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‘Incredibles 2’ Is Beating ‘Finding Dory’ at Ticket Pre-Sales

incredibles 2

From Entertainment Weekly, which has a more dramatic headline – Incredibles 2 on track to be biggest animated movie of all time:

According to Fandango, Disney’s highly anticipated superhero family sequel is tracking to be the biggest animated movie ever in pre-sales.

The film is out-pacing the previous record holder, 2016’s Finding Dory, which went onto become the highest-grossing animated movie ever with $486 million in domestic sales (followed by Shrek 2 with $441 million, The Lion King with $422 million and Toy Story 3 with $415 million).

We don’t know for sure if this will translate to an equally strong opening weekend (Solo also had good pre-ticket sales), but this falls in line with my prediction that Incredibles 2 will be one of the biggest movies of the summer, probably just below Avengers: Infinity War in terms of worldwide box office, or perhaps Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. It also helps that this new Incredibles sequel is about as good as everyone is hoping (I saw it yesterday, and I expect most of you will be more than pleased).

Go on…‘Incredibles 2’ Is Beating ‘Finding Dory’ at Ticket Pre-Sales

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Cinemaholics Podcast: Summer Movie Preview 2018

preview 2018

The next few months promise a lot of big and small delights at the theater, so we decided to preview 2018 summer movies on Cinemaholics, noting our most anticipated films from May through August. From Incredibles 2 to Deadpool 2, there are plenty of blockbusters to get excited about, but to be honest, a lot of our picks happen to be smaller flicks this year that we seriously can’t wait to see.

Special guest Sam Noland joined us to help unpack the summer, and we started with some listener emails and light discussion about how our letter grade system “works” and where we stand on theater experiences versus staying at home to watch a movie. Toward the end of the show, we went through a few Mini Reviews, tackling I Feel PrettySuper Troopers 2, and The Endless.

Question for you: What are your Top 3 most anticipated summer movies?

Go on…Cinemaholics Podcast: Summer Movie Preview 2018

How ‘Stranger Things’ Ended up Becoming the Best Movie of the Summer

stranger things best

To be clear, the Netflix original series Stranger Things is not a “movie” in the traditional sense. There was no theatrical release, it runs as eight hour-long episodes, and it’s obviously crafted to fit the specific medium of television. That is, it’s not trying to be anything but a TV show.

But if you can broaden your definition of “movie,” or in this case, a summer movie, to that of a contained experience that is meant to be watched in one sequence, then you’ll find that Stranger Things fits the framework.

That’s why I’m convinced that Stranger Things is the surprise hit that Summer 2016 needed, and I’d even push that it’s definitely the best movie of the summer, without question. An eight-hour movie, but a movie nonetheless.

And that’s not solely because this summer has been a series of painful disappointments with few bright spots, though that is a major reason why Stranger Things has stood out as prominently as it has. If anything, this Netflix series that few people saw coming had more reasons to fail than most tentpole blockbusters this summer had to succeed.

stranger things best

X-Men: Apocalypse, a film I did enjoy for the most part, was widely panned, despite following a succession of good X-Men sequels starring Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy, directed by Bryan Singer, the man behind some of the best X-Men films and Usual Suspects.

The marketing for Independence Day: Resurgence had most of us convinced that this would be 2016’s Jurassic World, but we ended up with something closer in quality to Alice Through the Looking Glass, the unremarkable sequel to a hugely successful Disney live-action film from 2010 that was followed up by critical darlings like CinderellaMaleficent, and this year’s The Jungle Book.

Warner Bros. followed up the most polarizing superhero movie in recent memory, Batman v Superman, with one of the most yawn-inducing films of the entire year, The Legend of Tarzan, despite featuring a fantastic cast and being directed by David Yates.

The movie positioned to redeem Warner Bros. in 2016 was Suicide Squad, which ended up being a decent, yet flawed movie that maintained the divisiveness of the DC cinematic universe, spawning far more arguments and “flame wars” than real discussion about how the movie has truly affected people.

Do we even need to mention Ghostbusters?

stranger things best

When you consider what makes a movie the “best” out of all the others, there’s a lot you might miss when settling on your conclusion. Everyone likes bad movies, and the vast majority of people even love bad movies (see Secret Life of Pets), and that’s because it’s quite impossible to enforce a list of rules that determine what makes a film objectively good, bad, or the somewhat ubiquitous okay, which does little to paint a true picture of a film’s quality.

