Wednesday, January 27, 2016

10 Movies from 2015 That I Liked a Lot

11. Creed

Fantastic. Hard to see the final fight through my tears, though.

Actually, I could say that about most of the Rocky movies anymore. Something about where I am in my life right now helps these movies hit me hard. Exceptions are III and IV; not that I don't love III, but it's not as emotional for me as the others. I rewatched all the numbered ones and finally saw Rocky Balboa for the first time shortly before watching Creed and loved the whole experience, but I wonder if I wouldn't have liked Creed even more if I didn't have all the others in such close proximity to compare it to. Especially Rocky Balboa which was pretty much perfect and a bigger surprise.

Still, wonderful movie.

12. The Martian

I have a knee-jerk, negative response to survival films, mostly because I dread spending two hours with just one character. I know that that's almost never the actual case in these movies, but it's a Pavlovian reaction by this point. Many reviews told me that The Martian spends a lot of time with the people who are trying to rescue Matt Damon, but I still had to push myself into the theater. And of course I'm glad I did.

Damon's character faces his problems with intelligence and humor. That's true of all the characters, really, so the whole movie is refreshingly positive and inspirational. It's the movie that Tomorrowland was trying so hard to be. The drawback is that its lightness dilutes the tension and suspense somewhat, but The Martian is inspirational science fiction first and survival thriller second. It totally succeeds at that primary purpose.

13. Trainwreck

A drawback to seeing this later than a lot of people is that it couldn't possibly live up to the hype I was hearing. It's a funny movie and I cared about the characters, but I wanted to be laughing harder than I was, not just chuckling quietly. A very good romantic comedy, but not one I'll be revisiting a lot.

14. Ant-Man

Another very good superhero movie from Marvel. I love that it has its own tone and stands apart from the other Marvel films, while totally fitting in with them at the same time. I had a lot of fun with it, but the bar on Marvel movies has been raised so high at this point that I'm sort of disappointed if I'm not losing my mind over how awesome they are. Not fair, but that's where I am.


As huge a Bond fan as I am, I was frankly unexcited to see SPECTRE. The trailers emphasized themes that have been thoroughly explored in the previous three Bond films: distrust, Bond's going rogue, etc. And the lackluster theme song did nothing to draw me to the theater on opening night. That said, once I saw it, I immediately went back the following night.

The first time, I spent the movie trying to figure out the plot. It felt lighter in tone than the trailers suggested, but was that a decoy? How much could I trust Madeleine Swann? Was Christoph Waltz playing Blofeld or not? I ended up being satisfied with the answers to those questions and looking forward to seeing the movie again the next day.

And I liked it even better the second time. Knowing what to expect plot- and tone-wise, I was able to focus on the themes and characters. I love what it says about Bond and how he's grown since Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. His final confrontation with Waltz' character - the self-styled "author of all your pain" - is remarkable and wonderful. Waltz wants to be so consumingly important in Bond's life, but Bond's not having it. I love that he's matured to that point, even though I absolutely dread the potential repercussions in the next movie.

The reason it's not higher on my list is that not only is it nowhere near my favorite Bond movie, it's not even the best spy movie I saw this year. If you're interested in more detailed thoughts about it, I wrote those up, too.

16. Pitch Perfect 2

Might even like it better than the first one. The humor is still uneven and I really don't care for the way it resets the group's success to zero so that they can repeat their climb to the top again, but the addition of Hailee Steinfeld, Keegan-Michael Key, and for the love of God: Das Sound Machine...

Look, sometimes a sequel just needs to do what the first one did and do it a bigger. I don't say that often, because it doesn't work that often, but it sure works in this case.

17. What We Do in the Shadows

My expectations were too high. The concept is hilarious and the trailer had me rolling, but the movie never made me fall out of my chair in laughter and - fair or not - that's what I thought I was going to get. Still, super funny and highly recommended. Looking forward to the just announced sequel: We're Wolves.

18. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

Don't know if the Maze Runner movies are getting lost in the mass of other YA dystopia adaptations or if I'm just reading the wrong film coverage. It feels like no one's talking about these, though, and that's a shame. They're solid adventure stories with interesting characters who have complex motivations and are played by appealing actors. Ready for the next one.

19. Spy

Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy do it again. This time, they made a great spy spoof that also became one of my favorite Jason Statham movies. What keeps it from being higher on the list is the amount of time it spends on McCarthy in sad, cat lady disguises. It does that so that she can break free of them and be awesome - and once she does, it's great and I love it whole-heartedly - but I had to get through that stuff to get to the great stuff, so that keeps me from loving it.

It also doesn't help that all the US marketing for the movie focused on cat lady. I had to go to Korea to find a poster of McCarthy looking cool. It makes me very sad that US marketers didn't think anyone wanted to see that.

