By Jamie Harris
With Christmas only days away, 2015 is beginning to wind down so it is the time of year to remember some of the highlights and lowlights of cinema over the past 12 months. No doubt there have been some disappointments (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Taken 3) and some outright duds (Fantastic Four). However this year has also been full of surprisingly intelligent blockbusters (Mad Max: Fury Road) and some brilliant awards contenders (Amy, Whiplash).
Even though Minions was bland and repetitive, despite having some funny moments, 2015 was a great year for animation. Not only was Inside Out one of the most thought-provoking films released for a while but it was also Pixar’s most successful original film. In an age where sequels and reboots dominate at the box office it’s certainly refreshing to see such great original storytelling. Shaun the Sheep Movie was another brilliant example of animated filmmaking and a master-class from Aardman. Despite the fact that there was barely any dialogue throughout the whole film, it was one of the wittiest films released this year.
It was also a (generally) strong year for action films. Even though Spectre failed to scale the heights that Skyfall did before it, the opening sequence was one of the most thrilling in 2015. To say I was sceptical about Mad Max: Fury Road having seen the trailer would have been an understatement but I had to eat my words when I eventually went to see it because it was easily one of the most adventurous blockbusters of recent years. It may well have essentially been one long car chase but it was one of the best that I’ve ever seen. Whilst discussing action films, it would also be remiss of me not to give a special mention to Fast and Furious 7. Who would have thought that seven film
s into a franchise the
y would get better and better? It’s also undeniable that the tribute to Paul Walker was a beautifully touching moment.
Unfortunately 2015 was a bit of a dud year for superhero movies (with the exception of Ant Man), especially after last year saw the release of a personal favourite Marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy. Avengers: Age of Ultron ended up being overstuffed and underwhelming although the flashback sequences were a redeeming factor. It’s also very difficult to talk about Fantastic Four without getting angry about how badly they screwed it up. It had a great up-and-coming cast and a director whose debut film Chronicle showed a lot of promise, all of which was wasted on this drivel that had almost no plot. Thankfully Ant Man lived up to the promise of being a humorous heist movie.
Without further ado, here are the lists of my favourite films of 2015 as well as the worst films I’ve seen this year.
Ten best films of 2015:
- Kingsman: The Secret Service
Kick-Ass is a personal favourite and this is essentially a spy version of that, what’s not to like? In addition it has one of the best fight scenes from this year.
It was wrongfully snubbed at this year’s Oscars. Not only are there some deeply affecting performances but Ava DuVernay’s direction is flawless.
- Mad Max: Fury Road
The best two hour long car chase ever. It may be ridiculously OTT but there are impressive practical effects here as well as a lot to say about feminism.
- Jurassic World
I would say this is a guilty pleasure of mine but I don’t even feel guilty about it, I love Jurassic Park and I love Chris Pratt so this was inevitably going to make the top 10 list after it perfectly captured the charm of the original film.
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
Watching part 1 and part 2 back-to-back it is easy to see why they split Mockingjay in two. The first part was political but this was a very bleak thriller with one of the scariest set pieces I’ve seen this year. A great send-off for the franchise!
After the brilliant Senna, Asif Kapadia came back this year with a brutally heart-breaking insight into the life of Amy Winehouse. It’s occasionally uncomfortable and often upsetting viewing but essential nonetheless.
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
This was genre-defying. Not only did it manage to avoid falling into clichéd pitfalls but it was edgily funny without becoming insensitive about such an awful topic.
- The Martian
After being underwhelmed by the recent space epic
s Gravity and Interstellar, this was a huge relief. It was surprisingly one of the funniest films this year whilst it culminated in a heart-stopping final act. Matt Damon’s performance is a force to be reckoned with here.
- Inside Out
It was a really close bust-up between the top two films here. At times this was funny, at times it was genuinely heart-breaking and it’s one of the most philosophical animated films ever. Whilst a lot of
the ideas here will go straight over kids’ heads, it’s got plenty going on visually too to keep them occupied whilst older members of the audience attempt to hide their tears. This is Pixar truly at their unstoppable peak.
It has one of the best soundtracks of the year. It has two career-defining performances from Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. Who’d have thought that the tensest film released in 2015 would be about drummin
g? As the relationship between them becomes more and more abusive, it becomes all the more absorbing and disturbing. The fact that this has stayed with me ever since first seeing it back in January says it all really.
Five worst films of 2015:
- We Are Your Friends
It’s not necessarily an awful film, it’s got a great soundtrack and is weirdly absorbing. However there’s just not a lot going on and it gets a bit hammy when it tries to preach its message.
- Taken 3
This was one of the crushing disappointments of t
he past 12 months. After the unflinchingly brutal first film and its solid sequel, this was as dull, generic and un-thrilling as action movies can possibly come.
This undeservedly won Best Picture at the Academy Awards this year. The continuous shots are a great schtick but it has been done elsewhere. The score is good and there are a couple of memorable scenes but I was bored less than halfway through and it never bounced back. It doesn’t help that almost every character is deeply unlikable.
- Fifty Shades of Grey
Yes, this was just about as awful as everyone was expecting. Wooden performances, woeful script
and it’s just downright not sexy. This list of things wrong with the film could go on but I’ll leave it there.
- Fantastic Four
In any other year Fifty Shades of Grey probably would’ve come first in this list but this film was just such an outrageous dud that it would be a disservice to not have it here. The special effects were awful, the script had clearly been meddled with so much that there was very little story left and Kate Mara’s wig in the final act was even more shocking than some of the ones seen in the Twilight films. It’s a shame really because this had the potential to be something good but it just wasn’t.
2015 has clearly been a great year for film but it doesn’t look like 2016 is going to let up either. Some of the big award contenders including The Danish Girl, The Hateful Eight, and Joy come out in January. Other highly anticipated films throughout the year include Suicide Squad, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Deadpool, and Finding Dory.