Top 10… best films of 2015

It’s that time of year guys, the year’s almost up and 2016 is just around the corner but what a year for film 2015 has been, with some lows and some stratospheric highs, especially in runaway box office successes, and speaking of box office success, The Force Awakens is out and is raking in the money at the moment. Anyway pretty much all of 2015s’ theatrical releases are out so I think it’s time to continue to look back on the year that was and here are my top 10 picks for the year.

Steve Jobs – 7.5/10

Although not particularly deep, this biopic on the late Steve Jobs directed by Danny Boyle is full of life and some great drama, offering an insight into the mind of Jobs, played fantastically by Michael Fassbender, who is supported by some great performances from Kate Winslet and even Seth Rogen, the plot feels a tad repetitive but for what it’s worth, it manages to tell an interesting story based on real events, with some dramatic, creative licence of course.

2. Straight Outta Compton – 8/10

F Gary Grays biopic chronicles the origins and rise of the notorious hip group, the NWA, the big personalities in the group and the reasons why they came together and as it turns out, the true story actually makes for an interesting and compelling drama as it turns out though some parts were understandably dramatised or tweaked for the film. And with some great performances in the film from the actors, they really embody the rappers that they portrayed down to inflection and cadence in speech which was something quite interesting to watch.

3. Mad Max: Fury Road – 8/10

George Miller just went ahead and did it, knocking it well out of the park with the continuous action sequence that is Fury Road, but describing it like that is doing a bit of a disservice as the film has some nice slower dramatic moments that pair up well with the frenetic and exciting action, made well with some excellent use of practical effects for the stunts and some great CG. The performances aren’t necessarily the focus of a film like this but they’re good nonetheless, Charlize Theron especially as Furiosa is great, as is Tom Hardy, ever the stoic, dominating physical presence and if you don’t really care about the drama per se, there’s plenty of action to make up for that.

4. Jurassic World – 8/10

I just have to give credit to Jurassic World, an absolute monster hit that took everyone by surprise with its monumental box office figures and opening weekend figures but money aside, it was just very…. good, good for a Jurassic Park film at least which has been a hard thing to say, if you’re comparing each sequel before World to Jurassic Park. The doubters were proved wrong for the most part and World provided what fans wanted, a film that references the original but doesn’t completely re-hash, bringing new technology and ideas to the scene while being an entertaining romp with some fun action and set pieces and a pretty terrifying new dinosaur.

5. Inside Out – 8/10

Pixar did it again with a pretty awesome set up and premise for an original film, a great set of characters and a fun, entertaining story that brings a new idea to life with an interestingly thought up and created world, Pixar again brings the emotion, drama and humour and melds it together as Pixar does best and the result is a fantastic new entry in their film repertoire.

6. Sicario – 8/10

Tense. That’s a very short and fairly apt description of the atmosphere of Sicario, a fantastically crafted thriller with some great, interesting characters and an engaging plot chock full of engrossing and gripping moments that work in a more covert style and some brilliant cinematography, not having to rely on flashy e.g. all out shoot outs. Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro deliver some pretty fantastic performances and on the whole, the cast is on their A-game.

7. Kingsman: The Secret Service – 8/10

Kingsman is just a joy to watch, a superbly entertaining and well crafted spy thriller with a fantastic set of fun characters, great dialogue, great humour and fantastic set pieces, the sarcastic, often dark humour underlining the film really makes for a fun watch and Matthew Vaughn again knockes it out of the park with another comic book film adaptation. Coupled with some tense and thrilling set pieces, Kingsman is a great thrill ride from start to finish with great pacing, characters and an awesome plot.

8. Ex Machina – 8/10

Speculative sci-fi done right, Ex Machina is a captivating small drama with extra layers to it and more than meets the eye, with some brilliant performances from its main cast, especially Alicia Vikander, though everyone is great, the plot is nuanced enough to feel not quite like anything you’ve seen before despite some familiar themes and ideas and with some excellent use of atmosphere building in its music, it’s a surprisingly tense and engrossing affair.

