Looking Back, the 2015 Edition
Since my first review went up on January 24 of The Interview, I've posted 25 pieces here. In that time I've watched a Mad Max, a Jurassic Park, a James Bond, a Rocky, and a Star Wars. A Furious Seven and an Avengers. I've sat through some of the worst and some of the best, some of the most formulaic and the some of the most original. I've reacted with everything from awe and amazement, crying and laughing, and m'eh. I've been transported and I've checked my watch. I've been the middle-aged bald guy sitting in a theatre full of women and in a theatre full of kids. And now, gentle reader, sit back and we will look back over 2015 together.
But First, the M'eh
In my oh, so, humble opinion, the biggest m'eh of the year had to be The Gunman, in which Sean Penn bulked up and starred in an Old Man Action Film of his own. Brought to you by the gang that brought the world Taken, The Gunman wasn't really bad, but it wasn't really any good either. It just kind of sat there and now, months later, I'm having a hard time remembering what it was even about. Sean Penn was doing his Sean Penn thing - chain smoking white saviour of the third world, I remember that. And he was ridiculously ripped. And there was a surfing scene crammed into a film that had way too many things crammed into it. Not particularly awful and not really good, just, you know, m'eh.
Holy Crap That Looked Great, But…
There really is only one contender for this spot, In the Heart of the Sea. It looks amazing and needs, begs, demands to be seen on a big screen. But… The film is seriously flawed, the time adrift at sea just kinda comes across as kind of uncomfortable, and Chris Hemsworth's accent slips and slides all over the place. But, stolen nativity scene baby Jesus, does it look amazing. Nearly every single frame is breathtaking. It's a gallery of J.M.W. Turner paintings come to life. I have no way of really conveying how truly amazing this film looks. But, take away the visuals and you're left with a mediocre experience. I can't stress this enough though - it really is a beautiful looking film. It really is. But…
Hey, What's on Netflix?
I was talking to a friend of mine about this whole year end wrap-up and he said something great. He said, "look, you've been watching all the Marvel movies. And they've been fun. And maybe you've been watching Agents of SHIELD. But, you're an adult and, maybe, just maybe, you're looking for something for you, something not for the kids, something that doesn't come with a Happy Meal tie-in. Maybe you're looking for something darker, something, well, more adult." He was talking about a couple of Netflix original series', Daredevil and Jessica Jones. They really are great television. But they are, both of them, for adults only. It's not that there is any real nudity, this is Netflix. And the swearing is more Breaking Bad than Sopranos. But the stories and the themes and the violence, those are definitely for the more mature audience. And they are so, so, so good. Like, among the best television good.
But what if you don't care about The Avengers and Thor and the rest of them? What if you just can't get excited for people in costume pummelling on each other and destroying cities? Well, Daredevil and Jessica Jones just might be for you, as well.
The Best But Never Got Reviewed
The best film I saw this year that I never got to review has to be Ex Machina. The least you know about this one going in, the better. There are no explosions, no CGI heroes saving the day. It's quiet and thought provoking and sticks with you long after you've finished. And hot damn, what a piece of filmmaking. And for the Force Awakens, it's your chance to see Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson in a completely different science fiction setting. And that's pretty well all I can say about Ex Machina.
Runners up: It Follows - a different kind of horror film. Suspenseful, tense, some say awesome, some say m'eh. Me, it has stuck with me for months now. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation - the second best Bond film of the year. If you're a fan of the franchise, your toes will curl. More than once. And, damn it, Tom Cruise hangs off of the side of an airplane. As it's flying. Really.
The Ones That Surprised Me
I'm going to be up front and honest here - I went into Furious Seven expecting to hate it. Nothing prepared me for the amount of pure fun I had watching it. Over the top, yep. Ridiculous, yep. Physics don't work that way, yep. But, Mohammed in a disco, was it fun. And that ending… Oh, my.
And, of course, The Force Awakens. In six films there had been exactly two and a half good films. Not exactly something I was counting on enjoying as much as I did. So much fun, so, so, so much fun. And Daisy Ridley is going to be a huge star. Take my word.
And this is where I get to be all mean to bad films that, quite frankly, deserve it. And, surprisingly, the worst of the year is not Fifty Shades of Oh, Dear, God Not This Again. When I saw Fifty Shades in February I honestly and truthfully thought I had seen the worst film of the year. I thought, "well, it's all uphill from here". I thought, "there it is, no-one would allow anything worse to be released". I was so innocent back then.
And then Aloha happened. And I thought, "well, I was wrong about Fifty Shades being the worst film of the year. There is no way anything this side of ripping out my own fingernails could be worse." And then I saw Fantastic Four. A film so very, very, very bad Ed Wood would have been ashamed of it. A film so very, very, very bad it will go down as the Star Wars Christmas Special of comic book movies. There is nothing, nada, none, zero, zilch good about Fantastic Four and anyone who says different is a dirty liar.
And Now, The Best
This is hard. 2015 was a pretty spectacular year for film. Sure, there were some films so bad they could be considered a crime against humanity. But there was also some pretty amazing stuff released this year. Like Inside Out, a completely original idea from Pixar that still makes me cheer and still makes me choke up. Or Bridge of Spies. Spielberg and Hanks and a lost moment in history and a brilliant film made for adults with one of the truly great performances of the year in Mark Rylance. Or Creed, I can't forget to mention Creed. Damn, I love that movie. And The Martian. That film is such an amazing achievement, exciting and funny and thrilling and moving and suspenseful. The Martian is one of those movies that is the reason I love going to see movies.
But there is only one that is all shiny and chrome. Mad Max: Fury Road is, in my oh, so humble opinion, The Best. A two hour chase film, it's director George Miller's imagination gone wild. Almost 20 years in development. And somehow George Miller convinced the Hollywood suits to give him $150 million dollars for a franchise whose best day was almost 35 years in the past. And what did we get? Something subversive, something exciting and moving and thrilling and every other superlative. A big budget art film, with minimal dialogue and a minimalist plot. Fury Road is the best of the best, the toppermost of the uppermost. A film so good I still want to make it a mixed tape and let it wear my jacket on cold days. A film that begs for endless re-watchings, for years and decades to come. Fury Road is the best, the one we never would have dared ask for.