The Jurassic Park Series (Anyway, That’s All I Got)

jurassic park series

In what is undoubtedly our longest episode to date, we decided (against our better judgment) to revisit all five movie in the Jurassic series, from the original Jurassic Park all the way to the newly released Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, we dissect the few successes and many failures of the series thus far, all the while pondering how this franchise manages to continue, and how the hell it got to the point it’s at today. Needless to say, we have plenty of agreements, disagreements, and insights along the way, and at the end of the show we give our individual pitches for where we’d like the franchise to go.

Hosted by Sam Noland, Jason Read, and Anthony Battaglia!

Go on…The Jurassic Park Series (Anyway, That’s All I Got)


Cinemaholics Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

fallen kingdom

This week on Cinemaholics, I’m joined by special guest Jake Holland and my co-host Will Ashton to review Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Is the “fallen kingdom” in question the state of the Jurassic Park franchise at this point? Well, according to the box office, definitely not. We had a great conversation about the series as a whole and leading up to this new film from J.A. Bayona, and we’ve even included a brief section for spoilers (with fair warning of course).

We opened this week’s show with some Off-Topics, including a rundown of Incredibles 2 breaking all kinds of box office records, plus how Solo: A Star Wars Story‘s utter failure at the box office has reportedly led to Disney and Lucasfilm putting future standalone Star Wars movies on hold. We also get into a fascinating segment about Gotti, which includes everything from a marketing campaign targeted at film critics to some seriously shady number crunching going on at Rotten Tomatoes. You’ll have to hear this one to believe it.

Last, we get into Mini Reviews as usual, but only a few this week. I give my thoughts on Luke Cage Season 2, which just dropped on Netflix, as well as the new romantic comedy Set It Up. And Will finally saw Thoroughbreds, one of my favorites of 2018.

Question for you: Aside from the original, which is your favorite Jurassic Park movie?

Go on…Cinemaholics Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Bad News: Fan Theories are Destroying Movie Discussion

fan theories

Sorry, everyone. It turns out we have to ditch enjoying our entertainment a certain way because the managing editor of Movie Mezzanine thinks they are, and this is a direct quote, “truly toxic.”

Alright. Let’s do this.

In his latest editorial, titled “Why Fan Theories are Destroying Film Discourse,” film critic Josh Spiegel deconstructs the modern fan theory, directly calling me out on two theories I’ve written on this very site. For that reason, I think it would be rude not to respond, right?

He starts the essay with a few examples to set up his case.

Did you know that, in The Dark Knight, the hero was actually the Joker? It’s true—if you buy into this recent theory posited by a user on Reddit.

Interesting that he doesn’t link to the post itself, just an article on SlashFilm reporting on it. I mean, that’s not egregiously terrible or anything…but why not just link to the original post? Wouldn’t it be fairer for readers to evaluate the original version instead of a shortened one that leaves out his full explanation?

Also, I don’t get his logic with this sentence: “It’s true—if you buy into this.”

Well, no, something isn’t “true” just because you believe it. I suppose, then, it is true to you, but if Josh is subtly implying that truth is relative, then doesn’t that make this entire article pointless?

And did you know that Andy’s mom in Toy Story is also the grown version of the girl named Emily in Toy Story 2 who owned, and then discarded, Jessie the cowgirl?

YES! Wait, is this a trap?

No fooling, according to a post by the same guy who has a far broader theory that every Pixar movie—yes, even the Cars movies—are connected to each other.

Well, no, that’s not true. If he had read the actual post he’s linking to, he would have noticed that I didn’t, in fact, come up with the original theory for Andy’s mom being Emily. It was presented to me, and I made the case for it with my own research.

fan theories
So long, logic.

And in the most mind-blowing one of all, it’s even been suggested that the snarky kid at the beginning of Jurassic Park who Alan Grant threatens with a raptor claw grew up to be none other than Chris Pratt’s hero character in Jurassic World.

Again, Spiegel links to the article reporting what someone posted on Reddit, instead of just the original posting. Does Spiegel hate Reddit or something?

