My Favorite 30 Movies of 2016

You don’t go to movies almost every week for a year NOT to write up a list like this. With hours before the Oscars begin, here are my 30 favorite films of 2016.

30. Don’t Breathe

dont-breathe

Stephen Lang, Jane Levy and Dylan Minnette

What I love about Don’t Breathe is how much it values suspense more than shock (although it will shock you in some ways). From the minute three young thieves break into a blind war veteran’s home, to the end of the film, you do exactly as the title of the film suggests.

29. Pete’s Dragon

petes-dragon

Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford and Karl Urban

I’ll go ahead and say it, when comparing Bryce Dallas Howard films…

Pete’s Dragon > Jurassic World 

Many of us know the trippy live-action/animated film from the 70’s, but this one has more heart and makes you want to believe in a kid’s pet dragon. Robert Redford’s narration is a warm touch as well.

28. Doctor Strange

doctor-strange

Benedict Cumberbatch, Mads Mikkelson and Tilda Swinton

Just because I have several films ranked ahead of it doesn’t mean I didn’t thoroughly enjoy Doctor Strange. It was a very different Marvel film, with influences from both The Matrix and Inception.  The supporting cast was as impressive as any among standalone Marvel films (Rachel McAdams, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Stuhlbarg) and Mikkelson played a villain as memorable as any the MCU has produced.

27. Kubo and the Two Strings

kubo-and-the-two-strings

Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey and Rooney Mara

The action and animation were incredible. The adventure and the story were even better. Rooney Mara’s voice still haunts my dreams though.

26. Everybody Wants Some

everybody-wants-some

Blake Jenner, Glen Powell and Zoey Deutch 

Like most of Richard Linklater’s films, Everybody Wants Some doesn’t really have much of a story but it’s fun and stays consistent with the theme of “living in the moment”. Good comedies are hard to come by these days, and what makes this movie, about college baseball players in Texas, good is how natural the humor is.

25. Nocturnal Animals

nocturnal-animals

Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams and Michael Shannon

Tom Ford’s literal story-within-a-story is actually way better than whatever is going on in the depressing reality of the film’s universe. Michael Shannon certainly earned his nomination for Best Supporting Actor, which is a testament to the excellent year he had on the big screen. Count Jake Gyllenhaal as someone who is well overdue for a Best Actor win as well.

24. 10 Cloverfield Lane

10-cloverfield

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman and John Gallagher

The Cloverfield sequel was one of the best kept secrets by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions and thankfully NOTHING like the original. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is an up-and-coming star, John Goodman is scarier than any monster the franchise has nightmare’d up, and John Gallagher (Mr. Indie film) provides the charm and relief a film this intense desperately needs. So when do we get the 3rd?

23. The Accountant

the-accountant

Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick and Jon Bernthal

I didn’t expect this to be Ben Affleck’s best movie this past year (not sorry, BvS), but I’m very glad it was. In terms of one-man-wrecking-crew films, Affleck’s Christian Wolf can definitely give John Wick a run for his money. I also appreciated every reference to Chicago’s west suburbs that get a shoutout throughout the movie.

22. The Nice Guys

the-nice-guys

Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling and Matt Bomer

I’m not sure if I ever stopped laughing when Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling were on screen together. Shane Black gave us everything we liked about Lethal Weapon, set it in the 70’s, and did it better (in my opinion).

21. Zootopia

zootopia

Jason Bateman, Ginnifer Goodwin and Idris Elba

On top of great humor, awesome animation, and a very necessary social message…the references to The Godfather, Chinatown, Breaking Bad, LA Confidential and Speed were too good to ignore.

20. Arrival

arrival

Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker

When I left the theater after seeing Arrival, I thought it was one of the best films I had seen in 2016. It did a better job explaining the parallels of time than Interstellar and took a unique approach to the idea of communicating with aliens. It may not have left the impression that the films I ranked after it did,  but it belongs among the nominated Oscar pictures.

19. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

fantastic-beasts

Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell and Dan Fogler

Don’t hurt me but, I had more fun watching Fantastic Beasts than any of the previous Harry Potter films. It helped knowing a few thing and some of the lingo, but I was captivated by Redmayne’s weirdness, Fogler’s “aw shucks” awkwardness, and every magical thing that came out of that suitcase.

