Friday, January 29, 2016

My Top 10 Movies from 2015

1. The Force Awakens

I feel like I've talked enough about my feelings for Force Awakens. My initial reaction was on Starmageddon, with a deeper dive on Nerd Lunch, and then some follow-up thoughts on Starmageddon again. The short version though is that no, the movie isn't perfect. Yes, there are flaws. None of which matter to me when I'm watching it. I just love these characters too much. Exactly how I feel about the original movie, by the way, and Force Awakens is easily in my Top Two films of the series.

2. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

I loved Ghost Protocol, but Mission: Impossible III was the one to beat for me and I think Rogue Nation did it. Sean Harris isn't as scary a villain as Philip Seymour Hoffman was, but he's still terrifying and extremely watchable (unlike Michael Nyqvist's relatively generic bad guy in Ghost Protocol).

And as much as I love Keri Russell, Rebecca Ferguson's character is way better and I want a whole series of Ilsa Faust movies, please. Plus Alec Baldwin in a great role, plus an extended role for Simon Pegg, plus some amazing action and stunts. The Mission: Impossible movies are making better Bond Movies than the Bond movies lately.

3. Inside Out

Pixar has been so uninspiring the last few years that I wasn't at all convinced that a Herman's Head remake was going to be anything I wanted to see. But then reviews rolled in and the word "masterpiece" was used a lot, so I got my hopes up and checked it out. "Masterpiece" is an accurate word. Inside Out is touching and profound and measurably makes life better for its existence. It's the best movie I saw in 2015.

The only reason it's not at the Number One spot on this list is that it's not tapping into childhood nostalgia the way the first two are. I mentioned in an earlier post that these are listed in order of my enjoyment of them, not in terms of objective quality. Not that quality is all that objective anyway, but just thinking along those lines would have made this a different list. My head values what movies like Inside Out and Black Sea are accomplishing from scratch, but Force Awakens and Rogue Nation make my heart soar. This list is about my heart.

4. Mad Max: Fury Road

This was a lot of people's Movie of the Year and it's the one I'm rooting hardest for in the Best Picture Oscar category. I have not a single negative thing to say about it. It's awesome and beautiful and I love that it exists. But as much as I love Imperator Furiosa, I love Rey, Faust, and Riley's feelings more.

5. The Man from UNCLE

I'm still a fan of Guy Ritchie, including RocknRolla and the Sherlock Holmes movies, so I was very much looking forward to The Man from UNCLE. And I wasn't disappointed. It's got all of his style used in wonderful service to '60s spy movies. It's a gorgeous film, too. Every shot of Henry Cavill looks like a GQ ad come to life. And his delivery is as awesomely square-jawed as his face.

I didn't buy some of the initial attempts to build relationships between the characters, but once those were established I loved watching the team interact. It's a pleasant change to watch a spy movie that's more about rhythm, relationships, and revelations than stunts and set pieces. Not that there's anything wrong with stunts and set pieces, but not every movie has to be focused on that.

The soundtrack is also amazing. I don't buy many soundtracks anymore, but I got that one.

6. Mr. Holmes

A wonderful character piece with an even more wonderful performance. If I have one criticism, it's that the mystery story isn't as strong as I want it to be, but it's really not about the mystery story. It's about the kind of man you might expect Sherlock Holmes would become, and whether or not that's someone he wants to be. Lovely movie.

7. Avengers: Age of Ultron

This gets rated way higher than Ant-Man, because it is the wham-pow epic of a movie that I want Marvel films to be now. But it's not as solid as the first Avengers, probably because it's just trying to do so much that it can't do everything well. I have no problem with Black Widow and Bruce Banner's becoming romantically involved in concept; it's just that the movie doesn't do a good job of selling them as a couple. Seeing Hawkeye's family is very sweet and I loved it, but it doesn't really add anything to this story. I'd rather have that Thor stuff added back in, because it does bear on the plot.

But I liked it so much more than I didn't. There are some super fun moments (that party!) and I love that it takes the time to show our heroes being heroes.

8. Jurassic World

I think the only Jurassic Park movie that I truly don't care for is the second one. And even then, it's been so long since I've seen it that I only have the fuzziest recollection of what I didn't care for. Something about the T-Rex's city adventure not being as awesome as it could've been. Maybe I'd like it more now. Or maybe I'd remember other things I don't like. My point is that I'm a pretty easy mark for these things.

If there's something I like better than dinosaurs, it's theme parks. Well, mostly Disney World, but there are other good ones. I even have a weird thing I do when I visit zoos and Japanese gardens where I think about how I'd design them differently. There should be a concession stand there, a tram that runs along here; that kind of thing. So to see a Jurassic Park movie with a fully functioning theme park was exactly what I wanted. Not because I loved all the attractions they came up with - I didn't - but because I love thinking about how I'd improve them. It taps into a specific kind of nerdom that lights me up.

