2015 was a good year! I already told you my ten favourite films from 2015, but those ten were hard to choose. My first pass over the list of movies I saw resulted in 25 candidates for the top ten, 15 of which were ultimately cut. So rather than make a worst-of list as I have in previous years (Pixels was the worst film of last year, no need to mention any others), I’d tell you about ten more you should see. So let’s do that.
A young English soldier sent to Ireland during the height of the troubles is separated from his unit after a riot and has to survive the night in a city filled with people who want him dead. Star Jack O’Connell’s performance is gripping, inwardly, that of a kid in over his head trying to stay strong outwardly. It’s a superb performance in a story filled with twists and turns, and definitely, one to check out.
The Big Short
The Big Short didn’t make my top ten mostly because I’ve watched Inside Job and Margin Call many times over each, so many of the big revelations about how the 2008 financial crisis came to be weren’t revelations to me. That said, this film did an admirable job of explaining those things in ways I think more people will respond. Sure, Inside Job is full of good info, but I think a lot more people will respond to the explanation of sub-prime mortgages as told by Margot Robbie sipping champagne in a bubble bath.
The movie has three separate but connected stories and each has at least one big star around to help tell it. It’s a story about a disaster that we’re still living with and is told in a fun and engaging way. Give it a look when you get a chance.
Brooklyn is a lovely period piece about a young Irish lass trying to make her way in, well, Brooklyn. She leaves a sad life in Ireland, finds a happy one in America, returns home and finds her old life can be happy too. You’ve probably seen movies like it before, but Brooklyn has a certain charm that most others do not, primarily, I think, because of Saoirse Ronan’s performance, which may well finally allow her to break big as an adult movie star (or at least get her roles in the films that will).
The Martian is the kind of film that will, with any luck, be one that kids watch and become inspired by. A testament to both science and hard work, this is the kind of story that when engineers and future scientists asked what inspired them, they might say "The Martian". You know what else, though? It’s just a great movie. Matt Damon is pretty much perfect as astronaut Mark Watney, stranded on the surface of Mars, hard at work to keep from dying alone but remaining utterly alone all the same.
Plus, it’s pretty cool that the movie presents NASA as a public good. They get the money they need, and there’s never any humming or hawing or political machinations about budgetary bullshit, just over how they spend their money. Kinda great.
The Hateful 8
Quentin Tarantino is a great writer, and Samuel L Jackson was born to deliver monologues. The Hateful 8 is worth checking out based on those two facts, but there’s also a cast full of Tarantino’s all-stars chewing the scenery with lots of great dialogue. Each of the titular 8 is a monster, utterly irredeemable, many of whom have moments which make them sympathetic right before moments that drive home just how awful they truly are.
The single set in which most of the film takes place, coupled with the glorious 70mm cinematography, makes the film feel like a play that barrels towards an ending which… well, I won’t spoil it. You should just watch it.
There’s a monster, and it’s headed straight towards you. It’s not running, but it’s always coming. It’s a simple premise, and that’s the beauty of it. The monster can represent any number of things, STDS, death, taxes, whatever because it’s so simple. Made with no money but still managing to create a world just to one side of our own (CRT TVs but two screen e-readers, what?) seems full of life and monsters, and just like it could be, any one of us being relentlessly pursued. It Follows is one of the best horror movies of recent memory, and you should watch it.
In a near future dystopia, you will be turned into an Animal if you can’t find a partner. Colin Farrell is a recently separated middle-aged man sent to The Hotel, where if he does not find a partner in 45 days, he will be turned into a lobster, his choice because they have blue blood and live a long time. A sensible choice, he’s told; most people choose to become a dog which is why there are so many dogs, including his brother.
There’s not much more I can tell you about this one, but hopefully, you’ve picked up on how weird it is, and I found it pretty wonderful. This film won’t be for everyone, but the dark mirror that this holds up to dating in our world make this one worth checking out for everyone.
Policing the drug trade seems, on its surface, like a noble cause. Sicario looks below that surface at the murky depths of what it might actually take to do that and what doing that might actually mean. Emily Blunt is back in full-on badass mode along with Benicio del Toro as an agent from south of the border and Josh Brolin as the agent of questionable background pulling the strings and driving the mission. Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s quiet, reserved style lends itself well to material that usually plays with explosions and heroes shooting bad guys. Instead, it plays with morally ambiguous everything moving in the shadows taking as few shots as possible.
In a year when Mission: Impossible and James Bond added new entries to their franchises, it’s strange that another spy film might be the best of the year. Melissa McCarthy is a highly talented actress with excellent comedic timing, and Spy is a film that allows her to be just that while at the same time actively poking fun at the kinds of roles she usually gets shoehorned into. Her hyper-competent but not trusted by her male counterparts spy getting over her fears is fun, endearing, and hilarious. Surround her with a brilliant supporting cast (including a scene-stealing Jason Statham) and a worthy adversary in Rose Byrne, and you will have a great time at the movies.
Steve Jobs didn’t precisely do gangbusters business at the box office. I want to think that it’s because the film took some liberties with the story and character of the man himself, but it’s probably just because people are just kind over the man himself. It’s a shame because Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslett both give fantastic performances in this latest film by Danny Boyle.
The story is told in three vignettes, with Steve Jobs having conversations with the same few people three times, each before the launch of a significant product, and each vignette shows character progression. The chemistry between Fassbender and Winslet as the closest of co-workers is perfect, and bonus points to Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak, a man who is the opposite of Jobs but a genius in his own right. Give it a look if you’re a fan of wordy character dramas. And let’s face it; everyone should be a fan of wordy character dramas.