18. Loving

loving

Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton and Nick Kroll

This movie couldn’t have come at a better time and the story is beautifully told. Something I have noticed with Jeff Nichols’ films (and there is another one on the list, a few sports down) is their value of silence. There are few things more powerful than letting a moment overcome an audience without sound, script or music to dictate it.

17. The Jungle Book

jungle-book

Bill Murray, Idris Elba and Ben Kingsly 

Some of the best CGI work you’ll ever see in a movie. And with a cast full of stars, like the one Jon Favreau assembled, everyone seemed to buy-in for their voice work. Bill Murray, Christopher Walken, even Gus from Breaking Bad (Giancarlo Esposito), all made the experience as intense and fun as it was.

16. Moana

moana

Auli’i Cravalho, Dwyane Johnson and Jermaine Clement

As someone who loves going to see animated movies in the theater, 2016 was a great year for them. However, the film that moved and impressed me the most was Moana. Amazing music, incredible animation, and a story that keeps you invested all the way through. If someone told you it was “the new Frozen”, it was better than that.

15. Edge of Seventeen

edge-of-seventeen

Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson and Blake Jenner

The ‘Young Adult’ genre has been miraculously on point as of late. One of my favorite films a year ago was Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, and while Edge of Seventeen wasn’t quite as good, it still had an honest perspective and the kind of dialogue that most comedies in recent years wish they had. What Edge of Seventeen does beat Earl and the Dying Girl in a surprisingly cooler student-teacher combo in Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson. The start of the film establishes this very quickly.

14. Midnight Special

MIDNIGHT SPECIAL

Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton and Adam Driver

This is the 3rd Michael Shannon flick to make this list and it’s definitely my favorite of the three. Midnight Special was released before Stranger Things and I think the mysterious sci-fi storytelling of the former made me appreciate the latter even more. The father-son angle and the dilemma of “how far would you go to keep your child safe” made the film especially gripping.

13. Fences 

FENCES

Denzel Washington, Viola Davis and Stephen Henderson

The performances that Denzel Washington and Viola Davis give are too great to deny acclaim for this film. They carry a movie, whose story becomes more and more tedious and difficult to find hope in.

12. Don’t Think Twice

dont-think-twice

Gillian Jacobs, Keegan-Michael Key and Mike Birbiglia

It’s a film about an improv troupe and how a group is effected when one of its members is selected to join a ‘Saturday Night Live’ type show. The interaction between the members and the improv scenes are so well-written, that they feel real and spontaneous.

11. When a Monster Calls

when-a-monster-calls

Lewis MacDougall, Liam Neeson and Felicity Jones

Prepare for one of the hardest cries of your life when you see this movie. Tear ducts weren’t prepared for how this film develops, as if Inside Out was live-action…with a monstrous giant tree-being that talks like Liam Neeson.

10. Captain America: Civil War

null

Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr. and Sebastian Stan

After many of us were disappointed by how Batman v. Superman turned out, Marvel came to the rescue to show geeks how it’s done again. The Russo brothers did such a good job presenting the sides of both Captain America and Iron Man that you didn’t really want to pick a side. And for a film full of so many heroes, including the the introduction of the new Spider-Man, it exceeded all expectations. Can’t wait for what’s next.

9. Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures Day 25

Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae

If you didn’t know the story already, you sure were interested to learn more about the women who helped send John Glenn and many others into space. Great performances by all involved and it was just as relevant as anything released this past year.

8. Deadpool

deadpool

Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin and T.J. Miller

The fact that people considered Deadpool potentially Oscar-worthy should say enough about how good it turned out. It was one of the biggest surprises at the box office and probably the best comedy of the year as well.

7. Lion

lion

Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara

It’s a story that seems too incredible to be real…but it is. Nicole Kidman’s performance also hit very close to home for me personally, and they payoff at the end is as good as any film from the last year.

6. Sing Street

sing-street

Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Jack Reynor and Aiden Gillen

For the first half of 2016, Sing Street was my favorite movie. The original music is as good as any from John Carney’s catalog of soundtracks. The analysis of UK 80’s music is fascinating. And I became a big Jack Reynor fan after.

5. Hell or High Water

hell-or-high-water

Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges

For anyone that was looking for an instant-classic in the modern-western genre, here you go.

