Evan Griffin’s Top 10 Movies of 2015
- Thank You For Playing
When you set out to make a piece of art, people will judge what you make no matter what, especially under the scrutiny of an ever watchful internet. Is it a piece of massively consumable media, or is it a commentary on the human condition? When you try to depict something as universally feared as cancer, and equal reverence for its victims, how do you judge it as a piece of art? Well, when it’s something as private and personal as Ryan and Amy Green’s story in their game “That Dragon, Cancer”, and their documentary Thank You For Playing, you really can’t. That’s not our place to judge, outside of the technical building and polish of the game and film. This experience is a collection of memories: poetically, lovingly scripted and coded to build a game sharing the journey of their son, Joel, who fought terminal cancer for four years.
- Black Mass
While it feels familiar as a simple gangster film, it will show strength in time with it’s outstanding performance by Johnny Depp as America’s most notorious mobster, Whitey Bulger, as Depp returns to his strength in transformative character acting, while supported by a strong cast in Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Sarsgaard and many more. The film may have played it safe in the telling of this man’s 20 year reign in South Boston, but for audiences knowledgeable of the Winter Hill Gang’s affairs in the 1970’s, it’s a faithfully retold horror story.
- Kingsman: The Secret Service
This brash, unapologetic satirizing of the spy film genre makes Matthew Vaughn’s previous work (Kick Ass) look tame. With a who’s who Gentleman’s cast including Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Michael Caine, the film balances its humor, its world building and its young main actor Taron Egerton sandwiched between it all. Not to mention of all the spy movies released in 2015 (there were quite a few), Samuel L. Jackson as Richmond Valentine is one of the most memorable action film villains in quite some time, and yes, this is also the year we saw Christoph Waltz as Blofeld in Spectre. Strange turn of events there, isn’t it? Kingsman has a lot of humorous, genuine life in it, and made me want to go buy a really nice suit more than any Bond film ever did.
- Avengers Age of Ultron
I walked away from this film initially let down, but the fact that Age of Ultron as a blockbuster, middle act franchise film came out the other side a decent movie, let alone a watchable one, is a miracle on the part of nerd king Joss Whedon. Everything people wanted was here: a global scale, strong character moments, world building with visiting Wakanda and introducing Infinity Gems, all the while expanding the cast with four completely new characters in the Maximoff Twins, Ultron and Vision. This film pulls off much more than I believe people realize, which is why, as a Marvel fan and a film fan, it remains in my top 10.
- Steve Jobs
Danny Boyle takes us onto a journey before the domination of the Apple brand. In a rigid but fascinating three act structure, bolstered by a script by Aaron Sorkin on par with his work on The Social Network, and by an immersive performance from Michael Fassbender through an honest illustration of who Steve Jobs was behind the scenes, humanizing a man that many may have seen before as a prophet of technology.
- The Martian
With character narration pulled almost directly from the novel by Andy Weir, Drew Goddard’s script for The Martian is punchy, well paced and funny, all the while exposing to viewers a crap load of math work to solve how to get Botanist Mark Watney back home to Earth. The film is supported by a fantastic and unexpected cast with the likes of Jessica Chastain and Chiwetel Ejiofor with Michael Pena and Donald Glover all giving equally stellar work to provide us with Ridley Scott’s best movie in years. Oh yeah, and Matt Damon is likable here as well, how you like them potatoes?
There’s something about boxing movies. One of the most barbaric of sports that has rarely changed for decades, and somehow, all beginning with Stallone’s first Rocky in 1977, the story of a boxer overcoming all adversities is the most emotionally compelling a sports film can capture. And in the case of the Rocky series, of which Creed is the 7th, it’s clear this comes down to character. Upcoming star Michael B. Jordan makes everyone forget that he was in Fant4stic while playing the lost son of Apollo Creed, Adonis, who is a kid with the chance to live a normal, quality life, but can’t escape the fighter’s spirit in his blood. So, he ventures to Philadelphia to receive training from the great Rocky Balboa, the closest man he’ll ever get to having an uncle. The two actors have fantastic chemistry, and Sylvester Stallone shows that he still has notable acting abilities in this seventh turn as Rocky.
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I’m sure that the hype’s awakening within me will dissipate at some point, but by God, J.J., you actually did it. I was prepared for this movie to be absolutely terrible, but not only did you hit the beats of the original film while making this feel unique to itself, you’ve given us a chance to see our favorite cast return to the franchise. YET SOMEHOW, Episode VII made me care more about the new faces: from Poe Damaron, to Rey to BB-8 and even the whiny emo Kylo Ren’s evolution into what I’m now sure will be one of the most memorable villains in a film series since Darth-waitaminute…
- Ex Machina
Between my absorption of films, games, books and television in the last year on the subject, 2015 probably has made me look like a weird RoboHead. However, Ex Machina invites viewers into a conversation about artificial intelligence for the 21st Century, well beyond the cold calculations of War and Turing Tests and more about empathy, free will and illusion. What if the intelligence of a machine was a seamless replica of the human mind? What would it do with that power? What would we do with that power? It’s cerebral and suspenseful in its cinematography and soundtrack, but the performances by Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander bolster the already strong script into one of the most compelling films of the year, and one of the best Sci-Fi films of this century so far.
- Mad Max: Fury Road
Yes, it’s pretty much just a car chase. Yes, it has minimal dialogue. Yes, there’s about four different articles on this very site where I won’t shut up about Fury Road. But you know what? This is not only the best revitalizing of a franchise 20 years after the fact, (looking at you, Dumb and Dumber To) George Miller has blessed us with the most structurally sound film of the year, and the most stylistically unique action film in over a decade. Witness Him… win awards for the next few months!!!
Need to See / Probably Would be on This List / Will Likely Appear at the Oscars: Macbeth, The Revenant, Brooklyn, Spotlight, Carol, The Big Short, Room, The Hateful Eight, Trumbo, Love & Mercy, Spy, Trainwreck.