Here’s my annual list of favorite films for the year. This year had a few surprises for me. I’m really pleased with 2015, and really excited about the films that I managed to see throughout the year. Let’s get started.
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens – I’ve been waiting a decade for this. After Revenge of the Sith, I wondered if we’d get any more Star Wars films, and when it was announced that there’d be more, I couldn’t believe it… and then it was here. I almost still don’t believe it. It was everything I wanted it to be, save for one thing… I would have liked more of the old cast to have scenes together. But, as that’s a personal preference thing, and doesn’t actually reflect on the movie that we were given, it bears no weight against it. The characters, the planets, the settings, the acting, the directing, the effects… this one has it all. Including both practical and CGI elements that are seemlessly branched together. It’s also the best Star Wars film since Revenge of the Sith. The last one, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, was more of a prelude to the animated series, and not a very good example of how great that series became as it went on. The Force Awakens has a story that introduces new mysteries, adds to the mythology in important ways, and it has a female in a leading role in a way that is closer in attitude to Princess Leia whenever she carried a gun. I could write volumes about The Force Awakens. Also, to those that felt Star Wars had died with the prequels, welcome back. I’ve been here the whole time… a lot of us have… just please, leave the prequels and George Lucas alone from now on. We’ve got Star Wars films that most of us can agree on being made again… just let it go.
- Cinderella – At Disney’s 2013 D23 Expo they didn’t have much information about this, other than a teaser with the glass slipper. I had never seen the actress playing Cinderella before, but Cate Blanchett (Galadriel in The Hobbit Trilogy and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) was in it as the step-mother and Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter) plays her mother. Plus, with Kenneth Branagh (Thor) directing, I knew it’d be at the very least visually stunning. And it was. Plus, the script brought Cinderella to life in a way that was both entertaining and memorable. The prince, this time, isn’t a soulless character without a personality. Instead, there’s a focus on his relationship with his father, the king, which lends itself well to the growth of both the prince and Cinderella. We learn much about both of them through the lens of the king. All of this leads to one of the most powerful themes being played out in just the right place: when Cinderella says her final words to her step-mother before leaving. It’s a home-run and well worth your time.
- Inside Out – Pixar has done it again. A film that is as wonderful as I wanted it to be. It captures your imagination and teaches the value of every emotion, including the one that we might think is a bad one: sadness. It brings me back to the lines that Gandalf speaks at the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: “I will not say, ‘do not weep,’ for not all tears are an evil.” That rings true here as well. This is a very well planned out film with an excellent story. It was a very big topic to cover, taking you into the minds of the characters. It’s funny, heart-warming, heart-breaking, and exhilarating.
- Jurassic World – Ever since the opening credits of the first Jurassic Park, I’ve wanted this movie. I thought, during the course of Jurassic Park, that eventually we’d get to see the park open with guests experiencing the dinosaurs. Now, three movies later, it’s here, and it’s awesome. I loved seeing the park. It felt like you could actually go there, and I wanted to. Now I can, any time, by playing this movie. I’m looking forward to the sequels, even though the director has moved on to Star Wars: Episode IX.
- The Avengers: Age of Ultron – This took things up another notch for Marvel, catapulting every character into new directions and introducing us to a bunch of new Avengers at the same time. It also introduced characters that will become more important as the films continue. It also put the characters into peril that it looked like they would never make it out of, and they’ve actually done some things that will have serious repercussions in the films to come… especially in Captain America: Civil War.
- Ant-Man – I didn’t know what to expect from this, but I really liked it. It wasn’t about saving the world, but rather a family. And that’s what made it good. Ant-Man is likely going to be a favorite character for a lot of people now, and that’s not a bad thing.
- The Peanuts Movie – I totally expected to be ho-hum about this movie, but the end of the movie was very sweet. I also loved how they managed to capture the right look of each of the characters while making them all very warm. The move to 3D didn’t hurt the feel of the characters at all, and when I watched the Charlie Brown Christmas special again, I wondered what it would be like if it were re-animated with the look of this movie. Probably even more magical (not that it’ll ever be done).
- The Good Dinosaur – Pixar’s second original film of 2015. I expected greater things from this. It had a scene that was very simple and very emotional. The movie went through a very tumultuous time of re-development, and it shows. However, near every shot of the film could be framed and put up on your wall. It’s beautiful. Not the best, but absolutely beautiful.
- The Hunger Games – Mockingjay: Part 2 – It’s over.. I was curious about where it was all going, and how it was all going to end, and here it is. It was kind of a doozy. After all the build-up, the wrap up, I felt, could have been a little longer, but it was fairly sufficient. I don’t think it quite had the effect I was hoping for, of elevating the first part of Mockingjay to a new level. Catching Fire is definitely the best part of the story. But it was still very high quality and well acted.
Not completely new
- The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Extended Edition – Absolutely stunning. Better than it was in theaters, The Hobbit is now, actually complete. This was truly awesome and belongs on my list of top movies of the year. It was already my number 1 movie of 2014, and this just solidifies that ranking. It’s definitely the best movie to come out of 2014.
- Tomorrowland – I thought this, based on the trailer, would have a lot more set in Tomorrowland. Instead, it was about a journey to find our way into Tomorrowland… which had inexplicably fallen apart. I love the look of Tomorrowland… and really wanted the entirety of the movie to be set in Tomorrowland. It’s a shame that we couldn’t spend more time there. My own expectations aside, the movie was just okay. I wish that it was better.
- The Fantastic Four – The first two acts of this were fantastic. Better than the other two Fantastic Four movies. The third act was where it fell apart. The end battle with Dr. Doom was not what it should have been. It was fast and very weak. Plus, it seems that Fox has cancelled the sequel to this film. That’s a bit of a shame because the cast was great.
- Disneynature’s Monkey Kingdom – My wife doesn’t really like monkeys so we wound up skipping this one. We’ll definitely be checking out Disneynature’s Born in China this year, though.
- Terminator Genisys – I meant to see this one, and I still want to. I hear a variety of things about this, both positive and negative, but until I see it for myself, I won’t know the truth.
- Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – This was the first Mission: Impossible that I missed on the big screen. I hope to see it soon. So far, only 3 and 4 are any good, so I’m hoping that this fifth one continues that.
- The Visit – I don’t like when M. Night Shyamalan does straight up horror, so I intentionally skipped this one in theaters. I’ll watch it at home, but I don’t have very high hopes. I’m really looking forward to another great thriller from him.
- Everest – This looked interesting, but I’m not sure if I’ll be seeing this anytime soon.
Not on my radar / simply haven’t seen /
couldn’t be bothered Furious 7(Haven’t seen any of the others, why start now?) Minions(…)
- The Martian (Hear it was better than Interstellar, which isn’t saying much. Maybe will see it. Maybe not.)
Spectre(I’ve not really seen much Bond. At all.)
- San Andreas (I like this kind of movie, so I’ll be watching this soon. Picked up the Blu-ray on sale.)
Mad Max: Fury Road(Not a fan.)
- Creed (Curious about this. Maybe someday.)
- Taken 3 (haven’t seen any of them)
- Maze Runner 2 (haven’t seen Maze Runner 1)
- Paddington (Hear it was great. I’ll be watching this soon.)
- Bridge of Spies (Spielberg. I’ll be watching this soon-ish.)
- Ex Machina (Been hearing people talk highly of this. Has two cast members from the best movie of the year.)
- Shaun the Sheep Movie (Love Wallace and Gromit… this is a spin off.)
- Divergent: Insurgent (Series feels like a Hunger Games light.. probably will see this one someday.)