2015 has already been a pretty great year for film. We’ve had a plethora of superhero films, some under the radar dramas, a surprising number of good action flicks and at least a couple comedies that have been worth paying money for.
There are some exciting movies still to come too: Spectre, Star Wars, Hunger Games, etc.
With that said, there are a couple of critically acclaimed films (either for the acting or for the entire film itself) I haven’t gotten a chance to see yet, so they won’t be on my list. They include: Southpaw, Inside Out, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Mr. Holmes, Macbeth, Ex Machina, Trainwreck.
Note: it is important to mention that, like most of my reviews, this article will be riddled with spoilers.
Even with those out of the way there are a lot to choose from, but here are my personal top five favourite films of 2015 so far:
5. Avengers: Age of Ultron
A lot of people were underwhelmed by the latest superhero team-up spectacle when it hit theaters. At first, I was one of those people. But it didn’t take me long to figure out why that was and, more importantly, why that thought process is unfair to the film.
People weren’t blown out of the water by Age of Ultron because they’d seen it before. The first Marvel team-up film starring Iron-Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Captain America was something that had never been done before. It was a new breed: the ultimate crossover film. It was one of the coolest things about comics brought to life.
Unfortunately, our society gets bored easily. Everyone loved the first one because of this dynamic, but when the second didn’t have anything greater to offer, people became dissatisfied. The second Avengers film shouldn’t have to deal with that when we look at it from a standalone perspective, but inevitably it must in every other way.
Sorry, Joss Whedon.
In my opinion, Age of Ultron is actually the slightly superior film. The jokes are better, the action is just as good and now that the characters have established relationships, the writers were able to do a bit more with them in a way that was refreshing (i.e. the party scene where everyone tries to lift Thor’s hammer).
Sure, Ultron as a villain wasn’t very good (that’s one of the few downfalls of most Marvel films to date), but c’mon, was Loki really that much better?
Overall, the film did a solid job of blending campiness with all the fun and excitement of the superhero genre in typical Whedon fashion. If you’re looking for a popcorn movie, you’ve found it.
Oi. It pains me to write this. I mean, I put this above Avengers!
I was one of the people (were there many?) who didn’t think that Ant-Man was going to be very good. At least, I didn’t think it would be in the upper echelon of Marvel movies. If any of Marvel’s films had a chance to blow it, this one took the cake (right after Guardians of the Galaxy, of course).
A guy who shrinks down, becomes stronger when he does so and commands armies upon armies of ants? In what way is that cool or even that exciting? Even the marketing, which I didn’t find moving, pitched the movie as a comedy backed up by the lead man being Paul Rudd.
Hoo boy. You talk about setting yourself up with a huge chance to fail.
But … it didn’t.
The film didn’t go as far as I thought it would in the direction of comedy. Instead, it was better balanced than I thought possible with action and even a couple intense moments. This was all made better by the impeccable acting of Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lily (I always call her Kate from LOST), Michael Pina and (surprise!) Paul Rudd.
The moments that were meant to be funny were funny (thanks, Pina!), Rudd was a believable lead and Douglas stole the show with his performance as the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym.
The special effects weren’t top notch, but they weren’t awful. Like nearly all Marvel films, there was a level of campiness to Ant-Man, but (also like the rest) it managed to balance itself out pretty well. However, I felt literally nothing when Antony died (SPOILER! Also, it was so obvious).
Perhaps what made Ant-Man stand out from other Marvel movies and even just against other flicks from this year is the fact that it didn’t do what every other superhero film is doing these days: try to save the world.
No, this one centered around a small story, where nothing that happened would’ve resulted in a cataclysmic event. If the villain had gotten away with his dastardly deed? Bad, sure, but the Avengers could’ve got him easily.
This movie wasn’t about being the biggest, baddest thing since microwave ovens. It focused on a guy doing everything he can to reform himself to become a better man for his daughter, no matter what. From that point, it chocked itself up full of jokes, one-liners, action and took the stage.
And it worked. It just worked.
Kudos to you, Ant-Man. Also, Falcon better redeem himself at some point…
3. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Dun dun da da dun dun da da dun dun da da dunnununna!
Tom Cruise is back, baby! Sorry … I really like Tom Cruise. I think he’s a bit of an underrated actor. Anyhow …
Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt in the fifth installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise and it might be the best one yet. The acting is great, with newcomer Rebecca Ferguson making her first big splash in the Hollywood scene (no, I don’t count Hercules) as the film’s femme fatale.
Cruise, as always, plays the undaunted lead man, ready to take on any mission, should he choose to accept it (SPOILER: he does). Simon Pegg has a fairly large role in the movie and he too returns to his character as easily as if fitting on an old glove.
