It’s been a whirlwind of a year for the world of film, cinema and of course those ushers. As with every year we’ve had surprises, upsets and loads of films nobody went to see. We’ve seen the highs of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and witnessed the lows of Transporter: Refuelled, though as we are at the finish line of a strong 2015 we look back on our favourite films of this year. (NB, one of our team only managed to see about 13 new releases this year, so his choices were slightly restricted shall we say, and as we reside in the UK, some of the films we get late…)
So, here we go…
10. Whiplash (Dir. Damien Chazelle)
Dan: Every element of Whiplash combined together perfectly, like an in-sync orchestra playing off each other to create a piece of work that is just beautiful. The film came out of nowhere and blew my socks off. The acting was scintillating from both J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller, the latter did not receive anywhere near as much credit as he should have for being part of that double act. The direction was great and the music was sublime. It’s a crying shame more people did not go to see this because it is a near flawless piece of art and film-making.
Teller plays Andrew, a young aspiring musician who enrolls at a music conservatory to play the drums. J.K. Simmons is Fletcher, an unorthodox teacher who will take any means necessary to create greatness for a genre of music he dearly loves. Andrew and Fletcher begin to work together, both realising the others potential but constantly clashing with each other on the path to achieving greatness. Just watch it, the end sequence alone is pure intensity, and there is not a gun or superhero in sight.
9. Inside Out (Dir. Pete Doctor, Ronnie Del Carmen)
Dave: There was a time when I would not even give a Disney/Pixar or any animated film for that matter, the time of day let alone have it feature in my Top 10, but times change. This is a return to form in every way for the studio that used to lead the way. After a few missteps Pixar re-discovered its heart, with this colouful, beautiful, thoughtful and moving piece.
The intriguing premise that every person is controlled by a set of dominant emotions is a strange one for ‘kids’ film, but we all know Pixar is about so much more than that. I watched this film with my 3-year-old and we both loved it, for very different reasons. For her, it was all about Joy (as perfect as a vocal performance can get by Amy Poehler) and the bright colours and for me, it was about the emotional journey. You can’t have Joy without Sadness, fear is there to keep you safe, anger can be healthy when controlled (I have been saying that for years) and disgust keeps us from embarrassing ourselves too much. I hold this in my top 5 Pixar films so far, and as I take a sip from my Anger coffee mug (a birthday present from the child) I am thankful to her for introducing me to this wonderful animated world.
This is a beautiful, emotional journey that my family will enjoy for years to come. Wonderful
8. Ant-Man (Dir. Peyton Reed)
Welshy: A very strong film, especially when released directly after Age of Ultron. This film was funny, action packed with a really enjoyable story. It was Marvel going back to an origin story and doing everything right. Paul Rudd was superb as Scott Lang. He was so believable as down on his luck ex con and wash out father. Yet he could also bring the heroics when called for.
It helped that he had strong support in the form of Michael Douglas and Michael Pena; as mentor and sidekick respectively. As well as Bobby Cannavale and Judy Greer, who show its quality not quantity in small supporting roles as new husband and Scott’s ex-wife. They all elevate Rudd to the necessary level of hero. Evangeline Lilly, whom I think is talented but chooses bad roles was made for this, it shows her dramatic range n something where she is not just emotional love longing (Hobbit) or pogo whore (Lost). The chemistry and interplay between the characters is fabulous. If marvel can still pull films like this out of the bag, I look forward to Phase Three; Dr Strange, Black Panther and Captain Marvel.
7. Avengers: Age of Ultron (Dir. Joss Whedon)
Welshy: An incredible sequel to one of the cornerstone of Modern cinema, mainly the Blockbuster movie. All the action was intensified, our character’s were even more developed than previous outings, they had grown as a team and were facing new threat. Joss Whedon does ensemble like nobody else. He is able to tease out story while never compromising action, character or comedy. He even threw two more heroes into the mix. Aaron Taylor and Elizabeth Olsen fitted perfectly as The Maximoff twins Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. Loved how they skirted the mutant issue.
The story sees our heroes facing a rogue robot with artificial intelligence and a real plan for the world. Since this was a creation of Tony and Bruce, alongside the fighting we see some ethical tension rising between the group (Civil Waaaar people). This is Ultron, voiced by James Spader, who may I say is hilarious, sinister, sleazy and megalomaniac all at the same time. Ultron was a very good choice for part two of this heroic epic as one of the more famous Avenger villains.
