The Best and Worst Movies and Performances of 2015

So ends another great year covering the entertainment realm. It’s hard to believe it’s been 12 months since the last one of these articles, but here we are. After seeing 218 movies released in 2015, I can now reflect on two major themes I saw in Hollywood – sequel-palooza and awesome female characters. In fact, I don’t think it is any surprise that 9/10 of the movies in my top 10 list all have strong female characters that MADE the movie.

This year, I have written a lot of reviews, as well as conducted interviews with Alicia Vikander, Russell Crowe, Richard Gere, Brie Larson, Greta Gerwig, and many more. I also was able to attend the Sundance Film Festival in January, which I will also be attending this year… so look out for that! It has been a fun year for movies, and I am already getting excited for what we have in store in 2016 (SUICIDE SQUAD!!). Check out my best/worst movies of 2015 below. These aren’t necessarily movies that I think are the best of the year, but are my personal favorites. What are some of your favorite/least favorite films of the year? Here’s to another great year at the movies.

The Most Underrated Film(s) Of The Year (tie)

I Smile Back: I saw this film at Sundance last year and was blown away by the brave screenplay and most importantly, the incredible performance by Sarah Silverman. Like REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, this film is one of the few times a no-holds-barred female story about disillusionment with suburban life has been told. The filmmakers, and especially Silverman herself, hold nothing back as their lead character tries to put on a pretty face with her loved ones and friends, while screaming for help on the inside. Although some may see this film as emotionally draining, I find it to be a compelling look at a woman’s struggle to be the perfect wife and mother, while also struggling with debilitating inner demons.

The Final Girls: At an anniversary screening of a cult favorite slasher film, the film’s characters are transported into the movie, which starred our heroine’s (Taissa Farmiga) late mother. Using this interesting idea, the filmmakers poke fun at horror tropes while adding genuine scares and a lot of heart as well. In a Hollywood landscape of sequels and remakes, a movie this creative and entertaining is incredibly welcomed and deserves all of the attention and acclaim I can bring to it.

The 10 Worst Movies Of The Year

10) Aloha

It’s no wonder this film was held at Sony for over a year. How can a CAMERON CROWE movie starring Emma Stone, Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams, and John Krasinksi possibly be bad? Especially since it takes place in Hawaii! It’s basically the elements to make a perfect movie. Well, let this be the spotlight case of how a movie is nothing without a good script. I wish ALOHA was as good as its trailer…

9) Pixels

I really wish Adam Sandler would get back to his glory days of making adorable films like THE WEDDING SINGER and 50 FIRST DATES. Unfortunately now we are left with careless, awful movies like PIXELS. I went into this movie thinking it would be a fun, nostalgic ride, especially since I admittedly thought the trailer looked great. However, an incredibly misogynistic script, featuring such gems as “a slut-seeking missile” and a mute Ashley Benson (who winds up a literal trophy wife to Josh Gad) made the film turn from bad to infuriating. Thankfully I haven’t subjected myself to THE RIDICULOUS SIX yet, which (based on other reviews) I can assume would be featured prominently on this list.

8) Entourage

Of course, from the ENTOURAGE TV show I remembered the misogyny, the partying, the… boobs. But I remembered it being so ridiculous it was entertaining (and probably not that off from how famous actors really do live). How young and naïve I was. Even if that is how the rich and famous live, it’s not what I really want to see for entertainment.

7) Seventh Son

Any film that manages to botch a fantastic cast featuring Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Jeff Bridges, and Kit Harrington deserves major jeers.

6) Jupiter Ascending

Everything EX MACHINA gets right about the sci-fi genre, JUPITER ASCENDING gets wrong. While I will give props to the Wachowski’s for at least trying to create a new (non-remake or sequel) property, the terrible execution and script may have shown Hollywood why they should stick to known quantities. After all, who wants to invest millions in crappy “new” stories, when you have sequels or remakes ready to go, many of which are on my best of the year list. From Channing Tatum’s wolf ears, to Eddie Redmayne’s cringe-worthy, over the top performance, there is zero doubt in my mind that I will never, ever see this again.

5) Fantastic Four

From its unintentionally hilarious dialogue to Kate Mara’s terrible wig, FANTASTIC FOUR could have easily been a comedy. In fact, I found myself laughing more in this film than I did any of the comedies featured in this “Worst of the Year” list. However, of course this movie is not a comedy and a movie “so bad it is funny” has to end up on the worst of the year list.

4) Unfinished Business

I guess the unfinished business is actually making a funny comedy? The credits couldn’t come onscreen fast enough. Sienna Miller was wasted, and the tonal shifts in the film left little to be desired. Not to mention, it’s hard to tell what audience this movie was geared for. Masochists?

3) Hot Tub Time Machine 2

Admittedly, the first HOT TUB TIME MACHINE wasn’t bad… but were people really clamoring for a sequel? Well, a sequel is what we got and unsurprisingly, it did not live up to its predecessor. Not only is it ridiculously unfunny, it is dull, mean, and lazy screenwriting. When one character dies (if only for a second before time travel saves him) I found myself wishing for the same fate… minus the “save me” part of the equation.

2) Victor Frankenstein

Disgusting, boring story, bad CGI. Those are my main takeaways from this film. Oh yeah, and the fact that James McAvoy’s Dr. Frankenstein sucks pus out Igor’s (Daniel Radcliffe) hump. I will never, ever scrub this scene from my mind and I literally gagged as I was writing this sentence. It’s obvious how much this film wants to be SHERLOCK HOLMES, but it is deffffffinitely not.

