Top 10 Movies of 2015 (Eric W.)
As always, it's tough to chose your "favorite" movies of the year, because the order can change in an instant. A few of these actually were not on my initial Top 10 when I started making it out a couple of weeks ago, but in a handful of cases the movie just wouldn't let me make a list without including it. Cinema can be stubborn that way, you think you've made up your mind on a film a few hours after seeing it, and then it creeps its way into brain again and again until you realize it's deserving of a new evaluation.
All of that is to say, this list could change two weeks down the road. But, as it stands, these are my Top 10 Movies of 2015 (with a few honorable mentions), the movies that just won't leave me be and demand I keep thinking about them over and over. You win, movies!
Check out JimmyO's Top 10 of 2015 HERE!
And, check out Chris Bumbray's Top 10 of 2015 HERE!
There were actually many
options to sort through for the runners up, but I'm forced to chose only five. I won't swear that these are my 11-15, but I do believe they deserve having a light shone on them here.
The Good Dinosaur- Let us not forget: Pixar had TWO visually stunning films on display this year. No, THE GOOD DINOSAUR isn't the studio at their best in the story department - it's very predictable and the main character is kind of lame - but some of my favorite sequences of the year are in this underrated, exciting adventure. See it on the big screen before it leaves theaters, trust me.
Z for Zachariah - I'm quite surprised this tension-filled character study isn't getting more love at the end of the year; perhaps it's just too understated. But I found this story - about three people trying to make due on a post-apocalyptic farm - completely enthralling from start to finish. The performances from Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofer and Chris Pine are all excellent; this trio should have been nominated for the Best Cast SAG award.
What We Do in the Shadows - The year's funniest and sweetest comedy just so happens to have protagonists who drink the blood of the innocent. But when they're this charming, you can't hate them for it. Jemaine Clement and Taika Watiti's mockumentary about a trio of vampires who struggle with their new roommate is never anything but utterly enjoyable; good luck picking out a favorite scene in a movie filled with delicious moments.
Paddington - It came out at the very beginning of the year (some might even count it as a 2014 movie because it was released overseas last December), but PADDINGTON has stuck with me. A winning adaptation of a classic book series, PADDINGTON is perfect for families while never kowtowing to either adults or children at any given moment. You don't often say a movie is "perfect for all ages" and actually mean it, but PADDINGTON is just that. (Except for that brief moment at the end when it's genuinely terrifying for about 5 seconds.)
Straight Outta Compton - Rarely does 2.5 hours go by so fast. This energetic examination of the rise and fall of N.W.A. is long but never boring, mostly thanks to F. Gary Gray's exciting direction and the charismatic performances of its three young stars: Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins and O'Shea Jackson Jr. Doesn't hurt that, if you dig it, the soundtrack constantly propels the movie forward, merging vibrant scene with vibrant scene.
THE HATEFUL EIGHT has surely grown on me. I gave it an enthusiastic 8 at the end of my written review
, but those who read it could tell I had plenty of issues with the film. (Still do. Not backing off on the N-word thing, either.) But as some time has gone by, I find myself recalling scene after scene from the flick; I can't shake it. There's just too much to admire: the many memorable chunks of dialogue; the vivid, lived-in performances; the soundtrack, cinematography and set design. Even if it's not one of Quentin Tarantino's best film, it's still a helluva good time, and - as it is in theaters now - a one-of-a-kind moviegoing experience. Yep, those hateful bastards have wormed their way into my good graces in a big way; I just can't kill them off as easily as QT does.
Sometimes a movie's atmosphere and attitude trumps whatever issues one might have with its concept. That's the case with IT FOLLOWS for me; its story can be over-analyzed and broken apart, but why bother when director David Robert Mitchell has made something so deviously creepy and unexpected? The tale of teenaged Jay (played wonderfully by Maika Monroe) and her friends' confrontation with a supernatural entity that haunts them like a paranormal STD not only takes an unorthodox approach to telling a ghost story, it effortlessly immerses you in its eerie web right off the bat. Say what you want about the "logic" of what happens - as if logic is of the utmost importance in a horror movie - there's no denying IT FOLLOWS has a hypnotic, surreal and even sensual edge to it.
The weirdest movie of the year, for sure, and perhaps the most eye-catching. Leave it to Charlie Kaufman to utilize the painstaking tool of stop-motion animation to tell what is an uncomplicated tale of a weary businessman's dalliance with a homely, but singular, woman he meets at a convention. With help from animator/co-director Duke Johnson, Kaufman gives us another of his bitterly amusing examinations of what it means to be an individual, only this time with puppets. The remarkable thing about ANOMOLISA is that, once you've gotten used to the stylistic choice, you settle into it and simply focus on the intriguing two-hander that develops, as the characters discover who they are and what they truly want. Kudos go out to voice actors David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh and holy shit!
