Cinema Dispatch: Top 10 Best Movies of 2015

As is tradition with all critics of entertainment, there comes a time when we must take all of our in depth analysis and well thought out arguments, and then condense it all down into a list that leaves no room for ambiguity because everyone loves things crystal clear for everyone to pick apart!  Well okay, it’s actually TWO lists and people tend to prefer the bad one, but we’re gonna save that for next time.  For now, it’s the best movies of 2015!  Before we get started however, just a few caveats.

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I DIDN’T SEE EVERYTHING THIS YEAR

In fact, I barely saw anything for the first half and when I thought of going back and trying to watch some of those that I missed, I learned that both Amazon and Netflix are absolutely DREADFUL when it comes to recent releases.  Neither services has more than maybe three or four movies that came out this year and the most mainstream among those was probably that Sean Penn action movie you’ve already forgotten about.  Needless to say that catching up would have cost a small fortune (on top of what I’m already spending at the theater) so I decided against it.  Also, the theaters I have access to rarely have anything outside of a mainstream release.  Hell, Dope is probably the most indie movie that my nearby theater had all year.  So the fact that I’ve missed almost everything before the summer and that my theaters don’t have as much variety as I’d like means that this is going to be a blockbuster heavy list.  It sucks that I couldn’t see more interesting stuff that’s making waves like The Danish Girl, Spotlight, or even Carol, but that’s how it shook out this year.  Hey, once I become one of those PROFESSIONAL film critics and join one of those associations, I’m sure the studios will be sending movies to ME instead of making me pay to watch them!

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MAKING LISTS IS HARD

Now I did take some time to consider the order for this list and overall I am very happy about it, but when it comes to the top three it’s really REALLY close.  I’m happy with the order I chose for them but think of it as pretty much a three way tie as all of them are fantastic in their own ways.

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We good?  Okay, ON WITH THE ARBITRARY RANKING!!!!

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Honorable Mention: We Are Your Friends

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Full Review

What, are we really doing this shit?  Okay fine!  This was on my top ten until something else I was reminded of bumped it off, but I did want to give this one a bit of attention anyway.  Mostly because this gets to be the movie on my list where I get to look like a pretentious fucker for naming something that we have statistical proof no one else but me saw, and I NEED that for a list that’s basically a list of what everyone else liked!  The damn thing opened at number thirteen and barely made its incredibly small budget back despite having a pretty notable star in it.  All that said, We Are Your Friends was probably the most surprising film of the year for me.  I never heard of it before I went to see it and was surprised that it actually turned out to be a damn good movie.  Is it a bit derivative?  Sure, but as I’ve said before, basic plots can work if the rest of the movie has something to compensate for that.  On top of the damn fine acting from everyone here (particularly Wes Bentley as the burnout mentor), it’s one of the few movies to touch upon the EDM music scene that’s grown in popularity in the last five years or so and the soundtrack is quite fantastic.  I don’t normally listen to the genre and this movie didn’t convert me, but the soundtrack is what really gave this movie its edge and set it apart from anything else that came out this year.  Plus, I get to look all sophisticated for putting a tiny movie on my list (that actually came out in over two thousand theaters), so there is that!

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10. The Martian

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Full Review

Ridley Scott made a movie that’s all about how awesome science is.  Seriously.  None of that whole “WE SHOULDN’T BE TAMPERING WITH FORCES WE DON’T UNDERSTAND” or “LET’S USE THIS FOR NEFARIOUS PURPOSES” or even “ALL THIS TECHNOLOGY WILL NOT MAKE YOU A GOD” crap that populates too much of science fiction, at least when it comes to Hollywood films.  Hell, this movie is even more unconventional considering it doesn’t really have much of a three act structure and is just a series of entertaining vignettes as we get closer and closer to bringing the guy back home.  Overall, this movie works because it has no room for cynicism or histrionics and instead just wants to tell a story about humanity triumphing when working together.  While I though the pacing was a bit wonky at points, it really was the best kind of uplifting film that left you feeling good about your fellow man when walking out.  We need more movies like that.

