Monday, January 4, 2016

Five best movies of 2015...

Happy New Year! Now that all the festivities and celebrations are behind us, I've finally had a moment to reflect on my favourite films from last year. Once again I was fortunate to see a great many movies on the big screen, enjoying 34 original films in total (and even watching some of them multiple times at the cinema). Here are my top five picks for 2015.

Brooklyn movie poster
First up is the wonderful Brooklyn. Set in the early 1950s, this charming movie is about a young Irish woman who leaves behind her beloved sister and mother for a new life in America, in the titular New York borough of Brooklyn. In the film she has to choose between two loves and two very different worlds and futures.

You know that when you're sobbing ten minutes into a movie that it's going to have a fundamental impact on you. I've enjoyed Saoirse Ronan in the likes of Atonement, Hanna and The Grand Budapest Hotel before, but in Brooklyn she is truly magnificent and is able to convey so much just with her face and her eyes.
Brooklyn film poster
Obviously it helps when the director (John Crowley) knows when to let an actress act and emote, plus when the production vales, pacing, sets, costumes and ensemble cast transport you effortlessly to the time period and the differing worlds of Ireland and Brooklyn.

Maybe having gone through the immigration process myself, I understand the emotions she was feeling (believe me, approaching an immigration desk and the welcome in the U.S. hasn't changed much in 60 years), but this was a beautiful film, wonderfully acted and emotionally powerful. Fingers crossed that Saoirse and the film gets the recognition it deserves this awards season.

Ex_Machina movie poster
From a drama set in the past to a film set in the near future, Ex_Machina. This slice of science fiction was another quiet film, compared to other futuristic movies in 2015, but no less compelling, maybe emote so for its focus on its core, haunting premise.

This was novelist, Alex Garland's directorial debut, and it's pretty impressive (he also wrote it). Plus the small cast is amazing, with Domhnall Gleeson's young programmer character chosen to participate in an artificial intelligence experiment by his reclusive wunderkind tech pioneer boss (Oscar Isaac) in a remote location.
Ex_Machina film poster
The A.I. comes in the form of the beautiful and robotic Alicia Vikander (more on her later) and their interactions as he evaluates her is mostly what makes the movie so compelling (although Oscar Isaac's creepy dance to Oliver Cheatham's 'Get Down Saturday Night' is a must-see moment).

This was such an underrated film and I'm glad I took the time to see it on the big screen (although I thought the very last moments of the film were unnecessary and a bit cheesy 'Hollywood', I would have ended in a few minutes earlier).

The Danish Girl movie costume exhibit
Another favourite of mine from last year was The Danish Girl, also set in the past, in 1920s Copenhagen, Paris and Germany I believe. It's been a great year for LGBT films at the box office and the transgender themes of this movie have never been more timely.

Following Eddie Redmayne's Oscar-winning role as 'Stephen Hawking' in The Theory of Everything expectations were high for his performance as 'Lily Elbe', one of the first men to undergo gender reassignment surgery. I'd heard reviews that suggested Alicia Vikander playing his wife was fabulous, but he was not as memorable. I have to say I thought they both were remarkable, as individuals and especially their connection together on screen.
Danish Girl film costumes
Their remarkable story is lovingly told (never salaciously), the costumes lavish, the cinematography gorgeous and it's another film which made me cry last year, but that's really down to the totally believable performances.

If you're also a fan of the film, be sure to take  closer look at these Sandy Powell designed movie costumes from The Danish Girl on display around L.A.

Spotlight movie billboard
How do you make a film about investigative journalism about child molestation and a worldwide coverup in the Catholic Church watchable? Spotlight is how.

The true story of the Boston Globe's team of reporters who investigated allegations about abuse in the Catholic Church is in a word, riveting. There are no car chases, people trying to kill them or other shenanigans that Hollywood normally shoehorns into a film of this nature to make it more exciting, it's just methodical and intriguing, with amazing performances by the ensemble cast (although there's one scene with Mark Ruffalo that's just so compelling that it catapults him head and shoulders above everyone else).
Spotlight movie poster
I was captivated from beginning to end (especially already knowing the outcome), so much so that I really didn't want the film to end. I could have watched them all pouring over articles and doing research for another couple of hours to be honest (or maybe it's a sign that the film was the perfect length). Watch this movie, it's a revelation in more ways than one.

Star Wars Force Awakens Kylo Ren billboard
And finally my fifth choice this year should be no surprise. I've watched this box office smash three times already and would gladly watch again as I see something new every time I see it.

George Lucas, bless him, officially ruined my fondness for Star Wars after fiddling with the special edition original trilogy and then concocting the juvenile Episodes I-III (it made me feel validated for selling my Star Wars figure collection to help get me through University).

Fortunately The Force Awakens has restored my faith in this epic saga set in a galaxy far, far away. Where to start? I absolutely love the lead character is a kick-ass female and Daisy Ridley's 'Rey' is a joy to watch. Her on screen chemistry with John Boyega is wonderful and they don't seem at all intimidated acting opposite Harrison Ford's 'Han Solo'.

The film is full of nostalgia, levity and a whole bevy of new surprises, plus what I love the most is when you're watching the movie at the cinema the audience reaction to characters appearing on screen, or saying some dialogue or something cool, is really joyful and infectious, really making the viewing experience all the more enjoyable. Let's just say I'm hooked again.
Star Wars Force Awakens Rey billboard
If you're a fan of the new film, be sure to check out all these cool costumes and props from Star Wars: The Force Awakens on display.

Some of the films I also loved this year included Trainwreck (which really made me respect and love Amy Schumer's comedy, writing and acting skills), Pitch Perfect 2 (which was just sheer feel-good joy and fun from start to finish) and Marvel's Ant-Man (the diminutive hero was the perfect antidote to the blockbuster scale of the Avengers sequel and really so funny).

Be sure to take a look at my favourite movies from 2014 and stay tuned for my five worst films of 2015 too...

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