It’s hard to put together a “Top 10” when we’re 7 and a half months into the year and Oscars season hasn’t hit. I’m also not the one handing out any Golden Globes or Academy Awards, so that’s why I prefer saying “Favorite” when putting this list together.
Tomorrowland was a refreshing original from Disney that we hadn’t seen in a while that doesn’t have “PIXAR” all over it. In a world (voice-over guy voice) when franchises and sequels rule all, director and writer Brad Bird told a story that combined a mixture of our fascination with the future and a deep seeded love many of us may have from our very first visit to Epcot at Disney World. George Clooney and Britt Robertson play characters who shine for their innovative minds, while Hugh Laurie antagonizes with some of the bleakest/best lines of the movie:
“There are simultaneous epidemics of obesity and starving – how is that even possible?!”
I also enjoyed the hat-tip to old animated Disney character names with Keegan-Michael Key as “Hugo” (Hunchback of Notre Dame) and Kathryn Hahn as “Ursula” (The Little Mermaid).
Not too many people liked this movie, but I did. Tom Hardy reunites with Gary Oldman for the first time since Dark Knight Rises and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. They are two of the better actors in the business and it shows in this film. The story is incredible. The film opens with a line that is repeated throughout, “The is no murder in paradise.” Russia banned this film because of how it portrayed its citizens who live in fear of their government. I won’t get into real global politics, but imagine a world where a serial killer can roam free because law enforcement isn’t allowed to admit there is a problem. This film frustrates the viewer because of that, but the dodging and weaving Hardy must execute is what makes the movie fascinating to me.
People Places Things
You know how awkward and painful The-Breakup is? People Places Things took the subject of breaking up and made it suck WAY LESS. When Jermaine Clement isn’t voicing over super annoying horses on a beach with Hannah Davis, he’s a terrific indie comedy actor. On top of being “Weekend Fun” Dad of the year, Clement’s character is a graphic novelist whose art serves as interludes for the story. Regina Hall (Scary Movie) and Jessica Williams (The Daily Show) give excellent supporting performances and so do the kids, Aundrea and Gia Gadsby.
10. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Avengers: Age of Ultron wasn’t great and wasn’t even the best Marvel film of this year…but it didn’t have to be. I understand Joss Whedon really beat himself up over the pressures of making a follow up to the first Avengers flick, but his final product was exactly what I wanted. James Spader NAILED IT as Ultron, and it was so creepy how the robot featured his mannerisms. The Marvel Cinematic Universe and its timeline of films are basically a long TV series of epic 2 hour episodes. The ongoing story evolved well in Age of Ultron, and we got all the action, witty banter, and intros to new characters that we needed…before things get really hairy in Captain America: Civil War.
I had some personal investment in Ant-Man, because I wanted it to surprise people for how good it could be. After opening weekend, there was much chest-pounding and “Told ya!” from me and I am totally shameless about it. The Ant-Man story in the MCU has been rearranged, as Hank Pym was the one who originally assembled The Avengers in the comics and also created Ultron. The film was also more of a “changing of the guard” than an origin story, as Hank (Michael Douglas) was passing the suit on to Scott Lang (Paul Rudd).
Rather than be an action film with some comedy, Ant-Man was a comedy with plenty of action. I LOVED that about the film. I died laughing every time Michael Pena was on screen and I appreciated the fact Paul Rudd didn’t have to try being someone else (like Chris Pratt had to for Jurassic World ). It was a fun one-off movie that still moved the Marvel story along and concluded with an awesome scene after the credits.
8. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
The latest in the Ethan Hunt/IMF saga did not disappoint. Rogue Nation continued the fun-spy-stunt vibe that many of us loved in Ghost Protocol, but established itself as its own film more than a sequel. Tom Cruise may be a crazy person in real life, but on the screen he is good an action star as any. This installment didn’t really force a love story on you either but more of a mutual respect between Hunt and MI6 agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), that may or may not have led to some natural attraction. Faust was a badass character in this film too.
07. Straight Outta Compton
I walked out of the theater with one thought: “Helluva story.” The NWA biopic directed by Friday director F. Gary Gray grabs a hold of the viewer, gets the head bobbing/toe tapping, and reminds many of us (who grew up or lived in the era that revolutionized hip-hop) of what was going on in the streets. It’s a long film, but it’s almost like 3 different stories mashed into one following Eric “Eazy-E” Wright, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube. I do feel that the stories regarding Ice Cube and Dr. Dre were cleaned up a little because they were producers on the film, but that was expected.
