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Top 10 Movies of 2015 (JimmyO)

12.29.2015by: JimmyO

This past summer, it seemed as if this would be a slightly forgettable year in film. JURASSIC WORLD and AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON didn't blow me away, and let's not even talk about FANTASTIC FOUR. Yet as the year progressed, things certainly changed for the better. As it turns out, 2015 presented a number of great films. A few earned major success, while others struggled to find an audience. Not surprisingly, the past few months brought about the best in Hollywood.

With stories of corruption in the Catholic Church, to a strangely beautiful Charlie Kaufman animated feature, the love of cinema returned in a big way. We even had a couple of intensely violent westerns. One featured eight despicable characters, and the other, a frighteningly real bear attack. In the end, it was hard to narrow down a list of just 10 fantastic films.

So let’s take a look at some of the my favorite movies of 2015.

Take a look at Chris Bumbray's Top 10 of 2015 HERE.

And, check out Eric Walkuski's Top 10 of 2015 HERE!

Runners-Up

CAROL: This quiet little film directed by Todd Haynes is a gem of a love story. Both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara give two nuanced performances. And credit should be given to the immensely talented Kyle Chandler as a very jealous husband. This is a subtle, yet startlingly intense romance that is likely to garner a number of Academy Award nominations.

PREDESTINATION: While this solid little thriller came out early in January here in the US, it is one to look for if you haven’t seen it yet. Starring Ethan Hawke and the fantastic Sarah Snook, this is an unusual sci-fi mystery directed by The Spierig Brothers.

99 HOMES/THE BIG SHORT: While both of these films are very different, each one effectively conveys the dark times that fell upon us during and after the housing bubble collapse. Both are exceptional films with fantastic performances, especially Christain Bale in THE BIG SHORT, and of course Michael Shannon in 99 HOMES.

AN HONEST LIAR: This is one of those movies that was recommended by a good friend and I’m so glad he did. This documentary about James Randi - a renowned stage magician turned scientific skeptic on proclaimed psychics and faith healers - is much like a magic trick. You think you see where it is all going, and then the lie is something unexpected and truly remarkable. I highly recommend you look for this terrific film which is currently available for streaming on Netflix.

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS: I may have not fallen in love with the latest STAR WARS flick wholeheartedly as nearly everybody else in the world, but I couldn’t help but be more than a little fond of it. This mix of nostalgia and modern popcorn fun leading to a new adventure may feel slightly too familiar, yet J.J. Abrams, for the most part, brings the franchise back to life. Let’s hope that the next film can come even a little close to my favorite in the series, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. May the force be with Rian Johnson!

10. What We Do in the Shadows

It seems that ever since TWILIGHT exploded into the hearts of teenage girls, the whole vampire thing has become a bit of a joke. Thankfully, this hilarious mockumentary about vampires rooming together touches on all the vamp tropes in extremely engaging way. Jermaine Clement, Taika Waititi and the rest of this delightful cast pay homage to nearly every single vampire tale out there, and it is a blast to watch. If you didn’t think the undead, garlic and a cross couldn’t entertain after the barrage of vampire flicks, think again. This is one vamp flick that is worth seeking out and taking a bite out of.

9. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Out of the myriad of teen angsty flicks to come out over the past few years, one of the most inspired is this years ME AND AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL. As funny as it is heartbreaking, the fantastic direction from Alfonso Gomez-Rejon brings this story to life. With a clever script from Jesse Andrews - who also wrote the novel on which it is based - you can’t help but get wrapped up in, not only the friendship of the three leads, but the absolute love of cinema on display. It also helps that the three leads, Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler and Olivia Cooke, each give terrific performances and make these characters all the more charming.

8. The Hateful Eight

In what may be Quentin Tarantino’s most divisive feature ever, THE HATEFUL EIGHT is exactly what it sounds like. The characters are certainly despicable, yet even at it’s near three hour running time, it is one violently enthralling ride. As twisted as this script can be, it is the inspired casting that helps make it work as well as it does. Most notably you have Samuel L. Jackson doing his thing, Walton Goggins is absolutely perfect, and Jennifer Jason Leigh - who happens to show up in two of my picks this year - is perfection. THE HATEFUL EIGHT is a wild west flick that dares you hate the deviants on-screen, and it does so with a sense of brutal glee. And of course, this one is going to offend a ton, which is most likely part of the intent.

