Top Films of 2015

Better late than never… here’s my annual list of the best films from the year (from what I saw, anyway). 2015 was not the greatest year for film-making in my opinion, but these are the ones that really stood out:

 

10. The End of the Tour

While so many films this year went for big and loud, there were a couple of gems that used nothing more than witty banter and natural charisma to make themselves appealing – two of which are this and The Clouds of Sils Maria (which are actually very similar when you think about it). I haven’t read Infinite Jest and I really didn’t know much about David Foster Wallace before seeing this, but this it me want to read everything he produced. Both Jason Segal and Jesse Eisenberg are perfect, both constantly trying to control how they’re being perceived by the other.

You can read my full review here: http://www.filmink.com.au/reviews/the-end-of-the-tour/

 

9. Mississippi Grind

Sure, this isn’t going to win any major awards this season but any film that pushes Ryan Reynolds aside for Ben Mendelsohn is doing something right. Surprisingly, Reynolds is back to his likeable best and unsurprisingly, Mendelsohn is gripping. This is for anyone who got a kick out of John Dahl’s Rounders, with a heavy focus on compulsive gambling and a not-so-predictable turn of events.

Read my full review here: http://www.filmink.com.au/reviews/mississippi-grind/

 

8. Amy

Apart from a few of the bigger hits, I didn’t really know too much about Amy Winehouse as a person. I knew she had a few bad habits and typically became a bit of a joke within the media by the end of her career – which is what makes this film so sad. To see her come up as a wide-eyed and truly talented youth, then used by almost everyone close to her (generally males) and ultimately spiralling towards her death is really heavy to see. The deconstruction of her lyrics to depict her fragile mind frame during these years was a particularly inventive technique, which is expected from documentary filmmaker Asif Kapadia, who also brought us Senna in 2010.

 

7. Sicario

It seems to me director Denis Villeneuve is better at devising concepts rather than developing fleshed-out stories. Just as his previous films Prisoners and Enemy, Sicario is beautifully-crafted but let down by a lack of commitment to one particular theme or even a central plot. Still, the cinematography, editing and music are a cinematic experience that shouldn’t be missed. I think it would have been higher on my list had I watched it at the theatre.

 

6. The Martian

There’s absoultely nothing to hate about this film, unless you really can’t stand Matt Damon. The one major criticism would probably be that it feels like one huge advertisement for NASA, but that’s acceptable considering what they do. Even with such a big supporting cast, including Jeff Daniels, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig and Childish Gambino, this is still Damon’s vehicle and he completely owns it. Not since Tom Hanks in Cast Away have we been so captivated by someone talking to himself.

 

5. Mad Max: Fury Road

Filmspotting’s Adam Kempenaar described George Miller’s belated fourth instalment as “An orchestra of chaos” and that pretty much nails it. After being disappointed with the plot and cardboard acting of Tom Hardy upon myfirst viewing, I had to give this a second watch to really appreciate the magnitude of such a film. There is so much attention to detail in every scene, whether it’s the costumes, cars or sounds, it’s impossible not to get swept up in this post-apocalyptic dystopia.

 

4. Creed

As a fan of Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan’s first collaboration, Fruitvale Station, I didn’t know what to expect of this almost-sequel. It works because it’s not a Rocky story, as the name suggests this is an origin tale about a troubled-youth with something to prove – and Michael B. Jordan is as dedicated to the physical demands of such as role, it’s a testament to the series. From the intense fight scenes to the cheesy montage, this is exactly what the franchise needed.

 

3. Inside Out

The intelligence that lies within a concept like Inside Out is enough to write a thesis on. I couldn’t explain something as abstract as “feelings” to my parents let alone a theatre of children, and yet Pixar do it in a way that enlightens and entertains. From memory retention to imaginary friends, this is truly something special.

 

2. Spotlight

The reason this works so well, even with such an impressive ensemble, is that not one of the actors involved is trying to steal the spotlight (excuse the pun). They’re simply vehicles for the story; executing their lines so subtly you won’t even notice how good they are until it’s over.  This is textbook film-making about an incredible feat of journalism, which will sit with you even longer because it’s based on true events.

 

1. Star Wars

Is it a perfect film? No, definitely not. There are numerous of plot holes as well as the obvious fact it’s almost an exact replica of A New Hope. But the reason this gets number one is because of the immense pressure J.J. Abrams had riding on him, and the fact he lived up to it. Not only did he make up for the many sins of the prequels but also captured the same childish emotions we had watching the originals. Not to mention the stellar performances of new additions, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Adam Driver. Too bad we need to wait another two years for Episode VIII.

Read my full (spoiler-free) review here: http://www.writesleft.com/star-wars-force-awakens/

 

Honourable Mentions:

The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Dope, Straight Outta Compton, Sleeping With Other People, Ex Machina, Bridge of Spies, Clouds of Sils Maria, Ant-Man, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Mommy, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, ’71

Films I Missed:

Son of Saul, Me Earl and the Dying Girl, Tangerine, Mistress America, Macbeth, The Visit, Love & Mercy, The Gift, A Most Violent Year, Slow West, Duke of Burgundy, Trainwreck, Joy, It Follows, 45 Years, Pheonix, Beasts of No Nation, Spectre, While We’re Young, The Assassin, The Look of Silence, Predestination, Still Alice, Spy, The Diary of a Teenage Girl

The Worst:

Mortdecai, Unfinished Business, Hot Pursuit, The Fantastic Four, Pixels, Aloha, Terminator: Genisys, Get Hard, Chappie

Best of the Small Screen:

The Last Man on Earth, Daredevil, Mr. Robot, Master of None, Transparent, Jessica Jones, Fargo, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Better Call Saul, Mad Men

Most Anticipated of 2016 (Australian Release):

Deadpool, Captain America: Civil War, The Big Short, The Hateful Eight, Room, Trumbo, The Revenant, Brooklyn, Anamolisa, Carol, Steve Jobs, Zoolander 2, Batman V Superman, X-Men: Apocalypse, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Suicide Squad, Star Trek Beyond, Finding Dory, Ghostbusters, Warcraft, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Nice Guys, Assassin’s Creed, Doctor Strange