Add to that Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, both of whom I love for different reasons, and let Pratt lead a pack of raptors from his motorcycle... I agree that the gender politics of Jurassic World aren't good and I agree that the death of Claire's assistant goes on way too long. I don't like either of those things. But between some favorite actors, theme park nerdery, and giant lizards, there's way more about it that I love.

9. Crimson Peak

Excellent gothic romance. A bit more graphic than I'm used to from the genre, but it works. And I suppose there's precedence if you take the Hammer films into consideration. Easily my favorite Del Toro film so far and I expect to find even more to like about it when I watch it again.

I took along Diane and David for this one. Diane's not into horror and David's skittish about some kinds of scary movies, but they both loved it. Looking forward now to seeing if David will also enjoy stuff like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Northanger Abbey.

10. Ex Machina

Smart, fascinating movie about a guy who's brought in by a reclusive tech genius to test a new AI system. At least, that's what it appears to be about. The film quickly raises questions about who's actually being tested and why.

It's not a twisty-turny movie in the sense that it's trying to "getcha." It's very clear from the start that something is up. But it rewards keeping an open mind and not trying to outsmart it. It played with my perception of what the movie is even about, so that by the end I was watching a different movie from the one I started. I'm eager to watch it again from this new perspective. Betting I like it even more.


Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

* WHAT?! Star Wars was your favorite movie of the year! I haven't been this shocked since I discovered the secret to a long and healthy life was breathing!

* You took the words out of my mouth about Mission Impossible vs James Bond. While theres little character continuity in Mission Impossible (you could easily renamed Tom Cruise's character "Action Man" and not make a lick of difference) and despite their over the top tech, the series (or at least the last three) manage to be fun without being farcical.

* Age of Ultron was my most anticipated feature for this year and it turned out... okay. I have no qualms with the Bruce/Nathasa relationship or Hawkeye's family, I feel story wise its over-stuffed and that I didn't like James Spader as Ultron. Not that he doesn't do a good job, in fact, he does a great performance, it just feels too jokey for a killer robot. I can understand them not wanting to go the route of yet another cold emotionless HAL 9000 type, but his snark made it difficult to take seriously.

Although in hindsight at least they went for intentionally funny killer robot rather than laughably bad acting killer robot. Yeah, I'm looking at you Terminator Genisys. "I'm becoming Skynet" HAHAHAHA!!!

* Jurassic World is a tough nut to crack because its clearly nostalgia exploitation, but surprisingly self aware of what it is. It feels more like a sequel to "Gremlins" than Jurassic Park.

It was fantastic how real the dinosaurs acted, I just wish they could have done the same for the humans.

Always fun to see you wrap up your movie year in review. Will we be seeing a most anticipated movies of 2016 list soon?

Paxton said...

Well, Erik, I actually liked Terminator Genisys and I'm a little baffled by the backlash because it's LOADS better than the last two movies. I like the twist on the timeline. And Emilia Clarke was AWESOME as Sarah Connor.

Star Wars - Like you said, I said my say on Nerd Lunch. I really like it. It's on my favs list as well. I'm now in anticipation mode for Rogue One.

MI: Rogue Nation - I love these movies. This is on my list as well. It's as good as 3 and 4 for me. I'm still sifting my thoughts on Rogue Nation, but it had to beat Part 4 for me which is my current fav (but may be overtaken by Rogue Nation). 3 is pretty great though and I 100% agree that Phillip Seymore Hoffman is BAD ASS and AMAZING as the villain.

Dammit, I really need to see Inside Out and Ex Machina. What the hell am I waiting for?

Mad Max Fury Road - It's on my fav list too. It's just amazing and gets better every time I watch it. I even relistened to the Nerd Lunch drilldown on this recently.

Man from UNCLE was much better than I was expecting. I like the setting and the music. Cavill was great. Hammer was uncomfortable at first but warmed up as the movie went on. I love seeing Hugh Grant in anything. I need him in the sequel.

Mr Holmes!! It was on my "to see" list and I completely forgot about it. I need to rectify that IMMEDIATELY.

Avengers 2 - It's really good. I wouldn't put it in my fav list, but honestly it gets better the more times you watch it because your expectations are adjusted (not lowered, necessarily, just adjusted).

Thank you for loving Jurassic World. I do too. #solidarity

Crimson Peak - I want to see this but I've sort of stopped watching horror in the last 5-8 years or so. The cast and Del Toro nearly make me change my mind.

Michael May said...

Definitely working on a Most Anticipated list for 2016. Though I may have seen one of them by the time it goes up.

Erik Johnson Illustrator said...

Yeah, Michael we all know you're rushing out to the theater to be first in line to buy tickets to see Marlon Wayans in "Fifty Shades of Black" this weekend.

Siskoid said...

Star Wars: Great characters, plot not remixed enough, but I'm with you in putting in my top 2. But then, I'm a well-known Star Wars curmudgeon ;).

Mission Impossible: I liked MI III better when it was called Alias' pilot ;), but since Ghost Protocol, the series has gone from strength to strength.

