Top 15 Best Movies of 2015

Despite the many flops the year had to offer, 2015 was the year of strong, independent female characters, wonderful dramas, hilarious comedies, breathtaking action, and some notable directors finding redemption (M. Night Shyamalan coming back with The Visit is among many examples). I was surprised by a lot of films this year, even ones I became too skeptical on. Since there was a lot of great movies in 2015, here is my list of the top 15 best movies of the year. Keep in mind, I haven’t seen every great movie. Don’t expect movies like The Hateful Eight, Spotlight, Carol, or The Danish Girl on this list.

Honorable Mentions: Ant-Man, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Cinderella, Far from the Madding Crowd, Furious 7, It Follows, Mr. Holmes, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, The Peanuts Movie, Straight Outta Compton

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15. Ex Machina – Talk about an original sci-fi picture that is provocative, unexpected, and chilling to the core! With three terrific performances by Domnhall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, and a scene-stealing Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina brings the issues of artificial intelligence and how advanced technology has control in everyday life. The beautiful, haunting visuals through Alex Garland’s direction makes it such a treat. Ava (played wonderfully by Vikander) is one of the best special effects creations in recent years.

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14. Steve Jobs – I don’t know why this movie didn’t get the audience it deserved. Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin create an emotionally intense portrait of one of the most influential people in technology. Told in a three-act structure, the movie follows Jobs as he is about to appear for his product launches of the Macintosh, the NeXT, and the iMac. Even though he looks absolutely nothing like Steve Jobs, Michael Fassbender gives one hell of a performance as the Apple CEO. With a gifted supporting cast and miraculous dialogue, Steve Jobs is The Social Network of 2015.

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13. Amy – The best documentary of the year chronicles Amy Winehouse’s fame and personal struggles. I knew very little about Winehouse, but I remember the day she died of alcohol poisoning. Seeing this documentary made me knew more about the life of one of the most original singers of the early 21st century. She brought a different style to the contemporary music world. A lot of people were used to hearing pop and hip-hop, Winehouse was more about blues, soul, and jazz. She became huge success worldwide. Then, she became addicted to drugs and alcohol. When she died at the age of 27, she left behind a great legacy.

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12. The End of the Tour – I love movies involving two people having a fascinating conversation. The End of the Tour is no exception. It features Jason Segel in his best performance as the late author David Foster Wallace, whose 1,000+ page book Infinite Jest made him become a big name. Jesse Eisenberg plays David Lipsky, a Rolling Stone who decides to have a five-day interview with him. They live up on junk food, binge-watching (before “binge-watching” became a thing), and spending time around the Mall of America. The chemistry between these two actors is so compelling I never wanted their conversation to end. Poignant, funny, and all-around excellent.

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11. The Gift – This movie surprised the hell out of me! Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut is so Hitchcockian in its style and narrative. Starring along with Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall, Edgerton makes one hell of a creepy stalker. It’s unnerving, unpredictable, and engaging in every way. Seeing his face sends shivers down my spine.

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10. Creed – Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler return two years after collaborating in Fruitvale Station. In Creed, they bring the beloved Rocky series back to life. Sylvester Stallone returns as our favorite boxer from Philadelphia: Rocky Balboa. This time, he has retired from boxing. And starts training the son of Apollo Creed. Coogler perfectly blends old-fashioned drama with the excellent boxing scenes; especially the first fight consists of a five-minute long take. The chemistry between Michael B. Jordan and Stallone is one-of-a-kind.

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9. Bridge of Spies – Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg are two of my favorite people working today. Bridge of Spies proves it. Their latest masterpiece is one of the most fascinating projects: an old-fashioned, dialogue-driven Cold War thriller. With a screenplay written by Joel and Ethan Coen, Spielberg and Hanks take us back to a time where America was living in a state of fear. The biggest fear is no other than Communism. The tension is brought through with the astounding dialogue and Thomas Newman’s breathtaking score. Hanks delivers yet another wonderful performance as insurance lawyer Jim Donavon, who brought “justice for all”.

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8. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – This Sundance winner would make Wes Anderson proud. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon creates an offbeat comedy with a big heart. Thomas Mann, R.J. Cyler, and Olivia Cooke have long careers ahead of them. Their compelling chemistry brings enough laughs and tears to the story about two high school seniors creating spoofs of art films while befriending a girl with leukemia. It’s hard not to relate to the main character Greg. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is more than just a high school film, it’s a love letter to the art of filmmaking. Watching Nick Offerman as Greg’s dad convincing his son and Greg’s friend Earl to try these weird foods is priceless.

