The kinetic, frenetic chase scenes of Mad Max: Fury Road. The sweet-natured, brain-bending shenanigans of Inside Out. The raise-the-raptors finale of Jurassic World. We’re only halfway through 2015, but movie audiences have already experienced enough breathtaking, tearjerking, heart-stopping moments to last a lifetime. Here are 25 amazing movies we’ve seen so far this year — including a few we caught early at festivals, and which will be heading your way soon. Don’t worry if you haven’t had a chance to check ‘em all out yet: Your best-of-the-year list isn’t due for another six months.
25. Welcome to Me
Kristen Wiig gets her finest big-screen role to date in this funny, sad, and strange gem of a movie. Wiig plays Alice Klieg, a woman with borderline personality disorder and an unhealthy obsession with Oprah Winfrey. When Alice wins the lottery, she decides to unleash her inner Oprah and produce her own live cable-access talk show — one that’s entirely about herself. She rides onto the set in a swan boat, cooks and eats an entire meatloaf cake, and hires actors to perform events from her life. Her show gains a cult following, but the more popular it becomes, the further Alice detaches from reality. Wiig, no stranger to quirky character roles, brings a remarkable depth and empathy to this oddball heroine, while still eliciting laughs. And director Shira Piven refuses to placate the audience with easy answers or solutions to Alice’s mental state; instead, she straps us in and takes us along for the wild, unsettling ride.
24. Kingsman: The Secret Service
With this fiery franchise-starter, director Matthew Vaughn returns to the formula that made 2010’s Kick-Ass such a sensation: namely, fast, bloody, ballsy, stylish action, with a healthy side-dose of dark comedy. Kingsman follows the passing of the torch from a suave veteran spy (Colin Firth) to the upstart inner-city London teen he recruits (Taron Egerton), just in time to save the world from a stark-raving mad billionaire (Samuel L. Jackson, whose lispy villain is like a cross between Russell Simmons and Dr Evil). It doesn’t quite have the same bite as Kick-Ass, but it’s easily the best movie this year to feature a man sliced in half by a woman with razor-sharp blades for legs.
23. Sunshine Superman
This documentary about 1970s BASE-jumping pioneer Carl Boenish arguably provides the year’s biggest adrenaline rush. A filmmaker in addition to a daredevil, Boenish filmed his mile-high leaps from such towering landmarks as Yosemite’s El Capitan, a Houston skyscraper and the Troll Wall in Norway — a jump that ultimately ended in tragedy. Sunshine Superman director Marah Strauch makes excellent use of her subject’s footage, which features Boenish and his BASE-jumping squad peering out over dizzying heights and then plunging to the ground, pulling their parachutes at the last possible moment. It’s a thrilling free fall through one iconoclast’s life and career, with images that will literally leave you gasping for breath.
22. The DUFF
Mae Whitman successfully took this loose adaptation of Kody Keplinger’s 2010 bestseller — the title of which stands for “designated ugly fat friend’ — from a cheesy high school comedy we’ve all seen a million times before to something a bit more special. It certainly features some of the tropes that teen movies of the ’80s and ’90s taught us to expect — from the makeover montage to the big finish at the school dance — but successfully gave them a little twist, until this tale of an ugly duckling (who’s not at all ugly — or fat, for that matter) sparkled like a fun little gem. Robbie Amell (TV’s The Flash) stars as the boy next door with the abs of gold, who agrees to help Whitman’s Bianca emerge from the shadows of her more stereotypically beautiful BFFs.
21. Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
This mesmerizing documentary opens with family footage of Kurt Cobain’s toddler years, offering a beguiling peek into the late grunge rocker’s life that has never before been seen in public. The film remains engrossing, though painfully so, as scenes from Cobain’s own home videos document his downward spiral into heroin addiction while alongside Courtney Love. Directed by Brett Morgen (The Kid Stays in the Picture) and executive produced by Cobain and Love’s own 22-year-old daughter, Frances Bean, the authorized film is thankfully filled with all of the Nirvana hits a fan could ask for — plus intimate song sketches.
20. Wild Tales
Anthology features like Four Rooms or V/H/S tend to be inherently unwieldy, with different short films by different filmmakers jockeying for the audience’s affections. Argentinian filmmaker Damián Szifron solved that problem by writing and directing each of the six darkly comic stories that comprise this Oscar-nominated omnibus production. Each segment is based on an ordinary, everyday situation — say, passengers on an airplane discovering they have a random connection to each other, or a serious case of road rage — which then spiral out of control in unpredictable and often painfully hilarious ways. Like the best sharp-toothed satires, Wild Tales makes you laugh and cringe, because it’s grounded in a reality viewers will recognize and plays on big emotions that can drive us all… well, wild.
19. The Overnight
Adam Scott and Jason Schwartzman’s penis prosthetics have gotten the bulk of the attention, but there’s a lot more to director Patrick Brice’s yuppie-anxiety comedy than hyperrealistic genitalia. A rom-com for tired new parents everywhere, The Overnight takes place at a giant L.A. house, where a newly transplanted couple (played by Scott and Orange Is the New Black’s Taylor Schilling) attend a kids’ slumber party at the home of their free-spirited neighbors (Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche). What follows is an increasingly wild and awkward night that neither couple — nor the dong-struck audience — will ever forget.
18. While We’re Young
For one aging New York hipster named Josh (Ben Stiller), it takes nearly a decade to make a film. So it’s that much more painful for him to stand by as his new friend, fledging filmmaker and DIYer Jamie (Adam Driver), knock out a thought-provoking doc in a weekend. This is just one of the tragic differences Josh and his wife (Naomi Watts) discover as they attempt to keep up with their new twenty-something buddies (including Amanda Seyfried). Watts’s cutely clumsy hip-hop moves alone make While We’re Young worth a watch, though the Noah Baumbach film didn’t capture Stiller lumbering around on Rollerblades quite as well.
