That was the year that was 2015 then. As 2016 looms, let’s look back at what happened movie-wise.
As is tradition, we’ll begin with…
WORST FILM OF THE YEAR – The Visit
The Visit is the worst film of 2015 because it was close to being one of the best. Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan seemed to be making a compassionate chiller where the horror came from young eyes witnessing the ravages of old age. Until he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with a third act twist, polluting all the good work done in the first hour. Time to call it an M. Night, mate.
AUTO-EROTICISM – Mad Max: Fury Road
Avengers: Age of Ultron was sound and fury and little else. Jurassic World was dumb-fun. But, everyone’s gear stick was slammed into fifth by George Miller’s astonishing action movie. Distilling the entire movie to cinema’s purest moment – the chase scene – Miller created fuel-injected sensory overload. The basic story was very basic, but the characters, the eye-popping visuals and the remarkable stunt work combined to create a seriously doolally post-apocalyptic vision. A film that literally spits fuel directly into your engine.
SERIOUSLY, PLEASE FRIGGING RELEASE ME! – Snowpiercer
In our 2014 round-up we wrote how the UK is long overdue the chance to watch the excellent Snowpiercer. Sadly, a year later we’re saying the same thing. Essentially treated as toxic waste by The Weinstein Company, this has left little desire among UK indie distributors to pick up the film. A crushing shame as this sci-fi epic from the director of Korean monster movie The Host is every bit as insane and impressive as Mad Max: Fury Road.
I’VE GOT SOMETHING IN MY EYE– Star Wars: The Force Awakens
It was the rescue mission most believed impossible. But, that The Force Awakens banishes memories of the prequels and rekindles a magic long thought lost forever is more than anyone could have hoped for. As the credits roll, you’ll definitely have something in your eye. Thanks to…
MAN OF THE YEAR – J.J. Abrams
Abrams had previously resurrected Star Trek with considerable panache. But, no Star Trek film had fallen as low as the Star Wars prequels. No Star Trek film had been so tinkered with by a creator determined to improve the saga into a failure. A Wookie-sized hug then for Abrams who proved those inspired by Star Wars understood its appeal far more than George Lucas ever did. The trailers promised so much, and Abrams delivered. Over to Rian Johnson then to take the saga into story avenues new.
WOMAN OF THE YEAR – Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road
Despite having a Best Actress Oscar sitting on her shelf, Charlize Theron seemed an odd choice for female lead in George Miller’s Mad Max reboot. But, she steals the film as scorned woman Furiosa, mixing toughness and tenderness in one sinewy, prosthetic-armed crew-cut package. Writer/director George Miller clearly knows she’s the more interesting character, side-lining Tom Hardy’s Max in favour of her.
BIGGEST SURPRISE THAT WASN’T STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS – Spy
Spy provides fresh hope that Paul Feig was the right man for the upcoming Ghostbusters do-over. An uproariously funny espionage caper, Spy is crude and clever with a gag rate as impressive as a particularly girthy “secret weapon” flashed around in the extended version. Melissa McCarthy and Jason Statham deserve Oscar nominations for their work here.
BEST TRAILER THAT WASN’T STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS – Suicide Squad
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice promises to be approximately 35 minutes of them smacking down before teaming up and taking on Lex Luther. But, Suicide Squad could be the surprise hit of 2016. The Dirty Dozen rewritten with Batman’s enemies making up the eponymous gang, the trailer packs in lunacy, lethality and lashings of off-the-wall action. All set to an emo cover of the Bee Gees’ I Started A Joke. Which is just messed up. We predict Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn will steal the movie, while we wait with breath bated to see what Jared Leto will do with the Joker after Heath Ledger’s Oscar winning turn.
BEST VILLAIN – David Miscavige – Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
2015’s movies boasted many memorable villains. Star Wars’ Kylo Ren, Whiplash’s Professor Fletcher, Jurassic World’s Indominus Rex. But, none came close to David Miscavige, Scientology’s current Chairman of the Board. Revealed in Alex Gibney’s sensational documentary as a bully not above inflicting a little mental and physical torment, he is depicted as a rapacious tyrant for whom fellow Scientologists are mere play things. His wife has not been seen in public since 2007. His niece escaped the cult and wrote a tell-all book. David Miscavige is 5 feet 5 inches tall.
