Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: This Year in Movies [that I saw]

I was crazy about movies in 2010, so since then, I've had a tradition of reflecting on all the movies I'd seen each year. But considering the fact I only saw 59 movies this year (watching #59- "Working Girl" -as I write this), maybe I've gotten less crazy about movies and that energy has transferred more to other interests. Not to mention my temp job has kept me pretty busy and I'm still enjoying it very much.

In all honesty, I really don't know where 2015 went and what I really did. All I do know is that I spent more of this year happy than I had a lot of the years that came before it.

With the exception of 2014, of course. Overall, that's still my favorite year in recent history. But 2014 combined with 2015 were definitely better than 2011-2013 where the bright spots were fewer and further between.

Most of the really good movies I saw this year away from the theater, I gave their own review on this blog.
"Inside Llewyn Davis" I did in conjunction with Oscar Isaac's upcoming appearance in the new Star Wars movie. But also because he's steadily becoming one of my favorite actors. [I regret not getting around to see "Ex Machina" when it was in theaters because it's gotten a lot of good reviews- hopefully it'll come to HBO/Max/Showtime soon].

"Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" was one I considered giving its own review and there's still a chance I might. Definitely one of my favorites I saw this year and another sign that I'm a fan of Marilyn's. I still need to see "The Seven-Year Itch" before I can make it official.

Other than that, the other movies I really liked this year that I didn't previously cover were "St. Vincent" and "The Theory of Everything."

St. Vincent had an off-beat sort of humor. Bill Murray just being great as only Bill Murray can be. I loved how they eventually explained the title- showing that his character really has more to him than you see when you first meet him. Meaning he isn't just the grumpy next-door neighbor.

And of course Eddie Redmayne in "Theory of Everything"... just wow! Felicity Jones was great as well. Not a movie you can see too many times because it's dramatic and sometimes a tear-jerker, but definitely worth seeing a couple times.

As I did with last year, I'm going to count my theatrical movies down from worst to first- taking into account my personal grading system but also the overall experience.

12. Mortdecai

*All these months later, my disappointment about it is still very fresh. It got better as it progressed, but there were too many moments of idiocy that the overall product cannot be forgiven. Hopefully the next addition to the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise will restore my hope for Johnny Depp's future.
I saw a headline that read him being voted the year's most overpaid actor... at least I have plenty of earlier fonder memories of him before this bomb.

11. Mockingjay: Part 2

*One year hasn't changed much. "Mockingjay" was my least favorite movie experience last year, most of which was thanks to the final 10 minutes.
This year... I mean, it was a better movie overall than Part 1, but it was still very much a letdown because I loved the first two movies so much. Given the subject matter, I knew it wasn't all going to be sunshine and daisies...
I might get the two movies on DVD for the sake of completion, but there wasn't quite enough for me to enjoy about them from start to finish repetitively. And that's the whole point of owning the DVDs- watching them multiple times.

10. Pixels

*A lot of great 80's pop culture references, but it wasn't quite the nerdgasm I expected it to be. Thanks mostly to Adam Sandler [still on the decline] being involved and the fact that "Wreck-it Ralph" did the transition of video game to film so much better.

9. Minions

*More enjoyable than I thought it was going to be. Lots of funny moments. Saw this with my mom and sister and the three of us had a great day out of it. I paid for the movie and afterwards, my mom paid for us to get ice cream (I got a root beer float).

[From here on, it'll be a little more difficult to pick and choose which movies go where... there were a lot of great movies this year]

8. 50 Shades of Grey

*It might sound crazy, but I really did enjoy this movie. After having mixed feelings about the book and having it test some of my own personal boundaries, it was a good experience. Really got invested in the characters and loved how Anastasia was represented- much stronger than she was in the book (unless I missed some of the subtexts).
Also, this movie gave me two songs I fell in love with this year- "Love me like you do" by Ellie Goulding (had to get it on iTunes) and "Earned it" by The Weeknd (and I'm thinking of getting his album next week for two additional songs that I've heard and enjoyed a lot).
Downside overall... can't really binge watch this movie or watch it in mixed company. Plus the feelings I had while reading the book (not good ones) crept it when I saw the DVD.
Chances are, though, I'll fall right back in love with it the moment I watch it again.
-also put it this low on the list because it would be crazy to put it much higher

7. Insurgent

*I went through my review for this (as I did with all of these prior to this entry). It's the first series I've gotten into since "Twilight" that I really got into from start to finish. The only downside was the final couple chapters of the final book. The sci-fi world overall, I prefer to the Hunger Games. The downgrade comes down to the movie not having much of a plot and the special effects were sometimes overpowering.

6. Avengers: Age of Ultron

*I haven't seen it since the theatrical venture. If I had, maybe I'd have ranked it higher. I enjoyed it, although not quite as much as the previous movie. There was the "language" running gag that felt really forced. And as crazy as it may sound coming from me, the writing for Tony Stark brought it down for me. He didn't get as much time to shine and when the spotlight was on him, the moments detracted from his character- he's inherently flawed anyway, but oddly enough, I took issue with him doing the same stupid move twice. Luckily for everyone, the second A.I. life form he created was the answer to their prayers.
And maybe I don't quite buy Black Widow and the Hulk becoming a couple...
Still a great Marvel movie that I enjoyed quite a bit of, but it wasn't all perfect.

