10. The Tribe. Here is a fascinating movie. It is a movie that has no sound outside of the incidentals (footsteps, creaky doors, etc.). Set in a school for the deaf, The Tribe tells the story of a gang that deals drugs, promotes prostitution, burglary, you name it. The new kid at school gets initiated into the ring and falls for the boss’s girl. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Now, tell that story with no dialogue, it becomes something else. Not for everyone, but it is utterly fascinating.
9. Crimson Peak. Guillermo del Toro keeps finding ways to stay on top. He is a guy who knows a good movie when he sees one (based on his producing choices), but also knows how to make gorgeous movies that tickle the eye and dig into the brain. He is not one to play to the mainstream, although he has had mainstream success. Crimson Peak is a gorgeous Gothic love story blended with Gothic horror. It is not what I was expecting, but I suspect it was a little of what I needed. It takes its time to worm its way in as it turns the screws. This is a beautiful film.
8. Krampus. Seriously, this movie is an absolute blast that is not afraid to get batsh*t crazy at times. There are a number of Demonic Toys style creatures hopping around, with the majority of the work being done practically (it is nice not to see everything overloaded with CG). This is a movie that has heart to go along with a bleakness that I cannot say I was expecting. Krampus is a movie that left with a big smile on my face. I loved pretty much everything about it. The characters fill their roles nicely, not always well rounded, but shown to be more than just a collection of stereotypes. Max is a little guy with a big heart, a little like Kevin from Home Alone. I think we have a new holiday classic.
7. Room. I went into this movie not knowing all that much about. I had seen the trailer, but I cannot say I really paid that much attention to it. Well, I was still curious and checked it out. Wow. This is a deceptively simple, yet very complex film that gives you a very limited scope and delivers limited information. It is deeply personal story told through a flawed main character. It is the sort of thing you need to experience, it does not offer easy answers, but it is an engrossing and powerful tale of protection and survival, plus the tolls that come with it.
6. Ex Machina. Here is another movie that has a relatively simple presentation, but is really rather complex. The whole movie is a Turing test. A young man is selected to take part in a project at a geniuses remote facility, where he is faced with the most complex AI ever created, given a physical body, a personality, and put into contact with a live human. It is a movie that offers different interpretations based on the point of view. Which one is right? Who’s to say?
5. Inside Out. Just as I thought that Pixar was beginning to slip a little, they pull this one out of their bag of tricks. It may simplify what is going on, it still manages to provide an entertaining, if emotionally draining, look inside the struggles that go on inside of our mind. Inside Out takes us inside the mind of a grieving girl, struggling with sadness to find her place. We are taken into the internal struggle of the mind as it deals with very complex changes. Yes, it is still funny, and beautifully animated, but it also shows that is alright to be sad. One of their best.
4. It Follows. Writer/director David Robert Mitchell does an exceptional job building atmospheric dread and creating fear in a very stripped down approach and very little in the way of gore. This movie is almost anti-sensationalistic. It does not care to artificially create excitement or shock you awake with a jump scare, it allows its horror gently seep into your pores, infect the area around you, and create a state of paranoia you cannot escape. To that end, it does not explain a lot, and leaves things there for your mind to fill in the blanks, a puzzle with a few missing pieces, you know what should be there, but is that what it really is? Right down to the final moments, It Follows.
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Not sure I really need to say anything about this one. I love it, but I am also not rational about it.
2. The Hateful Eight. The Hateful Eight crackles with a very stylized energy. There is dark humor, bloody violence, drama, thrills, some great acting, and a rumination on justice, among other things. The dialogue sparkles, and the cast he has gathered to deliver it is a force to be reckoned with. Running the better part of three hours, I was never bored and the time just flew by. Quentin has done it again, and bettered his prior feature.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road. The one movie that never left my brain, the one movie that captivated my imagination, Mad Max: Fury Road. This is one of those movies that works on so many levels for so many different reasons. From the technical to the creative, the offscreen work to what we see on the screen. This movie is just flat out amazing. It is a two hour long chase that tells a story and has character, it is all around the edges. It is not a movie that puts it all right there for you, you have to work for it, if you want it. If you don’t, that’s fine too, it is a great action film. It offers a lot for audiences to work with. This movie is a treasure.
And there you have it. Did you like any of these? Got movies to recommend? Let me know! Now let’s home for a great 2016.