Top 10 Best Films of 2015

Well, we’re already at the end of 2015. And 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. So 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 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’s 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 it’s 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. An inventive premise, that manages to tackle some incredibly dark topics for what is meant to be a kids film. Inside Out 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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Inside Out Review

It’s been two years since Pixar’s last release, Monster’s University. I somewhat enjoyed the film, but many people I talked to felt that the film had let them down, citing it as second weakest in Pixar’s vast back catalogue (because nothing can be weaker than Cars 2). Can Pixar turn around this minor hiccup and remind us what they are capable of with Inside Out?

Inside Out stars Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith and Richard Kind and is directed by Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen. The story follows Joy (Poehler) and Sadness (Smith) as two of several of the emotions of a young girl, Riley as she is going through her stressful teenage years.

Pixar films always seem to have some deeper meaning behind them, putting them leagues ahead of any other computer generated kids movies. Whether the subject is single parenting (Finding Nemo) conservation for our planet (Wall-E) or doing what you love despite whatever stands in your way (Ratatouille), Pixar have nailed the idea of having a message for their (normally) younger audience. Inside Out is no different. The film tackles some really heavy subjects and even gets seriously dark just past the halfway point. And amazingly it does so without ever becoming po-faced. The film goes through some of what according to main character Riley seems to be her whole world collapsing, only to find that with the old stuff going, it means better stuff can come along.

The cast is one of the standouts of the film. Amy Poehler does her usual cheery self as the emotion Joy, but through her long tiring journey through Riley’s mind, she becomes worn down and beaten by Riley’s descent into uncertainty, leading Poehler to show some great variation from her typecast role. Phyllis Smith as Sadness is brilliant, and has some of the most powerful scenes in the film, such as the finale where she is in control of Riley, giving Inside Out one of the biggest emotional punches of Pixar’s entire works. A role for Richard Kind as another central character (that I’m not going to spoil here) is a great addition to the film, and really hits home a few of the central themes about childhood memories and loss of innocence.

Lewis Black as Anger is the funniest character in the film, with several of the best lines, including one about the destruction of pizza by San Francisco. His regular flame-ridden explosions are a main highlight of the film, with each one being a new, nearly foul-mouthed tantrum over the minutest things. And as always, it’s nice to see Kyle MacLachlan back at The Student Film Review after his stint in the David Lynch Collection. He, along with Diane Lane, play the respective parents of Riley, each with their own set of emotions, playing up each of their identities and traits, with jokes coming from miscommunication and styles of parenting and discipline.

The script, like many other Pixar works has jokes for all the family. While the slapstick violence was enough to make the children in the viewing I was in laugh, the biggest laughs came from the parents at the more adult jokes. Brazilian fantasy men, an excellent riff on Hollywood (with subtle hints to Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Polanski’s Chinatown) and a recurring joke about catchy advert jingle, with the latter accompanied by Anger’s frenzied outbursts, Inside Out is several degrees smarter and wittier than many films recently that have been pegged as “comedies”.

As the standard of Pixar films, Inside Out has its pre-film short animation, this one called Lava. A love story that is set over millions of years, Lava tells the story of two volcano islands falling in love with each other. While the animation and design of the islands is stunning, reminiscent of some of the exquisite design in Surf’s Up, the faces of the islands looks a bit awkward and creepy when they are smiling. The accompanying song (which oddly enough is named “Lava”) however is beautiful, and captures the feeling of the tropical islands with its ukulele infused melody and sounds of waves.

In conclusion, Pixar have once again made a film that anyone of any age can enjoy, with a strong a great message for the audience, let your emotions run free. Inside Out is going to be the blockbuster of this summer.

Score: 10/10 One of Pixar’s greatest, deeply moving and deeply profound, while still being funny as hell.