2015 IN REVIEW – MY PERSONAL CINEMATIC HIGHLIGHTS OF THE YEAR

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While I will be shortly posting my obligatory best and worst rundowns of 2015, there are plenty of other memorable highlights that I feel the need to mention.

Hardly any of these films will feature in my best or worst lists of 2015, but I feel they have certain unique characteristics as they were definitely part of my personal cinematic highlights of 2015, both for good and bad reasons.

Of course the divisive opinions expressed here are mine, and mine only.

The long awaited franchise return that was surprisingly better than most other franchise films in 2015: Mad Max: Fury Road

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At the turn of the year, I was of course looking forward to the many latest instalments of various franchises, and though I was aware of George Miller bringing Max Rockatansky back to our cinemas, I didn’t really have an opinion on it. It seems to be in many people’s opinions the best film of the year, but while I do not hold it in quite as a high a regard as that, there is no denying that Fury Road is pure visceral cinema of the highest order. It also a better film than Jurassic World, Spectre, Mockingjay Part 2, Age of Ultron, Rogue Nation, Genysis and Fast & Furious 7.

To read my full review, click here

The most expensive totally bonkers film of the year: Jupiter Ascending

JUPITER ASCENDING

I, and I am sure many others, always want to encourage entries into the blockbuster market that are original and not just sequels or reboots, and one of the most disappointing aspects of watching Jupiter Ascending is that the Wachowski’s could have had a franchise on their hands as initially it does have some great world building. Unfortunately it then descends into a completely bonkers, nonsensical mess of a film. Jupiter Ascending is as entertaining as it is confusing!

To read my full review, click here

The much needed reminder the Liam Neeson does actually bleed like the rest of us: Run All Night

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Ever since he has become an action hero, Liam Neeson as had a tendency to turn up in dumb action films that, to make sure they pass with a 12A rating to get as many admissions as possible, have very toned down action that has no blood and just random gunfire. This just leads to Neeson fighting off countless bad guys and not even getting a paper cut, meaning already lazy plotting produces extreme predictability and a total lack of any danger. It was refreshing that Run All Night was a 15 when released in the cinema and though not a great film, had a little bit more edge to it than previous Neeson films, and (spoiler alert) he bleeds at one point!

To read my full review, click here

The self-indulgence project: Lost River

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Many actors are vain individuals, and once their star has risen and they get some money behind them they like to invest in films that are usually pure vanity projects. Sometimes they produce, star, write or direct these films (or sometimes all four), but the most important thing is that it is their film and they sometimes give the audience a horrifying insight into their mind set. Well, Gosling decided to write and direct his passion (ie; vanity) project, and after changing the title and a lot of bad receptions in film festivals, the result is an admittedly interesting, but very clumsy mishmash of visual influences and unsatisfying subplots.

To read my full review, click here

The most overrated film of the year: Inside Out

Disney•Pixar's "Inside Out" takes us to the most extraordinary location yet - inside the mind of Riley. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions - Anger (voiced by Lewis Black), Disgust (voiced by Mindy Kaling), Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Fear (voiced by Bill Hader) and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley's mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. Directed by Pete Docter and produced by Jonas Rivera, "Inside Out" is in theaters June 19, 2015.

It was admittedly very nice to see Pixar once again giving us a film that was an original idea, and while everyone seemed to rave about Inside Out I failed to fall for all the hype and in my opinion is that behind this admittedly great concept, is a less than convincing execution. There are some truly great individual moments, but the film centres around a really lazy plot that then allows the makers to show off how great their concept is in a painfully episodic way that provides nowhere near enough emotional engagement or satisfaction. A real waste.

To read my full review, click here

The rare successful TV to film transition: Spooks: The Greater Good

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One TV series that I must admit that I didn’t expect to see a film version of was the BBC series Spooks. Admittedly while most TV series that then get the film treatment are comedies, Spooks started from an advantageous position as it was of a genre where the film can have its own, standalone plot. While there were certainly little pieces put in that will please fans of the TV series too, but these were not overdone. Though the plot often confused itself at times, Spooks: The Greater Good was a slick and enjoyable action thriller that never resorted to violence or action for the sake of it, and was, in fact, better than Spectre.

