My Top 10 Favorite Films of 2015

2014 was number 4 in my top 5 favorite years of film in my 31 years of life, right behind 1985,1984, and 1994 being my all time favorite year in film. Hell, I had to make some really painful cuts in that list for 2014, and I ended up doing a three way tie with the good superhero movies released that year.

 

But 2015 had me excited for sequels I was looking forward to. Not to mention, we got some great hidden gems this year. However I wasn’t exactly sweating this list, unlike 2014. There were some disappointments along the way. There weren’t that many original films to come out this year.

 

Before I begin with my picks for my favorite films of 2015: I have not seen every movie ever made this year. I missed out on a few I wanted to see (Spotlight, Bridge of Spies, The Revenant isn’t released in Toledo as of this typing). I’m also making this a point to call this my favorite films, in lieu of calling this the best of 2015. These were the films I loved the most this year.

 

Before I begin, here are some quick honorable mentions. Movies that didn’t quite make the cut, but I still enjoyed:

 

Ex Machina – A dark 70’s style sci-fi film, which turned out to be quite the star maker for Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander.

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Turns out this wasn’t going to be my #1 favorite film of 2015. If only it was as dark as the trailer led on.

 

The Peanuts Movie – I’m glad I took my nephews and niece to go see this. It’s my second favorite animated film of the year.

 

Spectre – Cut 20 minutes out of this and it would have been in my top 10. It’s a solid Bond film otherwise.

 

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation – These movies became great after Ghost Protocol. I’m glad Ghost Protocol wasn’t the only good movie in this series.

 

The Night Before – This is on here because this is the ONLY good comedy I’ve seen this year that wasn’t Entourage: The More Expensive Series Finale. Also I want to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt go back to comedy. I forgot how funny he could be.

 

Straight Outta Compton – An interesting look into the rise and fall of NWA. I’ll talk more about this later as to why it’s an honorable mention.

 

Sicario – My honorary #11. It’s a movie that sticks with you after viewing. A well thought out and riveting movie.

 

Without further ado…

#10. It Follows

Itfollows

 

In the hands of another studio *cough* Blumhouse *cough*, this would have been a PG-13 rated, jump scare riddled piece of garbage. However, It Follows has such a unique DIY aesthetic to it.

 

Who would have thought an allegory on teen sex would be an interesting movie? Everything in this film is used to build suspense. Whether it’s the magnificent cinematography, Disasterpeace’s brilliant score, or the palpable tension in every frame, to which the one jump scare in this movie actually made me jump. I couldn’t help but think I was watching an early John Carpenter film. I could see why this had a 96% Tomatometer rating. It’s a thinking man’s horror film that just happens to have teenagers in it. A slasher film without slashing. A film where paranoia is rampant. Lets see more horror like It Follows, and less films based on fucking Ouija boards.

#9. The Hateful Eight

Hateful8

 

I just watched it, so it’s fresh in my memory. The one thing I love about Quentin Tarantino is his dialogue. The Hateful Eight contains some of his best dialogue since Inglourious Basterds. I really wish I could have seen this in 70mm, but the closest showing for that was in Livonia, Michigan. But the movie I saw had never better performances from Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

 

Just watch for a scene involving Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Dern. It’s incredibly hilarious and suspenseful. The cinematography in this is absolutely magnificent. The reason that isn’t ranked higher is it takes awhile to build up, but that works to the film’s advantage. It makes you get to know these characters. I haven’t seen a Tarantino film I didn’t entirely hate, and I enjoyed it immensely.

#8. Kingsman: The Secret Service

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This was almost an honorable mention, but the more I thought about it, the more I loved it. Any movie that starts off with a building blowing up to the tune of Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing and has a badass, 2 minute long fight sequence with a 40+ body count in a church; set to the guitar solo of Free Bird has my attention. Any movie that can take stuffy Colin Firth and make him a legitimate badass is OK in my book.

 

Kingsman is very much a Roger Moore James Bond film set in the 21st century, and that’s what I love about it the most. Kingsman’s tongue is firmly in cheek, right down to Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson’s conversation on Bond films while eating McDonald’s. I was also impressed with newcomer Taron Egerton, who portrays Eggsy, the central character of the movie. I’m also loving the mini-Mark Hamill Renaissance as of late, with The Flash, Kingsman, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

 

But you can’t have great performances without a great director. Matthew Vaughn and Mark Millar strike gold again with another hard R graphic novel adaptation. Makes me wonder what he could have done with the DC Cinematic Universe. He would have been letter perfect for Justice League. Here’s to seeing more of Matthew Vaughan’s great work.

