Monday, 28 December 2015

Favourite movies I watched in 2015 (That I hadn't seen before)

My 2015 list is going to be a bit different from most "year-in-review" lists, as I didn't manage to get to the cinema this year and I have a huge back-log of recently released movies on Bluray waiting for me here (like X-Men: Days of Future Past, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Cinderella, Snowpiercer, Kingman: The Secret Service..). Most of the movies I watched this year are either from last year, or older movies I've finally gotten around to viewing, but even though they might not be new, I did have some really amazing movie-experiences this year.

10. Edge of Tomorrow/ Live, Die, Repeat (2014)
Edge of Tomorrow was such a nice surprise, totally overlooked at the box-office, so it appeared on Netflix not long after its cinema-run, and ended up being one of the better sci-fi movies I watched this year. Tom Cruise really came out gunning with this awkward, arrogant, spineless, self-aware character, while Emily Blunt got to play a truly kick-ass warrior. I could have done without the romance and I didn't like the ending, but for a movie where I went in expecting nothing, I got a truly great experience in return.

9. Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014)
I had almost given up on the superhero genre, I'm just sick of the shiny, flashy, pretty-but-not-much-substance movies we've had lately, but the Winter Soldier single-handedly dragged me back in and invigorated my interest in the Marvel cinematic universe.
The distinct old spy-movie feel, the consistent use of practical effects and fight choreography and the darker feel and more extreme measures all combined to present a "dirtier" superhero movie and made Winter Soldier my favourite Avengers movie so far.

8. The Scorpion King (2002)
I basically bought the entire Mummy/Scorpion King franchise just to watch Ron Perlman in the Scorpion King 3, but The Scorpion King was such a fun surprise. The sound design is ludicrous and the story is basically non-existent, but the movie is so aware of its own campy nature, presenting an incredibly entertaining action-romp where at one point Dwayne Johnson pretends to be a guy's shadow before jumping out and stabbing him(!).
I love that Dwayne isn't afraid to look silly or be defeated, and it was so nice to see one of my favourite actors again - Michael Clarke Duncan (RIP) - in a big role.

7. Standing Ovation (2010)/The Ice Pirates (1984)
In August I put on an afternoon movie to have on in the background, and ended up sitting there, mouth open, amazed and confused throughout the movie. Standing Ovation is a children's movie, a musical, a slap-stick comedy, a dark realistic family drama and a gangster movie all melded into one very inconsistently toned experience. I had no idea where the story was going, and it kept surprising me every scene transition. The ending is unfortunately full-on children's movie, but everything up to that was weird, confusing, funny and emotional.
I became very interested in this director's work, and have been catching up on more of his movies since. Not that impressed by Mannequin 2 or Mac and Me (though I thought it was better than most, probably), but Ice Pirates was another amazing gem; a comedy, science-fiction, pirate movie, some incredibly dark post-apocalypse elements and a weird "happy?" ending.
These elements combine into almost rapid-fire tonal changes - kidnapping and rape-alluding, industrial castration/brain-washing machines, murder of an entire robot family, slavery, food/water-shortage and serial-killers - wrapped in a lighthearted space-romp.
Neither Standing Ovation or Ice Pirates are very good quality-wise, but they introduced me to one of the most interesting directors I've seen in a while - Stewart Raffill, as well as being thoroughly entertaining, interesting experiences.

6. L'illusionniste/The Illusionist (2010)
Not to be confused with the Edwart Norton movie with the same name, the Illusionist is a bitter-sweet almost silent animated movie by the director of "Les triplettes de Belleville" about two people who sorely needed to communicate.
An ageing, forgotten French stage-magician meets a Scottish girl who believes in magic and we follow them through their ensuring combined adventures.
I found the ending to be both the end of their journey and a new start, and found the entire movie a beautiful, tragic and serene experience.

5. Inside Out (2015)
It should be no surprise that the one 2015 movie that makes my list is a Pixar movie, and Inside out is really all it is rumored to be. Not only one of the best Pixar/Disney movies, but possibly one of the best children's movies ever made, Inside out shows us both a fantasy view of what happens inside Riley's body, and an incredibly realistic look at Riley's difficult emotional maturing.
At one time Riley shuts down completely emotionally, in one of the most accurate portrayals of depression I've seen on film, and does an amazing job of teaching us just how important it is to allow one-self to feel sad.
And it's because of this I cannot rate the movie higher. Inside Out has so many layers, so much subtlety and meaning to every part of the story, respecting its viewer enough to let them figure it out on their own, and then there's one line, one line towards the end of the movie where Riley says something I do not accept that a 10-year old girl would say, a line that's obviously put in to tell the audience the message. Any other movie I wouldn't have reacted, but in this movie - this beautiful, trusting-its-message movie that respected its audience enough to let them interpret the movie without intervention - in this it is unnecessary and frustrating.

