2015: Year in Review

I saw a grand total of 16 movies in the theater in 2015. Decent, but I can do better. If you count the time that I got to see Jaws for the 40th birthday, it’s 17. I’m not counting it, but I wanted to mention it because I GOT TO SEE JAWS IN THE THEATER.

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My New Year’s resolution is, as usual, to see more movies and write more. So! Here is my dinky little list.

16: Starting us off is the sensation that began as Twilight Fan-Fiction and turned into something far worse. If I could pick one movie from last year to get Ebert’s review for, it’d Fifty Shades of Grey. I hope he would use the term shitshow liberally.

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Jamie Dornan, pictured above with co-star Dakota Johnson, spent a large majority of the film, the taking of that photo,  and — subsequently — his actual life wondering how this happened.

Dornan plays titular character Christian Grey. He is a self-made kazillionare who falls in love with the socially awkward and often self-deprecating Anastasia Steele. I am not part of the solution, I am part of the problem. I read all three of those dreadful books. Never in my life have I scoffed so frequently and loudly. Abysmal.

15: The Minions Movie. I mean, what can I say? At least It wasn’t The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water. Heard that one was a real dumpster fire but had the good sense not to see it.

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Minions is a cute picture, but I felt there was some material that I wasn’t super comfortable watching next to my 10-year-old niece. Like when the minions are hitchhiking and get a ride with a family of deranged lunatics who then violently rob a bank.

14: I love Paul Rudd, Adam McKay, Edgar Wright, and Joe Cornish. I did not love Ant-Man. I just felt the whole time like the movie was going, “Remember when this happened? Remember that? Cool.” And it was a little tedious.

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I guess as far as super hero movies go, this one just didn’t hit for me. But they can’t all be The Avengers and Captain America.

Make me a buddy comedy with Rudd’s Ant-Man co-stars Michael Pena and Bobby Cannavale and call it, “‘Ey! I’m Walkin’ Here!” I will see it twice!

13: I saw maybe 10 minutes of Sisters. Here’s what I can tell you about it:

  • Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are sisters
  • It takes place in Florida
  • Their folks are selling their childhood home
  • They are going to throw one last rager in said home

Why didn’t I see more? It was a perfect storm of burning the candle at both ends, La-Z-Boy chairs in the theater that recline all the way back, and a glass of wine. So why did Sisters beat out three other movies on my list that I saw in their entirety? There was a Jaws poster in it. Bam.

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Wrong Sisters.

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There we go. Although, you could tell me that Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney were in this movie and I would be out of line in telling you that you are wrong.

12: Had I seen all of Sisters, it probably would’ve taken this spot. However, I enjoy thrillers. Also, watching Jason Bateman run around like a lunatic just ranting and raving and — at times — wildly gesticulating gave The Gift the boost it needed to beat out a Jaws poster.

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Writer/Director/Producer Joel Edgerton plays Gordo, the man from the past who comes back to wreak havoc on Simon’s (Bateman) marriage and stare out windows like a weirdo. He’s kinda just a creepy looking guy, so this role suited him quite well. There are some fun jump scares and a few kinda cool “ah HA” moments, but the ending fails spectacularly in terms of plausibility, and that sort of ruins it.

11: Jurassic World had one job. One damn job. Have cool dinosaur stuff and, like, an explosion or two. Just like Pacific Rim, they blew it. The kids in this one were super lame, too. The kids from the original were one of the best parts! These little bozos weren’t even scared of the dinosaurs. They were just like, “We’re cunning enough to get out of this!” which is not the reaction children should have to dinosaurs. Because they’re DINOSAURS. The rest of it was essentially just Chris Pratt doing Chris Pratt stuff. Which is fine. He’s great. I just didn’t dig it.

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I hope Colin Trevorrow does a better job with Star Wars.

10: Trumbo is the story of the blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. In the late 1940s and 1950s, Trumbo and 9 of his cohorts were blacklisted and some jailed due to their political views. The blacklist was an absolutely absurd time in Hollywood, chastising talented men for their personal choices and disregarding some very fine work. Oscar-winning work. Which used to mean something.

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Solid performances abound from an all-star cast, and I don’t know where it lost me, but I just didn’t feel this one. ‘Grats to B-Crans, though! Get them accolades, baby!

9: The Danish Girl was the biggest disappointment for me personally. I was so damn taken with The Theory of Everything that Liam Neeson was looking for me. It played to a crowd of people more mature than me. That’s for sure. Everybody talked about the bear scene from The Revenant. Nobody, but nobody talked about the tucking scene in The Danish Girl.