To read my full review, click here

The film everyone praised because they thought it made them some sound intelligent but it was in reality quite an average film: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

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Yet another film that seemed to receive universal praise of the highest order, but not by cynical old me. There is no denying that this film is beautifully shot and makes a great use of its music to be a key part of how the story is told, but then there is no real story. I have a tendency to love films that have minimal plot and are about a mood and tone, but A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night has nowhere enough substance to get away with it.

The feel-good blockbuster: The Martian

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Ridley Scott is certainly prolific, but his output is not always of the highest quality (especially recently). Well, The Martian was a true return to from that lit up the black hole that can be the post summer, pre-Christmas period. The plot may not sound that engrossing, but though it isn’t perfect, The Martian is everything a great blockbuster should be; some great characters, Sean Bean, big name actors being very watchable, Sean Bean, stunning visuals, engaging characters, Sean Bean, the right balance between seriousness and comedy and of course Sean Bean. It is impossible not to be entertained by every single minute of what is actually quite a long running time and not leave the cinema in a good mood.

To read my full review, click here

The thank-God-that-is-all-over: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

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I am happy to admit that I have found every Hunger Games film to be watchable enough, but ultimately quite dull, flawed, predictable and uninvolving. There was real potential and promise in there and so I was hoping the finale would finally kick off and bring us the epic and thrilling conclusion all the potential deserved. However the result is the worst film of the series with predominantly forgettable characters, predictable and stodgy plotting and a true sense of anti-climax. Unfortunately Mockingjay Part 2 is a suitably uninspiring conclusion to one of the most undistinguished and forgettable film franchises of recent years.

To read my full review, click here

The biggest balls up of a great concept: Pixels

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I hate most Adam Sandler films, but when he is not the main reason a film was so frustrating then something has gone truly wrong somewhere else. Sandler is instantly forgettable in terms of his performance, but Pixels has to be seen to be believed in terms of witnessing just how much everyone involved took a great concept and turns it into this cinematic detritus.

To read my full review, click here

The regretful reboot: The Fantastic Four

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Tim Story’s two Fantastic Four films were certainly not modern classics, but were solid enough films, but they were not made that long ago and so not only does a reboot not seem necessary, but the resulting reboot is a film that makes his two films look like genre classics. Josh Trank’s film was famously compromised, and maybe we will never know who the true culprit was, but the result is a total mess. Roger Corman produced a Fantastic Four film in 1994 that was deemed so bad that they never released it, maybe this 2015 version should have met the same fate.

To read my full review, click here

The game of two halves: The Lobster

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Yorgos Lanthimos’ film is one that should be seen by all because it is very different from any other film in this, or indeed many years. It also threatened to be one of the best films of the year with a first half that mixes subtle, but unnerving dark humour with genuinely engaging storytelling. However a change of setting in the film’s second half cannot not match these high standards, and though there were obvious reasons for this complete change, it is a really baggy and often boring second half that truly loses its way and does undo a lot of the first half’s excellent work.

To read my full review, click here

The guiltiest pleasure: Fast & Furious 7

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Though the likes of Jupiter Ascending and Terminator Genysis were certainly bonkers enough to emerge as contenders, the latest chapter of the unstoppable Fast & Furious franchise followed in the slipstream of its predecessors to claim the coveted title of my very guiltiest pleasure of the year. It is filled with all the flaws and plot holes of previous instalments, but the set pieces are more bonkers than ever and with Statham as the bad guy, Fast & Furious 7 is undeniably entertainment that truly is a guilty pleasure. On a separate note, it is also worth mentioning the untimely death of Paul Walker was dealt with by the narrative extremely well.

To read my full review, click here

The very expensive, star studded mess: Into the Woods

Emily Blunt and James Corden star as a baker and his wife who wish to start a family in ?Into the Woods,? a modern twist on beloved fairy tales. Based on the Tony?-winning musical, the film hits theaters nationwide Dec. 25, 2014. Photo by: Peter Mountain. ? 2014 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved..