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9. Dope

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Full Review

At a time where crap like Pixels and Terminator, it makes me so glad that we ended up getting one of the most unexpected comedies in years.  It suffers from an unfocused script that drops some plot threads and completely reconstructions the story in the second half, but there really hasn’t been a comedy like it since maybe the heyday of Dave Chappell.  I love Seth Rogan and the Apatow bunch and I really like Will Ferrell and the Funny or Die crew, but these people (along with Adam Sandler if you HAVE to include him) aren’t really known for bringing new faces and non-white perspectives to the theater.  Certainly Kevin Hart and Ice Cube can’t handle it on their own (and at some point, enough people are gonna ask them to stop trying) so I’m glad that we got this movie with some great new talent like Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, and Kiersey Clemons to try and break things up a bit in the multiplex.  It actually ended up doing fairly well for itself (seventeen million on a seven million budget) and it definitely feels like one of those films that will grow a following over time.  Hopefully these actors don’t have to wait for this to hit cult status before they can start to make a name for themselves and while I in NO way wish they’d make a sequel, I can’t wait to see what happens next for everyone involved here.

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8. The Night Before

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Full Review

I’m usually pretty cynical about most aspects of the Holiday season, but when done right it can be the best time you have all year.  The Night before is what it’s like when the holidays are done right.  A lot of fun, plenty of weirdness, and the occasional stumbling block here and there that doesn’t manage to get you down.  It’s a fun ride with three best friends that manages to get spirit of the season right while still having dick jokes, lots of drug sequences, and Jillian Bell telling someone to “Pop that pussy”.  Man, I just can’t say enough about how wonderful she is in this movie!  She’s pretty much the opposite of every shrill and nagging housewife that are only put into comedies for a cheap joke (*cough* The Hangover *cough*) and is just a delight to watch whenever she’s on screen.  When crap like Love the Coopers tries to fake its sincerity to pull at the audience’s heartstrings, it’s refreshing when something like this can truly understand what it takes to do that without needing to fit in some prepackaged notion of what a holiday movie should be.  Just don’t make a sequel.  Seriously.   There’s no way they can get this to work twice.

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7. Victor Frankenstein

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Full Review

Now this movie was just wonderful camp all the way through.  A lot of times intentional camp can go HORRIBLY awry, but it works here because despite how cheesy everything gets, it still feels pretty grounded and doesn’t cut corners.  The relationship between McAvoy and Radcliffe as Frankenstein and Igor is sparkling, and while they never actually imply there’s a romantic connection between them, they do everything but that and I enjoyed every minute of it.  Radcliffe is a bit subdued but he kind of had to be because of how much McAvoy goes COMPLETLEY over the top here and they make a good team as one of them won’t calm the fuck down while the other is trying to keep the peace.  Yet despite that pretty cliché dynamic, I also like how much Igor really was interested in the projects they were working on and did want to move forward with the science despite his hesitations.  If they had gone with that attitude through the whole movie (even this kind of science can be good if done correctly) I would have like the movie better, but it kind of cops out at the end instead which is disappointing.  Still, I doubt that any horror fan is going to have more fun with any other monster movie that came out this year, and I hope this spawns a WHOLE lot of entertaining fan fiction!

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6. Straight Outta Compton

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Full Review

It’s not often we get a movie that reflects upon a moment in time as powerfully as this one does, and it’s even less common that it can so perfectly align itself with the times we’re living in and how little things have changed since then.  Last year it was Selma and this year it’s Straight Outta Compton.  The story of three rappers (and two other dudes who don’t get any credit in this) coming together to change the face of music and redefine American culture in the process.  The first half is most certainly stronger than the second half which is about what they did AFTER the band broke up, but there’s no denying how strongly this movie speaks to those who were there but also to those who may be going through the same thing today.  What was clearly a passion project for all those involved (the director has been working with Ice Cube since Friday and Ice Cube’s own son played him in the movie) ends up being a flawed but no less genuine film.  This movie spent three weeks at number one and grossed over two hundred million dollars worldwide.  This story has clearly connected with people all over and for good reason.  It really is one of the best films of the year and I hope it paves the way for more films like it.  Hell, I’m pretty sure that guy who played Tupac got a movie deal not even five minutes after the premiere!