The ending is also very clever, providing some changes to the roster ready for the next go around and proving that marvel is building a world. They are going from strength to strength and I cannot wait to see what comes next.
6. Ex Machina (Dir. Alex Garland)
Dan: Science Fiction is a great genre for expansive space operas, with many successful blockbusters using the genre. However smaller Sci-fi fare can be just as good, if not better than it’s bigger budget brethren. Ex Machina is one of those. Released in January in the UK, Alex Garlands directorial debut is a brilliant, self contained film that explores a multitude of modern, and relevant, themes against a character study of three very different roles.
Caleb (Domhall Gleeson), a young programmer, wins a competition to meet the reclusive genius CEO of his company Nathan (Oscar Isaac). The competition though yields more than a meet and greet, Caleb is invited to take part in a once in a lifetime experiment testing new ground breaking artificial intelligence Ava for it’s human traits.
Alicia Vikander started her stellar year in style with a brilliant performance as Ava, but Domhall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac were just as great in their respective roles. The chemistry between everybody was fantastic, and it makes for some phenomenal performances. It’s unlikely due to the release date but Ex Machina could just as easily appear in some awards categories next year.
5. John Wick (Dir. Chad Stahelski, David Leitch)
Dave: There are times when everything in a film just clicks and from nowhere something comes along that just blows you away. John Wick is that film. A year full of heavy hitters and box office behemoths, this sleeper blows them out the water.
John Wick is an under world legend, not the bogeyman, he is the man you send to kill the bogeyman. He has escaped the life and is grieving for his recently deceased wife. The healing process is aided as he bonds with his dog. However, when a Russian Gangster’s punk son gives him a beating and kills the dog…he unleashed John Wick, once again on the gangland underworld.
This is as thrilling an action film as I have ever seen. Brilliantly shot with a pitch prefect sound track. Littered with top-notch cameos and a central role that Keanu Reeves was born to play. A man of few words and swift action, John Wick lives up to his terrifying reputation. The scene when he tracks his victim in a night club is intense, kinetic and brutally brilliant.
The brilliant tag line was Don’t Set Him Off…sums up the film perfectly, but it seems that no one has learned their lesson as John Wick will return. I, for one, can not wait.
4. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Dir. Alejandro G. Iñárritu)
James: I’m always a bit apprehensive when a film is critically acclaimed. I’ve seen enough of the type of Oscar-bait performances that come along every November. A film about a washed-up actor and his drug addict daughter? I want to be entertained when I watch a film. Luckily, Birdman entertained the heck out of me.
Birdman is the story of an actor trying to relaunch his career by a writing, directing, and starring in a Broadway production of a Raymond Carver play. Michael Keaton is brilliant as the former star of Birdman, Edward Norton is brilliant as the lead actor in the play dedicated to his craft, Lindsay Duncan is brilliant as the critic with a hatred of Hollywood… do you see a pattern? Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone, Andrea Risenborough, Amy Ryan, the list goes on, just a series of well pitched performances. The soundtrack is just so good as well, jazz drumming has never sounded as great. And finally, the original conceit of the film – the one continuous take. A truly remarkable piece of film making.
But it is so much more than just a cinematic exercise. Birdman is a fantastic black comedy. You care about every character and aspect of the film – you want Keaton’s Riggan to get the approval he needs, you want the play to be a success (or just that they make it to opening night).
Birdman is a fantastic piece of film making that also just happens to be an engaging, entertaining film. See it if you haven’t already!
3. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Dir. Christopher McQuarrie)
Dave: I adore this franchise, and this was behind only Star Wars on my 2015 must see list. Due the demands of work, parenthood, and general just not getting a minute-ness, I actually missed this at the cinema. Needless to say it was at the very top of my Christmas list. As I loaded the film in the blu ray player, I started to worry, have I built this up too much? Am I going to be disappointed? I know the other Ushers loved it, but this is one of my favourite franchises…
I needed have worried. It was everything I wanted it to be, and this series of films is just growing from strength to strength. Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is the focal point as always, but with this entry they seem to have hit on his perfect IM Force. Simon Pegg is back as Benji Dunn, tech support and comic relief, back too is Jeremy Renner’s Brandt, brings a real edge to the guy in a suit role, best of all though is the return to active duty of Ving Rhames’ Luther Stickle, Ethan’s right hand man from the first 3 movies was reduced to a cameo in part 4 is back with much more to do here and with the addition of Alec Baldwin, this series shows no signs of slowing down.
