Top Five of 2015 (So Far)

What We Do In The Shadows

5. What We Do In The Shadows

The variety of vampire humor mixed with the mundane and unglamorous is where the film really finds its laughs.  Nick can’t get over how cool it is to fly, even if he is terrible at it and it is easier to just use the door, because why use the door when you can fly?  The ability to morph into different creatures results in a hilarious bat fight between two characters.  The bad blood that exists between vampires and werewolves results in some really great moments of taunting between the two groups, especially when the werewolves start to lose their cool and are chastised by their pack leader Anton (Rhys Darby) to remember their mantra “werewolves not swearwolves.”  A quick discussion about the appeal of virgin blood produces one of the funniest lines likely to be uttered in a movie this year.  And there are some great references to classic vampires movies and tropes (hypnosis, silver, sunlight, among other things) that produce great laughs and sight gags.

Inside Out 2

4. Inside Out

At the heart of the film is the idea that all of the emotions are necessary to have a fully functioning human.  Someone controlled (in this case literally) by only Fear, Anger, and Disgust is incomplete.  Only when all five are working together are we able to connect with others.  It’s ok to feel all kinds of emotions.  And it’s as important to our health to share our sadness with others as it can be to share our joy.  This movie does an outstanding job showing that it’s not just the interconnectedness of emotions, but the healthy bond of relationships through shared emotions.  It’s not good to always hold back sadness or even anger.  They all have a purpose.  Try as we might, we can’t simply contain our sadness, something Joy tries to do literally early on.

Mad Max Fury Road

3. Mad Max: Fury Road

Refreshingly, the story here is as bare bones as possible.  There is enough narrative structure to give an impetus for the action, but it is all in service of the action.  And the action is outstanding, with the majority of it taking place on moving vehicles and people jumping from vehicle to vehicle.  The thrill of the chase is a constant driving impulse behind everything, and it serves as a firm foundation that film just builds great action on top of great action on top of it.  There are massive explosions, shootouts between vehicles, War Boys on poles being dropped down onto the War Rig, It’s all impressive and it all works because so much of the action is not reliant upon CGI.  Naturally, there is a fair amount of CGI, but the action itself is grounded in actual people doing actual stunts, as opposed to most superhero movies where some CGI-rendered hero is fighting another CGI-rendered villain against some CGI-backdrop.

It Follows 2

2. It Follows

Writer/director David Robert Mitchell has crafted a haunting movie.  The idea for the story apparently germinated from a recurring nightmare he had as a child, of a mysterious person walking toward him.  That nightmare is effectively conveyed through this film.  There are a lot of horror flicks that will employ a slow-walking monster (a zombie, or a ax-wielding killer maybe), and here it is expertly done.  The film is dripping with this sense of creeping dread that builds and builds throughout the 100 minute runtime.  It stirred up connections to The Ring, Halloween, and even Invasion of the Body Snatchers for me.

Ex Machina 2

1. Ex Machina

Ava is another fine addition to the performances of people who have portrayed A.I. before, right up there with HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Roy Batty in Blade Runner, David in Prometheus, and several others.  Vikander plays her with a great balance of wonder and fear; wonder at interacting with her first human being outside of Nathan, fear because she tells Caleb that he cannot trust Nathan and wonders what will happen to her after Caleb’s test is up.  Also, the question of how much Caleb should trust her lingers in the air throughout the movie.

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