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The DVDVR Best of 2015 Film Poll [Initial Discussion/Guidelines/Pimpage]


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Since it's the 1st, I thought it was the best time to kick this off.  Strange year in that the big Oscar heavy hitters seemed to disappoint while the big box office hits are picking up EOY steam ('Fury Road' was named the top movie of 2015 per Roger Ebert's site editors).

 

WHO: Uhhhh...us.
WHAT: The DVDVR Movie Poll!
WHERE: Post your lists here in the thread, via PM, or email them to me caleycmiddletonATgmail.com

WHEN: NEW DATE: March 29th, 2016!
WHY: Because we're the best.

HOW: You can vote for up to 30 films, extra weight will be given to the Top 10, slightly less to 11-20 and 21-30 will each receive one vote.

Let's go!
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"We live, we die...we live again!  And we vote for a Maximum of 30 Films!"

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The last handful of 2015 films I saw

 

Welcome to Me: This is kind of insane.  Kristen Wiig plays a woman with borderline personality disorder who wins $80+ million dollars and decides to become the next Oprah and spends a fortune on buying her own TV show on public access where she cooks stuff, eats stuff, reenacts old memories and curses out people who have wronged her.  It's kind of a fascinating film in that you find yourself laughing at the stuff she does, then remembering she has borderline personality disorder and feeling bad about laughing, then wonder if it's funny at all, then find yourself laughing all over again.  Wiig does an incredible job, it has a solid cast but the story's a little thin, maybe for a full-length film.  It's good, but not a must-see.

 

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: About a high school student who makes silly arty film parodies with his friend ('My Dinner With Andre the Giant' and 'A Box of 'lips, Wow' where a soldier finds a box of tulips) and how his mother forces him to hang out with a girl dying of cancer and he gradually finds a real friendship with her.  This was just on the verge of really irritating me, but managed to walk that tightrope between overly precious and just precious enough.  Some good performances, the film parodies are funny (Even if the two I mentioned are reminiscent of Mad Magazine and The Simpsons respectively), and it's funny enough to keep me entertained without making me want to bully the teens in question (Which is how I felt through much of 'Perks of Being A Wallflower').  Again it's decent, though not a must-see.

 

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens: I mean...it's Star Wars.  I liked it.  Fun performances, the new characters are able to hold their own with the old characters which is what you'd ask out of a new entry in the series.  I felt like the pacing was maybe a little too breezy, like a character will say "We need to get to [some planet]" and then they're just there, it doesn't really give the viewer time to breathe which means when characters stop to chat, you know it's going to be something super-important because there's so few of those moments.  But that's a minor quibble, after Episodes 1-3, this thing is a minor miracle.

 

Joy: Great lead performance by Jennifer Lawrence but the film around here is a bit of a mess of cliches (A scene where Lawrence cuts her hair off with a pair of scissors in a bathroom to show how serious she is comes off like straight out of that Katy Perry video), abandoned storytelling techniques (there's a narrator who comes and goes) and an array of really one-dimensional characters.  Without seeing the credits, I knew that the real-life titular person was involved in the production because 90% of the films characters serve no purpose other than to attack Joy, try to rip off Joy, or criticize or otherwise bring her down.  So, you should probably see this for the Lawrence performance, but in the recent string of Russell/Lawrence films, it lags behind 'Silver Linings Playbook' and 'American Hustle'.  Some really beautiful scenes mixed in there, but the whole is not as good as the sum of its parts.

Hoping to take in two of 'Spotlight', 'Brooklyn', or 'The Big Short' this weekend.  'Youth' is the film I want to see the most, but haven't seen a sign of it coming out anywhere chez nous.

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Re-watched

Get Hard: And it was quite a bit filthier than I'd remembered, maybe because the first time I saw it was at the Drive-In where you don't always hear the dialogue really clearly.  Good, solid, funny Will Ferrell comedy.  I enjoyed that it didn't hammer home the point about what an a-hole Ferrell's affluent character was, just let you see it for yourself without making a big deal about it.  Also, Alison Brie in lingerie.  Doubt it makes my list, but it depends how much I actually make an effort to see.