Deciding which movie is the “best” has to speak to a larger list of criteria than your personal judgement, or even a critical consensus. You can turn it into a numbers game, gathering all of the reviews and fan reaction scores to calculate some kind of average that gives you an answer…

…But that’s a lot of effort for very little reward, and for many reasons, it’s still an ineffective way to call out a movie for rising above the rest and deserving to be remembered in 2026. This conclusion should be about more than getting better marks based on a small sample of opinions. True, you can factor in box office and impressions to make your guess, but as we’ve covered earlier, bad movies are quite easy to like, which makes the best movies hard to quantify.

All that said, my conclusion, obviously, is that Stranger Things is the best movie of the summer, despite not even being in the official running. I guess you can say that like the show itself, Stranger Things has a knack for defying expectations.

stranger things best

I reached this conclusion by considering a more nuanced trait of the show that no summer movie of 2016 seemed to achieve. But first and foremost, Stranger Things is fundamentally a well-crafted piece of entertainment. It’s well-written and edited, the characters transcend the tropes they’re based on, and there’s a polished feel to every aspect of this show that immerses you into Hawkins (and it’s “Upside Down”) like no other location we’ve been transported to all summer. Or all year, even.

In other words, Stranger Things gets the details almost perfectly right. The makers of the show, Matt and Ross Duffer, certainly gave it their all with this project. But the more nuanced trait that I mentioned earlier goes beyond the details. It’s all about the complete picture of Stranger Things that makes it the most satisfying experience of the summer, in just about every way you can think of.

You know what’s refreshing? The ability to have a long and meaningful conversation about the show, even if you disliked it, with people who share a different opinion. Yes, even online. Because almost no one is letting this show be about something else

With Ghostbusters, we were forced to start every review or analysis with our take on whatever irrelevant controversy we had the most thoughts on. Suicide Squad has been a purple and green train wreck in terms of how critics and fans think and react to each other, despite that not being a fault of the actual movie. Even movies that most audiences have loved, like Captain America: Civil WarFinding Dory, and Star Trek: Beyond, have been monopolized in conversation as sequels and franchises, not a unique or personal experience that actually changed anything.

stranger things best

Stranger Things, to be fair, did not achieve anything all by itself. At first glance, you might even get a bit cynical of its strengths because of how obviously reminiscent they are of classic 80s movies and novels, especially E.T.Poltergeist, and Firestarter to name a few out of probably dozens of relevant inspirations.

But Stranger Things does something unexpected with these established tropes. It turns them into new ideas. It does for 80s clichés what George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels did for Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey and fantasy platitudes repeated ad nauseam since Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

More specifically, Stranger Things persistently subverts its own genre, setting up your expectations to think the story is going one way, only to pay off its plot with surprises that still fit within the context of what you’ve already seen.

For example, you don’t have any reason to believe the character Nancy Wheeler isn’t someone capable or competent enough to stand up to supernatural threats. But the show wisely lets you think this when we’re first introduced to her as a love-struck teenager who doesn’t have time for her little brother and his friends, which isn’t hard to believe either. Her “jerk” boyfriend, Steve, is also set up a certain way, only to defy your expectations with his own distinct twists and turns as a character, and none of that feels reminiscent of what we’ve already seen in Spielberg and King stories. Far from it.

stranger things best

This allowed the show to grab and hold on to both key demographics of its potential audience: people old enough to remember these 80s tropes and everyone else. You’re hooked either way, because the movies and novels of the 80s influenced prominent filmmakers today, through movies like Super 8and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, both helmed by the quintessential 80s geek, J.J. Abrams.

But while those projects felt more like a celebration of 80s culture, Stranger Things finds impossible ways to both defy and evolve them for new audiences. It’s not a sequel, like Captain America: Civil War or Finding Dory, but it is a successor to something else, and in the most original way possible for what it is.

I haven’t mentioned the most memorable and important character of the entire show: Eleven. Her presence in Stranger Things deserves to permeate the culture, and it’s already starting to with devoted fans who are evangelizing 2016’s breakout role in Millie Bobby Brown. It’s easy to celebrate Eleven because of the child actor’s performance, of course, but there’s no reason to forget that she benefits from a script that effortlessly makes you feel every big moment of its running time. El works because just about everything else in this show works.

