Top 10 Best Films of 2015

Well, we’re already at the end of 2015. So like every other film reviewer it is customary for a Top 10 list of the best and worst films this year. This list is the best of 2015.

A few rules before I start; only films I’ve reviewed will be appearing on this list so if you’re looking for a certain film and it isn’t on here, that’s why. Also this list doesn’t take into account my scores. A film that scored an 8 or 9 maybe in a higher position on the list than one that has a 10. It happens I might have just liked a film more after I had written the review. But anyway, let’s get on with it. Some honorable mentions that didn’t make the list;

Amy
Blackhat
Paper Towns
Wild

And now for the rest…

10.

It was a toss up between this and Amy, but after thinking about it I found more enjoyment in Steve Jobs. Standout performances from Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet and Seth Rogen, a fun and witty script by Aaron Sorkin that manages to be easy and entertaining for the most tech-phobic person to understand.

9.

2015 was a great year for animation and there are at least two films on this list that show the diversity that was the animation choices this year. Number nine, Song Of The Sea, is beautifully crafted film and tells a sweet and simple story filled with giants, owls and fairies set in Ireland. It’s going to be one that will be remembered as a standout in future years.

8.

This film threw me when I first saw it. My thoughts when coming out of the cinema were around a 5/10, but after pondering on it, it became one of my favorites of the year, it’s Sicario. Dark, disturbing, and sometimes sickening, it’s also a great action thriller, with a standout role for Benicio Del Toro. Director Denis Villenueve seems to be on a roll for creating suspenseful films and Sicario cements his already great resumé.

7.

A recent one, it’s nevertheless a great film. Spielberg comes back to us with Bridge of Spies, and shows he’s still one of the greatest directors living today. In a year filled with spies (Man From U.N.C.L.E., Kingsman and SPECTRE) Bridge Of Spies takes away the bombastic set pieces and brings it down to tense tradeoffs of enemy spies in snowy Berlin. It is still in the cinema at the time of writing, so if you haven’t had the chance, it’s a great choice to go see.

6.

This was a little closer to the top four when I first made this list and I still think it being on this list will produce a few arguments in my house over whether it was actually that good. But damn it, I love James Bond, and SPECTRE was just what I was asking for. Every other Craig era Bond film has been a character redefining piece so it’s nice for SPECTRE to get back to the series traditions. Add the gunbarrel, the impressive four-minute shot of the Day of the Dead, and Lea Seydoux in one of the best Bond Girl roles since Diana Rigg, for me it’s one of the years best.

5.

John Wick was one of the earliest films I reviewed in 2015, but I had been waiting for it for so long and it still delivered under the intense amount of hype. It was full of everything I love; martial arts, practical stunts, and Keanu Reeves. It has a simple set-up for a story, which is just fine since we are here for the gunfights and punch-ups, with the nightclub scene being on a par with the excellent nightclub shootout from Collateral. Like I said in my review, if you’re a fan of The Raid or its sequel, John Wick is more of the same.

4.

Four is Brooklyn, the second film to come from the Irish Film Board this year that appears on this list. A trans-Atlantic love story written by Nick Hornby and starring up and comers Saorise Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, and Emory Cohen, it’s heartfelt and sweet without descending into mawkish Nicolas Sparks-style storytelling. Brooklyn stands up there with Calvary, widely considered to be the greatest Irish film ever made.

3.

Inside Out has been appearing on many other peoples Best-Of 2015 lists and it deserves all of the praise it gets. Inside Out has inventive premise that manages to tackle some incredibly dark topics for what is meant to be a kids film and shows why Pixar is Pixar, and everyone else is everyone else.

2.

After starting The Student Film Review I’ve been going to as many films as I can. Films that I wouldn’t have even looked twice at I’ve gone to and in doing so I’ve found some absolute crackers. Precinct Seven Five is one of those films. 2015 has had some good documentaries but for me Precinct Seven Five takes it. Essentially a real-life Scorsese film, the film follows two cops in the 75th Precinct in New York as they decide to become both criminals as well as cops. It’s amazing and shows that documentaries can be more pulse pounding than some action films.

1.

I ummed and ahhed over whether to give number one to this or Precinct Seven Five. But I ultimately gave it to this since it gave me a much more visceral thrill after watching it than Precinct Seven Five…or really any other film did this year. My number one for 2015 is Macbeth. Michael Fassbender (for the second time on this list) and Marion Cotillard give amazing performances, while director Justin Kurzel creates some beautiful shots and brother Jed Kurzel brings a stellar soundtrack. The quartet take one of the most adapted plays of William Shakespeare and turn it into a brooding and violent war epic. It just goes to show that sometimes the best stories are the old ones.

 

I guess that’s it for 2015. I’m Tom, The Student Film Critic and welcome to 2016!

Read the contrasting post on the Top 10 Worst Films of 2015!

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Brooklyn Review

The nominations of the British Independent Film Awards came out recently, with many films I’ve already covered like Macbeth, Ex Machina and Amy being nominated in several different categories. One film that kept appearing was called Brooklyn, and as it happens, today was its opening day in cinemas. Does it deserve it’s nominations, let alone the awards?

Brooklyn stars Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters and is directed by John Crowley. Based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Colm Toibin, Brooklyn follows Irish immigrant Eilis (Ronan) as she must pick between two potential lives and suitors, one in New York and one in Wexford, Ireland.