Tom Noonan, who should win some kind of Alternate Best Supporting Actor award for voicing "Everyone Else."
The first time I saw BONE TOMAHAWK was about a week ago. The second time was a day after the first viewing; so completely fond was I of the world created by S. Craig Zahler. I just needed to re-live the experience. This is a completely engaging western led by four characters we care about and want to travel with; by the time the movie reaches its gut-wrenching finale, we're practically feeling their pain. It didn't receive a ton of press upon its initial release, but it's already becoming clear (based on the JoBlo Top 10 lists alone) that BONE TOMAHAWK struck a chord with those who took the time to sit with it. The only complaint I ever hear about it is that we spend too much time with the protagonists in the patiently-paced 2nd act. With characters as rich as these, played by a great group of veteran actors, that's nothing to complain about at all.
After my first viewing, I wasn't even sure if STAR WARS would make my Top 10. After a second, I knew it would be right in the thick of it. Here's a movie that, yes, has none-too-subtly recycled its story from A NEW HOPE, and yet still manages to be thrilling, fun, funny and emotionally involving. It soars off the screen, obliterating your defenses and landing directly in the sweet spot of your heart. That was my experience with it, anyway. And what a great assortment of characters we have here, from the beloved familiars like Han Solo, Chewie and Leia, to winsome newcomers like Finn, Rey, Poe and BB-8. It's just such a damn good time at the movies, all of my initial doubts and second-guesses now seem as insignificant as bantha fodder.
STEVE JOBS is like MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, but instead of apocalyptic action dazzling our senses, it's Aaron Sorkin's words and the actors speaking them wowing us, everything happening at such a rapid fire pace that we can barely keep up. Danny Boyle impressively directs this challenging biopic of a genius who, while maybe always the smartest man in the room, is often the least likable man in the building. Michael Fassbender leads a terrific ensemble with a positively riveting performance, playing Steve Jobs as a man consumed with being on top at any cost, even while we often see the subtle realization behind the bravado that he's callously pushing away everyone who dares care about him. For some reason, STEVE JOBS hasn't been a force so far this award season, but I think time will ultimately tell the real story: that it's as entertaining and fascinating a biopic as we've received in quite a while.
We shouldn't be surprised at what Pixar is capable of at this point, and yet somehow INSIDE OUT still managed to upend expectations at almost every turn. Starting with an ingenious premise, where we're literally inside the head of a small girl attempting to traverse an emotionally difficult time in her life, the film proves to be dazzling in every way, from its instant-classic characters to the marvelous world crafted within the girl's head. Even while it's a splendid adventure and tons of fun, the best thing about INSIDE OUT is that the moments that occur within it will be recognizable to just about every single person who watches it. It's a movie that is quite literally made for everyone. Also, pour one out for Bing Bong, who has the most agonizing exit for any character this year.
Carol is as quietly powerful as any love story I've seen committed to film. As directed by Todd Haynes, it's a compelling slow burn detailing the yearning and passion between two women - one a recently-separated housewife, the other a lonely department store employee - who find themselves falling in love with one another in a time when such a thing was borderline unthinkable. It's a genuine pleasure to watch stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara develop and give life to their characters, as the two performers create a palpable chemistry that is nothing short of lovely to behold. And that ending!
Turns out the year's most suspenseful film wasn't a thriller or horror movie, but an understated, heartfelt drama about the incredible bond between a mother and her child. It's best to go into ROOM not knowing anything about it, but even if you're prepared for its story, you'll still be glued to the screen thanks to director Lenny Abrahamson's clever direction and the performances of Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay as a mother and son who survive a traumatic experience only to be challenged by living a "normal" existence. It's a movie that is scary, funny, sad, uplifting, exciting... the adjectives go on and on. It's a gem.
Was there any doubt? No movie came close to giving me the thrills and chills MAD MAX: FURY ROAD provided. I haven't had a theatrical viewing experience like that in many a moon; I walked out stunned, bleary-eyed and entirely blissful. Director George Miller not only gives us an amazingly intense action movie, he immerses us in a simple yet persuasive narrative that is refreshingly free of exposition or pandering. We know exactly who these characters are as soon as we're introduced to them, we're able to fill in their histories and imagine what they're fighting for (and why). A stupendously exciting film, yes, but also one with a beating heart at its center, revolving around people we care about. Plus, it's just as good on the small screen as it is on the big (believe me, I've seen it both ways multiple times).