Monday, January 4, 2016

Movies of 2015

This year I'm starting this blog at the beginning of the year. This way I won't have another 2013 mishap where I forget a bunch of movies, nor will I have a 2012-2014 mishap where I forget what I thought of certain movies.

By the way, these are movies I saw in the theater.

1. The Imitation Game

I heard conflicting things about this movie. The screenplay was on the Black List (always a good sign) but I also heard that they downplayed Turing's sexuality, and for a man who was chemically castrated by the government because he was gay, that's a crappy thing to do. However, I totally did not get that vibe. It wasn't the central point of the movie, but it played a pretty large role. Point being, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. My main complaint is that the movie downplayed the role of women at Bletchley Park. I know that wasn't the point of the movie, but women were code breakers, analysts, linguists, cryptologists... They weren't just secretaries and intercepting messages. But yes, overall, I liked this movie a lot.

2. Wild

This woman is incredible. Her life fell apart after her mom died, so she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. I heard an interview with her when her book came out a few years ago and found her fascinating. I never did read the book, but I totally wanted to. This movie made me want to do something all outdoorsy, and any movie that makes me want to do that is probably a good movie. Cause you know, I like being in nature, I just don't enjoy the strain to get there or staying very long. I like to breath it in, enjoy the scenery, take a few nature shots, then go home and pee in a toilet.

3. American Sniper

The critics aren't necessarily wrong when they say that this movie is very much a 'Murica' movie (aka it kind of punches you in the face with patriotism), but it was still enjoyable (apart from that awful doll they used, because for some reason a baby is hard to come by for one freaking scene). Sure, every single Iraqi was either evil or dead/about to die and the PTSD aspects were more "look, he has PTSD" and less delving into it, but you know, it was a movie. Not Best Picture and Best Actor worthy, but whatever. The Academy can suck it.

4. Selma

Why this movie go the shaft at the Oscars this year is beyond me. I know I've only seen four movies so far, but this one is probably going to be a contender for the best all year. It was incredibly powerful and moving. Seeing this on Tuesday and then hearing Justice Sonia Sotomayor speak on Wednesday made for a very good week, one that reaffirmed the need for everyone (EVERYONE) to vote in every (EVERY) election.

5. The Kingsman

I enjoy going to the theater, and I go a lot. I like sitting in a dark room eating popcorn and watching a film on a giant screen with like-minded individuals (apart from the asshats who won't stop talking or pull out their phones. I promise, we still see it even if you're trying to hide it). So when I say, "it's rare that I have this much fun in the theater," you know I know what I'm talking about. This is one such movie. It was hilarious, witty, action packed, filled with men in finely tailored suits and the sexiest glasses I have ever seen. One joke at the end seemed lazy to me, but other than that, this movie was nigh unto perfection. I loved it. I will most certainly go see it again and I will definitely own it. It is fantastic. 

6. Still Alice

I've always loved Juliane Moore, but after this movie she may have climbed her way up to the top of my favorite female actors list (just beneath Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton, because no one can surpass them). Moore is perfect and heartbreaking in this movie. She plays a character with early onset Alzheimer's, and it is a devastating 2 hours watching her deteriorate. I cried about half of the time and ugly face cried multiple times. But good grief, Moore is incredible. As I write this, the Oscars are tomorrow, and she better win. [EDIT: she did win and I am happy]

7. Cinderella

Full disclosure: I don't love Cinderella. I don't even like Cinderella. Not the Disney film and not the character. In fact, after Snow White, that is my least favorite Disney Princess movie, cause at least Sleeping Beauty had a cool villain. This version of Cinderella, while visually stunning, is still Cinderella. They tried to give the step-mother a bit of depth, but fell short of that. They tried to give Ella and the Prince more of an excuse to fall in love, but two meetings really isn't much better than one. And I failed to understand why Ella allowed herself to become a servant in her own house at the age of 18. The whole "have courage and be kind" motto she lived by ended up making her a doormat. And I don't care how awesome a house is, it's a lame excuse for putting up with what she put up with. As far as Cinderella stories go, I thought it was fine. There were fun moments and I was generally entertained, but it's no Ever After.