Watched

Adult Beginners: Which was totally enjoyable.  Nick Kroll plays a tech entrepreneur whose product and life fall apart and he moves back in his with his married sister (Rose Byrne), her husband (Bobby Cannavale) and their 3-year-old son and takes a job as the son's nanny.  Pretty sure I've seen this plot before, but I like the cast (Joel McHale and Jason Mantzoukas also turn up in small roles) and love, love, love anything with Byrne or Cannavale.  Just the right mix of laughter and pathos.  Will totally be on my list somewhere.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Watched two 2015ers last night!

 

Slow West: Interesting little Western.  Kodi Smit-McPhee plays a young man from Scotland who travels to America to find his lost love, Michael Fassbender plays a bounty hunter who offers to help him for a price.  It has a real neat, slow pace to it, followed by a massive shoot-out at the end.  One of my faves, Ben Mendelsohn, turns up in a small, supporting role and is, as always, really good.  I thought the ending had a neat little twist to it, that I don't think I've seen before.

 

Pixels: This wasn't THAT bad.  I mean, it's an Adam Sandler comedy, so expectations should be tempered, but the effects were fun, the screenwriters clearly watched lots of 'King of Kong' beforehand, and it wasn't 'The Ridiculous 6' so it's already not as terrible as people suggested.

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Will post a full list and reviews after watching Bridge of Spies and Creed but so far my list would look like.

Star Wars

The Martian

Mad Max

Black Mass

Spectre

Sicario

Straight Outta Compton

Ant-Man

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Oh boy, I have so much work to do for this.  It took 15 "I haven't seen either" on Flickchart before I actually came up with a movie I'd seen.

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Oh boy, I have so much work to do for this.  It took 15 "I haven't seen either" on Flickchart before I actually came up with a movie I'd seen.

 

I haven't used Flickchart in ages. I have just been referencing "end of year" lists on Letterboxd to highlight stuff I'm missing.

 

I have not seen as much as I would like to have seen for 2015, but I am always selective enough that I usually watch stuff I know I will enjoy and has a high probability to make my list. That reminds me. I did see a couple over this past weekend (can't believe it's already Thursday).

 

Sicario - WOW! This one is gorgeously captured by Villeneuve and Deakins. The performances from Blunt, Brolin, and Del Toro are all very strong, and the film does a great job of balancing its internal politics, pacing, action sequences, and intensity levels throughout.  I was not a fan of Prisoners, and I was rather perplexed and fascinated by Enemy. This is the first film that Villeneuve has hit a home run, and I hope it pronounces him as one of our generation's most interesting directors going forward. This one's on my list. It's probably in my top 3-5.

 

The Revenant  - Would you believe me if I said that I liked this more than Birdman? As noted pretty much everywhere, Emmanuel Lubezki's visual eye and use of camera is both remarkable and breathtaking and makes this a must see theatrical experience alone. DiCaprio's performance will be the one that everyone talks about, and it is the good performance that we've come to expect from any Leo outing, but I thought both Tom Hardy and Domhnall Gleeson were the ones who truly maximized their moments on screen.

 
With all of that noted, I was exhausted and felt assaulted by this film, and I don't mean in a way that was challenging and rang of on screen truth. I rarely sensed the narrative propulsion in this thing and felt like Inarritu enjoyed making the viewer wallow in Leo's suffering.
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I watched

 

Mistress America: Second Noah Baumbach film of 2015 (That I've seen, I see he also co-directed a doc. on Brian DePalma) and I'd say I liked it, but I preferred 'While We're Young' by a hair (Partially because the subject latter of the second appealed to me on a personal level moreso than the first).  Lola Kirke plays Tracy, a college freshman who finds herself alienated from her peers and, partially out of loneliness, partially out of pressure from her mother, calls her 30-year-old, soon-to-be-half-sister Brooke (Greta Gerwig) and finds herself immediately swept up in Brooke's fabulous life.  Brooke is constantly busy, constantly talking.  She has various jobs, is opening a restaurant, gets up and sings with a band, and is building her brand.  Tracy is inspired both realistically and creatively by Brooke.  But, if you think you know where this one is going, you might be surprised as rather than the usual Baumbach format, it veers into an almost 30s/40s type of screwball comedy.  The tone in this one is really weird, but Kirke and Gerwig are really good at creating two characters who you would never want to be friends with in real life, but are fascinating to watch onscreen.

