A few days late, but here it is...
10. Going Clear-My favorite documentary of the year explores a topic I’ve been bizarrely fascinated with for some time; Scientology. The stories surrounding the cult-like mega organization are often stranger than fiction, and this documentary gives an intriguing, first-hand account of it all that left me thinking about it all for days after…. and not thinking, like “Those cats had some solid ideas, sign me up”, more like “that’s some f’ed up shit”.
9. Creep-The polar opposite of a big summer blockbuster, Creep seems like it only cost $100, but utilized its resources in a way that made it more unsettling than any big-budget horror movie I saw this year. The writer/director of the film, Patrick Brice, plays a cameraman hired to come to a mysterious cabin to film a quirky guy for a weekend that unfolds a very, well… creepy way. The Duplas brothers have figured out the alchemy to create engaging films on small budgets and Creep is a perfect example. Creep left me feeling uneasy even days after watching it.
8. Hateful Eight-Some classic Tarantino here; humor, crackling dialogue, cartoonish violence, and Sam Jackson pointing a gun at camera and giving a bad-ass monologue. Really more of a play that takes place it one room, Tarantino ratchets up the tension with each minute that goes by, as a group of murderers, bounty hunters and liars spend a blizzard trapped in a pioneer outpost. The 3 hour run time moves at a good pace, and the panoramic vistas look great in widescreen. If nothing else, stay for the speech Samuel L Jackson about his “giant dingus”.
7. Mad Max-Less a movie, and more of a thrill ride, 70 year old George Miller, starts going 100 mph from scene one and doesn’t stop until the credits. Though it is light on plot and characters, the practical stunts and action set pieces were made to be viewed on a big screen, and made it a true movie-going experience.
6. Straight Outta Compton-When a music bio-pic is done right, it can be amazing, and Straight Outta Compton was done right. Funny, poignant, heart-breaking and thrilling, SOC was a rollercoaster ride through the music and music industry of our youth. The young cast was pretty great and Ice Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr, playing his own father, was uncanny at times in how much he looked and sounded like his dad. Racism, police brutality, rap music and AIDS, SOC was a movie that almost needed to be a mini series to contain all the drama and ended in a spot that left to wanted to know the next chapter in the saga.
5. Kingsman-Let’s gather up every cool, older British actor, and have them kick a ton of ass. Kingsman is simultaneously a throwback to the class of vintage spy movies with the injection of modern action and over-the-top violence. Funny, thrillingand heartfelt at times, Kingman is another example of why Matthew Vaughn is one of my favorite directors working today.
4. Ex Machina- Two men. A robot. An isolated home in the mountains. Ex Machina, the story of a man hired by the eccentric creator of a true artificial intelligence, to come and test the robot’s believably as indistinguishable from a human, is a supremely intelligence exploration of near-future sci-fi. Smart, beautifully shot and well paced, the movie ratchets up the uneasiness with each passing scene. All 3 actors give superb performances that build up the tension until the film reaches it’s inevitable, yet shocking, conclusion.
4. Creed-Sports movies can often be clichéd; underdog fights harder than everyone else, wins in the end because he/she/the team has more heart. But when a sports movie is done right, you kind of don’t care because sports movies can also be amazing. They represent something uniquely American, and really embody the drive and potential we all hope is within us. “Creed”, a spin-off from a movie franchise that should have died a long time ago, like a sport’s character of it’s own, surprises the critics and defies the odds to become something great. Michael B Jordan is terrific as the young boxer with a ton of heart and a huge chip on his shoulder, and Stallone gives what may be the best performance of his career. Yes, Sylvester Stallone may bring you to tears. With beautiful, one-take, tracking shots in the ring, and amazing performances from the cast, “Creed” is the sports movie at its best.
3. Paddington- What?! Paddington?! Correct, Paddington is amazing. Paddington is every classic children’s movie we remember from our youth . No CGI animals farting or doing a choreographed dance numbers to a Pitbull song, just a ridiculously charming movie full of heart and humor, perfect for people of all ages. I defy you to not fall in love with that adorable bear, I wish more kid’s movies were like Paddington.
2. Jurassic World- Most children of the early 90’s remember the spectacle and awe of Jurassic Park, a movie that to this day is still one of my all time favorites. So, considering the lackluster sequels, how does one bring back that sense of wonder again? You do the thing that the first movie promised us and open the park. Honestly, I would have enjoyed just a 2 hour tour of the working park, as great detail was paid to how an actual dinosaur theme park could run. But as the shit hits the fan, as it inevitably will, we are treated to a thrilling adventure that is everything a summer movie should be: fun characters, moments of humor and tension, and spectacular actions scenes that culminate in a climax that literarily had the theater I was in cheering. Jurassic World is the epitome of a “fun movie”, and would have taken the #1 spot, except for…
1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens-Dear JJ Abrams, thank you. Thank you for bringing the feel, the characters, the practical effects, the drama and humor and the childlike amazement that we all felt as children back to the franchise. Not much can be said about The Force Awakens that hasn’t already been said. I could talk about the amazing new cast, Daisy Ridely’s kick-ass Rey, Jon Boyega’s conflicted and enthusiastic Finn, and Oscar Isaac’s Poe, who’s character is as excited to be in the Star Wars universe as we would be. I could talk about the perfect and impactful reintroduction of the original cast. I could talk about Adam Driver’s conflicted and complex villain, Kylo Ren, the frightening First Order and looming threat of Snoke. I could talk about the amazing locales, thrilling action sequences and heartbreaking elements. But I think one of the most amazing things JJ did was the unique opportunity he seized to seamlessly and confidently insert a more diverse cast into the lead roles in a franchise that is truly an American institution. Everyone should be able to see themselves in their movie heroes, and he gave children of both genders and ethnicities heroes to look up to and claim as their own. It is a Star Wars movie for the 21st century, the Star Wars movie we’ve all been waning, and everything that has been said about it, well, “It’s true. All of it.”.