Top 10 Movies of 2015

Let’s do this.

10.) Project Almanac
There are teen movies, and then there are teen movies. This one pretty much perfectly captures the spirit of today’s youth, with a mix of gritty realism and a heavy coating of young, fun, thirsty-af vigor. Not to mention the whole time travel part of it is pretty well done.project-almanac.jpg

9.) Victor Frankenstein
The soundtrack, the snazzy editing, the great lead actors, the overall design and just the fun of it all made this movie for me. It was magnificent, and I don’t care what any highbrow rottentomatoes armchair critic has to say about it (won’t be the last time I say that on this list).Victor_Frankenstein_2015

8.) The Martian
The one time 3D has ever been kind-of sort-of worth it. And the best space-flick ever, in my opinion. Not that that’s saying much as I don’t think the genre’s really been tapped to its full potential, but still. A noble award.The_Martian_film_poster

7.) Everest
It’s a harrowing movie about a harrowing true story, and the final pictures after the credits roll still give me goosebumps when put side-by-side with the identical shots in the movie. Baltasar Kormákur nailed it.Everest_poster

6.) The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
It’s the snazziest, sexiest cold war movie I’ve ever seen. Do you know the plot beats before you go in? Sure. Have you ever seen them delivered with this much raw panache and style? Probably not. Plus, the soundtrack is sick.sM6KRdy

5.) Ex Machina
It’s a movie that makes you think about why sex with robots could but won’t be the future. Need I say more? It’s REALLY thought-provoking and just all-around fantastic.ex-machina-poster

4.) Mad Max: Fury Road
Good soundtracks are a reoccurring theme on this list, and Mad Max is no exception. Great soundtrack, great action, fun plot, kick-ass leads.mad-max-fury-road

3.) Ant-Man
After the travesty that was Age of Ultron, I thought I was going to have to boycott Marvel. And I just might, if Civil War sucks too, but for now, Ant-Man has reminded me just how much fun the comic book movie genre can be.Ant-Man_poster

2.) Fantastic Four
Read my two reviews of this movie (I went to see it twice in theatres and bought it on DVD, as well, just to make sure I wasn’t being subconsciously contrarian for the hell of it) if you want the juicy details. Basically, it’s a better version of Interstellar with a comic book twist at the end. And I love that. Plus, great soundtrack.images

1.) Kingsmen: The Secret Service
It’s a 2015 release in the U.S., so, deal with it. This might just be my favorite straight-up action movie of all time. It’s so fun and visceral and playful but thoughtful at the same time, while dancing with meta-humor but never so much as to break the immersion. Basically, it’s as close to perfect as I think I’ll see in this lifetime. Aaaaaaand… it has a great soundtrack. In no world did I expect to hear Dizzie Rascal’s Bonkers in a movie theatre. But it happened.Kingsman_The_Secret_Service_poster.jpg

Just Saw “Fantastic Four” A Second Time. Still Great.

Loved it just as much as I did in my initial review. I was worried that maybe my original perceptions of the film had been tainted by a desire to be contrarian to the masses. So, seeing it a second time and more acutely aware of its flaws, I have to say that by and large, my opinions on the movie are exactly the same. It’s essentially a better version of Interstellar‘s first two acts with some comic book action at the tail end, and I love that.

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Only opinion of mine that’s changed since my first viewing is that the final fight is somewhat lacking upon a second watch, though one-time viewers won’t really notice this as they’ll be too swept up in seeing it for the first time to really break down how weak it seems by comparison.

AND a second watch has helped me to reaffirm that people saying there was no Sue-Reed chemistry don’t know what they’re talking about. The library scene, the ear-flick/Doom is jealous scene, and at the end of the movie Sue puts her hand on Reed’s shoulder as they look at the *spoiler* massive crater from the planet Zero warp hole. Sure, it’s not obnoxiously in your face like most superhero movies, but it’s subtle and plants the seeds for a potential relationship. It’s… I dunno… REALISTIC. Pay closer attention, people. Understand that Trank made this a nuanced and subtle movie rather than the light, frothy action comic book flick you’ve come to expect.

Review of “Fantastic Four” — Just See the Damn Movie. It’s Fantastic.

I’m kicking off this review with an informal letter to director Josh Trank: Come on, man. Don’t go cannibalizing your product by turning around and calling it shit just after everyone else started to. Besides, attacking the studio won’t help save your career. Just own what you made, because it was amazing.

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Here’s the truth of the matter: Fantastic Four takes a long time to get going. It’s only got a single action scene. Very few relationship tropes are achieved over the course of the movie. And for all those reasons, it’s probably the best origin story I’ve seen in ages.

Why do people hate it? Let’s go down the list. For each item, I’ll give a rebuttal of why I think it made the movie great.

1.) “The characters don’t develop.”

Some people are whining that Miles Teller and Kate Mara don’t bang by the end of this movie. Seriously, though? These kids have some brief moments of “will they or won’t they” in the beginning, much like any teens might have when they’re testing the waters. But priorities shift when they crack inter-dimensional travel, acquire super mutations, etc. Those are the sort of events that might stop a campy teen romance from developing, people. Biological anomalies and pressure from the government to be turned into a human weapon, as well as the impending threat of Doom, might impede on a shitty romance subplot. It’s a realistic sacrifice; get over your addiction to cliches.

2.) “Not enough action.”

