Wednesday, December 30, 2015

DC Outlook's Top 10 Movies of 2015

Domhnall Gleeson & Oscar Isaac (r) star in Ex Machina

2015 just became the highest grossing year in U.S. box office history ($11 billion and climbing, passing 2013's $10.9B.) That's a lot of money (thank you Star Wars & Jurassic World) and while neither of those films cracked our year-end Top 10, we're pretty sure you'll find a few gems (below) that did. Unlike in years past, choosing the 10 best was pretty easy; although you could still make a strong case for runners-up The Big Short, Everest, Inside Out, The Revenant and the vastly underrated The Walk. On with the countdown!

10. Avengers: Age of Ultron: 2015's first cinematic billionaire was one of those rare blockbusters that earned its money. Great action, terrific special effects and a surprisingly strong story add up to one of this year's best (on screen, and at/in the bank.)

9. The Diary of a Teenage Girl: This was the only film on our list to score less than an A- (apologies to The Walk) but this charming coming-of-age story has an unlikely heroine (Bel Powley) and mature subject matter to boot. The fact that it's directed by a first-time feature filmmaker (Marielle Heller) makes it all the more remarkable.

8. Brooklyn: Is Saoirse Ronan cute or what? One thing's for sure: She's a dynamite actor, and might just walk away with a Teacher's Pet Award for Best Actress. Brooklyn is (hands down) the most charming movie of the year, and a friendly reminder of how good the old days used to be.

7. Racing Extinction: Odds are, Louie Psihoyos' hypnotizing doc won't crack many Top 10 lists... but it should. In fact, no film (including the six we have ranked ahead of it) is more important to see. A literal wake-up call to humanity.

6. Youth: Second only to Ex Machina in terms of raw beauty (sorry, Alicia Vikander trumps all) and packed with heartfelt, quirky performances (led by the incomparable Sir Michael Caine.) Could win two Teacher's Pet Awards (Best Actor, Cinematography) and that might be just the beginning.

5. Spotlight: Our pick for Best Picture at next year's Oscars. Its heavy subject matter is all that (possibly) stands in its way; but Tom McCarthy did such a great job "holding back" without sacrificing an ounce of brilliance or rawness. Best ensemble cast of the year.

4. Slow West: Yet another first time feature director (John Maclean.) Evidently, there is hope for the future. I wrote "Superbly shot, Slow West is a slow boil across a serene, uncluttered canvas." Perhaps my best line of the year, and quite possibly the most overlooked movie of 2015. The fact that it's made only $229,000 (yes, thousand) at the box office is criminal. Criminal.

3. 99 Homes: "You wanna see something really scary?" 99 Homes takes the 2008 housing market crash, and puts it on par with The Exorcist and Jaws. That's not easy to do; but it certainly helps to have a surefire Best Supporting Actor (Michael Shannon) one of the year's best directing jobs (Ramin Bahrani) and a story that hits home with just about everybody. Absolutely superb.

2. Sicario: I'm thrilled to see I'm not the only one who loved Sicario. Still, I don't think enough critics/people realize just how great it truly is. Denis Villeneuve puts you smack dab in the middle of the Mexican Drug War, while surrounding you with brilliant, refreshingly understated performances by Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro. Spellbinding... from beginning to end.

1. Ex Machina: If this is what the future looks like, count me in! Ex Machina is creative, luscious to look at (did you know you can stay there - Juvet Landscape Hotel in Norway?) and everything a sci-fi/psychological thriller should be. It's also creepy, funny (at times) and innovative/smart. Top 10-material, even without Vikander. #1 by a mile with her.