Friday, December 18, 2015

best of 2015: movies

And now it's time for my final "best of 2015" list.  Just a few notes before I begin:

  • Not all of these were first released in 2015, but that's when I first saw them.
  • Aside from the first two movies listed, these are in random order.
  • And, as ever, your mileage may vary. 

1. Gone Girl:  When his wife Amy disappears on their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne finds himself under intense scrutiny by the media and the police alike.  The book by Gillian Flynn is in my top 10 of all time, and David Fincher is one of my favorite directors, so I had high hopes for this adaptation...and I wasn't disappointed, because it's fantastic.

2. Nightcrawler:  Lou Bloom (a magnetically creepy Jake Gyllenhaal) is desperate for work, so when he learns about the lucrative industry of selling footage to the local news, he buys a cheap camcorder and a police scanner and heads out on the streets.  Dark, disturbing, and really goddamn good.

3. The Skeleton Twins:  Maggie is just about to take a huge handful of pills when she gets a call saying that her estranged twin brother Milo tried to kill himself.  When he gets out of the hospital, she asks him to move in with her and her husband for a while, and they begin to tentatively repair their relationship.

Jesus Christ, this fucking movie.  Holy shit.  There's one scene that rang so true and hit home so hard that I actually wept in recognition.  And Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, as you might expect, are terrific.  Not for everyone, but the people it IS for will most likely love it.

4. Ex Machina:  Caleb works as a programmer for Bluenote, a wildly successful search engine.  He's chosen to visit the secluded estate of his boss and evaluate the A.I. capabilities of Ava, a beautiful robot, and see if she can pass the Turing test.  At no point was I able to predict what was going to happen, which was a rare treat.  Clever and thought-provoking.

5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens:  I don't want to say anything about the movie's plot/characters lest I ruin it for someone who hasn't seen it yet, so I'll merely say that it was a really fun throwback to the classic trilogy and I enjoyed it immensely.

6. Spy:  Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) works as a handler for hunky CIA operative Bradley Fine (Jude Law).  When a mission goes awry, Susan is sent into the field.  It's hysterically funny, and Jason Statham shows surprising comic chops.  I'd like to see him do more comedies, and also more nude scenes.  (Not that he has any in this movie, but goddamn do I wish.)

7. It Follows: After a sexual encounter turns seriously weird, Jay finds out that she's being stalked by murderous apparitions that nobody else can see. It's incredibly creepy, and some moments had me white knuckling the armrest in the theater. It's also more clever than the typical horror movie, and led to some spirited discussions between us about how we would try to outsmart It.

8. Wild:  Completely unmoored after her mother's death, Cheryl Strayed (an excellent Reese Witherspoon) decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail by herself.  I loved the memoir, and the film adaptation did it justice. 

9. The Book of Life:  Manolo and Joaquin are long time friends who are both in love with Maria.  But something happens that I won't spoil, and Manolo has to travel to the land of the dead to make things right again.  This beautifully animated movie was much better than expected.  Bonus points for having a strong anti-bullfighting message, too.

10. Inside Out:  Riley's life is turned upside down when her family moves to San Francisco, and her anthropomorphized emotions battle for control.  A surprisingly honest look at the feelings of an adolescent girl, with plenty of humor as well (including a very sly joke about bears), and since this is a Pixar movie, you better have tissues handy. 

SEEN IN THE THEATER:  The Imitation Game, American Sniper, It Follows, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Inside Out, Trainwreck, Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (live RiffTrax version), Star Wars: The Force Awakens

MADE ME CRY (OR AT LEAST TEAR UP):  The Imitation Game, The Skeleton Twins, American Sniper, John Wick, The Boxtrolls, The Book of Life, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Big Hero 6, Interstellar, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, About Time, Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion, Cake, Inside Out, Trainwreck, Mad Max: Fury Road, When Marnie Was There, Insidious 3, The Final Girls, Star Wars: The Force Awakens


SICKEST/MOST HILARIOUS SIGHT GAG OF THE YEAR:  A zombie's portable "snack" in Dead Rising: Watchtower.  I don't want to get more specific lest I spoil it, but trust me, you'll know it when you see it.