My Best/Favorite Movies of 2015

I held out to put my list for a few films and I had yet to see that would have – and did – make it. So, forgive me for putting out the list late.

So, there were some great films that came out this year. The list really ranges all over the place, so you’ll see a wide array of titles, and even some surprises. But, of course, this is my list and my opinion so your list might be different, obviously, it is okay.

The list will have the films in alphabetical order, just to be fair, and because I really don’t want to go through the trouble anymore of picking a number one because it would be really tough. First let’s start off with the film that I didn’t get around to watching, whether it’s because I missed out when it was in theaters, or because they were only in theaters in my area for a short time, or because they were on a very limited release (I’m looking at you The Reverent) then we’ll move to the films that just missed the list, honorable mentions and then the big one.

 

Movies I Missed That I Wanted to Watch

A Girl Walks Home Along At Night

Amy

Anomalisa

Beasts of No Nation

Black Sea

Carol

Daddy’s Home

Faults

Goodnight Mommy

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Mistress America

REC 4: Apocalypse

Selma

Slow West

Still Alice

The Walk

The Babadook

Trumbo

Turbo Kid

While We’re Young

Z for Zachariah

 

Just Missed The List

American Ultra (PalmStar Media/Circle of Confusion/Lionsgate/The Bridge Finance Company/Likely Story/FilmNation Entertainment)

Bridge of Spies (Dreamworks/Amblin Entertainment/Fox 2000 Pictures/Participant Media/Reliance Entertainment/TSG Entertainment/Marc Platt Productions)

Chappie (Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Media Rights Capital/Simon Kinberg Productions/LStar Capital)

In the Heart of the Sea (Warner Bros./Village Roadshow Pictures/Imagine Entertainment/Spring Creek Productions)

Joy (Fox 2000/Annapurna Pictures/Davis Entertainment/TSG Entertainment)

Krampus (Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures)

Legend (Universal Pictures/Cross Creek Picures/Working Title Films)

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails (20th Century Fox/TSG Entertainment/Temple Hill Entertainment)

Run All Night (Warner Bros./RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Vertigo Entertainment)

Southpaw (The Weinstein Company/Escape Artists/Fuqua Films/Riche Productions)

Trainwreck (Universal Pictures/Apatow Productions/Denstu)

The Good Dinosaur (Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios)

The Night Before (Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/LStar Capital/Point Grey Pictures/Good Universe)

Victoria (Adopt Films/Radical Media/MonkeyBoy/Deutschfilm/Westdeutscher Rundunk)

 

 

Honorable Mentions

[Wild (Fox Searchlight/Pacific Standard)]

Wild is technically a 2014 film, but I didn’t watch until after I put out my list and the second week of January, but it’s such a great film to not mention on a best of lists.

 

A Most Violent Year (A24/Participant Media/Before The Door Pictures/FilmNation Entertainment)

Two of the best working today in Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain led this drama that is a one of those films that simply relies on the actors delivering and that is what A Most Violent Year does.

 

American Sniper (Warner Bros./Village Roadshow/RatPac-Dune Entertainment)

Clint Eastwood directed and Bradley Cooper-led film about the true story, well depending on who you ask, about one of most deadly snipers in Navy SEAL history Chris Kyle. The film is put on the shoulders of Cooper who handles it perfectly.

 

Black Mass (Warner Bros./RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Cross Creek Pictures/Free State Pictures/Head Gear Films)

While the film was just okay, it’s the performances that elevated the film enough for me to make Black Mass enough to pop in the list. Even if you didn’t like the film, you have to give credit to the awesome performance by Johnny Depp as James “Whitey” Bulger and Joel Edgerton.

 

Crimson Peak (Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures)

Being a huge fan of Guillermo del Toro, I was looking forward to watching Crimson Peak especially knowing how del Toro put into the film. Actually making Allerdale Hall and making actually come to life is what made Crimson Peak work so well.

 

Focus (Warner Bros./RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Zaftig Films/Kramer & Sigman Films)

Focus was rather surprising to me. The trailers really didn’t do too much for me and I thought the film looked rather boring to be honest. But, let this be a lesson boys and girls, sometimes a good or descent movie can have a crappy trailer. I did love the first half much more than the second half, especially with a standout scene that involves an unrecognizable BD Wong.

 

Goosebumps (Sony Pictures/Sony Pictures Animation/Village Roadshow Pictures/Columbia Pictures/LStar Capital/Original Film/Scholastic Entertainment)

I wasn’t really expecting much from Goosebumps, but I was highly surprised to how good it was and how much I thoroughly enjoyed it. It wasn’t just a fun family movie, it was just a fun movie all around.

 

Inherent Vice (Warner Bros./IAC Films/Ghoulardi Film Company/KVH Media Group)

Paul Thomas Anderson adapted Thomas Pynchon’s novel of the same name and it was, well, interesting. The crime comedy drama gave some standout performances by Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, and Katherine Waterston, but it is rather interesting story and how it plays out is all over the place.

 

It Follows (RADiUS-TWC/Animal Kingdom/Northern Lights Films/Two Flints)

I’d only heard some good things about It Follows before I actually watched the movie, and it is one of the rare cases that I didn’t watch the trailer and went in completely blind, so to speak, and I’m glad I did. It Follows felt like an old-school horror film that relied more on playing with your senses and paranoia than with gore and cheap thrills.

 

Pixels (Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Happy Madison Productions/1492 Pictures/China Film Co.)

I know, I can’t believe it either, but Pixels was damn enjoyable. I didn’t think I would like it to be honest, and while it wasn’t perfect and some things felt forced or just didn’t work (like some casting), Pixels was filled with great stuff and the heavily promoted Pac-Man chase was much more fun to experience as a whole sequences. Also, I was surprised by how the special effects worked and they didn’t cut corners.

 

Spotlight (Open Road Films/Participant Media/Anonymous Content)

Focusing of The Boston Globe when they uncovered the huge scandal of child molestation and the cover-up by the Catholic Church in Boston, the film was jam-packed with a great cast and equally great performances by the cast that highlighted by Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Brian d’Arcy James and Stanley Tucci. There was something so simple about the film, yet so special to experience.

 

Straight Outta Compton (Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures/New Line Cinema/Cube Vision/Circle of Confusion)

Straight Outta Compton surprised a lot of people and rightfully so as the film came out a lot better than what people were suspecting. Filled with great performances by Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre, O’Shea Jackson Jr. playing his father Ice Cube, Paul Giamatti as Jerry Heller, and the standout in Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E, the film is easily one of the best of the year, but honestly was a bit too long for my own liking, and I’m the last person to complain about a film’s length.

 

The Gift (STX Entertainment/Blumhouse Productions/Blue-Tongue Films/Huayi Brothers Media)

Joel Edgerton steps behind the camera for this one, making his feature directorial debut, but also playing one of three main characters in the film. The Gift may be one of the overlooked films of the year, but the film does have some great moments of suspense and mystery and an ending that I didn’t see coming.

 

Sicario (Lionsgate/Black Label Media/Thunder Road Pictures)

Director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins put together this great tense, dark and unapologetic film about the war on drugs on the border between the U.S and Mexico. However, the standout in Sicario was definitely Benicio Del Toro.

 

Spectre (Columbia Pictures/MGM/Eon Productions/B24/Danjaq)

In what could be Daniel Craig’s last James Bond film, and director Sam Mendes’ last one as well, Spectre has a lot of things working for it, but it did fail to really capitalize on what Skyfall did before it.

 

Steve Jobs (Universal Pictures/Legendary/Scott Rudin Productions/The Mark Gordon Company)

Danny Boyle directed this interestingly laid out biopic about former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, played by Michael Fassbender. The film is blocked off in three different parts, set right before the launch presentations of three different products Jobs was a part of (none of which were the IPhone’s and IPods by the way). While the film lost some steam by the end, the performances made the film worthwhile, especially a standout scene between Fassbender and Jeff Daniels in the middle of the film.

 

The Big Short (Paramount Pictures/Regency Enterprises/Plan B Entertainment)

Tackling the housing and financial crisis in 2005 to 2007, The Big Short is filled with great performances by its ensemble cast and directed by Adam McKay – yes, that Adam McKay – the film really puts you in there. Sometimes, it gets a little too technical that you feel like you’re going crazy and lost, but that’s kind of the point.

 

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Warner Bros./RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Wilgram Productions/Davis Entertainment)

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. could have been a movie that got lost at the wayside, and while some will say that’s true, Guy Ritchie’s spy film worked on a lot of levels for me. It had some great and funny moments and the opening action scene and last chase scene were great fun to watch along with the performances by Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, and Alicia Vikander.

 

 

Best/Favorite Movies of the Year

Ant-Man (Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Motion Pictures)

Ant-Man has gone through a lot. Originally it was going to be part of Marvel’s Phase 1, but got pushed back until now. Then it took a big hit in losing long-time attached director and fan in Edgar Wright. However, Peyton Reed and the cast were able to still bring a great Marvel film to the fans.

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron (Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios)

Even I can admit that Age of Ultron wasn’t perfect, but there was still a ton of to be had with the massive sequel. Joss Whedon was able to keep most of the craziness from going off the rails and let’s face it, Age of Ultron was probably one of the most comic book-y movies we’ve seen.

 

Brooklyn (Fox Searchlight Pictures/Wildgaze Films/Parallel Film Productions/Irish Film Board/Item 7)

A great film – also based on a novel – that tells the story of an Irish immigrant played by Saoirse Ronan that comes to America and finds love and a new life, but her past and love for her former home comes back to her, which leaves her to make a decision to accept her new life, or old one. I ended up loving this film more than I thought I would. It’s a beautiful story and told in such a way that anybody can connect with it.

 

Creed (Warner Bros./New Line Cinema/MGM/Chartoff-Winkler Productions)

Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone’s performances in Creed are one of the best aspects of the film. The film wasn’t a cheap way to get to make more films with Rocky Balboa, the film was treated with respect to the films that came before, but was also a great standalone film.

 

Dope (Open Road Films/Forest Whitaker’s Significant Productions/IamOTHER Entertainment/Revolt Films)

I didn’t really expect much from Dope, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well handled the film was and the great performance by breakout star, Shameik Moore. It’s one of films that keeps you on your feet with comedy and big dramatic moments.

 

Ex Machina (A24/Universal Pictures/DNA Films/Film4)

Alex Garland, the writer of films like 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Dredd, finally steps behind the camera and what a way to make his debut. Garland tackled A.I. in a different take and the way they approach the story and theme was great to see unravel. Plus, Ex Machina has great performances by Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac, but an even better one by a standout performance (maybe of the year) by Alicia Vikander.

 

Furious 7 (Universal Pictures/Original Film/Media Rights Capital/One Race Film, Dentsu/Original Film)

James Wan stepped into some big shoes replacing Justin Lin, and while mostly known for his horror films, Wan completely fit into the world. Furious 7 also had some troubles along the way and felt more powerful for some with of course the death of Paul Walker during production. The film paid nice tribute to Walker and the character at the end of the film.

 

Inside Out (Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios)

Damn you, Pixar! How is it that one studio has their hands on all of your pulses and always find a way to make us either cry or tear up? I haven’t decided where Inside Out falls on my favorite Pixar films list, but it’s definitely up there. I mean, they made a movie about feelings. FEELINGS!

 

Jurassic World (Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures/Amblin Entertainment)

Let’s face it, this probably shouldn’t have worked, and while some will think that it didn’t, I thought Jurassic World worked at just the right amount of levels for me to thoroughly enjoy it. Also, what’s not to love about seeing giant dinosaurs back on the big screen?

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service (20th Century Fox/Marv Films/TSG Entertainment/Cloudy Productions)

Kingsman: The Secret Service is definitely one of the biggest surprises of the year, and probably surpassed many people’s preconceived notions of the film. I mean any movie that can make Colin Firth into a badass spy should work right? Also Sofia Boutella’s Gazelle was probably one of the coolest villains of the year. But for me, what made Kingsman a standout was the awesome and chaotic church fight scene. Seriously, that scene was a thing of beauty.

 

Macbeth (The Weinstein Company/DMC Film/See-Saw Films)

Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard absolutely nail down the performances of arguably one of the most well-known literary figures and plays. Justin Kurzel brings a fresh, dark, gritty, and visually compelling adaptation and different approach to William Shakespeare’s play. Macbeth is one of those films that probably won’t grab you at first, but hits you very later on.

 

Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros./Village Roadshow Pictures/Kennedy Miller Productions)

What a lovely day, indeed! Mad Max: Fury Road was essentially one long chase scene and while it did slow down a bit – rightly so – I freaking loved every minute of it. The impressive action sequences, the score, and the two main leads of Hardy as Max and Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa. Definitely one of the best films of the year and probably one of, if not, the best action film of the year.

 

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Fox Searchlight Pictures/Indian Paintbrush)

Based on the novel of the same name, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a film that hit me hard. I loved the book and I loved what they did in the film. They were able to recreate some of humor and managed to keep the spirit of the novel, but also do their own thing which was great to watch. It’s definitely one of the best dramas of the year.

 

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Paramount Pictures/Bad Robot/Skydance Productions/TC Productions)

2015 was a good year for spy films, and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation may have been one of the best of the year. Like the Fast & Furious films, it’s a little hard to believe that the Mission: Impossible films keep getting better with every passing installment. Tom Cruise still feels like he’s on top of his game and with a standout performance by Rebecca Ferguson, Rogue Nation ups the ante on the series.

 

Room (A24/Element Pictures/No Trace Camping/Film4)

Room might be one of the best dramas of the year and one that came out of nowhere. Two of the best performances of the year go to stars Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, who give heartbreaking and heartwarming performances in a film that isn’t always easy to watch. Do yourself a favor and watch this as soon as possible.

 

Spy (20th Century Fox/Feigco Entertainment/Chernin Entertainment)

Melissa McCarthy had some misfires going on there, but thankfully she came back to form with Paul Feig – of all people – with this awesome take on the spy genre. Melissa McCarthy is as funny as ever and Jason Statham gives a gut-busting performance

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Walt Disney Studios/Lucasfilm/Bad Robot/Truenorth Productions)

Out of all the movies that came out this year, this one was the most unpredictable. It could have been great or it could have been bad. Thankfully, J.J. Abrams put on a hell of a movie that makes a great addition to the Star Wars franchise. The new characters were great, the movie was a ton of fun to watch, and more importantly it was just fun.

 

The Final Girls (Stage 6 Films/Groundswell Productions/Vertical Entertainment/Ulterior Productions)

I honestly didn’t think I would have loved The Final Girls as much as I did. I thought the meta horror comedy would have some great moments, and while it does, it was the other big story in the film between Max (Taissa Farmiga) and Nancy/Amanda (Malin Akerman) that really stuck out and got to me. I didn’t imagine that I’d get emotionally invested in a horror comedy, but lo and behold I did.

 

The Peanuts Movie (20th Century Fox/Blue Sky Studios/Feigco Entertainment)

Yet another film that probably shouldn’t have worked and people had their preconceived notions on it, but The Peanuts Movie was damn enjoyable. Sure it wasn’t done in the traditional style that we all know and love, but the film didn’t add any pop culture references or pop songs. It stayed true to its roots and reminded you why you love Charlie Brown and the whole Peanuts gang.

 

The Hateful Eight (The Weinstein Company)

While the final product is still a little iffy for me, one of the reason The Hateful Eight is on the list is for the characters, setting, and production design. The cabin – Minnie’s Haberdashery – was a great looking aspect to the film and just a confined space for all these characters that it elevated the film much more. As for the characters, Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins are the highlights of the film that keep the slow burn mystery drama film in tact.

 

The Martian (20th Century Fox/Scott Free Productions/Genre Films/Mid Atlantic Films)

Based on the novel of the same name, The Martian was every bit as good as the novel, and maybe even more. Matt Damon is tremendous as the lead and Ridley Scott was able to make us feel like we were really on Mars and we can really sense the dread that Damon’s Mark Watney felt, but there was also beauty behind everything that was being filmed.

 

So what are some of your favorite films of 2015?

Here’s to another great year in films!

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Favorite/Standout Action Sequences, Genres, and Special Effects

This is a continuation of my Favorite/Standouts of the Year, this time focusing more on the genre side of things and my favorite/standout fights and action sequences and special effects.

 

Fight/Action Sequence

Ant-Man: Ant-Man vs. Falcon & Ant-Man vs. Yellowjacket (Cassie’s Bedroom)

A nice early preview of what we could see in Captain America: Civil War, and it was great to watch. It was actually a rather nice to surprise to see the scene play out and it was a ton of fun. Ant-Man was a great movie, but having this scene in there, was pretty damn cool. As for the Cassie bedroom fight, let’s face it: That was one of the funniest, goofy and action-packed scenes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron: Hulkbuster vs. Hulk & Hydra Base Siege

This was teased for a while, and every fan knew it was coming eventually. So when it finally happened, it was like it was ripped out of the comic books. The two literally tried to beat the crap out of each and in true Marvel fashion, there was some inject humor.  As for the base siege which opens the movie, it is arguably, one of the best openings and action scenes that Marvel has done – with the expectation of Captain America: The Winter Soldier – and it involves all of our heroes. The scene has it all; humor, great moments, and in that great shot of all the Avengers leaping into battle.

 

Creed: Adonis Johnson-Creed vs. Leo ‘The Lion’ Sporino

There was something about how the scene was structured and filmed by director Ryan Coogler that made this boxing match in Creed more of a standout than the final match. The way Coogler shot and framed the scene really made you feel that you were part of the match, and you saw the viewpoint of each character which made it even more special.

 

Jupiter Ascending: Chicago Chase

While Jupiter Ascending wasn’t all that great of a movie, it at least gave us one good thing: A great action sequence right here in Chicago.

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service: Harry Hart/Galahad vs. Church Congregation

This may be not just my favorite fight sequence of the year, but may join my favorite fight sequences list ever. Colin Firth may not be on everyone’s list for playing a badass character, but this definitely had to silence doubters. Of course we have to give credits to the stunt team, director Matthew Vaughn and cinematographer George Richmond for putting together the scene.

 

Furious 7: Deckard vs. Hobbs, Ramsey Rescue & Deckard vs. Dom

First, It’s like a dream match come true: Jason Statham vs. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. And holy hell was it brutal and fun to watch. Second, Ramsey’s (Nathalie Emmanuel) rescue happens a little before the mid-point of the movie and was heavily promoted in the ads. But, nothing comes close to the actual scene which plays out a little more than we thought. Overall, the scene is great. Finally, the whole movie builds up to this fight between Deckard (Jason Statham) and Dom (Vin Diesel) and when they finally meet, you can tell it’s going to come down to the last man standing. It’s not as good as Deckard vs. Hobbs, but the intensity is still there.

 

Jurassic World: Indominus Rex vs. T. Rex and Blue

This was like a kid’s dream come true. Hell, it was probably even mine. I don’t even know what else to say because, well, just look at it!

 

Kung Fu Killer: Hahou Mo vs. Fung Yu-Sau

Kung Fu Killer might have not gotten a wide release, but any chance I can see Donnie Yen on the big screen, I’m going to take it! The movie was filled with great fight sequences –no surprise with Yen involved – but it was the final fight in the movie that I picked because the fight had some high stakes to it and the final build up made the fight really great to watch.

 

Macbeth: Macbeth vs. Macduff

This was a short, brutal and visually fascinating scene to watch. Felt like watching a moving picture at times. I loved the aesthetic that director Justin Kurzel chose to go with for the scene.

 

Mad Max: Fury Road: Imperator Furiosa vs. Max Rockatansky & The Rig Escapes The Biker Gang

It’s almost hard to even choose a favorite action sequence in Mad Max: Fury Road, only because all of them have their awesome moments and the whole movie feels like an extended action sequence. But these two are definitely two that stood out to me. The fight between Furiosa and Max was hard hitting, vicious, knockdown drag out that totally fits into the movie and shows how tough Furiosa really is. The escape scene works on a number reasons, it shows the trust that Max and Furiosa finally get and the amazing score by Junkie XL elevates the scene even more.

 

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation: Car and Motorcycle Chase

One of the best parts for me in Rogue Nation was definitely the somewhat promoted action scene that involved a pretty lengthy chase that involved Ethan (Cruise), chasing down Ilsa (Ferguson) and Syndicate henchman. There was also something that McQuarrie didn’t use a real score and instead used the sound of motorcycles and cars instead.

 

Pixels: Pac-Man Chase

Despite what many people think about the film – it’s not perfect even I know that – Pixels had its moments and the full chase scene of the main characters and Pac-Man was a ton of fun to watch.

 

Sicario: Border Shootout

Sicario is one of those rare films that is unapologetic and, arguably, brutally honest about its subject matter. It’s also one of the most tense films I’ve seen in a long while and nothing is probably more tense than being stuck on the border between Mexico and the United States during a drug war. The scene bought out those feelings of not only being trapped, but having your options limited and trying to find the best way to get home.

 

Spectre: Bond vs. Mr. Hinx & Mexico City Opening

I love a great intense and hard hitting fight scene, and that’s exactly what we got in this fight between Daniel Craig’s James Bond and Dave Bautista’s Mr. Hinx. The henchman role felt tailor-made for Bautista especially seeing that fight scene. As for the opening scene that takes place in Mexico City during a Day of the Dead celebration, it is one of the best openings I’ve ever seen and one of the best one-continuous-take scenes I’ve ever seen.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Kylo Ren vs. Finn and Rey & Finn

It wouldn’t be a Star Wars movie without a lightsaber duel to end it. The Force Awakens is no different. The separate duels between Finn and Rey have different meanings. Both are done out of survival and revenge, but both of them have different meanings to each character. Finn is doing it because he’s finally fulfilling the hero role, and Rey is reaching her true potential.

 

Tomorrowland: Athena vs. Hugo and Ursula

Tomorrowland may have highlighted the house escape of Clooney and Robertson’s characters, but the highlight action sequence for me was Athena showing off what she can do for the first time. It was also a lot of fun to watch the scene in the surrounding it was in.

 

 

Honorable Mention

American Ultra: Mike vs. Laugher

Avengers: Age of Ultron: Sokovia Battle

Creed: Adonis Johnson-Creed vs. ‘Pretty’ Rick Conlan

Kingsman: The Secret Service: Harry Hart/Galahad vs. Thugs (Bar)

Run All Night: Jimmy vs. Price

Sicario: Alejandro Goes Solo

Ted 2: Comic Con Fight

Terminator Genisys: Guardian vs. T-800

The Man from U.N.C.L.E: Napoleon and Illya Chase Alexander & Napoleon and Gaby Escape Illya

Tomorrowland: Casey and Frank Home Escape

 

 

GENRES

Action

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Even with some of it, arguably most of it, being CGI, some of the action sequences were top notch and the beginning base siege was a ton of fun to watch.

 

Furious 7

The Fast & Furious franchise is priding itself on upping the ante on their action and Furious 7 did just that. Although, it hard to get any bigger than bringing down a big ass plane and then shooting a car out of it, but hey, the next big thing would probably be a car jumping from building to building and cars skydiving out of a jumbo plane.

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Probably one of the biggest surprises of the year, Kingsman: The Secret Service not just delivered on doing a great spy film, but also a action great film. Because let’s face it, that church scene was damn awesome.

 

Mad Max: Fury Road

I’d have to say hands down, Mad Max: Fury Road is the best action film of the year. The whole film is one long chase scene that almost never lets up and when it does it always comes back in full force. If I just wanted to pick one movie to be the best action film of the year, it goes to Fury Road. 

 

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Yet another film that is priding itself on upping the ante with every installment, Rogue Nation literally gives it to us right at the beginning with Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt hanging off a plane as it goes up in the air. You can’t get crazier than that right? RIGHT?

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has the right amount of action, and it’s action that’s a ton of fun to watch. The lightsaber duos had me riled up and the X-Wing flights where just great.

 

 

Honorable Mentions

American Ultra

Kung Fu Killer

The Gunman

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

 

 

Horror

It Follows

It Follows was a nice throwback in terms of story and tone. It doesn’t go for the easy gore and nudity tropes, although there those things in the film, it’s actually tied in to the primary story. The film is a slow burn and plays with your paranoia and makes you uneasy while watching. Also, the “monster” is so simple, along with the film that it is pretty cool to experience.

 

Krampus

I had a lot of fun watching Krampus and while it was sluggish at time, there was a lot more to it than I originally thought. What made the film work for me was definitely the fact that they went with practical effects and puppetry for the creatures that visually made them more terrifying.

 

The Final Girls

The Final Girls is a nice balance of comedy, drama, and horror, but the meta-horror elements isn’t even the main basis of the film, but are still great to watch the horror elements, especially considering how they handled it.

 

 

Honorable Mention

Insidious: Chapter 3

 

 

Comedy

Dope

Dope worked as both a drama and comedy coming-of-age film, but the film was one of the best comedic films I’ve experienced this year.

 

Inherent Vice

The film could be also labeled as a crime drama, but there was something more about the humor that makes this film special. The comedy was one of the only real things I understood about the film when I was first watched it. Not because the film has a weird or crappy structure, but because it was so weird.

 

Spy

Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy returned to form with Spy, a nice twist on the spy genre and didn’t rely on fat jokes that some films McCarthy has done in the past. Instead the film lets her actually show off her comedic and acting chops. However, the rest of the cast also steal the show, especially Jason Statham.

 

The Night Before

This could have easily been a forgetful comedy that happens to take place on Christmas Eve, but The Night Before was a little more than that. The film was done to bone a story about three friends – that treat themselves as family – and the bond that real friends go through. The comedy really had its moments and this is coming from a guy that is starting to grow on Seth Rogen.

 

 

Honorable Mentions

Goosebumps

Ted 2

The Final Girls

Trainwreck

 

 

 

Animated

Inside Out

Oh Pixar, how is it that you always find a way of making us tear up, cry and warm our hearts? You did it again with Inside Out. The supposed “I guess they ran out of ideas” film sure had a lot of heart and heartwarming and breaking moments that left me wanting more and satisfied at the same time.

 

The Peanuts Movie

I’m not going to lie, this film probably shouldn’t have worked, but it really did. The Peanuts Movie stayed true to its roots and didn’t try to add anything new or ruin what fans loved from the original. Kudos to them for sticking to their guns and keeping what everyone loves about Charlie Brown and the gang.

 

Honorable Mention

The Good Dinosaur

 

 

 

Drama

American Sniper

Clint Eastwood’s biopic drama about Chris Kyle was meant with some mixed reactions over the fact of “is all or any of this true?” Despite all that, American Sniper worked best when it focused on the characters themselves and what they go through, and Bradley Cooper does a tremendous job of doing that.

 

Brooklyn

Brooklyn is one of those films that everyone will connect to in some way. It’s a coming-of-age story, a love story, and a story about being an outsider in a new environment and wanting nothing but to go back home. It’s a touching story that I loved watching and experiencing.

 

Creed

Creed is every bit as good as the original Rocky, but it’s also its own standalone story about someone wanting to break out on their own and not trying to completely live up to someone’s legacy. The film worked even better with the performances of Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone. Any time they are together the film works better.

 

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

I read the book this was based on and when I saw the film, I couldn’t believe they captured the same spirit, heart and humor but was also able to turn the dial and make it even more stronger. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl isn’t the easiest movie to sit through – it does have Dying Girl in the title after all – but it truly is one of the best films of the year and one of the best dramas and indies of the year.

 

Room

Definitely one of the best dramas of the year, and one of the hardest to sit through Room also gives two of the best performances of the year by Brie Larson and newcomer Jacob Tremblay. The film follows the two as they escape the room they were trapped in for years and Jack (Tremblay) sees the outside world for the first time. It’s one of the most touching and heartbreaking films all at once.

 

Sicario

Sicario is one of those rare films that isn’t afraid to go to places that normally other films water down. It is definitely an unapologetic, gritty and raw look on the war on drugs between the U.S and the border of Mexico. The film is only stronger thanks to the performances, especially Benicio Del Toro.

 

Spotlight

This is straightforward filmmaking at its finest, and I say that it the best way possible. Spotlight is filled with great performances and tremendous cast that easily makes it an Oscar favorite and thankfully it’s great even if it wasn’t.

 

Steve Jobs

The story of Steve Jobs – in real life – is definitely a dramatic one. Thankfully, the film brings some of that in, but instead focusing more on the actual man himself. Michael Fassbender brings the right amount of cockiness, ignorance, genius, and humanity to the character that people will love or hate.

 

Straight Outta Compton

While Straight Outta Compton loses a lot of its great steam by the end, the film was a great experience to watch. Seeing the lives and rise of one of the most popular groups in music, especially with the cast they put together makes Straight Outta Compton a huge surprising hit.

 

The Big Short 

Nothing says drama like a true story about the housing and financial crisis in 2005 to 2007. It’s one of those movies that if you really paid attention to everything that happened back then, you appreciate it more. If not, then you’ll feel a little lost, but that’s find of the point.

 

The Martian

The Martian is undoubtedly a drama in terms that it’s about a man stuck on Mars…by himself.  You can’t really get more dramatic than that right?

 

Honorable Mentions

A Most Violent Year

Black Mass

Everest

In the Heart of the Sea

Southpaw

The Gift

The Hateful Eight

(Wild)

 

 

Special Effects

Ant-Man

Marvel’s Ant-Man has had a long road, but it finally got made and damn was it great to watch. The special effects are what really made this special too. The shrinking effect and the swarm of ants was really cool watch onscreen. There was one particular scene that involved Ant-Man running in model of the building that I think was a combination of special effects and physical (I’m not sure), but it sure as hell looked awesome.

 

Chappie

Director Neill Blomkamp has always been known for his visual work and Chappie is no different. The film harkens back to his District 9 effects given the fact the main character is a robot – with the motion capture done by Sharlto Copley – but there was something about Chappie that made him feel real and part of the story.

 

Crimson Peak

Leave it to Guillermo del Toro to show off some creepy special effects. Although Crimson Peak was more a gothic romance rather than a horror film – it was advertised as a horror film – the film still had strong visuals that only del Toro would ever think of pulling off, not only that he actually built the set they were working on.

 

Ex Machina

Chappie wasn’t the only robot of the big screen this year, Alex Garland’s directorial debut featured one of the best performances of the year by Alicia Vikander, and one of the most tension-filled  final acts I’ve seen. It’s also one of those films about A.I that will make you think “yeah, maybe we shouldn’t do that.”

 

Jurassic World

It’s been a while since we’ve seen some great looking dinosaurs on the big screen, and what better way to bring them back than a Jurassic Park movie. While the film decided to go more CGI than the original, there were moments of some good old fashion practical effects that bought the specialness of what made the original film so great.

 

Pixels

Pixels was a surprise for me in a lot of ways. No, it wasn’t the best movie out there, but I sure had a ton of fun watching it and was better than I thought it would be. One of the things I was really surprised at was the special effects and how well they really looked. The Pac-Man chase down New York was amazing to watch on the big screen and the finale was a grand showing of all these old-school video gaming.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I feel like The Force Awakens can also get credit for having the best practical effects as well because it has a great balance of the two type of effects and makes them work for the film instead of against it.

 

 

Honorable Mentions

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Goosebumps

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails

Tomorrowland

(The Good Dinosaur)

‘Macbeth’ Review

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Director: Justin Kurzel

Writers: Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie, and Todd Louiso

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Jack Reynor, David Hayman, James Harkness, Ross Anderson, and David Thewlis.

Synopsis: Macbeth, a Thane of Scotland, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based on the William Shakespeare play of the same name, Macbeth may be one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, because I love the complicated characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. It also lends itself to be interpreted in many different ways – like all Shakespeare’s plays – Hollywood has made many different versions of the character from Orson Wells directing and starring as the character himself, Roman Polanski’s take starring Jon Finch, and even a modern-day gangland iteration from Australia which starred Sam Worthington. However, director Justin Kurzel and the cast take a more visually impactful, grim, gritty and artistic film that would probably make Shakespeare himself proud (too much?).

Michael Fassbender plays Macbeth, the Thane of Scotland, who at the beginning of the film leads King Duncan’s (Thewlis) army to victory in a bloody battle that gets him a better place amongst Duncan’s court. After the battle however, Macbeth along with his friend and battle partner Banquo (Considine) encounter four witches – three adults and one child – that tell him Macbeth he will one day become King of Scotland. Macbeth curious of their prophecy goes back home and tells his wife Lady Macbeth, played by Marion Cotillard, of what he was told and she convinces him to fulfill his destiny and kill the king himself, rather than wait to let the crown be passed on to Duncan’s heir, Malcolm (Reynor).

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If you know the play – or watch the trailers – Macbeth eventually convinces himself, of course with much convincing from his wife, and kills Duncan in his sleep. Macbeth becomes king, takes the throne and slowly grows paranoid of everyone around him, including his own friend Banquo and Macduff (Harris). What follows is his and Lady Macbeth’s own descent to madness and paranoia that lead them deeper into darkness with no way of coming back.

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I’ll be honest, it’s hard to review a film based on a play that maybe most of us, if not all of us, read in high school or maybe even college. But, like I mentioned, the play happens to be one of my favorites and when I found out that this was being done with Fassbender and Cotillard, I got really giddy and excited. Thankfully, the movie didn’t disappoint. Sure they changed some things around, like the fact that there are four witches instead of three, even though the youngest witch which happens to be a child never speaks, or even that some events are tweaked, omitted or even added, but truth be told, the changes they made really make the film work.

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I’d dare say that of all the Macbeth films I’ve seen this is the most moody and grimiest take I’ve seen. That could be thanks to cinematographer Adam Arkapaw who does a fantastic job of making every scene feel different from the next and giving the film it real dark, gritty and down to the bone artistic type of the film that sometimes make you wonder if what you are seeing is all in Macbeth’s head or if it’s really there. Hell, some of the scenes and shots look like a moving painting and are stylized in such a way that brings you into the gloomy atmosphere of the film. One of the big highlights is the last act of the film that involves the “Birnam forest” and the final battle which has a fantastic atmosphere that I loved being a part of. Add that with the amazing production design and wardrobe, Macbeth is probably one of the best looking films of the year. It truly is probably the best looking Shakespeare adaptation ever made.

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But, when it comes down to it, Macbeth works because of two people: Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. Taking on these two characters isn’t the easiest task – especially in the Shakespearian verse – but both Fassbender and Cotillard are and were highly capable to bringing these two twisted and complex characters to life in their own way. Fassbender’s portrayal slowly unravels as the film goes on. You can see him become paranoid of everyone around him and the grand diner scene is something that was truly great to witness. Even the famous “O, full of scorpions is my mind” speech is something that Kurzel and Fassbender bring to life so well that Macbeth is literally saying the lines as he’s clenching his teeth and is about to crack.

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When it comes to Cotillard, some of her scenes are just amazing to sit through. For most her scenes, including the “to bed” scene, Kurzel simply just lets the camera linger and slowly move in on Cotillard as she delivers her lines. Her take on the character, for me, proves that Lady Macbeth is much more of a tragic character than Macbeth himself. She can see that monster that she created and the monster than she allowed herself to be. She wanted the power and pushed and manipulated her husband to kill the king so they can take it all, but the cost is something she didn’t think of. Dare I say, Cotillard steals the film from Fassbender, which is not an easy task nowadays.

The supporting cast aren’t too bad themselves, but with Fassbender and Cotillard having most of the screen time it’s reasonable why they’d be overlooked. Sean Harris, who plays Macduff, plays Macduff as a more silent type at first, but when pushed to his own breaking point he becomes a mad and rage-filled man himself. Paddy Considine is almost unrecognizable as Banquo and delivers a great, short and sweet performance. The same can be said for Elizabeth Debicki, who plays, Lady Macduff. She only in about three scenes total, but one of those scenes completely delivers and changes everything for one of the characters.

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All in all, Macbeth is a great atmospheric, gloomy, artistic iteration and approach to the famous characters. Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard bring their A-game with director Justin Kurzel to deliver a great film that like all Shakespeare material will probably have to be watched multiple times absorb everything.

 

Macbeth

5 out of 5

December Movie Releases

It’s December, ladies and gentlemen!

The year is almost over! How has your year been, because it’s been a great year for films huh? The month is a bit “light” in terms of releases per week, but it’s not like that matters since those releases are pretty damn huge *cough* Star Wars *cough* but it’s still should be great to see unfold. So let’s jump right in the films that will close out the year.

 

Also, Happy Whatever-It-Is-You-Celebrate!

 

4th

Limited Release: Chi-Raq

Spike Lee’s new film, which is riddled with controversy due to the title – especially here in Chicago – is finally coming out. The film is actually a modern day adaptation of the ancient Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes, set against the backdrop of gang violence in Chicago. The film has a more impressive cast than I thought in Nick Cannon, Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, and Samuel L. Jackson.  In all honestly, I don’t think I’ll watch it, only because it doesn’t look that interesting to me.

 

Limited Release: Macbeth

Based on the Shakespearian play of the same name, Macbeth (played by Michael Fassbender), a duke of Scotland receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife (played by Marion Cotlliard), Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself. However, he becomes suspicious of everyone and does what he can to keep his kingdom and his throne safe. The film looks amazing and way better than I thought it would and is getting great reviews as well. This jumped way up in my must-watch list. The film also stars Elizabeth Debicki, Sean Harris, David Thewlis, Jack Reynor, Paddy Considine and David Hayman.

 

Limited Release: Hitchock/Truffaut

The film has filmmakers like Wes Anderson, David Fincher, Richard Linklater, and Martin Scorsese to name a few, as they discuss how Francois Truffaut’s 1966 book “Cinema According to Hitchcock” influenced their work. The documentary has gotten some good word of mouth at film festivals so hopefully it finds a bigger audience.

 

The Letters

A drama that explores the life of Mother Teresa (played by Juliet Stevenson) through letters she wrote to her longtime friend and spiritual advisor, Father Celeste van Exem (Max von Sydow) over a nearly 50-year period. The film looks like it’s going to be powerful and moving, I’m buzz is pretty high on this so we’ll see what happens. It’s not getting a huge release, but a big enough one. Priya Darshini and Rutger Hauer also star.

 

Krampus

Directed by Michael Dougherty, who directed one of my favorite horror-comedy films Trick ‘r’ Treat, goes back behind-the-camera to direct what looks like another horror comedy in Krampus. The film follows a boy who has a bad Christmas ends up accidentally summoning a Christmas demon, Krampus, to his family home. The movie doesn’t look like it’s going to take itself too seriously, but will have nice moments of horror. I didn’t think I would be looking forward to this, but I am.

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11th

Limited Release: The Big Short (Wide Release December 21st)

This film pretty much came out of nowhere, since some people didn’t even know this was coming out, and it’s rather surprising since the film has a great cast in Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt. The film follows four outsiders in the world of high-finance who predicted the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s decide to take on the big banks for their lack of foresight and greed. The film looks pretty great and is directed by Adam McKay, yes Anchorman Adam McKay. The film also stars Marisa Tomei, Karen Gillan, Max Greenfield, John Magaro, Rafe Spall, Hamish Linklater, Finn Wittrock, and Melissa Leo

 

Legend

Tom Hardy pulls double duty playing real life identical twins gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, two of the most notorious criminals in British history, and their organized crime empire in the East End of London during the 1960s. Some of the early buzz is praising Hardy’s duel performances and saying the film holds up pretty nicely, so that’s a good sign. The film also stars Emily Browning, Paul Bettany, Taron Egerton, Christopher Eccleston, and David Twelis.

 

In the Heart of the Sea

Based on the 1820 event, a whaling ship is preyed upon by a sperm whale, stranding its crew at sea for 90 days, thousands of miles from home. The film is directed Ron Howard and has an impressive cast lead by Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw, Charlotte Riley, Frank Dillane, Benjamin Walke, Jordi Molla and Donald Sumpter. Basing this off the trailers the film looks intense. The story is also what inspired Moby Dick, so there is that added layer.

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18th

Limited Release: Son of Saul

The foreign film follows the horror of 1944 Auschwitz, a prisoner forced to burn the corpses of his own people finds moral survival upon trying to salvage from the flames the body of a boy he takes for his son. The film has gotten some rave reviews already, so with a “bigger” release, Son of Saul could find a bigger audience. The film stars Geza Rohrig, Levente Molnar, Urs Rechn, and Todd Charmont.

 

Alvin and the Chipmunks The Road Chip

Yes, they are making another Alvin and the Chipmunks movie (sigh). Through a series of misunderstandings, Alvin, Simon and Theodore comes to believe that Dave is going to propose to his new girlfriend in New York City – and dump them. They have three days to get to him and stop the proposal. The films aren’t really targeted toward me, but from everything I heard about the series the films aren’t that good, so I’ll be staying away from this. The voice cast includes Justin Long, Jesse McCartney, Matthew Gray Gubler, Christian Applegate, Anna Faris, and Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting. The human cast includes Jason Lee, Bella Thorne, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, and Tony Hale.

 

Sisters

Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are two of the most beloved people in Hollywood, and every time they are together, they are great. So this should go to many people’s must-watch list as the two will play sister who decide to throw one last house party before their parents sell their family home. The film looks okay, and with Poehler and Fey, we should get a funny film, but I’m not completely sold on it just yet. Sisters also stars John Leguizamo, Maya Rudolph, Madison Davenport, Dan Byrd, Ike Barinholtz, Heather Matarazzo, John Cena, Dianne West and James Brolin.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Do I really need to put anything here? Like really? Do I? Alright. The Force Awakens takes place thirty years after Episode VI – Return of the Jedi and follows the new adventures of characters like Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac), Finn (John Boyega), and Rey (Daisy Ridley) and their fight with new villains like Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson). Overall, everyone is excited for this, so let’s just hope that it’s good (please be good). The film also stars Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, and Max von Sydow. The film also brings back original stars in Peter Mayhew, Warwick Davis, Anthony Davis, Kenny Baker, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill.

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25th

Limited Release: The Revenant

The film will get it limited release, with a wide release in the coming week and while I don’t write up a tidbit, I figured I should here because this film looks damn fantastic. Directed by Alejandro G Inarritu, the film is set in the 1820s following Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a frontiersman, who sets out on a path of vengeance against those who left him for dead after a bear mauling. The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki looks equally fantastic as the rest of the cast of Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Paul Anderson, and Lukas Haas.

 

Limited Release: The Hateful Eight

Again, the film will get a limited release this week and a wider release in the coming week, but this limited release has something more special than others. The film this week will be released in a special 70mm film aka how they filmed the Westerns back in the day. Of course, Quentin Tarantino would be crazy enough to film in the actual film used to shot Westerns back in the day. The film is set in post-Civil War Wynoming as a bounty hunter tries to find shelter during a blizzard but gets involved in a plot of betrayal and deception. The film also has a crazy impressive cast of Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Demian Bichir, Zoe Bell, Michal Madsen, and Bruce Dern.

 

Daddy’s Home

A step dad’s life is turned upside down, when his step-kids father comes back into their life. The comedy reunited Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell and it looks okay, but I’m not completely sold on it just yet. Maybe when it gets closer to the release I’ll think differently. The film also stars Linda Cardellini, Alessandra Ambrosio, Paul Scheer, Hannibal Buress, and Thomas Haden Church.

 

Point Break

A remake of the classic 1991 film, follows the film’s basic story of FBI agent Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) infiltrating a group of thieves lead by Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez) to take them down, but starts to fall for Bodhi’s charisma. Thankfully, the remake is changing some things around by adding an extreme sports touch, and a nature-theme inspired heists. I like that it is doing its own thing, which all remakes should try to do and that’s what Point Break is doing. Also starrin is Teresa Palmer, Ray Winstone, and Delroy Lindo.

 

Joy

David O. Russell is reteaming with his Silver Linings Playbook actors Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro for this biography. The film follows a family across four generations centered on the girl, Joy, who becomes the woman who founds a business dynasty and becomes a matriarch in her own right. The film looks like it could be good and we know the team O. Russell puts together can lead to something great, but maybe I’m not sold on it just yet. Joy also stars Dascha Polanco, Elisabeth Rohm, Drena De Niro, Edgar Ramirez, Virginia Madsen and Isabella Rossellini.

 

Concussion

Based on the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith), the forensic neuropathologist, who made the first discovery of CTE, a football-related brain trauma, in pro players. The film looks like it’s going to be a great drama and the fact that it is a very touchy nowadays, it’s going to put this subject in a better forefront to get the message out there. The impressive casts includes Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alec Baldwin, Eddie Marsan, Stephen Moyer, Luke Wilson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Dave Morse, Richard T. Jones, and Albert Brooks.

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So, what are you looking forward to?