Also, I actually like this theory about Jurassic World. It’s interesting. It’s a fun connection. It makes enough sense, and it doesn’t contradict anything presented in the respective movies. So, what’s the problem?

There are an embarrassingly large number of fan theories floating around the Internet, and the emphasis here should be on the word “embarrassingly.”

It’s embarrassing to have a large number of discussions about movies? I thought fan theories were destroying film discourse, not strengthening it? Oh, Josh, let’s just cut to the chase, friend. 

What these ideas amount to are fan fiction, not fan theories.

Wait, but what are “these ideas” you refer to? I didn’t leave a sentence out. You’re saying that fan theories are fan fiction, but they’re not fan theories. What?

fan theories
And even *terrible* fan fiction gets to be a book!

Also, fan fiction isn’t as broad a term as you’re alluding. Unless someone is actually writing a fiction, it’s not fan fiction. And even if it is, some fan fiction can be pretty good (don’t see above), and a lot of people read and love it. In a way, the celebrated Star Wars novels are a form of fan fiction cleverly called “expanded universe.” Why is that acceptable, but an interpretation of a movie you just saw isn’t?

I have a feeling he’s not going to answer the question and instead bring something else up.

Few, if any, of these theories ever get a direct response;

They’re not supposed to get a direct response. That’s not the point. Fan theories, in a broad sense, are an experiment by moviegoers to let themselves interpret movies they love in new and different ways. They don’t have to be “true.” 

That’s like saying your interpretation of 2001A Space Odyssey isn’t worth your time because Kubrick hasn’t directly responded to it from the grave.

fan theories

..the closest in recent memory is Pixar director Lee Unkrich playfully retweeting a comment or two from followers of his who treat the so-called Pixar Theory as utter silliness.

Well first of all, it’s not “so-called.” It’s just called.

Also, why not just link to the Tweet itself?? Again, Spiegel links to the blog post about the Tweet. I’m feeling an Inception fan theory coming on here…is…is Josh Spiegel Dom Cobb? Makes sense.

Oh, and you’re linking to the wrong Pixar Theory. That’s the website inspired by it, not the original post. I’m guessing Spiegel doesn’t care.

[UPDATE: Movie Mezzanine graciously fixed this error and sent the link to the correct spot. Credit where credit is due.]

But fan theories are becoming as prevalent to modern film culture as stories about casting rumors or reviews, and they are becoming truly toxic.

Toxic, eh? That’s strong language. I mean it implies that fan theories themselves are harmful. Probably to film discourse! Let’s read why. 

It’s easy to imagine the counterargument from those in favor of fan theories: What’s the harm?

Right. That’s a big one. 

The Dark Knight doesn’t become better or worse because of a Reddit user’s theory about the Joker, as silly as that theory might sound.


The Toy Story films are still marvelous whether or not Andy’s mom is Jessie’s old owner.

True that. 

Jurassic World is still a resounding disappointment,

Wait, what? A resounding disappointment? That’s heavy hyperbole, especially considering the adjective is implying that we’re still feeling it as a disappointment months later. 

Never mind that Jurassic World is one of the top-grossing films of all time, or that it managed to score good reviews when most people were expecting another terrible Jurassic Park sequel. 

fan theories
Never forget.

I get why you may not have liked it, Spiegel, but that doesn’t make it an ongoing disappointment to everyone else.

The problem is that these theories, online, become as inextricable to a vast amount of readers as the actual movies themselves.

He just asserts this. No evidence. No examples. Not even a bloody anecdote. Spiegel, in all his wisdom, just declares that fan theories are confusing people because there’s a lot of them. Does he not think we’re smart enough to read fan theories? And then he says the movies should be confusing us. What? What’s confusing? 

This argument makes no sense to me because it implies that people care more about fan theories than the movie themselves, but liking the movie is the actual prerequisite to even wanting to read a fan theory.

So what’s the problem? People aren’t overthinking movies the right way? Is that where this is going?