The original stage musical was of course a great success, but Disney took away a lot of the story’s darker elements to produce what is not only one extremely expensive and star studded pantomime, but an absolute over bloated mess of a film told with no real care for narrative coherence.

To read my full review, click here

The sequel that really didn’t care what anyone thought of it: Terminator: Genysis

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Admittedly it was always going to be impossible to better Jimmy Cameron’s first two films, but Rise of the Machines and Salvation were poor by any standards. From the off Genysis takes a different approach; it is happy to reference its own mythology with its tongue very firmly in its cheek and provides Arnie with plenty of cheesy one-liners. All this silliness makes the completely nonsense plot just about forgivable.

To read my full review, click here

The very pleasant surprise: Kajaki

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In this day and age of excessive marketing budgets, social media and millions of wannabe film critic’s blogging about films as if their life depended on it, it is almost impossible not to have read a plethora of opinions on any film from any end of the budget spectrum before seeing it. Well, this low budget British film based on a true story about a group of soldiers in Afghanistan had no marketing, a very limited release and had very little mention anywhere. However it is a well-made, genuinely gripping and emotionally engaging film that I cannot recommend enough.

To read my full review, click here

The Film that proved you don’t need Dialogue to be Hilarious: The Shaun the Sheep Movie

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Ardman have already set a high standard for themselves with the previous short and feature length efforts, and they continued with these high standards with Shaun the Sheep’s inevitable big screen debut. Of course the TV series is based pretty much solely on visual gags, but keeping the high standard of the series for a feature length running time is no mean feat. A strong story that involves a change of setting that means all the characters travel to the big city and also introducing a clear antagonist are all skilful handled to produce a film full of constant hilarious visual gags and the necessary heart and soul. A real triumph.

To read my full review, click here

The Best animated film: Song of the Sea

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With the animation studios spending small fortunes on their films these days, it is refreshing to not only see this has hasn’t put off smaller animation studios bringing out films with their own distinctive style, but also that they prove that true heart and soul is not solely dependent on budget. Song of the Sea has animation as beautiful, captivating and emotionally engaging as its story, and will lift the spirits of viewers of any age.

To read my full review, click here

Worst accent of the year: Jeff Bridges – Seventh Son

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Jeff Bridges was pretty hard to understand in True Grit, but it somehow worked, partly down to the fact it was an excellent film. He the cranked that up in the misfiring R.I.P.D., but in Seventh Son he might as well have been speaking a different language. Maybe it was a genuine attempt at being Gandalf or he already knew just how abysmal the film and its dialogue was and so is intentionally bad, but either way, his vocal performance has to be seen to be believed.

To read my full review, click here

The best unashamedly nasty old school actioner: John Wick

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The action movie genre is surely one of the most over supplied of all film genres, and there is very little to separate the plots of any of them, however let’s face it; none of us watch this kind of film for original storytelling do we?!? What we want is slickly put together and unashamedly brutal violence, and John Wick most certainly has that in abundance.

To read my full review, click here

The style over substance film: The Falling

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Yet another film to receive undeserved consistent high praise; The Falling has an interesting premise at its centre and is beautifully shot, but that is it. Beneath all the wonderful style is very little substance, and only so many repetitive shots of branches blowing in the wind and young girls fainting can hide this. This lack of actual substance or any really decisive storytelling makes for an often laborious watch.

To read my full review, click here

The best animal performance: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

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I have already made my opinions on this film quite clear, but by far the most memorable thing about this film is the performance of Masuka the Cat as the suitably named character of ‘the cat’. The charismatic feline has many intense close ups on its face and it suitably delivers a great performance with some unforgettable expressions that would put many actors to shame.