 

Tomorrowland: I remember (And maybe it's just nostalgia/sentimentality) that there used to be films for that age of 10/11-13 that weren't, you know, vulgar, but were a step above children's films and totally enjoyable.  You know that period where you're still a child and aren't really ready for horrific violence and coarse language, but you're past the part where you want to watch children's films?!  This is like a callback to those movies.  Britt Robertson plays Casey, a high school student who, in the midst of trying to sabotage the destruction of the NASA launch pad where her dad works, is given a pin that transports her to a fun and fabulous future full of invention and creativity.  But soon she finds herself pursued by a group of evil robots and a mysterious girl who's trying to take her to scene a reclusive scientist played by George Clooney.  Lots of great effects and a fun story all wrapped up neatly as an environmental parable.  I really enjoyed this.

 

Rewatched

Mad Max: Fury Road: First time watching at home and I was still good, still awesome.  Still my working #1.  Especially as now I was able to hear (Well subtitle) some of the dialogue I missed the fist couple times.

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Watched

Mortdecai: This is bad, but not nearly the worst film of 2015 (Hello again 'Ridiculous 6').  The biggest problem with it is that it's a stupid silly farce that spends way too much time on its art heist plot that the viewer has no interest or real stakes in and is inexcusably 1 hour and 47 minutes.  I actually thought the funniest thing in the movie was in the last stretch when Mortdecai is forced to travel to the US and is incapable of showing his disdain for "the colonies" (The scene where the hotel clerk asks him if he needs help with his bags and he says something like "No I have a fucking man servant" was, by far, my favourite moment in the film).  I think if you put the entire movie as a send-up of anti-American snooty Brits it would have been a lot funnier and could have taken equal pot-shots at American values/norms and the British sense of superiority.  As it is, though, it's an overly long, often insufferably dull art heist comedy with a bunch of unlikable characters.

 

True Story: I'm still not sold on this one yet, but not ready to write it off either.  Jonah Hill plays disgraced NYT journalist Michael Finkel who learns that recently-arrested murderer Christian Longo (James Franco) has been using Finkel's identity while on the run.  The two meet and Finkel becomes fascinated with the charismatic Longo, seeing him as a possibility for getting his writing career back on track, while also becoming friends with him and believing that Longo is innocent and trying to investigate the case.  The biggest problem I had with the film is a pivotal scene featuring Felicity Jones as the wife of Finkel feels inauthentic, largely because her character spends the better part of the film with nothing to do except look sad and afraid and it being weird to all of a sudden see her in a key scene.  Plus, there's a point where a publishing editor tells Finkel that there might not be enough there for a book and when you get to the end of the film, you can't help but feel the same thing.  Like, it's an interesting story, but is it interesting enough for a full-length film?  I'm not sure.  Franco and Hill are both really good, though.

 

Magic Mike XXL: Is apparently for the people who enjoyed 'Magic Mike' but felt there was too much exposition and insight and not enough dancing.  The very loose definition of plot finds Mike (Channing Tatum) rejoining his stripper buddies from the first film (Thankfully, minus Alex Pettyfer.  Sadly, also minus Matthew McConaughey) for a road trip to a stripper conference.  Along the way they meet up with some girls, some women, a giant stripper house kinda deal and then go and dance for the last 30-40 minutes.  There's no real story arc, even the big rah-rah speech is done kind of half-heartedly.  It's entertaining, due mostly to the charisma of Tatum, Joe Manganiello and Kevin Nash, but it's hardly must-see stuff.
 

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Things I really liked: Avengers 2, Sisters, The Martian, Into The Woods, The Hateful 8

Thing that's better than all of them combined: Mad Max

You'd better vote this year!

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I keep a running list of favorite movies for every year and I'm already up to around 50 movies or so for 2015, so I plan to participate.

A lot of the more noteworthy movies (The Revenant, The Hateful 8, Carol, Room, Brooklyn etc.) haven't even been released here, yet, though. I hope I can catch as many of them as possible before the deadline is reached.

 

One movie I would recommend that probably not a lot of people have seen is Victoria, one of the few good movies that have come out of my country in the last few years.