Worse still, these fan theories are quickly replacing actual critical analysis,

Last I checked, people still critique movies. Like a lot of them. All the time. Do you have, maybe, any evidence that there are fewer articles that analyze movies the way you want them to be analyzed?

covered by a large amount of entertainment websites in part because the content beast must be fed,

Exactly! Like how celebrity gossip ruined film discourse because the magazine content beast had to be fed. Should we hate that, too?

and in part because it takes the work out of the hands of the sites’ writers and into the hands of random commenters who have too much time on their hands.

Look, I’m all for giving writers more work to do. Like sourcing the actual comments instead of just linking to the blog post about them. (But I guess he’s doing that to strengthen his point.) 

And we don’t totally disagree on this. Some fan theories are pretty bad, and it’s annoying when a website will feature them just to get clicks. So why are you attacking all fan theories? Some of them are fantastic, and yes, worth talking about.

fan theories
Like “the stormtroopers missed all the time because Vader ordered them not to kill his son. Oh, and he knew Luke was his son the whole time.”

They’re not from “random commenters” as you so condescendingly refer to them as. They’re human beings who love movies just as much as you and I do.

I don’t care what you think about them, Spiegel. Loving movies is the only qualifier you need to join the discussion, EVEN if you have free time (gasp).

So what’s the difference between a fan theory and a deep-dive exploration into one aspect of a film?

Hmmm…How many flattering adjectives you’re willing to assign to them? 

The former is the product of a person choosing to fantasize about what they would do if they had made the film they’re watching,

No, that’s not it at all. Last I checked, not everyone wants to be a director. Maybe I’ll check again. Checks. Nope. 

and the latter is the product of a person paying attention to the movie they’re watching and responding in kind.

Wow. Just…wow. Spiegel isn’t using words like “some” or “generally.” He’s definitively saying that people who write fan theories aren’t paying attention to the movie. 

Because it’s not like I write both fan theories and elaborate critiques about how The Incredibles demonstrates the subtle benefits of inequality, how Inception brilliantly built its story around filmmaking, or how the humans of WALL-E represent the best in society contrasted with their horrible surroundings you’re only perceiving as “bad” because of clever story tricks. 

I couldn’t have written any of those things because I wasn’t “paying attention.” I was too busy also writing fan theories, and those are bad.

Often, the fan theories that send the Internet—specifically its social-media avenues—into a tizzy rely heavily on the fact that they aren’t based directly on what’s present in the text.

True. Most of these theories end up being rubbish, or not completely thought through. 

Take, for example, the notion that Owen Grady in Jurassic World is the kid in the opening of Jurassic Park. That certainly sounds cool, and would be a nice, if random, tie-in to the 1993 film. But what’s the evidence backing this theory? Well, see, the kid in Jurassic Park is only credited as “Volunteer Boy.” So his name could be Owen! Also, Chris Pratt is only a year older than the actor who played Volunteer Boy, so the timeline could fit! Also…um…hey, look, something shiny!

Seriously, Josh? Why so mean-spirited in that last line? We get it. You think fan theories are childish. You don’t have to be a tool about it.

fan theories
Take a long, Lohan, look at yourself.

Also, the evidence for this Jurassic World theory comes from the fact that you can reasonably see the people who made the film creating a character who embodies this moment from the first film. It actually informs the story as a whole.

That said, and I can’t stress this enough, this theory doesn’t have to be true. But it is a fun thought experiment that you can speculate about because it does happen to fit with the source material so nicely.

The majority of the work to make this theory seem remotely logical is done behind the scenes, as someone imagines what could have happened to this kid after Alan Grant scratched at his stomach with a raptor claw.

Yeah, who needs imagination? Certainly not people who watch what is essentially an illusion on a big screen.

See, much of what we take from a movie has to come from thinking external of what’s being presented. This is because the audience makes an emotional connection with what’s happening, but not every director can spoon feed you the context. That would alienate the audience.

We have to fill in those blanks ourselves most of the time, which leads to…you guessed it…film discourse.

This same vagueness plagues the majority of fan theories. Yes, it’s not impossible that, in the Toy Story films, Andy’s mom could have a deeper connection to one of his toys than he or even she realizes. So many existing fan theories rely on the first four words of the previous sentence: “Yes, it’s not impossible.” The lack of impossibility, however, doesn’t automatically prove a theory correct; it merely suggests that it’s not impossible for something to be true.

