Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Best and Worst of 2015

It’s that time of year again. Soon, the guys (and Dakota) will be letting you know what they thought the best and worst films of 2015 were. So, I figured that I’d get in a preemptive strike. My list of the best/worst films of 2015 comes with the caveat that I have only seen about 12 films that came out this year. Most of my movie watching time has been devoted to seeing some great films from the previous decade. So, I’m sure that there will be some surprises on my lists. Here they are.

Worst of 2015

(From Best to Worst)

Spectre: It’s a gorgeous film, but it’s just way too serious to be a James Bond movie. Plus, I spent a good chunk of its interminable run time trying to remember plot points from Quantum of Solace that were apparently very important – even though Quantum of Solace didn’t bother to explain them. None of that is the worst part. The worst part is that Spectre decided to double down on the two dumbest twists in cinema history, the they were siblings reveal of The Return of the Jedi and the I am Kahn reveal of Star Trek Into Darkness. In the end, I’m pretty sure that they made Spectre just because MGM was able to settle a law suit. It’s the Rocky V of the James Bond franchise.

Terminator: Genysis: I recognize that I gave Genysis a positive review. I stand by every word of that review. Genysis is good clean fun, but it’s on the worst films of 2015 list because this franchise knows better. In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the series explored the nature of humanity, the malleability of fate, the importance of agency, and the danger of knowing the future. Somehow, in the last 20 years, Terminator forgot that there was a soul in the machine. Still, I had a lot of fun watching this movie. I recommend it. It’s just also one of the worst films of the year.

Jupiter Ascending: This movie was terrible. It took actors who are ordinarily interesting and charming (Mila Kunis, Sean Bean, Channing Tatum) and made them look boring. It plopped them down into some sort of interstellar genetic duplicate King Lear wannabe plot, and then polished it off with a few dollops of Freudian romance. The result was an impenetrable morass that made no sense whatsoever. That said, I really liked the cool anti-gravity boots that let Channing Tatum fall with style. Put those in some kind of Flash Gordon sci-fi serial and I’m in for at least 3 seasons. The only other positive aspect of Jupiter Ascending was Eddie Redmayne who let his freak flag fly. He decided to play his role as if he were some unholy combination of Nicolas Cage and Norman Bates.

Mortdecai: I think there was a moment in this movie that I laughed at. It was probably some moment of physical comedy performed by Paul Bettany. The rest of this movie was a complete mess devoid of any kind of fun or joy. Johnny Depp was in a much better movie this year. Hopefully, this means that Mortdecai will be the last salvo in his war on his audience. Never watch this movie.

Fantastic Four: Ironically, the worst movie on the list of worst films of 2015 is a film that should have worked. It was helmed by an up and coming director who cut his teeth doing a fascinating spin on the superhero genre. It was a known property. It assembled a cast of some of the most promising and brilliant young actors in the business, and it actually did a pretty good job of modernizing the convoluted nonsensical backstory of the Fantastic Four. So what happened? Everything went wrong. There’s not one thing in this movie that actually works. At the end of the film, it’s hard to even recognize what it is they were going for. This is the third Fantastic Four movie that hasn’t really worked. Maybe the fourth time’s the charm?

Best Films of 2015

(From Worst to Best)

Avengers: Age of Ultron: A competent film, starring familiar characters, Age of Ultron delivers if you felt like watching a retread of 2012’s Avengers: Age of Loki. I had fun watching this movie. I’d watch it again if I wasn’t busy or was home sick or something, but Iron Man, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Jessica Jones have proven that Marvel is capable of telling better stories in the canvas of this world. Joss Whedon and Kevin Feige should aim higher.

Jurassic World: Like Terminator, the Jurassic Park franchise has lost its soul. Once, a long time ago, in the Clinton administration, Jurassic Park was about the dream of walking among dinosaurs, seeing these fantastic beasts, and making a little profit as a side project. There’s no room for such romantic notions in 2015 (let’s face it, those notions were already dying in the 90s. The Jurassic Park merchandise was actually in the first movie). Jurassic World embraced its soullessness. It reveled in it. It talked about it. The honesty was refreshing. And, it still looked pretty good. I guess the moral of my list is that if you’re going to sell your soul, make sure you sell at a high price.

Kingsman: The Secret Service: This is James Bond as translated by a group of high school guys in the locker room after a panty raid. It was violent. It was raunchy. It made Colin Firth look tough. I’m taking points off for featuring parkour, because parkour is stupid. That said, Kingsman was easily one of the best, and most unexpectedly enjoyable, afternoons I spent at the movies this year.

Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation: Another refugee from the 90s, the Mission Impossible franchise is aging almost as well as its star. I really liked Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation. Rogue Nation did what Spectre was supposed to do. It contextualized all the previous films, made them seem like part of a whole, provided continuity, added a little depth to its characters, paid tribute to the creative forces that had guided the franchise so far, and had a lot of fun along the way. Tom Cruise has announced that there will be two more films. Rebecca Ferguson, who I still think should have gotten way more attention for her work in this film, is coming back. I’m excited to see what almost kills Tom Cruise next!

Mad Max: Fury Road: The best film that I saw in 2015 was a sequel to Mad Max in the same sense that James Bond movies are sequels to one another. Fury Road was a blast. Every single time I looked at the screen some new, unbelievable thing was hitting me in the face. War rigs, war boys, blind guitar playing crazy as all get out human hood ornaments, chastity belts – Fury Road had everything! The stunts looked real, the sets looked practical, and the setting (a Namibian desert) was perfect and brilliantly photographed. Then, there at the center of it all, was not Mad Max Rockatansky, but Furiosa, a fierce one-armed warrior woman played by Charlize Theron. This was her movie no matter what it was called and she owned it. I’d happily go see it again.

There were a lot of really great films that I missed this year. One of these days, I’ll get around to watching them, but these are the films that I saw this year and those were my thoughts.

As Always, Coming to You From Out in the Void,

Steven

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