(Originally written for Youtube in Dec. 2015)
So, we’re approaching the end of 2015, and one of my favorite parts of the season is always the end-of-the-year-top-blank-countdowns. Top 5 blanks, top 10 blanks, top 100 blanks of 20-whatever. Just love ‘em. And what I love more than hearing everyone else’s opinions of what they consumed this year is broadcasting my own opinions and rankings for everyone else to hear…it’s like, at least fifteen percent of why I do reviews of games and such. Unfortunately, the things I already cover on this channel wouldn’t quite do: Comics, while pretty great, aren’t exactly substantial enough issue-to-issue to really do a rankings list, and even if I did do that, it’d probably be dominated by four or so books; and I only picked up like, three new games this year.
However, I did see over twenty-five movies this year; and I was kind of a Film and Media Studies Major in College, so…for this year’s arbitrary ranking of the things I thought I would do ALL THE FILMS I SAW IN 2015 RANKED FROM WORST TO BEST. Keep in mind, this list is just movies I saw that had theatrical releases in 2015. That means if it’s not on this list, it’s because I did not see it: either due to a lack of time, or lack of interest. If I see any of those after making these videos, I’ll probably make a coda with my thoughts on them, and where I’d put them on this list, but uh, don’t hold me to it…
So, without further ado, my ranking of every movie of 2015 that I saw, starting from the bottom with:
I did not want to see Pixels. I didn’t even have any interest in hate-watching Pixels. The reason that I ended up paying my own money in order to watch this predictably piece of dogshit film is because one of my best friends ever, who I love very much decided that he wanted to subject all of his best friends to a terrible movie. I’m sure you don’t need me to explain why this movie was awful in so much detail. It’s an Adam Sandler movie. The story is bullshit, none of the characters are likable, none of the jokes land, the effects look better on the poster than in motion…if you really need someone to go into detail for you, I heavily recommend Moviebob’s glorious take-down of this film. But the absolute worst part of this movie isn’t any of the jokes, or the grossly sexist ending, or the fact the only president worse than Kevin James would be anyone running for the Republican nomination – no – the worst part, the salt-in-the-wound of Pixels, is the credits; because the credits of Pixels is just the ENTIRE MOVIE OF PIXELS but 8-bit, without dialog, and about 3 minutes long…and it’s better than 100 minutes that is the rest of the film.
And before we move on, I just want to mention the massive jump in quality between the next movie and Pixels. This jump takes us from offensively unwatchable to bearable; from a one to a five on a scale of 10; and I just want you to acknowledge that before we move on lest you think that any other movie on this list is at all comparably bad to Pixels. And now that that’s out of the way…
Oh, I had such hopes for this one. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of my all time favorite stories. If you haven’t read it, you really should. The classic story of man conflicting nature and making life from death and having to face the consequences just works on so many levels, under so many different interpretations, as so many different metaphors that it should be impossible to make a variation of this story that isn’t at least somewhat interesting. In my opinion, barring the Greek myths and epics, Frankenstein is probably the most adaptable piece of writing ever made…which is why Victor Frankenstein disappointed me so greatly.
I really wanted to love this one. It’s an interpretation of one of my favorite stories, Frankenstein; written by one of my favorite screenwriters, Max Landis; and starring two very charming actors, Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy. And I saw this movie under the best possible circumstances: I was at the New York premiere, a free screening, with Radcliffe and McAvoy, plus the director Paul McGuigan there-in-person introducing the film, sitting next to one of my closest friends, and with complimentary popcorn and soda. But this movie was…a mess.
The pacing was atrocious, there were too many characters that distracted from the plot, the whole third act involving the monster was underwhelming…and the whole thing felt like it had huge chunks of it removed or re-written to cover up that this was just set-up for some sequel or crossover shit that didn’t pan out. This movie zigs when it should’ve zagged. They make the main character Igor instead of the much more interesting Frankenstein; who is too much Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes instead of the Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark they were aiming for. They introduce the monster way too late, as if it were some sort of surprise reveal instead of kind-of-the-main-appeal of the entire movie. And the movie seems convinced that the audience is much more invested in the action sequences instead of the character of Victor, who again, they build up as someone you really should want to get into the head of.