9. The Martian – 8.5/10

Exploring the human condition and the will of a person to survive… on Mars, with that person being Matt Damon/Marc Watney, what could be better? The Martian is an excellent piece of sci-fi with a surprisingly filled out and entertaining story that really shouldn’t be as good and entertaining as it is, with a stellar cast and some great performances, from Matt Damon especially, there are very few dull moments present here. And coupled with some fantastic visuals and cinematography from sci-fi guru Ridley Scott who returns to some of his best work with a great, engaging and engrossing plot and moments that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

10. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens – 8.5/10 (my pick for favourite film of 2015)

The latest film in the Star Wars franchise is a blast (pun intended), it’s a fun thrill ride with a great set of new and iconic, beloved characters and a story that is a tad derivative but still great nonetheless, the film brings the great idea of duality and shades of grey regarding the dark and light side and force users back to Star Wars in Kylo Ren and Finn among some other new interesting ideas and themes. The action and set pieces are a fantastic and it’s a visual feast, easily the best looking Star Wars film to date and one of the most entertaining, emotionally engaging and engrossing in the franchise.

And I feel like as there were some good films this year that didn’t quite make my list, I still want to list leave a mention to a few of them.

Honourable mentions:

Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant ManMission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, It Follows, Dope.

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Steve Jobs review

Danny Boyle directs biopic Steve Jobs, which follows the late inventor and former CEO of Apple Steve Jobs, behind the scenes of three key product launches at different stages in his career, the film stars Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg.

Aaron Sorkins signature writing shines right through Steve Jobs and is clearly evident, working in tandem well with Danny Boyles direction and the films structure, we see Jobs in key, important moments in his career at Apple as he and his closest advisor’s plan for different product launches. The film isn’t a story chronicling Jobs life from childhood to manhood or the foundations of Apples but what it is, is an interesting look at the man, the way his mind worked and some of the drama that surrounded him because of his personality, with some added dramatic and cinematic flare of course.

Certain scenes are tense and suspenseful affairs as Jobs squares off against people and sometimes rubs people up the wrong way but you do come to understand in a way, why he functioned the way he did and why he may have come across as stubborn in his relentless drive for success, notoriety for exclusive features and popularity.

And understandably, it’s a bit of a love hate affair with the story and its structure I feel, though the performances are great, Fassbender especially disappears into the role as Jobs and gives a stellar performance and Kate Winslet is fantastic as his long time friend and aide Joanna Hoffman, who proves to be more than a match for Jobs demeanour and sharp wit. The dialogue is great in Sorkins typical fast moving, entertaining style and it makes for some great drama but I can understand if this takes away from the dramatic impact and makes some points in the plot feel more like a scripted drama than real life events that actually happened. But that being said, the writing is great and though myself, you and many people around the world didn’t know Jobs personally and can’t really say, the writing helps to create an interesting, captivating picture of the man and what he was like, the dialogue makes him feel like a character but Fassbender brings a bit of humanity to the role to make him feel more human and ‘real’.

Steve Jobs is a good film, entertaining and interesting with some great drama, it’s not quite the hard hitting emotional package that you may go into it expecting but it has some good performances nonetheless and seeing shades of Jobs get revealed as the plot goes on makes for some interesting viewing, the writing is a highlight for sure with some brilliant, fast moving dialogue which does at times make things feel a bit more unrealistic and TV drama as opposed to real life story. But all in all, the result is a good drama, not a particularly deep one but still an engaging watch.

7/10

. Has some great performances from Fassbender, Winslet

. Writing is fantastic, entertaining but a bit overly dramatic at times

. Plot is engaging throughout, holds your interest

Are people still excited for X-Men Apocalypse?

This is a bit of a weird thing to say but y’know, Foxs ‘X-Men films are huge, pretty much always box office hits and very popular, they’re very much a staple in the modern superhero film slate and have their own distinct presence and with the new re-booted films, there’s a freshness and good feeling around the series again. X-Men Apocalypse is on the way and set for release next May after wrapping filming and we know what to expect, having seen the first trailer for it, there a bunch of new loo characters, a new Storm (Alexandra Shipp) Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as well as Apocalypse himself (Oscar Isaac) and everything looks good so far.

What’s cool about Apocalypse is that it probably won’t quite feel like First Class or Days Of Future Past and will have its own distinct feeling story, we’ve dealt with a period film in which nuclear apocalypse almost happened in First Class and a post apocalyptic world in Days of Future Past but this time around we have one single mutant who can sway and influence other mutants with his powers and will be the big bad that everyone needs to confront in one way or another. A villain that can influence and control others and will also be using a few X-Men to do his bidding.

