Staff Writer | Sitting in a Dark Room with Strangers

2015 got me back into movies in a big way. I’ve always been a movie buff but there was a time from 2011 to Jurassic World where I wasn’t really watching anything. This year I got back into movies with a vengeance. I saw a little more than fifty movies this year in the theaters, so I think I have pretty good feel for the good, the bad, and the disappointments of 2015.

The Good

sicario-posterSicario. Hard hitting on all levels, Sicario is an excellent movie from director Denis Villeneuve, and perfectly strikes that difficult balance of narrative-dramatic flow and deep hard hitting commentary without being preachy or losing its message. Emily Blunt plays a DEA agent recruited by John Brolin to work with him and the shadowy Benicio Del Torro. When a prison transfer leads to a gun battle at the bottle necked border crossing in El Paso, Blunt sees that something is very wrong with the outfit she is attached to.

I couldn’t find a flaw in it. The script is tight and well written; the film never feels like it drags despite keeping the audience in the dark for much of the film. The cast is fantastic from top to bottom, and the three leads shine the whole time. The movie descends into darkness and brutality from there. This is the best hit man movie since Leon and hands down the best film of the year for me.

Spotlight-Poster-2Spotlight. Definitely one of the best movies of the year and maybe one of the best newspaper movies ever made, Spotlight covers the investigative journalist team that broke the 2002 Catholic priest abuse scandal in Boston after a three year investigation. Spotlight takes audiences back to the days before pedophile was synonymous with priest, and shows just how hard it was for people to believe what was happening even in the face of all the evidence and other new reports. It crystallizes the scale and breath of the scandal, as well as the damage it did while no one was able to stop it and others let it go on.

Spotlight has a cast to die for, headed up by Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel MacAdams, and Liev Schreiber who all deliver excellent performances. Spotlight was able to handle a truly grim subject matter with care, respect, and dignity all while delivering the appropriate amount of rage at the injustice it covers. All while the script keeps the reporters from ending up as “just the facts ma’am” style card board cut outs. Each had their own small story arc throughout the movie that got the audience invested in them as individuals, without distracting from the main focus.

hateful_eightThe Hateful Eight. Damn! Just damn. Say what you want about Quentin Tarentino but this guy is probably the only one in Hollywood who is still making movie movies. The Hateful Eight is no exception. It is a three hour long epic that takes place almost completely in one room. It goes from stage coach western, to torture revenge, to murder mystery, and then descends into a splatter fest.Tarentino seems to be single handedly trying to bring back the western the way Eastwood did in the late 80’s and early 90’s. More power to him. The movie is just beautiful to watch and entertaining throughout. It doesn’t quite reach the masterpiece level needed to totally justify a three hour run time, and the dialogue didn’t have the punch I am used to from Tarentino, but it is never-the-less a great film. Tarentino has a way of getting the best out of his actors, and they all deliver here. Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Walton Goggins make up the spine of the cast and are great, as well as supporting actors Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, and Channing Tatum. Even Michael Matson appears to put in some effort!

The Disappointments

These are movies that I really wanted to like, but failed to inspire any sense of joy.

Bridge Of Spies. I really want to like the modern Spielberg, but I’ve had a hard time getting on board with much of what he has done in the last 16-17 years. This movie confused the hell out of me. Why the hell did he even made it! It was dull, unexciting, and visually lame, and I was dumfounded by this film from of the great director.

The Martian. This was a movie I wanted to like but couldn’t, and I don’t know why. About ten minutes into the film I remember thinking, “I’m not enjoying this” and it never saved itself. Maybe it was that I didn’t like Matt Damon, maybe I was just bored, maybe it was the pointless 3D or maybe the sad attempts at humor were just too egregious to forgive. Regardless, it did nothing for me.

Star Wars: The Force Awakes. I was sitting in the seat of the theater the Thursday of release and said a silent prayer to the movie gods “please, just don’t suck.” Spoiler alert, prayer doesn’t work. I of all people should have known that. You have no idea how depressed I am about how terrible this movie was. My only hope now is that the sequel, now in the hands of a director I like, will do better.

The Crap

These films were the total pieces of crap. Need I say more?

Aloha. This was a baffling mess of a film. Nothing in this film makes sense—not at thing. The cast, which is made up of very well-known and accomplished actors, seems to have no clue what kind of movie they are in. I’m not even sure what this movie is about or what kind of movie it was. It is worth watching because its badness needs to be seen to be believed, since it is so hard to explain.

Green Inferno. Let’s just all agree that Eli Roth is a terrible film maker. Now that is out of the way: this is an awful film. The premise had some promise but everything about the execution is wrong. All wrong. Very, very wrong. The cast was mostly young and inexperienced, so I blame Roth for most of their crappiness. I could go on, but just know this was a turd.

The Fantastic Four. While the behind the scene meltdown of everything and everyone wasn’t obvious from watching the film, it was obvious from watching it that this was a bad film. Slow and ponderous to start, and rushed to finish, it had a plot that it too easy to make fun of. This was a hell of a superhero dud. It didn’t help that that the director turned on the film in the press after its weak opening.

Best Poster of the Year

Mockingjay-Part2-IMAX-Poster

This poster stopped me in my tracks when I saw it, hands down the best poster of the year. This is a work of art!

-by Joseph De Paul

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