21 December 2015

The Movies of 2015: Best to Worst

In the spirit of degrading standards - a pattern keenly felt in modern arts journalism - I've decided to present my end of year review as a long-form list. It features all 77 films released in 2015 I've seen to date (between 20-30 fewer than I normally manage), which sadly renders The Ridiculous 6 ineligible. It's hardly thoughtful criticism, but hopefully this hacky approach satiates both your curiosity and my narcissism.

 Obviously, my interests and time have been pretty distant from the blog of late, and to be honest, that's liable to continue for the foreseeable future. I'm having fun doing other stuff and pursuing new goals, but it's still a pleasure to come back and update the ol' lady every once in a while. Your readership is as always appreciated, and it's with utmost sincerity I wish you guys a Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2016.

 I'll try and do better than 7 posts next year. Promise.

2015 - Best to Worst

Steve Jobs

1. Steve Jobs - Impeccably structured, subtly directed, flawlessly performed and with a knack for twisting fabricated beats into moments of disarmingly poignant catharsis. World class drama. 

2. Whiplash 
3. Inside Out 
4. Brooklyn 
5. Mad Max: Fury Road 

6. The Gift - Excellent morality play that transcends its genre roots with a strong, simple message, well executed. Twists just enough to satisfy, without ever coming over as smug or inauthentic. The trio of performances (particularly Bateman) are complex, steering clear of base tropes to deliver something that if not sophisticated, comes loaded with meaning. 

The Lobster
7. The Lobster - The finish could use a little extra urgency, but for the most part The Lobster is a joy. Rife with simply conducted but intellectually pointed notions about the nature of and insistence on companionship in the 21st century, this distinctive drama is by turns funny, insightful and horrifying. There are some top quality turns from the eclectic cast too.

8. Spotlight 

Crimson Peak
9. Crimson Peak - Wedged firmly between the Gothic and something less salubrious, this ghostly yarn is trashy, fabulously ornate fun. Del Toro layers the film in beautifully constructed - and metaphorically ripe - detail, leaving his classy cast to engage with the material as they see fit. A big, theatrical spooker bound to please audiences seeking an upgrade from the usual seasonal (found footage) tripe. 

10. Me & Earl & The Dying Girl 
11. Amy
12. Straight Outta Compton 
13. The Martian 

14. Foxcatcher 
15. Carol 

John Wick One Sheet
16. John Wick - A real grower. A propulsive revenge narrative complete with terrific fight choreography and a leading man doing what he does best. Cinematic influences ranging from Dario Argento to Michael Winner crowd in pleasurably. 

17. Ex Machina 
18. Sicario 
19. The Big Short 

20. Unfriended - Wrote a piece on why I preferred it to It Follows here

21. Glassland 
22. Ant-Man 
23. Song of the Sea 
Jurassic World

24. Jurassic World 
25. Trainwreck  
26. Patrick's Day 
27. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation 
28. Man-Up 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
29. Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Entertaining enough, but awfully, awfully familiar and highly mechanized. Can't imagine a 10 year-old on the planet who won't love it, mind. 

30. Krampus 
31. Bridge of Spies 
32. The Voices 
33. Macbeth 
34. Kingsman: The Secret Service 
35. Avengers: Age of Ultron 
36. Hot Girls Wanted 
37. Selma 
38. 50 Shades of Grey 
39. American Sniper 
40. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 
The Interview One Sheet

41. The Interview - Not even remotely deserving of the controversy it stirred. That it seems to have completely dissipated from the cultural discourse three months after being one of the hot-button topics in current affairs says a lot. It's more uneven than the best of Rogen & Goldberg's work, but a selection of inspired gags give it legs enough for a silly 110 minutes. The titular interview itself is played using some uproarious plant and pay-off material, and the cast - leaving aside a manic Franco - perform it all with refreshingly straight faces. Being a Rogen joint, the film's key dramatic quandaries stem from pedestrian bromances, but there are enough lashings of inspired goofiness to justify a viewing. That it ranks as technically history's most dangerous film (having been, even in hyperbolic terms, labelled an act of war) is ludicrous though. Unless you find dick jokes hazardous. 

42. The Overnight 
43. While We're Young 

44. Knock Knock - Enjoy, guys. 

45. The Visit - Structurally superb, but not very scary. It's a decided improvement over everything Shyamalan has done since The Village, and in fairness, it actually does some interesting things with found footage (legitimizes coverage, cinematic technique and the cut together footage), but not overly unsettling or innovative when it comes to frights. Would be a good, first horror outing for precocious young cinephiles, but otherwise a mild, mild recommend. 

46. Spectre - 00-Daddy Issues 

48.The Gallows 
49.Slow West 
50.The Gambler 
51.Get Hard 
52.Paper Towns 

Magic Mike XXL
53. Magic Mike XXLLikable enough, but in an almost two hour movie, there's like 15 minutes of actual dramatic conflict. Pretty much the antithesis of the original in that regard. Still, I respect its willingness to totally goof out, and venerate at the feet of feminine heterosexuality. That stuff was refreshing, even if it's as jumbled and incongruous as everything else. 

54. Run All Night 
55. It Follows 
56. Pan 
57. Cinderella 
58. Southpaw 

59. The Man from U.N.C.L.E - Like a dweeb who turns up at the party with trendy clothes, his hair stylishly coiffed and impeccably rehearsed conversation points, this film possesses everything needed to be cool, but somehow isn't. Maybe just maybe, our friend (and this film) is trying a little too hard. It's inoffensive and stylish, but the characters never gel, the action and plot are totally unmemorable and the tone's too flat to inspire proper revelry. 

60. Entourage 
61. Big Game

62. Maggie - There are some nice compositions here, but they often give way to a story and tone that's relentlessly one-note. Its gloomy, sepia soaked narrative has a wonderful concept at its core, but for me, the writing and direction aren't strong enough to evoke complete characters, driving conflict or a full world. 

Jupiter Ascending
63. The Intern 
64. Jupiter Ascending 
65. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 
66. Project Almanac 
67. Tomorrowland 

68. Black Mass - Depp's performance is worth the price of admission alone, but this is a biopic uninterested in compelling structure or concentrated characterization. It trundles along, sans momentum, only occasionally choking up a short (often violent) moment of excellence amid its beefy duration.  

69. Inherent Vice 
70. Everest 
71. San Andreas 
72. Fantastic 4 
73. The Gunman 

Terminator Genisys
74. Terminator Genisys - Feels like August 29th 1997 condensed into two horrible hours.

75. Child 44 
76. The Cobbler 
77. Taken .



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