Victor Frankenstein feels like a bunch of unrelated parts sewn together into one thing resembling coherence and forcibly zapped to life against it’s own will…which…should be more fitting.
Another movie I really wanted to love that ended up being a hollow imitation of the original. Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park will probably always remain peerless, but I went into this really hoping this would be the first of it’s sequels to really earn it’s place next to the original. After all, the premise is brilliant in it’s simplicity: what if they actually opened the park? But this movie seems to dislike itself more than any of it’s critics did. If having the central message be about how modern audiences not having the attention span to focus on whatever isn’t the biggest, most spectacular thing is bad while being possibly the most extravagant film made this year wasn’t enough; it also seemed to delight in killing off and roughing up it’s two-dimensional characters in senselessly over-the-top ways while hoping we like them enough to want to see them not-eaten by dinos.
The movie drags out props and reminders of Jurassic Park in order to score some nostalgia points, but does so in the most desperate, soulless cry for affection I’ve seen in a while.
I’ll admit, the last big fight between the T-Rex, I-Rex, and Raptors was incredibly thrilling, and almost tricked me into believing I liked this one…but one great scene cannot save a movie as empty as this one.
In the Heart of the Sea
Along with Frankenstein, another one of my favorite books is Melville’s Moby-Dick. Another rightly-deserved classic, and *the* example of the Great American Novel. So, of course I was interested in this one, even if it billed itself as an adaptation of the story of the actually real-life tragedy of the Essex instead of the ill-fated voyage Pequod.
But even going into this one expecting a more grounded, truer to life tale, this movie is just…underwhelming, even as it dramatizes some parts of the story, and actually leaves out a lot of the more exciting parts of the real life account of the Essex.
In the Heart of the Sea fails because it wants to be Moby Dick, but commits to quote-reality-unquote as an excuse not be so ambitious. It tells the whole thing as a story with a beginning and an end and a sense of narrative causality that real-life never has, and attempts to quantify the boundless sublime of the open ocean and great white whales; while also ignoring any possible deeper meaning anybody could ascribe to any of the events as a fiction because this quote-actually happened-unquote.
It looks great, and when this film wants to dip its toes into high-seas adventuring and derring-do, it engages admirably; but for some reason this movie takes some of the biggest things and ideas we have on this planet, and makes them small.
I don’t really have much to say about this one…It’s Tina Fey and Amy Poehler doing their version of, what is essentially, a Will Ferrell comedy. It’s funny, and there are even some genuine laugh-out-loud gutbusters, but overall, it’s just a fun way to pass a couple hours. If you like Fey and Poehler, you’ll probably enjoy this one, but I doubt anything will really stick. Fun, but forgettable.
I watched this one on Netflix because it was on the top of Devin Faraci’s Top 10 list. Oh, if you haven’t heard of him…but somehow know me instead…you should totally check him out. He’s editor-in-chief at Birth.Movies.Death.com, and a critic I personally admire.
However, I really didn’t understand the appeal of this one. It could just be a New York vs. LA thing. This film looks at a day in the life of some of LA’s poorest, mainly two trans-woman prostitutes and a cab-driver with a crush on Christmas Eve. I was never quite comfortable with how the movie treats its characters as I was never clear if the film was fetsihizing their poverty or wanting us to laugh at it.
It looks great either way, in spite of being filmed entirely with an iPhone, popping with the color and life of this town and these people. It’s intimate, and brings you closer into these things than I can see most people wanting to get. But the whole thing also feels like so many NYU student films I’ve seen, the pacing, the editing, the camera movements, dialogue…and while the final pay-offs of this film are pretty great stuff that really lean into the uncomfortable humor and humanity present in these character’s situations; I could never shake the feeling that I was watching an impressive debut rather than some sort of masterpiece.
