#5 Jurassic World:
I loved the original Jurassic Park, when I was five years old my parents bought it for me on VHS (Remember VHS?!) and I watched the shit out of that movie. It had some of my favourite things ever dinosaurs, Jeff Goldblum and more dinosaurs! When Jurassic World was announced I was a little sceptical; Jurassic Park: The Lost World and Jurassic Park 3 were kind of terrible. Okay fair’s fair, The Lost World wasn’t bad it just wasn’t as good as the original, 3 sucked ass.
Which is why Jurassic World not only being a good movie but a great movie was such a welcome surprise; Chris Pratt has really broken into the blockbuster realm following up his 2014 breakout moments as Star Lord, Pratt basically plays a less funny but still awesome version of that same character this time on an island full of prehistoric lizards instead of in space. The premise of the film hearkens back to the original, this time the dinosaur theme park actually worked but as with all businesses the demand for greater profits has led to unethical genetic experiments. In spite of its heavy handed anti-genetic modification subtext, Jurassic World still provides its audience with exactly what they want: giant monsters attacking people and human beings trying to survive.
Annoyingly the film does feature some of the same flaws as the original; two annoying kids that I’m supposed to care about but all I really want is to see them get eaten, a female lead who is supposed to be really intelligent but for some reason does really dumb things over and over again. A bad guy who wants to use velociraptors to fight terrorism (no seriously, that’s the villains plan), despite all this the movie still works incredibly well maybe it’s because I’m watching a movie that features a T-Rex and a team of Velociraptors taking on a Frankenstein’s monster dinosaur cobbled together from various parts that makes me not care how over the top and ridiculous it gets. Whatever the reason, Jurassic World is like James Franco; you get exactly what it says on the box and no matter how dumb it gets you still keep watching.
Ant-Man is another film that logically shouldn’t have worked, throughout production the film had been plagued with serious issues; Original director Edgar Wright bailed on the film in mid-2014, there were doubts as to whether Paul Rudd could pull off the character and perhaps most importantly Ant-Man, historically, is a very difficult character to get right. That said Ant-Man ended up being a surprise hit this year, Rudd’s portrayal of the second Ant-Man, Scott Lang, worked incredibly well. His performance was heartfelt and genuine and because of that a character so ridiculous that even the comic world struggles at times with his existence became the most genuine part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Robert Downey Jr’s first run as Iron Man.
Michael Douglas gives a commendable performance as the elderly Hank Pym, so too does Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne, Hank’s estranged daughter. In conjunction with Rudd, Lilly and Douglas perform admirably reflecting the underlying familial themes throughout the script. Backed by a strong supporting cast, in particular House of Cards alumnus Corey Stoll, Ant-Man works precisely because it doesn’t take itself too seriously; a scene in which Captain America co-star Anthony Mackie reprises his role as The Falcon involves Falcon being utterly confused and bemused that “Ant-Man” is a legitimate person. Ant-Man works precisely because it based itself around the idea that it wouldn’t work and in doing so provides the best standalone superhero film since 2014’s The Winter Soldier.
#3 Avengers: Age of Ultron:
Age of Ultron had some damn big boots to fill; 2012’s The Avengers was the realisation of for years build up across five films, so how do you follow that up? In many cases blockbuster sequels fall into the trap of repeating the formula of the previous film and trying to upsize the action beats, this is the very flaw that permeated 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness. Luckily Age of Ultron has none of that, the hyper-intelligent robot overlord voiced expertly by James Spader is a much different villain to his predecessor Loki. Ultron switches almost at random between a megalomaniacal dictator, suave Bond villain and an emotionally crippled child which might seem like an odd combination, but it works incredibly well given the character is a week old artificial intelligence program.
Aaron Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen join the cast as the two newest Avengers; Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch and while Olsen’s character gets significantly more development both actors put for strong performances. Johnson deserves a lot of recognition for finally giving the world a speedster that actually works, if you’re unfamiliar with the Fox Studios vs Marvel Studios saga, Quicksilver in Age of Ultron is based on the same character as “Peter” from Days of Future Past. Just to clear things up for people Fox Studios X-men movies suck, changing the character’s name from Pietro to “Peter” was idiotic and Marvel does it better, Johnson’s super speed is used as a blur effect with combination of freeze frames and rapid shutters and it looks brilliant as opposed to Fox who decided to use bullet time, which hasn’t been interesting since the Matrix in 1999.
Age of Ultron gives us new conflicts, setting the stage for 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and the third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. On top of that it functions incredibly well as a single film and brings the heroic age of the series to a definitive close. An excellent film well worth the two and half hour run time.
#2 Straight Outta Compton:
Biopics rarely work well and even more than that biopics or pseudo-biopics about hip hop artists never, ever fucking work. Straight Outta Compton does though; Compton tells the rise and fall of NWA, the group that paved the way for the West Coast gangsta rap scene in the late 80’s to early mid 90’s. Throughout the film audiences are treated to the establishment of the collective, the creative process and the eventual dissolution of the group. The film accomplishes the unexpected in presenting the hip hop legends as approachable human beings, a feat rarely accomplished in any biopic to date.