A YEAR OF FILMS YOU COULDN’T MAKE UP
2015 was a stellar year for documentaries. Scientology was skewered in Going Clear. The dark side of fame was uncovered in Amy. The madness of the movie business was there for all to see in Electric Boogaloo – The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films. Legendary British comic 2000AD was saluted in Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD. The indomitable human spirit was celebrated in He Named Me Malala. Josh Oppenheimer’s Look of Silence was a shattering follow-up to The Act of Killing. And there were many more.
I DON’T MEAN TO BE CHURLISH, BUT WAS SICARIO REALLY THAT GOOD
Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario trod familiar Mexican drug war ground, but did it with unblinking conviction and grounded intelligence. Right up to the ending when it suddenly becomes a Bourne movie and pure-grade believability was cut with second rate hokum. Benicio Del Toro’s performance however was a true tour de force that echoed his Oscar winning turn in the similarly themed Traffic.
WELCOME BACK PIXAR
We liked 2012’s Brave, although many didn’t. Monsters University was fun but unnecessary. But, Pixar were on Toy Story 2 form with Inside Out. Reworking the old but irresistible premise that little people inside you actually control your actions, it spent most of its duration in the psyche of a young girl whose life has been upended. Funny, humane and dazzlingly imaginative, not even Pixar’s muddled The Good Dinosaur could undo the good work.
A YEAR OF FILMS YOU WERE DRAWN TO
While Inside Out was 2015’s best animated movie, the year was awash with first rate feature length ‘toons. The Irish Song of the Sea was an irresistible coming-of-age story brimming with Gaelic folklore and should have won the Best Animated Film Oscar. It lost to Big Hero 6, which while not as impressive was still the year’s best Marvel movie, beating Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant Man. Studio Ghibli’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya was a water-coloured fairy tale as visually daring as any of the above. Minions wasn’t bad either.
GOD I’M OLD – Back to the Future Part II
Back to the Future Part II takes place on October 21st 2015. Meaning every moment is now beyond the future depicted in that film. I distinctly remember Back to the Future Part II being released at the cinema in 1989. I am old. And to rub salt into the wound, we don’t have flying cars. Blade Runner occurs in 2019. That film has flying cars too. We have three years..
BEST HONEST TRAILER – Jupiter Ascending
Honest Trailers never fail to deliver. Part of their success is knowing when to be funny and when to step back and let the film skewer itself. The genius of their Jupiter Ascending trailer was that it simply recounted the plot of the Wachowski’s career-limiting debacle.
A YEAR OF BOND FILMS BETTER THAN SPECTRE – Spy, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Despite early 5 star reviews, Spectre was a disappointment and Bond #25 has some heavy lifting if it’s going to win fans back. Yet, there were three releases in 2015 indebted to 007 but surpassed his latest outing. Spy had a better plot and better theme song, Kingsman was Roger Moore era Bondage with a healthy dose of Kick-Ass and the similarly plotted Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation was smart where Spectre was pedestrian. Must try harder, James.
BEST FILM YOU HAD TO READ – Wild Tales
The anthology film made a triumphant return with Damián Szifron’s dazzling sextet of nightmare vignettes in modern day Argentina. Our favourite was story number 2, a tale of road rage that spins hilariously out of control, but all were a delight.
MARMITE MOVIE – Tokyo Tribe
Japanese director Sion Sono makes marmite movies. We think his movies are must-see cinematic events (and ironically we hate marmite). Tokyo Tribe was Sono’s most marmitey movie to date. A hip-hopera gang war/horror/exploitation movie, it will either fire the senses or have you running for the exit.
INSTANT CLASSIC OF LINE OF DIALOGUE – Whiplash
“Were you rushing, or were you dragging?” Terrifying.