Again, these theories don’t have to be true. That’s not why most people come up with them. It’s about interpreting small clues in new ways that get you to think about the film. When someone reads this theory for the first time, they’re often pushed into rewatching the movie, and (guess what!) paying attention to it. 

Fan theories are no substitute for critical analysis, yet they have quickly become inseparable for so many readers online.

This is Josh’s main argument, and I get why he’s so concerned. Because it’s true that fan theories are not a substitute. But that’s a complete misunderstanding of their role. They’re not meant to be a substitute, either. They never were. 

Instead, fan theories in their nature are meant to be a form of interpretation through imagination and passion for the subject material. They’re meant to answer questions that don’t have to be answered, but create conversations between the people who answer these questions in different ways.

fan theories
Sometimes, fan theories are answered by the voice actors themselves.

Analogy time!

Fan theories are like movies. There are good movies, and there are bad movies. That doesn’t mean we should get rid of all movies because some are bad. And bad movies certainly don’t replace other art forms that approach entertainment in a different way. I can read a fan theory and a deep analysis by A.A. Dowd. And I can enjoy both of them.

On the other, fan theories pose as critical analysis in spite of featuring neither criticism—often, these are posed by people who would proudly consider themselves fanboys or fangirls, never pausing to think about the built-in imperfections of even their favorite films—nor analysis.

Translation: Josh thinks you like movies too much. Go figure. 

Right, because in his world, people who overthink movies don’t criticize them. That is an actual opinion held by a film critic.

Popular films like Jurassic World or The Dark Knight or Toy Story beg to be debated for their themes.

And nothing else! Only themes! 

Hey, wouldn’t that mean that critical analysis of themes is destroying film discourse? What if someone wants to debate the characters in the movie, or how some of the movies share nods to each other?

Nope! To save film discourse, we must prevent it from happening the way we want it to. Shrug!

As ubiquitous as they may be, the discourse surrounding these films frequently sidesteps a conversation on nostalgia, on childhood heroes, on the possible emptiness of vast spectacle.

This sentence exists in a world where The Nostalgia Critic is one of the most widely viewed critics in new media. 

fan theories
OK, maybe some people talk about Nostalgia Critic more than nostalgia itself.

Fan theories now drive the discourse on these films, and to everyone’s detriment.

No, they just exist. That’s all they do. Yes, some are more popular than others, but how is that in any way proof that they’re replacing anything? 

I browse the Top and Trending URLs almost every single day. You know which articles about movies I see the most being shared? Not fan theories. Those make up a small percentage, because the reality is that a good fan theory is hard to discover, while pointing out what you think about a movie is pretty easy, and a lot of people are pretty interested in critical analysis.

You know what the top trending links were for the day I wrote this (September 2, 2015)? The top link was an image of Bryan Cranston as LBJ in the upcoming movie, All the Way.

fan theories
Yes, this is actually happening.

The second most shared link about movies (including via social media) was a longform piece by Italo Calvino about movies that influenced his youth, adapted from a published autobiography.

There was another piece about actors who’ve built successful careers after The Twilight Zone.

Even Gawker published something interesting about how Bruce Willis was unaware that China has a huge film market even though he’s in a movie made in China. OK, I thought it was interesting.

So that’s everything movie-related from the top 100 links. Yet I don’t see a single “fan theory” shoving its way past articles that are, in Spiegel’s eyes, more deserving.

fan theories

For some odd reason, Spiegel feels threatened because a good article he probably wrote isn’t as famous as a theory about the Joker from The Dark Knight. And I guess I sympathize. That sounds weird, and I’ve been there.

Does that mean fan theories are inherently bad, though? Absolutely not. You could only argue that they’re toxic if you actually have an argument that points out how they prevent people from deep analysis.

But instead of doing that, Spiegel has chosen to create a false dichotomy between analysis and analysis fueled by imagination. By doing this, he tries to makes you feel dumb for liking fan theories instead of something he likes.

