Moviegoers may well be getting tired of the rehashed superhero film formula, and I'm losing interest myself, but Ant-Man was just different enough to make me care. The plot wasn't anything special, and the characters, although somewhat unique in the Marvel movie universe, weren't my favorite end. I liked the movie a lot, however, because Ant-Man's ability, which was extremely well-executed visually, is a lot of fun to watch. I also adore that the hero's incentive is the wellness of his daughter because it's... well, adorable.
When I saw the trailer for Unfriended, I thought the concept was laughable and didn't take it seriously for one second. Then I had a strong craving for some horror and gave it a go, finding it genuinely unsettling and satisfyingly original. The entire movie is the desktop of a teenager engaged in a video chat with friends. One of their peers, who recently committed suicide, shows up online and all of the clever social media elements that take off from there are a treat, especially the creepy video-buffering distortions as seen above. Best horror film of the year if you ask me.
8. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
Yes, the Scorch Trials has terribly underwhelming writing. I winced at every cliché "what the hell was that!?" and "keep moving!". Still, I enjoyed the overriding plot, minus its cringeworthy moments, and I like the characters as well, cheesy lines aside. The real strength here, however, is the stunning visuals. The ruined city looked amazing and the portrayal of zombies was riveting in comparison with other recent interpretations. Far superior to the prequel for me.
7. Mad Max
Mad Max is crazy. Not a sort of crazy that I was entirely crazy about, but I appreciate its unique visual style all the same. I applaud it first and foremost for the excellent characters, both heroes and villains, that make this movie so entertaining, if not somewhat over-the-top. Mad Max stands out as a perfect example of an action film that doesn't bow down to any formula or expectation.
6. The Martian
The Martian's cast was my favorite part, and it was a huge one. The film did a great job of creating a sweet-sounding harmony between the stories of the lone Martian and his intelligent ramblings, his heartbroken crew floating in space, and the characters back on Earth with all of their politics and debate. The genius behind the film owes itself to the book from which it's derived. Still, the film was just about flawless in execution.
5. Love and Mercy
Love and Mercy, the heart-touching retelling of the life of Brian Wilson, leader of The Beach Boys, is a movie I can intimately relate to. It centers on two periods of Brian's life: the band's peak years where Brian begins to be overwhelmed by the obligations of being a popular creative genius, and decades later when he finds himself again after meeting his wife. The acting is fantastic. The story is endearing. The conflicts are real.
4. Inside Out
Critical acclaim and mega bucks aside, Pixar's recent films haven't intrigued me. Inside Out, on the other hand, is genius. It's story, centered on the enigma that is the human psyche, is one that's extremely hard to tell, but one that needed to be, and Pixar blew me away with how well they did it. It's packed to the brim with the sort of clever jokes I just devoured. Dreaming, imagination, memories, interests, emotions... cohesive, comprehensive, and brilliant.
3. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Here's the hidden gem of 2015, the film I was afraid I wouldn't find: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. It's endlessly quirky and even somewhat nonsensical, but the climax moment was perhaps the single most emotionally-packed moment of my life this year. Moreover, the concluding message left me in silent contemplation for a good thirty minutes after the movie was over. Go watch this movie if you're looking for a fresh take on something that matters.
2. The Avengers: Age of Ultron
Yeah, I know...all that talk of the mediocrity of superhero movies. The Avengers, though... The Avengers are different. My favorite part of storytelling has always been the characters. Put a team of them together and I am there. And Age of Ultron does it so well. Every character has his or her shortcomings and vital moments, throwing away the typical 'I can take on the entire world single handedly' vibe and turning toward a desperate need for cooperation, which is the type of story I crave. That and the two new characters are my favorite.
1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
No surprises here. I'm a fan of both the originals and the prequels and I think our introduction to the third trilogy is a fine union of the former's narrative strength and the latter's visual strength. It has a lot of things I would have asked for: great new characters I can cling to (pictured above), exciting sequences, an expanded look at the Star Wars universe, and even a female lead. Still no massive Jedi battles like I've always wanted, but I'm happy with what we got and I hope it goes on to break all of the records in the weeks ahead.
And your favorites?