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Top Ten Films of 2015



2015 was a goddamn great year for movies.

It was a year where box office records were smashed.  Fast and Furious 7The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens made an enormous impact at the box office, with all three films breaking into the Top Ten Highest Grossing Films of All Time category.  And who would bet against The Force Awakens unseating Avatar as the highest grossing film of all time when its all said and done?

The way we watch movies continues to expand and evolve.  One of my favourite films of 2014 was the Australian horror film The Babadook which struggled to find an audience when it was released to the domestic box office before it found a new lease on life on Netflix.  This year, my top ten list includes Going Clear and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night – more films that used video on demand services as their primary means to reach their audience.  Video on demand became a huge market in Australia in 2015 with Netflix, Presto and Stan all launching to consumers this year.

That said, piracy remains prevalent in the industry, particularly during awards season as the annual leaks of award season films continues unabated.  Curiously, the most pirated film of 2015 was 2014’s Interstellar.

Will the soaring popularity of video on demand bring about the demise of the DVD and Blu Ray markets?  I hope not.  Although the number of films I purchase on Blu Ray shrinks year by year, its still the best medium for films to have an expansive set of extra features, audio commentaries and alternate cuts of the film.  One of my favourite pick ups of 2015 was The Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki Blu Ray collection which has a fantastic array of extra clips and video features highlighting the production of these films.

2015 was a year where women reigned supreme at the box office with Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars Episode VII both creating some of the most highest profile lead roles for women in action films since Ripley in Alien thirty years ago.  Jennifer Lawrence, Charlize Theron and Amy Schumer all made waves at the box office and thanks to the Sony Pictures email leaks of last year highlighting some shameful disparity in salaries between genders, they actually got paid the same as their male counterparts this year.  Progress!

It was also a year where some of the most reliably great directors in Hollywood unexpectedly faltered.  Brad Bird (The Incredibles, The Iron Giant), Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone) and Ron Howard (Rush, Frost/Nixon) all released new films to critical and commercial indifference.

On a personal note, I haven’t seen nearly as many films as I would have liked this year.  I have seen just one – ONE! – Australian film this year and plenty of popular and talked about films came and went at the cinema before I had a chance to watch them.  Fast and Furious 7, Spectre, Straight Outta Compton, Creed, Steve Jobs, Bridge of Spies, Far From the Madding Crowd, Crimson Peak all remain on my to-do list.

Of the films I did see, I enjoyed the vast majority of them.  And there were a handful that I really loved and I look forward to rewatching many times over, years from now.  Then there were a couple that were really special.  Films that were pretty much perfect.  That made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up at times.  I couldn’t pick a favourite so for the first time since I started making this annual list, I’ve got a tie for my favourite film of the year.

Movies are awesome.  2015 was awesome.  Now lets see what 2016 has in store for us!


Inside Out

Director:  Pete Docter
Writer:  Pete Docter
Cast:  Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Richard Kind, Lewis Black

“Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.”

Inside Out is the charming and highly inventive new film from Pete Docter, arguable the most accomplished director to work with Pixar.  His previous works include Up, Wall-E and Monsters Inc.  Inside Out exists mostly inside the mind of an eleven year old girl Riley, struggling to adapt to her new life in San Francisco.  The film is like an all ages version of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, exploring Riley’s headspace through the lens of five emotional beings that make up her personality.

Docter has always been an ambitious film creator and here he tries nothing less than to teach children why sadness and melancholy are an integral part of the human soul.  Inside Out is funny, charming and heart warming.  Easily my favourite animated film of the year.

Full Review


It Follows

Director:  David Robert Mitchell
Writer:  David Robert Mitchell
Cast:  Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Olivia Luccardi

“It could look like someone you know or it could be a stranger in a crowd. Whatever helps it get close to you.”

It Follows is a fantastic teen horror film that draws its inspiration from the works of John Carpenter and Sam Raimi whilst still maintaining an identity of its own.  Writer and director David Robert Mitchell shows a real flair for understanding how to set the stage for a supernatural horror of this kind.