That’s not an argument. That’s a childish guilt trip.

On their own, fan theories are, indeed, harmless; if they existed next to critical discussions, and did so in lesser standing, they would be a fun distraction.

“Fan theories wouldn’t be so bad if people liked my articles better.” 

But the more fan theories are treated as serious, thoughtful salvos in a debate, the more ridiculous they appear to become.

To you. 

Here’s a new fan theory to ponder: making these things die a quick death will improve the world of film immeasurably. What more proof do you need?

All of the proof you failed to deliver thousands of words ago. 

And I’m puzzled by the raising of the stakes toward the end. Now we have to make fan theories die a quick death? What’s going on, Josh? Did a fan theory steal your girlfriend or something?

Seriously, he went from talking about how fan theories are harmless to calling for their immediate death. This sounds a lot like a dictatorship to me, rather than letting people who love movies make up their minds on how they want to approach the entertainment they like.

In other words, not everyone thinks like a film critic. And that’s OK.

fan theories
You. Are going. To do great, today.

This entire article is a classic case of subjectivity rearing its opinionated head. The truth of it is that Josh Spiegel is an intelligent film critic. I actually like his work a lot and enjoyed his review of Inside Out, among others. We don’t always agree, of course, but he’s good at adding great points to any given discussion.

But this idea that fan theories are making everything worse is a true moment of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt).

The quick of it is that Josh doesn’t like fan theories. So he doesn’t like that you like fan theories. Then he accuses you of not liking the type of analysis that he likes (even though you probably do). Then he calls for the death of said thing that you love.

No thanks.

[UPDATE] The original author of the “Joker” theory (who goes by the username, generalzee) responded to Spiegel’s post via the comments, and I thought it would be good to share it here as well. Source.

As the person who wrote the Joker Fan Theory in question, I can’t believe how wrong and insecure this article sounds.

First of all, I never intended for my fan theory to be a critical analysis of The Dark Knight. Nowhere in my theory do I talk about the framing of shots (which I could have), or the acting (which could have been a major point in such a theory), or even the uber-dark mise-en-scene, which may have fully supported my theory, and highlighted how, thematically, all three main characters were living in the dark. Instead, I made an arguably compelling argument that the film could be interpreted another way.

What I find worse than that, though, is the fact that you claim that I ignored facts that are DIRECTLY MENTIONED in my theory. I explained both the boats and Dent’s scarring (Both physical and emotional) directly in the original piece. Of course, I wouldn’t expect a modern blogger to actually check his sources, and I’m sure you just read the Mashable version at some point, but it annoys me that you would make such an attack on fan theories WITHOUT EVEN READING THE ONE YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.

So please let me be clear that this response IS intended to be a critical discourse on your work. What I see is a self-proclaimed critic who is horrified by his perceived loss of power to a basically unrelated group of people investigating films in a way that he, himself, has arbitrarily deemed below himself. This is reflected in his weak, but clear call to action to end Fan Theories as if they are going to harm legitimate film criticism. The panic he feels reflects strongly in his hastily researched (Really, how long did it take you to read the titles of the top 5 Fan Theories on Reddit?), and poorly thought-out criticism of a culture that he would attempt to appropriate into his own, only to discard it immediately.

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

My Top 10 Movies of Summer 2015

top movies 2015

Back in May, I shared my top 10 movies of 2015 as of January through May. This included movies that came out over the winter and spring, including early summer hits like Avengers: Age of UltronMad Max, and other well-liked films I’ve already highlighted.

Well, we’re about 35 weeks into 2015, and we still have a lot of potentially great movies to look forward to as the year continues, including a new James Bond movie made by Sam Mendes (Spectre). We have a spy thriller coming out that’s directed by Steven Spielberg, written by the Coen brothers, and starring Tom Hanks.

And of course, there’s a new Star Wars movie due in December, as well as a new Tarantino movie, a Matt Damon movie that doesn’t look terrible, Bradley Cooper as a chef in Burnt, Tom Hardy playing two roles in one movie, and Leonardo DiCaprio in a role that might finally get him an Oscar.

top movies 2015
I mean, maybe.

