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Now that we're halfway through 2015, we here at JoBlo.com decided that this would be a good time to look back at all the things that made us collectively geek out over the first sixth months of the year. It's certainly been an eventful first half of 2015, but as far as movies and TV go the motto of the year seems to be “expect the unexpected.” Everyone expected AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON to be a spectacular addition to the canon, but it only turned out to be an okay one. Likewise, no one expected much from JURASSIC WORLD, but now it's gone on to become one of the highest grossing movies of all-time (currently number four domestically and climbing fast). Ditto FURIOUS 7, which wound up launching the enduring franchise to stratospheric box-office.
Arguably, it's the movies that those juggernauts over-shadowed financially that gave us all a real kick-in-the-pants over the last six months, in addition to all the amazing things that happened on TV (streaming and broadcast). Here's our list. Agree of disagree? Strike back below!
The Spierig brothers (DAYBREAKERS, UNDEAD) have a knack for twisting your typical genre conventions. PREDESTINATION is no different in that it uses time travel to offer up a terrific character study in lieu of a contrived plot device. The film isn't without its flaws, but they're easily overshadowed by its ambition. The material is elevated thanks to a couple of very exceptional and grounded performances by Sarah Snook and Ethan Hawke. In a genre where CG mechs and explosions are now the status quo, a film like PREDESTINATION is a welcome addition that's sure to provoke conversation among fans and non-fans alike.- Sean Wist
Like I said after I saw it at Sundance, DOPE is dope! While the distributors maybe did it as disservice by going wide with it with JURASSIC WORLD was stampeding at the box office, DOPE is one of those increasingly rare pieces of summer counter-programming that really works. Boasting a stellar cast of newcomers, a sly soundtrack packed with classic hip-hop and a retro HOUSE PARTY/RISKY BUSINESS vibe mixed in with some real grit, DOPE is one of the summer's most purely enjoyable films. While it's unlikely to garner a huge theatrical audience, DOPE will certainly have a long after-life on Blu-ray/DVD/VOD/streaming and hopefully will launch several big-time careers, especially that of writer/director Rick Famuyiwa, who Marvel would be well-advised to look at for BLACK PANTHER.- Chris Bumbray
What can I say that hasn't been said already about the greatest goddamn thing ever posted on the internet since its inception? What started out as a massive Kickstarter campaign from Swedish writer/director David Sandberg at the tail end of 2013, Kung Fury is a 30-minute short film that is a retro homage to the classic action/sc-fi comedy movies of the 80's and if you were lucky enough to grow up in that era, this movie speaks volumes to you. The story revolves around a Miami PD cop named Kung Fury who with the incredible combined powers of lightning and a cobra bite must travel back in time and stop Adolf Hitler from becoming a kung-fu master himself before he destroys the world.
If you think that plot sounds absolutely idiotic, that's merely the tip of the iceberg in this roller coaster of laughs and nostalgia. The hilarious use of CGI, character and plot cliches, electro-synth pop music and enough classic one-liners to last a lifetime, Kung Fury is without a doubt one of the best films of 2015 and such a welcome breath of fresh air with movies such as MAD MAX: FURY ROAD making its way into the hearts of movie lovers. If you've got 30 minutes to kill, check it out on YouTube and be witness to something so very rare and special.- Nick Bosworth
Documentaries are not for everyone, especially a multi-part series spread over six hours. But, like HBO's other hit mystery series True Detective, The Jinx sucks you in. The macabre and frustrating story of Robert Durst, The Jinx gives you every reason to wonder how no court could convict a man so clearly guilty of not one but multiple murders. But, it is the closing moments of the final episode that delivered a shock through every single person watching the series and represents one of the most stunning and powerful moments in television history.- Alex Maidy
You don't have to be a fan of The Beach Boys to appreciate the fantastic Love & Mercy. The story of Brian Wilson and two very integral periods in his life is heartbreaking and inspired. As great as the music, the script and the direction is, this fascinating music biography is brought to life thanks to the performances of John Cusack and Paul Dano. Both actors play Wilson, and both give two impeccable performances. As well, Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti are impressive as two people who changed the singer/songwriter's life in very different ways. Directed by Bill Pohlad, this is wonderful story that may very well have you listening to some classic tunes well after the movie ends.- JimmyO