1) The Wedding Ringer

It’s no surprise that an incredibly homophobic, unfunny movie such as this is my worst movie of the year. Watching THE WEDDING RINGER was beyond painful; so much so, I felt like I was watching the movie for 3 hours. Not one character in the entire film is likeable, nor did I crack a smile at anything that was said. It’s always amazing/dismaying to me that movies this terrible get made. But hey, if this can get funding, perhaps my idea for ANDRE 2 isn’t such a bad idea after all. I sure as hell would rather watch a seal play around in a bathtub for 2 hours than see THE WEDDING RINGER again.

The 10 Best Movies Of The Year

10 ) Trainwreck

While Amy Schumer may like to make jokes about her own appearance (mostly to comment on the ridiculous Hollywood body image), her performance in TRAINWRECK was as beautiful on the outside as it was on the inside. Don’t get me wrong, I love pretty much all romantic comedies but it is nice to finally see a less-than-perfect female character work out serious issues on-screen… you know, the ones that don’t involve makeovers or tying down the manic pixie dream girl.

9) Jurassic World

Hold on to your butts. JURASSIC WORLD was more than just a sequel. It’s the love letter to JURASSIC PARK that we have all been waiting for. Director Colin Trevorrow found a way… to not only put forth an incredible summer blockbuster, but to also reignite my love of JURASSIC PARK through numerous Easter Eggs, both subtle and overt, sprinkled throughout the entire film. Universal Pictures certainly spared no expense.

8) Room

ROOM, based on Emma Donohue’s incredible, best-selling book of the same name, is an extremely powerful story that has resonated with me since I first saw it. As a huge fan of the book, I was nervous that the film wouldn’t be able to live up to it. But thanks in large part to Lenny Abrahamson’s direction, a fantastic script written by the author herself, and beautiful performances from Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, ROOM is one of the best book adaptations to grace the screen.

7) The Revenant

Probably the most beautifully shot movies I have ever seen, THE REVENANT is a cinematic masterpiece. Writer-director Alejandro Iñárritu used all natural lighting and had the actors/crew on-location in dangerous conditions to make this movie as beautiful and powerful as possible. And not only is the film a cinematography lover’s dream, it also contains some of the year’s best performances in Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, and Will Poulter. This is the best movie of the year. However, the animal violence in the film, as well as the re-watchability factor of the six following movies  gave them a bit of an edge in my ranking.

6) Mission Impossible- Rogue Nation

The second I walked out of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE- ROGUE NATION, I immediately wanted to turn around and high-knee run like Tom Cruise back into the theater to watch it a second time. And since seeing it first in theaters, I have watched the film at least three more times; if we are counting just the opera scene (my favorite scene from a movie this year) I would have seen this film 15+ times. From the INSANE action scenes that we have come to know and love in this franchise, to the beautiful score, and most importantly REBECCA F-ING FERGUSON, ROGUE NATION is hands down my favorite film in the franchise.

5) Carol

With such gorgeous cinematography, 1950s-era production design, and magnetic chemistry between the leading actresses (Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara), CAROL is a beautiful, romantic film as much as it is an important one. Set amid the backdrop of the 1950s, this story explores the prejudicial, bigoted environment of that era and based on what we are seeing in the news, it makes you wonder if much has really changed over the past 60+ years.

4) Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Is it blasphemous that this is my favorite film of the franchise? Full of nostalgia, awesome dogfights and lightsaber battles, and a kickass heroine at its center, THE FORCE AWAKENS beats THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK by a Chewie hair in my rank of STAR WARS films. And like ROGUE NATION, it also has one of my favorite scenes in a movie this year. I won’t say much out of fear of spoilers, but let’s just say it involves Rey and Kylo Ren using the force to battle over control of a lightsaber.

3) Mad Max: Fury Road

… or should I say MAD MAX: IMPERATOR FURIOSA. Let’s be real, she was the best part of the movie! Because I am a fangirl, I know I often speak in hyperbole. However, I don’t think I am being crazy when I say George Miller’s MAD MAX: FURY ROAD is one of the best action films I’ve ever seen. Miller, with his Baz Luhrmann-esque quick camera movements, creates a fully realized world and atmosphere like nothing I have seen onscreen before. Yes, the plot basically involves one long car chase scene, but there are so many layers, interesting character quirks, and set locations, it feels like a completely original, one-of-a-kind film. Using almost all practical effects and incredible stunt work for the action scenes, FURY ROAD is as “real” as current action movies come. Even the least-enthused moviegoers won’t be able to deny that this film transcends any genre and is the high octane thriller we have all been waiting for.

2) Sicario

From its haunting score, to its excellent performances and gorgeous cinematography (shot by the always-brilliant Roger Deakins), SICARIO is a thrill ride that doesn’t stop moving until the end credits roll. In the drug war that especially plagues the states along the Mexican border, it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. That same moral ambiguity is brilliantly represented in this film, with every character exuding an air of mystery, some more so than others. Be it the green FBI agent or the seasoned spook, each character is skillfully written with multiple layers of depth and hidden motivations boiling under the surface.

It was a toss-up for me between EX MACHINA and SICARIO as my favorite movie of the year, and EX MACHINA just barely won out. If I wrote this article on another day, it may be reversed. Let’s chalk it up to a tie.

1) Ex Machina

My favorite films, especially in the science-fiction genre, are those that stick with you for hours after you leave the theater. EX MACHINA, written and directed by Alex Garland, is one of these films. Completely original, wonderfully acted, and a mind-f#*k like you wouldn’t believe, this movie didn’t just stick with me for hours after I left the theater, I am still thinking about it months later. As one of the most creative, intelligent movies of the year, EX MACHINA has been my favorite film since I first saw it in the spring, and managed to hold the top spot for the entire year.

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