Looking Back and Looking Forward: 2015

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It’s that time of year, where every critic professional and amateur alike publishes some sort of Best of the Year list. This time last year, I thought 2014 was a mixed bag. 2015 may have been even more so. There have been absolute triumphs, but there have also been complete disasters.

What follows is my Top 10 and Bottom 5 movies released in 2015 as it stands at this moment in time. As always, I’m British, so we won’t get a lot of the Awards Season movies until early next year.

The Best:

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10. TURBO KID Really this one should be experienced rather than described, but you may find yourself surprised how  creative and deliriously fun a story about a teen and his bike fleeing a gang boss in a nuclear wasteland can be. Full review of TURBO KID upcoming.

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9. COP CAR Stand-out young stars with a bright future, a talented and no-nonsense director keen to make his mark and the most spellbinding role for Bacon in years makes this movie really rather special. Full review of COP CAR here.

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8. BRIDGE OF SPIES  Spielberg very close to his best, diving into a so-strange-it-could-only-be-true Cold War story told from the perspective of flawed, frightened, and funny ordinary people. Hanks is great, Rylance is even better. Full review of BRIDGE OF SPIES here.

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7. CAROL Two exquisite lead performances, not a hair out of place and a slow-burning story overflowing with passion makes this the romance of the year. Expect a call from Mr Oscar, where I’d be happy to see Blanchett or Mara awarded, and thrilled for them both to be. Full review of CAROL upcoming.

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6. THE LADY IN THE VAN A great adaptation with Smith mesmerising as a mad old biddy with Catholic guilt and Jennings as Bennett and Bennett. Cutting wit and leisurely, down-to-earth storytelling surpasses the film’s apparent modesty. Full review of LADY IN THE VAN here.

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5. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Miller finally gets to realise the carnage of his considerable imagination in one of the best chase movies of all time. The spectacle is dazzling and palm-sweatingly practical in its execution, but the dense symbolism and careful characterisation allows it to compete with any number of quieter releases this year. Full review of FURY ROAD here.

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4. SICARIO Villeneuve’s latest is a striking and gritty thrill ride as visually arresting as it is razor-sharp in its commentary on the unwinnable War on Drugs. Blunt proves her range and re-emphasises her raw talent in the lead, and del Toro is gifted with one of the best roles of his career. Full review of SICARIO here.

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3. MR. HOLMES McKellen and Condon reunite triumphantly to tell a Sherlock Holmes story that isn’t really a Sherlock Holmes story, but a close and often painful examination of the cruelty of dementia. Real heart, thought and artistry has gone into this. Full review of MR. HOLMES here.

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2. STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS The most anticipated movie in a year of most anticipated movies is pretty damn great. Thank The Maker! Abrams was just the guy for the job and balances tipping his hat to the franchise with bold new strides. Ridley, Driver and Ford are great and I was grinning ear-to-ear throughout. Full review of THE FORCE AWAKENS here.

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1. EX MACHINA With intelligence and sheer imagination to spare, but with very few visual embellishments to hide behind, this is an intimate chamber piece and big idea sci-fi rolled into one knockout package. Garland needs to direct more, and Vikander, Isaac and Gleeson make for a formidable trio. Full review of EX MACHINA here.

The Worst:

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5. FOCUS A vanity project for Smith, and a waste of Robbie’s considerable talents. It might have worked as an undemanding romp if it wasn’t so damn pleased with itself, or if it was even a fraction as clever as it thinks it is. Full review of FOCUS here.

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4. ALOHA How the mighty have fallen. Crowe mostly uses his tedious sci-fi-romance-garbage movie to guilt trip his audience about cultural sensitivity. He then expects us to sympathise with an irredeemable Cooper and a so-quirky-it’s-irritating Stone. Full review of ALOHA upcoming (if I can be bothered).

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3. TERMINATOR GENISYS This was the one Cameron endorsed. The resulting stew is a cynical and embarrassing pile of half-baked ideas, actors who clearly want to be elsewhere and not a single memorable action beat. Full review of GENISYS here.

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2. FANTASTIC FOUR The press didn’t kill this movie, the studio did. Whatever Trank intended his creation to be, it instead fell straight off the slab and soiled itself. Despite crimes in the edit, the cast and design team would have had to put a lot more in to make this even passable. Full review of FANTASTIC FOUR here.

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1. MORTDECAI This caps off my worst films of 2015 not because it’s awful (and it is) but because it didn’t have the pressures of either of the previous two entries on this list. It has a decent cast, a proven filmmaker at the helm and largely untapped source material to mine, but it does nothing with any of them. It’s painful to sit through and watching it will make you a less well-rounded person. Full review of MORTDECAI here.

The Most Disappointing of 2015:

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AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON You can’t fault Whedon’s ambition and Olsen and Bettany certainly make their mark. Returning players however make baffling decisions, storylines collapse under their own weight and most crucially of all, Ultron doesn’t work as a character.

The Big Lesson of 2015:

There are a lot of spy movies. Not all are created equal. For every KINGSMAN and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE that gets it right, you’ve got a SPECTRE that gets weighed down by formula and a MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. that tries to make itself look more interesting than it actually is.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everybody, I look forward to seeing most of the awards buzz stuff in January and a helluva lot more (hopefully different) superheroes in the months beyond. SSP

 

About Sam Sewell-Peterson

I'm not paid to write about film - I do it because I love it. Favourites include Sam Mendes, Guillermo del Toro, Bong Joon-ho, Steven Spielberg, Danny Boyle, Spike Jonze, Rian Johnson and the Coen Brothers. All reviews and articles are original works owned by me. They represent one man's opinion, and I'm more than happy to engage in civilised debate if you disagree.
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