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5. Sicario

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Full Review

I had my problems with the ending of this, but there’s no denying how amazing this movie looks and how intense many of the scenes are.  There are so many people you can point to as to why this straight up horror movie about the drug war turned out as well as it did.  Roger Deakins spectacular cinematography, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s haunting score, the acting from our principal players (Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin in particular), director Denis Villeneuve bringing it all together, and everyone else who had a hand in this.  You won’t find anything released this year that is as intense and haunting beautiful as this movie managed to be.  There are rumors of a spinoff with Benicio del Toro’s character which will be interesting to see but as much as I liked him in this movie, it wasn’t him alone that made this and I’m apprehensive if they’ll either get EVERYONE back together for the next movie or if a new team can capture what made this movie so memorable.  Regardless of the future of this franchise, this dark piece of exquisite filmmaking is absolutely worth checking out and I have high hopes for whatever the director plans to do next.  Wait, he’s rumored to be directing the Blade Runner sequel?  Okay… let’s go with SEMI-high hopes.

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4. Creed

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Full Review

I’ve loved Rocky movies all my life and this is just another example of why they were so beloved to begin with.  It seamlessly passes the torch off to Michael B Jordon if he wants to continue the series from here, and there’s been a lot of rumblings about Stallone finally getting his Oscar for this film (he actually didn’t win one for Rocky even though the film won three Oscars for other people who worked on it) which will most likely be the last time he plays this character.  Then again, we thought it was the last time the LAST TIME it was the last time with Rocky Balboa, but whatever.  If you love Rocky movies, then you’re gonna love this.  Hell, even if you haven’t seen a Rocky movie, this will probably be a good entry point to start the series with.  Just think of the other six as prequels!  You know… like Star Wars!

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3. Mad Max: Fury Road

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Full Review

This is probably the most passionately divisive movie of the year which only goes to show how important it is.  Some people are screaming their pissy little hearts out about… women, I guess.  I stopped trying to understand that crap a long time ago.  On the less obnoxious side of things, critics are arguing about whether or not this really does deserve to be winning as many film of the year awards as it has and whether or not that’s an indication as to where the new crop of film critics are heading, letting big violent action films with messages being peppered in throughout the booms being praised more highly than movies that would traditionally constitute such prestige.  I get where this garish and cartoonish chase through the wastelands of Australia can seem anachronistic along the likes of Birdman, 12 Years a Slave, or even The Departed, but that more often feels like a surface level reading of this film rather than the nuts and bolts of what makes it unique in its genre.  Top notch action set pieces, beautiful cinematography, and one of the best performances this year from Charlize Theron (oh, and Max is in there somewhere I think) make this definitely worthy of sitting alongside some of cinema’s greats.  Besides, naming ANY movie the best of year doesn’t mean it’s one of the best of all times.  Hell, how many people have ACTUALLY SEEN Chariots of Fire which won in 1982?  Hell, that’s the year The Thing, Poltergeist, Blade Runner, E.T., First Blood, Star Trek 2, and many other films came out that are MUCH better remembered than Chariots of Fire.  Is it the best movie of the year?  Well it’s certainly one of them (though I doubt the Academy will give it George Miller) and I hope that all of you have already gone out and seen it.  Hell, go see it again!   Even if some critics don’t see it as a masterpiece, it’s definitely left its mark and will hopefully be a gang changer in years to come.  Plus, I REALLY hope George Miller gets to make a sequel!  Fury Road 2: Fury Harder!

