Typically I like to do a simple Top 5 Films like everyone else on here, but there are just too many good films I didn’t get a chance to talk about. With this first five films, I will also include my five worst films of the year. On my post of my actual top five films, I will also include a few of my honorable mentions that didn’t make it on here. This was a fantastic year for the movies, so here are my top 10!
Yeah, I know a lot of people really did not like this movie. Yeah, I know most of them consider it the worst Bond film ever (apparently those people have only ever seen Skyfall). Yeah I know I am completely impartial to this franchise as a whole, but after two viewings of the film I still love it (and can’t wait for it to come out on blu-ray). Look, the reason I have this on my list is because of my love and respect for the James Bond series. Like the Star Wars films (apart from the prequels), these are hard for me to really critique. My love for them goes back so far and brings back so many great memories, that it’s hard for me not to just enjoy to its fullest. So when one of these films are better than average, I really love it. After Skyfall, an amazing film even without the Bond name, the series needed something different. We got one bad serious Bond flick (Quantum of Solace) and two great serious ones (Casino Royale, Skyfall) to reboot the franchise and to introduce us to this generation’s Bond. Now it’s time to get back to what we love the character for. Daniel Craig is arguably a perfect James Bond and since the final shot of Casino Royale, I have waited for a Bond film that starts with the gun barrel sequence, has a legitimate Bond girl, has Bond infiltrating the villain’s base, has actual gadgets, and is just plain fun! I know we got a memorable villain in Javier Bardem’s Silva, but man have we been itching for a tough and intimidating henchman like Hinx! Dave Bautista makes a memorable entrance here has Bond’s physical foe in SPECTRE, and I knew as soon as we saw him, the film was going to be a lot of fun.
Director Sam Mendes has managed to perfectly blend what is great about the modern Bond films and what is great about the classics. His approach to these films has been great and I hope it gives it the credibility to lure in other great directors so we can FINALLY get our Christopher Nolan Bond flick! Look, the man has already talked about how influenced he is by the series – basically having made his own sci-fi entry with Inception – and the influence is obvious in a number of his films. This is one of the most technically proficient and enjoyable of the Bond series. Craig is fantastic as always, Bautista makes for a memorable henchman, Christoph Waltz gives one of the best portrayals of Blofeld we have seen yet (a lot tougher nowadays after so many parodies), Ralph Fiennes proves himself as M, and Lea Seydoux is a fantastic, alluring Bond girl. One thing I love about the series is their practicality in their stunts. This is something Mendes clearly understands and has delivered in spades in both Skyfall and SPECTRE. The opening scene alone – starting with an immensely impressive long take – is breathtaking. It’s followed up by arguably the most gorgeous car chase ever put to film, a sequence in which Bond chases down a convoy of vehicles with a plane, a brutal fist fight on a train, and literally the Guinness World Record holder for Largest Stunt Explosion ever put on film. Simply put, I know the Bond series isn’t for everyone…but I absolutely love it and this is a very, very solid entry. This is the franchise going back to basics and it’s what I’ve been waiting for since 2006.
9. Inside Out
I have to be honest with you, I did not care to see this movie. I was not impressed with much of what was going on in the trailers, and Pixar seemed to be losing a little bit of the credibility with me after Cars 1 & 2, Monster’s University, Brave, Wall-E (sorry, it just felt like a mash-up of much better movies), and what I had seen of The Good Dinosaur. The studio seemed to be losing it’s creativity and originality with me. What happened to the days of The Incredibles, Toy Story, and Up? Well, I am glad to say they proved me wrong because Pixar is back with what is easily one of their better films! It’s been awhile since I’ve seen an animated film with so much creativity and love for imagination! This film really caught me off-guard and I enjoyed every minute of it. It’s fun, witty, exciting, nerve-racking, and completely original. I really fell in love with most of the characters and were sad to see them go. My only complaint with this film is that I feel they completely wasted Bill Hader as the Fear character. With such a talented voice/acting talent in that role, you would think they’d really put him to use. Unfortunately that character feels too slapstick-y for the rest of the film. However, that is completely made up for by the fantastic character of Bing-Bong. Brilliantly voiced by Richard Kind (I can picture no one else voicing this character), Bing-Bong gives the film a real shot in the arm halfway through and is both heartfelt and hilarious (much like the film itself). Inside Out has a fantastic concept that it really makes the most out of. Keep an eye out during the end credits where we get to see the inside of everybody’s heads.
8. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
The biggest film of all-time came out this year, and I can say I’m pretty happy about it being the new Star Wars flick. Whatever knocks James Cameron’s shallow, obvious, overblown Ferngully remake out of the top spot, I’m all for. After my deep love of Star Wars was ripped from my childhood when George Lucas decided to make the prequels, I can’t say I was that excited that they decided to continue the franchise. As more and more news began to pour in, the more intrigued I became – Lucas not being involved, Harrison Ford returning (although we know how that turned out with Indiana Jones), JJ Abrams directing/co-writing, Oscar Isaac joining the cast. Then we saw that first official trailer during Monday Night Football. That is what sold me. The music, the visuals…everything just grabbed me and brought back that feeling I had watching the original trilogy as a kid. The film itself is incredible and continued that feeling for over two hours. Abrams and his team did an amazing job and it was one of the most fun experiences I had at the theater all year. The new characters are absolutely fantastic, with Oscar Isaac being the most memorable in a smaller role. Newcomers Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are both great, with Ridley’s Rey being the best female character alongside Furiosa this year. I am ecstatic that it’s made as much money as it has and I can’t wait to see it again. I rarely see movies in theaters more than once, but this has been a good year to keep going back with Mad Max, SPECTRE, and Star Wars. I’m sure you already have seen this one, so I hope you agree that it was a great experience.
