If the past few years were the year of the superhero I can safely say that 2015 started the year of the reboot. Sure there were more than enough sequels (Furious 7) and spin-offs (Minions) at the box office but bringing back long dormant franchises seemed to be this year’s big trend. Whether it was a childhood classic (Cinderella) or a favorite franchise (Terminator: Genisys) remakes were all the rage. We’ve also seen a bit of a downtrend when it comes to superhero movies. While not necessarily dead (Avengers: Age of Ultron did massive business) things do seem to be cooling down with Ant-Man not doing “Marvel business” and Fantastic Four bombing epically. Still with all this going on the best movies seemed to come out of nowhere. Some of the most entertaining films came from independent horror directors, long forgotten franchises and even real life.
With this in mind I’m here to present the Top 6 Films of 2015. Now as I state every year I haven’t seen everything . So, for example, you won’t see the Fresh Prince’s latest attempt at being a serious actor or David O. Russell’s latest excuse to hang out with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper on here. In addition to this it’s all personal taste. If you want to disagree and tell me why the Zac Efron EDM movie was the best, great. You are more welcome to leave a comment. With that all out of the way here are my Top 6 Movies of 2015.
6- It Follows/The Final Girls
Because I’m indecisive every year I usually have a few movies tied for sixth place. I know it’s a cheat but with two movies so good it’s hard to pick just one. This year this distinction comes down to It Follows and The Final Girls. Despite it’s fairly limited release It Follows did quite well (the biggest opening for a film with a limited release in 2015) and it’s easy to see why. Despite it’s limited budget is one of the best horror movies of the year with some good acting, a some haunting direction/cinematography and an original story.
On the flipside is The Final Girls. More comedy than horror it’s a loving homage to the best (and worst) tropes of the 80’s slasher. Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson it captures everything from the look to the music cues works satirizing movies like Friday the 13th.
What they do have in common, at least in my opinion, is a love for the horror genre. While jokes are made Final Girls does seem to “get”, for lack of a better term, 80’s slashers. As for It Follows from the heavy synth soundtrack to the slow, omnipresent villain it feels like a John Carpenter movie. Maybe I’m just a sucker but to see such loving homages for one of my favorite genres warms my heart.
5- Straight Outta Compton
There is talk of hip hip bioflicks all the time. Over the years I had hear about a movie for everyone from Tupac to Public Enemy. So news of a movie about N.W.A. hardly registered with me. It wasn’t until we got images of the cast that I really started getting excited. At the very least O’Shea Jackson, Jr. would look exactly like his dad, jherri curl and all. By the time the trailer premiered I was sold. I’m glad I was because it was everything I wanted it to be.
Why Straight Outta Compton was so great can actually be explained through someone else’s experience. The mrs. isn’t huge into hip hop like me (bless her for dealing with me playing the same mixtape for a week after it hits Datpiff). Still she was interested enough and we saw it. It was two and a half hours later and she loved it. Director F. Gary Gary created a movie that was not only informative but balanced drama and comedy beautifully. Sure some things were glossed over and it was very much the Dr. Dre and Ice Cube show. But as an introduction to old school hip hop? It was absolutely perfect.
4- The Hateful Eight
I find it hard to properly talk about Quentin Tarantino’s latest film. On the one hand I find it to actually be the writer/director’s lesser works. It’s very much, for better or worse, Tarantino indulging all of his quirks. On the other hand even when at it’s worst The Hateful Eight is a great movie. While a lot of the focus has been on the dialogue and the violence (which happens with most Tarantino movies) what caught my eye was how great the whole thing was shot. From the claustrophobic atmosphere of Minnie’s Haberdashery to the snowy mountains on the way to Red Rock it all looks beautiful. The other thing that stood out is how great the cast was.
While Kurt Russell and Samuel L. Jackson have been the focus it’s Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue who steals the show. She’s a vile character who revels in being awful. It would be easy to dismiss her as an insane character but Leigh brings this Manson-esque charisma to the role that I found fascinating. No matter what was happening I found myself looking for Daisy. The other surprising turn was Channing Tatum as Jody Domergue. While seemingly out of his wheelhouse Tatum blends in perfectly as the charming killer Jody Domergue.
