Movie Meltdown

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Best of 2015

2016-02-07

 by Kyle Armstrong


15. Carol: Carol is visually stunning with a script that is brilliantly written. I really wanted this to make it into my top 10, actually, I had it in my top 5 for awhile, but had to move things around. I love its recurring visuals and elements that really build up this film. I love the train sets that return throughout the film, showing each character's metamorphosis into a new person or their reveal of who they actually were. Cate Blanchett plays a very mysterious character, which works since it is through the eyes of Rooney Mara's character Therese. Carol keeps this mystery throughout, although, we learn more about what is causing damage to her personal life. Carol is this Gastby-esque story told better than the actual Great Gatsby movies.

14. Inside Out: I am a big fan of Pixar's work, which is why I feel terrible that I have yet to see the Good Dinosaur (well, I'm not the biggest fan). I try to see as many Pixar films in theaters as possible (for me, anyway), because they are beautiful, with the exception of every Cars and Planes movie (because who cares?). Inside Out is beautiful to look it and there is this different experience for when you see it in the theaters. I'm getting pretty tired of the Herman's Head argument, it's unoriginal. Yeah, I too remember the Cracked article, there are also many more stories like this. I've heard Inside Out being compared to Herman's Head more than I've heard Pixels being compared to that episode of Futurama. The reason I am barely discussing this film is because I already discussed this film, many of these I have.

13. The Peanuts Movie: A small amount of these movies will be my biased opinions, but I didn't want to fill it up with movies I've only enjoyed, I wanted it to be more of a critical stand point. These may not be the "best" by any means, but I think they are. The Peanuts Movie did something that many things on my worst list did not do, brought back nostalgia, not insulting to the creators, while also making an enjoyable film. I would really like to see a sequel or more TV specials because of this film, but a small nitpick for any upcoming ideas, including the gang, it would be to slow it down a little bit. I know it could be more difficult to keep the kids attention that way, but that is what Snoopy is for. When it comes to the kids, don't be afraid to slow it down, just leave the fast paced comedy to the double act, Snoopy and Woodstock.

12. Creed: Creed worked because it gave the time to develop the characters, unlike other spin off films, it didn't feel like a film without a main perspective or lead. This film felt as though it was passing down the torch after a series of looking through the eyes of one man, as if to say that "it's time for something new and it's time for someone else's story". As a Rocky movie this felt right and as a movie this felt right. It payed homage to the original, without declaring "Sure, there is Rocky, but we can stand alone". Michael B. Jordan is a charming lead and seeing Rocky so alone is actually really sad seeing how famous he was in Philly and they did give a heads up to the actual statue, meaning in the movie, Rocky is a really big deal in philly. So seeing him go from nothing to something to a little bit of both is pretty sad. Creed is something that I will look forward to giving it many other viewings.

11. Sicario: Sicario is one of the most intense films I've seen all year. I did not discuss this film, because there was already so much surrounding it, that I just didn't want to and didn't have much to say at the time. There is this idea of "who is the real enemy" and are we any different from the criminals, if we don't treat them like human beings. Such corruption of power leaves our protagonist in a state of vulnerability and not knowing who to trust. Labels and corruption of such power creates an endorsement of extreme police brutality to the wrongfully accused, having a major effect on friends and family, all because of how the government portrays these people. Ending on a note of such isolation from the world that is going on around them. Do I believe this film is suggesting a message? Yeah, that there is a life beyond the battlefield and by taking someone's life away, you many more with it.

10. The Man From Uncle: Although, I loved Kingsman, really enjoyed MI5, and didn't think Spectre was as bad as everyone thought, my favorite spy movie of the year goes to the Man From Uncle. This is probably the classiest Batman v Superman film we're getting. This film is so charming and funny, Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer have amazing chemistry, and Alicia Vikander may be my favorite person this year, she has so much personality, and again, like this movie, she is so charming. I am glad I got to see her in many movies this year because she is so much fun to watch. The soundtrack for this film is amazing, with sounds from a Spaghetti Western and tunes from the 50s. This is a movie that I would welcome many more viewings.

