The Top 20 films of 2015 (5-1)

5. The Age of Adaline

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This film shouldn’t really work, yet for whatever reason I find it irresistible. Blake Lively gives such a great performance as a woman who has stopped aging. There’s a weight to her performance and the film carries a really somber tone from the start. Imagine if you stopped aging, what would that be like? What would it be like not just for you, but the people around you? Imagine your children becoming older than you and you outliving everyone you know. It’s such a great exploration of those ideas and that is what really intrigued me about the film.
Lively meets a man who makes her rethink everything. He probably believes that they are the same age, since everything about her appearance would tell you so. Of course he doesn’t realize that she is much, much older. Lively wants to cause no problems and so is moving from place to place, refusing to commit to anyone or anything except her daughter, who now looks more like her grandmother.
Lively does not want to get involved with this man, yet is unable to deny love. Things get all the more interesting when we leave the city and the two go meet his parents. The father is played by Harrison Ford, who had a thing with Adaline many moons ago. They enter the house and he acts like he’s seen a ghost. Here’s the woman he was going to marry and then disappeared out the blue. It’d be a difficult thing for anybody to deal with. Ford has a younger actor playing him in the flashbacks and man, he is a dead ringer for a young Harrison Ford. So much so that Star Wars fans might want to start a petition for him to play young Han Solo.
The Age of Adaline is really just a beautiful film. From the narration, to the city to the time periods covered in the film, it just gets it all right. The ending is a bit predictable, yet at the time I couldn’t help but think how it was going to end and if it would stick the landing. Only after the fact do you realize it was the only obvious choice. Still, sometimes the best choice is the most obvious one.

4. The Last Five Years

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I don’t even know if this really qualifies as a film since it only has about a minute of dialogue in the entire film. I wouldn’t call it a musical since literally the whole film is song after song, 14 in total. I don’t really know what to call it, yet I can’t deny my love for it. All it is a personal tale about a relationship, told through song and out of order. His (Jamie) is told in order and hers (Cathy) is told backwards. This is such a great idea as it shows you how they’re never really in the same place and it also allows for the heartbreaking finale where she’s saying goodbye after their first date and he’s saying goodbye for good.
I’ll try not to ramble on about this film since I could probably talk about it for days but I won’t make any promises. I became curious of the film because of Anna Kendrick and because I had heard it was a musical/play. I did some research, liked the song and ended up with the soundtrack from one of the plays before the movie was even released. The more I listened to it, the harder it hit and the more I fell in love with the beauty and heartbreak.
Films like these only work because of what the person brings to it. If a person cannot relate then the person most likely isn’t going to enjoy themselves. Personally, I feel it. It hits hard and cuts deep and is such a heartfelt exploration of two people who wanted nothing more than to end up together. I could also go into deep analysis about each song, but I’ll save that for another time.
The Last Five Years is a film that I’ll probably watch more than any other film on this list. I didn’t place it at the top, but it takes nothing away from how much I love the film. I wanted Cathy and Jamie to work it out, but life doesn’t really work that way. Imagine a sequel, The Next Five Years with them on their separate paths, somebody please go and make that now.

3. Mockingjay Part 2

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The Hunger Games series amazes me whenever I think about it. I mean, it just wasn’t supposed to be this good. All four films have cracked my top 20 in year-end lists and the final three have cracked the top five. How impressive is that when initially people expected some sort of Twilight wannabe? The last installment of the overachieving film series goes out with a bang, until its last uncompromising frame.
That’s what I was most impressed by, as popular as the series got, it never gave in and stuck with its game plan until the very end. With Mockingjay Part 2, the series has its darkest and most important installment. There’s no getting around it, this is the war film. Even though the first Hunger Games had the actual games with little children battling to the death, this is the most violent film in the series. You get the feeling from the very start that no one is safe and even at the end of the film you don’t really get the feeling that anybody really won.
When it comes to war and so much death, there can never really be a victor. Jennifer Lawrence brings her best performance yet as you feel all of those emotions going through her. After it’s all done, we see her PTSD and wonder if she will able to recover from all of the damage done. Well, it’s not an easy road and the only thing that can really help her recover is time.
I love the final scene and it’s beyond the typical fan fiction of what the characters are doing years down the line and living happily ever after. The end is about recovery and finally healing. More importantly, the end is about finding peace through each other, with a person who has gone through the same things as you. This film is gritty and violent, but it’s also real and it matters. It’s certainly not just a happy ending, but even if certain things do end on a down note, you got to think that at least things are better in the overall scheme of things. I’m so glad this film series exists and ended on such a great note.

