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Films of 2015


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Infinitely Polar Bear (2014) directed by Maya Forbes had a film festival run in 2014 but was released publicly in the U.S. in 2015.  It is about a mixed-raced marriage with kids.  To compound this, the husband played by Mark Ruffalo is bipolar (get it).  To me the film comes across as one forced little set piece after another.  It seems for the most part like I was watching the actors in work shop trying to develop their characters.  I suppose this is a result of the film's writing technique which left me completely disinterested.  

 

Mia Madre (2015) directed by Nanni Moretti.  Moretti is too much of a poser for me.  Like his other films, I found Mia Madre to be self absorbed and overly dramatic.  Even John Turturro is wasted in this.

 

I felt like I was watching actors at work, not characters in a film in both of these movies.

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The Martian (2015) directed by Ridley Scott.  A corny disappointment.

That's a shame. I was looking forward to it, although I was a little leery. The ads 1) seemed to show the whole story, and 2) reminded me a lot of GRAVITY, which was a major disappointment. I don't do 3D, and 90 percent of that movie's appeal was apparently the 3D immersion.

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I mainly see genre films in the theater, so here's my limited and uninspiring theatrical report card :

 

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD as I previously stated is far and away the best for me this year, and that was without the 3D gimmick.

 

JURASSIC WORLD and SAN ANDREAS were inoffensive popcorn fare, but not exceptional in any way.

 

SPY had it's moments of hilarity, including a surprising, scene-stealing performance by Jason Statham, but I wouldn't go out of my way to see it.

 

THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON was disappointing, the first real misstep from Marvel films, imho.

 

EX MACHINA got a lot of positive press, but I found it routine and very predictable. Maybe I've seen and read too much SF in my life. The performances were good, though.

 

MAGGIE tried to give a new spin on the zombie genre, and Arnold Schwarzenegger gave what may be the most subtle, mature performance of his career, but the movie never quite clicked, so I can't really recommend it.

 

TAKEN 3 was a passable but unmemorable entry in the action genre.

 

POLTERGEIST, INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3, TERMINATOR: GENISYS and THE VISIT were all garbage.

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A few months ago, I posted a list of 10 terrific films I had seen this year on this thread. I'd like to add two more:

 

1) SPOTLIGHT - A behind-the-scenes look at how the special supplement of the Boston Globe brought to light in the early years of this century not only the Catholic Church sex scandal in that city - which was certainly awful enough - but also the systemic cover-up that just moved priests around and never really addressed the problem. This was a cover-up participated in by all segments of society: not only the church itself but also the police, the city government, the attorneys and the judicial system, parents and other family members of victims and, as we find out late in the movie, even the media itself. The outrage of this scandal is hard to wrap one's head around, but if it's the right word to use, I found the presentation of the daily grind of the small team of investigative reporters very enjoyable. If you liked ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, I think you'll enjoy this one.

 

2) BROOKLYN - A nice, gentle period piece set in both the titular city and in Ireland in the early '50s, opening my eyes to a slice of life of which I was completely unaware - the migration of many young single Irish women with few or no employment prospects in their homeland to Brooklyn, where living situations in boarding houses and opportunities for work, usually as salesladies in department stores, awaited them. The Catholic Church helped arrange many of these moves - they get presented in a much more sympathetic light in this movie! I don't know that there's a tremendous amount of depth to this movie: it's a plot we might have seen in the '30s, when there were many more female-centric films than there are now. A pretty but sensible Irish immigrant has to choose between a handsome suitor in the New World or a handsome suitor she encounters when a family tragedy forces her to return home - she thinks temporarily, at first, but becomes more unsure. So, the plot is a little thin, but it's absolutely gorgeous to look at, and there are many nice character moments that really show what life must have been like at that time.

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Wim Wenders has taken a page out of fellow countryman Werner Herzog's book by turning to the documentary with his latest, The Salt of the Earth (2014) which was released theatrically in the US in 2015.

 

It is a terrific look at the life and work of Brazilian born still photographer, Sebastiao Salgado.  Film is a great medium to take a close comprehensive look at still photography.  See this film and you will see what I mean.

 

At times Wenders uses a technique similar to one employed in H.G. Clouzot's The Mystery of Picasso (1956) where we see the artist, or in this case the photographer literally right behind his own work.

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It appears that the 2015-2016 awards season has officially begun. Here are the nominations for the annual Film Independent Spirit Awards. The event, which honors the best in independently produced motion pictures, is traditionally held the day before the Academy Awards ceremony. 