5. Into the Woods

*A great theater experience overall. Really good adaptation of the music, which brings it neck and neck with the version featuring Bernadette Peters.

4. Burnt

*I still don't quite why this didn't do better with the critics and at the box office. One of my favorite movies this year, easily. Bradley Cooper continues to impress me in these dramatic roles. His character is flawed, but I cared enough about him that I stuck through this movie from start to finish. Great action in the kitchen. Didn't quite know what to expect from the characters- lots of great surprises for better and worse.
When the end came, I wanted to see more.

3. The Intern

*My mom and I bonded over this movie. It and "Burnt" had the distinction that I didn't find about them until a few weeks/months before they came out in theaters. And I knew from the trailer that I wanted to see them. Neither disappointed. Again, great characters that we liked spending time with and we almost wished the movie was longer.

2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

*It'd be a little unfair to put this first because I saw it the most recent of all these. Been waiting all year for it and for us, it lived up to the hype. Loved seeing the old characters and getting to know the new ones. Daisy Ridley was bad-ass, John Boyega was funny, Oscar Isaac was just great in all of the few scenes he was in... the list goes on.

1. Jurassic World

*Brought back nostalgia from the original film while telling its own story. Amazing effects and scenery, funny and memorable characters. One of those movies just made to be seen on the silver screen and I almost hated for it to end :P
Just saw it again just now and I still find by my first review- I couldn't find any fault with it.

In Memoriam

We lost a lot of great people this year. Trekkies and nerds lost Leonard Nimoy. Sports fans lost Frank Gifford and Yogi Berra. Music fans lost B.B. King.
Just to name a few.

But there was one person I almost gave their own entry, but couldn't because I only had one movie to go by.

Omar Sharif

I saw "Funny Girl" years ago, but have no memory of it.

I don't know why "Doctor Zhivago" was on my "movies to watch" list, but when I saw the opportunity to watch it on TCM, I took it.
I'll copy/paste some of my comments that I wrote on my other blog

"I knew going in just that “Doctor Zhivago” is this LONG-ass epic movie about the Russian Revolution and it had Omar Sharif in the title role…
I’d only seen him in one other movie… the only thing I remember about “Funny Girl” was that he was a charming, good-looking man… zero memory of the film…

it was definitely nice that there was an overture as well as an intermission… I doubt I’d have been able to handle it as a whole without some sort of break in the middle… it took the pressure off a bit…

other stars included Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin (in, supposedly, her first acting role) and Rod Steiger (I may have seen him around, the name’s familiar but I don’t remember any other roles)…
oh, and there was Obi-Wan Kenobi… Alec Guiness before he was knighted… he was a partial narrator and the half-brother of the title character… 

it took me a little while to kinda figure out what the opening (the rest took place in the past, so I call it a “flash forward”) had to do with the movie… supposedly there was this girl he was telling all about Zhivago, to ask if she remembered her parents… he suspected her to be the love child between Zhivago and Lara (Julie Christie)…

on the plus side, I didn’t feel cheated by the ending (as I did with “Gone with the Wind” but after making it thru this, I think I’ll have a mind open enough to rewatch it… hopefully now that I’m older I can receive it better)… and I didn’t feel the whole thing was for nothing… it was a little tragic…

then again, once the Revolution broke out, a lot of the scenery and the storyline was tinged with tragedy

there’ve been a few complaints (I came across them last night after the movie) that Zhivago didn’t live up to the “doctor” part of the title very much… the beginning had him in medical school and a couple of appointments he had where he was helping people… and also as part of World War I, where he met Lara, who was acting as nurse while in search of her husband…

…who oddly wanted to be part of this revolution, he supposedly died in battle, but he emerged as one of the Soviet officers without so much as reaching out to her… maybe the power went to his head :shrug: 

Omar Sharif carries this air of genunity with him… this great presence that I could undoubtedly attach to a lot of older actors that beg that old phrase “they don’t make ’em like that anymore”… a very good looking man, although he came off a tad emotional to me on a number of occasions… his eyes knew how to widen with tears upon feeling sorrow for his fellow man…

downside to this: he was an adulterer… cheating on his wife (Chaplin) with Lara (whom he was never able to forget about after they worked alongside each other in the war)
so he wasn’t entirely honest… and his lechery kinda sold him up the river, some might call it karma… 
on his way back from “breaking up” with Lara, he gets taken by the troops for a while… because, now that Russia’s become a communist state, it’s all about “what’s good for the state” rather than the individual…

no wonder some of my folks are worried about America turning socialist… I’d hate for any of our personal freedoms to be infringed on “for the good of the state”… but this is coming from me, who is a very self-centered person by nature

he supposedly never seen his wife after deserting the army, but instead manages to find Lara and sends most of the end of the movie with her…

the ending’s kind sad because, at another point, they get separated and he never sees her again… then in the “flash forward”… he thinks he sees her in a crowd but before he can get to her, he completely seizes out… they write it out as a heart attack… but he looked more like he had a stroke

the subject matter and the period they were depicting was presented really well… and I have nothing but respect for this picture… I’d see it once in a blue moon, but not much more frequent than that… I was never bored, but that is a long time to spend with a movie… just saying"

When I heard he died, it took me a little while to get over it.
He gave such a great performance in this movie... better than a lot of actors around today. And I'm not usually one to complain about this current crop of actors.
And it was said that Alzheimer's led to his death, but he was also 83, so he did live a good long life.

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