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There’s no argument that there’s little action. A single fight at the end is all that the movie builds up to. But there are two things worth mentioning here: the final fight is a worthy conclusion to an extremely solid, slow-burn origin story and secondly, rumor has it there were meant to be more fights. Now, I’m not going to regard that last point because it doesn’t matter what was meant to be rather than what’s actually IN the final product, but understand that the rumor mill claims Trank wanted three fights and Fox chopped the third act in some weird ways. Regardless, I honestly loved the single fight aspect. It made the event feel far grander than it actually was, when for the first time in the whole movie, the heroes had an obstacle as great as them to overcome. If they’d managed to fight three different fights by the end of this movie, it wouldn’t really have been an origin on them getting their collective shit together, now would it? A single fight to unite them once and for all, though, was awesome. It capped off a slow sci-fi flick with some comic book elements about five young adults going through some insane shit together.

3.) “The main cast is bad.”

While I will admit I was a little let down by Miles Teller who occasionally gave off the impression that he was just in it for the paycheck, the other five main members of the cast were great. Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Bell, Toby Kebbell and Reg E. Cathey all brought their A-game, and blended well together. And sure, they might not have been written as the overly common in-sync super team we were expecting, but that’s because they were written as individuals with flaws that needed overcoming. They were written as REAL PEOPLE, and most audience members can’t accept that, it seems.

4.) “Doom sucked.”

Shut up, right now. Doom was honestly the best comic book movie antagonist I’ve ever seen, tying with the Joker (TDK) and Zod (MoS). Some might call that statement blasphemy, but hear me out: *SPOILER ALERT* he does what no Marvel antagonist has had the balls to do thus far, which is actually try to achieve his goals. Douchey government guy standing in his way? Doom just stares at him and BLOWS UP HIS HEAD. Innocent nurse blocking his path? Head blown up. Red was painting the walls by the time Doom started his killing spree, with little chunks bursting and shit. It was gruesome, and for the first time in comic book movie history, I was actually slightly frightened (the primary goal of a comic book villain!!!). The Joker wasn’t scary because we knew Batman would win, with the same caveat applying for Zod, though the latter did tear shit up before the inevitable save-the-day sequence. Doom, though, managed to suspend my disbelief to the point where I genuinely thought he had a chance at winning and ending the movie on a sour cliffhanger. I’ll be surprised if I ever feel that kind of suspense again. Not to mention his origin of being a computer nerd who plays Assassin’s Creed Unity wasn’t unbelievable, far from it. It was a classic tale of a kid with great potential squandering his life away behind a screen. An overall excellent modern adaptation of Doom.

5.) “The movie is too slow.”

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Boo-hoo! I’m sorry this couldn’t be Spider-Man reboot #36 for you, where within the first thirty minutes he’s knocking out subway goons, zapping the Green Goblin’s mouth shut, etc. This movie tried to be Interstellar with a comic book conclusion, which meant that cheap action would have to be exchanged for a slow-burn sci-fi build. And, in my opinion, the gambit paid off. I cared more at the end simply because I hadn’t seen the heroes tested up to that point. It was methodically slow, in the best of ways.

Those are my retorts as a contrarian. I honestly liked this movie just a hair more than Ant-Man, to give you a frame of reference as to how I really feel (and I absolutely loved Ant-Man) about Fantastic Four. The soundtrack is phenomenal, the CGI is effective (and looks slightly more real based solely on how little of it crops up until the finale), the characters are believable and great, and everything is just awesome. Yes, if you want a run-of-the-mill action-churning, light-hearted origin story Fantastic Four will let you down. But if you want something unique, a movie that tried to be more than just a regular shitty comic book flick, give F4 a try. Just like Ant-Man was more heist than it was comic book, this is more sci-fi than superhero. And against all the critics, I for one will say it was a fantastic ride.

Review of “Whiplash”

It’s good.Whiplash-poster

It just ticks off all the boxes in terms of what makes a movie “good”. Protagonist who you want to see succeed, intense antagonist that’s not completely one-dimensional, real life issues as backdrop for the movie’s conflict, and a cozy ending with a cherry on top.

What I’m trying to say is, it’s nowhere near as profound as some people are making it out to be. I went into it with sky-high expectations, but, honestly, I thought about the movie afterwards for about the same duration that I reminisced over Blackhat, to give you an image of how memorable it is. It’s not overrated, per-say, such as Birdman was; it’s just not the best movie of the decade that some people are claiming it to be.

J.K. Simmons is amazing, but he has the easy job. It’s his typecast role that he does in everything else (Spider-Man, Oz, etc.). Miles Teller isn’t as amazing but definitely does the much more impressive job tackling his complex and conceited drumming prodigy character.

In terms of music, if you like jazz or even just drumming, you have to see this.

In terms of highbrow, slightly “artsy” films (also known as Sony Picture Classics, in this case), I am just not feeling Whiplash nearly as much as I felt Foxcatcher. But still, it’s a boatload better than that shitfest Birdman. One minor gripe I have is the absurd dramatization this movie contains. Seriously, Oliver Stone’s Savages didn’t contain the sheer quantity of blood, sweat and tears Whiplash has. I’m not even kidding. Every time you see Miles Teller going hard in the movie, he looks like he just got the big Splash Lagoon bucket dumped on him, and he loses at least six pints of blood throughout the film. And he cries a lot.

Go see it if you are in need of a good film. Not a game changer, nothing spectacular, but definitely good. Although, there is a certain irony that a movie all about striving to be unanimously better than the rest never truly rises above “good”.