Inside Out: Just wonderful.

Mad Max: Great action flick.

The Man from UNCLE: Probably my choice for favorite spy movie that came out this year. I kept thinking that if Cavill played Superman this way, he'd make great Silver Age Superman movies.

Mr. Holmes: Yes, definitely deserving of being seen by more people. The last mystery Holmes must solve is... himself.

Avengers: Lots to love, I don't get why people think the movie just stops when they get to the farm; those are some of the most memorable bits for me. Could do with less infinity gems infodumps though. Like, in every movie now?

Jurassic World: As you've already guessed, this is the only movie I saw in theaters last year that I actively disliked. The original Jurassic Park was cool, but when you walked out of the theater, it all seemed to fall apart. J. World did that for me WHILE I WAS WATCHING IT. I understand why people have liked it (often as a "guilty pleasure"), but for me it was frankly terrible, and there are scenes in there that are just some of the most misjudged moments I've seen in many a year.

Crimson Peak: A good "Jane Eyre" type film, though a bit slim for me.

Ex Machina: The intellectual sf thriller of the year; quite excellent and even profound.

For my next trick, I'll list the 2015 films I saw, but that you didn't!

Siskoid said...

So the ones you neither saw nor mentioned that you didn't see. Any recommendations I can make?

Shaun the Sheep: Totally great. It was a great year for animation, of all kinds.

Amy: The documentary about Amy Winehouse. I knew nothing of her, not even the name, but found myself interested in the rise and fall of this unusual singer.

Brooklyn: Classically made, the lead eats up the screen, but Julie Walters steals the show as the amusingly acerbic boarding house lady.

True Story: It's about too much, doesn't give you enough of a decoder key, and ends up being dull. Much better on a second viewing I bet, but would you want to go there twice?

Youth: A beautiful film about what happens to creative types when they go on the decline. Just gorgeous to look at, inventive, and with great performances by Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel (among others).

Blackhat: A fairly cool action-hacker movie, but definitely in the Hong Kong vein. Don't start picking at its logic.

Room: Props to the film for sticking with the kid's POV, making a lot of the film elliptical and well judged. Excellent.

Chappie: Not as bad as you've heard, but not too good either. Largely a failure.

Slow West: A lyrical western shot in New Zealand, it has a dream-like quality I quite enjoyed.

Steve Jobs: A great Aaron Sorkin script (unless you're tired of his particular tics), built like a three-act play. It doesn't matter if you don't care about Apple. I sure didn't.

Sicario: A good thriller, though I'm not sure it deserved all the hype it got. I'd still watch it again, given the chance.

Black Mass: It was just okay. I mean, it was good, and then the "true story" of it made it so there wasn't really an ending or much of a motivation for key characters.

The Gift: A lovely thriller with plenty of earned twists and turns. Not a forgettable formulaic flick.

Far From the Madding Crowd: A well-made adaptation; Carey Mulligan continues to dazzle and she's well surrounded.

And that's it! Can't wait to see what you're looking forward to next!

Michael May said...

I honestly don't know how I left Shaun the Sheep off my Movies I Missed list. I've heard nothing but compliments about that movie and I'm a big fan of the studio. Definitely one I'll catch up on.

I need to be in the mood for Brooklyn, but I have no doubt that I'll love it once I see it. I'm a big fan of Far and Away, a very different movie, but what looks like a similar theme.

Building up my courage to see Room.

Always happy to add another Western to the pile. Hadn't heard of Slow West, so thanks for that!

Sounds like I need to get over my prejudice against The Gift. There were a couple of months when I saw the same trailer for it EVERY TIME I went to the movies (which is about once a week) and I got so tired of it that I ended up closing my eyes whenever it came on. It also looked generic and predictable. But other people I trust have recommended it as well.

I love me a good costume drama, so thanks for the reminder about Far from the Maddening Crowd. I'll give that a shot, too.

Siskoid said...

Oh, Room isn't that heavy, thanks to how the boy sees the world. We know what's inferred, but he often doesn't, so there's a lightness and a wonder to it. I think you have courage enough :).

The Gift appears generic so that it surprises you when you do watch it. Not quite the worst marketing of the year, which should go to Spy. And I still don't understand why Man from UNCLE didn't play up Guy Ritchie's involvement and that it could be the next Sherlock Holmes.

Far from the Madding Crowd or, Cary Mulligan can do no wrong.

Michael May said...

It's a recurring theme with me that I'll put off seeing a movie because it's been described as hard to watch, only to realize once I've seen it that I'd made it into a much bigger deal in my imagination than it actually is. I'll rush to see The Room. I hear that kid is unbelievable.

I hear you about Guy Ritchie, too. Obviously people are still paying him to make movies, so why downplay his involvement?

Siskoid said...

Well, The Room is pretty unbelievable, yes, but for other reasons. Make sure your see Room, no article ;)

Michael May said...

Yes! Huge difference. :D


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