But let’s pause and reflect over the movies we already saw this summer. I’m of course sharing my own top 10 movies, but feel free to share your own list in the comments, especially if you’ve seen something I haven’t.

So let’s get started. Keep in mind that this list doesn’t include any movies from May. That means great films like Mad Max: Fury Road are in my previous top list for the first third of the year. Enjoy!

#10  The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

top movies 2015

This is the only movie on my list that I gave a B minus, but I’m still happy to recommend it to anyone looking for a thrilling spy adventure with a soundtrack better than the actual film. This is also a good watch for anyone curious to see how Henry Cavill performs during the post-Man of Steel era in anticipation for next year’s big-budget superhero fusion, Dawn of Justice.

But I’m more excited to point out how much I liked Armie Hammer in this, especially since this was his chance to shine post-Lone Ranger. And then there’s Alicia Vikander, who has nothing to prove (yet) thanks to her brilliant role in Ex Machina, and we still have a slew of other films she’s set to star in this year alone.

That said, U.N.C.L.E. suffers from a pretty generic plot, but its good characters, memorable scenes, and commitment to 60s era spy themes is well-worth a watch on DVD. Even though I’ve ranked other movies better than this one, like The Diary of a Teenage Girl, I can’t help but recommend this one as a flawed, but fun, escape.

#9 Straight Outta Compton

top movies 2015

This is another recent hit and one of Universal’s biggest as the summer comes to a close (even compared to Minions and  Jurassic World). And it makes my list for managing to capture my interest in a true story that I didn’t care much about before watching the film.

The story of N.W.A. gave me an appreciation for a cultural era and art form I never paid much attention to growing up, and it was a powerful piece of storytelling. Looking back, I still remember the dynamic performances (notably including O’Shea Jackson) and excellent visuals that captured the world of this racially charged rags-to-riches story.

I only scored it a B, mostly because while the first half is certainly A material, the last hour and a half tends to meander and lose focus. Weirdly, this is apparently intentional, as it illustrates the slow, downward spiral of some N.W.A. rappers contrasting with the successful ones. Still, that doesn’t excuse pacing issues and the film coming off as imbalanced.

#8 Southpaw

top movies 2015

What was a middle-of-the-road and cliched boxing movie to some ended up being one of my favorite boxing films in years. This is despite plenty of problems that hold Southpaw back from showcasing what’s truly great about Jake Gyllenhaal as an actor and instead reminding us that this is the director who gave us Olympus has Fallen (another mediocre movie I still managed to enjoy).

Southpaw borrows a lot of its good material plot points from classic boxing films,  especially Rocky 3 and 4. But Gyllenhaal’s transformation in the role and the filmmaker’s ability to translate his bleak downfall through powerful images and humbling atmospheres added something new and interesting to the genre. It really felt like a modern boxing movie, unlike modern takes on older stories, like The Fighter.

I greatly enjoyed the melodrama and powerful imagery Southpaw managed to pull off, and the performances by some of the side characters, including the daughter played by Oona Lawrence, more than carried the film to some greatness.

#7 Digging for Fire

top movies 2015

Joe Swanberg can be a polarizing director, but I’ve always found an energetic sincerity in his work, especially with recent films like Drinking BuddiesHappy Christmas, and All the Light in the Sky.

This year, Swanberg once again teamed up with New Girl‘s Jake Johnson to cowrite Digging for Fire, a scavenger hunt movie that digs deep into the psyche behind a frustrated marriage, told from the perspectives of both partners.

Rosemarie Dewitt plays the wife in this marriage, and Jude Swanberg (the director’s child) plays their young son. Throughout, there are multiple surprise appearances from great actors, including some I won’t spoil. Part of the fun in Digging for Fire, aside from its unapologetic ad-lib dialogue, is waiting to see who will show up next. It’s a quirky drama that I happily recommend.

#6 Ant-Man

top movies 2015

I didn’t like Ant-Man more than Avengers: Age of Ultron. In fact, I wouldn’t put it above most Marvel movies, yet for whatever reason, people seem to really like this movie more than it probably deserves.