7. Inside Out

If anybody is going to understand the joys and pains of growing up, it would be Pixar. INSIDE OUT is one of their most accomplished works, and a welcome return after a few less-than-stellar films. It doesn’t hurt that the voice talents of Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling and Phylis Smith, give life to this magnificently animated film. This tale of a young girl facing major changes has as much heartache as it does humor. It is a bright and colorful world perfectly constructed by Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen. It also fully explores the challenges of the teenage years with wit and charm. This is the kind of film that celebrates youth in an honest and touching way.

6. Creed

Growing up on the ROCKY films, I was absolutely floored by how damn good CREED was. While it certainly offered up a ton of nostalgia, it was more than that. There is no denying the fantastic pairing of Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone. More than any of the sequels, this feature directed by Ryan Coogler (who also co-wrote the script with Aaron Covington) captures the underdog spirit of what made the original film so great. Not only did this manage to bring back the essence of ROCKY, it also paved the way for a brand new boxing icon. I’d love to see Mr. Jordan carry on the legacy of “Apollo Creed” in future installments.

5. Room

ROOM is something of a miracle. What could have simply been a trashy thriller, is a magical work, one that is as hopeful as it is heartbreaking. Much of the credit should be given to the powerful lead performances from Brie Larson and her young co-star, Jacob Tremblay. This haunting drama manages to create a larger than life world, with half of the film taking place in a small shed. As terrifying and intense as it gets, the fact that they never go for cheap thrills help make this one of the most engaging filmgoing experiences of the year.

4. The Revenant

Alejandro González Ińárritu has done it again. His latest, THE REVENANT, is a stunning achievement. More of a visceral experience as opposed to simply watching a movie. Every single shot is absolutely gorgeous. Along with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, Ińárritu has crafted one of the most profoundly beautiful pictures I’ve seen in quite awhile. Shot consecutively with only natural lighting, this was a miracle unto itself. And seemingly an incredibly difficult film to make on every level. All of this is helped further by a cast willing to go the extra mile for the filmmaker. Both Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy give incredible performances - this is very likely the year DiCaprio will get his Oscar - as does the rest of the cast. If you can, be sure to see this on the biggest screen possible, because this is about as immersive of a movie as you are likely to witness.

3. Spotlight

It would have been easy for SPOTLIGHT to take a more sordid approach to its controversial subject matter. Thankfully, instead of that we have a very smart and satisfying investigation which at the time, helped bring a necessary light on the Catholic church and it’s treatment of pedophile priests. The script is smart and the performances are fantastic, especially Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton. This is a thought provoking, and exceptional examination, that manages to piece together a sinister piece of history. Don’t be surprised if this film takes Best Picture gold at the upcoming Academy Awards.

2. Anomalisa

Who could have imagined one of the most human stories of the year, a man meets a stranger who changes his life, would be animated? And this marvelous feature just happens to be stop-motion animation with puppets no less. With excellent voice work from David Thewlis, Tom Noonan and especially Jennifer Jason Leigh, there is an honesty to this story that is absent from most live-action character driven features. ANOMALISA is wonderfully realized by co-directors Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson, with a terrific screenplay by Kaufman based on a play - one performed as a live reading with the Theatre of the New Ear, a series put on by composer Carter Burwell. Seek this fantastic movie out. It is the one film that will give INSIDE OUT a run for the money at the Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature.

1. Mad Max Fury Road

After all these years it was hard to imagine George Miller returning to this apocalyptic wasteland in such a glorious way. This latest installment in the MAD MAX series is a ferociously entertaining ride. It is brilliantly executed with thrilling non-CGI (mostly) action, rich characters and one hell of a great score from Junkie XL (as Tom Holkenborg). Tom Hardy is terrific, yet it is Charlize Theron who is simply stunning as Furiosa, a modern day action icon. This was a one of a kind movie going experience that translated into many repeated movie going experiences for me personally. There have only been a handful of flicks that have kept me coming back as much as FURY ROAD. It is a bold and stunning vision, one that will not be forgotten.

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