There’s a terrifying killer on the prowl, it has strict rules it must adhere to and then there’s a cast of young naive teenagers who are its prey.  The film is handsomely put together with some evocative cinematography that gives It Follows the look of a Seventies or Eighties teen slasher film.  The tension gets ratcheted up another score when you add in the fantastic pulse pounding synth score from Disasterpeace.

Watch this movie in the dead of night with the lights out for maximum effect.


A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

Director:  Ana Lily Amapour
Writer:  Ana Lily Amapour
Cast:  Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi

“Don’t leave me. Don’t leave me alone.”

2015 was the year that Netflix finally arrived in Australia and one of the finest hidden gems in its catalogue is the Iranian vampire horror western A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night.

Set in the ghost town of Bad City, a blood sucking shape shifting vampire prowls the streets at night, to the peril of the hapless men who cross her path.  As you can probably guess by its genre categorisation, A Girl Walks Home Along At Night is worth watching because of its unique premise, eye catching visuals and effortless cool.


Slow West

Director:  John Maclean
Writer:  John Maclean
Cast:  Kodi Smit-Mcphee, Michael Fassbender, Ben Mendelsohn

Werner: So, now… East. What news?
Cavendish: Violence and suffering. And West?
Werner: Dreams and toil.

It’s really only been in the last five years or so that I’ve discovered a love of Westerns and begun exploring them – both the classics and the new.  Slow West is the directorial debut of John McClean, a musician who was a part of the Scottish musical group The Beta Band.  With Slow West, he has made an impressive, sure-handed first feature that deserves to find a wide audience.

As the name suggests, the film is in no hurry and moves at the same laconic pace as its two stars – Jay Cavendish, a Scottish teenager who has travelled to America in search of his lost love Rose, and Silas Selleck, a seasoned and weary outlaw who takes Jay under his wing and gives him safe passage across the West, for a price.

The film is beautiful to look at – shot in New Zealand of all places – and Jay and Silas’ journey is a touching one.  They cross paths with all manner of folk in their search for Rose and in the final act, the film shifts into a memorable crescendo that I won’t spoil.  Needless to say, I think Slow West represents the best of its genre.  McClean shows an understanding of the characters, tropes and landscapes that make a good Western and then he puts his own spin on it, as he modernizes it and makes it his own.


Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

Director:  Alex Gibney
Writer:  Alex Gibney
Cast:  Paul Haggis, Alex Gibney, Jason Beghe

“The war is over” – David Miscavige

There have been plenty of exposes on Scientology over the years but none that would rival the breadth of content seen in HBO’s documentary Going Clear which has interviews with some of the most high profile and famous people to leave the church.  The film also has fascinating rare video footage of Scientology gatherings, including a ceremony where Tom Cruise receives a comically oversized Freedom Medal of Valor as seen in the screen shot above.

With a running time of over two hours, I think the film does a pretty solid job exploring the origins of Scientology and the guarded nature of its belief structure before moving on to the more well documented challenges people have faced when they have either tried to leave the church or question the organization’s behavior in a public forum.  Gibney has an absolute mountain of information to communicate to the audience here and he delivers it in absorbing fashion.


The Martian

Director:  Ridley Scott
Writer:  Drew Goddard
Cast:  Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels

“I don’t want to come off as arrogant here, but I’m the greatest botanist on this planet.”

Based on Andy Weir’s best selling novel, The Martian is a thriller about an astronaut who becomes stranded on Mars.

The story ‘plays by the rules’ and only allows him to use survival techniques that astrophysicists believe would actually work on the Red Planet.  The result is a space-based film that really is like no other.

The Martian is a delightful love letter to space exploration and the ingenuity of the people who are working to make crewed space travel to Mars a reality.  The script is razor sharp, full of charm and wit, and the final product is one of the finest films Ridley Scott and Matt Damon have produced in years.


Ex Machina

Director:  Alex Garland
Writer:  Alex Garland
Cast:  Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson

“I am become death, The Destroyer of Worlds.”

You may not know the name but Alex Garland is a writer who has been the ideas man behind many of Danny Boyle’s most famous films including The Beach, 28 Days Later and Sunshine.