 

http://deadline.com/2015/11/film-independent-spirit-award-nominations-announced-live-1201637064/

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Also of note: Entertainment Weekly has named 25-year-old Jennifer Lawrence its Entertainer of the Year. Lawrence has starred as the futuristic heroine Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games" (2012) and its three sequels. The concluding installment -- "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2" -- is now in theaters. In August, Forbes magazine declared her the World's Highest Paid Actress for 2015 with reported earnings of $52 million.

 

 

 

On January 16, 2014, Lawrence, then 24, became the youngest person in history to receive three Academy Award nominations for acting. She was honored with three Oscar nods in four years:

  • Best Actress 2010 ("Winter's Bone").
  • Best Actress 2012 ("Silver Linings Playbook"). WON. 
  • Best Supporting Actress 2013 ("American Hustle").

 

http://www.ew.com/article/2015/11/24/ew-entertainer-year-jennifer-lawrence

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Fred asked in another thread why there aren't many or any big-time stars like there were in Hollywood's Golden Age. Jennifer Lawrence is certainly the biggest female star going right now and maybe the biggest star period. Post WINTER'S BONE, she's limited herself strictly to HUNGER GAMES movies, X-MEN movies and David O. Russell movies (there was a horror remake that I think was filmed before HUNGER GAMES, shelved, but then rushed out to theaters after the other film's success), but that strategy seems to be paying off. The epic sweep of the JOY trailers seem to indicate that she's being pushed hard for yet another Oscar nomination.

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Fred asked in another thread why there aren't many or any big-time stars like there were in Hollywood's Golden Age. Jennifer Lawrence is certainly the biggest female star going right now and maybe the biggest star period. Post WINTER'S BONE, she's limited herself strictly to HUNGER GAMES movies, X-MEN movies and David O. Russell movies (there was a horror remake that I think was filmed before HUNGER GAMES, shelved, but then rushed out to theaters after the other film's success), but that strategy seems to be paying off. The epic sweep of the JOY trailers seem to indicate that she's being pushed hard for yet another Oscar nomination.

 

She's the latest in a long line of incredible success stories in the movies. I remember watching her play the teen daughter on "The Bill Engvall Show." The half-hour television sitcom ran on TBS from 2007 to 2009. There's no way anyone could have guessed she'd have an Oscar and be making $52 million a year by the age of 25.

 

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Mr. Holmes (2015) directed by Bill Condon and starring Ian McKellen and Laura Linney.  I was looking forward to this reunion between the Gods and Monsters (1998) director, Condon and star, McKellen.

Like many a period BBC drama this has great settings, costumes and faultless acting.  But that is where it ended for me.  I found the first 45 minutes so devoid of intrigue or story I was almost falling asleep.  That may account for my inability to piece together bits of the plot that I thought were an absolute mess.  Mrs. Bogie, who is a great fan of the genre and Poirots liked the film a lot but when I pumped her to recall details of why this and that happened even she was at a bit of a loss.

It might be worth another shot a few years from now and I wouldn't want to discourage others from giving it a chance.  It is certainly well mounted.

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Room (2015) directed by Larry Abrahamson concerns a young woman, played very well by Brie Larson who has been held hostage in a suburban garden shed for seven years.  She has had a son born into this captivity who knows nothing of the outside world.  So, in this case the film has shades of Herzog's The Enigma of Kasper Hauser (1974) and Truffaut's Wild Child (1970).

Joan Allen adds to her list of stellar film performances as the girl's mother.

And Room was shot in Toronto.  Recommended.

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"Spotlight" is by far one the best movies I've seen in a long while.  No cheap tricks. No overuse of music.  A slow burn that builds organically in the style of many of the classic movies we all love.  Acting is stellar all the way around.  The only part that didn't play for me was the desaturated, bleach bypass look.  I get it that the director and DP wanted to make us sense the drabness of a newspaper office and that perhaps the material didn't deserve a full Technicolor treatment, but I didn't think it was necessary.

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"Spotlight" is by far one the best movies I've seen in a long while.  No cheap tricks. No overuse of music.  A slow burn that builds organically in the style of many of the classic movies we all love.  Acting is stellar all the way around.  The only part that didn't play for me was the desaturated, bleach bypass look.  I get it that the director and DP wanted to make us sense the drabness of a newspaper office and that perhaps the material didn't deserve a full Technicolor treatment, but I didn't think it was necessary.

I loved this film in every way and think it is right up there with "All The Presidents' Men" in terms of one of the best movies ever about reporters. In fact, I expect it to be on a ton of "Best Movies of 2015" lists. I've got to admit, the "look" didn't bother me at all. Actually, the exteriors were artfully shot and the newspaper office  --- well, it looked like a not-too-stylish (read: realistic) newspaper office to me.