4. Moonlight

Moonlight

Trevante Rhodes, Mahershala Ali and Janelle Monae

When it comes to Moonlight, I won’t forget where I was and when I saw it. I didn’t want to watch ANY election coverage so I went to the Clark Cinema past Wrigleyville. And it turned out to be the perfect film to see that evening. In any other year, especially with its subject matter and storytelling, this film would probably win Best Picture at the Oscars.

3. Rogue One

rogue-one

Felicity Jones, Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk

After taking a few months to look back and reflect on Rogue One, it’s still my all-time favorite Star Wars story and makes me hopeful for what’s to come in the franchise, with the new generation of innovators and storytellers in film.

2. La La Land

la-la-land

Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling and John Legend

The music, the choreography, the story, the performances…It’s almost a perfect film and it should be my favorite of 2016 but…

1. Manchester by the Sea

manchester-by-the-sea

Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler

Manchester by the Sea did more than than any film could to my emotions. It was so devastating, but the writing and interaction between Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges gave it the best balance possible.

Where did your favorite movie rank on the list?

Let me know on Twitter

The ‘Revenant’ Bear at the Oscars

Even if you haven’t seen The Revenant, you likely know two things about it:

Leonardo DiCaprio’s PRETTY good in it and there’s a big badass mama bear involved.

Actually, someone was dressed as the bear in the audience and really liked Chris Rock’s performance, probably.

…and SNL’s Leslie Jones got a crack at DiCaprio as “The Bear” for a minute too. It was awesome.

A few days prior to the awards show, The Hollywood Reporter published a series of cartoons of what it would be like for ‘Revenant’ Bear at the Academy Awards. Illustrator Tim Tomkinson imagined a pretty cool world where the bear was talking hair and makeup with Chewbacca, ordering dinner at Spago, and posing for photos with this year’s Best Actor in a Leading Role.

 

Revenant Bear ManiCam

 

Rev Bear and Chewie

Rev Bear Pizza

The Rev Bear and Leo

Considering it was a relatively good night for her movie, I would have liked to see how the Bear tore up the dance floor at the Governor’s Ball after the show.

For more, follow along on Facebook or Twitter.

Oscars 2016: The Winners and The Scoreboard

Spotlight took home the big prize. Mad Max took many others. Chris Rock pulled off one of the best monologues in Oscars history.

…and here are the order of awards as they were presented, the winners, and the score.

Mad Max: Fury Road – 6 wins

The Revenant – 3 wins

Spotlight – 2 wins

Room – 1 win

Bridge of Spies – 1 win

The Big Short – 1 win

Ex Machina – 1 win

The Hateful Eight – 1 win

The Danish Girl – 1 win

Original Screenplay

Adopted Screenplay

 

Actress in a Supporting Role

 

Costume Design

 

Production Design

 

Makeup and Hairstyling

 

Cinematography

 

Film Editing

 

Sound Editing

 

Sound Mixing

 

Visual Effects

 

Animated Short Film

 

Animated Feature Film

 

Actor in a Supporting Role

 

Documentary Short Subject

 

Documentary Feature

 

Live Action Short Film

 

Foreign Language Film

 

Original Score

 

Original Song

 

Directing

 

Actress in a Leading Role

 

Actor in a Leading Role

 

Best Picture

 

For more, follow along on Facebook or Twitter.

The Piffcast: The Fourth One – Netflix and Oscars

With the Academy Awards taking place this weekend, film critic Brian Chimino and I discuss our favorite films from the past year and the contending nominees. We wanted to debate every category, but that show would be too long…so we made our picks for each of the major prizes.

TJ and I also got our two cents in on TV revivals, Full House on Netflix, and what we would like to see brought back for another season. We also awarded the winner of our #SaddestPizza contest and we’re looking for recommendations for the Piffcast Book Club. We’ll post the Reading List to MichaelPiff.com on March 1st.

You can comment here with your suggestions or post them to Facebook and Twitter.

Make Your 2016 Oscars Picks Now

The 88th Academy Awards will take place Sunday, February 28th and 6:00 PM CT. Vying for the big prize of Best Motion Picture are films like Spotlight, The Revenant, The Big Short, and Bridge of Spies, and viewers are anxious to hear Chris Rock’s monologue.

In the meantime, you can make your picks beforehand here. All the films nominated were featured in my “Best of 2015” list and you can hear my picks on The Piffcast after Thursday night.

Update: We made our picks on The Piffcast, Thursday night. So make yours now!

