A Critic’s Dozen: Best Films of 2015

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1. Mad Max: Fury Road

Fury Road is the reason we go to the cinema. A modern day Stagecoach that is no doubt likely to resurrect a lost old school style and flare of the action genre. Director George Miller gives us something that we can celebrate, that is after we catch our breath.

We pick up with Max (Tom Hardy) being captured by a group of war boys and taken to the Citadel ruled by the evil monger Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). You may recognize Keays-Byrne from the first Mad Max, he played the villain Toecutter in the 1979 original that started it all. The earth has become a vast wasteland, raped of it’s resources and spirit. Immortan Joe keeps water and gas rations to himself to appear as a god to the masses. Max is hung upside down and turned into a blood bank for an ailing Warboy named Nux (Nicholas Hoult) and in the meantime one of Joe’s valiant warriors, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), is leading a big rig with a convoy in tow to Gastown to collect more resources. When she deviates off course and it’s discovered that Furiosa has stashed Joe’s “Breeders”(women he’s imprisoned as sex slaves to produce an heir)inside the big rig as cargo. Immortan Joe puts together a war party and gives chase to stop Furiosa’s crew and Nux brings Max along for the ride, chained to the front of his car. From there we are off to the races for the rest of the duration in what seems like one giant chase scene. One visually stunning piece after another with a few quiet breaks that are few and far between the mix of dark humor, sick stunts, and impeccably nuanced character development to be living inside this beast of an action movie. Hardy breaths new life into Max with his own take on the cinematic icon. He’s got a bit more wit and dry sense of humor than Gibson’s Max and it just adds to Hardy’s increasingly great on-screen magnetism. The thing that really allows Fury Road to tower above the rest of rebooted and rehashed Hollywood commodities is its loose connection to the previous films.

Want more strong female characters? Well, you surprisingly get it with George Miller’s feminist dark horse. Not only can you argue that Furiosa is the central character and true heart of the film, Immortan Joe’s group of “Breeder” wives played respectively by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoe Kravitz, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, and Courtney Eaton are such a meaningful piece of the revved up mythology that Fury Road is the Furiosa and the wives movie. They own it. They work together to overcome the tyranny of man and Max just happens to be a deadly warrior and reluctant partner caught up the battle between good and evil. Charlize Theron gives her most visceral performance to date and George Miller gives us a character that may stand alone in the future in Imperator Furiosa.

The supporting cast and characters are like a post-apocalyptic flash mob. The brilliance is the vibrant and fun of these characters in just the right doses. The Bullet Farmer (Richard Carter), The People Eater (John Howard), and The Organic Mechanic (Angus Sampson) are just a few of dizzying circus of personalities that try and flatten the tires of Max and Furiosa’s convoy. Immortan Joe is creepy and effective, and gets just the right amount of screen time. But last, and definitely not least is the most insane, funny, wild, and utterly creative piece of Fury Road – The Doof Warrior (Iota). He rides atop a souped-up battle wagon at full speed whaling on a double-necked guitar that doubles as a flamethrower. This goes on throughout the entire chase. It’s mad. It’s brilliant.

As exhilarating as it is seamless, no action movie has found the balance and pace of Fury Road in maybe forever. With more practical special effects than CGI, Miller and company take an ounce of nostalgic blood and cook it up into something new but in the vein of the classics. High-flying acrobatic stunts mixed with pulse-pounding build up Fury Road is a locomotive of energy from beginning to end that begs for multiple big screen trips. Its more creative and passionate than just about any modern day blockbuster. I can’t think of a more fun experience at the movies like this in years. It’s about damn time somebody chased the tired blockbuster formula off for the summer, and lookout, because after forty five years of filmmaking, George Miller appears to have finally found his stride. 🙂

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2. Creed

Ex Machina

3. Ex Machina

Carol

4. Carol

Spotlight

5. Spotlight

Sicario

6. Sicario

Steve Jobs

7. Steve Jobs

The Martian

8. The Martian

Rogue Nation

9. MI: Rogue Nation

Straight Outta Compton

10. Straight Outta Compton

The Big Short

11. The Big Short

The Hateful Eight

12. The Hateful Eight

Mississipi Grind

13. Mississippi Grind

Other Notables:

Inside Out
Room
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Crimson Peak
Bone Tomahawk
Listen to Me Marlon