As mentioned I can’t say this is my favorite Tarantino film. It won’t have a semi-regular rotation the same way Kill Bill or True Romance do. The thing is lower level Tarantino is better than most movies. It still is still expertly written, has some fun ultraviolence and brings out some amazing performances from people you wouldn’t expect. More than enough reason to be considered one of the best films of the year.
3- Mad Max: Fury Road
As I mentioned before 2015 was the year of the reboot. Trying to bring a long dormant franchise back to it’s former glory. There is no better example of this than Mad Max: Fury Road. After two decades of quiet the Australian sci-fi franchise came roaring back to screens with a vengeance.
What made it work so well was how uninhibited the whole thing was. Showing no restraint it was a constant stream of action with an amazing blend of stunts, fight choreography and cinematography. Even more surprising was how good the actual film parts were. Anchored by a great narrative actors Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and (especially) Nicolas Holt delivered performances way better than this film deserves.
Since Mad Max: Fury Road came out I’ve seen it on numerous lists as the best action film of the 2010’s which I totally get. Not only was it a good movie but it delivered some of thrilling, batsh*t insane action that we just don’t get nowadays. While I can’t say it’s the best of the 2010’s I can say Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the best movies of the year.
2- Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Despite some major releases this year there was no movie more hyped than Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If the marketing power of Lucasfilm wasn’t enough new owners Disney made sure you would see it everywhere. In all honesty it reminded me of when Phantom Menace came out. I’m sure if TRL were still around we totally would have gotten a video to debut on it. Luckily The Force Awakens didn’t turn out like that.
In fact quite the opposite. For me the film more than exceeded my expectations. Gone were the boring talks of federation trades and racist fish monsters. Instead what we got was what the series should have been, an adventure in space. More importantly it didn’t dwell in the past too much. Sure we caught up with some of our old favorites but the focus was always on newcomers Fin, Rey and Kylo Ren. It was everything we all expected the prequels to be.
Which, incidentally, may be it’s biggest problem. While enjoyable I also thought it felt a bit too safe. This is best represented after Han Solo makes his return. A smuggler since the original trilogy he is cornered by the Kanjiklub Gang, portrayed by Yayan Rubian and Iko Uwais. The was crazy excited as the Mrs. can attest. No only were stars of The Raid in the movie but we were going to get a fist fight for the first time in Star Wars. Then out of the blue they are attacked by a monster and we move on. The Force Awakens is fun and introduces some fun new elements to the franchise. I just wish it stepped outside of the box a little more. I say this knowing full well that I’ll grab it as soon as it hits Blu Ray.
1- Turbo Kid
Retro-inspired media is not only huge but is probably one of the harder subgenres to pull off. More often than not it will fall into the trap of becoming too self-aware for it’s own good. No matter how high my hopes are going into a movie like this I always end up a little bit disappointed. Then came Turbo Kid.
While a pastiche of 80’s culture Turbo Kid never loses focus on it’s plot. While it’s a bit thin it is carried by an amazing cast. Actor Munro Chambers (who was apparently on Degrassi) is perfect as the lead mixing hopeful optimist with budding hero. Unlike so many other superheroes he embraces being a hero from the start. On the other side is Michael Ironside as Zeus. A warlord of the badlands he’s the unrepentent villain so many action movies need. Rounding out the cast is Laurence Lebeouf as Apple, The Kid’s love interest that has no problems impaling people. She straddles the line between annoying and adorable perfectly. Needless to say this is a talented cast and they are perfect for this movie.
The other bit that makes Turbo Kid my #1 movie are the special effects. Coming from the old school Peter Jackson/Sam Raimi school of effects everything practical and bloody. Like Evil Dead before it Turbo Kid is an absolute bloodbath that will have you laughing the whole time. It fits perfectly with the synth heavy soundtrack. Done by Canada’s Le Matos this electronic soundtrack is the perfect blend of 80’s pop and John Carpenter.
Turbo Kid is the rare movie that delivers on everything it promises. Like old Sam Raimi it’s humorous, bloody and most importantly fun. It’s an absolute blast from beginning to end. Not bad for what started out as a rejected entry for ABC’s of Death.