Actress in a Leading Role

 

Actor in a Leading Role

 

Actress in a Supporting Role

 

Actor in a Supporting Role

 

Writing (Original Screenplay)

 

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

 

Visual Effects

 

Sound Mixing

 

Sound Editing

 

Animated Feature Film

 

Costume Design

 

Documentary (Feature)

 

Documentary (Short Subject)

 

Short Film (Animated)

 

Short Film (Live Action)

 

Production Design

 

Makeup and Hairstyling

 

Music (Original Score)

 

Music (Original Song)

 

Foreign Language Film

 

Film Editing

 

Directing

 

Best Picture

 

Stay tuned for more on the Oscars, and follow along on Facebook or Twitter!

Top 25 Films of 2015 – The Final List

It took until 2016 to get this list done, but that’s the price of being thorough…and loving movies.

I released a list at the end of the summer and another before the holidays. Of course, studios waited till Christmas and after to release some of the most anticipated films of the year. Just in time for the announcement of this year’s Oscar nominees, here are my Top 25 – The films I liked, really liked, and loved.

25. Carol

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 3.58.38 PM

It’s elegant and shot beautifully. Cate Blanchett has the title character but Rooney Mara is the one you’re invested in. I would have loved to see this film shot decades ago with Audrey Hepburn in Mara’s role. Kyle Chandler’s classic look would have fit in nicely. Also enjoyed the appearance from Cory Michael Smith who is currently The Riddler on FOX’s Gotham. It’s fitting.

24. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

MI Rogue Nation 2015

It was a strong year for blockbuster franchises. There are two more represented further down this list. The Mission Impossible series seems to get better as time goes on and fortunately for them, Rogue Nation hit theaters before Spectre did with a similar plot and much better execution. 

23. Beasts of No Nation

Beasts of No Nation 2015

Idris Elba seems to show us in everything he does that he is one of the best actors of our time, and this Netflix Original film gets him closer to the acclaim he properly deserves. Beasts of No Nation is also a milestone for Netflix that shows they should be taken seriously as a film studio and not just for television…Just try to avoid the string of unfortunate Adam Sandler flicks they will be putting out for a while.

22. Creed

Creed 2015

Creed is a very good sports movie. It reminded me a lot of the first Rocky film. I love how they filmed the fights and Sylvester Stallone deserves every “best supporting actor” nomination he gets. We’re reminded how great an actor he is, and how awesome a character Rocky Balboa is in this film. Michael B. Jordan is certainly in store for big things and this film is a clear sign of that. I just wished they held back on the cheese factor of a certain training scene and that his “big opponent” was a much more memorable character. 

21. Trumbo

TR_08395.dng

The acting in Trumbo is outstanding. The hype was real regarding Bryan Cranston’s performance. Both Helen Mirren and John Goodman play their parts very well. The correlation between how members of the American communist party were treated and some of our society’s current issues today strikes a chord. I just wish I hadn’t seen so many of the big scenes in the trailer already and that the directing was better.

20. The Big Short

The Big Short 2015

The more I think about The Big Short, the more I think I liked it. Christian Bale, Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling are all awesome in the film and it’s incredibly smart. Hamish Linklater is also an excellent complement, similar to his role in The Crazy Ones with Robin Williams. The constant explaining of every economic term (which might have been necessary) gets distracting and the comedic approach takes away some of the necessary emotional investment. Had I not seen 99 Homes, I probably would have appreciated this film a lot more while watching it. 

19. 99 Homes

99 Homes 2015

Like The Big Short, 99 Homes takes place during the financial and housing crisis but it’s way much more of a punch to the gut. You get the perspective of people who lost their homes from the crisis, and it’s even more of a thriller because you have no idea how these people will react to those who have to break the news to them. Michael Shannon is also as good as anyone in supporting actor categories from this film.

18. Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton 2015

The music, the acting, the “Bye Felicia” scene…

Straight Outta Compton was an awesome biopic and it told a story that I think a lot of younger hip hop fans needed to hear, considering how influential members of NWA really are to the genre. The only reason I don’t have it ranked higher is because it did feel long by the end. 

17. Love & Mercy

Love and Mercy 2015

Love and Mercy was another biopic (also with Paul Giamatti as a jerk manager) that I enjoyed, but this one stuck with me a lot longer after. Paul Dano is great as young Brian Wilson and for once John Cusack is a lot less “John Cusack”-ish than he is in most of his roles. Elizabeth Banks also gives one of the more underrated performances in film from this year. If you’re like me, you probably listened to “Pet Sounds” for a week after seeing it.