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7. Mad Max: Fury Road – Easily the best action film of the year featuring some of the best action of this decade. George Miller reboots the Mad Max franchise thirty years after Beyond Thunderdome. With a basic narrative about finding hope and redemption, Mad Max: Fury Road is an engine that never runs out of steam. It’s refreshing to see mostly practical effects to give a sense on how insane Miller’s apocalyptic wasteland is where people are in desperate need of food, water, and gas. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron make a terrific duo. Take notes from the master, Michael Bay.

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6. Love & Mercy – The music of the Beach Boys truly define the feeling of summer. The band started to record songs for Pet Sounds. Instead of doing songs about summer, Brian Wilson decided to make the songs for listening. Then, he begins having panic attacks. Told in two timelines–1960s and the 1980s–we follow Brian Wilson, played wonderfully by Paul Dano and John Cusack, as he begins to lose grip on reality. Bill Pohlad gives a devastating biopic on one of the best musicians of the 20th century inside and outside of the studio through his brilliant direction. Love & Mercy is an experience I’ll never forget.

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5. Inside Out – After the disappointments of Cars 2, Brave and Monsters University, PIXAR is back with Inside Out. It gives something original, ambitious, creative, imaginative, relatable, funny, and downright heartbreaking. The metaphors and the breathtaking animation make it a feast for the ears and the eyes. The voice acting is superb, the characters are as lovable as ever, and the emotion is raw. Seeing this three times in the theaters made me love it more each viewing. It makes everyone wonder what is going on inside our heads.

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4. The Martian – Ridley Scott’s directing career has been in the gutter for years. In The Martian, he gives a survival tale that is as funny as it is suspenseful. With Drew Goddard’s witty screenplay, Matt Damon’s Watney the most optimistic survivalist ever (or as I like to describe him as a classier Bear Grylls). “In your face, Neil Armstrong,” he wisecracks as he colonizes Mars. During his time on Mars, he listens to disco music from Michael Lewis’ (excellent performance by Jessica Chastain) playlist. With an all-star cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, and Kate Mara, hilarious pop culture references, and breathtaking cinematography, The Martian is Ridley Scott’s new masterpiece. This movie has the best Lord of the Rings reference (I was in stitches).

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3. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – I know I haven’t posted a review for the latest chapter in the Star Wars saga. Because I didn’t want to spoil for anyone who has yet to see it. To keep it as brief as I possibly can, The Force Awakens is everything I want in a Star Wars movie: funny, breathtaking, exciting, and touching. It introduces new characters (Daisy Ridley’s Rey is one of the best characters of the year) as well as some familiar faces. Thanks J.J. Abrams for bringing the saga back to the silver screen!

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2. Brooklyn – What a charming love story. John Crowley pays tribute to his native Ireland as well as the films of the 1950s (in which Brooklyn is set). The movie doesn’t come close to becoming a soap opera. Brooklyn is as human of a movie as it gets, kudos to Crowley’s direction and Nick Hornby’s screenplay. Saoirse Ronan gives the performance of a lifetime as an Irish immigrant trying to settle in Brooklyn. When she falls in love with an Italian-American plumber, she must choose to live in America or Ireland. Brooklyn is a wonderful study in homesickness with enough wit, charm and emotion.

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1. Room – Going into this movie with barely any expectations at all made the experience so much better; I knew I wanted to see it again. Now I have seen it twice, Lenny Abrahamson and Emma Donaghue give  a raw, intense film about taking the big step into the big world. Seen through the eyes of 5-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay, in an award-worthy performance), he has been living in a small garden shed with no windows (except for a skylight) with Ma (another wonderful performance by Brie Larson). During the first act, we see Ma (Joy) and Jack living in Room. As Jack begins to understand more about the situation they are in, he slowly begins to make that huge transition in life. His memories and imaginations are in Room. As the second act comes into play, he becomes more comfortable living in the real world. Ma, however, is struggling to find what is best for her son. What a movie!

I hope you enjoyed my list of the best movies of 2015. I’m looking forward to see what 2016 has to offer. Please feel free to leave a comment on what some of your favorite movies of the year are. Stay tuned for my top 20 most anticipated movies of the new year. Take care.