2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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This is one of the best films of the year, hands down. It is also one that is very hard not to be biased towards. So many of us grew up on Star Wars so it’s tough not to see it in a certain way so even though I’ve seen the film four times now, I see it through a different filter so because of that I chose not to put it at 1 if that makes sense. I probably tried to manage my expectations in the months leading up to the film but once opening night arrived and the Lucasfilm logo hit, all of that went away. It was such an emotional night and it felt like everything hit me all at once.
So yes, from the first frame of the film I was in love and the Force Awakens could do no wrong. This is a reintroduction into the Star Wars universe so yes it would have some similar elements with what came before but I think that was needed. People see now that this is Star Wars, for old fans, for new fans, for all fans. Director JJ Abrams had such an impossible and unenviable task to accomplish and yet he deserves all of the credit in the world for achieving something so amazing.
Abrams uses old characters such as Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker so that things feel somewhat familiar and then introduces brand new characters such as Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren. The new characters are just as good as the old ones and they still have so much room to grow and become that much more iconic. “Luke Skywalker has vanished,” how perfect were the very first words of the opening crawl. I mean, so straight to the point and so instantly iconic.
We talked about 2015 being the year of the powerful woman when it comes to film, and here we have the biggest film of the year and one of the biggest of all time and it is led by a woman. Daisy Ridley plays scavenger turned force user Rey. Rey is strong, and independent and has such a rich back-story that we have yet to really explore. Abrams and company intentionally leave out so much, including Rey’s last name as they intent to play the slow reveal game instead.
This list is full of great moments and yet none really hit me as the one where we see a lightsaber battle between Rey and Kylo Ren. I’m usually in favor of dialogue instead of action and yet this fight left me with goosebumps as the overall implications hit me harder than any words ever could. Disney played the misdirection game when it came to marketing even as far as having Finn with the iconic blue lightsaber in posters and trailers, but make no mistake the lightsaber calls to Rey, perhaps the direct descendant of Anakin and Luke Skywalker.
That lightsaber battle between Rey and Ren, good and evil, woman and man, wow it just hit with so many emotions. Star Wars is back and in such a huge way. From here on out, they will come out fast and furious and I can’t wait. Abrams and company could have gone in any direction that they wanted with the new films and here we are, the biggest film and franchise out there and it is led by a woman. That deserves a standing ovation.

1. Creed

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Who knew that Creed would be this good? A film about the son of Apollo Creed, with Rocky training him, it’s such a great idea and simple premise and it took this long for it to happen? Perhaps it just needed the right people involved because coming off of Frutivale Station, director Ryan Coogler and star Michael B. Jordan were the perfect choice to lead this seventh installment of the Rocky franchise. I say it’s Rocky 7 because it technically is, but it also stands on its own.
Coogler made a film about black youth with missing fathers and the anger that comes from that. You throw in Sylvestor Stallone reprising his iconic Rocky Balboa character and you have all of the ingredients for the perfect film. It’s cliché by now but Creed seriously has everything from action to romance, drama to comedy. Coogler manages to balance all of these genres into one amazing film.
Coogler is about the slow burn and instead of throwing everything out there all at once, he takes his time and it pays off spectacularly. Rocky isn’t even introduced until about thirty minutes in. So while this is technically a Rocky film, in reality it is all about Michael B. Jordan and his Adonis Creed character. I have to least acknowledge the perfect name that Jordan’s character was given. Adonis is definitely the son of Apollo and the name is so in character and absolutely what he would be named.
While people would argue that Adonis has lived a pretty great life after being ‘adopted’ by Apollo’s widow and he shouldn’t still be so angry. They don’t realize that the anger of the missing father does not just go away out of nowhere. Of course, it wasn’t Apollo’s fault that Adonis grew up without a father but it’s not like the realization of what actually happened would suddenly make everything better.
I love the Rocky franchise so yes, I am perhaps a bit biased to this film as well but there’s no denying how much this film makes me smile. It hits me with all of the right emotions and much like the original Rocky films, it motivates and inspires me. Both Star Wars and Rocky are on their seventh films in their series and while you might think that we would suffer franchise fatigue from them, thanks to two exciting film directors both also have brand new life.

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