This is another one that begins and ends at Fun. The better of the two Max Landis written films I saw this year, American Ultra brings some snappy, funny dialogue; deeper than you might think characters; and a handful of funny and well choreographed action scenes. All the actors are likable; yes, even Kristen Stewart. believe it or not; and I left the theater with a smile on my face and knowing I had a good time. I thought of it as probably the best Deadpool movie we’re gonna get for some time, while my friend thought it was more Metal Gear; so if any of that sounds up your alley, then give this one a try. It won’t blow you away, but it’s a fun, violent, and quippy way to burn an hour and a half.
The Spongebob Movie: Sponge out of Water
So, real talk, I still believe that the first three seasons of Spongebob Squarepants, and the original movie is some of the best television programming ever aired. Original and surreally hilarious at the time; that initial run still holds up to this day, and I can have entire conversations made up of references to those early episodes. After that, the show’s creator, Stephen Hillenburg left as showrunner, and the whole thing began to rapidly descend in quality. But Hillenburg came back for this movie, and that triggered a rush of nostalgia and good will large enough to make me watch this one. And I don’t regret it.
Did I like this one as much as Iove the originals? Of course not, I never would. But did I laugh? You bet’cha. Did this do the same thing almost every Nintendo game does to remind me of that childlike joy without feeling pandering or desperate? Yes, yes it did. This movie was earnest enough, and funny enough to earn me sincerely singing the Spongebob Squarepants theme out-loud, in a movie theater. And that there is something special.
The fourth Daniel Craig James Bond movie is…well, it’s the most Bond-y Bond movie of his run. It’s super middle of the road 007 that doesn’t reach the peaks set by Casino Royale and Skyfall, but doesn’t fall into the same pit that trapped Quantum of Solace.
Monica Bellucci is wasted, and the twist is straight out of 1999 WWE Raw; but Mendes’ action is as artful as it was in Skyfall, with that opening one-er and that first car chase being the standouts, and it’s not afraid to dip its toes into camp at times. Plus, the Bond girl’s name being an actually pretty smart reference to Proust works really well in hindsight; and even Sam Smith’s theme song has grown on me since first listen.
Spectre is a well done Bond film, and an action film that feels standard only because, to James Bond, car crashes and aerial loop-de-loops are, well, the standard.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Age of Ultron is a film handicapped by its universe. Where the first Avengers was a check-point of sorts, and the film was allowed to be big and celebrate that this whole shared universe thing actually worked; Ultron is weighed down by the expectations of setting up the next chapters.There are still some great character bits, and action sequences; and it’s still just fun for me to see these comic book heroes and villains adapted to the big screen so faithfully; but it’s hard to lose yourself when you know this movie is just a stepping stone for half-a-dozen other films, and it’s hard for the movie to be everything it can be, when it also has to carefully set up dominoes for other films to knock down.
Firstly, did anyone really expect Lebron James to be as good as he is in this movie!? He was this film’s secret weapon, for sure. He was charming, funny, a believable pal to Bill Hader’s character…he put in a legit great performance, and I really wouldn’t mind seeing him pop up in more things.
But besides Lebron, who again, was the stand out of this movie, Trainwreck is funny, original, a little bawdy…exactly the kind of rom-com you’d imagine Amy Schumer writing. It does trip over a lot of the same corny rom-com tropes, and has one of the most egregiously false depictions of journalism in film of recent memory…but otherwise presents a story that’s less about romance, and more about the current generation entering maturity. It’s a showcase for Amy Schumer’s talents as a writer, actor, comedian, and even physical gag humor, that also presents a somewhat more progressive view on femininity, romance, and maturity than we usually get out of this genre. Amy’s character is never framed as wrong because of how she lives or who she is, but because that person isn’t who she wants to be now that she’s getting older. And the movie, just like it’s main character is surprisingly mature without skipping a comedic step.
I don’t think I “got” Room the same way that the critics who gave it a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes did. I found the first part of the film, where Brie Larson’s Joy and her son Jack are trapped in the titular Room by Joy’s kidnapper and rapist, and Jack’s father incredibly hard to watch for all the right reasons. The multi-layered drama between the kidnapped mother who’s only reason for living is the son of her rapist all works on an incredibly deep level; even as the entire story unfolds from the perspective of Jack who knows nothing outside of the small shed he was born and raised in. The dramatic tension of watching this small family survive, and if they’ll eventually escape is palpable, and makes for some of the most emotionally engaging film of the year.