#7. The Gift

Thegift

 

I knocked Blumhouse while talking about It Follows…BUT I can acknowledge Jason Blum puts out one good film a year. Hell, if I saw Whiplash in 2014, it easily would have been in my top 2 favorite films of 2014. The Gift is probably the best straight up thriller I’ve seen since Gone Girl. It’s a whodunnit, a character study, and a psychological thriller all at once that kept me guessing. On top of that, it feels like a great play.

 

What was great about The Gift was the talent on display. Jason Bateman, a known comedic actor, gives a compelling performance in this film. Then you have Joel Edgerton, who is not only the antagonist of this film, but also serves as the writer and director. This is the best directorial debut I’ve seen since The Sixth Sense, and I’m hoping Joel Edgerton spends more time writing and directing behind the camera. Just the ending alone is magnificent. Bravo Joel Edgerton.

#6. The Martian

Martian

 

Welcome back Ridley Scott, I missed you. All the missteps you took in recent years led us to one of the best Ridley Scott films I’ve seen in a long time. Not only that, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen a great Matt Damon performance. The last time I saw a truly great performance from him was Dogma.

 

The Martian is a tale of the human spirit. What would you do if you were the only person on Mars? Well, you science the shit out of it. I loved every minute of this movie. I loved the scientific aspect of this movie. I loved Watney’s determination to survive. Damon’s Watney’s is arrogant and cocky, but has every right to be. In his own words, he colonized Mars. Lord knows I wouldn’t survive on Mars by myself.

 

To keep the light hearted tone, I love the juxtaposition of comedic actors like Kristen Wiig and Donald Glover in serious roles. Oddly enough, I could take them seriously. My point is, see the shit out of this movie if you haven’t yet.

#5. Inside Out

Insideout

 

I find it both sad and interesting that the most original ideas in Hollywood are coming out of animated films. Inside Out is about Riley,  a young girl who is uprooted from the Midwest and moves to California. We get inside her head and meet her feelings personified: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust. It makes you feel every feeling possible along with Riley.

 

This is Pixar’s best original animated film since The Incredibles. I cannot stress how magnificent this movie is in terms of story and animation. This overall concept is brilliant in a way that it could strike a chord with both children and adults. When things happen in this movie, nothing gets fixed, as so it goes in real life. After all, it is an allegorical take about entering puberty.

 

Originally I wanted to take my nephews (more specifically my 5 year old one, because it was his birthday) to go see this. But Minions won out. Had I have known how fantastic this movie was, this definitely would have been the movie I took them to see. Disney seems to be churning out the unnecessary Pixar sequels that scream “toy sale”, but this is one I definitely want to see a sequel to. It’s funny, heartbreaking, and will give even the toughest, bro douchiest guy “the feels”.

#4. Creed

Creed

 

Just when I thought 2006’s underrated and brilliant  Rocky Balboa gave me closure on the character of Rocky Balboa, enter Ryan Coogler with an interesting idea that Apollo Creed had a long lost son. Creed was a movie I didnt know that I needed to see. The last time Rocky trained someone, that movie ended up being terrible. Creed is what Rocky V should have been. Every frame of this movie is a loving tribute to not only Sylvester Stallone’s iconic creation, but a tribute to Philadelphia itself. Creed got me to care about Rocky again. Michael B. Jordan is nothing short of terrific as Adonis Creed in this movie. He even look a little like Carl Weathers.

 

Sylvester Stallone could have slept through this role, seeing as this is the very first Rocky film which he didn’t write, but he crushes it in this movie. I’m starting to love “facing his mortality” Rocky better than boxer Rocky. Creed might be in my top 3 Rocky films, but at the same time, take Rocky out of it and it’s a great standalone movie. Here is my plea for Sylvester Stallone to finally get his Oscar for Rocky:

 

Dear Academy,

I find it really fucking ridiculous that you have yet to give Sylvester Stallone his Oscar for his portrayal of the iconic movie character named Rocky Balboa. Furthermore, he should have won for his portrayal of Rocky in both Rocky and Rocky Balboa. Give him his 40 years overdue Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2016. It’s amazing how an action hero wrote one of the most poignant films of 1976 and yet he has never won for writing, directing or playing Rocky Balboa. The final scene in Creed got me to well up a little. Rocky won Best Picture in 1977, but give credit where credit is due.

 

Much regards, Ryan

 

Before I begin my Top 3 Favorite Films of 2015, any one of these could have been #1. I loved all three of these movies so much. Ranking these 3 great films proved to be difficult. I shuffled these in my head numerous times. All three of these were #1 at some point. Speaking of long dormant franchises that started in the 70’s:

 

#3. Mad Max: Fury Road

 

Mmfr

 

Holy shit. Those are the two words that best describe this movie. I very rarely utter the word masterpiece in regards to a movie, but this is George Miller’s masterpiece. On a technical level, this movie floored me. Nearly every effect in this film is practical. Miller made the film purposely bright to counteract the dystopian trend that he started. When asked about a sequel to Fury Road, he flat out said he wanted to take time with it.