Movie Review: The Martian

Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is stranded on Mars in Ridley Scott's

Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is stranded on Mars in Ridley Scott’s “The Martian”

Ridley Scott’s directing career hasn’t been too hot recently. After making three flops (both critically and financially), Robin Hood, The Counselor, Exodus: Gods and Kings, there must be a way to redeem himself. Scott goes back to his regular sci-fi roots with The Martian, based on the book by Anthony Weir. Forget Interstellar. This is the space travel epic we’ve all been waiting for!

The movie opens up with a mission on Mars. Mark Watney (Matt Damon) and his crew consisting of Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain), Rick Martinez (Michael Peña), Beth Johanssen (Kate Mara), and Chris Beck (Sebastian Stan) are caught in a dust storm. They abort the mission; leaving Watney behind after getting struck by debris. Later, he wakes up to find out he’s the only person on the red planet. Watney spends his time using his botanist powers to grow enough food and wits to survive until another mission can save him.

Meanwhile, on Earth, NASA director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) announces the presumed death of Watney. However, engineer Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) reads a message from Watney that he is alive. NASA collaborates with scientists from all over the world to help him get back home.

Unlike most protagonists in survival/isolation movies nowadays, Watney is the most optimistic person you’ll ever meet. He’s like a classier Bear Grylls. His wisecracks (“In your face, Neil Armstrong!”) are everything (I’m surprised how funny the movie is), thanks to the witty screenplay by Drew Goddard. The audience roots for him to make it back home. Damon plays Watney brilliantly. Leading an all-star cast, The Martian is a funny, suspenseful and visually breathtaking journey. This is Ridley Scott’s best since Matchstick Men.

4/4

Top 20 Most Anticipated Movies of the Fall of 2015

2015 has been a pretty damn good year for film. There were as much surprises and disappointments as last year. This fall seems to have a lot of supposedly great films that have yet to come out. There’s a highly anticipated sequel that might top Avatar and Jurassic World as the highest-grossing film of all-time, another film from the brilliant minds of PIXAR, plenty of historical pieces, a biopic about one of the most influential people who changed technology for the better, and a handful of riveting dramas. I made a top twenty list of my most anticipated movies of this Oscar movie season.

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order): About Ray (September 18), Burnt (October 23), Concussion (December 25), Everest (September 18) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (November 20), In the Heart of the Sea (December 11), Pan (October 9), The Peanuts Movie (November 6), Sicario (September 18), Snowden (December 25)

20. The Visit20. The Visit (in theaters September 11; directed by M. Night Shyamalan; starring Ed Oxenbould, Olivia DeJonge, Kathryn Hahn, and Peter McRobbie) – Ever since getting unanimous success with The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, it looked like M. Night Shyamalan had a long career ahead of him. Not to mention being known as “The Next Steven Spielberg”. After the critical failure – but financial success – of The Village, his career slowly went downhill. His last five films have made him one of the most hated people in Hollywood (Lady in the Water will always be a guilty pleasure of mine). Why am I looking forward to his latest film, The Visit? I want to see him redeem himself after his previous disasters (After Earth, in particular). The film is marketed as a low-budget comedic horror film. There is a sense it might be awful, but I have faith it might turn out to be an eerie midnight movie. Fingers crossed.

19. Sisters19. Sisters (in theaters December 18; directed by Jason Moore; starring Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, James Brolin, and John Cena) – Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are two of the funniest actresses working today. This movie seems to be no exception. Their chemistry together is the main focus. Being from the director of Pitch Perfect, this might be the funniest film of the year. The trailer had me laughing out loud quite a bit.

18. Suffragette18. Suffragette (in theaters October 23; directed by Sarah Gavron; starring Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Whishaw, and Brendan Gleeson) – 2015 has been a year featuring strong, independent female protagonists. From Cinderella to Mad Max: Fury Road to Far from the Madding Crowd. Suffragette looks like the most feminist movie of all. It takes place during the British suffrage movement of the 20th century where women are forced to work underground. We follow three women fighting for women’s rights. It’s no surprise that the Academy loves Meryl Streep. This seems to be her most challenging role to date. Starring alongside Carey Mulligan (fabulous in Far from the Madding Crowd) and Helena Bonham Carter, this movie screams “Oscar bait!”