8. Furious 7

This movie... Man, this movie! My love for this franchise knows no bounds. I still haven't seen one, two, or four, but I probably will. I know they're terrible, but continuity, you know? Furious 7 was not terrible. Quite the opposite, in fact. I saw it opening day (because of course I did). Then that Sunday I had my sister, my parents, my uncle, and a family friend watch Fast 6. It was of course a big hit. The next day my sister and I saw 7. She had been super reluctant to watch any of these movies, but we had a blast in the theater. In fact, we were the only ones laughing when [SPOILERS] The Rock flexes out of his arm cast (!!!!!), Paul Walker and Vin Diesel drive between not two, but three Abu Dabi towers, and at each of The Rock's cliched lines. (Seriously, that's all he spoke in. "Daddy's gotta go to work." "Woman, I am the cavalry!" etc. It was amazing.)

On top of all the awesome that these movies are, they are the most diverse I have probably ever seen. And guess what? 75% of those who saw this movie opening weekend were non-whites. Take note, Hollywood. America wants to see something other than white men all the freaking time.

It was interesting to see it the second time because it was really stark how little Paul Walker was in it. He had a few lines, sometimes you would see him from behind or a profile... it just made it all the harder to watch knowing that he wasn't there for most of it. They did a beautiful tribute to him at the end. I choked up both times seeing it and I'm getting chills just thinking about it now.

Anyway, highly recommend. 7/7 stars, minus all the butts.

9. What We Do in the Shadows

Thanks to my (and many others) generous Kickstarter donation, I was able to see this in the theater (and get a poster). This movie was hilarious. I've always had a soft spot for vampires (well, Buffy and Interview with a Vampire vampires. Did not ever get into Twilight, True Blood, or Vampire Diaries) and this was a great mocumentary on these horrifying creatures of the night. I can't wait to get my giant What We Do in the Shadows poster and hang it up next to my giant Veronica Mars poster.

10. While We're Young

I liked this one. Everyone is awesome in it (the actors, not necessarily the characters). I didn't love it enough to care about this review or see it again, but it was enjoyable.

11. Avengers: Age of Ultron

It was good. Not nearly as fun as the first one, but it's a decent flick (and no, my feminist sensibilities were not offended by that Black Widow monologue). It was kind of obvious that the studio was interfering with what Joss Whedon wanted to do with the characters, and I think that's where it fell for me. Not as much character development (which Whedon wanted to do) and maybe a bit too set up for future movies and action. I also think maybe Whedon's heart wasn't in it as much as last time. The man was tired and had been working for the Marvel Machine for several years, without the ability to really let his creativity flag fly. I'm very much looking forward to what he does next and I think the Russo Brothers are going to do a phenomenal job with Infinity War.

12. Pitch Perfect 2

Aca-awesome! Probably not as good as the first one, but that's due in large part to the fact that the first one was so surprising and new. This one was more of the same, but that same was awesome, so I'm not complaining. Yeah, there was a character who was there for nothing but to be a satire of a racial stereotype, but that satire was so funny, and much less problematic than being an actual stereotype. The music was bigger, the stakes were higher, and the way Becca interacted with the woman from Das Sound Machine was complete and utter perfection. I loved every second of this movie.

13. Mad Max: Fury Road

Speaking of movies I loved every second of... Fury Road hits it out of the water. Or field. Park? I don't do sports metaphors. This film was wall to wall insanity and SO much fun. It was also probably the most feminist movie I will see all year. Despite its title, Charlize Theron's Furiosa is the main character, Max is just along for the ride (though Tom Hardy is in top form, as always). She risks all to save five "breeders," known collectively as "the wives," and take them somewhere they will be safe and away from the horrifying Immortan Joe. Each of the five wives is an impeccable character. The women in this this movie aren't "strong women." They are real women, which is all we really ask for. They are dressed in what you'd expect a sex slave to be dressed in, but they are never sexualized. They are young and have lead lives of "ease" and "comfort" (I put those in quotes because even in the most lavish of circumstances, a sex slave does not live easily or comfortably - not by a long shot), yet they aren't the damsels in distress. They take the initiative to beg Furiosa to take them away and they do what they need to in order to survive the journey.

This entire movie is an amazing spectacle. It's definitely a theater movie. 2 hours of cars driving fast, explosions, and a fire-spewing guitar that played way more of a role than I was expecting. It was awesome. If you like having fun you should see this movie.