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Watched

Southpaw: If you threw out the first, I dunno, 50-70 minutes of this film and just kept the last hour, I'd probably be in love with it and overrating it.  I mean, it is bascially a Greatest Hits of boxing movies as there's elements of all of them and no cliche too frequently use to not use it again (Rocky and Raging Bull often come to mind here, not executed as well, of course), but I still found myself super into it over the last stretch but that first hour or so is such a slog that I just can't rate it too highly.  Jake Gyllenhaal is Billy Hope (*GROAN*) an undefeated champion boxer who can't seem to fight without taking a massive beating first.  As his wife pressures him to take time off, a hotshot contender begins confronting him in an effort to get himself a match.  Hope's temper gets the better of him, leading to a scuffle that

leads to the death of his wife

he then takes a fight on short notice because of financial strains, loses, of course, and gets suspended, then loses all his money, his daughter to social services, and all his support staff who ditch him for another fighter.  It's all so unbelievable, that he would lose everything that quickly, so he decides to get his life back on track by training with small-time trainer Tick Wills (Forrest Whitaker).  This last stretch is where it gets good because Gyllenhaal is so all-in on his character that he gets something to do rather than rage or mope (Which is pretty much what he does for the bulk of that first hour) and sharing scenes with another great actor like Whitaker really sells one on the film.  Of course there's about a million more cliches that come our way in the last stretch, but they're more enjoyable with Gyllenhaal and Whitaker doing them.  It's such a shame that such a tired, cliche-ridden film that loses its own message (Early on it's established/hinted that Hope is basically boxing himself into a vetgetative/CTE state then in the last stretch we're supposed to cheer as he goes back into boxing) wastes these two really good performances.

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The Overnight: Is a weird little indie comedy where a couple (Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling) meet another couple (Jason Schwartzmann and Judith Godreche) at the park when their children become friends and the latter couple invites the former couple over for dinner.  After the kids fall asleep, things get weird as the second couple brings out the pot, titillating videos, art inspired by buttholes, and there's skinny-dipping, massages, and a giant penis, as well as a tiny penis.  It's a really strange and off-putting, but occasionally pretty funny little movie that has a strangely touching finale that goes not quite where you're maybe expecting it to.  Plus, I can watch Adam Scott react to weirdness all day long.

 

Also tried to watch Wild Horses and made it 20 minutes in before deleting it off my DVR.  It's sort of a modern western directed by and starring Robert Duvall, which is what sold me on it.  But the real lead is Luciana Duvall (Robert's wife) who plays a Texas Ranger re-opening a cold case and at first I thought maybe I wasn't hearing right because her acting seemed way off.  Then I thought that maybe she had a speech impediment, but really what it is is that she's Argentinian but is trying to do a Texan accent and it is not hitting at all.  And the dialogue is so poorly written that there was a scene where a Texas Ranger talked about how great they were at their job that I thought was meant to be sarcastic because of how ham-handed and stilted it was.  I just couldn't handle it, which is a shame because Robert Duvall is almost always worth a watch and James Franco was also listed in the cast (I never got to him).

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I believe RT is used around here for the year rather than IMDB, in which case Girlhood is a 2015 film. Much of adolescence is spent not being able to see a future or a way out of a certain lifestyle and thus decisions are made on the spur of the moment without any forethought or consideration for the consequences. Marieme is a 16 year old girl who makes two such decisions. At the start of the film, she initially turns down an offer to hang with a trio of girls who are tougher and more streetwise than her but once she sees them talking to a group of boys she likes, she makes the snap decision to join them. They're involved in low level teenage squabbles and bullying, but the acceptance and friendship they provide her is much more important to her. Midway through the film, she makes another snap decision to run away from home and her new friends to join a gang with a much more criminal element.

 

The four girls have great chemistry together and their scenes, sometimes sad, sometimes joyous, are the best part of this film. It's been talked about on film sites all year but the most memorable of these scenes is the Rihanna lipsyncing scene and for me it may be the best scene of the year period. After the film ended, I went back just to watch it again. Just a great moment of happiness.

 

Sicario Speaking of great scenes, that initial trip to Juarez certainly ranks up there. Heart thumpingly amazing level of tension. I'm not sure how believable it is that an FBI agent involved with drug kidnappings would be surprised by the goings on of the cartel, but I'm fine with waiving those questions because the filmmaking on display is astounding. This sequence shot by Deakins was stunning.