17. Creed17. Creed (in theaters November 25; directed by Ryan Coogler; starring Michael B. Jordan, Graham McTavish, Phylicia Rashad, Mark Rhino Smith, and Sylvester Stallone) – Rocky is one of the best movies of all-time. It’s a film about rivalry, fighting for one’s life, and going the distance. Creed, the spin-off from the director of Fruitvale Station, brings us back to the streets of Philadelphia. Michael B. Jordan plays Adonis Johnson Creed, who wants to follow his father’s (Apollo Creed) footsteps to become a boxer. When Sylvester Stallone returns to reprise his role of Rocky Balboa, it’s hard not to get pumped up.

16. The Martian16. The Martian (in theaters October 2; directed by Ridley Scott; starring Matt Damon, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, and Jessica Chastain) – Ridley Scott’s career has been in the gutter ever since Robin Hood. Despite his controversial Alien prequel Prometheus, he hasn’t been making a fantastic movie in years. The Martian has a possibility to redeem him from blandness. With Matt Damon leading an all-star cast, this looks like one hell of a funny and suspenseful film about one man’s struggle to survive.

15. Carol15. Carol (in theaters November 20; directed by Todd Haynes; starring Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sara Paulson, Jake Lacy, and Kyle Chandler) – A lesbian love story that looks engaging. Cate Blanchett plays the title character where she meets a department store clerk who is attracted to her. Everything about this movie looks perfect. From the casting to the story. Todd Haynes brings the 1950s to life. I’m glad to see Kyle Chandler taking a break from playing a government official.

14. Steve Jobs14. Steve Jobs (in theaters October 9; directed by Danny Boyle; starring Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen, Kate Winslet, John Ortiz, and Jeff Daniels) – Another biopic of the CEO of Apple. This follows Steve Jobs and the events surrounding his launches of products including the iMac. However, his involvement with Apple begins to affect his family life. I have not seen the film with Ashton Kutcher. But I can say that this version looks a million times better. With Danny Boyle behind the camera and Aaron Sorkin writing the screenplay, I sense that this is going to be one emotionally tense flick. Michael Fassbender looks like he’s going to hit it out of the park as Jobs.

13. Brooklyn13. Brooklyn (in theaters November 6; directed by John Crowley; starring Saoirse Ronan, Domnhall Gleeson, Michael Zegen, Emily Bett Rickards, and Julie Walters) – Another movie that brings the 1950s to life. Brooklyn is the love story following a young Irish immigrant woman moving to Brooklyn. She falls in love with a young Italian man, but she quickly starts getting homesick. She must choose between the U.S. and Ireland. Unlike most romances nowadays, this looks charming without being too sappy. The cinematography looks gorgeous. Saoirse Ronan is a delight!

12. Legend12. Legend (in theaters October 2; directed Brian Helegland; starring Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Taron Egerton, Paul Bettany, and Chazz Palminteri) – Tom Hardy has had one hell of a decade. He was a member of a heist team where they can infiltrate people’s dream, a MMA fighter, Bane, an outlaw during the Prohibition era, and Mad Max. Now, in Legend, he plays twins Ron and Reggie Kray, who were part of the mafia in London during the 1960s where it’s becoming “Las Vegas of Europe”. From the director of A Knight’s Tale and 42, this does look like your typical Hollywood picture. But this looks like a lot of fun.

11. The Walk11. The Walk (in theaters September 30; directed by Robert Zemeckis; starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Ben Schwartz, James Badge Dale, and Charlotte Le Bon) – I’m glad Robert Zemeckis went back to live-action following the box-office bomb of the animated film Mars Needs Moms. Flight is one of the best movies so far this decade featuring one of Denzel Washington’s best performance of his career. The Walk follows the unbelievable story of Phillippe Petit’s involvement of doing the impossible: walking on high wire between the Twin Towers. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is becoming one of the greatest actors working today. I do have a feeling his French accent is a little bit cartoonish. But I think he would pull it off well.

10. The Good Dinosaur10. The Good Dinosaur (in theaters November 25; directed by Peter Sohn; starring Raymond Ochoa, Jeffrey Wright, Anna Paquin, Steve Zahn, and Sam Elliott) – 2015 is the first year in which PIXAR releases two movies in the same year. Inside Out is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. The Good Dinosaur might continue its streak becoming one of PIXAR’s best. The animation is some of the most breathtaking that PIXAR has done. Following the footsteps of the first half of Wall-E, this movie seems to feature minimal dialogue.