But, spoiler alert, then around halfway through the movie they do escape, and all the emotional engagement leaves the room with them. I was still intellectually curious as to where their survivor’s story would take them, how they would navigate acclimating to a brand new world and all the media and other attention that comes with it; but the threat was gone. With over half an hour left in the movie, everyone already felt safe, like we were watching an extended epilogue. Instead of out of the frying pan and into the fire, the movie goes from frying-pan to a slightly too-hot bath, and lost me, emotionally, in the process.
With Jupiter Ascending, the Wachowski’s have finally created a boldly beautiful, expansive, and silly as-all-get-out Sci Fi flick in the vein of films like The Fifth Element. This is a movie featuring a Space Werewolf trying to help a Space Princess save Earth from little-gray men working for a Galactic Empire. It’s unabashedly cartoony and silly and balls-to-the-wall fun. It’s a dumb movie for sure, but it’s earnest and honest and not afraid of what it is. And, like the very misunderstood Wachowski Speed Racer, once you tune your mind to the right frequency, Jupiter Ascending will reveal itself as the creative roller-coaster it really is.
I don’t think anyone expected this movie to be as good as it turned out. Following Edgar Wright dropping the project, that awful first trailer, and that this film was almost hopelessly overshadowed by Age of Ultron; I know that I went into this one with reduced expectations, but it turns out I didn’t need to.
Ant-man doesn’t have the coolest powers, or the most interesting backstory, or the best villain, or the most iconic, well anything really; but what it does have, and what brings it to the upper tier of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is a whole lotta heart. Whether it’s Paul Rudd’s unfair amounts of charm as Scott Lang, his relationship with his daughter, the camaraderie between pretty much all of the characters, Michael Pena’s flawless comedic delivery of almost all of his lines, or how earnest it is in embracing the absurdity of its premise; Ant-man proves itself as the little film that could. It’s a Superhero movie where saving the world takes 2nd priority to maintaining father-daughter relationships and that trades the Avengers for a group of down-on-their-luck burglars.
Oh, Ant-Man brings the spectacle and cool powers you’ve come to expect from Marvel, but it also brings more heart and humor than anyone could have anticipated.
The Revenant is a simple story told through huge shots of great white, empty wilderness.
Very loosely based on the true story of early 19th-century frontier trapper Hugh Glass, the film follows Leo’s Glass on his single-minded mission to find the man who killed his son and left him for dead, in the frozen American midwest.
At it’s core though, it’s a survival tale, as Glass, battered and broken from a bear mauling, makes his way to the edges of civilization in the dead of winter, through frozen winters and snowstorms, and with the ever present threat of Native American tribes wanting revenge for, you know, the general rape and genocide of their people.
It’s immaculately filmed, and pretty much every single shot could easily be hung on a wall as a singular piece of landscape photography; and with very little dialogue, the whole thing works on a visual level, although in that case, if you didn’t know it were a film, you could easily mistake it for a particularly beautiful screensaver slideshow.
Leo comes across as thoroughly implacable on his single-minded quest for vengeance; but the man who he’s hunting, played by Tom Hardy, tends to steal every scene he’s simply by playing a great selfish-bastard.
What We Do In The Shadows
A horror-comedy light on horror and heavy on comedy, What We Do In The Shadows is probably the year’s funniest movie. A work of pure genius from the same people behind Flight of the Conchords; which, if you haven’t seen, is another work of pure genius; it starts with a great concept, a documentary of vampires living as roommates in contemporary New Zealand, and squeezes every bit of humor it possibly can from turning these lords of shadow into old, out of touch losers way past their prime without sacrificing any of the seriousness that comes from classic vampire lore.
There is nothing not funny about watching these multi-hundred year old vampire cliche’s try to make it in the 21st century, like learning how to scratch disks on a gramophone, or try and get into clubs; while also watching them teach a fresh vampire how to control his new powers. Hell, just the first act dealing with all the different vampire types from Nosferatu, Vlad the Impaler Dracula, and VIctorian Romantic Dracula delegating house work had me in stitches. And if that doesn’t get you laughing, the uncannily corny special effects, including wire-work looking flight and conspicuous poofs that signal a transformation into puppety-looking bats surely will. Either that or all the huge furry jackets.
