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Best Movies of 2015

Best Movies of 2015

  By Justin Razavi

2015 was one of the most successful years ever for the box office, with four of the Top 10 highest-grossing films of all time released, while a 5th film, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” ended the year with the biggest domestic and global-opening weekend in history, and is on pace to crack the all-time Top 10 list as well.

Familiarity was a big theme at the movies this year, as many major franchises released entries: Jurassic Park, Star Wars, Hunger Games, The Fast & The Furious, Rocky, Mad Max, Peanuts, Mission: Impossible, Terminator, Fifty Shades of Grey, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and James Bond, among others.  There were also biopics of musicians Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, and NWA, new films from famed auteurs Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee, Ridley Scott, Woody Allen, The Wachowski Brothers, and Charlie Kaufman, as well as plenty of arthouse films like “Carol,” “Brooklyn,” and “Room.”

With much to choose from, here are my picks for the Top 10 Films of 2015:

10. Mad Max: Fury Road

Ranked as the best movie of the year by a bevy of major publications, this is a surprisingly strong update for the franchise.  Tom Hardy takes over for Mel Gibson in the titular role, and the result is a truly one-of-a-kind spectacle sure to please not just action fans, but fans of good cinema, period.

Mad_Max

9. Kingsman: The Secret Service

It wasn’t James Bond, the Man from U.N.C.L.E., or Mission: Impossible that had the best spy film this year.  That honor goes to this action-comedy starring Colin Firth as a veteran secret agent who trains a new recruit (Taron Egerton) to take on a megalomaniacal villain bent on world destruction (Samuel L. Jackson).

Kingsman_The_Secret_Service_poster

8. Ant-Man

While most of Marvel’s movies have depicted stories and heroes from the biggest scale possible, this entry shrinks down in size to showcase the story of thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and his journey to become pint-sized hero Ant-Man.  Fitting the playful nature of the premise, there are just as many laughs as action scenes.

Ant-Man

7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Director JJ Abrams allows the Star Wars fan base to breathe a collective sigh of relief, as he erases the memories of the woeful prequel trilogy by delivering a film that is a balancing act of creating a new narrative with new characters, while paying tribute to the original series and its stars.

Star_Wars_Episode_VII_The_Force_Awakens

6. Jupiter Ascending

This space opera from the Wachowski Brothers of “The Matrix” fame didn’t get a lot of love from most critics, but could eventually become a cult classic.  Mila Kunis plays an impoverished janitor who finds out she’s the heir to a large fortune, drawing her into an intergalactic conflict with powerful aliens.  Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, and Eddie Redmayne co-star.

Jupiter Ascending

5. Avengers: Age of Ultron

Although not quite packing the punch of the original film, the star-studded second entry in the series is ultimately a top-notch popcorn movie.  The story continues the super-heroics of the ever-growing Avengers, led by Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), and Thor (Chris Hemworth), as they battle to stop the super-powerful misanthropic robot Ultron (voiced by James Spader) from wiping out humanity.   The lukewarm reception this received is only evidence of how high of a bar the first film set.  The film also stars Mark Ruffalo, Scarlet Johannson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Paul Bettany, and Anthony Mackie.

Avengers_Age_of_Ultron

4. Steve Jobs

Michael Fassbender convincingly plays a man putting every ounce of his genius into his products, regardless of the collateral damage he inflicts on co-workers, friends, and family.  If you can get past the unconventional structure (it’s styled more like a play than a movie, with three sharply delineated acts), the factual inaccuracies (screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has admitted this account is heavily fictionalized), and the almost-complete reliance on dialogue rather than visuals, this is a moving and thought-provoking account of visionary Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs

3. Straight Outta Compton

This biography of N.W.A., the hip-hop quintet from the streets of Los Angeles who virtually created the genre of Gangster Rap in the late 1980s, owes its power not necessarily to the script or direction of the film, but to the cinematic nature of the group’s story itself, and the spirited personalities within it: Ice Cube (played by his real-life son, O’Shea Jackson Jr), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), and group manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti).  A great tribute to “The World’s Most Dangerous Group” and good introduction to new fans or those wanting to learn more of the history of hip-hop.

Straight Outta Compton

2. Spotlight

This understated drama about the true story of the Boston Globe’s uncovering of, and investigation into, allegations of abuse by members of the Catholic clergy, is riveting from beginning to end.  One of the best movies ever about journalism, it illustrates the importance of the free press as a check against the potential evils of the powerful.  Stars Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Liev Schreiber.

Spotlight

1. Ex Machina

My pick for best movie of the year is this idea-driven low-budget thriller  that explores the pathways and perils of creating powerful artificial intelligence.  Domhall Gleeson plays Caleb, a computer programmer who wins a competition for a week’s stay at the mansion of his company’s CEO, Nathan (Oscar Isaac).  Upon arrival, Nathan tasks Caleb with evaluating the capabilities of his newly created robot, Ava (Alicia Vikander).  The weighty dialogue and stormy conclusion is reminiscent of Shakespearean tragedy.  An instant classic that should be of interest to anyone curious about where information technology may be taking the human race.

Ex Machina

Justin.R@mychinews.com

Chicago News

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