The Top 20 Films of 2015 (10-6)

  1. Before We Go

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The similarities with Richard Linklater’s masterpiece ‘Before Sunset’ are pretty obvious, but Chris Evans (in his directorial debut) has made it well-known how much he loves that film and how much it inspired him. Instead of taking place somewhere in Europe, Evans’ film is set in New York City. It is a two-person film and opposite star Chris Evans is the wonderful Alice Eve.

Evans and Eve share a great chemistry as a sort of serendipity bring them together. It’s a very predictable film as it very much follows the ‘Sunset’ mode of the two leads walking the city and getting to know each other. Even though ‘Sunset’ is one of my favorite films of all-time, I don’t mind that this is basically an Americanized version.

There are revelations and secrets that the characters expose or keep and the film slowly reveals those things, but the film isn’t really about all of that. Evans is more interested in the human interaction between two people who are undeniably attracted to each other but not really in the same place to become involved. It’s no surprise that things are pretty much left open-ended but it’s fitting since life doesn’t really offer nice and tidy answers either.

  1. Avengers: Age of Ultron

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I’ll say it: Age of Ultron is a better film than the original Avengers. While there is still way too many one-liners and comedy in the film, it also has a bit of a darker tone to it that benefits the mega-sequel. There is no wasted time on the film as it hits the ground running and never lets up. It has a lot of similar elements with the first Avengers, but director Joss Whedon still manages to make it feel fresh.

New characters and new villains are introduced as you feel this is a big set-up for what is to come. Now, that is the only negative coming from the film. It does not spend too much time in the now and instead is about the next movie. Even with that though, there’s still so much to like here. James Spader brings such a unique voice and presence to the Tony Stark created, artificial intelligence bent on ‘saving the Earth’ Ultron.

I love that Tony Stark is responsible for all the destruction that happens in the film. His fear of letting people down and everyone around him dying is what leads to the creation of the sinister Ultron. Tony doesn’t seem all too remorseful at times either and you can see where the seeds are planted for Civil War and where the rift between Iron Man and Captain America begins to grow. Even going back to their initial encounter in the original Avengers, Tony and Steve never really did seem to get along. This film promises to take it way beyond some petty arguments.

Favorite scenes in the film include the heroes at a party attempting to lift Thor’s hammer and seemingly trying to see who is worthy. There are also the visions that new character Scarlett Witch implants into certain characters. The visions are haunting and beautiful all at once. Another character that really stands out is Vision, another Stark created A.I. who perhaps has too much power. There was so much anticipation for the mega-sequel that it was bound to not live up to most of it, well don’t sleep on it, Age of Ultron is a worthy successor to the first film, and in many ways it is a better one.

  1. Inside Out

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Inside Out had me before a second of the film actually played. The short that was attached to the film, ‘Lava,’ is a masterpiece in itself that is able to convey so many emotions. Even with 5-10 minutes, Pixar is able to make every second count and do things that no other studio (not just animation either) is able to do. Inside Out had me excited since I heard about the premise. Not only did it have such a great idea and room to explore, but the fact that it’s not another sequel was also something to get excited about.

The best thing about the film is the way it gets you thinking. Thoughts of fear and anger, joy and sadness all pop up in your head and you actually realize that each one of these emotions is important. Kids will talk to their parents and vice versa and it will actually affect how they treat each other. Imagine that. From the first frame when the main character Riley is born to the very end, it is such a wonderful film.

Riley is born with a blank slate. It makes you remember how all of us are born so pure and innocent that you wish it could stay like that forever. It doesn’t last of course since not even a second later, your first emotions hit, whether it be fear or joy or a combination of both. The great thing about the film is the way it makes you reevaluate your views on life and even see your children in a different light.

It is funny how not too much happens in the film yet it seems so busy all of the time. Riley and her family move from Minnesota to San Francisco. Riley misses her home and friends and runs away only to re-think her plans and returns to her loving family. That’s pretty much it but for children of all ages, that is a lot to deal with and I like the way the film stays so busy even when in real life not too much is happening. Inside Out is not only the best animated film of the year, it’s one of the best films period.

  1. The Night Before

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Seth Rogen manages to do the impossible time and time again. He makes films that are raunchy, funny and sweet all at the same time. It’s not just Rogen of course, as it’s always a team effort with a revolving door of such talented individuals. This time Rogen reteams with his 50/50 director and his co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt to make a new Christmas classic. A welcome new addition to the team is Anthony Mackie, who has recently blown up because of his involvement with Marvel but also shows that he’s no slouch when it comes to comedy.

Much like a lot of Rogen’s films, The Night Before is about growing up. Both Rogen and Mackie have done it, but Gordon-Levitt’s character almost refuses to. His parents died a while back close to Christmas which left him both devastated and also in a sort of arrested development. Rogen and Mackie console him and the three become best friends and begin a Christmas tradition.

Rogen is starting a family and Mackie is a huge NFL star and both are more serious now as they have grown older so both have agreed that this is the final year for their annual debauchery with Gordon-Levitt, who never wants it to end. Hilarity and chaos ensues. That’s pretty much it but with such a talented main trio of characters, that’s more than enough to make this stand out.

I’ve only seen the film once, but I really can’t wait to own it and put it right next to films like ‘This is the End’ and ‘The Interview.’ It doesn’t do anything new or break the mold, but it’s still such a delightful Christmas film.

  1. Sicario

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Canadian director Denis Villeneuve is building an impressive film resume. With Sicario he has created such a cold look at the drug war. The tone is set from the opening scene of the film as the amazing Emily Blunt and her team raid a drug house. I slept on this film and sat on it for a while, assuming it was going to be just another boring attempt at being something important. I was foolish. Sicario is intense and gives you an uneasy feeling from start to finish.

Sicario is led by the amazing trio of Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro. The three have amazing films in their catalogue but it’s not at stretch to say that this the best work of their careers. Villeneuve’s film is violent and unflinching and so necessary. This film is definitely not for the weak of heart. The film is filled with somber, quiet moments yet when the action scenes kick in they are as good, if not better, than the majority of so-called action films out there.

Blunt confidently leads the year of women power without hesitation, unwilling to compromise for one single second. Brolin and Del Toro are of the mind state that the ends justify the means. The pair get the job done so who is to say that they are wrong. Well, Blunt does as she can’t believe some of the stuff they resort to. She wonders if any of what they do is ‘legal’ even though once they cross that Mexican border all rules go out the window. Del Toro and Brolin aren’t bad or anything, they just want to get the job done which they do.

Benicio del Toro as the titular ‘Sicario’ which means hitman does so much by doing so little. From his arrival you can see that something else is going on. He’s no nonsense, ice cold and motivated by revenge even if he never lets any real emotion out. Blunt is the star though and it’s hard to take your eyes off of her. She’s a real person, far from perfect and that’s what makes you love her all that more. I thought I’d like Sicario, but I definitely wasn’t expecting what I got.

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