 

zgrkrTd.jpg

 

The final third is a little bit of a letdown. While Del Toro's story is entertaining, it's not something we haven't seen before in other forms. I think I would've preferred to follow Blunt's character, even if a little unbelievable that she would be so morally outraged and principled for an experienced agent.

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I am at work, or I probably would go more in depth on this. I am also not sure that we want to start counting shorts on this list, but if we were, I would definitely suggest everyone check out the animated short World of Tomorrow. It just hit Netflix after being rentable on Vimeo for a couple of months, and it is poignant, thought provoking, and heartbreaking at the same time. Some of the best 16 minutes of film you will see from 2015. It was also my first film from that director/animator who I will now check out the rest of his work.

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I am at work, or I probably would go more in depth on this. I am also not sure that we want to start counting shorts on this list, but if we were, I would definitely suggest everyone check out the animated short World of Tomorrow. It just hit Netflix after being rentable on Vimeo for a couple of months, and it is poignant, thought provoking, and heartbreaking at the same time. Some of the best 16 minutes of film you will see from 2015. It was also my first film from that director/animator who I will now check out the rest of his work.

 

"My spoon is too big."

 

I've been watching stuff btw.  Went to see Anomalisa last night.  Not sure what to say other than I liked it, and there's a whole lot more to it than what's in the trailer.  There's a discussion to be had about the central character, but can't do it without spoilers.  Also, Diary of a Teenage Girl is finally out on dvd, so I can give that a look.

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Well, going through my icheckmovies profile, let's see what else I've seen from this year...

 

Tomorrowland Agreed with caley. This is a fun family movie that seems to have been maligned elsewhere. Admittedly, the message at the end is a little too on the nose, but that's likely just me looking at it from an adult perspective. A child would likely find it more meaningful. I did watch it with my 6 year old, but beyond liking it, he didn't read much more into it. Robertson is an engaging lead, but the young girl is the star of the movie, and provided a legitimate laugh with the line "Do you know why you never could make me laugh? Because you're not funny"

 

The Hateful Eight I've been going back and forth on this since I saw it. It's Tarantino and I'm a bit of a fanboy, so it's entertaining as ever, however I found some of the violence unnecessary and troublesome. No need for an exploding head, for spewing blood, for the juvenile blowjob story and the final scene lingered far too long. I've seen arguments that it was Tarantino's intention to make the audience feel uncomfortable in it's enjoyment of the violence, but I'm not sure I buy that. Tarantino is no Haneke. I don't think the director can make a comment about enthusiastic audiences lapping up violence when he's staging some of it in this film as obviously comedic at the same time, and has been serving it up his entire career.

 

I also had issues with the flashback scene.

The only likable characters are presented for the first time, and yet we all know that they're going to die. Not only that, but they die in such a mean spirited fashion too with three of them begging for their lives. The whole thing left a bad taste in the mouth. I'd argue that the flashback scene isn't even necessary. Yes, it introduces the character hiding under the floorboards, but it also removes any further tension in the mystery. Up to that point, we didn't know that Joe Gage was in on the setup and without the flashback, that could've been milked a little more in the finale.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Very enjoyable, and not a let down, but I'm not sure I loved it.

 

Ant-Man I really enjoyed the scene where he first shrinks in the bathtub (hey, we all experience shrinkage in the bathtub) and loved the Thomas the Tank Engine stuff, but otherwise it was fairly bland and forgettable.

 

Maps to the Stars An over the top portrayal of Hollywood as an awful hive of insecure, scummy people. I guess it's a fun movie if you're looking for that sort of thing, but I just found it distasteful. I did giggle at the punk kid constantly harassing his co-star Vabina though.

 

A Very Murray Christmas A thoroughly boring experience.

 

The Duke of Burgundy I loved Peter Strickland's previous effort Berberian Sound Studio so was interested to check this out. I absolutely adore his use of image and, especially, sound. Not terribly engaging plotwise, though the first few scenes definitely have you questioning what exactly is going on. Once that is revealed, the story lost some interest for me, with one of the lead characters being pretty annoying. Still, the sound and imagery are enough for me to really like it and it will likely place high on my list. I'm interested in whatever projects the director chooses to pursue in the future.

 

The Salt of the Earth A Wim Wenders documentary focused on the career of photojournalist Sebastiao Salgado. Absolutely stunning photography and very much a difficult watch as he shot in Ethiopia during the famine and Rwanda during the civil war amongst other places. Highly recommended.