In a single word, Crimson Peak is beautiful. It’s also the sort of movie that we really don’t see anymore, and was a pleasant surprise to see in theaters. A Gothic Victorian ghost story, Crimson Peak is infinitely more Hawthorne than horror. While the ghosts were beautifully and grotesquely realized, they were never supposed to be the cause of unease and fear that permeated the house. It’s a movie that begs to be stared at, from it’s intricately detailed costumes, the oversaturated reds of the clay, or the breathing, bleeding setting and set-piece that is Allerdale Hall. Far from the most complex or deep film, Crimson Peak is about performance over plot, and Hiddleston’s elusive and wounded aristocrat, Jessica Chastain’s dark and icy turn as his sister, or Mia Wasikowska’s virginal romance author; all play perfectly into Del Toro’s exercise of genre.
Perfectly Victorian, the depictions of violence in this movie is matched by its depictions of sex, which, considering the locations and costumes, push against the border of cartoonish without ever actually crossing that line. Crimson Peak is clearly only a movie someone as obsessed with genre and aesthetic as Del Toro is could have made without feeling like a mockery or parody; and he does so with masterful finesse and artistry.
Of all the films I saw this year, this one made me the most uneasy and paranoid while watching. The Gift is a movie where all of the characters have secrets, nobody is quite who they appear to be, the stakes are personal and intimate; and there is no way you can possibly predict the ending before it happens. This is a film that’s hard to talk about without underselling or spoiling completely, but if I had to attempt to compare it to something similar, it would have to be Rosemary’s Baby meets Gone Girl.
This is a movie that starts with a couple moving into a house, and a visit from an old friend, and escalates to insanity and dives into darkest conclusion of film this year. Joel Edgerton made the creepiest and most tense film this entire year, and the best completely human horror film I’ve seen in a long long time.
Ex Machina is second maybe only to Primer in terms of small-scale sci-fi. The year’s most cerebral film, Ex Machina is as much about how men treat woman as it is a look into the future of human/robot relationships. The story of the world’s most intimate turing test is all at once interesting, engaging, well considered, smartly written; and captured with an invasive paranoia. It’s a film that turns the viewer into voyer, and audience to participant in an experiment where you’re never sure who’s in control and who to trust.
But the film’s biggest stand out is Oscar Issac, whose reclusive billionaire can never be quited pinned down through the entire running time. Enviable, pitiable, bitter, inspired, affable, and villainous, and sometimes turning on a dime; Star Wars might be the film that finally turns this guy into a star, but Ex Machina proves he can act.
If It Follows were released in 1982, there would be no argument to it’s status as a horror classic. Like last year’s The Babadook, It Follows reminds viewers that the most chilling, piercing horror monsters are the ones that actually exist. And whether you think that the curse in the movie is an analogue for sexually transmitted disease, promiscuity, parental neglect, commitment, or what-have-you; it knows how to transform into something only you can recognize and chase you to the end of your limits.
Through it’s entire run-time, It Follows will have you, eyes-peeled, scanning the background for anything out of place, anyone that looks like they don’t belong. That is an incredibly powerful response, and one that only the pinnacle of horror can achieve in an audience.
In a film landscape where studios will neuter and edit their films in order to get under a PG-13 rating; Sicario wears it’s R-Rating proudly. This is undeniably a film for adults. One lacking colorful do-gooders or merchandise tie-in opportunities. This is a film that opens with a house full of the corpses of drug cartel victims, and manages to only get darker from there.
Featuring some of the year’s best performances from Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, and Josh Brolin; Sicario pulls no punches when it comes to the extremes of man’s inhumanity to man. Sicario finds no heroes in the ranks of the Police, FBI, or Cartel members; just two sides of a border that both parties are more than eager to cross in order to get what they want. A film whose first act will leave you speechless, and whose will leave you unsure of the existence of good in bad in a world as in the middle as ours, Sicario is a film that every adult should see.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
With Kingsman, Michael Vaughn delivers the best Golden-Age Bond film this side of Sean Connery, and once again proves that he understands what makes Mark Millar’s work fun better than Millar himself.