For me, the choice is clear. Stranger Things is objectively as good as the best movies to come out all summer. In my opinion, it stands above most films of the year. But what makes it the “best” piece of entertainment to sit down and enjoy this summer is its lasting effect through how it’s talked about, the point in time it was released, and the loving care that was put into just about every aspect of the final product.

stranger things best

And even though it’s over, complete with one of the most satisfying endings I can think of in 2016, it still manages to leave you wanting more, questioning everything you just watched, and speculating what’s possible when we’ll eventually (hopefully) revisit these characters, and Hawkins.

Season Grade: A


What did you all think of Stranger Things? I left out great highlights from the show (sorry Hopper!), so be sure to share your take in the comments. 

Also, thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hello 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

 

‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ Review — I Spy a Franchise

man from uncle review

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was directed by Guy Ritchie and stars Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, and Hugh Grant. It’s an adaptation of the TV series of the same name, and like the show, it’s a spy thriller set in the 1960s.

The movie is about two special agents, an American and a Russian played by Cavill and Hammer, who have to team up on a mission to stop a criminal organization from starting a nuclear arms race (the plot is only slightly less generic than I’m making it sound). They seek help from the daughter of someone within this criminal organization, who is played by Vikander.

Warner Brothers has been wanting to make this movie for over a decade now, but it’s somehow coming out during what I like to call “Spy Summer.” We’ve gotten a lot of pretty decent spy movies over the last few months, so how does this one stack up?

Well, one of the first things you’ll notice in U.N.C.L.E. is that the stunts are pretty well done. Cavill and Hammer did a lot of their own stunts, especially Hammer. At one point, his stunt double said in an interview that he hardly had to do anything (look out, Tom Cruise).

man from uncle review

In fact, Tom Cruise was one of the lead actors first snagged for the role of Napoleon Solo, the American agent. Henry Cavill (who initially sought the role of Hammer’s character) eventually got the part, so I think a lot of people must be wondering how the “man of steel” fares in this.

Fortunately, I can say that both Cavill and Hammer have great performances in this movie. Their characters are well written, their banter has that signature Guy Ritchie style to it, and you can more or less believe that they exist in the 60s. My only complaint is that physically, they don’t seem to match up since Hammer is meant to be a brute, while Cavill is more of the sleuth. But when you look at them side by side…well, it’s just a nitpick.

Speaking of nitpicks, I didn’t find as many as I normally do in spy movies like this, and that’s a testament to the fast pace and good writing, even if there are a few too many cliches in the overall story. I can’t say I was very invested in what was going on in this movie, and at times I felt a little lost. The movie is shot with a lot of shaky cam during its action sequences, and the script kept reusing an Ocean’s 11 plot device that felt useless by the third and fourth time.

man from uncle review

That said, the movie had a lot of memorable moments, rivaling Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (the other spy movie that came out this month). A drunken Alicia Vikander tackling Armie Hammer’s daunting character out of nowhere was great to watch, and a certain scene involving a sandwich was the film’s best moment.

Overall, U.N.C.L.E. is an entertaining B movie with some neat surprises and good performances, though a little bogged down by a generic plot. What truly saves it from getting into mediocre territory is the soundtrack, which is currently my fourth favorite of the year (behind Mad Max: Fury RoadInside Out, and Paddington).

Grade:  B- 

If you like spy movies, throwbacks to good spy movies, the 1960s, and Guy Ritchie, then this is a must-watch.

Extra Credits: 

  • Again, I’ve never seen the original TV series, so I’m curious to know how U.N.C.L.E. stacks up. Let me know in the comments if you’ve seen both and can share your thoughts.
  • No after credits stinger, but it’s definitely setting up for a sequel (assuming it makes enough money).
  • Elizabeth Debicki is my next pick for playing Audrey Hepburn in any kind of biopic.
  • So Superman, the Lone Ranger, and an Artificial Intelligence try to stop a nuclear war…

man from uncle review

If you want to hear more thoughts on this movie before checking it out, listen to our upcoming podcast episode of Now Conspiring, where we’ll do a roundtable review with multiple critics. The episode will be ready for download this Sunday at 9:00 am (Pacific).

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 2015 (So Far)

Summer is about to kickoff, so I thought it would be fun to look back on the best films of Winter and Spring 2015. There are a few films I haven’t seen this year (yet) that may sway this list, and I’ll list them at the bottom.

I’ve made a stronger effort to watch more new movies this year, and it’s certainly paid off. For the first time in my life, I actually feel equipped to evaluate which movies are worth highlighting 6 months into the year. And we’ve gotten quite a few highlights. Starting with…

# 1 Mad Max: Fury Road

top 2015 movies

This shouldn’t surprise too many people. From its opening scene, George Miller had me hooked on his crazy, post-apocalyptic nightmare made reality.