The cinematic stilton: A Royal Night Out

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The poster or DVD cover are often huge clues as to what sort film you are going to get, and when you have the cast demonstrating cheesy grins so wide their faces are on the verge of ripping and there are quotes that include ‘uplifting’ and ‘crowd pleaser’, you know you are in for an unashamedly cheesy film. It is perfectly entertaining with the right expectations, but after watching A Royal Night Out you will feel the need for a strictly savoury diet for a fair while.

To read my full review, click here

The most effectively surprising casting decision: Owen Wilson – No Escape

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Despite a few flaws, No Escape is still often a genuinely intense experience, and the main reason for this is the casting of Owen Wilson. If this were a Neeson or a Statham then most of the sense of danger would not exist, but the protagonist is supposed to be an everyman completely out of his depth, and casting a man whose trademark style is laidback comedy makes the protagonist believable and the tension levels high. It is just a shame Pierce Brosnan thinks that he is in a different film though!

To read my full review, click here

The film that proved that storytelling competence will only get you so far: Legend

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Most people know the story of the Krays, or at least bits of it, so why we do need another film about them? Well Brian Helgeland fails to answer this question as there is no denying that Legend is extremely well made and Tom Hardy’s dual performance is exceptional, but that is only enough to produce a good film. A great film has to have an angle or examine some interesting themes and ideas, Legend does not even attempt such things and just tells its story, and that is it.

To read my full review, click here

The shameless cash-in too far: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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The so-called grey pound demographic has proved to be very lucrative for the cynical film industry in the last few years, and 2011’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was one that stared it all. While that film was genuinely charming and light-hearted fun, the charmless sequel is just made with the sole intention of making money with no interest of even having the original’s charm, warmth or humour.

To read my full review, click here

The best bromance: Michael Fassbender and Kodi Smit-McPhee – Slow West

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There is much fun to be had in John Maclean’s self-aware western, but holding it all together is two great performances from the two leads as the cigar chomping bounty hunter and young and inexperienced traveller respectively. Maclean’s minimal but witty script allows the two of them to exchange some great dialogue, which is only enhanced by their great onscreen chemistry, and is one of the elements that makes Slow West such an enjoyable film.

To read my full review, click here

The most undeserving awards darling: American Sniper

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For the third year in a row Bradley Cooper got an undeserved Oscar nomination in an overrated film, but of the three American Sniper is by far the worst and does not deserve a single one of its six Oscar nominations, except perhaps the only one that it actually won – sound editing. The true story it is based on does seem like one worth telling and could have produced an insightful and moving film, but American Sniper with its terrible pacing, poor direction and flat script is certainly not that film.

To read my full review, click here

The most English death: Tomorrowland (spoiler alert)

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Though it just misses out in the most bonkers big budget film of the year award to Jupiter Ascending, what Tomorrowland does have is a typical English (sort of) bad guy in the form of Hugh Laurie right royally enjoying himself as he chews scenery. His inevitable death scene however in many ways sums up American’s opinion of the English; despite the fact he cannot move due to his legs being trapped beneath fallen heavy set design, his natural reaction to the sight of a humongous CGI metallic stricture collapsing and falling towards him to completely crush him is to calmly say in an upper class English accent the two immortal words: “oh bollocks!”.

To read my full review, click here

The worst Bond audition ever: Martin Kemp – Age of Kill (contains spoilers)

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Age of Kill is an abysmal film and will be featuring in my very worst of the year list, however the real icing on the cake of cringe is the film’s final sequence. After he has defeated all the bad guys and saved his country, Kemp’s Sam Blake is officially dead, and so now is given top secret missions, and to show this we get a slow motion scene of silver fox Kemp wearing a slick suit gunning down three gunman (ignore the fact they are armed with machine guns and the numerous bullets they all fire do not even hit Kemp) with just three shots. You may have ruled the square once Martin, but stick to playing the bass guitar.

To read my full review, click

The triumphant return: Star Wars- The Force Awakens

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I will happily admit that I am not a Star Wars fanboy, and I enjoy the films (some more than others) and was certainly looking forward to what Abrams will be bringing to the franchise. Though it is admittedly not perfect and also not a million miles away from being a remake of A New Hope, there is no denying that from start to finish The Force Awakens is a thrilling, action-packed and immensely enjoyable film, and in my opinion one of the year’s best blockbusters.