 

Ex Machina Might be my favourite movie of the year. A great story with beautiful cinematography, I don't think I can find fault with it at all.

 

The Salvation A revenge western with Mads Mikkelson in the lead role playing a Danish immigrant whose family is murdered. Nothing you haven't seen before, but a decent time waster.

 

Spectre Very much a let down. Even the opening scene, which I'd heard so much about, failed to live up to my imagined expectations. Still a really good action film, but not something I'll be quickly revisiting.

 

It Follows A stunning horror film. I far prefer tension in my horror to the blood and guts nonsense, and this has it in spades. Who knew that just having people walk towards the camera could be so effective. There are scenes where the protagonists are talking (in the car on the school campus, for example) where your eyes are scanning the background for the entity and suddenly you see someone and they're slowly getting closer and closer and the feeling of dread is amazing, and then the director has enough confidence to end the scene without the inevitable attack you would have in other horror films, and without the protagonists even noticing that they were in danger. Or were they even in danger? Was that person just a random person walking along? I also love that the film just opens without any explanation of what's going on and immediately pulls you in. Admittedly, the swimming pool scene is silly. Somehow, the characters come up with some vague idea of how to stop the entity without any real explanation as to why this would work. That score though. I've been listening to the soundtrack quite a bit recently. Amazing.

 

The Gunman Sean Penn in a spy thriller. Has its moments, but nothing worth remembering really.

 

A Most Violent Year Oscar Isaac on top form once again. The guy is on a hell of a roll. Director J.C. Chandor is on quite the roll too, as I've liked everything thing he has done. Interesting film in that normally in this type of film, you would expect it all to blow up in a full on shoot em up gangster movie, but each character is somewhat reluctant to resort to violence and when they do they regret it and back off from their intentions (see for example, the failed truck heist where as soon as the cops show up, the thieves and the victim all escape together - it was just business, nothing personal. And the scene where Isaac's character catches one of the thieves, gives him a bit of a beating, but ultimately lets him go)

 

Nailed a.k.a. Accidental Love This was the David O. Russell film that was held back for years in legal wrangles. I just checked it out for curiosities sake to see how bad it could be. It was bad.

 

Selma Competent, well told story but didn't do much for me.

 

Mad Max: Fury Road I enjoyed this and really appreciated the melding of old school stunts with CGI, but I've left somewhat surprised at all the love it's been getting recently. I suspect it will make my list due to me not having watched all that much this year, but I can't say it was a huge favourite.

 

Clouds of Sils Maria A disappointment unfortunately. Shares some common ground with the Cronenberg movie with the Hollywood gossip aspect, though it is much less crassly presented here. I may need to watch this again in the future, because there is something there in Binoche's performance to admire.

 

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation I enjoyed it, but am having trouble remembering much of it. Not as good as the previous entry in the series certainly.

 

Fantastic Four Not nearly as bad as people made out, but definitely very generic.

 

Inherent Vice A confusing mess of a movie, but an interesting mess nonetheless.

 

All Aboard! The Canal Trip I probably wouldn't feel right including this on my list, but this may have been my favourite thing of 2015. The BBC ran a Go Slow night with programmes featuring glassmaking and the sounds of birdsong. This was the highlight. A camera placed on the front of a barge and filmed a canal journey in two hours of real time, with no voiceover, music, sound effects other than what was captured on camera. Occasionally well integrated graphics would appear in the background (on a bridge, on the side of a building) with facts about this particular canal. Incredibly pleasing and peaceful, I loved it, and plan on experiencing the real thing some day in the future. It was on youtube, but doesn't appear to be now unfortunately.

 

Inside Out I've seen it a couple times now, and see bits and pieces as my son watches the disc. One of the best of the year.

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron I've also seen this a couple of times now. Spader is great as Ultron, but I'm souring these days on comic book movies.

 

Blackhat A smart thriller from Michael Mann with great digital cinematography. Hasn't been talked about much, but will make my list.

