Top 20 of 2015: 5-1

5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Force Awakens 2

“Driver’s Kylo Ren is an interesting villain that in some ways doesn’t measure up to what is maybe expected from the lead villain in a film this big, but I think it positions him well as a character over the arc of the trilogy.  I’m invested in Boyega as Finn.  I wish there was more Oscar Isaac, but I can always use more Oscar Isaac in anything he’s in.  And Daisy Ridley’s Rey is the cherry on top of the sundae that has been a fantastic year of female roles in 2015.  The action is also expertly done.  The dogfights between X-Wings and Tie-Fighters evoke the best of both the Original Trilogy and the Prequels.  And the lightsaber fights are more grounded in reality and less in special effects jumping around than in the Prequels.  While it was cool to see Yoda jumping around like a whirling dervish, there is none of that here.”

4. Inside Out
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.”

3. Mad Max: Fury Road
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.”

2. Ex Machina
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.

The film deals with a lot of questions surrounding artificial intelligence, including the ethics that going into creating a consciousness and the potential for abusing that power.  The film strikes a good balance of giving us just enough of the “science” to make it seem plausible in how the A.I. was created.  Not only that, but the way that A.I. is created and potentially integrated with the world feels like how it could actually happen in real life, as opposed to the A.I. in The Terminator or The Matrix.”


“The three main leads give great performances.  Brolin comes across a cocksure government spook who thinks he can do anything he wants; slightly arrogant, but also knows exactly what he’s doing.  He knows the bigger picture, he has the objective, and Kate ends up being an important piece that he needs to see things through in his attempt to “dramatically overeat.”  The two standouts, though, are Blunt and Del Toro.  Blunt is perfect for the role, a woman who can effectively pull of the role of a tough female character infiltrating a testosterone-filled, all-boys club environment.  Her toughness, tied to her moral certainty, is slowly peeled away and she ends up being almost completely exposed and undone by the end, her moral compass unwillingly tossed into the trash.  Early on, after a shower, she looks in her foggy bathroom mirror, cleans the mirror, but her reflection from our vantage point is still clouded.  She is our entry point into this muddy, compromised world that they’re operating in.  And there is a sense of futility to her attempts to do the right thing.  Del Toro is a quiet presence, almost lurking in the shadows like a ghost until being given the chance to jump to the foreground at the end of the film.  His character doesn’t say much, and his back story is mysterious, though it is slowly brought into focus.”


  1. What a fantastic list! I was talking with a colleague earlier about how great Ex Machina is on a second viewing. You experience the events through Oscar Isaac’s eyes this time round. Great post! Do you ever share these types of things on any movie sites?


    Liked by 1 person

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