Cal's 2015 Movie Wrap-Up
Top 5 Movies of 2015
It's become the hip thing to hate on this movie ever since it was released to unbelievable critical acclaim, but it still holds up, no matter how many times I watch it. This is an arthouse movie masquerading as a Hollywood blockbuster, and those denouncing it as a "dumb Hollywood action movie" are ironically the ones who are unable to grasp the intricacies of its visual language. (Also, it's technically an Australian movie. Your move, haters.) What's great about this latest Mad Max is that it has gravitas, a political voice, and allegories, but they aren't rammed home through scores of pretentious dialogue; rather, George Miller relies on the visuals. It's a big-budget, visceral, exciting and intelligent action movie - and it's a genuine gift.
Pixar have pulled themselves out of the doldrums with style, with Up mastermind Pete Docter creating exactly the kind of masterful animated gem that the studio become renowned for in the first place. It's incredibly funny, but it's also enormously creative and has a beating heart at its centre. There are messages here that are relevant to adults, too. In fact, this is a rare movie that kids can enjoy, but which carries substance underneath its surface to appeal to adults. It's perfection.
As a long-time Rocky fan, I was not holding out too much hope for Creed, which looked to essentially be Rocky 7. Perhaps it was because of my low expectations that I wound up loving this spinoff, which is everything it wanted to be, and more. And the movie still holds up on second viewing. Sylvester Stallone delivers his most heartfelt work in years, Michael B. Jordan has atoned for Fant4stic in style, and the direction is spot-on, with Ryan Coogler finding a distinctive new filmmaking voice for the franchise. Creed is a loving ode to Rocky, but it's much more than that, as this is ultimately the story of Adonis Creed, and it also finds time to peak into Rocky Balboa's life in a moving, unforced manner. Creed made me laugh and cry in equal measure, and I was rooting for Adonis during the climactic boxing match just as I have rooted for Rocky for so many years.
This is far more than just a movie... The Revenant is a cinematic experience unlike anything I have ever seen. Every frame is achingly beautiful, the visual storytelling and almost silent performances work beyond all expectations, and the cinematic spell is consistently enthralling. This is something you don't just watch but absorb, and it demands to be seen in a cinema.
The Martian is a fucking godsend. Here's an Oscar calibre movie that manages to be smart and competent, yet it's also genuinely entertaining. The actors are exceptional and full of humanity, while the script gifts them witty bantering and comedic dialogue that had me laughing more than most of 2015's comedies. The craftsmanship is extraordinary, with Sir Ridley Scott waking up from his coma to create one of the most involving, technically accomplished sci-fi movies in recent memory.
Best Movie You Probably Didn't See
I could put any number of indie darlings here, but nope, I'm including this New Zealand horror-comedy that's guaranteed to become a cult favourite in coming years. Here's a brilliant homage to Peter Jackson's early splatter efforts as well as the Evil Dead franchise, and it's all supported with a love and affection for death metal. Sound odd? Yeah, it is, but boy does it work. The dialogue is constantly amusing, the practical special effects are fucking spectacular, and the tone is spot-on. And hey, the gory practical effects were done by the same dudes responsible for the Evil Dead remake and the Ash vs. Evil Dead TV show. How's that for pedigree?
Bottom 5 Worst Movies of 2015
Not only is this a great Star Wars movie, but it delivers as a blockbuster in spades. The new characters are so easy to latch onto, and there's plenty of witty dialogue throughout, not to mention the pacing is absolutely spot-on. It's an insanely fun sci-fi actioner with infinite replay value, just like the original Star Wars trilogy.
Yeah, this movie didn't exactly get a harsh reception, but I feel that it certainly didn't get the following it probably should have. It was an R-rated adult movie in the middle of a crowded summer, so that probably had something to do with it. Southpaw does help itself to the mountain of Rocky clichés, but it comes alive in the hands of Antoine Fuqua and this cast. Jake Gyllenhaal put 110% into the role, and the drama is so involving. If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend giving it a spin.
Yep, I said it - come and get me. Ant-Man is possibly the limpest Marvel movie to date, and it panders to the kids so much that it managed to score a PG rating in Australia – the same rating as fucking Frozen. The comedy is flaccid, there's no personality to the workmanlike direction or cinematography, and although the actors are fine, they're saddled with rote dialogue. You can hear the gears of the plot moving during the big expositional scenes which were thrown in without much care towards pacing or presentation. I didn't like Ant-Man at all, and it's the only Marvel movie I haven't purchased on Blu-ray. And yeah, this is coming from someone who hesitantly picked up The Incredible Hulk purely to be a completest. I can live without Ant-Man quite happily.
How do you ruin Casino Royale and Skyfall in one fell swoop? Well, by doing what Spectre did: creating a whole new context for the previous movies which makes no fucking sense in a piss-poor attempt to achieve the type of plot threads-coalescing weight of an Avengers movie without having actually done anything. Spectre fucks up the character of Blofeld by making him Bond's adopted brother in a plot ripped directly from Austin Powers (which parodied Bond...). We also find out that the villains in the previous movies worked for Blofeld, which takes away all of their respective menace (except for...well, whoever the forgettable bad guy was in Quantum of Solace, he wasn't a good villain in the first place). And everything that happened in the past three films was Blofeld's design, which also makes no fucking sense. This infuriating hunk of fucking elephant dung is also carried by a disinterested lead, while Sam Mendes was clearly asleep whilst directing the movie because the action sequences are boring as shit. This movie sucks.
It's not that I didn't expect The Gift to be good - I just didn't expect it to be this good. And neither did anybody else. A low-budget Blumhouse thriller marketed as just another couple-stalked-by-a-creep affair? Sounds watchable. Yet, it holds a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and performed better than expected at the box office. And yes, it's a great movie, and you should definitely watch it.
Deserved To Flop
Who asked for a remake of Kathryn Bigelow's 1991 cult curiosity which featured Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze and Gary Fucking Busey? Nobody? Thought so. I'm convinced this is basically a real-life Springtime for Hitler for the folks at Warner Bros, because nobody gave a shit about this movie and the trailers were all torn to shreds online. No-one was looking forward to it. Hype didn't exist.
Deserved Better Box Office
Here's a genuinely fun, retro spy caper that never clicked with audiences in a busy movie-going year. Guy Ritchie's visual scheme is eye-catching, the music is extraordinarily catchy, and the actors are all spot-on. I really wish it did enough business to spawn a sequel, because I would be there on opening day. But alas, it looks like we'll just have this one-off to enjoy. And enjoy it, I certainly shall.