I’m pretty excited for the film but are other people? It’s hard to gauge audience anticipation for it but it seems like a film that no one’s really talking about, or at least not in the same capacity as people are talking about Batman V Superman or Captain America Civil War and remember, we don’t have a trailer for Civil War either and that’s out just 3 weeks before X-Men Apocalypse. But I don’t need to tell you how hyped Civil War already is, which is understandable with Marvel putting together so many of their characters in a pretty thrilling story line but still, the Apocalypse story line that the film is going with is also pretty big and the character himself is one of the strongest mutants, despite some X-Men fans being a bit iffy about the way he looks. Maybe when it comes to sheer hype, X-Men films simply doesn’t hold the same weight as big DC hitters in Superman and Batman and Marvels top tier but the X-Men still has a great roster of characters and a few of them are some of Marvels favourites e.g. Wolverine, Magneto, Jean Grey.

It makes sense for X-Men to come out third best compared to 2016s other 2 big superhero movies but still, I would have thought the film would have some more anticipation to it with the film out in just 5 months, though people did seem to generally like the trailer, I did see a few vocal critics of how the trailer looks. I’m fairly sure X-Men Apocalypse will be another hit for Bryan Singer but I’m wondering if it will get a bit lost among the crowd in a year with Batman V Superman, Captain America: Civil War, Dr Strange and Suicide Squad, we’ll have to wait and see how audiences take it in (or not) and it should be an interesting barometer of how people still feel about the X-Men franchise.

Merry Christmas

So yeah this isn’t a film related post but it is Christmas so yeah, merry Christmas from me, the Doc, to all of you out there and I hope you have a great, wonderful day of present opening, quality family time however awkward and uncomfortable it may be at times (but that’s Christmas) and eating way to much food, to end the day watching some Christmas films (and yes, Die Hard is absolutely a Christmas film so it counts).

Enjoy the day everyone!

4 great things about the Star Wars prequels

So I saw The Force Awakens recently and it got me thinking about Star Wars in general but specifically the prequels and

Okay, so this may be controversial or debatable as the prequels themselves are but you know what, the prequels aren’t completely terrible and they do have some cool aspects to them, as bad as the acting and plot points are here and there, there is some good among the bad so here are my thoughts.

New Ideas

You can criticise the prequels for a lot and many people already have, many, many times but one thing I do commend them and George Lucas for is trying new things, things that didn’t all work, granted but they were something new and different, not re-hashes of old themes or story arcs from the original trilogy but completely new characters, events etc, like Podracing. And yeah, podracing wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I enjoyed it, like the idea of a non-Jedi mercenary like General Grievous knowing how to use a lightsaber, seeing how and why the Empire and Death Star came to be for some better examples. The prequels for better or for worse brought some new ideas to the table and importantly expanded the Star Wars universe so for that, I think the franchise is a bit better off for it.

 

Energetic and exciting lightsaber duels

Something the original trilogy did lack was some more action, not to decry the near perfect original trilogy of course but it’s something I did always think would be cool to see, simply seeing Jedi go toe to toe with Sith in elaborate fights, the prequels definitely delivered on this and we got some great match ups. The duel of the fates in The Phantom Menace is of course the best example and the best choreographed fight in the entire franchise in my opinion, the fights in the prequels for the most part are exciting and tense affairs and in The Phantom Menace and at the end of Revenge of The Sith at least, they’re really well done.

There’s something a bit magical about Jedi and Sith with near level powers duke it out with laser swords, with the grace and poise of a medieval duel, in a universe where hyperspeed travel, massive space ships and blasters, it’s almost noble to opt to fight that way, if it’s a Sith that’s going around hacking people down then maybe not so much, but you get my point.

 

Seeing the rise and fall of the Jedi

This is a personal choice but I really liked the Jedis overall arc in the prequels, charting their dominance and power to their decline, leading to the original trilogy, it was a great story and a necessary explanation in terms of why there were so few Jedi (well about 2) in the original trilogy, what happened to this mystical and magical order of space knights, a staple of modern sci-fi. And as it turns out, what happened to the Jedi is a pretty depressing story but it was great to see the Jedi at their height of their powers, with them having their own council and seat in high power in the galactic Republic, though seeing the Jedi sit around and discuss politics may not be the most exciting thing ever, we did get to see a whole bunch of them wage war for the Republic in Episode II, so there’s that.

The Music

Saying this almost feels like a cheat as all Star Wars films have some great music but hey, the prequels do also have great music, it’s atmospheric, grandiose at times and has a weighty, epic feel to it in some of the films, with the theme for the Phantom Menace in particular being just fantastic, fitting perfectly and adding a great sense of tone to certain scenes. The themes for Episode II and III may not be as memorable but they’re still good and again fitting for the films, if the prequels are remembered by almost everyone as being bad, the music from them at least is a plus.