It’s humorous, fun to watch, and manages to be a refreshing take on a well-respected (if not horribly popular) Marvel superhero. And it features some good ideas courtesy of Edgar Wright. But it’s certainly not as deep and impactful as one of the ensemble movies, and I include last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy when I say that.

Ant-Man is one of my favorite movies of the summer, and it’s a can’t-miss for Marvel fans and even Paul Rudd fans. This is mostly because Ant-Man is weird and funny enough to stand on its own, despite borrowing some of its charm and surprises from the greater Marvel continuity. And that’s fine, at least for now.

#5 Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

top movies 2015

Of all the spy movies (and there’s a lot) that came out this year, the aging veteran, Mission: Impossible  still shines as one of the best. Once again, Tom Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt, and you pretty much know what you’re going to get at this point if you’re into Mission: Impossible movies.

But unlike other action franchises like Fast and Furious, this one continues to deliver something new with every installment, aside from just raising the stakes. The stunts, actually, are a huge part of what draws audiences, and the creative set pieces are far more interesting than everything I forgot in other action movies like Furious 7.

There was a lot of tension, a good amount of drama, and even some laughs here and there courtesy of Jeremy Renner. Rogue Nation also benefitted from the genius casting of Rebecca Ferguson and bringing back Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg for another round of saving the world with gadgets that don’t always work and a leading man who’ll do whatever it takes to finish the mission. Kind of like Tom Cruise himself.

#4 Jurassic World

top movies 2015

I don’t want to come off like I’m overpraising this movie, though that’s inevitable considering how high I’ve put it on this list. But despite everything about Jurassic World that is frankly…stupid…I absolutely loved it.

Yes, it’s a little silly, and it’s certainly not as good as Jurassic Park. But so much of Jurassic World just works as a movie on its own, so I didn’t have a hard time judging it by its own merits, instead of comparing it to the original.

Jurassic World is a unique follow up in that it’s hard to notice its flaws unless you’re looking for them. It was easy for me to get lost in the world they created, making this an excellent movie that you might get a little more cynical about the more you watch it. Unless you’re like me and enjoy its absurdity with every viewing.

#3 The Stanford Prison Experiment 

top movies 2015

Not everyone is going to walk away glad that they watched The Stanford Prison Experiment (unless they despise Ezra Miller as much as I do). But it’s still the most gripping and tense movie I’ve seen all year, complete with a script that continues to haunt me when I dare think about it late at night.

In case you haven’t seen it, the movie is based on a true story about a group of college students who are hired by a psychology department to act out a prison simulation. Some of the students are guards, and the others are prisoners. As you can imagine, things get a little out of hand.

It’s a hard movie to watch, because as you watch it, you know that it’s sticking with you. This is thanks to director Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s knack for moving you through a compact scene and keeping you there for what feels like hours. He lets the camerawork and tight corners tell the story almost as much as the actions of the characters.

To be fair, the movie is riddled with inaccuracies and missed opportunities with the true events that inspired it. But if you walk in accepting that this is a very loose adaptation, you’ll still find that it more or less captures the same, raw emotions that provoked so much shock from the people who learned about it in the 70s.

#2 Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

top movies 2015

If you liked Fault in Our Stars but sort of wished it had more likable characters, then do yourself a favor and check out Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I strongly considered making it my #1, and it’s obviously up there in my top 10 of the entire year. And for good reason.

This is one of those smaller films that just oozes charm and relatable characters. Everyone in this movie is easy to like and get invested in. The story itself is more than just original — it’s inventive. I truly wish that more movies would take the creative chances that Dying Girl treats as minuscule risks.

That said, it’s still a movie on a small scale. While I loved the movie, it didn’t really cause any introspection, despite its emotionally charged script. This is because the wit and humor is a lot more present in this movie over what’s dramatic, so not every moment that was supposed to make me feel something managed to pay that off.

But that’s just nitpicking, because Dying Girl is still a wonderful story that will hopefully last the test of time. I hold it up there with The Way Way Back as compact films I can watch a thousand times.