14. Spy

I will forever defend Melissa McCarthy as one of the greatest comedic actors of the decade. Sure, there have been some missteps (I'm looking at you, Tammy and Identity Thief), but this woman has chops and is always flawless when paired with Paul Fieg. The frumpy undercover personas she is assigned at first seem a bit cheap, but luckily that doesn't last long, and there are exactly zero (ZERO!) jokes about her weight. In fact, she's freaking amazing at her job - especially the physical, hand-to-hand stuff. Jason Statham has some of the best lines in the movie, and Rose Byrne is spot on, as always. This movie is definitely worth seeing. I need to go see it again because I was laughing so hard at times that I missed what was said (mostly when Statham was talking). 

15. Jurassic World

I went through a lot of emotions with this movie, even before it came out. I started out as unabashedly excited. Chris Pratt? Bryce Dallas Howard? Colin Trevorrow? The writing teams of the new Planet of the Apes franchise and Safety Not Guaranteed? The inevitability that after two horrible sequels, it was statistically improbable that they'd make a third terrible one? Sign me up! 

Then I started to see just how much CGI they used in this movie and they released that horribly sexist clip between the two main characters and my expectations (and hopes) plummeted. 

Still, I agreed to see it opening night. The day I bought my ticket was the day the media embargo ended and it was actually getting fairly decent reviews. Most of what I saw basically said, don't pay too much attention to the plot and you'll have fun. That's exactly what I did. 

Yes, I mourned for practical effects. I rolled my eyes at how angsty Claire seemed about her decision to not have children (it's possible for women to not be angsty about that, I promise). It doesn't exactly paint scientists in the friendliest of lights, which is a shame. The kids seemed shoehorned in there, as did the whole sub-plot about the private military company, or whatever the hell they were. I was also really confused as to what Owen's role was at the park or if he worked for the military douche bag guy and if he did, why wasn't he doing what his boss was telling him to do? Also, how is a former Navy guy qualified to train raptors? Not once did they talk about his experience with other animals. I assume he used to be a lion tamer or something (he had to be, right?), but they only ever talk about his Navy background. And he's also somehow qualified to inspect the structural integrity of the Indominus Rex's cage, but I'm fairly certain he isn't an engineer. And why do movies keep underutilizing Judy Greer?! 

You get my point. The plot was ridiculous, but the movie itself was super fun.

16. Inside Out

Pixar movies have often made me ugly face cry, but none so much as this one. I was... "moody" might be an understatement, but we'll go with that, in my pre-pubescent and teenage years and the way they portrayed how feelings get mixed up and lost was spot on. Because of this I was kind of on emotional edge the whole time. But to see what I went through (and what many of us with depression continue to go through at times) so beautifully portrayed on screen was amazing. And I loved what Mindy Kaling said about the movie after she heard the pitch. She was crying and said that they were making a movie telling kids that it's okay to be sad. And they really did. I'm still getting chills thinking about it. This movie actually made me (briefly) wish that I had kids so I could show it to them.

17. Far From the Madding Crowd

I didn't like this one as much as I thought I would or wanted to. But it was all because of the pacing. I could tell that several years passed over the course of the movie, but it wasn't evident when watching. I really want to read the book now, though. Other than that, this was a great film. It's about an independent woman when women weren't supposed to be independent and of course I'm going to love that. 

Fun fact: the term "cliffhanger" came from Thomas Hardy (the author of this book). He wrote a serialized book called "A Pair of Blue Eyes" and one of the installments ended with a man literally hanging from a cliff. (My dad knows everything.) 

18. Magic Mike XXL

This was going to be a super long review about the female gaze, female sexual expression, and objectification all with the idea of exploring whether it's okay for women to objectify men the way men objectify women, but you can read that debate elsewhere. My personal opinion: this movie objectifies men, but not the same way men objectify women. And maybe it does, but it doesn't have the same negative impact because it's not at cultural epidemic proportions. 

Anyway, this movie was just pure, unadulterated fun. It wasn't as good as the first one, but that made it better. Leave the plot, gain more dancing and laughing and shrieking and fun. 