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Redmayne, coming off of an Oscar win last year for his dazzling portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, set the bar pretty high. All things considered, he was outstanding. The content is extremely repetitive, though. Same shot of Redmayne discovering womanhood again and again. I get it, movie. Thanks. And this is coming from a Redmang. A Redmang is a mang who is a Redmayne fan. I just made it up. Get at me if you want in.

In all seriousness, easily my favorite part of the movie was Alicia Vikander. She was beautiful and elegant and 1000% lovely.

8: Aww, Brooklyn. This movie wasn’t the greatest, but it was the first movie I saw with my boyfriend. It’s the story of Irish immigrant Eilis (Ronan). She travels to 1950s Brooklyn seeking the opportunities that await her in America. Tony (Cohen), a good Italian boy, falls for Eilis and the two date for a bit before Tony asks Eilis to have dinner with his family. And then the greatest scene in the movie happens. Tony’s little brother, Frankie — played by the delightful and brassy James DiGiacomo — steals the show with this line:

“So, first of all, I should say that we don’t like Irish people.”

And it’s hilarious.

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Also in this movie, the man who didn’t sleep in 2015, Domnhall Gleeson! That’s reason enough to rent it from the Redbox right there. Is it a good date night movie? Sure. Did I love it? Nah.

7: M. Night Shyamalamadingdong! Way to make one of my favorite movies of the year! The Visit is the latest from Shyamalan and a triumphant return at that. This movie stars two of the best child actors I’ve ever seen. Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould play Becca and Tyler. Or as he is known in the rap world, T-Diamond Stylus. Their Mom, played by the wonderful Kathryn Hahn, is sending the kiddos off for a week-long visit with their Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop Pop (Peter McRobbie). Things are clearly amiss, but we’re meant to chalk it up to the fact that old people just do weird shit.

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As it goes with all Shyamalan flicks, there is a twist ending. While it is visible about a mile away, it’s still a creepy surprise. The tiny cast carries the story seamlessly throughout. Also, I just wanna say that I would adopt Ed Oxenbould TODAY. I’d make it work.

Here’s where things get a little tense.

6: The Revenant is my number 6 pick. This was a tough one because I liked this movie very much, and when you get to those top spots it’s like, “Well, no matter what, I’m gonna be conflicted. So let’s put the movie where Leonardo DiCaprio gets mauled by a grizzly bear just outside the top 5.”

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Inarritu really outdid himself on this one. I get why there was so much buzz around Leo’s character. I do. I am, however, blown away at how much nobody gushed about the pure excellence that is Tom Hardy. His performance, by far, stole the show. I knew it was him, but only because he sounded like Bane for a second and I was like, “WHOA! That’s Tom Hardy!”

If Leo doesn’t win an Oscar for this movie, I’ll be surprised. If Hardy doesn’t win, I will be ENRAGED. Also, Domnhall Gleeson! Again! Man, he’s so great. Somebody get his agent an Academy Award. World’s Most Bitchin’ Agent.

I can see The Revenant winning a whole bunch of Oscars. Just a whole bunch. Cinematography. Acting. Director. They’re gonna make shit up and create new Oscar categories just so they can give it more awards. Best Bear Attack. Best Acting By a Bear. Best Bare-Handed Fishing. Etc.

5: My horror movie needs were sufficiently met with It Follows. There can be many interpretations as to what this movie is actually talking about, but I don’t really care about all of that. It’s scary as hell and well acted. They created a time frame that could be 30 years ago or it could be today. You’re not really sure. It’s also got that 70s/80s score by Disasterpeace that expertly reinforces that.

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This movie is essentially about an STD that has terrifying consequences. I suppose with most STDs you have to deal with some pretty horrific fallout, but none that I know of include a giant man trying to murder you when you’re halfway through a bag of Twizzlers. It Follows is also the first movie that actually made me shout the words, “She’s peeing all over!” in the theater. So there’s that.

Domnhall Gleeson is not in It Follows. That’s the only negative thing I have to say about it.

4: Ex_Machina was an outside the box kinda movie. It’s very much a lone wolf. Guess who stars in it. Domnhall F-in’ Gleeson! I hear tell he’s going to do 18 movies in 2016. Kidding. Obviously. But how great would that be? I’d see ’em all!

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Accompanying him in this flick are Oscar Isaac — who is giving men everywhere beard envy and making women swoon — and Alicia Vikander — who is giving women everywhere face envy and making men swoon. All three are fantastic.

Unfortunate Best Original Score snub here for Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow. Behind a great film you’ll often find a great soundtrack, and they knocked it out of the park. Much the way Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross brought to life the trials and tribulations of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, Salisbury and Barrow gave this film the score it needed to take the film from excellent to “You haven’t seen Ex_Machina!? LET’S WATCH IT RIGHT NOW”.