With Ex Machina he makes his directorial debut in this sci-fi thriller about a billionaire tech mogul Nathan who invites one of his employees Caleb to spend a week at his remote research facility in the mountains.  There he reveals Ava, a robot creation that he is convinced can pass the Turing test.  During a temporary outage of the CCTV feeds, Ava confides to Caleb that she feels imprisoned and needs his help to escape Nathan.  From that moment, its game on.  Can Caleb help Ava escape?  Is she everything that she seems?  Is Nathan in cahoots with Ava?

As you’d expect from Garland, nothing is quite what it seems in Ex Machina and you have all the ingredients here for a clever morality tale about artificial intelligence and what happens when its sophistication makes it near indistinguishable from humans.


Jurassic World

Director:  Alex Garland
Writer:  Alex Garland
Cast:  Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson

“Corporate felt genetic modification would up the ‘wow’ factor.”

When its at its best, Jurassic World has action sequences that rival the intensity of the original Jurassic Park.

The genetic frankenstein Indominus Rex is a terrifying new addition to the dinosaur park and thankfully for monster movie fans, the security team at InGen haven’t learned their lesson for a fourth time and they keep this new unstoppable eating machine in an easily escapable enclosure during peak tourist season.

The result is an entertaining thrill ride in which director Colin Trevorrow serves up exhilarating action sequences in spades and gives a respectful nod to the original film.  Easily the best of the Jurassic Park sequels and a fine film in its own right.

Full Review



Mad Max: Fury Road – Film of the Year

Director:  Alex Garland
Writer:  Alex Garland
Cast:  Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson

“Oh! What a lovely day!” – Nux

If you had to choose a single frame to represent the films of 2015, surely you couldn’t pick a more instantly recognizable and iconic image than that of Doof Warrior – the masked, jump suit wearing, guitar shredding freak that rides on a truck stacked with amps in George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road.

Fury Road has been the surprise package of 2015.  At seventy years young, Miller has breathed new life into the action genre with an unrelenting heart pounding thrill ride and along the way, he and Charlize Theron have helped create a memorable new action heroine in the form of Imperator Furiosa, the ass-kicking, one armed star of the film.

Full Review



Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens Film of the Year

Director:  Alex Garland
Writer:  Alex Garland
Cast:  Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson

“The Force, it’s calling to you. Just let it in.”

That son of a bitch Abrams did it.  He actually pulled it off.

The world breathed a collective sigh of relief when the long awaited Star Wars Episode VII arrived in cinemas around the world.  It looked and felt exactly as you’d hoped for.  The decision to shoot on film instead of digital makes the film look like a natural successor to Return of the Jedi.  The punchy dialogue and snappy one liners harkens back to the banter in A New Hope.  This – this! – was the successor to the original Star Wars trilogy we were all hoping for.

Not only does the film strike all the right chords on a nostalgic level, it also brings the franchise into the 21st Century with the decision to cast Daisy Ridley and John Boyega as the film’s leads.  Both absolutely nail their performances and are two of the highlights of the film.

Since it launched a fortnight ago, I’ve read plenty of people’s responses to the film and it’s clear to see how the film is resonating with two generations of fans – the young and the old.  For the older generation, its the hairs that stand up on the back of your neck when the iconic John Williams fanfare plays at the start of the film and the yellow text begins to trawl across the screen.  For the younger generation, it’s amazing to see how the new cast is resonating with kids around the world.  One of my favourite reactions was this snippet below:


Now you can’t get much better than that, can you?


Honourable Mentions


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part Two

Kingsman: The Secret Service



The Theory of Everything

The Imitation Game




Top Fifty Films of 2014 |  Film of the Year – Grand Budapest Hotel

Top Ten Films of 2013 |  Film of the Year – Gravity

Top Ten Films of 2012  |  Film of the Year – The Descendants

Top Ten Films of 2011 |  Film of the Year – True Grit

Top Ten Films of 2010 | Film of the Year – The Social Network

Top Ten Films of 2009 | Film of the Year – In The Loop

About Edo

Edo currently lives in Australia where he spends his time playing video games and enjoying his wife's cooking.

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