Every year around this time, we stop and reflect on the year that has passed. Every year we complain at the lack of original ideas hitting the theaters and how much more prices have risen. It’s easy to complain that the mainstream wide releases are remakes, adaptations from books or sequels. True, and 2016 doesn’t seem to be any different. So this list is of my favourite films for this year 2015.
10) Age of Adeline
Adeline (Blake Lively) has been on the run for 80 years and it’s not because of anything she’s done wrong. After a freak occurrence Adeline is resuscitated by a lightning strike that miraculously prevents her from aging. Unable to explain why she’s alive and unable to age, Adeline maintains a low, loveless profile; that is, until he past catches up with her.
Three college friends retreat to the woods for some much-needed R&R. A barrel of ooze finds it way into a lake, eventually contaminating a beaver dam. The zombified beavers attack everyone lakeside including the girl’s log cabin. I’m a sucker for campy horror films and Zombeavers is the best I’ve seen in a long time. The Richard Cheese inspired song over the end credits is worth the price of admission.
8) Red Army
This eye-opening documentary takes an in-depth look at the other side of the Miracle on Ice teams. Peeking behind the Iron Curtain, we follow the story of Russian hockey star Slava Fetisov from his beginnings in the repressive Soviet Union to his championship reign in Detroit. Fetisov was one of the first players to leave Russia for the NHL, which started the great migration of the 90’s
7) Assassination (South Korea)
This South Korean crime drama set in 1930s China, during the Japanese occupation, see a group of Korean rebels hiding in Manchuria, Northeastern China. The rebels look to assassinate Kawaguchi Mamoru, the governor of the Japanese garrison in Gyeongseong, and Kang In-gook, a pro-Japanese Korean business tycoon. However, there’s a mole in the group and he’s hired the assassin Hawaii Pistol and his sidekick Old Man to kill the team before they complete their mission
Rising through the ranks of the FBI, Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) gets recommended by her boss to assist in a special mission by the mysterious government official Matt Garver (Josh Brolin). As Kate slowly uncovers the truth, she’ll have to choose between following orders, though it goes against her better judgement. A tense thriller throughout, Sicario is a gritty look into the quickly evolving war against the Mexican Cartels.
5) The Martian
Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is stranded on Mars after a windstorm forces the crew to abort the mission and return to Earth. With limited resources Watney has to find a way to survive on the hostile planet. Meanwhile on Earth, NASA is under fire for the presumed death of Watney and its PR team has to deal with the aftermath.
4) Straight Outta Compton
More than the standard tale of rise and fall, Straight Outta Compton is at best a crash course in West Coast hip hop history. At worst, it doesn’t dig deep enough behind the scenes, nor does it paint some of the lowlights as accurately as the highlights of ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Rap Group’: N.W.A. As a long time fan, I was hoping for a more in-depth and equal look at the members of the quintet, yet Straight Outta Compton had more hits than misses. A stellar soundtrack and its cross culture appeal made Straight Outta Compton a household name…again.
The illegitimate son of the late Apollo Creed, Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan) leaves behind his white-collar job to follow his father’s footsteps to the boxing ring. Instead of riding his father’s coattails, Adonis leaves Los Angeles for Philadelphia to coerce former heavyweight champion turned restaurateur, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). More than another edition into the franchise that refuses to retire, Creed breathes new life into the Rocky series; possibly setting up a new series of films.
There’s Ma (Brie Larson) and her 5 year old son (Jacob Tremblay), and the single room that has been their domicile (and prison) since before the son’s birth. While Ma tries to create a pleasant environment for her growing, she constantly plots her escape.
It’s one thing to follow two best buds in a day in the life, where anything and everything will happen. But in Sean Baker’s tale of trans sex worker Sin-Dee (Kiki Kitana Rodriguez) and her best friend and fellow prostitute Alexandra (Mya Taylor), there hasn’t been a more engrossing and moving story this year. Sin-Dee is fresh out of the county jail and on the hunt for the homewrecking ‘Fish’ (look it up) that threatens her relationship with Sin-Dee’s boyfriend and pimp Chester (James Ransone).
To be fair, I realize that some of the early favourites for this award season, such as Joy, The Big Short, Spotlight and The Danish Girl are ineligible for this list, because I couldn’t fit them into the schedule before the year’s end. Other films such as The Revenant, Ip Man 3 and Anomalisa weren’t released in my area before the year’s end. So that’s it, that’s it. Not a great year but, good enough to leave me hopeful for a better 2016.