My year began with attending the opening night of “The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death” and ended with “The Hateful Eight.” The former was instantly forgettable and sported a redundant title (we get it, she’s bad), while the latter put a bad taste in my mouth, though I’ll never forget it. In between, we had a movie year steeped heavily in nostalgia, with the biggest hits all a reminder and repeat serving of hits from yesteryear. A year ago, I predicted “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Jurassic World” would be the top two biggest hits 2015, which is like predicting the sun will set at day’s end, followed by an appearance of the moon. While movies have always dipped into our memories and played to what we find familiar, an uncanny slew of movies found their success from polishing off old material. In addition to Luke Skywalker and a T-Rex, there was also the triumphant return of Rocky Balboa, James Bond, Ethan Hunt and the Peanuts gang. Next year, the 20-years late but still eagerly anticipated “Independence Day: Resurgence” arrives, as does an elaborate curiosity item bearing the name “Ghostbusters.” In a year where the old became new, let’s start with the year’s finest…
The Best Films of the Year:
- Love & Mercy– The Brian Wilson story mixed joy and heartbreak with style and fly-on-the-wall elegance. Hard to believe this is a debut film for director Bill Pohlad, who took big chances with duel timelines and a tone that joyously soars, then dips back into sorrow. A true life story that truly inspires, with some of the year’s finest performances, as well as a treasure chest of great Beach Boys tunes. The story of why it took Wilson decades to complete “Smile,” his masterpiece, finally has a movie as complex, playfully realized and as rich as the album itself.
- Carol– Todd Hayne’s 50’s-set love story is among his most captivating and elegant.
- Mad Max: Fury Road– George Miller’s crazy, extraordinary action movie is essential cinema.
- Irrational Man– Woody Allen’s mesmerizing, disturbing thriller is among his finest.
- Maggie– Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in a zombie drama. Get this: it’s great and heartbreaking.
- The Big Short– A funny, electrifying Wall Street farce, featuring one of Christian Bale’s finest hours.
- Sicario– Both an action movie and a dramatic powerhouse, it immerses you in a frightening place.
- James White– A stunning, moving drama, showcasing Cynthia Nixon’s finest acting hour.
- Spectre– Blending polished filmmaking and high octane excitement, Sam Mendes’ film is sensational.
- Creed– The year’s biggest surprise. Turns out we really needed “Rocky 7” after all.
Runner Ups: Hitchcock/Truffaut, The Look of Silence, The Peanuts Movie
The Worst Films of the Year:
- Vacation– In my review, I wrote that this terrible remake was so ugly, it played like a sitcom written by Charles Manson. I don’t have too much more to add, only that it was pitiful waste of Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, who deserve a better send-off to their iconic characters than this mess.
- Fifty Shades of Grey– Wisely begins like a comedy, then becomes a subpar soft core time waster.
- Jupiter Ascending– Loaded with unintentional laughs, it stinks but I can’t wait to see it again.
- The Boy Next Door– Potentially trashy fun that turns ugly. I like JLO but she needs a movie comeback.
- Get Hard– Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart are funny. However, they flopped hard and lacked chemistry.
- The Wedding Ringer– Kevin Hart’s worst movie yet, a depressing misuse of his and Josh Gad’s talents.
- Insurgent– The YA phenomenon we don’t care about. Cold, unoriginal and in dire need of Katniss.
- Strange Magic– Another George Lucas-produced endurance test, or “Radioland Murders 2.”
- Kingsmen: The Secret Service– An obnoxious and off-putting “tribute” to 007.
- Entertainment– An art house endurance test. I’m still kicking myself for not walking out.
Bottom 20: Mortdecai, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Serena, Burying the Ex, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Hot Pursuit and Point Break.
The Hateful Eight
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Pitch Perfect 2
Movies I forgot I even went to in 2015:
Black or White
The Longest Ride
Run All Night
The Woman in Black 2
Woman in Gold
Good but Seriously Overrated:
Bridge of Spies
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Good Dinosaur
By The Sea
Great Movies That Few Actually Saw or Even Heard Of:
What We Do in the Shadows
Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation
Guilty Pleasure Camp Classics:
Jem and the Holograms
Magic Mike XXL
Best of Enemies
Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of National Lampoon
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
Live From New York!
Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Doctor Moreau
Art House Films worth catching:
The End of the Tour
While We’re Young