Going back to the first paragraph though, I do think these movies are pretty ground breaking. They are made specifically for the female gaze and have zero male gaze in them. There are arguably a handful of movies that tilt more towards the female gaze (Marvel movies among them), but they're a drop in the bucket compared to the films that are flush with the male gaze. It's refreshing to have a movie specifically tailored to me. This must be what it feels like to be a white male aged 14-34. Or what it would feel like, if they had any idea that movies were tailored to them. 

19. Ant-Man

This movie was a pleasant surprise. I enjoyed it far more than I expected to, but then again, I went in with very low expectations. It hailed back to the better Marvel movies like Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy without quite getting to that level. I liked the lower stakes and I'm sure I laughed a few times (Basically anytime Michael Pena was on screen). The action sequences were still Edgar Wright's, and you could absolutely tell. Those were the best moments, in my opinion. It was fine and I'd watch it again sometime, but aside from Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel has been feeling painfully formulaic lately.

There were two things I specifically didn't like about this movie. It suffered from Trinity Syndrome (wherein there is a more than capable woman who trains a man to do the job she easily could have done without any training, often because of man feels) and there was a serious lack of Wasp. Yes, Lily's character is presented with the suit and perfectly encapsulates what we've all been thinking ("It's about damn time"), but the promise of Wasp in a future movie is not enough for me. She should have been the main character. This should have been a Wasp movie. (No, I'm not over my white male superhero fatigue.)

20. Trainwreck

I loved every moment of this one. I adore Amy Schumer and this movie was all that I wanted and more. I did not expect to tear up multiple times while watching this. Lebron James was amazing in this. I can't remember watching an actual athlete in anything and thought that they could even passably act, but James is perfection and hilarious. 

21. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

These movies are generally a good time, and this one was no different. Solid action flick. I was really hoping that the objectification of Rebecca Ferguson was just in the poster, but nope. Whatever, she was awesome in it. Although maybe someday they'll give Tom Cruise a love interest that isn't 21 years younger than him. 

22. The End of the Tour

This was a good character film. I probably would have enjoyed it more had I known anything about/read anything written by David Foster Wallace, but it was a fine movie. 

23. Sleeping with Other People

You really can't go wrong with a cast that includes Alison Brie and Jason Sudeikis (not to mention Adam Scott playing a scum bag). I don't know why I've always loved the 'friends become lovers' story line, but I'm a sucker for it. Probably because even though I have had many platonic friendships with men and hate the idea that men and women can't be just friends, I really hate dating. A lot. This is that kind of story. It's basically When Harry Met Sally, only better? Featuring more complex characters? Updated? It's been a while since I've watched that one so I can't say anything for sure. Apart from the fact that I'd recommend this movie. And When Harry Met Sally

24. Sicario

If this movie had a subtitle it would be Why the U.S. is Responsible for 75% of the Horrible Things Going on in Mexico. Fantastic movie. I'd especially recommend it to youngsters who are considering illicit drug use. Just have 6th graders watch this instead of the ineffective D.A.R.E. program. 

25. The Martian

Did anyone not love this movie? Really, the only thing I can think of to make it better is add more minorities, but that's basically every movie. 

26. Bridge of Spies

I went into this one not knowing much about it and left very happy that I had seen it. One thing that really struck me was watching the Soviets build the Berlin Wall. I've obviously seen images of it being torn down and can absolutely appreciate the significance of it, but I never thought about it being built. It was just there in my head. It was really moving watching that. 

27. Suffragette 

You know me, give me a good female-centric movie and add in political strife and I'm sold. I especially appreciated the fact that this story was told from the perspective of a working-class woman. First wave feminism can too often be very white and middle-class stories, and at least one of those was changed for this movie. Granted, it was mainly white and middle-class women in the Suffrage movement, but I'm all for being more inclusive. I'd still love to see this or a movie like Iron Jawed Angels told from the perspective of a black woman, though. Cause let's face it, women didn't get the right to vote with the Suffrage movement. White women did. 

28. Spotlight

This was hard to watch at times, but definitely necessary. It obviously made me very happy to not be Catholic, but it was really interesting to watch a couple of the reporters (especially Mark Ruffalo's character) go through what they did with their spiritual crises. I could definitely relate to that. It also made me miss good journalism like this. The Internet has kind of ruined fact. 