9. Star Wars: The Force Awakens: This is me, once again, including my own biased opinion, instead of a critical one. Now usually something like a 3rd bigger and better Death Star, would get an honorable mention, but I enjoyed this film too much. Like J.J. said, I think this is there to make room for the new. It was too much like the originals at times, but now that it is out of the way, I am pumped for what's to come. Also, the idea of the force, the Jedi, Luke, and the Dark Side being a legend after only 30 years is unlikely, but this was kind of a problem with the original trilogy as well. I am glad to see that Daisy Ridley is leading the new series, because Rey is a very interesting character to me, I found Finn to be a funny and little bit of a tragic character, Oscar Isaacs is charming as the new Han Solo-ish character, and I am glad we get to see Kylo Ren grow up. BB-8 is adorable, Captain Phasma has some potential as this right hand, and I am ready to see where the Millennium Falcon takes our heroes next. 

8. Mad Max: Fury Road: Has Fury Road become overrated? Yeah, most likely, but it is still a really fun and visually stunning film. This is what more action movies should be like these days, we feel the anguish and the mystery of each character. We begin to see life through the eyes of Max and become more invested in the story that is going on around us, than what is going on with him. The visual effects are for the most part practical giving the film more grit and realness to it. I did enjoy Gibson as Max, but that was a long time ago, he has gotten older and the apocalypse hasn't done any good for his mind, so it was better to replace him with a much younger actor to continue this film in less of a Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Indiana Jones and more of a Casino Royal James Bond.

7. The Martian: I found myself always interested as to what is going on in this film, this is probably the most I will ever be that interested in math. Donald Glover is really fun in this film, I wanted more of his character, Matt Damon gives a performance full of wit and charm. Things go wrong in this film, but unlike Knock, Knock, it doesn't feel like the universe is against him, it is understandable and shown why this is happening to him. The film is shot beautifully, too. I find the idea interesting as well, a man stranded on a planet, forced to grow his own food and survive on a planet where nothing grows. The characters feel real in this film, no one is singled out as a bad guy, sure Jeff Daniels wants to leave Damon on that planet, but it is still a little understandable. It's not "oh well, that's too much money", it's more like "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few". I like Ridley Scott's work, maybe it hasn't been the best within the last few years, but his best work stands up taller than his substandard films. I found the Martian to be fun, interesting, and well acted.

6. Spotlight: I love watching these investigation stories, I find them more intriguing when they're based on true stories, because life is more unpredictable, than the set of followed clichés, if they are used. This film left me with various questions, I really wanted to know about the priests point of view, who believes that he was raped by a child, tells Sacha this very calmly, by the way, but is interrupted by his wife or sister, or whatever. Michael Keaton gives a great performance, as always, and deserves more respect as a dramatic and comedic actor. Mark Ruffalo gives a tragic performance of someone who was very familiar with the Catholic Church, who is can't bring himself back because of recent events. Rachael McAdams and Liev Schreiber also gives great performances. This film works because it never tries to shift the blame on anyone or any group, but shows the tragedy of what has happened and what could happen, while also showing us the effects this has on other's lives.

5. Steve Jobs: I wasn't very excited for another Steve Jobs film, after his death, Steve and Apple were advertised everywhere, and it felt like Steve Jobs himself was starting to get shoved down our throats. So I was not excited to hear about another Steve Jobs movie in the works, however, I was intrigued by the director reveal of Danny Boyle, the writer reveal of Aaron Sorkin, and all the problems Jobs' family were causing with the actors portraying him. What we got was a film with beautiful visuals and depth, like just about any Danny Boyle film. Unlike the last Steve Jobs film, it isn't lazy and it doesn't just build him up as this misunderstood hero. Ashton Kutcher looked the most like Steve Jobs, but played Ashton Kutcher in that film. Michael Fassbender looks barely anything like him, but gives a fantastic performance, that one could lose themselves in. This film shows us the failures of the man and the myth. This is a man so obsessed with the power to lead, that he loses that connection, that fire, that once was with his family. This film shows the anger in Steve Jobs that could erupt, and would, over his passion to be the one in charge. What makes this film work is not how much success we see Jobs go through, but how much failure, whether it is a failed attempt at a new device, or his personal life. With these failures, we see how this character grows and becomes stronger.