SEE WHAT THEY DID THERE? – It Follows
A five star example of how horror just needs a good idea to terrify and impress its way into top 10 of the year lists, It Follows is fiendishly clever. The big bad is a malevolent force that keeps coming until it has claimed you, and the whole film can be read as a fear of entering adulthood. Characters retreat to childhood idylls such as a playground or the seaside after encountering “It”, while Freudian sexual imagery abounds. See it, before it sees you.
BEST DVD RELEASE – Blood and Black Lace
Arrow Films are the premiere UK DVD label. Breathtaking restorations, bountiful extras and the coolest packaging makes each release an event. 2015 was a standout year for Arrow and the award for Best DVD Release could have gone to Videodrome, Battles Without Honour and Humanity or Your Vice Is A Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (a film that definitely lives up to its title!).
But, Blood and Black Lace is the cream of the crop. Lovingly restored, Mario Bava’s classic thriller has never looked better. Add hours of extras on the film, its influence and the history of the giallo (Italian murder-mystery thrillers) and you have a gift that keeps on giving.
THAT’S HOW YOU DO EROTICISM – The Duke of Burgundy
50 Shades of Grey was dull and ridiculous and the title will always sound like a description of a 15 year old boy’s duvet cover. Peter Strickland’s extraordinary tale of Sapphic love and S&M power games was the year’s erotic champion. Even more impressive was that Strickland kept most of “the action” off screen, charging the atmosphere with suggestions of what was occurring behind closed doors. His leading lady, Borgen’s Sidse Babett Knudsen, offers an Oscar worthy performance as a woman willing to compromise in many ways for the person she loves.
THE HOLLYWOOD CIRCLE JERK AWARD (Or the predictable overpraise Tinseltown heaped on Birdman)
How depressing it was when Birdman, or Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) to give its full, smugly grammatically incorrect title, won the Best Picture Oscar over Boyhood. A hugely indulgent exercise in self-congratulation, it emerged as just another tiresome tale of how acting is the noblest profession and if anyone wants to be entertained by people playing dress-up then they’re worse than Hitler. Toast of London has more insight into the craft than this. If Birdman reenergised Michael Keaton’s mojo enough to make him do the fantastic Spotlight, then at least some good came of it. But, director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu had better deliver big with The Revenant to make amends for this self-satisfied bore.
WHO INVITED YOU BACK?
While Star Wars was welcomed with arms open, other franchises should have stayed away in 2015. Terminator Genisys proved added Arnie does not a good Terminator film make. Ted 2 suggested Mila Kunis was the real star all along. Same for Magic Mike and Matthew McConaughey. The Human Centipede III proved the franchise no longer had legs. Vacation could have done with original cast members Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo. Oh wait, it had them both and still sucked. And big screen Entourage was this year’s Blurred Lines.
PRINT THE LEGEND – Straight Outta Compton
Judging by this reverential, authorised biopic the nice boys at NWA would never dream of slapping the fairer sex or snorting a line of the devil’s dandruff. Straight Outta Compton was high-energy fun with a soundtrack to be played at full volume, but ducked any discussion of the misogyny and violent posturing of 80s gangsta rap. The definitive story still waits to be told (and will probably be a documentary).
HIDDEN GEM – X&Y
Asa Butterfield’s sensitive portrayal of an autistic maths prodigy was just one of the delights in this gem. Sally Hawkins completed her career rehabilitation after the atrocity that was 2008’s Happy Go Lucky as Butterfield’s struggling mother, while Rafe Spall shone as his multiple sclerosis suffering tutor. All this sounds heavy going, but X+Y’s strength was in the humour and optimism it bought to even the darkest moments. Forget the dreary Theory of Everything, go for this.
FILM OF THE YEAR – Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
Scientology. Hollywood’s religion. The most fascinating cult on the block. And laid bare in Alex Gibney’s amazing documentary. Gibney has previously tackled Wall Street in Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and the Catholic Church in Mea Maxima Culpa, but Scientology must still have been daunting. Armed with reportedly around 140 lawyers, his adaptation of Lawrence Wright’s book was packed with fascinating details and troubling revelations. Plus, copious footage of Scientology galas and Tom Cruise’s birthday bash that was both hilarious and creepy. Essential viewing.
Overall, how was this year compared to 2014? Read our review of 2014 here.