Kingsman has the suits, guns, gadgets, and globetrotting one should expect from a spy film; and doesn’t forget solid characters in Samuel L. Jackson’s magnanimous megalomaniac, Colin Firth’s gentleman agent, or Taron Egerton’s lead spy student. Incidentally, color me shocked if Egerton isn’t drafted by Marvel for something by 2017.
And, through it all, Kingsman remembers to keep it’s tongue firmly in cheek, creating a satire that, from talking with other people who saw it, might have been a little too subtle despite the literal fireworks. Moreso than even Casino Royale, I think, Kingsman manages to drag the Cold War spy film into the modern age. Fitting in one of the most memorable fight scenes this year is just the cherry on top.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I don’t think I’ve smiled more this year in a theater than while watching the Star Wars. I have this, admittedly myopic, theory that every man who became a father in America during the 90’s had the same VHS box-set of the original trilogy and were tasked with showing it to their offspring; which I know my dad did with me; so Star Wars almost automatically hits me right in the nostalgia. It’s not the best made film of the year, and I’ll admit that many of the films that have come before are quote-unquote-better in terms of technical merit, storytelling, character, etc. etc.; but seeing lightsabers, the Millennium Falcon, and everything else Star Wars back on the big screen, and having them be good, made me happier than those films, which is why it’s so high up on this list.
The Force Awakens is essentially a beat-for-beat remake of the original Star Wars with some Empire thrown in for good measure, from the resistance droid with important information, the chosen one on the desert planet, meeting Han Solo, the cantina, and disabling the shield generator to destroy the planet-sized super weapon. But what really makes this film shine besides the type of polish that Disney wouldn’t let this film release without, are some of the most likable characters this side of the kessel run. From Poe’s steadfast pulpiness, Finn’s posturing, Kylo’s try-harding, or Rey…who is pretty much perfect in every way; these characters successfully carry the torch from Luke, Leia, Han, and Vader. It’s the blueprint for a new saga that this world deserves, and a time-tested story that can only get better.
The term I’ve heard most often to describe The Martian is that it’s a “competence porn,” a film where the main enjoyment doesn’t come from conflict, or drama, or comedy; but simply from the characters being hella good at their jobs. It’s hard to argue with that, so instead I’ll support it by going even further: The Martian isn’t just about celebrating what Matt Damon’s stranded Botanist, Mark Watney, can accomplish alone on a dead planet; it’s about what all of us can accomplish by working together, trusting the science, and standing on the shoulders of giants. Because the film isn’t just about Watney; it’s about the crew that accidently left without him, the team back at NASA trying to bring him back, the engineers theorizing rocket-ship hail-marys, the Chinese space program deciding to throw their weight behind the project; and everyone else on the planet rooting for this one man’s homecoming.
And, honestly, it’s wonderful to see one of my favorite Directors of all time, Ridley Scott; a man most famous for exploring the darker sides of science with films like Alien and Blade Runner, create his first great film in a long while; and one of the most inspiring science stories of all time at that.
The original Rocky is a film whose reputation was ruined by its sequels. The original is a deeply emotional and existential film that doesn’t care about whether Rocky wins his fight against champion Apollo Creed as much as it asks why he deserves to be in that ring in the first place. It’s about a bum who puts in the effort to deserve his shot at happiness.
Creed reinvents and reinvigorates this franchise for the modern day by asking the same question from an entirely different perspective: Does Apollo’s son deserve to be in the ring despite not sharing the struggle that define other boxers? Like Rocky, Creed isn’t concerned with who wins the fight; instead focusing on who should be in that ring in the first place. And through the film, Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis more than overwhelmingly proves he’s every bit the fighter his father and Rocky were, and he deserves this shot. The same can easily be said of Director Ryan Coogler who proved that he’s the only one that could’ve filled Sly’s boots despite his indie darling background. From some of the best boxing scenes ever filmed on cinema that ducks and weaves around every punch to make you you feel each impact as the fighters do, to every character and every relationship being an uphill fight to belong, the crux of this film is intimacy. You get to know what makes every character tick, what they want, where they’ve come from, how far they’ll go to get it, and where they plan to throw their next punch. Both Jordan and Stallone deliver performances as worthy as Oscars as the directing is. A film as much about belonging as anything else, Creed belongs right next to Rocky in that ring and easily claims the championship.