To read my full review, click here

The biggest disappointment: Spectre

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Sam Mendes and Daniel Craig hit new heights with the exceptional Skyfall, and after that Mendes said he would not do another Bond. Well, maybe he should have stuck to his guns as Spectre is clear proof that lightning does not ever strike twice. It should have been a great film that pertinently brought all the Craig films together to a big crescendo and satisfying conclusion, but instead what we get is a bloated mess, and the clumsiness of the plot only being emphasised by the constant ineptly put together reminders of what happened in previous Craig films.

To read my full review, click here

The haunting mood piece: Foxcatcher

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Bennett Miller’s unforgettable film is undoubtedly a very unique film that is more about its tone and themes than the actual plot itself. Thanks to great direction, a stunning script and three exceptional performances, it is a film that uses its plot to examine some dark and pertinent themes with the utmost subtlety, but at the same time very effectively to create a two hour mood piece that will stay with the viewer for a very long time.

To read my full review, click here

The reminder that Spielberg still has it: Bridge of Spies

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It has been a few years since we were treated to a Spielberg film, but with Bridge of Spies he reminded us why he is so good at what he does. In the hands of a less experienced filmmaker Bridge of Spies could have easily come across as contrived and over sentimental, but yet under Spielberg’s direction and Tom Hanks doing what he does best in the lead role, Bridge of Spies just works on the whole, making for an immensely watchable piece of pure cinema.

To read my full review, click here

The dialogue quote of the year: Nicolas Cage – Outcast

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That Guard is as thick as flies on a farting goat’s arse!

No, it doesn’t really make any sense, but somehow pertinently sums up the way Nic’s career has gone recently!

To read my full review, click here

The most captivating romance: Carol

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Todd Haynes’ stunning film is not only a visually gorgeous film that perfectly captures its 1950s setting, but features two magnificent performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. The story itself may be nothing new, but how the slow pacing of the film, its stunning visuals and the two performances create the mood and tell the story produce an unforgettably romantic film.

To read my full review, click here

The most unconventional, but yet engaging, romance: Les Combattants

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This film’s name in other countries (Love at first Fight) pretty much sums up the ‘romantic’ relationship that drives the narrative of this excellent French film. Madeliene is obsessed with war, and so to win her over Arnaud joins an army boot camp with her, despite the fact she is constantly horrible to him. What then develops is a character driven narrative, with an engaging romance at its centre.

To read my full review, click here

The masterful exercise in producing genuine tension: Sicario

S_D045_11529.NEF

French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve has so far nailed every genre he has had a go at and Sicario is once again proof that it is not all about plot, but how that plot is presented on screen. The actual plot to Sicario is your generic Mexican drug cartel thriller stuff, but it is the pacing and direction that makes Sicario such compelling and genuinely tense viewing from start to finish.

To read my full review, click here

The best soundtrack of the year: Jupiter Ascending – Michael Giacchino

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It has unfortunately not been a particularly golden year for film scores (hence why I have not done a top ten), but there have still been a few great scores. Tom Hulkenborg delivered a suitably stonking score for Mad Max: Fury Road and Hans Zimmer and Andrew Kawczynski put together a thumping score for Chappie. However, for me the best score has to be Michael Giacchino’s stunning John Williams-esque score for The Wachowski’s Jupiter Ascending. It is two whole discs of dramatic and soaring string arrangements – it is just a shame the actual film wasn’t quite up to the same standard!

About MoodyB

An extremely passionate and (semi) opened minded film reviewer, with a hint of snobbish.
This entry was posted in All Film Reviews, Blockbusters, British Films, Films to Avoid, Major Dissapointments, The Best of 2015, World Cinema and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to 2015 IN REVIEW – MY PERSONAL CINEMATIC HIGHLIGHTS OF THE YEAR

  1. Michael Giacchino has had an amazing year, scoring also Jurassic World, Tomorrowland and Inside Out.

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