9. Crimson Peak9. Crimson Peak (in theaters October 16; directed by Guillermo del Toro; starring Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Doug Jones, and Charlie Hunnam) – Today, it’s rare that a horror film focuses more on the atmosphere instead of cheap jump scares. In Guillermo del Toro’s vision, it’s more than that. It’s a Gothic love story. Stephen King called it “Gorgeous and just fucking terrifying”. I cannot agree with him more on what the movie is going to look like.

8. Black Mass8. Black Mass (in theaters September 18; directed by Scott Cooper; starring Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, and Kevin Bacon) – Johnny Depp’s career isn’t holding up over the years. His last two movies – The Lone Ranger and Mortdecai – featured some of his worst performances. With a new Pirates of the Caribbean coming out in two years, I wouldn’t know if Depp would take on a different role. As a matter of fact, he did. In Black Mass, he plays Whitey Bulger, the most violent criminal in South Boston, who is on the FBI’s most wanted list. I have a feeling this would be Johnny Depp’s best roles in years. With a wonderful cast, very dark humor, and an engaging story, Black Mass looks like one hell of a movie.

7. Joy7. Joy (in theaters Christmas Day; directed by David O. Russell; starring Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Virginia Madsen, Dascha Polanco, and Bradley Cooper) – David O. Russell reunites with the trio – Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro – from Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle to star in Joy. Starring Lawrence as the title character who creates a business with the Miracle Mop. What more is need to be said other than “This looks brilliant”?

6. Bridge of Spies6. Bridge of Spies (in theaters October 16; directed by Steven Spielberg; starring Tom Hanks, Amy Ryan, Austin Stowell, Billy Magnussen, and Alan Alda) – Tom Hanks is my favorite actor, and Steven Spielberg is my favorite director. They are back to collaborate for the sixth time (if you could count Band of Brothers and The Pacific) in this Cold War thriller about an American lawyer negotiating the release of a Soviet Union pilot whose plane has been shot down. With the Joel and Ethan Coen writing the screenplay, I smell Oscar!

5. Star Wars Episode VII - The Force Awakens5. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (in theaters December 18; directed by J.J. Abrams; starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford) – Seriously; who isn’t looking forward to seeing this? I’m ready to sit with a packed theater and have the experience of a lifetime!

4. The Hateful Eight4. The Hateful Eight (in theaters Christmas Day; directed by Quentin Tarantino; starring Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, and Channing Tatum) – Quentin Tarantino is one of the greatest filmmakers of all-time. His extended dialogue scenes, wonderful cast, wit, drama, and trademark graphic violence make him such a master. Even though if his movies are long, they fly by like a breeze. His ninth feature The Hateful Eight, and his first shot in Ultra Panavision 70 mm film, looks breathtaking and tense in every way.

3. The Danish Girl3. The Danish Girl (in theaters November 27; directed by Tom Hooper; starring Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Ben Whishaw, and Matthias Schoenaerts) – Following the news of Caitlyn Jenner, the world is not going to shy away from the LGBT community. We’re going back to see how it all began in The Danish Girl, the true story of Einar Wegener living as the first person to ever undergo a male to female sex reassignment surgery to become Lili Elbe. With Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables) behind the camera and Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne as its star, I sense this is going to be one devastatingly beautiful character study. There is a chance that Redmayne might win his second consecutive Oscar.

2. Spectre2. Spectre (in theaters November 6; directed by Sam Mendes; starring Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Léa Seydoux, Dave Bautista, and Christoph Waltz) – James Bond has been around since 1962. With him being in 24 films, played by five different actors, that’s saying a lot. Spectre is Daniel Craig’s fourth time playing agent 007, and Sam Mendes’ second film as the director. Skyfall is the most breathtaking 007 film of all, thanks to Mendes’ directing. Looks like Spectre is going to be one of the best. The movie is going to feature James Bond’s origin story, which is going to be interesting.

1. The Revenant1. The Revenant (in theaters Christmas Day; directed Alejandro González Iñárritu; starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Paul Andersen, and Domnhall Gleeson) – It’s about time Leonardo DiCaprio wins his first ever Oscar. After winning an Oscar for Birdman, The Revenant seems to be Iñárritu’s most ambitious film ever. Being in these cold conditions seems to make the movie all the more intense. This movie has had some production delays because of the conditions. The crew has been searching for snow in South America. Not only is the schedule delayed, the budget has increased from $90 million to $135 million. Let’s hope Iñárritu finishes the movie in time to come out on Christmas.

Thanks for reading what my most anticipated movies of the fall are. Please feel free to leave a comment on what you are looking forward to. Take care.