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2. Jupiter Ascending

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I really don’t get like… half the criticism this movie gets.  The acting is just fine and I really do like Mila Kunis as an actor so her performance here didn’t bother me like it seems to have for a lot of other critics.  The story really isn’t that hard to follow and all the trappings they lay on top of it don’t make the movie more confusing, it just fleshes out how alien this world is to us and to Jupiter.  Simply put, the bad guys want her to give them something and they try through persuasion, manipulation, and then coercion but Jupiter wants to protect what she has so she resists them every time.  Easy, right?  There’s a guy who falls in love wither her and protects her but doesn’t overtake Jupiter’s story which I thought was a great way to use Channing Tatum’s character in this.  Hell, for most her big moments, he’s not even remotely around and is usually just there to clean up whatever mess ensues because of her telling her family no!  The effects are fucking AMAZING and I LOVE every new character and piece of technology that they bring to life here, especially wolf-boy himself and his amazing rocket boots!!  Really, the only part that doesn’t work for me is almost everything on Earth, from her obnoxious family, to the weird thing where the aliens can just repair buildings and then Neuralyze everyone, to… fine, even the bee part which I DO like, but I get why people think that’s just a bit too goofy.  Hell, speaking of goofy, people like to talk shit about Eddie Redmayne for his silly ass performance but I found that fucking DELIGHTFUL.  Of COURSE he’s over the top!  He’s like the intergalactic patient ZERO for Affluenza; having never worked a day in his life or had to be responsible beyond keeping the company afloat and filling his own pockets with space cash.  Of COURSE the bastard’s gonna have a few issues!  Honestly, I love the ever loving hell out of this movie and think the Wachowskis’s (barring some stumbling here and there) are two of the most brilliant filmmakers we have working today.  There really aren’t that many directors working as hard as them to bring something REALLY personal to big budgeted features or even action based series like their (just as amazing) Senes8.  Any time I hear someone talk positively about this, it’s almost always with a caveat saying that they KNOW how bad the movie is or that it’s SO bad that it goes back to good.  Not me.  I love this movie UNIRONICALLY because it’s well executed and feels REAL.  It feels like an actual passion project from creators who want to share something with the world.  For me, they did just that and that’s why I think it’s one of the better movies of the year.

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1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Full Review

This movie had one goal it needed to accomplish for everyone to fall in love with it, and that’s to remind them how much they loved Star Wars.  Sure enough, they accomplished this goal with flying colors but I feel that many of the dissenters are focusing too much on that aspect and not enough on what they do IN ADDITION to that.  Yes, it’s A New Hope with a fresh coat of paint.  Yes, that can easily be viewed as a cynical cash grab from a company that’s already made a bajillion dollars off this franchise before the first movie even came out.  What I think the people determined to tear this movie down are missing is that despite its story being familiar, its characters are not.  We don’t have a simple analog for Luke, Leia, and Han Solo in this.  We have a diverse cast which Star Wars didn’t really have up until now, even in the prequels which EVERYONE complaining about The Force Awakens is saying was at least trying to do something different.  I don’t know WHAT those movies did that were all that different, and what they did do was done so terribly that no one cared that Lucas wasn’t using a Death Star again (at least they didn’t care until now).  The Force Awakens isn’t just an update in terms of the technology; it’s also an update in terms of what is expected and what we want to see in movies.  We have heroes that can be portrayed by actors that aren’t white dudes.  We have a villain that reflects the kind of awful human behavior that many people have to deal with nowadays, i.e. the Angry Young ManTM who knows what he hates and feels very righteous about it.  You compare this to the OTHER biggest movie of all time that came out this year Jurassic World, and they are WORLDS apart in terms of what they do with movies they already know will make their money back.  That movie opted to go the easy and safe route and did nothing interesting or unique with the characters there and just made another movie that’s just like the others you’ve seen.  Star Wars went the extra mile, giving us something we may have seen before in the broad strokes, but still having it be aware of the modern world in which it is being released in.  Maybe that’s what makes it so special.  It shows that all those movies in the past that we forgive as being problematic can easily be updated without losing anything that made them special in the first place.  It may not be the most unique choice to say that the most popular movie of the year is the best as well, but there are times when a movie really deserves all the attention it’s gotten and that is most certainly the case with The Force Awakens.

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And that’s it for the best of 2015!  I know what you all want though.  You want the WORST of!!   Well I’ll hopefully have that one up in the next day or two, so stay tuned!!

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3 thoughts on “Cinema Dispatch: Top 10 Best Movies of 2015

  1. Pingback: Cinema Dispatch: Dirty Grandpa | The Reviewers Unite!

  2. Pingback: Cinema Dispatch: Trailer Talk (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) | The Reviewers Unite!

  3. Pingback: Cinema Dispatch: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets | The Reviewers Unite!

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