Inside out could have been perfect, 10 out of 10. As it is, it's just really, really good.

4. Brazil (1985)
It's taken me a few years to get around to watching Brazil, because all the reviews I'd heard/seen indicated it was a heavy, bureaucratic, surrealistic hard sci-fi, and maybe it is, but it's also a darkly funny, extremely callous, almost lighthearted adventure. I loved how you first realise the extent of the delusion when the movie wants you to, leaving you to spend the last moments frantically trying to figure out just when the delusion started, and what was actually real. (I'm betting on Tuttle as we see him only existing as a fictional character) This was an amazingly visual, smart, snarky, surrealistic and symbolic experience, that really inspire repeat viewing.

3. Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (2008)
There's not much more for me to say about this movie after my previous post, but Starship Troopers 3 was one of the funniest, dark, on-the-nose movies I watched this year, and it was such a delightful surprise after having given up on the franchise years before. I went in expecting a "so bad it's funny" movie, and ended up with a new favourite.

2. Fargo (1996)
I've been avoiding Coen-brothers movies because I was of the mistaken impression that they made hyper-violent movies like Kubrick and Tarantino, but Fargo was a lot more tongue-in-cheek than I expected. Lauded by critics and fans alike as a great movie, I was still surprised by it when it started. Some movies you can just tell immediately that they have that "classics-quality", and Fargo is definitely one of these. The cinematography, the sound design, the characters, the incessant line repeating, Fargo was a gem I wish I'd watched earlier.
Recently I've gained a huge appreciation for Peter Stormare (after watching Projared's play-through of the PS4 horror-game Until Dawn, where Stormare has one of the main roles) so it was particularly fun watching one of his career-defining moments.

1. Metropolis (1927)
Metropolis has been on my "must-see" list for years, since I'm a huge fan of its 2001 anime namesake, but it's been hard to make time and be in the mood to sit down and watch a two and a half hour long silent movie. Wow, have I been missing out! I expected a slow movie with interesting elements in-between long sections of boring, but I ended up enraptured and engaged from the minute the movie started. This movie is like a blueprint for every sci-fi world-builder in the 20th century, you recognize the characters immediately because you've seen them so many times before, the symbolic scenes are easily understood, and still the scenes are breathtaking and the characters amazing.
I'm never sure what to feel when I love acting in a movie created by an unreasonable director, should I down-play it? Should I disregard the horror stories? I don't want to condone torturing actors, but the truth is this was some of the finest performances I've ever watched.
Even though most of the characters are immediately recognizable, the best performance and most interesting character for me was the one I hadn't seen before. I thought Birgitte Helm as good Maria and bad Maria was one of the most interesting, well-played, strong female character I've seen in years. It is incredibly sad that a twenties movie had an actress role we didn't see again until.. 2015?
That eyebrow, those movements, you just can't take your eyes off her!

In retrospect I'm not sure why I was so hesitant to watch this one. I loved "Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari"(1920) when I watched it a few years ago - the visual effects and acting there was also incredibly engaging and memorable - I'm really sad we lost the inventive, creative aspects of German cinema with the war.

Metropolis is known as one of the father's of Cinema, and it's definitely one of the strongest movies I've ever watched.
There's just one scene that could have made the movie better:

This was also the year I started really using and watching YouTube, expanding my subscriptions to around 20 game and movie reviewers and let's players. "Bad game" Let's players like Retsupurae, Jim Sterling and Rich "Lowtax" Kyanka, and "bad movie" reviewers like the Nostalgia Critic, Red Letter Media's Best of the Worst and Cinema Snob were a notable influence on my interests and activities this year, leading me to try new things like watching all the best known "bad movies" and most of Asylum's library.

I also tried to keep up with most of the new animated tv-series, and while I understand most people's infatuation with Steven Universe, the one series that really stands out for me at the moment is the Netflix original series "All Hail King Julien". Dreamworks took a movie franchise I never really liked and made it into one of the best animated series I've seen. It's crude, raunchy, full of innuendo and inappropriate jokes, yet still so full of heart. Danny Jacobs (King Julien) took an asshole character and made him one of the most lovable, useless, borderline evil protagonists you'll find. He's deeply flawed (and so is most of the other characters), leading a flock of sheep unable to function on their own in one of the funniest, over-the-top, creative series on "tv" today, that's also surprisingly real.

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