Although only one made it on to my Top 10 list for this year, 2015 could very well be labelled as the year of the spy movie. Spy, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Mortdecai (much maligned by almost everyone, except me), Spooks: The Greater Good and Bridge Of Spies were just a few of the secret agent movies you could see this year. Oh, and there was a limited release you might have noticed for a film entitled Spectre. There were more, but I won't list them all here. Suffice to say, fans of spy capers should have been kept very happy this year.
But what else was pleasing folks? Well, the box office figures can show you what went down well with most viewers (big hitters included Jurassic World and Furious 7). And all I can tell you is what I ended up enjoying the most. And here they are:
10. Amy - My full review for this one is here.
9. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation - It's slightly overlong, a bit choppily edited in the hand to hand action scenes, and highly derivative of both recent Bond movies and past M:I flicks, but this is the mainstream action film gold standard in 2015 during the major set-pieces. The cast all have a lot of fun, as does Christopher McQuarrie - fitting into the franchise like hand in glove with the great chase sequences, moral ambiguity, and grit scattered throughout the gloss.
8. The Lobster - It certainly won't be for everyone, and one particular scene will upset animal lovers, but no film this year has made me laugh and wince in equal measure more than The Lobster. It's horrifying at times, it's deeply upsetting, and it's also downright hilarious. Colin Farrell gives a wonderful lead performance, but nobody involved (Ashley Jensen, John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, Olivia Colman, etc.) hits a wrong note. Surreal, sometimes sick, and sublime.
7. Inherent Vice - This would have been on a few lists for 2014, but it's worth remembering that this movie was released here in the UK in January 2015. Inherent Vice is yet another masterwork from Paul Thomas Anderson. When I first saw it I gave it 8/10 but it's a film that rewards repeat viewings, thanks to the density of the plotting, the performances, and the general atmosphere throughout that left me feeling in the same headspace as the main character (a brilliant, comedic performance from Joaquin Phoenix).
6. Inside Out - My full review for this one is here.
5. Precinct Seven Five - Can you guess? Yep, my full review is here.
And my interview with Mike O'Dowd is right here. I recommend it, but I am biased.
4. The Pyramid Texts - Although it sits here at number 4, this is probably the film, and indeed the performance, that I most implore people to seek out. I reviewed it here.
3. The Martian - Matt Damon may be the titular character, and he may have most of the screentime (by far), but this is a fantastic sci-fi movie that benefits from a fine ensemble - Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean, and many more - and a fine return to form by one of my favourite directors, Ridley Scott. The soundtrack is also surprisingly upbeat and lively, considering the tension of the scenario unfolding onscreen.
2. Mad Max: Fury Road - A revving and crunching blend of frenetic action, nightmarish imagery, top tier performances from all the main players, and just a perfect cinema experience. George Miller has been given the funding and support to realise an epic vision, allowing for this instalment to be the best Mad Max movie yet. And that's quite a feat.
1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens - J. J. Abrams basically repeats a lot of the tricks that he used in Star Trek Into Darkness, with one major difference. This time he doesn't also try to be clever and tricksy with viewers. And it works beautifully. The new cast/characters are uniformly excellent, the familiar faces pop up to help move things along, the effects are fantastic without feeling overblown, and the pacing is perfect. I came out of the cinema smiling, I was keen to talk about everything I'd just seen, and (perhaps most amazing of all) I was already dying to see the next instalment. CAN NOT WAIT!
There are many, many other films worth mentioning. I'll try to list most of them here: Cop Car, The Diary Of A Teenage Girl, When Animals Dream, Joy, Brooklyn, Black Mass, The Editor, Musaranas AKA Shrew's Nest, Cub AKA Welp, The Road Within, Future Shock: The Story Of 2000 AD, Song Of The Sea, The Falling, Steve Jobs, Straight Outta Compton, Love & Mercy, Legend, Sicario, Mistress America, Creed and more.
EDIT: I have only just realised that this list misses out some MAJOR favourites of mine, titles such as Birdman and Whiplash, for example. Unfortunately, my memory is more fallible than ever, and these titles tend to be released at the turn of the year, with both of those named hitting the US in 2014 and eventually being released here at the start of 2015. Needless to say, both deserve a high placing in the above list.
Disappointments for the year included, but were not limited to, the following (and I won't repeat my opinion on Spectre which I linked to above): Cooties, Goodnight Mommy, The Good Dinosaur, Gravy, Macbeth, Terminator Genisys.
And the worst of the year: Poltergeist, Dracula Reborn, The Gallows, The Incident, Man Up.
Now, having made these lists (and I AM terrible at making lists), it could be noted that not one horror made it into my Top 10, while a number of them were selected as disappointments or outright bad movies. I'm sure that many will rush to cite 2015 as "another bad year for horror" but that's not the case. It may look like it here, but that's only because a) I saw so many great films at EIFF 2015 b) the quality of the blockbusters this year was pretty damn good, overall, and c) I watch a LOT of horror movies, which also means I watch a lot of crap horror movies. It's a sad truth that I have watched the likes of Sharknado 3 and Lavalantula while other, most probably better, horror movies have passed me by. Hey, I can't see everything. It's just unfortunate that I keep trying to, without thinking about perhaps prioritising my choices. At least I still managed to see the likes of Crimson Peak and Deathgasm, two horror movies that show how fantastic the genre can be in two very different ways.
Here's to the year ahead. I hope it's good to you, equally good to me, and full to the brim with even more filmic fun.
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