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Room (2015) directed by Larry Abrahamson concerns a young woman, played very well by Brie Larson who has been held hostage in a suburban garden shed for seven years.  She has had a son born into this captivity who knows nothing of the outside world.  So, in this case the film has shades of Herzog's The Enigma of Kasper Hauser (1974) and Truffaut's Wild Child (1970).

Joan Allen adds to her list of stellar film performances as the girl's mother.

And Room was shot in Toronto.  Recommended.

 

A friend of mine previously brought this movie to my attention.

Thanks, Bogie, for reminding me about it

 

I believe ROOM is based on a novel, but there have been stories in the news relatively recently about women in real life who escaped similar long-term hostage situations.

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Watch: Leonardo DiCaprio Fights Through Blood, Sweat and Tears in Grueling 'The Revenant' Trailer

 

The wilderness epic from Alejandro G. Iñárritu opens in select theaters December 25.
 
 

& while I'm not a particular fan, here's....

 

http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/lists/leonardo-dicaprios-movies-ranked-worst-to-best-20151130

DiCaprio's Movies, Ranked Worst to Best

 

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A friend of mine previously brought this movie to my attention.

Thanks, Bogie, for reminding me about it

 

I believe ROOM is based on a novel, but there have been stories in the news relatively recently about women in real life who escaped similar long-term hostage situations.

Room is a must-see for me. Brie Larson was excellent in Short Term 12, and now she and the movie have been getting good reviews.

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A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014) is the second film that I have seen by Swedish director, Roy Andersson.  You, the Living (2007) being the other one. I have liked them both.

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch did the film festival circuit in 2014 but has had its theatrical release this year.

It is like watching a Nordic, Wes Andersson film on steroids.  The images are like hyper-real paintings and the humour is very, very dry.

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My spouse and friends liked SPECTRE better than I did. Lots of good set pieces, but to my mind no rhythm or flow, and that seems to be a problem of the writing and directing as well as the editing. It's thirty or forty minutes too long, and I thought it was going to end four or five times before it actually did.

 

On the plus side, the opening sequence is brilliant, including a long continuous shot that has the wow factor. I did like Daniel Craig better than in his previous Bond outings. The women are attractive, no surprise; Naomie Harris makes an adorable Moneypenny. A friend of ours needs to see the film just for the shot of the Rolls Royce Silver Wraith which appears in the desert.

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Here's an early look at the Oscars race for Best Supporting Actress with Rooney Mara of "Carol" in the lead. But shouldn't she be in the Best Actress race with co-star Cate Blanchett?

 

 

http://variety.com/2015/film/awards/oscar-odds-rooney-mara-leads-supporting-actress-race-1201649012/

That's typical of a production bending the rules to ensure that a) its stars are not competing against one another and b that a lead actor who would never win a lead Oscar gets a damn good shot at a supporting Oscar because the size of their part is likely to overwhelm the competition.

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The National Board of Review today selected "Mad Max: Fury Road" as its Best Picture of 2015. The futuristic action picture, which stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, is a continuation of the action series begun 36 years ago by Australian director George Miller. Hardy took over the title role played by Mel Gibson in "Mad Max" (1979), "The Road Warrior" (1982) and "Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome" (1985).

 

 

Meanwhile, the film organization named Sylvester Stallone the year's Best Supporting Actor for reprising the role of former heavyweight boxing champ Rocky Balboa in "Creed." Could this lead to some Oscar love for Sly almost 40 years after "Rocky" won the Academy Award for Best Picture?

 

 

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/national-board-review-2015-winners-844862

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The National Board of Review today selected "Mad Max: Fury Road" as its Best Picture of 2015. The futuristic action picture, which stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, is a continuation of the action series begun 36 years ago by Australian director George Miller. Hardy took over the title role played by Mel Gibson in "Mad Max" (1979), "The Road Warrior" (1982) and "Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome" (1985).

 

 

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/national-board-review-2015-winners-844862

Haha, yes! I love it.

 

From what I've read, I thought it would be SPOTLIGHT or THE REVENANT. But FURY ROAD was a lot of fun.

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The National Board of Review today selected "Mad Max: Fury Road" as its Best Picture of 2015. 

 

Wow.  And Matt Damon for Best Actor for The Martian.  I didn't think Damon's performance was anything to write home about but I suppose it was one of those where he is just about the only person in the film so you better think about giving him an award.  Cynical me.

I believe I wrote that I was disappointed by Mad Max.  I have to confess that I did not see it in the cinema in all its 3D glory with heart-pounding sound.

A mate who worked on it in Australia in post pointed out that it really did not have much of a story.  They spend the first two thirds of the movie driving one way and the then turn around and go back the way the came for the rest of the movie.   :D

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