29. Crimson Peak

I saw this one much later than I thought I would. I had been super excited about this movie since first hearing about it at Comic Con a couple of years ago, and I had planned on going opening night. I can't remember why I didn't (probably because I wasn't in the mood to go alone), but I didn't end up seeing it until it had been out for about a month. I, like many others, thought this was a horror movie and because of that, I think I'm happy I waited to see it. After it came out I read that it's wasn't a horror, but a gothic romance with a few ghosts. Changing my expectations I think helped a lot in my love of this movie. I'm not sure what I would have thought had I gone in expecting to be scared. But oh, this movie. It's absolutely stunning. Both visually and story-wise. I can't wait to watch it again to peel through all the layers. 

30. Spectre

Spoiler in this one. Big fat meh. I am by no means a Bond fan, having only seen Craig's movies all the way through, but come on. Casino Royale was downright entertaining, so I know they can do it. I wasn't feeling particularly fond of this one throughout, but as soon as I figured out that the big bad was some kind of brother figure for Bond, I lost any sense of caring about this movie. Then they went ahead and did the "it's all connected!" route, which was REALLY poor storytelling. Nothing ties these movies together except the main character, but all of a sudden it's the same story of Bond's adoptive brother sending his various goons after him? Ugh, no. My suspension of disbelief is not that strong. 

31. Mockingjay Pt. 2

I had high hopes for this one since I remember liking part 1 so much. This was fine, but now that we have all four movies, I think they split the wrong one. If they were going to make one book two movies, it should have been the first one so the characters could have been fleshed out more. I also hated how much the love triangle was played up. I hated it in the book and I hated it in the movie. 

32. Trumbo

Bryan Cranston, as always, is fantastic. This is a story I wasn't aware of and it was kind of hard to watch knowing that it happened. Yes, the threat of Communist spies was real during the Cold War, but asking people in a Congressional hearing if they are members of the Communist Party is deplorable. Now excuse me while I go watch all of his movies again (except The Brave One. I have yet to watch that for the first time). 

34. Macbeth

Apart from the few plays I have watch repeatedly, I may not super love Shakespeare. I remember adoring Macbeth in high school, but that's probably because I studied it and could understand everything. That was a good 12 or 13 years ago, so this version did not enthrall me the way I remember. It was beautiful and I was mesmerized by both Fassbender and Cotillard, but aside from the overall plot, a lot went over my head. Maybe I'll stick with his comedies that I know inside and out with the occasional Romeo and Juliet when I'm not in the mood to study before a viewing. 

33. Star Wars

Minor spoilers here. Yes, the plot is very similar to the original movie, and yes, the relationships and character development were rushed. Now that we have that out of the way, this movie was fan freaking tastic. There were so many amazing movies this year, but this one had it all: adventure, pain, angst, nostalgia, not to mention a woman and a black man featured as main characters and a Hispanic man as a supporting character. Plus all the background characters who were minorities and women. And a movie as big as Star Wars will probably have a pretty big impact on the industry in the long run, simply because of how diverse it is. Another awesome thing: little girls are going to grow up with a Jedi role model. Girls rarely see positive and well-rounded portrayals of women in movies, but this is going to be a beautiful exception. And not just this one, with the cast of Rogue One, my guess is LucasFilm will be continuing in this positive direction. Movies can play a huge role in how our society is shaped, and this one is definitely going to nudge things in a positive direction. God bless you, Kathleen Kennedy. 

35. Sisters

Not necessarily on my must-watch list, but it was hilarious. Definitely a repeat option for any girls' night. 

36. Creed

It's been well over a decade since I've seen any of the Rocky movies, but I remember enjoying them, and this one was no exception. Sylvester Stallone did a very good job, and Michael B. Jordan is always a treat. It had all I wanted in a boxing movie: shirtless Michael B. Jordan, blood, sweat, tears, slow motion running, slow motion walking, slow motion boxing, and training montages. I couldn't have asked for anything better. 

With five fewer movies than last year, I plan to up my game a bit. Starting with The Danish Girl

1 comment:

  1. You should give Macbeth another chance and not try so hard. Also, Brannagh's Henry V is well worth a watch. The tragedies are great theatre and a view into the human psyche.