Friday, January 1, 2016

The Top 10 Movies of 2015

2015 was a year for ensembles, strong female-driven stories, real-life drama brought to the big screen, animated features, and surprisingly good science fiction. In a year which proved to hold as many gems before award season as during it, 2015 turned out to be a pretty good year at the movies. Limiting my list to ten there are certainly a number of films worthy of mention that didn't find a place on this list including the best super-hero film of the year, a journey on Mars, Cold War spy intrigue, and the return of Star Wars, Charlie Brown, and Rocky Balboa all to the big screen. But enough of what didn't make the cut; let's count down the best movies of 2015...

10. Inside Out

Following the first year without a Pixar movie since 2005 comes this look at the inner workings of an 11 year-old girl's mind when she's uprooted from from her home and moves across the country to San Fransisco. Offering audiences both the craziness inside the Riley's (Kaitlyn Dias) mind by the various emotions (Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling) attempt to deal with the unprecedented situation and Riley's struggle with the outside world, Inside Out is an emotionally intelligent look at a harsh reality of childhood while providing plenty of laughs. Read the full review.

Now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

9. Steve Jobs

Presentation is everything. Tackling its well-mined subject matter from in a non-traditional manner, Steve Jobs goes against the grain of a chronological biopic and instead focuses on three days of its title character's (Michael Fassbender) life. Merged with Aaron Sorkin's quick dialogue and constant movement, the style of the film offers a fresh perspective not only to Jobs' life but the entire biopic genre. Read the full review.

Available on DVD and Blu-ray February 16th.

8. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Focusing on the life of high school senior (Thomas Mann) and his two friends, one (Olivia Cooke) of whom has contracted Leukemia, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a smart movie about high school (I know, right?) and the moments and friendships that change our lives forever. Exploring large themes of life and death through a quirky set-up, director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon offer a smart, touching, and moving coming of age story that is far better than I expected it to be. Read the full review.

Now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

7. The Big Short

Steve Carell leads an ensemble cast (Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Jeremy Strong, John Magaro, Finn Wittrock, and Brad Pitt) in director Adam McKay's look at a group of people who were able to see the housing bubble about to burst and found a way to profit on it. Vilifying the system but not the men who found the loophole to use to their own advantage, The Big Short is an enjoyable (if aggravating) examination at just how screwed up Wall Street really is. Read the full review.

Now in theaters.

6. Spotlight

Speaking of true stories pulled into the light by an ensemble cast, Spotlight shines its light on The Boston Globe investigative journalists (Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, and Brian d'Arcy James) who uncovered an unprescendented discovery of sexual abuse of a children by Catholic priests in a story with staggering ramifications for the entire Boston community. A throwback to the old newspaper movies that Hollywood makes far less frequently than it used to, writer/director Tom McCarthy delves into the extensive investigative process to bring one of the most shocking stories in recent years to life. Read the full review.

Now in theaters.

5. Sicario

Emily Blunt is an idealistic FBI Agent in over her head after joining a joint DEA task force tasked with taking down the head of a Mexican drug cartel. Separating itself from numerous other film's dealing with similar plotlines, Sicario is built on the back of the performances of Blunt and Benicio Del Toro while hiding the truth about its story from both its protagonist and the audience. Brutal without being unnecessarily violent, the journey of the FBI agent down the rabbit hole and her discovery of things best left unseen leads us on an emotional journey with the understanding that nothing about this situation can end well for anyone involved. Read the full review.

Still playing in theaters in select cities.

4. Room

Both heart-wrenching and heartwarming, Room is an amazing story of a five year-old (Jacob Tremblay) and his mother (Brie Larson) removed from the outside world and kept prisoner for young Jack's entire life. Surprisingly hopeful in spite of the circumstances it explores, Room will put you through the emotional wringer but is certainly worth it. Read the full review.

Still playing in theaters in select cities.

3. Shaun the Sheep Movie

I'm may not be the biggest Wallace and Gromit fan, and I have never seen an episode of Shaun the Sheep, but I absolutely adored this film. Without a single word of dialogue, but plenty of cinematic magic, Shaun the Sheep Movie delivers an old school screwball comedy surrounding the adventures of its title character in the big city that is an unexpected joy to behold for both children and adults. Read the full review.

Now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

In a year that continued Marvel's attempts to up-the-ante in super-hero spectacle and Disney's first brand-new Star Wars film, the best cinematic experience 2015 offered came from a 70 year-old filmmaker breathing new life into a concept he first explored on film more than 35 years ago. With limited dialogue and fueled by stunning visuals and an amazing performance from Charlize Theron that overshadows the title character, George Miller's highly-stylized insanity is an art house film on summer popcorn flick steroids. Read the full review. And in any other year it might be the best sci-fi/fantasy movie of the year. But not this year...

Now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

1. Ex Machina

In the best traditions of science fiction, writer/director Alex Garland's Ex Machina tackles themes of technology and humanity and the trouble that arises when the two are put in conflict. When a smart, albeit low-level programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) is given the opportunity to spend time at home of his reclusive boss (Oscar Isaac) he becomes immediately mired in an experiment concerning an artificial intelligence named Ava (Alicia Vikander). Brought in to test whether Ava is truly sentient, our protagonist quickly falls down the rabbit hole as he questions both the motives of his boss and Ava and his true purpose within the remote outpost. Ex Machina balances an intellectual mystery and increasingly volatile emotions in a movie that's part thriller, part drama, and all sci-fi. Much like Vikander's mesmerizing character, Garland's film is a marvel to behold while exploring complex themes with no simple answer to their inevitable end. Read the full review.

Now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

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