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Watched

 

Blackhat: Which is not peak Michael Mann, but it's still got all of his hallmarks and is a fairly entertaining little thriller.  Chris Hemsworth plays a hacker (That, for some reason, reviewers are getting all obsessed with the fact that he's too buff to be a computers guy somehow overlooking that the guy is in prison and what else is there to do in prison besides get in shape?!) who gets a get-out-of-jail-free pass if he helps the US and Chinese government track down a hacker who spiked prices on Wall St. and caused an explosion in a Chinese nuclear facility.  Sure, it doesn't make sense that Hemsworth's character is proficient in firearms and some of the big reveals don't seem like big deals at all, but the it's a Michael Mann film in 2015 that looks gorgeous, has a great shootout scene and a pretty remarkable climax amidst thousands of celebrating Indonesians.  It's no Heat but what is?!  And it's leagues above Public Enemies.

 

The Wolfpack: Bizzarro documentary about 6 brothers who have grown up almost completely isolated from the world, remaking their favourite movies in their apartment while being locked in from the outside world.  Then gradually they begin to venture outdoors.  In the first twenty minutes or so, I was in love with this film and felt like it had a chance to be a Top 5 flick for me but it kinda lost me after that as I began to have questions about the veracity of everything I was seeing (For boys who are bascially cut off from society for all these years, they seem to really quickly and easily adapt to the outside world) and felt like the narrative got muddied and unclear.  Also, the whole angle of these guys loving movies and recreating them gets almost completely dropped at times.  I don't know.  It's an interesting story, but I'm not sure it's much more than that.

 

Entourage: Well this was terrible.  I never watched the show, had no interest in it, but it was on TV for free so I gave it a go, largely because of this hate-watching review.  The celebrity cameos are so relentless and pointless that they just kind of go by (There's literally a scene where a character drives through a Hollywood backlot and interacts with various celebrities as he drives for no other reason than to go "Hey it's David Spade! Hey it's Jessica Alba!") without leaving a mark after a while.  The plot, such as it is, concerns Vinnie acting and directing in a movie for new studio head Ari and going way over budget.  The problem is that the film within the film is so laughably bad that once it's shown your reaction is "Oh, he wasted their money and it's going to bomb" when it's supposed to be "This is incredible and going to be a box office success and an Oscar hit" (Because, you know, the Oscars traditionally reward classic stories re-told with DJs and raves!)  Ronda Rousey, God bless her, cannot act to save her life and there's a line in here so bad that it made me laugh out loud and rewind and rewatch it about 10 times (I still haven't deleted the film from my DVR because I want to listen and laugh at that line some more and it's somehow not a Vine/Youtube yet) where she stands outside a door and says "I think somebody's fuckin' in there".  Also, I'm guessing they had a hard time convincing the guy who plays Turtle to be in the movie because nearly every time he's onscreen somebody has to make mention of how much weight he's lost, or how he used to be fat as if the actor went "I'll be in the movie but only if 25 people point out how good I look!"  Jeremy Piven's basically doing a 'Best of Ari' impression (I've seen enough clips to know his m.o.) with all the freak-outs but you can tell his heart's not really in it.  Adrian Grenier sleepwalks through his role and any crisis that comes up is met with a shrug and a "We'll get through this" reaction from him so that there's never really any of tension because if the main character doesn't care, than why should we?  I'm simultaneously disappointed and strangely appreciative of Kevin Dillon's performance.  I mean, he's generally awful and mugging for the camera and bad, but seeing as he is basically the Z-Grade loser brother of Matt Dillon, he imbues his character, the Z-Grade loser half-brother of a celebrity, with a certain gravitas lacking in the rest of the film.  E's character is so boring, I can't even bother to discuss it while  Billy Bob Thornton turns up to basically play a version of his Bad Santa character without the three Bs.  Only Haley Joel Osment feels like he's really having any fun, running around as a coked-up, skirt-chasing redneck son of a billionaire who bases all his decisions on jealousy.   The film's coda with everyone attending the Golden Globes is so badly done, where it cuts to scenes of actual celebrities at the Globes, then back to the film's characters and it's obvious because the film is of a completely different stock that none of them are really interacting with each other. It's a really terrible, horribly mysognistic, brainless, joyless celebration of...excess, I guess.  But I'd still watch it because "somebody's fuckin' in there!"