20. Black Sea

An excellent, undersea heist thriller. Not nearly as much about the tension between the English and Russian halves of the team that the trailer would have you believe, but that stuff is certainly in there. My issue with it has nothing to do with the movie itself and everything to do with what I wanted it to be. The thriller stuff is totally in there and it's very good, but ultimately the movie is more interested in the emotional journey of Jude Law's character and that takes the story in a specific direction I was sorry to see it go. If this list were about objective quality and not about my personal reactions, Black Sea would be in a different spot.


Paxton said...

Okay, here we go again. ;-)

Creed - 100% loved this movie. I cried through easily 80% of the movie. When Rocky is getting chemo and he starts making Adonis do push ups in the hospital room, and the bell ringing Rocky theme starts, I couldn't even see the screen I was crying so hard. Just an amazing movie that I liked BETTER than Rocky Balboa.

The Martian - I'm ashamed I haven't seen it yet. I've eyeballed the novel for at least the last 2 years but this movie looks amazing.

Trainwreck - I haven't figured out what I think of Amy Schumer. Sometimes I think she's hilarious and sometimes I think she's kind of annoying. I'll eventually watch this.

Ant-Man - "...but the bar on Marvel movies has been raised so high at this point that I'm sort of disappointed if I'm not losing my mind over how awesome they are." You are 100% right about that. I really like Ant-Man but I feel bad that I'm not just losing my damn mind over all these movies. It's okay that I just really enjoy them, but I feel like I should LOOOOOOVE them. It makes me worried for Civil War because I am WAY too hyped for that movie right now. I need to dial it back a little.

Spectre - I liked Spectre. Lots of good action and Waltz is amazing. But I had some issues. I have issues with the whole Bond falls into bed with every woman for no reason anyway, but since Pierce Brosnan they've started having the woman protest for one scene, then have Bond fall into bed with them about 15 minutes later. It bothers me. It probably shouldn't, but it does. Also, I felt the Blofeld reveal was very much along the lines of the clunky Khan reveal in Star Trek Into Darkness. Don't get me wrong, I like that Waltz is Blofeld, but the actual reveal felt weird.

Pitch Perfect 2 - I love this franchise. I was balling all the way through the final competition. Hailee Steinfeld was great. Das Sound Machine. Just amazing. Loved it. But I felt the boys group was sort of shunted to the side. I liked them.

I need to see What We Do in the Shadows. It looks pretty great. I'm interested a little bit in Maze Runner, but I'm still not sure.

Spy - Agree 100%. It's amazing. McCarthy is great. Statham does a great job making fun of himself. Jude Law is perfect. Loved it.

Black Sea - What?! Never heard of this. I'll have to check it out.


Siskoid said...

Creed: Missed it, in part because I didn't think I needed another boxing movie, but kind of regret it now.

The Martian: I liked it, but feel like they hyped it way too much. I'd have to check, but as far as this kind of story goes, I'd probably rather rewatch Apollo 13.

Trainwreck: Yeah, it was fun. Didn't know Amy Schumer's stuff before, so perhaps seemed fresher for it.

Ant-Man: Fun flick. Sure it had a weak villain/plot, but it did what it had to do, and that's make shrinking an awesome freaking power!

Spectre: It was fine - I liked a lot of things - but largely a disappointment for me. I found Spectre's plot to be a dull and straightforward string of incidents, and the attempts at Roger Moore era humor (by which I mean cuts to bystanders doing double takes) grating. I did like that Bond's "team" had stuff to do, and the tentacle visual motif was excellent, maybe it suffered from being too long, I dunno.

Pitch Perfect 2: Never seen a single one of these.

What We Do in the Shadows: I love Flight of the Conchords' brand of comedy, but I know what you mean. Every mockumentary ever, even the ones I hold up as the epitome of the genre, seems to go on a bit long for me.

Maze Runner: Never seen a single on of these. I feel kind of blah about YA SF adaptations in general. You encourage me to see them some day though.

Spy: Wow, crazy Japanese poster! Loved loved loved Spy. Statham is hilarious, and the superspy stuff actually legit, especially once McCarthy is out of mumsy identities. Agree on the marketing, totally made it seem stupid and remedial, but I liked it better than Spectre (in fact, I liked most spy films I saw this year better than I did Spectre).

Black Sea: Never even heard of this! Will be on the look out for it.

(Oh damn, the one movie I hated still hasn't shown up on the blog...)

Siskoid said...

Pax: I hope you meant bawling and not balling... ;)

Paxton said...

Well, haha, yeah. But I'm always ballin'. Even when I'm bawlin'.

Ya feel me?


Michael May said...

I got choked up during the final competition in Pitch Perfect 2 as well. I don't even especially like that song, but the way they performed it murdered me.

Siskoid, I took a guess at which one you might have hated, then confirmed it by re-reading that entry on your blog. We can talk about it on Friday. :) Not that I'll have a strong defense. My love of that movie is visceral and also tempered by some of the same issues you have with it.

Siskoid said...



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