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.