16. The Walk

The Walk 2015

I’m a little disappointed The Walk isn’t getting more chatter during awards season. Obviously I think there are better films, but Robert Zemeckis did a brilliant job utilizing 3D, especially for the climax of the film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ben Kinglsey were both remarkably charming as well. 

15. The Hateful EightHateful Eight 2015

It’s not Quentin Tarantino’s best, but “Not Tarantino’s Best” is still better than most. The second half of the film was up there with some of his most entertaining…and bloodiest. For me, this was Walton Goggins’s coming out party on the big screen. Loved him in Justified and The Shield. I think it’s obvious Tarantino did too.

14. Mississippi Grind 

Mississippi Grind

It was too appropriate that I watched this film while waiting to hear my lottery numbers called. Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn has the All-American Asshole role down between this and Bloodline, yet knows just how to make you feel for him. Sure, Ryan Reynolds plays another good-looking fast talker, but his whole “who, what, and why” deal keeps you as intrigued as the constant gambling…which is enough drama by itself. 

13. Ex Machina

Ex Machina 2015

This was a big year for all 3 stars of Ex Machina. Oscar Isaac continued his path to Pacino-status with his roles in Show Me A Hero and Star Wars, which Domhnall Gleeson also stars in (as well as Brooklyn and The Revenant). Alicia Vikander has a good chance of getting both Best Actress and Supporting Oscar nominations for her roles in The Danish Girl and Ex Machina. Her character, Ava, still haunts my dreams as well. It’s an unreal suspense film. 

12. The End of the Tour

The End of the Tour 2015

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…I can’t recall a time where I’ve seen two actors be so natural interacting with each other for a film. That’s all this film is…a long weekend conversation from Bloomington-Normal to Minnesota and back, with honest thoughts and feelings. I’m happy to see Jason Segel is getting some acclaim as well for his portrayal of David Foster Wallace.

11. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs 2015

Yes, I’m a HUGE Sorkin fan, but I found the approach to this biopic to be incredibly original. It wasn’t your typical “start-to-end” story, but just 3 different periods in time and how each person has evolved in that time. It also helps that everyone involved nails it with their parts, especially Michael Fassbender.

10. Brooklyn

Brooklyn 2015

If anyone is challenging Brie Larson for Best Actress, it’s Saoirse Ronan. She and Brooklyn do an amazing job of making you feel all the emotions you can muster. It also helps that two of my TV crushes, Emily Bett Rickards (Felicity Smoak, Arrow) and Jessica Paré (Megan Draper, Mad Men), have solid roles in the film. The contrast in two worlds during the 1950s and how Eilis (Ronan) evolves is what makes the film.

 

09. Inside Out

Inside Out 2015

A movie about feelings makes you feel feelings…and even more than the typical Pixar feelings (which is saying a lot, considering the first 3 minutes to Up). It also helps that they casted all the right people for all the right feelings.

08. The Martian

The Martian 2015

I came across a Facebook friend listing his “Top 10” and he said he hadn’t seen The Martian because “It looked like Castaway in space.” He is very wrong…unless he values Jeff Daniels, Donald Glover, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean, Michael Pena, Jessica Chastain, and Kate Mara to all be a volleyball named Wilson. There’s also a Lord of the Rings reference that probably won the film “Best Comedy” at the Golden Globes by itself. 

07. The Revenant

The Revenant 2015

I have a very difficult time seeing anyone other than Leonardo DiCaprio winning Best Actor at the Oscars. Maybe Bryan Cranston, but Leo will be SO pissed if he doesn’t because of everything he went through for this film…It’s pretty evident.

06. Room

Room 2015

The Best Actress category at any awards show is Brie Larson’s to lose because of Room. Jacob Tremblay is amazing as well…just be prepared to have your heart strings pulled hard.

05. Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max Fury Road 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road is a 2 hour long roller coaster of action, explosions, and rock’n’roll. I don’t recall taking a breath between the start and end. The twisted and beautiful mind of George Miller is on full awesome display. 

04. Me and Earl and The Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl 2015

I think we all have our personal movies that connect with us in more ways than most and matches our personalities. Me and Earl and The Dying Girl was that movie for me, my favorite from the summer. There’s also something about Nick Offerman as a sociology professor, robe-wearing, cat-obsessed dad that still tickles me funny.

03. Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies 2015

Bridge of Spies is about as good a film as you could ask for from a combination of Steven Spielberg and the Coen Brothers…I was pleasantly surprised to see that the latter wrote the movie once the closing credits rolled. It was all meant for someone like Tom Hanks to lead in. There is one scene toward the end that I found to be as powerful as any in 2015. 

02. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars- The Force Awakens

The best way I’ve heard The Force Awakens described is that it hit all the right spots in all the right ways…It really did. Nostalgia and newness brilliantly combined. Fantastic well-timed humor that the past films lacked. If you waited for something to disappoint you, you’d only be disappointed by the fact that you’re still waiting. It’s also the only other film, besides #1, that I went back to see in the theater again and appreciated more for it.

01. Spotlight

Spotlight 2015

I really don’t think there was a better performance by an ensemble this year. It was a refreshing take on journalism, not over-glorifying the industry but simply presenting how a paper goes about getting a story. All the comparisons to All The President’s Men are warranted. I will also stump hard for Mark Ruffalo getting Best Supporting Actor recognition, even when the category is heavy enough as is. 

 

What does your list look like? Let me know on Facebook or Twitter

Top 20 Movies of 2015 So Far (Part II)

“So Far” because The Hateful Eight, The Revenant, Joy and Carol have yet to hit theaters. Once I get those in, I’ll have an updated final list.

“Part II” because I published a list at the end of the summer. Just 4 movies from my original Top 10 are still there and 2 don’t even crack the Top 20. 

With just a little more than a week left in the year, here are “The Best…so far.”

20. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

MI Rogue Nation 2015

It was a strong year for blockbuster franchises. There are two more represented further down this list. The Mission Impossible series seems to get better as time goes on and fortunately for them, Rogue Nation hit theaters before Spectre did with a similar plot and much better execution. 

19. Beasts of No Nation

Beasts of No Nation 2015

Idris Elba seems to show us in everything he does that he is one of the best actors of our time, and this Netflix Original film gets him closer to the acclaim he properly deserves. Beasts of No Nation is also a milestone for Netflix that shows they should be taken seriously as a film studio and not just for television…Just try to avoid the string of unfortunate Adam Sandler flicks they will be putting out for a while.

18. Creed

Creed 2015

Creed is a very good sports movie. It reminded me a lot of the first Rocky film. I love how they filmed the fights and Sylvester Stallone deserves every “best supporting actor” nomination he gets. We’re reminded how great an actor he is, and how awesome a character Rocky Balboa is in this film. Michael B. Jordan is certainly in store for big things and this film is a clear sign of that. I just wished they held back on the cheese factor of a certain training scene and that his “big opponent” was a much more memorable character. 

17. The Big Short

The Big Short 2015

The more I think about The Big Short, the more I think I liked it. Christian Bale, Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling are all awesome in the film and it’s incredibly smart. Hamish Linklater is also to be an excellent complement, similar to his role in The Crazy Ones with Robin Williams. The constant explaining of every economic term (which might have been necessary) gets distracting and the comedic approach takes away some of the necessary emotional investment. Had I not seen 99 Homes (see further down), I probably would have appreciated this film a lot more while watching it. 

16. Trumbo

TR_08395.dng

The acting in Trumbo is outstanding. The hype was real regarding Bryan Cranston’s performance. Both Helen Mirren and John Goodman play their parts very well. The correlation between how members of the American communist party were treated and some of our society’s current issues today strikes a chord. I just wish I hadn’t seen so many of the big scenes in the trailer already and that the directing was better.

15. 99 Homes

99 Homes 2015

Like The Big Short, 99 Homes takes place during the financial and housing crisis but it’s way much more of a punch to the gut. You get the perspective of people who lost their homes from the crisis, and it’s even more of a thriller because you have no idea how these people will react to those who have to break the news to them. Michael Shannon is also as good as anyone in supporting actor categories from this film.

14. Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton 2015

The music, the acting, the “Bye Felicia” scene…

Straight Outta Compton was an awesome biopic and it told a story that I think a lot of younger hip hop fans needed to hear, considering how influential members of NWA really are to the genre. The only reason I don’t have it ranked higher is because it did feel long by the end. 

