Now, I already know that I am late to the party with my best of list, as Dave so eloquently pointed out to me in our last podcast, but I needed the extra time to catch up. I still haven’t had a chance to really see everything, but I now feel very confident and proud of the list I have been able to assemble. So what made my list, you’ll have to click to find out.
15) THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. – This choice probably surprises you, and to be honest, it really surprised me. Guy Ritchie was able to put together one of the most entertaining spy films, as the story it told with so much style and swagger, it was so hard not to get all wrapped up in it and enjoy. The film boasts one of my favorite scores of the year by Daniel Pemberton, as it plays homage to films of the 60’s, which is the time period the film is set. The cast is also in top form as you can tell they are all having the time of their lives. It always makes me so happy when I film completely takes me by surprise like this did ad I definitely recommend everyone check it out.
14) SPY – Speaking of spy films, SPY is a wonderful addition to the spy parody genre. Anchored by a wonderful performance by Melissa McCarthy who brings so much warmth and vulnerability to her role, she helps make this film one of the funniest films of the year. The film does take a little time to find its footing, but once McCarthy meets Rose Byrnes’ character (who gives the funniest performance of her career to date), the film soars. There is so much fun to be had, and it also boasts some of the best female characters of the year. Melissa McCarthy’s Susan Cooper is a woman who has extraordinary abilities and she is just too afraid to take full advantage of them. She suppresses them on her own, and the film does a great job showing her come into her own and become the great and confident spy she really is. The film could have gone the easy route and made her to be a fumbling fool, but they never let her do that and it was refreshing.
13) ANT-MAN – To be honest, I was never completely sold by the trailers to ANT-MAN. I never really found the jokes to be that funny, and it looked kind of boring. I am so happy that I was so wrong as the film was one of the funniest of the year and one of the most entertaining. The film was also a refreshing change of pace for what would be your typical Marvel film. It felt more character driven and less action driven. It also didn’t end with the typical “something huge if coming towards earth and we have to stop it” third act as the film played more like a heist film. With these fun changes, great performances made by the whole cast, (especially Michael Douglas as Dr.Hank Pym) and excellent direction by Peyton Reed, made ANT-MAN standout as one of the best films of the year. Also, who knew Paul Rudd would be a believable action hero, because it totally was. I can’t see Scott Lang being played by anyone else.
12) TRAINWRECK – Amy Schumer has become a force to be reckoned with, and TRAINWRECK is further proof of her comedic genius. With her extremely amusing and touching script, she was able to turn most of the romantic comedy cliches into something new and different. It made someone like me, who normally hates romantic comedies, become a fan. The pairing of Schumer with Bill Hader is a pure delight as they are oozing with chemistry. The film also showcases the best performances by athletes with LaBron James, John Cena, and Amar’e Stoudemire all making fun and hilarious performances. The film had me laughing hysterically one moment, and tearing up the next. This is more than just a gross-out comedy, but it is a comedy with something to say.
11) FURIOUS 7 – It wouldn’t be a Mitchell Harvick best of list if I didn’t include whatever the latest installment of the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise is. I didn’t put it here because I felt obligated to, but I put it here because it deserves it. It has some of the best action sequences in the whole series and some of the most outlandish sequences that are so expertly done and all you can do is appreciate the madness. You’re not going to watch a FAST AND FURIOUS film for nuanced performances or complex storytelling, but you are expecting to see the best when it comes to action, and this film does not disappoint. This was also the perfect sendoff for Paul Walker’s character, as they handled his death perfectly and gave him the gracious ending he deserves.
10) THE MARTIAN – Just about a perfect adaptation of one of my all time favorite books, THE MARTIAN was able to latch on to the heart and soul of what made the book work. The film is perfectly cast with Matt Damon playing the role of a lifetime with Mark Watney as he was able to make you, as an audience root, for him to survive. You can see more of how I felt about this film here.
9) MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION – Just like the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise, somehow each MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE is able to top the film that came before. I didn’t think the franchise could have surpase the quality of GHOST PROTOCOL, but it did the, dare I say, impossible. The best thing to happen in the film is the introduction to Rebecca Ferguson’s character Isla Faust, who is one of the best female characters to come out this year. After you watch the film, you start to realize that the film was more about her than Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt as she spent the whole movie saving his ass, and she is never once the typical damsel in distress. She has become now the golden standard on how all action films should treat their female characters.
8) STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS – This film could have been the biggest disappointments of the year as it had so much to live up to, but it succeeded in every way possible. The film was able to latch on to what made the originals classics as it brought back the fun and wonderment. The prequels got bogged down by the politics of the world and they were so boring, but THE FORCE AWAKENS was so much fun and unbelievably exciting. It also introduced us to brand new and amazing characters lead by Daisy Ridley’s dynamic Rye who is so wonderful and a delight as she brightens up the screen every moment she is on it. Yes, all of your old favorites are back, but it is the brand new characters that got you excited and want to stick with for the rest of the run.
7) SPOTLIGHT – What works about the film is the ensemble, as it is has one of the strongest ensembles in film this year. The acting is just so damn good and compelling, it sucks you in and doesn’t let go. The film was co-written and directed by Tom McCarthy who is becoming one of the best American filmmakers we have. He understands human nature and character and is able to easily bring that out in the performances made by this stellar cast.
6) INSIDE OUT – It had been two years since the last PIXAR film to come out when INSIDE OUT hit theaters, and it had a lot riding on it as people were questioning if PIXAR could still make the hits that transcends typical family fare, and INSIDE OUT knocked it out of the park. Simply, INSIDE OUT did everything right from the vocal talent, to the storytelling, to the script, and to innovative animation. This is one of those PIXAR films where I wonder what will children get out from watching this as it deal with so many adult themes, and I wonder if they will catch them all. But that is what is great about PIXAR as they are able to ride that fine line and entertain everyone of every age. This will definitely go down as one of the best PIXAR films.
5) SICARIO – SICARIO is such a complex and challenging film, it does take some time to digest, but when the film-making is so damn good you have no choice but sit in awe and wonderment of it. The film is unbelievably gorgeous and has some of the best performances of the year lead by Emily Blunt is a career defining role, you have to see it.
4) THE BIG SHORT – Never did I ever think that the director of ANCHORMAN and THE OTHER GUYS would ever be nominated for an Oscar for Best Director, but after I saw this film, I completely understood. There is so much passion and dedication behind the camera and it is felt. You can tell this is a story he has by dying to tell, and that he is the only person capable enough to tell it, and he is right. He was able to balance the comedy with the drama expertly, and he was also able to tell what could be a very confusing story in a non pandering and easily accessible way. The cast is outstanding with each person giving the performances of their careers especially Steve Carell who gives the best performance of the year.
3) BROOKLYN – I am completely in love with this film. I loved its simple storytelling and the wonderful characters. This is the film where Saoirse Ronan goes from a good kid actor to one of the best actresses we have right now. The whole film rides on her shoulders with her performances and she nails it. She nails the complexity of a woman who travels across the world for a better life, but struggles to figure out who she is as a person and what to call her home. It is such a wonderful and mature performance that she was able to give because of the assured direction by John Crowley and a magnificent script by Nick Hornby.
2) MAD MAX: FURY ROAD – I had no question that this film was going to be good, with some of the best trailers to ever come out, but I had no idea that it was going to be this outstanding. It was such a visceral viewing experience for me as I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, not knowing what would happen next. The film is non-stop as it gives you no time to breath from one scene to the next. The film is also absolutely gorgeous with jaw dropping visuals. This is expertise film-making as George Miller directs his opus, throwing everything at the screen and it all sticks. The film also introduced us with to Imperator Furiosa, who is not only the best female character we got this year, but best character in general. Charlize Theron is so raw and compelling as Furiosa as she does an amazing job anchoring this completely gonzo film. I could watch this film over and over again and it would feel like it was the first time.
1) CREED – I think what made this film standout the most for me over everything else was how much of a surprise this film was. There was no need for it to be as good as it was, but it went above and beyond what it needed to do. This film gave us the best version of Rocky Balboa since the original film as it gave us an old and complex Ricky who is possibly at the end of his rope. Ryan Coogler is the future of film-making as he was able to take sure a familiar franchise and genre and turn it on its head. He’s a fresh voice and he demands it to be heard. Well, it was loud and clear with CREED. Michael B Jordan gives a fierce, understated, and complex performance as the titular Creed and we get the performance of life time with Sylvester Stallone, reprising his most famous character. The film is so utterly compelling and it is the bets film I saw in 2015.