One of the factors that drew me into watching Brooklyn was that the screenplay is written by Nick Hornby. Hornby is the famed writer behind film hits such as High Fidelity and About a Boy, making him one of the more well known screenwriters today. And just like the two films I mentioned, Brooklyn has a terrific script. The conversations between the several characters are a joy to listen to (and not only because of those excellent Irish brogues). As Eilis emigrates to the USA, the film is full of conversations on being homesick and the struggles of trying to fit in, all of which are conveyed excellently by Ronan. Hornby manages to find many great snapshots of a life outside of your home country in Brooklyn, as well as several charming moments of silence between our leading lady and her suitors, with Ronan showing the strings of anxiety and excitement tugging below the surface. And like many good writers, Hornby keeps the audience on their toes to the very end, giving us two favourable suitors that Eilis would be happy with, but ultimately has to break one of their hearts.

Saoirse Ronan has been is several hit films before, such as Atonement and The Grand Budapest Hotel, but here as Eilis she shows off her wide range of acting abilities. In the beginning when she first goes to America she is worried and alone, but as she starts to settle in she becomes a much more upbeat and carefree. Her two suitors, played by Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson are both very good, giving us two characters that Eliis would have a hard time deciding to choose between. Gleeson, while his character is still rather reserved, thankfully manages to step far enough out of the “socially awkward” role that he had been stuck in for a large portion of his earlier film roles. Two small roles for Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters are fun little distractions, with Broadbent being a priest who helps Eilis settle in and Walters being a nosey, old landlady.

My only real problem with the film is that is it does feel a tiny bit overlong. With Eilis going back and forth between her suitors in letters and in person, there are some scenes that feel quite redundant. This might be due to the fact that we have to watch Eilis fall in love twice within the run time of the film so scenes might start to have an odd sense of repeating themselves. But apart from this one small nitpick, there really isn’t much else wrong with the film.

Hearing the summary for Brooklyn‘s story, or watching the trailer could have easily turned off a few potential viewers. It sounds too sweet and sugary, another bloody Nicolas Sparks-style adaptation, despite no-one either wanting or asking for it. But, mostly down to Saoirse Ronan’s outstanding acting ability, managing to look calm and sensible on the outside but able to convey to the audience her insecurities and fears, Brooklyn elevates what could have been a schlocky sentimental period piece to a much higher standard. And, if you’re anything like the audience in the viewing I was in, you’ll be bawling your eyes out by the end credits.

Score: 9/10 Heartfelt, emotional and compelling, a serious contender for the Awards season.

Ruth And Alex Review

Senior viewings are a fun little diversion from usual screenings. I do get some odd looks and questioned “You know this screening is for Seniors?” whenever I go to the cinema intent on seeing the film, but going to certain screenings has allowed me to see some great films. For example, 2014’s The Two Faces of January was, in my opinion one of the most underrated films of the year. But now for the review of the new release aimed at seniors, Ruth And Alex.

Ruth And Alex (Renamed 5 Flights Up in other countries) stars Diane Keaton, Morgan Freeman and Cynthia Nixon and the director is Richard Loncraine. Over one hectic weekend, married couple Ruth (Keaton) and Alex (Freeman) look into trying to sell their now-trendy Brooklyn apartment as they downsize their lives after retirement.

When I first went into Ruth And Alex I thought it was going to come down to a live action version of the first ten minutes from Up. The film does flit between the past and the present with the same rose tinted fondness that that famous ten-minute montage did, and this is where the film excels. It’s nice to see two people falling in love, even if it doesn’t raise any of the serious questions about the prejudice that would have occured at the time over a mixed race couple, nigh one line of dialogue. The only problem with these scenes is that they are too few and far between, with only around four, each lasting under a minute in the whole film. I wanted to see more of these scenes, to see the blossoming relationship that would turn into a long marriage between the two older actors.

Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton are both on form, doing roles they could both do in their sleep. Freeman’s lines are accentuated by his dry humour/sarcastic delivery, while Keaton usually just seems to roll her eyes at his interjections, with a look of “You loveable rogue” on her face. Morgan Freeman as well does some opening and closing voiceover work, using that almost legendary voice to draw the audience in. In relation to the time jumping narrative, praise must also be given to Claire Van De Boom and Korey Jackson who play the young Ruth and Alex respectively, even if Van De Boom sometimes goes a bit over the top with her acting.

After seeing Ruth And Alex I can see why it was tapped for a senior release. Freeman’s opening monologue is laced with dry wit and disdain at Brooklyn becoming a haven for “Hipsters…A Wholefoods and…An Apple Store.” It’s full of scenes of children pushing past our older actors without much care and has some scumbag buyers trying to get Ruth and Alex’s apartment for less than it’s worth. It’s a film that rolls it’s eyes at the audience while saying, “Young people, Imma right?”

All Ruth and Alex comes down to is ninety minutes of apartment hunting through the boroughs of New York, but the writers knew that wouldn’t fill an entire film so there are two subplots, both coming out of nowhere and feeling totally incongruous. One involves a possible terrorist plot to blow up Brooklyn Bridge that is always jarring the sense of tone from romcom to…I don’t know, a thriller? The film almost touches on a few ideas later in the film, (through another soliloquy by Freeman, although nowhere near as good as his Shawshank days) about the demonization of minorities and trial by media, but again, these ideas aren’t for the type of film Ruth And Alex is.

The other is a small story about the couples old pet dog Dorothy, which is stumbled upon pretty early in the film and never really goes anywhere apart from to the vets and back. These odd diversions are also told in the various flashback sequences, with certain character details and family relationships of Ruth and Alex being subtly explored, each giving our lead characters shade but no depth.

In summary, Ruth And Alex is a mixed bag. While the small sections of the falling in love story are nice to see, the dual storylines of house-hunting and bizarre subplots feel out of place. It really should have been a story about the characters, rather than their retirement plans.

Score: 3/10 It could have, and should been so much better