Wait up!!!!: since I live in the Netherlands, I haven’t been able to see many of the top acclaimed movies of this year, because most of those have been released in December in the US, meaning that films such as The Hateful Eight, Spotlight, The Big Short, The Revenant, Anomalisa and Room will be released in January, February or even March 2016 in NL. Because of the Academy Awards in February, every year is incredibly back-loaded with most of the best movies pushed together at the end of the year. Consequently, the Dutch top 2015 lists feature movies that actually came out in 2014, such as Birdman and Kingsman: The Secret Service.
My overview is therefore rather lame. It makes no sense to me to talk about Birdman now and I leave it out, but in my Dutch 2015 list, Birdman would rise to the top.
I’ll go from really bad to really good in 5 steps:
- Good! and
- My Top of the Year!
I avoid movies I really have no interest in, who doesn’t? But occasionally I can’t resist a movie that immediately makes me regret wasting my time.
Regrets: Adam Sandler somehow keeps drawing me to his movies and every time I fall for it again. Pixels looked great but the execution was so uninspired that it was insulting. The Ridiculous 6 appealed to me because of the large cast, but the movie had no consistent story and ended up really boring.
Baffling: The same thrown-together feeling was present in Ted 2, which went on for too long, and in Pan, perhaps the most baffling movie released this year. Every choice made in this movie was bad.
Worst: But the worst movie of the year award goes to Mortdecai, the painfully embarrassing Johnny Depp vehicle that fails on all levels, even though the promise was there.
2. Nap time
A movie doesn’t have to be aggressively bad to dislike it. Boring is perhaps even worse, but in a passive way.
Formula work: Some movies land without making any impact and then dissolve from memory, without any sign of artistic inspiration behind them. Minions was that, although the kids loved it, and the Vacation reboot with Ed Helms. Hitman: Agent 47 is the most generic film, so was the disaster movie San Andreas and a couple of cartoons such as The SpongeBob Movie, Dragon Ball Z: resurrection F and Hotel Transylvania 2. Insurgent too was just so forgettable.
Wrong ideas: These are not exactly boring, but more like watching a train crash. I am sad that these movies crashed so hard. Jupiter Ascending wasn’t boring, but it sure was a disaster. Also, Fantastic Four had ideas; they were just the wrong ideas. Terminator Genisys was a confusing mess that failed to tell a coherent story. American Ultra messed up its tones, storylines and characters. All of these films had vision but fell down with burning wings like fallen angels.
3. Decent & mildly interesting
Oh thank god. There is at least some redeeming value in these movies.
Occasionally interesting: The year started with Blomkamp’s Chappie, at times interesting, at times tiring. It Follows was a surprising horror with good atmosphere, but a strange climax. Rogen’s The Night Before was formula-work, but surprised with a heart. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials went too far with the running and set-pieces, but stayed entertaining. Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur ticked too many cliché boxes, but was beautiful to look at.
Needed something more: Turbo Kid was a great post-apocalypse vehicle, but its small budget was too noticeable. Indie film The Final Girls had the same problem, yet was worth it. Spy was ok but typical in its choices, A Walk in the Woods was nice but lacked depth. Animation The Little Prince tried to copy Pixar and went on for too long. Tomorrowland had a lot going for it but couldn’t live up to expectations. Krampus was fun, but too derivative and uneven in the effects.
Good enough, I guess: Jurassic World. Looking back, it lacked vision and connection with the characters. The plot was messy but the nostalgia was strong. Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was stylish and flashy, but again the characters didn’t gel. I’ll also put (gasp) The Peanuts Movie here and Furious 7 and (gasp) Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Sorry, they just seemed a bit childish to me. And The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part 2, it’s entertaining but that melodramatic series really overstayed its welcome.
4. Good material
Alright this is some good stuff.
Good spectacle: Both of Marvel’s mayor releases, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant Man landed on their feet. Avengers was a lumbering giant that almost collapsed under its own weight, and Ant Man almost floated away on lightheartedness, but lots of memorable scenes are to be found in both. Spectre had the spectacle and weight, but not much more than that. Creed made everyone’s heart race, and turned Stallone into a nice grandpa. In the Heart of the Sea offered some captivating visuals of adventure on the high seas.
Good fun: Kingsman: The Secret Service, that James Bond parody that was actually better than James Bond. More fun with Shaun the Sheep Movie, a triumph of stop-motion animation. One could argue that Crimson Peak was fun as well. At least it was beautiful and atmospheric. So was The Walk, quirky at first, tense at the end.
Good drama: The End of the Tour may be one of the most depressive films of the year, it’s inspiring too. Steve Jobs is mostly about exhilarating verbal fights and broken emotional connection. Great acting all around.
5. My top movies of the year
These really make an impact, and will be remembered for years to come.
Hard-hitting: In the hands of accomplished directors, films can be stunningly effective. From Sicario’s bleak, cynical landscape to Spielberg’s more sentimental Bridge of Spies, and the clean and creepy Ex Machina. These films guided us towards finer philosophical questions and deep emotions. Pixar’s Inside Out literally dived inside our brains to deliver a touching parable on emotions, and The Lobster, twisted and brilliant, attacked the expectations around love and relationships.
Grand spectacle: I don’t want to raise up intellectual movies higher than some of the really visual and physical movies. They talk a different language, but their accomplishments can be just as shattering. Star Wars: The Force Awakens successfully returns the SF series to a new generation while pleasing the old crowd. The Martian paints a fascinating picture of being marooned on an empty planet. Mad Max: Fury Road is a masterpiece of visual storytelling with iconic characters and lines.
January, a boring film month in the US, will be spectacular in the Netherlands, and I’ll be playing catch-up with all the movies still missing in this list.
What do you think of 2015 in movies? Were you disappointed with some movies? Were you surprised? Please let me know!