Oshea Jackson Jr. playing his father felt perfect and both Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre) and Jason Mitchell (Eazy-E) gave excellent performances. You really do get chills when both Snoop Dogg and Tupac are introduced. And of course Paul Giamatti settles in fine as his now typical a-hole manager role.
6. Love & Mercy
Speaking of Giamatti a-hole manager roles…Love & Mercy edges out Straight Outta Compton for me because Paul Dano gives one of the definite Oscar-worthy performances from this summer as a young Brian Wilson. I do recommend listening to Pet Sounds before watching the movie, and then become amazed at how wrong Wilson’s father and Mike Love were about the album when the Beach Boys originally recorded it. The process Wilson goes through composing his music makes you say “Wow” out loud.
My one fear going into the theater was John Cusack mailing in another gig where he seems like “John Cusack as John Cusack…as (insert historical figure)”. Nope. I actually forgot at times that it was Cusack as the older version of Wilson. I also have to say that Elizabeth Banks pulls off one of the more powerful scenes as someone standing up to a threatening jackass bully like Giamatti’s character. I may have slow clapped as it happened.
5. Ex Machina
Ex Machina is one of the great surprises of 2015. Throughout the entire film, you are so unsure as to when something is going to go wrong and who is really in control. The robot, Ava (played by Alicia Vikander), has you on a string and you can’t do anything about it. Oscar Isaac’s performance adds to the suspense like a time bomb waiting to explode. Then, when the credits roll at the end, you have no idea if you should be afraid of the technology you rely so much on (i.e. cell phones, Google, EVERYTHING). A movie that makes you question such things, because they are sort of plausible, is undeniable as a great thriller.
4. Inside Out
Dammit, Pixar…You made us feel feelings again, which I guess is expected in a film LITERALLY about feelings. Inside Out really is the emotional roller coaster that it’s advertised as. It is casted masterfully for each of the different character “feelings” in young Riley’s (Kaitlyn Dias) head. The two characters that felt dead on to their real-life counterparts were Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and of course Anger (Lewis Black). What made the film this good though, was how it reminded the viewer how important and natural each of your feelings can be, no matter your age. High five for deep overall messages, Pixar.
3. The End of the Tour
The film is based on a 5-day interview between Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) following the release of ‘Infinite Jest’ in 1996. The reason I hold this film in such high regard is because it felt like the most honest interaction between two people given their statuses and positions. Their humor, insecurities, competitiveness, and self awareness hit home with me, and Segel captured that the best as Wallace. It’s also funny now that movies taking place in the 90’s can now be considered period pieces and I giggled every time Segel asked for a Diet-Rite.
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road is the fastest 2 hours you’ll ever experience in a movie theater. Once the vehicles, spawned from the sick and beautiful mind of George Miller, hit the desert road, your breath is held for the remainder of the ride. Visually, it was like nothing I had seen before. It was pure action, adventure, and horror. You also didn’t have to see any of the other films to pick up on Fury Road. Charlize Theron kicked everybody’s ass as Furiosa. And who doesn’t love an army of hell-bred maniacs being led by a Heavy Metal guitarist whose axe shoots real flames out of it?
1. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Naming something #1 says a lot about whatever it is you are actually ranking. When you you make the proclamation though, you stand by it (like when you rank 40 different pizza places and everybody loses their minds in the comments section).
As of August 15th at 5:34 PM CDT, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is my favorite movie of 2015. I laughed, I connected, I cried, I laughed again, and repeat. I wanted Earl (RJ Cyler) to be my “coworker”. I wanted to hangout with Rachel (Olivia Cooke) and talk about how awesome Hugh Jackman ALWAYS is as Wolverine. I was Greg (Thomas Mann) in high school, to an extent, and I wanted to tell him things don’t turn out so bad. The supporting cast is incredible in this film as well with Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Jon Bernthal, Molly Shannon, and the dude who plays Earl’s brother (Bobb’e J. Thompson).
It’s also a film about kids who love movies. I love movies. Weird how someone would relate with something like that, right?