7. The Hateful Eight
For those of you who didn’t read my review, I will basically summarize it here. First off, this is definitely not a film for everybody, Quentin Tarantino film or not. It is his most brutal and in-your-face film yet. While it may not be his best, it is still one of the best films of the year. This seems to be a great year for dialogue-driven films (oddly enough, my #1 film of the year is the exact opposite). We’ve had Steve Jobs, Ex Machina, The Big Short, and Tarantino’s latest. But when you have one that is a three hour period piece that is 99% people sitting in a room talking and you can still make it this entertaining, you deserve a great deal of credit. Tarantino is not new to this, given his films are very light on action and extremely heavy on dialogue (save for maybe Kill Bill Vol. 1, which I love). His love for westerns shine bright here and he really gets the best out of his actors, most of all Walton Goggins as Chris Mannix. Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Demian Bichir, Bruce Dern, and Jennifer Jason Leigh round out this extremely impressive cast and they all do fantastic work. A lot of humor, character, and a great deal of violence…that’s what you want from Tarantino, and it’s what you get here.
6. Steve Jobs
The country obviously has some real Steve Jobs fatigue because this movie outright tanked at the box office. However, as history has showed time and time again, box office rarely translates to the quality of the film (i.e. Jurassic World, Hunger Games, Twilight). Had this come out before the Ashton Kutcher version in 2013, I believe it would have been a hit. I expect this to get some serious recognition in the Oscar season, notably for actor Michael Fassbender and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin has penned some fantastic work throughout his career – The West Wing, The Social Network, The American President, Moneyball – but this is easily one of his best. Director Danny Boyle, to me anyway, seemed to have been in a bit of a slump since the fantastic Sunshine in 2007. Haven’t enjoyed any of his films since then but I am glad to say that he is back with a vengeance here. The film simply takes place behind the scenes of three big keynote speeches in 1984, 1988, and 1998 and can be summarized down to people walking around and talking for two hours. But man, never has that been so intense and entertaining.
A huge part of this is due to Michael Fassbender. He is at his absolute best in this film and I honestly did not want it to end. Full disclosure, Fassbender is the one and only reason I was excited about this film… I didn’t need to know anything more about Steve Jobs, I don’t even own any Apple products. There are few films out there that are purely an actor’s showcase, and this guy needs a lot more of these. No performance has made me want to go back and visit a film again and again since 2007’s There Will be Blood. Kate Winslet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jeff Daniels, and even Seth Rogen nail their roles but this is Fassbender’s show. Never thought I would describe a biopic like this…but Steve Jobs is tense, electric, and a very fast-paced two hours.
Worst of the Year
I typically don’t see many bad films, as I try to avoid them. I don’t venture out to see something I’m not interested in. I stay away from Annie remakes, The Hunger Games, and Pitch Perfect sequels because they don’t appeal to me whatsoever (and it’s not because I don’t like musicals). As far as movies I was hoping would be fun, there were a handful that let me down. First off, Terminator Genysis was flat out awful. There was some fun to be had with Terminator Salvation, but even with the return of Arnold in this new installment, it was bad. The story was nothing, the characters were bland, the action was less than bland, and no real new ideas were introduced. It felt like a waste of my time. There were also a few Kevin Hart comedies there were particularly bad. I like the guy, his stand-up sessions are hilarious, but he has yet to have a good movie. I had high hopes for Get Hard because I love Will Ferrell and the premise seemed fun. Unfortunately, it went on 30 minutes too long. It was funny for awhile, but really went crazy towards the end and I just got bored. The Wedding Ringer, same thing. A funny premise that was at least an hour too long.
While Kevin Hart had a couple of bad movies this year, Liam Neeson fared much worse. Run All Night reunited him with his Unknown and Non-Stop director and added to that list of completely forgettable and boring action flicks. There was a fun little car chase that lasted all of two minutes here, a couple of good performances from Ed Harris and Joel Kinneman, and at least Neeson plays a different type of character. But for a film called Run All Night, it had very little action and nearly no tension. Neeson also holds the title of worst film of the year with Taken 3. I’m a huge fan of the first Taken directed by Pierre Morel, it was fast, fun, and intense. It’s a perfect example of what a fast and focused action flick should be. Unfortunately, they let Olivier Megaton direct the next two sequels. He is easily the worst director working today having ruined this franchise and Transporter 3. His inability to successfully choreograph an action sequence blows my mind. I got bored during a car chase in Taken 3 so I decided to count how long each take would go on for throughout most of the movie. There isn’t a single shot in the film that lasts longer than three seconds. This choppy, lazy editing is what has ruined action films since The Bourne Ultimatum. Anyway, I hated every moment of the movie. You follow both Neeson and Forest Whitaker as he chases him, and you uncover the “mystery” behind the film as it goes along. They explain it to you with Neeson, then again with Whitaker, then they have a scene where literally Forest Whitaker explains to Liam Neeson how he figured it out! It is absolute insanity and goes to show how stupid Hollywood thinks its viewers are. Thank God for Mad Max: Fury Road this year, as it explains literally nothing and simply shows you whatever it wants. There’s a line between coherence and stupidity…and I’m not an idiot.
Others that weren’t terrible, but were disappointments….Avengers: Age of Ultron, Spy, Blackhat, Mississippi Grind, Trainwreck
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