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Watched

 

Taken 3: where, bizarrely, the best part of this was actually the performances with the worst parts  being most of the action sequences.  There's a scene early in the film where Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is framed for the murder of his wife and makes an on-foot getaway from the cops and it's edited so poorly and the cuts are so quick that it's nearly impossible to follow the chase in any way.  It almost becomes a Benny Hill sequence as Mills runs toward the camera as it cuts to a scene of the cops running away from the camera, add Yakety Sax and one of them ending up in lingerie and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference.  It's just awful and such a far-cry from what made the first such a terrific action flick.  Forest Whitaker turns up as the cop trying to chase down Mills and, again, turns in a really enjoyable, wholly human performance of a one-note character who exists only to be 3-4 steps behind Neeson's Mills.  Anyways, they toss out most of what worked in the first one and, to a lesser extent, the second one, to try to break the mold, as it were, but it comes across no different from one of Neeson's myriad action movies and loses whatever originally made the Taken series something special.  It's not bad, but you won't remember anything about it 5 minutes after it's over.

 

Terminator Genisys: I actually liked this much more than I expected to, probably because I'm not that invested in the 'Terminator' series on the whole, and because my expectations were pretty low.  Arnold Schwarzenegger steals the film as an aging Terminator unit (It's explained that the skin on the Terminators is real human skin so it ages as years go by) charged with protecting a younger Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and a time-traveling Kyle Reese (Jai Courteney).  I mean, the plot's pretty convoluted (as are most time travel films) and there are some logic gaps/plotholes but I felt like the big terminator fight in the hospital garage was really impressive and impactful and really gave the impression of two unstoppable monsters going at each other (Much more so than say Superman vs Zod from 'The Man of Steel') and JK Simmons had the line of the film ("Goddamn time-traveling robots covering their tracks!) and I thought Clarke was an interesting Connor, while Jason Clarke an entertaining John Connor.  The effects were surprisingly dodgy at times for a big budget film like this, but I still enjoyed it.

 

Lost River: Ryan Gosling's first directorial turn is a really weird one and a little hard to process.  Christina Hendricks plays a single mother in a decaying Michigan town who has to take a job at a sort of nightmarish Burlesque (?) place to pay off her mortgage on the advice of evil banker (?) Ben Mendelsohn while her son Bones romances a neighbour named Rat while being menaced by violent sociopath Bully while there's some talk about breaking a curse that's affecting the town.  It's a weird mix of fairytale and gritty realism that never quite comes together in the way you'd hope.  But there's a number of wonderful staggering images like a bicycle on fire, a road that leads into a river, and Ben Medelsohn's incredible dance scene.  So, I liked it but am not sure I was ever really able to connect with it on any level.  But any film that gives me this

still merits a watch.

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The Gunman Sean Penn in a spy thriller. Has its moments, but nothing worth remembering really.

 

Watched this last night and aside from a couple entertaining action sequences, didn't really grab me.  Also, the politics were really dodgy in this one.  Like Sean Penn

legitimately was the one who assassinated the mining minister

but because he feels bad about it, we're supposed to feel sorry for him and be happy when

he gets his happily-ever-after ending after all the death he directly or indirectly caused?!

 

Also recently watched

The Revenant: On the way out of the theater I said to my dad (Who was a big fan of the Richard Harris version) that it was one of the best films that I may never want to watch again.  It was quite amazing in the way that it presented these beautiful images of a sunrise, fires against the darkness, snow etc. with some of the most awful images of murder, rape, pain.  Really well-acted film, too,  Tom Hardy might actually steal the film out from under Leonardo DiCaprio (Who's REALLY good) with another in the long line of fascinating Tom Hardy accents.  That's not to say DiCaprio's not great in it, because he really is.  Also thought Will Poulter and Domnhall Gleason were quite good, too.  Still it's a grind of a film to watch as there is so much unpleasantness on screen.

 

Unfriended which is kind of a minor miracle in that it's a horror film that was widely released and a box office success (A $62M worldwide gross with a $1M budget!?!!) that is actually really well-made and, well, good.  A group of teens chat online on the 1 year anniversary of the suicide death of one of their classmates when they begin to receive messages from said dead teen and are eventually drawn into a deadly online game of cat-and-mouse with whomever or whatever is operating said teen's social media accounts.  All the action takes place on computer screens, yet it's completely intense, occasionally terrifying and totally engrossing.  It was such a startlingly decent film that I'm weighing with putting it fairly high on my list just because of how unlikely it is that the film should exist.  I'm not even a big horror guy, but this is worth a watch, IMHO.

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