If you haven’t seen it, I’ll give you the gist. Caleb (Gleeson) is a programmer who is selected to join Nathan (Isaac) at his insane house where he is creating artificial intelligence of the female persuasion. Alicia Vikander was sublime in The Danish Girl, but she’s superb in Ex_Machina as Nathan’s AI babe, Ava. Perfect pacing and a twist worthy of a better Shyamalan movie made this one a favorite of mine.

3: Spotlight. I loved this movie so, so much. In the late 90s and early 2000s, The Boston Globe’s Spotlight team blew the lid off of a secret that the Catholic Church and a whole bunch of other jerks tried to cover up. The Church hid the fact that as many as 90 priests had been accused of molesting children, mostly boys.

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Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), Ben Bradlee Jr. (John Slattery), Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James), and Walter “Robby” Robinson (Michael Keaton) make up The Spotlight team and work tirelessly to get to the truth.

You really couldn’t ask for a better cast. Everyone was completely spot-on. It’s a very difficult story to tell because it’s quite heavy, but Director Tom McCarthy and fellow screenwriter Josh Singer did it brilliantly.

2: This one was the most fun I had in the theater. It is, of course, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

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Force Awakens is way funnier than I thought it would be. I loved the new characters as well. You know all of those people who avoided any and all media related to this movie so that they wouldn’t have any spoilers or even know what it was going to really be about? I inadvertently did that. In the end, it truly did enhance the experience for me.

Newcomers John Boyega, Oscar Isaac (swoon), Daisy Ridley, and BB-8 took all of my expectations and exceeded the shit out of them. I haven’t seen unerring casting for a big movie like this since Star Trek. You take something like this and you cast it and you hope it’ll land with the fans of the original. And it landed, baby!

They also brought back a bunch of the major players from the way, way back and peppered in several actors who basically were like, “Hey, can I be in your Star Wars movie? I’ll do whatever you want me to do” and then you’ve got Daniel Craig in a Stormtrooper suit. I asked and they were like, “How did you get this number?”

So.

Loved the movie anyway. Loved!

And now… my numero uno fave film of 2015…

1:

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Oh, what a lovely day!

I couldn’t possibly overstate my satisfaction with Mad Max: Fury Road. What a film! What a comeback! George Miller deserves that damn Oscar. Give him all of ’em. Best Director. Best Actor. Best Supporting Actress. I want a portrait of him with so many Oscars that he can’t hold all of them and he’s just smiling like, “Why can’t I hold all these Oscars?”

This is a man who worked as an ER doctor to raise the money to make the first Mad Max. And when the budget ran out, he sacrificed his own car! I am so damn happy with this film and Junkie XL is another one who deserved to be on that list of Best Original Score nominees.

I thought that Tom Hardy was an excellent choice for Max. I was able to understand 8 of the 10 words he said. Charlize Theron had a shaved head and one arm and she was still stunning. Nicholas Hoult — nearly unrecognizable — was way outside of what we’re used to seeing him doing and he rocked it.

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It also needs to be said that this wasn’t some CGI free-for-all. These were guys on trucks driving around Namibia banging on drums. That’s nuts! This is why you go to the movies. This movie.

One more thing before I go.

If I had my druthers, this is what the category for Best Original Score would look like (in no particular order):

Howard Shore – Spotlight
Junkie XL – Mad Max: Fury Road
Ryuichi Sakamoto/Alva Noto/Bryce Dessner – The Revenant
John Williams – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Ben Salisbury/Geoff Barrow – Ex_Machina

And an honorable mention to Disasterpeace for It Follows. Also, so happy for Ryuichi Sakamoto who recently found out he’s cancer free!

All of that said, I hope Johann Johannsson wins. Not for Sicario, but for The Theory of Everything. I want them to be like, “Hey, Johann. We really dropped the ball back there. Sorry about that. Here you go, mang.” and he’ll be like, “… Redmang?” and then they’ll hug.

John Williams will probably win. Which is also fine.

Welp, that’s it for me. 2015 was a fun movie year. I have high hopes for 2016. I hope that Leonardo DiCaprio rushes the stage at the Oscars while Julianne Moore is presenting the Oscar for Best Actor, powerbombs her, takes the trophy, and books it outta there. We never see him again. At this point, that may not be as far-fetched as it sounds.

Shout out to my man, Roger Ebert. It’s times like these I miss you the most. I hope you’re in that big movie theater in the sky watching Mad Max.

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