When it comes to movies about hip hop artists the bar is not set particularly high, the semi-autobiographical 8 Mile starring Eminem as a fictional version of himself is an entertaining film but it gets too caught up in selling the Marshall Mathers brand, similarly 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Trying was a two hour commercial for 50 Cent’s music and presented him as some sort of superhero character who catches out bad guys, gets into trouble and manages to save the day by rapping about things. Compton doesn’t have any of that bullshit, right from the start Eazy-E, Ice Cube, MC Ren, Dr. Dre are presented as individual human beings each with their own respective flaws. E is introduced to film running from an LAPD raid on a crackhouse, Dre is introduced as a layabout who shirks his responsibilities in favour of DJ-ing and Cube starts out as a misunderstood high schooler attracted to the glamour of gang life.
By presenting the characters as human beings the film overcomes the pitfalls of previous attempts within the subgenre, the feud between Eazy-E and Ice Cube seems genuinely bitter and at times aggressive. The manipulative nature of Jerry Heller as he exploits the group for his own financial gain while cosying up to Eazy-E under the premise that he will function as his cash cow showcases how quickly the best of friendships can sour the moment money is introduced. R. Marcos Taylor’s performance as Suge Knight, founder of Death Row Records, is haunting and intimidating perfectly capturing the primal nature of the man who held Vanilla Ice off the side of a skyscraper. Compton is an emotive story, at its heart it tells a compelling tale of young men that changed the face of the music scene forever and the hardships and battles that came along the way, an excellent film that hopefully sets the standard for future films within the genre.
#1 Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
I’m a Star Wars nerd, this is no secret. I was four years old when I first saw the original trilogy, I’ve watched those movies so many times that I’ve lost count, despite how terrible they were I went to premiere screenings of all the prequels, I was even convinced to attend a midnight screening of Phantom Menace in 3D (It still sucked). Knowing all that you’d be surprised to find that when the trailer dropped last December I didn’t really care about The Force Awakens; part of me says it’s because I was let down three times in a row by the prequel trilogy but in truth I had other doubts too, in particular whether JJ Abrams could handle the film after the hiccup that was Star Trek Into Darkness.
Thankfully the answer is yes, The Force Awakens is the best Star Wars since Empire Strikes Back. Laced with amazing costume and set design, appropriately used special effects and arguably the best acting in the franchise, The Force Awakens is exactly what I desired from a Star Wars film. The worst aspect of the prequel trilogy was the ridiculous overproduction; nearly everything was shot on blue screen which made the films looks incredibly sterile and fake. No longer is this the case, no more lightsaber battles that look more like figure skating routines, no ridiculous politics regarding trade negotiations and blockades and perhaps most importantly no Jar Jar fucking Binks.
The Force Awakens reclaims the legacy of the original trilogy capturing the heart and magic that inspired so many people over the decades since their original release. It’s as though the film was made by the fans themselves fulfilling every fantasy anyone may have had about the film. It functions incredibly well as a standalone feature but does enough to set up the following films and drive audience interest up. Don’t be surprised if this is the film that breaks all the previous box office records and may the force be with you.
The Worst Film of 2015:
I really, really loathe Fox Studios. To put this into perspective for people; in the 1990’s after the comics crash Marvel sold the film rights to its biggest franchises, namely; Spider-man, X-men and the Fantastic Four. Spider-man ended up in the hands of Sony pictures who ran the brand so far into the ground that they’ve given him back because 60% of the profits from a good Spider-man film will always be better than 100% of the profits from the awful Spider-man meets Twilight that they’d been pumping out before.
Unfortunately Fox Studios haven’t been as kind, they continue to drive X-men into the ground which at this point only succeeds because they’re not as bad as this steaming pile of garbage. Fantastic Four is without a doubt the worst comic film I’ve ever seen and to understand how serious about that I am, in 1997 they made a movie about the superhero Steel starring Shaq and this is worse. Fantastic Four is basically a culmination of what I call the Tim Burton effect; for those unfamiliar Tim Burton made two Batman movies in the 90’s and produced another two, they all sucked and he still to this day defends this garbage by insisting that comic fans just weren’t smart enough to get the greatness behind Danny DeVito swimming in a sewer and eating live fish. Fox Studios has the DeVito effect in which they genuinely believe that the people who read comics and the people who make comics are all incredibly stupid.
Fantastic Four isn’t actually a movie it’s an insult. Kate Mara is a brilliant actress and if you haven’t seen her in the first season of House of Cards go watch that now, it will help you understand just how ridiculously underutilised she was here. The same is true for co-stars Michael B Jordan (Creed) and Jamie Bell (Billy Elliott), all three actors are completely misused in a film that goes absolutely nowhere. The film literally does nothing over the course of its two hour run time, as many critics have said before it seems quite literally that someone decided to drag out a two minute trailer and thought that would somehow be a good idea.
The worst offence of the film however is the manner in which it spits upon the legacy of Marvel’s first family. In place of the colourful and entertaining costumes you get the same padded black leather suits that have been the standard for “cool kid clothes” since the late 90’s. Reed Richards supposedly the smartest man on the planet is played by Miles Teller who at this point should only be allowed to star in movies like Whiplash where good actors like JK Simmons get to belt him over the head every time he steps out of line. In addition to melting down the characters to “stretch dude, clobber guy, zippo lighter and the chick” the film continues on its rampage of destruction by taking the brilliant Toby Kebbel (Rock N Rolla, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and turning him into the shittiest take on Doctor Doom ever; instead of being a wealthy upper class royal, Doom is instead a whiny fedora wearing “anarchist” who ends up getting turned into a silver and green version of The Bicentennial Man. For some reason Doom decides to destroy the world and it’s up to our heroes who’ve given us no reason to care about them to save the day. This movie is awful, it is so awful that I considered leaving the theatre, I considered writing to Fox and asking for a refund on my ticket, do not watch this movie.