#1 Inside Out

top movies 2015

Yeah, yeah, big surprise. A lot of you may look at this decision and shrug because you know how much I love Pixar movies and frequently talk about them on this site. But please believe me when I say that my overwhelming bias for Pixar’s brand of storytelling had nothing to do with the overwhelming bias I have for this film.

Because in all honesty, Inside Out is one of Pixar’s best films since The Incredibles and Finding Nemo, and it manages to rival Up as a nearly perfect Pixar movie.

I love how they took a recognizable premise that other movies and shows like Osmosis Jones and Herman’s Head failed to make an impact. They took a great concept and made it spectacular. Everything about this world Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera created feels like they spent countless hours developing. And the writing is so sharp, you’ll discover new and clever jokes every time you watch it.

The characters are well-written and the animation is gorgeous. Every joke manages to work without being too cheesy. And it does all of this without creating world-changing stakes — just the emotional future of a young girl we can all relate with.

When I first reviewed the movie, I tried hard not to overpraise it in case my immediate love for it would wear of. But Inside Out only gets better the more you watch it, and it will rightfully be considered as one of Pixar’s very best for years to come.

What about the worst movies?

top movies 2015

This one’s harder for me to spend time on because I purposefully avoided some of the poorly received movies that came out this summer, though I’ll probably still get around to them. But I’m still up for pointing out movies I did see that fell way, way, short of the mark.

Hitman: Agent 47 was the worst one I saw this summer, as I gave it an F (the only other “F” movie I scored this year was Strange Magic). There were some other movies that I tried hard to like but ended up despising, like TrainwreckSpy, and Aloha.

There were some bad movies I liked, including The Gallows and Ted 2, despite critics not loving them as much. Movies I hoped would be “A” material, like Paper Towns and Dope, ended up only being decent.

And then there are the movies I purposefully avoided, like PixelsVacationTerminator: GenisysSelf/less, and Minions. I don’t plan on seeing these movies any time soon. That just leaves Fantastic Four, which was less than decent, but not a bad experience overall for me.

Finally, there are the potentially great movies I haven’t seen yet but plan on seeing pretty soon. These include, The End of the Tour, It FollowsThe GiftGrandmaLove and Mercy, Mistress America and Shaun the Sheep.

Oh, and if you want a more ambitious snapshot of every 2015 movie and how they stack up, check out my 2015 Movie Power Rankings. 

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni


PODCAST: Jurassic World, Movies That Defined Our Childhood

Untitled drawing-20

This week on the podcast, we review Jurassic World, answer your feedback from last week, and then discuss the Top 5 movies that defined our childhood. Considering we’re all different ages, the results may vary.

Of course, we covered tons of movie news, trailers, and speculation you may have missed this week, and our Netflix Recommendation of the Week has been signed, sealed, and Adonis’ed.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What is the movie that defined YOUR childhood? Let us know in the comments or hit us up on Twitter: @NowConspiring

Go on…PODCAST: Jurassic World, Movies That Defined Our Childhood

Review: ‘Jurassic World’ Spared No Expense

Jurassic World mini review

Jurassic World is the fourth movie in the overall Jurassic Park franchise that kicked off 22 years ago. We’ve been waiting 14 years for a new movie, but does this return to Isla Nubar satisfy?

Turns out, it really does. Jurassic World is a ton of a fun, and I had a blast watching it. The enjoyment I gained from the movie even rivals the original Jurassic Park, which was a staple of my childhood (and yours, probably). But it’s a different movie with a different tone, and even some different things to say.

Go on…Review: ‘Jurassic World’ Spared No Expense

First Official Trailer For Jurassic World (Compared With The First Ever Trailer of Jurassic Park)

Still processing this. There’s something haunting about watching this trailer and seeing this park be open — 20 years after seeing the movie as a kid.

Back then, we could only dream about what the full realization of a Dinosaur amusement park would actually look like. Now they’ve gone and made it.

For full nostalgia, check out the very first trailer for the very first Jurassic Park movie to compare:

%d bloggers like this: