The Top Ten Films of 2015

Finally!!  The Top 10 Films of 2015!

2015 was a great year for cinema. We had the return of a couple of franchises, one of them being Star Wars.  And what a return it was!  Better than the prequels and making 2 billion dollars worldwide (and still going), I would have to say this was a success.  Also in 2015 was the return of Mad Max.  Which was also a wildly successful return.  Other returns include the return of Rocky in “Creed“, and some might say Pixar has had a return to form with Inside Out.   Along with that was an outstanding Sci-Fi with Ex-Machina and an unforgettable horror film which made quite a stir with It Follows.

So which films made it into the Top 10?  Let us see:

#10 Spotlight

Spotlight

Written and directed by Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent, Win Win), the film is basically a tribute to journalism. The viewer is basically dropped in a time of their lives when a chance comes for the Spotlight team to cover sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The film is VERY straightforward, nothing flashy, as the viewer follows the journalists and the attempt to bring the story to the public. There is no special romance or outside drama, we are here to follow the journalists’ research in covering this story. It is truly a great ensemble you have here and everyone hits their mark. Spotlight is truly one of the great films of 2015.

#9 The Martian

Martian

The Martian directed by Ridley Scott (Alien) and starring Matt Damon, is based on the Andy Weir novel of the same name. Damon stars as the astronaut who is mistakenly presumed dead and left behind on Mars. This is not a film which involves the attempt to annihilate all Martians, there are no villains, but rather it is a survival tale as Damon struggles to survive while NASA works out a plan to try to rescue him.  Matt Damon is great, and keeps you plenty entertained during his time of struggle on Mars with subtle funny inserts here and there.  But overall, it is a Sci Fi that is heartwarming, where you learn to never give up no matter how dire your situation is, and you root for the team to bring this man home.

#8 Inside Out

InsideOut

Pixar is back with their best film since Up and Toy Story 3.  This is truly a remarkable film that only gets better with repeated viewings.  A young girl, Riley, is steered by five emotions – Joy, Fear, Sadness, Disgust, and Anger.  We see Riley from birth to eventually an 11-year old girl who ends up going through a lot in life as she and her family move from Minnesota to San Francisco.  This takes quite a toll on her and her emotions.  There is joy, there is sadness, and sometimes they must go hand in hand.  It really is a creative and crowning effort by Pixar.

#7 Hateful Eight

HatefulEight

The Hateful Eight, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Bastards) is just fantastic and filled with dialogue that only Tarantino himself can deliver. Being a western I assumed most of the setting would take place outside, especially since Tarantino put out a 70 mm version.  But that is not the case.  Instead most of the film is basically like a murder mystery that takes place at a stagecoach lodge. The cast is great. Jennifer Jason Leigh, as the woman to be hanged, and Samuel Jackson, as the bounty hunter are the standouts here. Tarantino truly directs Jackson best as once again we watch him orchestrate a room.   Tim Roth was also a joy to watch as the chipper executioner. The soundtrack, which was composed, orchestrated, and conducted by Ennio Morricone was great. I just loved the overture (70mm version) which is slow building and just grips you, and some of this is heard again within the film. Overall the Hateful Eight is another fantastic entry into the Tarantino library.

#6 It Follows

ItFollows

It Follows is a horror film written and directed by David Robert Mitchells (The Myth of the American Sleepovers). This is just what the horror genre needed. It Follows is a film that keeps you gripped until the very end.  Basically a young girl, Jay (Maika Monroe), learns that after having sex with her boyfriend, Hugh (Jake Weary),  that she is the latest victim of a supernatural entity that will follow her until she is dead or passes it on to someone else through sex.  Now he tells her this in crazy kind of way (ties her to a chair until she actually sees the thing) but I guess he gets her attention.  The thing that I really love is throughout the film I was constantly looking to see if I could spot the horrifying entity somewhere in the distance, which can be fun upon multiple viewings. Kudos to Mitchells directing and the cinematography of Mike Gioulakis to successfully pull this off. There were a select number of scenes (which I will avoid mentioning for spoiler reasons) in which i literally had a chill run up my spine! This is the most tense movie I have watched since probably “The Ring”.   The film score by Rich Vreeland is also a highlight here with moments of intensity to add to the terror. The acting is good, but special props to Maika Monroe as the star, Jay, who delivers a strong performance. Just a great job and a load of fun here. it is one of those films that will leave you geeking out over various scenes and just what you would do to get away from the entity that follows.

#5 Room

Room

Adapted from Emma Donoghue’s novel, “Room” is a story of a young woman who was kidnapped and  held captive in a tool shed  for seven years.   Her rabbit hole if you will.  The story is from the perspective of Jack (Jacob Tremblay), a five-year old boy who was born and grew up in “Room” and is the only world Jack knows.  We see how Joy “Ma” (Brie Larson) and Jack live in Room, their universe with 4 walls and one skylight, and how Joy makes this living hell a home as much as possible (fairy tale stories, playing, and singing).  Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay give remarkable performances as I can feel the strong emotional bond between them.  I don’t want to give away much in case one has not seen the film, but despite the dark tone, “Room” is hopeful, touching, and liberating.

#4 Star Wars: A Force Awakens

AForceAwakens

Director and Writer JJ Abrams (Mission Impossible III, Super 8) had big shoes to fill, and let me say . . . he delivered.  Sure the plot is conveniently similar to Star Wars Episode IV and yes there are some questionable acts that occur, a few gripes, but let me just say, this was a lot of fun. It was like I had finally found my toys that have been missing for years!  The moment I saw the Millennium Falcon lift off from Jakku, I melted. Daisy Ridley (Rey) and John Boyega (Finn) really delivered. They just clicked. But overall Daisy stole the show and the team really found a gem in her. She has a strong presence that shines and I cannot wait to see how her character develops going forward. And of course, seeing the likes of Han, Chewie, and Leia again is without words and the ending does not disappoint. Kudos to Mr. Abrams to sticking to what worked in the past, with the use of more models, less CGI, and delivered something to ignite the fire within our hearts once again. Thank you for bringing back my toys, Mr. Abrams.

#3 Sicario

Sicario

Sicario is a drug war thriller, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners)and literally starts things off with a bang and then FBI agent Macy (Emily Blunt) ends up being recruited by a questionable CIA(?) agent Matt (Josh Brolin), wearing flip-flops, and Alejandro (Benecio Del Toro) to capture a drug trafficker and bring him back to the States. The film is intense (a specific traffic scene comes to mind) and Emily Blunt’s character is constantly left in the dark as to what is really going on with Matt’s team. The acting is truly top-notch with Blunt and Brolin, but Del Toro, as the mysterious Alejandro whose character grows as the film moves on, is the standout in what could be my favorite role he’s played in. Don’t mess with Alejandro!  This is the second time Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins paired up (Prisoners) and just did a stunning job, especially with the gripping aerial shots at the border and the night scenes through drug tunnels. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the film with its intense scenes and wild look at the war on drugs which will stay with you for quite a while when it’s over.

#2 The Revenant

Revenant

The Revenant is a survival and revenge story, directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu (Bird Man) based upon the book of the same name by Michael Punke. Taking place in 1823, Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCapprio) an experienced trapper, is seriously wounded and left for dead by his party. Eventually Glass needs to make the trek on his own back to his base. Now I am being vague here as I think it is best going into this film not knowing much. Everything about this film is fantastic! The directing and cinematography is gorgeous and DiCapprio and Tom Hardy are superb. Leo truly deserves his first Oscar win for this. The actors and crew went through hell and high water with this film and it shows in the film. In an Interview from Wired.com Leo spoke of the hardest part being getting out of frozen rivers as he had elk skin on and bear fur that weighed 100 pounds when it got wet. They also had a machine they would blast him with heat after every take as his feet and fingers would get locked up from the cold. Survival, revenge, gorgeous landscapes, the film is outstanding in every way and I enjoyed every moment.

#1 Mad Max: Fury Road

MadMax

Believe. The. Hype! There is a reason this film is my number 1 and its because T his film delivers!! The first time I saw the trailer I was floored. The film looked exciting and fun, but I was concerned most of what he see in the trailer would be the best of the film. That was not the case. This film was a joy ride! George Miller (Road Warrior, Happy Feet) is 70 years old and directed the film as if he was 25 years of age. It looks so fresh and new, yet he went back to an old formula from the Mad Max series and used less CGI, relied on actual stunts, and it really paid off. I just couldn’t believe what I was watching. Don’t bother wondering how this post-apocalyptic world came to be, just know that this is what it is and go with it. How did it come to be that people spray “chrome” paint onto their face before battle to help lift them to Valhalla (a higher place)? Doesn’t matter. Just know that it’s freaking crazy and enjoy. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better use of a guitarist in a film.  EVER.  The story here is Furiosa’s (Charleze Theron) tale. Max (Tom Hardy) is a wanderer who is kidnapped and hooked up as a blood bag. He eventually is caught in the middle of the warrior Furiosa’s planned escape for her and the breeders wives.  Theron is fabulous as the heroine who makes the escape with the five breeder wives and seeks redemption.   Overall the film is a non stop thrill ride that hopefully paves the way for the next generation of filmmakers.  For Valhalla!!

Honorable Mentions:  Ex-Machina, Brooklyn, Ant-Man

That’s it!  So what are your Top Ten Films from 2015?

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