The film itself is great fun. From the opening scene with Cruise hanging off a plane, mid take off we are in a world where outrageous stunts and crazy global conspiracies are common place, and simply placing a mask on your face makes you become another person, regardless of height and weight. This is world that knows its crazy and everything is done with its tongue in its cheek and a real sense of adventure. Christopher McQuarrie marshals the action very well here, building on the reputation he started with Jack Reacher is 2014.
This was my favourite film of the year, no question.
2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Dir. J.J. Abrams)
Welshy: The Force Awakens is a beautiful movie, masterfully blending the special and practical effects of the modern era, taking advantage of both cutting edge CGI and the puppetry that made the original films so memorable. It has everything you want from a Star Wars movie. Actually to be clear, everything we have been waiting for from a star wars movie.
What makes the force awakens sooooo good is, even after the light and bright of Return of the Jedi, and the defeat of the Empire. Darkness still reigns. The rebels fights on, the Jedi, while back, as of yet, have only served to increase the problems of the galaxy, Luke is a hermit, Solo is back to the old ways. Our great heroes have fallen from grace. Or, at the very least, they’ve revealed themselves to be only human after all. Far from riding off into the sunset, all they’ve found is night.
This is why everyone loves The Force Awakens, whether they can put their finger on it or not. This chapter is about hope. One reason it mirrors A New Hope so much is because it picks up in a similar conflict, on the backs of broken dreams and defeat, and introduces hope once again. It could have been called Hope Awakens.
Our old heroes may have stumbled, but new heroes have taken up the lightsaber. Darkness may have rallied, and the force of evil may be more powerful than ever now, but so is the Force. In Rey, Poe and Finn. We have heroes who take up that mantle from those who are sadly too old. The young crowd outstrip the old both in talent and style. The three main heroes are each distinctive, lovable and determined. It is superb casting and everything works. I am gagging for Episode VIII. Role on 2017.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road (Dir. George Miller)
James: I can’t believe how good this film was.
Like, I really, really can’t believe just how good this film was. I would rank it up alongside Die Hard as one of the best action films ever. Ever. Tom Hardy slips into the role originated by Mel Gibson who helps Charlize Theron (fantastic as Imperator Furiosa) escape from Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). He launches an army of War Boys (including Nicholas Hoult as the sickly Nux is the one who uses Max as a bloodbag) after the escapees, and we are treated to an extended car chase that is unlike anything you will see again.
There really isn’t much I need to add, the film is great. It looks beautiful, both the landscapes and the vehicles. There is so much much love and attention to detail. The performances are great across the board, despite the lack of dialogue at times for the two lead characters, Hardy and Theron are magnificent. This is a fantastic story of survival and redemption that will stick with you for a long time. A deserved number 1.
What a lovely day!
So there we have it, our Top 10 films of 2015. There were many that just missed out on the cut, and some we just plain did not get the time to see but we hope you find some decent films in the list. Want to know what we voted for individually check out our ranking below!!
Dan’s Top 10
- Whiplash 2. Birdman 3. Macbeth 4. Sicario 5. Ex Machina 6. John Wick 7. Mad Max: Fury Road 8. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation 9. Jurassic World 10. The Gift
Dave’s Top 10
- Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation 2. Mad Max: Fury Road 3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens 4. Jurassic World 5. John Wick 6. Ant-Man 7. Inside Out 8. Spectre 9. Avengers: Age of Ultron 10. Fast 7
James’s Top 10
- Mad Max: Fury Road 2. Birdman 3. Kingsman 4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens 5. Inside Out 6. John Wick 7. Spectre 8. Shaun the Sheep 9. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation 10. Bridge of Spies
Welshy’s Top 10
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens 2. Avengers: Age of Ultron 3. Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation 4. Ex Machina 5. Ant-Man 6. Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse 7. Mad Max: Fury Road 8. The Assassin 9. The Man From U.N.C.L.E 10. Man Up