These are ten of the films from 2015. Five of them are good, and five of them are less so. These are not the five best and five worst of the year, and they’re not even my absolute favorites and least favorites of the year; they’re just five that I thoroughly enjoyed, and five that I wished were better. And they are in no particular order. PopCultureGalaxy is chill that way.
Oh, and also, Kingsmen should be on this list. It isn’t, but it really should be.
It was only the most highly anticipated movie of my life. A true Star Wars sequel was so desperately desired, the entire Expanded Universe is based on the idea that the Galactic Empire didn’t die with Palpatine. With the original leads as key supporting players and young new talent bringing the story to a new generation, The Force Awakens was the Star Wars movie we always dreamed of but never really expected we’d actually be blessed with. Sure, many of the key story beats are nigh-identical to those in A New Hope (but really not as many as the more vocal detractors would have you believe), but the familiar outline of the story was a message from Disney and Lucasfilm, saying, “This is Star Wars as you know and love it. We’ll save the real big risks for 2016 and beyond.”
4- Run All Night
We’ve all read enough stories about how dramatic character actor Liam Neeson reinvented himself as an action hero. We’ve also read a handful of articles about how his tenure is at an end due to the financial underperformance of his latest actioner, Run All Night. Naturally, the film that performs most poorly just happens to be the one which is unequivocally the best. As a guilt-ridden hitman, Neeson unwittingly drags his limo driver son, the perpetually underrated Joel Kinnaman, into his life of crime after he kills his best friend’s son to defend his own, and the boy’s father, Ed Harris, has no choice but to put a price on their heads, which elite killer Common (Hell on Wheels) aims to collect. Killing and drama ensue, all in a great snapshot of New York City circa 2015. One day, people will look back on this film to see NYC in this era the way we look back on The Taking of Pelham One Two Three to see NYC in the 70’s. Plus, it’s got Holt McCallany, and he’s one of my favorites.
Speaking of impossible sequels, Creed. Seriously, Creed came out of nowhere. I remember the day it was announced that Ryan Coogler was writing and directing with Stallone producing, and I thought, “Yeah, that’ll be the day.” And then, all of a sudden, the trailer dropped, and it was like, “woah, this is real.” After Rocky Balboa returned to the story of the Italian Stallion and wrapped the entire series up with a definitive ending, what right did this sequel/spinoff have to be so good? Like The Force Awakens, it definitely adheres to the playbook of its progenitor, honoring and continuing its aesthetic while also updating for the 21st century. The inclusion of Stallone reprising his iconic role (a la Harrison Ford in The Force Awakens!) is the icing on the cake which makes this just as much of a sequel as it is the start of something brand new. In the future, when people think of Rocky, they will think of a trilogy consisting of Rocky, Rocky Balboa, and Creed.
There are a lot of movies that make me sad they rarely let low-budget films play on 2000 screens. Movies like Love & Mercy, Spotlight, Mr. Holmes, and Room could have been legitimate blockbusters in another lifetime (and are all among my 2015 favorites, but you’ve surely heard enough about those by now… But then why is Star Wars on the list?) and one of the unfortunate casualties of the new top-heavy approach to film distribution is one of my favorite movies of the year, Ashby. Mickey Rourke is a retired assassin with terminal cancer who bonds with a young teenager. Antics, comedy, heartwarming, and a little bit of righteous violence ensue. Nat Wolff is totes adorbs, as they say, while still feeling very real and not a patronizingly perfect little brat of a teenager. Maybe it’s too cliche, but I found it to be the perfect blend of a teenage coming-of-age story and a revenge story, and the way they complement each other is surprisingly natural. Also, Sarah Silverman plays the kid’s mom, and she’s just the best.
Ok, it might be a weird pick, but remember, it’s not my “movie of the year,” it’s just a 2015 movie I really liked. But it came out of nowhere and really made me happy I had seen it. One part romantic comedy, one part gymrat comedy, and with just enough melodrama to shake things up, Results, starring Kevin Corrigan, Guy Pearce and Cobie Smulders, is another great movie that got lost in the shuffle of going straight to video-on-demand and a handful of theatres in one city. Results can currently be seen on Netflix Instant, and I recommend you do so. It might just be my favorite movie of the year.
Well, not worst, but movies that, in one way or another, disappointed me.
5- Mad Max: Fury Road
Wait, don’t go! Hear me out. I liked Fury Road a lot, and I’m glad that so many others really loved it. In fact, I had it on my ‘best’ list as well, but removed it to make room for Run All Night. I just merely thought it was very good. I didn’t like Tom Hardy’s performance (too many weird grunts and incomprehensible bits of dialogue), some of the retcons to the previous movies, and a lot of the action seemed, weirdly enough, to not hit as hard as it did in Mad Max and The Road Warrior. I’m so glad that the movie turned out to be successful enough that we may have more of them in the near future, and I hope that future films fulfill the promise that Fury Road strives for but can’t quite reach.
Undeniable proof that Skyfall was a fluke. Sam Mendes was never a good fit for 007, and while Skyfall somehow managed to earn a pass, Spectre can’t pass muster. It starts out promising with some classic 007 action and the promise of Blofeld, Spectre, and a new mythology for the character, but once the revelations come, they underwhelm in every possible way, culminating in a made-for-TV climax that shows that Mendes simply does not understand the character.
3- Terminator: Genisys
Jai Courtney? No. As maligned as Terminator Salvation was, the one thing it did well was casting a young Kyle Reese. The role, originated by Michael Biehn in the 1984 original, was filled perfectly by Anton Yelchin in the 2009 sequel/prequel. In 2015’s Genisys, however, Jai Courtney, an actor much more suited to playing one of the robotic killers, is inexplicably cast as Reese, a character who’s supposed to be the physical opposite of Arnold Schwarzenegger, lean and mean as opposed to broad and bulky. But enough about muscles… The movie begins strongly, with a scene scripted from the original film (but never shot) in which John Connor, as played by the talented Jason Clarke (who didn’t deserve the ire he got for his role here), sends Reese back in time. The setup is good, familiar situations with time-travel twists, and a young Schwarzenegger fighting against his older counterpart. Unfortunately, this premise is jettisoned almost immediately, as the plot devolves into a weird time-travel memory thing and trying to stop people from updating their software… Or something stupid like that. And Doctor Who is there, too, for some reason.
Enough has been said. Just read our review to see all the reasons you should never watch this steaming pile of crap.
1- Steve Jobs
So, Steve Jobs was an asshole. This fact is not in dispute, even among folks who think he was the second coming of Robo-Christ. Jobs spends his life lying, taking credit for the inventions of others, and making slave labor not only acceptable, but essential for the success of his products. Throughout the film, Jobs is a dick to every single person, including his child daughter, and keeps on telling everybody that its okay because he’s a genius like a conductor who “plays the orchestra,” but then it all turns out okay because he wins his daughter’s love by inventing the iPod. Writer Aaron Sorkin is too timid to make up his mind one way or another on Jobs and winds up playing it safe and not having any thesis at all. The movie is set over a handful of conferences, which it presumes to be very clever, but, take my word for it, it isn’t. Perhaps it was written to be a play, which would have worked better, but it still wouldn’t have been any good.
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