The Hateful Eight
Tarantino’s latest also ranks among his best. As big and wide as it’s much touted 70mm panoramic film format might suggest; Hateful Eight presents a sweeping criticism and showcase of American Violence, from war and state sanctioned violence, personal revenge, and mostly that of racial oppression. As the title promises, we’re stuck with eight incredibly violent, hate-filled characters, ranging from a confederate general, to a murderer, a confederate rebel, a hangman, a bounty hunter, and a former-union cavalryman turned bounty-hunter; in a log cabin for a couple days while a blizzard rages outside, and find out how their incredible tensions resolve. Spoilers, it’s not pretty, well conventionally.
The film itself is beautiful, especially in the Roadshow presentation, which I heavily recommend. There is a special warmth and closeness granted from film projection that really makes this film feel like a play rather than a movie. A lot of that also has to do with the film largely taking place in close quarters- switching from the inside of a carriage to a single-room inn near the beginning; and the camera that puts the actors close and well within sight at all times. The film presents itself as an epic western and delivers in spades; and besides Spaghetti Westerns Tarantino also couldn’t help but throw in some audio and visual references to The Thing; the other movie where Kurt Russell is trapped in a snowstorm with people he can’t entirely trust.
The entire cast deserves praise as well for giving all their characters a darkness and a depth, and a bigness that sells their over-the-top violence and monologuing without crossing the line into ham. The two standouts are Samuel L. Jackson, who plays the most likable character despite telling arguably the most obscene anecdote of the film; and Jennifer Jason Lee’s whose prisoner only gets more menacing and uncanny as she’s beaten.
And my favorite movie of 2015 is…
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road might very well be my favorite movie of all time, much less 2015. I’ve seen this movie thrice in theaters, once normally at home, and even once without dialogue and in black-and-white; and there is nothing in this film that isn’t completely perfect. It’s flawless. From the incredibly interesting and deceptively rich world of the wasteland; the entire cast of unforgettable characters from Immortan Joe, Furiosa, and the Doof Warrior; the soundtrack that does as much to inform the plot, character, and emotional beats as the visuals; or the immaculate action directing that should make any film that doesn’t take full advantage of its action beats as a storytelling device ashamed of itself; there is simply nothing wrong, nothing that should be changed about Fury Road.
Is it the smartest movie on this list? No. Does it have the most complex plot? Nope. Does it present the deepest characters? Nuh-uh. Most universally relatable? Not in the slightest. But not a single second of this film is wasted. There is not a single shot that isn’t used to meaningfully develop the world, the characters, or further the plot. It’s a film that speaks in actions and visuals infinitely more than it does with words. Mad Max: Fury Road is the ideal of film as a medium, of how to tell a story using almost purely visual language.
Of course it won’t be everybody’s favorite film, nor should it be. But I don’t think anyone can dispute that any other film can accomplish what Fury Road has any more perfectly than Fury Road has.
And we have finally reached the end of this list, this ranking of all the films I saw this year. Agree with the rankings? Disagree? Any gems this year I missed that I should catch-up on? Please tell me in the comments. Or make your own video and link me to it here, or on twitter @totesmccoats.
This list took a ton of work to make, but it was also tons of fun to do, and I hope that you enjoyed watching it as much as I did making it. In fact, I think I might make this a thing and start reviewing the films I watch on this channel alongside the comics I pick up every week and the video-games I complete. So, if you think my film critique has some merit, and you’d like to hear more of it; please subscribe.
Have an amazing New Year; and I hope you’ll join me for what’s looking to be a 2016 filled to the brim with great film. Thanks for watching.