 

The movie subverts expectations. In the first two minutes, Max escapes, only to get caught. Max is practically a hood ornament for the first half hour. Whenever The Doof Warrior – who is officially the most awesome non speaking movie character in cinematic history – shows up with his flaming guitar, it affects the soundtrack of the movie. The female characters in this movie aren’t just eye candy: they serve a purpose and can hold their own. The violence in this movie alone is intense. Then we are introduced to a character who is just as awesome as Max: Imperator Furiosa. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron are absolutely brilliant in this movie. Not only do we get Max and Furiosa, we get Nux, a Warboy who sees the error of his ways.

 

This movie clocks in at exactly 2 hours, and there is so much thought and effort put into these 120 minutes it’s unbelievable. I have probably watched this film 10 times since buying it on Blu-Ray, and it gets better every time. It’s going to get to that point where I am going to use this movie to study filmmaking techniques. I hope this film gets studied for many years to come. Oh what a day, what a lovely day indeed.

#2. Love and Mercy

Loveandmercy

 

As much as I enjoyed Straight Outta Compton, Love and Mercy blew it out of the water. Love and Mercy is a far more effective film than Straight Outta Compton, in that it doesn’t feel like a vanity project. We see Brian Wilson’s life through two periods of time in this movie: The 1960’s when he is creating Pet Sounds and what would later become Smile; along with the 1980’s, when he is under the controversial 24-7 care of shady psychiatrist Dr. Eugene Landy.

 

With Love and Mercy, you get a warts and all story of Brian Wilson’s life and musical talent. The Beach Boys were trying to hold Brian Wilson back musically. The Beach Boys “Dadager” sold their publishing for what was considered mere pennies in the 60’s. Landy made his life a living hell so he could reap the benefits of being Brian Wilson’s benefactor. Needless to say, Brian Wilson has been through some shit.

 

What was the biggest drama in Straight Outta Compton? Ice Cube gets screwed out of money and Eazy E dies of AIDS. Not the fact that Dr. Dre beat the shit out of his girlfriend and Dee Barnes. Not the fact that DJ Yella was the only NWA member in attendance at Eazy E’s funeral, and somehow his funeral scene is glossed over. That all got conveniently left out, whereas Love and Mercy tells Brian Wilson’s story with all of its flaws.

 

Sadly, Love and Mercy got buried in a limited release. When I went to see this, I was the only young person there. The median age of that theater was about 55, and I wore that with a badge of honor. Everything about this movie is fantastic. This is the first movie I’ve seen since American Hustle where I felt every main cast member should be nominated for Oscars. Paul Dano and John Cusack are just spectacular as past and present Brian Wilson respectively. Elizabeth Banks delivers a stellar performance as Melinda Ledbetter, the woman Wilson eventually married. Which is great, because Banks is primarily known for comedic roles. As for Paul Giamatti, his Dr. Eugene Landy makes his Jerry Heller in Straight Outta Compton look like Mister Rogers by comparison.

 

This was another great directorial debut this year from Bill Pohlad, a producer of 12 Years a Slave. Even Atticus Ross’ score, in which he basically turns Beach Boys songs into Revolution 9, is eerie and awesome at the same time. I loved this movie so much. Easily the best music biopic I’ve seen since Ray.

 

For the longest time, this was going to be my #1 favorite film of 2015, which is part of the reason why I talked at length about it. However It came down to the wire. On December 20th, 2015 I was taken to a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

 

#1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

SPOILER ALERT!!!

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Normally when I talk about my #1 favorite film, it practically becomes an essay. Instead, I’m going to go into spoilery detail to shut whiny net nerd fanboys up who want to bitch about this movie. Starting with:

 

  • It’s Just A New Hope all over again!

 

You’re fully aware that Star Wars isn’t entirely an original movie, right? George Lucas gained inspiration from serials he saw on TV as a child, and borrowed heavily from Akira Kurosawa. Let’s also factor in that if you’re going to make this argument, let’s bring in another movie from the original trilogy: Return of the Jedi. That one was similar to Star Wars, but you know what? It’s still a good movie, Ewoks notwithstanding.

 

  • It’s an expensive fan fiction!

So was the original Star Wars. Lucas made Star Wars because he couldn’t get the rights to Flash Gordon. That’s the reason why you see the scrolling text at the beginning of each film. He intended to make a Flash Gordon film.

 

  • The Expanded Universe is no longer canon. It’s gonna suck!