With some of the best action scenes in years, combined with furious performances from Charlize Theron (get it?) and Tom Hardy, Mad Max: Fury Road has so far made the top of my list of must-watch films in 2015.

#2 Paddington

top 2015 movies

OK, this is certainly a departure from the #1 spot, and I’m sure many of you are rolling your eyes at the fact that I’m elevating this family friendly movie all the way to #2, but hear me out.

Paddington is a kid movie done right, amidst scores of cheap remakes and strange misfires disguised as high-level (I’m looking at you, Spongebob). Simply put, Paddington has the charm, wit, and effortless script that most movies this year have chosen to skip.

#3 Ex Machina

top 2015 movies

I usually hate feeling uncomfortable during a movie, especially when it has CGI Paul Walker involved (too soon?) But Ex Machina subverts what we expect in an eery movie about artificial intelligence without insulting our intelligence.
It’s not a horror movie. It’s not a thriller. And it’s certainly not just a commentary, if at all. The mystery of what makes this movie…what it is…only makes me love it even more.

#4 What We Do In The Shadows

top 2015 movies

Technically, this superb “mockumentary” about the lives of vampires living in New Zealand came out last year, but it’s wider release didn’t kick off until January. That means I get to share the delight of this monster movie homage with all of you who haven’t managed to see it yet. Seriously though, get on that.

#5 Kingsman: The Secret Service

top 2015 movies

Speaking of homages, I wasn’t too surprised to see that this James Bond action successor ended up being one of the most fun adventures of the year. Yes, even moreso than another certain superhero flick…
I can still remember the best moments of the film, including the controversial church scene that was shot in just one take (if you can believe that). While I’m not necessarily itching for a sequel, though it would be nice, Kingsman still reigns as one of the year’s most interesting escapes.

#6 Selma

top 2015 movies

History is my weak spot. Take me to any colonial town and tell me that guy is really a smith from 1776 and you have my money. But historical biopics from any era tend to rank low on my attention span. Why watch a movie about that bridge in Selma when I can just go there?
Well, it turns out, Selma does a brilliant job of revitalizing this subject matter with faithful storytelling, a chilling script, and yes, David Oyelowo. And that’s not even mentioning the soundtrack.

#7 Avengers: Age of Ultron

top 2015 movies

It’s not as groundbreaking as the first film, but it’s still groundbreaking. Leave it to Marvel. 2015 has not yet hit us with a lot of comic book movie adventures, as Fox has saved its movie for the summer and Sony is conspicuously absent.
But even without competition, Age of Ultron is a triumph of patient buildup, electric characters, and an excellent effects budget. It’s not the dark story many of us expected and hoped for, but it had plenty of memorable moments to make it standout, even if it is just a trailer for even more exciting events to come.

#8 While We’re Young

top 2015 movies

I’ll admit I’m easily charmed by Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts (despite finding Birdman a bit meh for her). So pairing these veterans with relative newcomers Adam Driver (of future Star Wars fame) and Amanda Seyfried (OK, not a newcomer, but still untested for the most part) was almost overkill.
Specifically, every scene combining these characters or a mixing and matching them was pulled off brilliantly, and it helps that the script had something pretty meaningful to say about my generation, your generation, and their generation.

#9 Unfriended

top 2015 movies

Do you believe in miracles? Unfriended was a made-for-tv movie destined for MTV reruns and live-tweets. But it ended up being transformed into a perfectly timed film that did something pretty novel and refreshing with the horror genre, while also preaching a sermon on cyber-bullying that didn’t come off as forced. Well, maybe a little.

#10 Tomorrowland

top 2015 movies

Yeah, I might get a little heat for this one. Though Tomorrowland certainly isn’t amazing overall, it happens to be one of the riskiest, gutsiest movies of the year. And a lackluster ending doesn’t do enough to eviscerate an inventive and entertaining first two acts.

Possibly great films I haven’t gotten around to yet:

I’d love to add to this list, but alas, there are just some 2015 films I haven’t had a chance to see for myself yet. Here are a few ranking high on my list of must-see:

  1. It Follows
  2. ‘71
  3. A Most Violent Year
  4. Still Alice
  5. Girlhood

I also want to point out my biggest disappointment of the year (so far): Chappie. Oh, what could have been.

If you something to add to this list, feel free to let me know in the comment discussions below. See you in another 6 months.

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