Pixar is a source of creativity rivaled by almost no one else in Hollywood. After a few missteps in recent years, Pixar took a brief hiatus from releasing films in 2014. While some were disappointed, they came back with one of their best films ever in INSIDE OUT. A touching, heartfelt story full of unique and original characters, INSIDE OUT feels right at home alongside FINDING NEMO, UP and the TOY STORY films. With a $90 million opening weekend, INSIDE OUT also set the record for an opening weekend by an original film. Whether you are a kid or a kid at heart, INSIDE OUT is one of the best movies you can see this year.- Alex Maidy
Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon and writer Jesse Andrews have created a heartfelt and very funny portrait of friendship and loss. In ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL, the very serious subject of cancer is explored with honesty and heart that rises above your average teen drama. Featuring winning performances from a charming cast including Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler and Olivia Cooke - with scene-stealing adults Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon and Connie Britton - this is more than just a charming teenage fable. This fresh take on love, death and making movies is one the most original and slightly romantic features I've seen in a long time. If you are a fan of THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, this superb comedic drama is a must see.- JimmyO
An admittedly slow start to HBO’s fifth season of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series, Game of Thrones got the wind beneath its dragon wings about halfway through and delivered up the shocks, surprises, and showdowns that we have come to expect from the show. Catching up to the published books, the series made ample use of leaving us teetering on the edge with some cliffhangers that will have us biting our nails till next year. Despite criticisms and even some misguided controversy, the show continues to advance (or kill off) characters, keeping us invested in their journey. This season saw some truly epic moments, most notably the battle with the white walkers that revealed not only their true power, but also hinted at what could be their defeat. We may hate what the show does to our emotions, but hot damn if it doesn’t keep our blood pumping.- Paul Shirey
When it comes to horror, everybody has a different idea of what they find scary or not. Some people think Jason Voorhees weilding a machete is terrifying while some think that's laughable and are instead freaked out by something more life-like such as Jaws. For me personally, the only thing that really frightens me is being unable to defend myself against something I cannot see or some kind of unstoppable force. That's why John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN is probably my favorite horror film of all-time (neck and neck with EVIL DEAD) and IT FOLLOWS is no-doubt dedicated to. It tells the story of a young girl named Jay who realizes that since her recent sexual encounter with her kinda/sorta boyfriend, she's being followed by someone or something no matter where she goes. It changes form and is always walking and she doesn't know what it wants. The only thing she knows for certain is that if it gets her, she will die.
This to me is the perfect recipe for suspense and tension. I'm not going to say that the movie scared me at all as I'm not easily scared but damn did it have me on the tips of my toes every second of the way. As the audience you're constantly looking for "it" in every shot and the cinematographer knows it. While the intelligence of Jay and her friends trying to help does come into question sometimes, the movie is a pulse-pounding thrill-ride with a breathtaking score that amps up the tension, breathtaking cinematography and a well-handled pace. Not to mention a great performance from Maika Monroe who we're going to be seeing a lot more of soon. It Follows will undoubtedly be in my top 10 list of films for 2015.- Nick Bosworth
I can't lie – I'm absolutely devastated that Mad Men has come to an end. To me, it's one of the crowning achievements of this new “golden age” of serialized TV. It made a star out of Jon Hamm, and the enigmatic Don Draper's story came to a delightfully cynical end with his moment of zen leading to one of the most infectious and lucrative ads of all time. All of the theories involving Draper thankfully didn't pan out (no suicide or D.B Cooper shenanigans) and hopefully, by leaving it somewhat open-ended, showrunner Matthew Weiner will one day revisit the gang, as Mad Men will likely be ripe for a follow-up in ten years of so. Until then, I'm really going to miss all my Sterling-Cooper pals, and it's a show I'll no doubt be coming back to over-and-over (which is rare for me as I never re-watch TV shows outside of short-runs like Freaks & Geeks).- Chris Bumbray
Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons violent spy series was a fun, cheeky comic that was brought to life with a blast of energy in director Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation. Featuring an ass-kicking Colin Firth (never thought you’d see that, did you?), a goofy Samuel L. Jackson villain with a lisp, and a strong debut from lead Taron Egerton, KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE is simply a fun-as-hell movie that feels like a rebellious Bond flick. It’s got charm, over-the-top violence (that church scene, baby!), and a blend of raunchy humor that lets it fly off the handle and not take itself too seriously. KINGSMAN was a totally refreshing and unexpectedly awesome entry in the slow season.- Paul Shirey
Boy oh boy was I was not sure about this back when Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan announced that we'd be seeing a spin off of undoubtedly my favorite TV show of all-time. This is the only show that could make me take a vacation detour to Albuquerque last year so I could get a rental car and visit all the famous BB locations. So when they announced that Bob Odenkirk would be reprising the role of Saul Goodman (real name Jimmy McGill before he "went bad"), I was hopeful but not too much. BCS takes place six years before he ever meets the great Walter White to get Badger out of jail and McGill is a simple public defender who is trying to live a straight honest life and hopefully start his own legit law firm. However as you can imagine he has many bumps and turns along the way and while the show takes place in the same universe as Breaking Bad, the writers and directors make sure that it's its own entity and that's why I LOVE it.
Spread across 10 episodes, Better Call Saul stands on its own with some of the best writing and acting in television today. Vince Gilligan promised that BCS would stand apart and man he delivered. Bob Odenkirk gives an award-worthy performance as does his incredible supporting cast such including the great Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut before his days of working under Gustavo Fring in Breaking Bad. Better Call Saul is funny, brilliantly paced, wonderfully acted and I can't wait to see what happens in season two. Here's to Slippin' Jimmy!- Nick Bosworth
While it's $25 million dollar box-office might seem minor compared to the big tent-poles out there, for an indie art-house movie that never played on more than 1300 screens, that number is huge. EX MACHINA is smart, cerebral science-fiction that proved that intelligent genre work is far from dead. Alex Garland – author of The Beach and the writer behind 28 DAYS LATER, SUNSHINE and DREDD – make an amazing directorial debut with a film that's already established itself as an instant genre classic. It also made Alicia Vikander an instant star, with her signing on to numerous big-budget roles in its wake. Visually stunning and beautifully crafted, EX MACHINA is a must-see.- Chris Bumbray
As a longtime Daredevil comic reader and disappointed fan in the Ben Affleck film, the Marvel/Netflix DD series was more than I could’ve hoped for. Borrowing from some of the best material in the comics and layering in its own voice and style, this dark, gritty, violent, and enthralling series represents the core of Matt Murdock/Daredevil and elevates the material in a medium that allows for more character exploration than a 90-minute film and absolutely nails it. Charlie Cox owns the role of DD, while Vincent D’Onofrio breathes a whole new life into the primary villain, Wilson Fisk aka The Kingpin. The supporting cast is every bit as excellent as well. Beautifully written, filled with carefully orchestrated action, and seeped in atmosphere, Daredevil proves that Marvel can bring mature, stylistic, and exhilarating entertainment to their growing cinematic universe.- Paul Shirey
It's a tribute to how amazing MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was that all of us who worked on this list were fighting over who got to write-it-up. I haven't spoken to anyone really who hasn't gone gaga over this movie. While the original trilogy is no doubt a classic, FURY ROAD may be even better. At the very least it's equal to THE ROAD WARRIOR but I'm thinking it might actually be better. Tom Hardy wound up being an ideal Max, but it was Charlize Theron as Furiosa that helped the film imprint itself on the collective pop-culture subconscious. While it was overshadowed at the box office by AVENGERS and even the better-than-expected PITCH PERFECT 2, its still the most liked movie of the year by both critics and fans, with the climbing international box office take make things look good for a sequel (fingers crossed). Even more significantly, it's one of the few genre films that seems to have a real shot at some substantial Oscar nominations, with nods in all the technical categories a given. Hopefully, George Miller and Charlize Theron will also get some Oscar love, as both seem more than worthy.- Chris Bumbray