So, let me get this straight: these net nerds want to bitch about how The Force Awakens was a glorified fan fiction, but want glorified fan fiction adapted? Most of it not being good? So you want to see a movie about Ken, the in universe collector of Star Wars toys and the main character of the Jedi Prince Series? In that same series, Luke needs to save whales, like the premise of a certain sci-fi movie and TV franchise.  Let’s make Masters of Teras Kasi a movie. You know, that really shitty PlayStation Star Wars fighting game? Let’s have Luke Skywalker join a cult, because fuck it.

 

  • Rey is a “Mary Sue”

I had to look this fucking term up, because it sounded like something only a net nerd fanboy would say. Let this be known that I never want to see this fucking term used again. According to Urban Dictionary, it’s a character in fan fiction who is completely perfect. Rey is far from perfect in this movie. She barely gets the Millennium Falcon off of the ground. It takes a couple of times for her Force Persuasion to work against Stormtrooper Daniel Craig. She is barely keeping up with Kylo Ren after Finn becomes incapacitated in his fight with Kylo Ren. Keep in mind, Kylo Ren is wounded in this fight from Chewbacca’s Bowcaster. Admit it fanboys: you hate Rey because she isn’t overly sexualized and is a strong, badass female character.

 

  • Kylo Ren is a terrible villain!

Actually, Kylo Ren is a fantastic villain. What makes Kylo Ren a great villain is that he is human. There are two types of villains in Star Wars: Cartoony Evil (Count Dooku, Emperor Palpatine, General Grievous) and Toy Sale Evil (Darth Vader, Darth Maul, General fucking Grievous again) Kylo Ren is a fully three dimensional character. He is fighting the light side of himself. He even murders his father Han Solo in cold blood, so his path to the dark side would be complete. Darth Vader just wanted to train Luke to the dark side in the original trilogy. He gets visibly angry when a plan fails. On top of that, he is relatively young and leading the First Order. Adam Driver was perfect for this role, and again he was primarily known as a comedic actor. He was intimidating, intense and badass. So what if looks like an emo kid? He will probably end up being the fan girl heartthrob of this movie, much like Tom Hiddleston post-Avengers. The comedic actors taking dramatic roles are the real MVP’s of 2015.

 

  • Really? Another Death Star?

I kind of agree with this, BUT Starkiller Base took out five planets. Starkiller Base was more effective than the Death Star. Imagine if they didn’t destroy Starkiller Base. How many other planets would have been destroyed? The First Order was looking to fire the weapon again. Let me reiterate: Return of the Jedi. That is all.

 

  • Luke Skywalker is only in it for 30 seconds!

“Luke Skywalker has vanished”. These are the very first words that appear in the title scroll. If you expected Luke to show up after reading that, I feel sorry for you. Did you see Luke Skywalker on the poster? No you didn’t, and now you know why. I’m glad the movie didn’t focus on Luke Skywalker, because it allows for the chance to get to know these great new characters.

 

The reason I did this was because I am sick and tired of seeing GREAT films dragged through the ground, because of entitled fanboys. If I were ranking my favorite Star Wars movies right now, it would go The Empire Strikes Back, A New Hope, and The Force Awakens. To rank right up there with those two great films is something special. I cried tears of joy within the first ten minutes of this movie. I knew I was watching something historic.

 

As of this typing, it is poised to dethrone Titanic as the second highest grossing film of all time. JJ Abrams did a fantastic job directing and co-writing the script with Michael Arndt and the legendary Lawrence Kasdan. The moment I heard Lawrence Kasdan was writing this movie, I was excited. I hope John Boyega and Daisy Ridley don’t fade away after The Force Awakens. Both of these relatively unknown actors are revelations. Whoever the casting director was for this film needs to be applauded. Harrison Ford playing Han Solo again made me so happy.

 

But The Force Awakens is more than that. We see actual scenery in this movie. Practical effects are being used again. You know, what George Lucas felt the need to take out in the progressively shittier Special Editions. Disney is giving me all the confidence in the world that these new Star Wars films are going to be fantastic. Quit your crying about how “retro” The Force Awakens feels George Lucas, because I want retro again.

 

This will officially be the first Star Wars movie I own on Blu-Ray. I refuse to buy the special edition Blu-Rays. I’m one of the few people content with the limited edition DVD’s with the original theatrical editions. Before seeing The Force Awakens, I made it a point to watch all three original trilogy films in their original format. I still get blown away by how good those movies are. Now I can add The Force Awakens to my favorite Star Wars films of all time. Thank you JJ Abrams for being A New Hope for Star Wars.

 

Those were my picks for my favorite films  of 2015. What were your favorite films? Stick around for my worst films of 2015.

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