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Films that nearly cracked the list.
The Witch (2015)
The Witch is a film that looks like its been helmed by a director who has spent 30 years in the industry and slowly over time managed to perfect his craft. Yet, this is a film that's been made by a first-time director. This is pretty damned impressive. The Witch is a quality film.
With a lingering sense of dread running throughout the entire film, The Witch embraces our fear of what's to come and the uncertainty of where the story is going to go. With great characters that falls further and further into paranoia, The Witch is psychological horror at some of its finest.
The Martian (2015)
Visually pleasing, emotionally effective, edge-on-your-seat thrilling and quite funny. The Martian is a damned fine sci-fi film. You might never truly fear for Matt Damon's life, as he's stranded on Mars, but Ridley Scott injects this film with so much energy and life that one can't avoid grinning throughout the film.
The film is naturally bolstered a lot by Damon's excellent performance, and one is heavily reliant to get under his skin in order for huge parts of this film to work. This works exceptionally well, as he's extremely likeable.
You might not like Tom Cruise as a person, but as a movie star, there are not many actors like him. He's an undeniable action star with plenty of charisma and likeability in his roles, and particularly in Mission: Impossible. This shows again in Rogue Nation, and when he also gets to act against someone as fierce and mysterious as Rebecca Ferguson, you're bound for a good time. Their chemistry is magnificent, and I love how they always managed to keep her intentions unclear. Making us question whether she's good or bad.
The action set pieces in Rogue Nation are amongst the most impressive in the franchise so far. The plot of the film is fine, but it works mainly as a way to connect one action beat to another. It is however done with such skill that one never feel overburdened or exhausted, instead I felt constantly thrilled and entertained, while eagerly and curiously looking forward to the next scene.
Paper Towns (2015)
I adored this film. In my opinion it is far better than the other John Green adaptation, The Fault in Our Stars, that got a lot more praise than this. While I thought that there were something forced and slightly phony about that film, I found Paper Towns to be genuinely heartfelt, charming and engaging.
I have kind of been reflecting upon my own school experience now that I have finished up my complete education and started working properly. When I look back to all those years, I kinda regret not doing more out of it. I feel like I've wasted something. Now, I'm not exactly talking about the exact things that happen in Paper Towns, as that goes a bit beyond actual reality. But the overall sense of love, friendship and wonder that film brought, made me wish for a different life for myself. When a film manages to do that, while being extremely charming and emotional, you do know that you've seen something special.
After the prequels trilogy, it was clearly important to bring Star Wars back to what it was. Just to kind of remind us of why we love Star Wars, and in doing so, J.J. Abrams have essentially remade A New Hope, at least if you look at the biggest brushes. Which is not necessarily a bad thing as it sort of let them put the biggest focus on the characters, new and old.
Because the thing that The Force Awakens really gets right is its characters. Not only is Harrison Ford really bringing it home as Han Solo, but every new member of the franchise is great. I absolutely adore Rey (is there anyone out there who doesn't have a crush on Daisy Ridley now?), and I think that her chemistry between Finn is amazing. They're instantly likeable, funny, charismatic and relateable. When things happen to them, you feel real emotion. So it manages to capture the essence of Star Wars. Fun and emotionally engaging characters in a massive space adventure.
I've also grown warm to Kylo Ren as the villain. He represents some sort of a change from what we usually see from most of your typical villains, and manages to distinguish himself enough from just being a Darth Vader clone.
Besides the characters, the film looks and sounds awesome. The visuals effects are amazing, and I love the fact that they've gone back to the visual style of the originals. The action is great, the pacing is fast and there's never a dull moment. It's also very funny. Probably the funniest Star Wars we've had. I was surprised by how many of the jokes actually landed. BB-8 in particular is comedic gold.
The Force Awakens is of course flawed. It does mimic a few too many plot points from the original trilogy for it to be put on the same shelf as the original three, and there's one very important scene that I feel could have been handled a lot better. One that didn't strike me with as much emotion as it should have done. There's also a scene in the middle that feels slightly out of place. But besides that, Star Wars is truly back. There are several other positive things I could (and should) have mentioned, but I'll settle on this. It did exactly what it should do, and because of that, it's great.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
I'll just say it; I loved this film. I absolutely adored it. A perfect blend of action, comedy, violence, drama and over-the-top silliness, sprinkled with some clever homages to other spy films. Wonderfully shot with a lot of style and flair. The characters are extremely likeable, portrayed by a solid bunch of actors delivering good performances. Colin Firth is particularly really enjoyable.
I loved the fact that it was full of surprises. That you couldn't possibly guess what would come next. The constant change of tone added to that, and ended up actually working in towards the film's advantage. But honestly, it was just so bloody entertaining. The last time I had such a pure fun time was during the first Kick-Ass. And a dollar to the one who guess the director of that film.
I believe that Creed is the best film in this franchise, and I don't even think that's a very controversial statement. I also believe that this is Sylvester Stallone's finest performance in his career, which I also don't think is controversial to say. Sly is quite simply outstanding here. So is naturally Michael B. Jordan.
Creed achieves the difficult task of paying homage to its predecessor, working on its own as some sort of sequel/spin-off, and to set the course straight for a new series of films. It's an extremely heartfelt and touching film that had me chocking up on a few occasions. The film deals with proper characters given full development that you cheer and cry for.
Ex Machina (2014)
I went into this film knowing basically nothing about it, and you could safely say that it was full of pleasant surprises then, in the way how the story played out. But this is basically all about the relationship between the mother and the son, and it's just so wonderfully and beautifully portrayed, with some amazing performances.
It's quite simply an excellent exploration of an unknown world, and how something that seems to be so familiar for us, is a total foreign concept for someone else. That portrayal of adaptedness is emotionally uplifting. Room takes a lot of dark turns, and there's a lot of things in it that deserves an afterthought, but this is first and foremost an emotional triumph.
The Hateful Eight (2015)
Tarantino at his absolute best. A film that plays somewhat as a mystery as its story is slowly unwrapped until it finally explodes into pure mayhem once all the pieces have fallen together. A dialogue heavy film that truly shows the importance of building up characters and tension, while consistently sprinkling up the film with minor details that fully comes to life in the end.
One thing that I really want to mention is the score by Ennio Morricone. It's outstanding. The cast is also, as usual in Tarantino films, brilliant. Particularly Samuel L. Jackson and Walton Goggins stands out. Still it is Tarantino's unique sense of filmmaking that makes The Hateful Eight so great. This is something that he have truly mastered over the years, and thus creating a perfect film experience.
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