The action scenes are the best part of the movie (I mean, that’s what you go for with these, right?), and none of them really jumps out over the other. That’s not a bad thing though, since that just means that they’re all equally impressive.
The stunts are made even more jaw-dropping when you remember that Cruise in particular does all of them himself with no stunt-double. Every horrifically dangerous thing you see his character do for your amusement (feel bad yet?) is actually the actor himself.
The villain, played by Sean Harris, is a good one. He carries a sense of quiet rage that makes him an interesting watch. The way that the film plays out isn’t a twist entitled to the same praise as something like Se7en, but it’s cool nonetheless.
The movie was done by a director, Christopher McQuarrie, who knows what he’s doing when it comes to action movies (he also directed Edge of Tomorrow and The Usual Suspects).
Rogue Nation is one of the most balanced and fun action movies of the year. Give it a go.
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
Talk about one of the best action movies of the year, Fury Road just may be the best in that category. In fact, I would venture to say that this flick is probably the best movie I’ve seen from head to toe in 2015.
Everything in Fury Road screams, “I AM THE EPITOME OF ACTION! WATCH ME! LOVE ME! OR PERISH!”
From the psycho being suspended on one of the post-apocalyptic vehicles while playing a flame-belching guitar, to Charlize Theron’s character ripping the face off of the film’s villain, this film has it all for not only action-lovers, but film analysts as well.
Fury Road does something that most movies these days don’t, or at least try not to. It hardly has a story; and the story it does have is borderline unimportant. The movie does exactly what it says it’s going to do in the title; it takes the viewer on a terrifying, crazy, wild, fun, intense road trip that would make the new Vacation movie crap its pants.
While Tom Hardy was the initial big name, since he plays Max himself, Theron steals the show with her portrayal of Furiosa. She’s probably the most badass female character in film (yes, I see you Uma Thurman and Sigourney Weaver). And even if you don’t think so, she has definitely some of the most incredible moments for a female action star in film; such as sniping a bad guy from far, far off while using Max’s shoulder for balance, since he wasn’t able to hit his target.
Her character has sent feminists up the walls, and in multiple directions. Whether you like the portrayal Theron gives or not, it’s undeniable that her character carries the most weight in the film and is the reason you’ll want to watch it again.
The score of the movie is incredible, done by Tom Holkenborg. It makes the whole thing seem fittingly epic. The music, like the action, never slows down. It’s a guzzoline-induced ride the whole way.
It’s hard to explain the rush that Fury Road gifts its viewers, so I guess you’ll just have to go out and watch it yourself.
1. Kingsman: The Secret Service
Here it is. My number one.
This film came out in the doldrums of February, when movie-people were too busy thinking about the upcoming Oscars to even turn their attention toward the usually boring, film-dead winter month.
Then, out of nowhere, like a freaking canon, came Kingsman. I saw it twice in theaters (which I almost never do) and it was worth it. This film is the definition of fun, man. Granted, you have to deal with some of the director’s (up-and-comer Matthew Vaughn) quirks and therefore be a certain kind of individual to like a few of the scenes, but it is one heck of a joyride altogether.
The film’s big name was Colin Firth, aided a little bit by the fact that Mark Hamill plays a minor role. Firth was excellent in the movie, and for a guy that hasn’t been in a ton of action flicks, he did a great job as a believable badass and mentor figure.
The star of the film, however, was young Taron Egerton, who played the lead character Eggsy. The kid is electric throughout the entire performance, forcing your eyes never to stray from him for too long when he’s on screen. He commands a presence, which is difficult to do in any movie let alone your first blockbuster.
Egerton fit the character beautifully and, because he’s so new to audiences, didn’t distract from the movie itself. Rather, he was the perfect puzzle piece to all those actors and actresses around him.
There were clever moments of wit and snappy talk that is prevalent in Vaughn’s films, and multiple scenes that will forever be memorable. Three of them immediately jump out to me: the opening and closing of the film, in which Firth’s character Galahad and later Eggsy use the line “Manners maketh man”; the firework explosions of people’s heads done in a Tarantino-esque fashion near the end of the movie; the church scene.
Undoubtedly the most memorable of those three is the church scene. If you have not seen it, then watch it. It’s an incredible 15ish minutes of film. Unless you can’t handle ultra-violence, in which case, stay away. Far, far, away.
Samuel L. Jackson plays the diabolical Valentine, and he’s hilarious. The lisp his character has was something he added himself to the character, and it makes everything that much better (even though it could’ve went so badly). The seasoned pro style that Jackson displays in this film bounces perfectly off of Egerton, and together they make for a dynamic clash of good and evil.
It’s been one heck of a year for action films so far. If you happened to miss Kingsman when it came out back in February (I don’t blame you if you did), do yourself a favour now and go see it.
Kingsman is James Bond on acid. Worth a shot, no?