4. Anomalisa: The final four were the films that moved around in my list the most often. While I feel pretty good with this arrangement, it may change around in the future. I am a fan of much of Charlie Kaufman's work as a writer, I loved Eternal Sunshine, Adaptation, and Being John Malkovich. This time Charlie Kaufman is co-directing alongside Duke Johnson, giving the audience a rather beautiful and tragic film about love and what was. In a world where everything just feels the same, Tom Noonan giving this monotone voice work as everyone else. We see a man who is bored with life and the people living it, they are all predictable. Everyone is afraid of something different, creating a world that somewhat resembles the one in 1985. That we are all the same, programmed with these generic ideas of love and we are no better than machines, or the main character in this film is just a dick. This idea of finally finding something different, then becoming easily bored with it is tragic. Most of the movie is about how you feel in the moment, and just like the sex doll (or machine), love comes and goes as fast as an orgasm. 

3. Ex Machina: This film asks the question of what it means to be human and who should we trust, if not our own? A question last asked in this manner in 2014's Under the Skin. Alicia Vikander plays a curious and tragic character, full of mystery, her performance is done phenomenally, and we get to see the many layers of her acting abilities. Oscar Issac is pure fun and menacing in this film, he really has fun with this role, making him a very charming bad guy. Domhnall Gleeson seems to be in every film I watch Frank, Ex Machina, Star Wars, the Revenant, but he is also very good in this as well, fitting right in with the cast, as the POV. This is a really interesting film depicting why humans think the way they do, are we all just the same? Do we all just have sex and love on our minds? Could this get in the way of how we think? Following the character of Caleb, we never know who to trust, Nathan seems too crazy to be trust worthy, but Ava may be using manipulation. Would I say this had a happy ending? Kinda, depending on how you look at it.

2. The Revenant: What an intense film; Alejandro Iñárritu just packs another punch after Birdman. The Revenant is also a beautiful film to look it, with phenomenal visuals and great use of colors. The film had many production problems and used natural, instead of artificial light, giving the film a grittier and darker look (quite literally). Leonardo DiCaprio gives a great performance, but Tom Hardy steals the movie with his dark humor and his selfish intentions. DiCaprio does deserve an Oscar, but for every other performance, like The Departed, but mostly for The Wolf of Wall Street. He deserves an Oscar for all that he has given, and this would be the perfect time to give him one. This film kicks shit out of Leo, he falls off a cliff, sleeps in the carcass of a horse (and I thought it smelled bad on the outside), gets chewed up by a bear, and I am pretty sure the bear did not rape DiCaprio; as many times as you joke about it, it does not happen. The bear that chews up DiCaprio is a mother bear protecting her cub(s). I found this movie interesting the whole way through, with its Western vibe, it was definitely worth the 2 hours and 30 minutes of my time.

1. A Pigeon Sat On a Branch Reflecting on Existence: With its dark comedy and grim commentary on life, this may be the funniest movie of the year for me. Everyone in this film looks as if all the joy has been sucked out of them, but each character has a memorable personality, and it is fun watching them portray such lifeless characters, this is the first film in The Living trilogy I have seen or heard of, this has me wanting to run out and watch them. There was pure joy watching this film, it is the most unique and creative film I have watched all year. This film is like a parody of Ingmar Bergman films, and yet, I have never seen anything like it. These mixed together stories fit so well together. My favorite story has to be the one with the captain who rides into the restaurant and just forces everyone out, whips a man who was just playing the slots, then asks the bartender to join the army just so they can share a tent together. This is just a crazy fun film.

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