The Top 20 films of 2015 (20-16)

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Honorable Mention:

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Tomorrowland
There’s so much to like about Brad Bird’s second live-feature film. Bird has set an almost impossible standard for himself that we expect classics after classics from him. Tomorrowland is not that yet it’s still a very inventive movie with a very strong female lead and that is very rare these days.
George Clooney is the major name of the film as he plays child prodigy turned grizzled inventor Frank Walker, but the star of the film is without a doubt Britt Robertson who plays Casey Newton. Casey is an optimistic dreamer who wonders why we have stopped exploring. She’s joined by child actor Raffey Cassidy who plays a droid named Athena. So yes, two of the top three stars are female and they never bother to talk about anything except for the mission at hand.
There are a lot of beautiful visuals and things to marvel at. Director Brad Bird fills the screen with so many fantastic ideas as I have mentioned before, I admire the ambition more than the actual execution. Robertson is such a strong character, regardless of gender yet what draws me more to her is the fact that she is a strong female character in an age where such a thing is so rare, though 2015 seems to be pointing at a change. I wish we would have spent more time in Tomorrowland instead of just building to the arrival but I like how positive the movie is in such a negative world and that is more than enough to cover the minor faults of the film.

20. Spectre:

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The fourth installment of the Daniel Craig as Bond Era starts off a bit slow until the ‘love interest’ Madeleine Swann walks in and takes over the film. Lea Seydoux stars as said love interest and right off the bat you realize that she’s not your average Bond girl. She’s more in the vein of Vesper Lynn than the typical girl who just succumbs to the charm of Bond.
Daniel Craig has never been more confident as 007 even if the rest of the film doesn’t match up to Craig’s and Seydoux’s performance. Christoph Waltz plays Bond big bad Blofeld in which I suspect is supposed to be some kind of twist. A roundtable meeting between villains with Blofeld is supposed to play as menacing and suspenseful yet with how serious it is played as, it’s almost comical. Only until Blofeld is actually out in the open does he really become an actual threat to Bond in our eyes.
Spectre is nowhere near as good as Casino Royale or Skyfall, but it’s still a worthy addition to the Bond canon. So even though the film is probably only a double instead of a homerun, what it does do it set things up perfectly for the next film and what will most likely be the swan song for Daniel Craig as James Bond.

19. Rogue Nation

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Come to think of it, 2015 really is the year of the strong female character. Much like Evangeline Lilly says in one of the other films in this countdown, “It’s about time.” The strong female character in this film is played by Rebecca Ferguson who plays an undercover MI6 agent. As soon as Ferguson shows up in the film, rescuing Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, she takes over the film. Ferguson not only goes stride for strike with Cruise in the film, she sprints past him at times.
That’s not to say Cruise doesn’t bring it in the film, the fact that Ferguson and Cruise both do is what makes this such a great film. It is non-stop action and ridiculous stunts but it still works because of how great the chemistry between the characters is. Paula Patton is definitely missed this time around and that is probably my only knock against this film. Still, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, and Ving Rhames, who play Cruise’s ensemble, are more than up to the task once again.
I admire Tom Cruise as an actor so much because of how he gives his all each time out. Call him crazy or some kind of religious zealot, but that doesn’t take anything away for me from his performances in each one of his films. He is getting great film after great film made and that in itself is something to admire the man for. From Ghost Protocol to Oblivion, Jack Reacher to Edge of Tomorrow, this much is certain, the man is on a roll.

18. American Sniper

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Much like Lone Survivor and Zero Dark Thirty before it, this was first released in a limited theater count and expanded a few weeks later. I mention that because this is actually a 2014 film, yet I didn’t see it until it actually expanded in 2015. American Sniper has so much violence and so much killing, but that really comes to no surprise since that’s what war is. It’s definitely not mindless action as everything notorious sniper Chris Kyle does has weight to it. You feel each one of his killings as it affects him much like it would any human being.
Director Clint Eastwood has made a film about war and PTSD that aims to actually help mentally wounded veterans and aims to let them know that there is help out there. At times it does lean a little too much to the ‘right’ side but that doesn’t come close to destroying such a powerful film. I don’t necessarily view it as whether Kyle is a hero or not, Kyle just did what he had to do in order to prevent so many of his people from dying.
The film doesn’t get in to whether it’s right or wrong that we’re in Afghanistan or Iraq, it just shows the facts. Kyle and his wife view the horrible actions on TV from 9/11 and it motivates him to hunt down the people who caused so much pain. It is black and white when it comes to those actions. Those people are evil and deserve to be punished. It would be hard to see it any other way. It is a brutal film but I believe it is an honest film, and whether it’s based on actual true events or not is beside the point, what matters is that stuff like it actually happened on a daily basis.

17. Spy

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Amy Schumer’s film ranks higher on the list, but if it makes sense I believe this is the funnier film and the funniest one of the year. This is a better Bond film than Spectre was as director Paul Feig shows how much of a fan he is of the spy genre and of the James Bond films in general. From the cold open to the music over the credits, it’s apparent that Spy is a love letter from Feig to Bond.
Not only is Spy a hilarious film but it is also an expertly shot action film that ranks right up there with the best action films of the year. McCarthy doesn’t just play the bumbling, cussing idiot this time around. McCarthy who plays CIA operative Susan Cooper, might be really inexperienced when it comes to actual field work, but when it comes to the paper work and office side of things, she’s really smart which is quite the departure for characters she usually plays. Everybody from Jude Law to Jason Statham to Rose Byrne play against expectations and just flat out bring the funny.
Paul Feig has really earned his feminist card as this is his third straight film (fourth with the upcoming Ghostbusters film) working with McCarthy and a primarily female cast. Feig has such a unique voice and you can tell why he is attracted to the type of films he’s been making recently as it is so different to what’s currently out in the marketplace. From Bridesmaids to The Heat, to Spy and Ghostbusters (which I’m confident he’ll crush) his films are like nothing else out there and I wouldn’t be surprised to see every female actress out there lining up to work with him.

16. Ant-Man

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Marvel’s second film of the year and the last one of their ‘Phase Two’ is such a fun film. It would be very easy to dismiss this film especially after director Edgar Wright’s departure. We’ll probably never know what actually happened since Wright has not and probably will not speak on it, but it’s probably best just to judge the finished film for what it is. It’d be too hard to say what remained from Wright’s film and how much was added when Peyton Reed came on board. Instead we can focus on the positives which is mainly having Paul Rudd as a superhero. Think about that.
Paul Rudd has always been extremely likeable and that does not change here. Rudd is still pretty much Rudd as Scott Lang, except for the fact that he is better shape. What else is there to like? Well, Michael Douglas is as good as he’s ever been as original Ant-Man Hank Pym. Marvel does some pretty extraordinary things or you can also call it sorcery, in the film’s open as they de-age Douglas and make him look about 20 years younger. It is a bit distracting but still pretty marvelous, pun intended.
As I mentioned earlier Evangeline Lily also has some pretty spectacular moments as Douglas’ daughter and Rudd’s love interest. She’s good in the film but the great stuff comes at the end where her costume is showed and we’re teased her future ‘Wasp’ appearance. I was ready to hate the film based on all of the baggage that came along with it, but after watching it I just couldn’t. The film flies under the radar, especially after the juggernaut that was Age of Ultron, but Ant-Man is a worthy addition to the Marvel slate of films. There’s just too much to like here.

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