13. Love & Mercy

Love and Mercy 2015

Love and Mercy was another biopic (also with Paul Giamatti as a jerk manager) that I enjoyed, but this one stuck with me a lot longer after. Paul Dano is great as young Brian Wilson and for once John Cusack is a lot less “John Cusack”-ish than he is in most of his roles. Elizabeth Banks also gives one of the more underrated performances in film from this year. If you’re like me, you probably listened to “Pet Sounds” for a week after seeing it.

12. Ex Machina

Ex Machina 2015

This was a big year for all 3 stars of Ex Machina. Oscar Isaac continued his path to Pacino-status with his roles in Show Me A Hero and Star Wars, which Domhnall Gleeson also stars in. Alicia Vikander has a good chance of getting both Best Actress and Supporting Oscar nominations for her roles in The Danish Girl and Ex Machina. Her character, Ava, still haunts my dreams as well. It’s an unreal suspense film. 

11. The Walk

The Walk 2015

I’m a little disappointed The Walk isn’t getting more chatter during awards season. Obviously I think there are better films, but Robert Zemeckis did a brilliant job utilizing 3D, especially for the climax of the film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ben Kinglsey were both remarkably charming as well. 

10. The End of the Tour

The End of the Tour 2015

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…I can’t recall a time where I’ve seen two actors be so natural interacting with each other for a film. That’s all this film is…a long weekend conversation from Bloomington-Normal to Minnesota and back, with honest thoughts and feelings. I’m happy to see Jason Segel is getting some acclaim as well for his portrayal of David Foster Wallace.

09. Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs 2015

Yes, I’m a HUGE Sorkin fan, but I found the approach to this biopic to be incredibly original. It wasn’t your typical “start-to-end” story, but just 3 different periods in time and how each person has evolved in that time. It also helps that everyone involved nails it with their parts, especially Michael Fassbender.

08. Inside Out

Inside Out 2015

A movie about feelings makes you feel feelings…and even more than the typical Pixar feelings (which is saying a lot, considering the first 3 minutes to Up). It also helps that they casted all the right people for all the right feelings.

 

07. The Martian

The Martian 2015

I came across a Facebook friend listing his “Top 10” and he said he hadn’t seen The Martian because “It looked like Castaway in space.” He is very wrong…unless he values Jeff Daniels, Donald Glover, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean, Michael Pena, Jessica Chastain, and Kate Mara to all be a volleyball named Wilson. 

06. Room

Room 2015

The Best Actress category at any awards show is Brie Larson’s to lose because of Room. Jacob Tremblay is amazing as well…just be prepared to have your heart strings pulled hard.

05. Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max Fury Road 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road is a 2 hour long roller coaster of action, explosions, and rock’n’roll. I don’t recall taking a breath between the start and end. The twisted and beautiful mind of George Miller is on full awesome display. 

04. Me and Earl and The Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl 2015

I think we all have our personal movies that connect with us in more ways than most and matches our personalities. Me and Earl and The Dying Girl was that movie for me, my favorite from the summer. There’s also something about Nick Offerman as a sociology professor, robe-wearing, cat-obsessed dad that still tickles me funny.

 

03. Bridge of Spies

Bridge of Spies 2015

Bridge of Spies is about as good a film as you could ask for from a combination of Steven Spielberg and the Coen Brothers…I was pleasantly surprised to see that the latter wrote the movie once the closing credits rolled. It was all meant for someone like Tom Hanks to lead in. There is one scene toward the end that I found to be as powerful as any in 2015. 

02. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars- The Force Awakens

The best way I’ve heard The Force Awakens described is that it hit all the right spots in all the right ways…It really did. Nostalgia and newness brilliantly combined. Fantastic well-timed humor that the past films lacked. If you waited for something to disappoint you, you’d only be disappointed by the fact that you’re still waiting.

01. Spotlight

Spotlight 2015

I really don’t think there was a better performance by an ensemble this year. It was refreshing take on a journalism, not over-glorifying the industry but simply presenting how a paper goes about getting a story. All the comparisons to All The President’s Men are warranted. I will also stump hard for Mark Ruffalo getting Best Supporting Actor recognition, even when the category is heavy enough as is. 

 

Stay tuned for the final list after Hateful Eight, The Revenant, Joy and Carol are released. Till then, let me know what your favorite films from 2015 are on Facebook or Twitter.