2015 Cinema Recap and Top 10 Lists: Robots, Rappers, Rogues and Revenants

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Chewbacca and Han Solo

Another year at the movies has come and gone and by my reckoning there were a lot more winners than losers in 2015, a year that will be best remembered for the reawakening of “The Force” and the Star Wars film franchise. Genre movies in particular dominated theater screens, which is great news for the geek-minded among us – so grab your antigravity boots and let’s fly by the best and the worst of last year’s films.

Spies, Robots and Rappers

The cinematic trend this year skewed heavily towards spies (see The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Kingsman: The Secret Service, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Bridge of Spies, Spectre and the movie with the most uninspired title, Spy.

"Chappie"Robots of almost every type also inhabited a lot of screen space in 2015, with Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ex Machina, Terminator Genisys, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the rapping robot, Chappie.

Speaking of rappers the NWA bio-pic, Straight Outta Compton, was surprisingly one of the best films of the year and even had OG (that’s Old Geezer) white guys singing its praises. The poster for the flick also launched 1,000 internet memes (including this one we created.)

Horror Highlights

Even though they didn’t make my Top 10 lists, there were a couple of horror films this past year that deserve special mention:

It Follows was the best and most original horror movie I’ve seen in years. It keeps you on the edge of your seat and searching every corner of the screen for where ‘It’ might attack next. It’s a nerve-racking and thoughtful commentary on sex and sexual disease in the early 21st century, but the narrative disappointingly goes a little astray towards the end. Nevertheless, It Follows is an instant classic.

The Visit brought the once master of horror and suspense, M. Night Shyamalan, back to full fighting form. He spins the traditional childhood summer visit to Grandma and Grandpa’s house on its head and uses the found footage genre in a way that isn’t incredulous or annoying – a major feat in and of itself. This is a small, simple film that is equally horrific and funny; one of Shyamalan’s best.

The Overlooked Age of Aquarius

The Martian and The Force Awakens received most of the off-world attention last year, but there was another very entertaining space-opera (a la Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and John Carter) that was overlooked and/or shunned and discarded before many moviegoers even had a chance to give it try.

 Jupiter AscendingJupiter Ascending was one of my favorite films of the year, but most critics discounted it sight unseen due to its bloated budget and accounting woes. Who cares? I didn’t finance it, I just loved watching it!

The Wachowski siblings’ Jupiter Ascending joins unjustly maligned movies like Waterworld, John Carter and The Lone Ranger (2013) in that it was written off due to bad press regarding its budget well before it ever even saw a movie screen. If you dig Star Wars, and most everyone does, then I can’t imagine you would dislike this movie. Forget all the negative press you’ve heard and give it a try.

A word on this year’s lists…

As usual I’ve broken my ‘Top 10’ lists into four categories: an overall list that includes films of every ilk; a ‘genre’ list that only includes sci-fi, fantasy, action, superhero, animated and horror films; a ‘non-genre’ list that includes standard cinematic fare; and the worst films of the year.

Top 10 Films of the Year (Genre Only)

Mad Max was at the top of my list (both overall & genre) for the better part of the year and it was only recently dethroned; nevertheless it’s hard to match this movie’s dauntless audacity and originality. Star Wars’ old school sentimentality is the only thing that gave it an edge over Max.

  1. Ant-Man Movie PosterStar Wars: The Force Awakens
  2. Mad Max: Fury Road
  3. The Martian
  4. Ant-Man
  5. Cinderella
  6. Inside Out
  7. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
  8. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  9. Ex Machina
  10. The Good Dinosaur

Top 10 Films of the Year (Non-Genre)

Yeah, yeah, I know that westerns could fall under the genre list and I’ve got two of them here. To be certain, there is a fine line when it comes to that particular category, but in the end the old west fits better with more conventional movies than those on the sci-fi and fantasy list.

  1. The Big Short
  2. The Revenant
  3. The Hateful Eight
  4. Straight Outta Compton
  5. The Walk
  6. Room
  7. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
  8. Youth
  9. Trumbo
  10. Bridge of Spies

Top 10 Films of the Year (Overall)

The Big ShortI have no shortage of love for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but for my overall list it was edged out by The Big Short, a film that I feel is important for every American to watch and is my patriotic duty to promote. Go see it – then go to Star Wars just to keep the Force in balance.

  1. The Big Short
  2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  3. Mad Max: Fury Road
  4. The Revenant
  5. The Hateful Eight
  6. The Martian
  7. Ant-Man
  8. Straight Outta Compton
  9. The Walk
  10. Cinderella

Top 10 Worst Films of the Year (Overall)

These are the films that either put me to sleep or annoyed the [heck] out of me in 2015. I know that many cinephiles will have Anomalisa on their respective best films list, but for me it was a pretentious mess with no meaning whatsoever outside of showcasing some decent stop-motion animation.

Two films I had extremely high hopes for that failed miserably were Fantastic Four and Victor Frankenstein. The latter had a sickening scene with the maniacal doctor sucking the puss out of Igor’s hump – and it’s that twisted visual which sums up all the films on this worst of 2015 list.

  1. The Lazarus Effect
  2. True Story
  3. Anomalisa
  4. The Last Witch Hunter
  5. Get Hard
  6. Victor Frankenstein
  7. Fantastic Four
  8. San Andreas
  9. Hot Pursuit
  10. The Gunman

…and there you go – goodbye 2015! We’ll revisit you when that anticipated expanded edition of Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes out on Blu-Ray later this year. Until then, Happy New Year!

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