Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Best and Worst Films of 2015 so far

2015 is halfway done, and before we start to look forward to the rest of the year (my most anticipated post is coming soon), let's take a brief look back at what has been an absolutely awesome year for movies so far. Unfortunately, they haven't all been great and some turkeys have popped up here and there. Here are my picks for the five worst movies of the year so far.

THE WORST

5. POLTERGEIST

Not so much an aggressively bad film as an aggressively dull and uninteresting one. Poltergeist is completely devoid of any and all scares, has some pretty awful CGI and is filled with a bunch of ignorant characters who I simply didn't care about at all. Some parts are inspired, but this is mostly bland horror remake territory.

4. SLOW WEST

This revisionist western has its fans, but I simply despised its mix of Wes Anderson design flourishes and nihilistic garbage. At 84 minutes, the film is disappointingly short and the ending just frustrated me to no end. With Michael Fassbender and Ben Mendelsohn leading the cast, I expected to like this movie more, but it just didn't happen.

3. THE DIVERGENT SERIES: INSURGENT

The worst thing about Insurgent is that it's forgettable. In fact, it is so terribly bland and unmemorable that I can't even remember anything to say about it. I don't remember the negatives nor do I remember the positives. It faded from my memory pretty much as soon as I saw it.

2. HOME

Now, this is a bad movie. Home stars Jim Parsons and it pretty much sealed its fate right then and there. Not that I don't like The Big Bang Theory's Emmy nominated star. Far from it- I'm actually a pretty big fan of that show. But there's something about that show that knows how to use Parsons' talent and Home definitely did not know how to do that. It just threw a bunch of cutesy animated cliches on screen and hoped that something good would come out. Ultimately, it just ended up being an incredibly annoying mess of a film.

1. TAKEN 3

Taken 3 is the only movie that I've ever given an "F" to on this site. That has to say something. And it does, because Taken 3 is truly one of the worst action films that I've ever seen. So little effort is put forth in an attempt to make a cohesive movie, and the filmmaking is so bad. Liam Neeson is giving it his all, but this miserable fare has run its course (thankfully Run All Night, Neeson's other 2015 actioner, was much better).

Before I reveal my top ten films of 2015 so far, here are a few honorable mentions that barely missed the cut.

EX MACHINA- Good thriller with a slightly too ambiguous ending for my tastes.

IT FOLLOWS- Chilling and fun, but the hype for this film was ridiculous.

FURIOUS 7- Big, bold blockbuster fun with a sorrow touch. Another solid entry into the series.

GOOD KILL- Atmospheric and intriguing thriller that works on many levels.

THEY LOOK LIKE PEOPLE- Great film. This would be on the list, but it currently has no distribution pattern set up. But otherwise, this was definitely one of the best films I've seen this year.


Now, let's take a look at the ten best films of 2015 so far.

10. THE LOOK OF SILENCE

The Look of Silence was a film that I caught at the 2015 River Run International Film Festival, and I'm definitely glad that I did. It's a chilling, harrowing documentary about the Indonesian genocide and another critically acclaimed entry into Joshua Oppenheimer's filmmography. But while The Act of Killing focused on the perpetrators of these heinous crimes, The Look of Silence takes a look at the people who have really been impacted- the families of the victims. While a tad repetitive, The Look of Silence is stark and unflinching. A tough watch, but an essential one.

9. LOVE & MERCY

Music biopics are hit and miss, but Love & Mercy works beautifully. Set during two periods in the life of Beach Boys genius Brian Wilson, Love & Mercy does a great job of tweaking the formula of the traditional rise and fall musician genre to make something uniquely engaging. Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti and Elizabeth Banks are all stunningly good and John Cusack gives a truly Oscar-worthy performance. This film has its flaws, but it has stuck with me in a way that most films this year have not.

8. SPY

One of the funniest comedies of the year so far, and the debut of Paul Feig as a directorial titan, Spy is a James Bond-inspired flick that hits all the right notes. By working firmly within the framework of the classic series while providing a leading lady (Melissa McCarthy) who's game for all of the insanity that the film will throw in her way, Spy just works. The warm-up act is slow, but after that, Spy catches fire and is absurdly funny.

7. GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF

The most consistently fascinating movie of the year, Going Clear gives a unprecedented look into the world of Scientology that shocks, provokes and disturbs in equal measure. Through a series of interviews with former members, along with archive footage from previous Scientology events, director Alex Gibney is able to construct a comprehensive, unique look at the world's most terrifying "religion" and the ego-maniacs that inhabit it.

6. KINGSMAN THE SECRET SERVICE

Kingsman isn't quite as flawless as I originally praised it to be in my "A" review, but it's still a hyper-kinetic blast of fun that works as the brash, profane twist on James Bond. Taron Egerton is a true breakout star, Colin Firth and Mark Strong work well as dashing gentleman spies, and Samuel L. Jackson is a perfect villain in this awesome ride of an action movie, made complete with a terrific climax, one of the best action scenes in recent years and a great sense of tone and style. Good fun all around.

5. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

There was no way that Avengers: Age of Ultron was going to be as good as The Avengers. The original phenomenon was a smashing success in its own right and Age of Ultron had to bring back all of those characters and introduce some new ones. It also had to set up Phase 3, finish off Phase 2 and find a way to create compelling character arcs for everyone involved. Tough task, but Joss Whedon pulled it off well and created another fast and funny movie that put a nerdy smile on my face.

4. JURASSIC WORLD

Forget the critics and the haters- Jurassic World is awesome. Of course, it's not without its flaws, but I can't imagine that anything besides Star Wars will be able to capture the sense of awe and wonder that Jurassic World did. Even when I was annoyed with little logic holes and stupid character decisions, Jurassic World had me sucked in by its scope, pacing and terrific musical score from Michael Giacchino. This movie is a massive hit for a reason- it's a crowd pleasing smash that brings this franchise roaring back to life.

3. ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL

Before Inside Out came to smash my emotions with a sledgehammer, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was the first cinematic gut-punch of the year. An instant teenage classic with heart, soul and style, Me and Earl should be the breakout movie for Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler and Olivia Cooke, all of whom are fantastic in this film. But the real power of this film comes from its quirky but sweet screenplay, and beautiful third act. If you haven't seen this film, please do. It's a masterpiece of simple power.

2. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

What is there to say about Mad Max: Fury Road that hasn't already been said? This is electrifying filmmaking- action cinema at its best. Director George Miller stages Fury Road as a massive roller-coaster ride with dynamic performances, absurdly amazing stunt work and a great eye for world-building and imaginative characters. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron are both fantastic, and so far, this is the action event of the summer, and possibly, the year.

1. INSIDE OUT

After Pixar's brief slump over the last few years, Inside Out sees the animation house return to fine form in a big way. An emotionally devastating, complex and clever animated comedy that is more for adults than it is for kids, Inside Out is both the funniest movie of the year and the most philosophically smart, handling big themes in a smart and approachable way. Director Pete Docter solidifies himself as Pixar's best director in this sophisticated comedy that is one of the best films of the decade so far.

Those are the ten best movies of 2015 so far, and I have to imagine that many of those films will make it onto my list at the end of 2015. We've still got a lot of time left, but instant classics like Inside Out and Mad Max: Fury Road will not be going anywhere. I've been very impressed by what 2015 has had to offer, especially in the last few months, and I'm really hoping that the momentum can keep going strong throughout the rest of the summer and into Oscar season. Come back in a few days for my list of the 15 movies that I'm anticipating the most for the rest of 2015.

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