What could have been a cloying, clumsy attempt to update a vintage children’s book to the present day instead turned out to be as sweet and satisfying as a hatful of marmalade. While staying true to the gentle tone of Michael Bond’s best-selling Paddington novels, co-writer/director Paul King also infuses the material with rambunctious comic set pieces (most notably, a sequence where Paddington floods his host family’s home) and some surprisingly strong emotional heft, as our bear-out-of-the-jungle hero searches for a new home. Ben Whishaw’s vocal performance as the computer-animated Paddington (he replaced Colin Firth during production) is also crucial to the film’s success; the pleasant humor and simple yearning in his voice makes the character more, much more, than a mere cartoon.
16. Slow West
Slow West isn’t your typical western. Directed by first-time feature director John Maclean — the former keyboardist of the now-defunct indie group The Beta Band — the film stars Michael Fassbender as Silas Selleck, a wandering bounty hunter hired to help a naïve young immigrant (Kodi Smit-McPhee) find his sweetheart. As they move across the chilly, hazardous terrain, they’re pursued by a slick killer, played by the always creepy Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom). But the film’s plot is almost besides the point, as it’s the tiny stylistic details that Maclean packs in — the unexpectedly wry jokes, the sudden bursts of violence — that give Slow West its strength.
15. Jurassic World
This dino-sized hit stomped the competition at the box office, making off with the biggest ticket sales of 2015. And it’s no wonder: Jurassic World faithfully recycles all the elements that made the original Jurassic Park a success, while adding bigger, better-looking dinosaurs for the audience’s gawking pleasure. Chris Pratt, the lovable Everyman star of the moment, plays Owen, a raptor trainer called in for damage control when the amusement park’s genetically modified megadinosaur goes on a rampage. The action unfolds at a perfect summer-movie clip, and the prehistoric creature cameos, including a scene-stealing giant aquatic beast, the Mosasaurus, are thrilling. Best of all, however, is the Jurassic World amusement park itself, which is presented as a kind of futuristic, island-bound Disney World. It looks like so much fun that we’d consider buying a ticket, even knowing the considerable risks.
This low-budget L.A. comedy was shot entirely on an iPhone — but that’s actually the least remarkable thing about it. An intimate and empathetic look inside the parts of Los Angeles rarely featured in sun-splashed Hollywood movies, the film is the half-hilarious, half-heartbreaking look story of Sin-Dee Rella and Alexandra, two no-nonsense transgender Angelenos trying to settle some scores (and earn some cash) in a city with no shortage of obstacles. Sean Baker’s raw film has a fly-on-the-wall approach, and its climactic scene — set in a rundown donut shop — is one of the most genuinely awkward and lively moments on film this year. (Opens July 10)
When he was promoting his new movie Carol at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, director Todd Haynes (I’m Not There) described it as a “frock film.” And while that’s an accurate description of his magnificent adaptation of the 1952 Patricia Highsmith novel The Price of Salt, the sumptuous period details are only one of the reasons audiences will be transfixed when the drama hits theaters on Dec 18, right in the thick of Oscar and Star Wars season. Carol follows the smoldering romance in 1950s New York between Therese (Rooney Mara), a twenty-something shop girl, and Carol (Cate Blanchett), an elegant, older housewife who’s about to ignite a scandal supreme with her new relationship. The two stars are terrific — Mara shared the acting award at Cannes — and Haynes finds just the right balance for his thoroughly modern-feeling melodrama.
If you thought writer-comedian-actress Amy Schumer was already red-hot, wait until you get a load of Trainwreck, which debuted earlier this year at the South by Southwest festival. The raunchy comedy, from the director of The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, Judd Apatow, stars Schumer as a commitment-phobic magazine writer who’s more into flings than sure things. When she finally finds the perfect guy — a sports doctor played by Bill Hader —she struggles to own up to her feelings. Written by Schumer, the smart and filthy Trainwreck flips traditional romantic-comedy gender roles on their heads, while establishing its leading actress as a bona fide movie star. Plus, it co-stars LeBron James, who makes his big-screen debut — and reveals himself to be as skilled at comedy as he is with a jump shot.
Even if you weren’t a fan of Amy Winehouse — the cosmically talented singer who died four years ago at the age of 27 — it’s hard not to walk away from Amy both enamored and enraged. Drawing on years of home video footage (some of which is incorporated in an amazing opening sequence, featuring a teenaged Winehouse singing “Happy Birthday”), Amy charts the singer’s unlikely ascent (which she treats with a near-shrug) to her paparazzi-plagued fame, to her eventual drug- and booze-addled bottoming-out. Throughout, she’s surrounded by sketchy lovers and selfish family members, who no doubt aided her decline. But the real villain here is the media-complex itself, and Amy posits an uncomfortable question: Who did the real damage? The bloodthirsty press that documented her decline? Or the consumers like us, who delighted in watching her downward spiral?
10. The End of the Tour
After the brilliant, prolific, and emotionally tortured writer David Foster Wallace took his own life in 2008, the author David Lipsky dug up the transcripts and audio recordings he’d made during a five-day trip with Wallace in the winter of 1996. (Wallace was on a book tour to promote his massive new novel, Infinite Jest; Lipsky had been assigned to profile him for Rolling Stone, which eventually spiked his story). Now that nearly weeklong conversation has been made into The End of the Tour, which stars Jesse Eisenberg as Lipsky and Jason Segel — in a career-best performance — as the shy and hesitant writer. The film has a sense of doom hanging over it, given Wallace’s sad fate, but that only adds weight to both the obvious struggles (and vibrant energy) that Segel brilliantly conveys via fast-paced spiels and simple grimaces.
9. It Follows
Few films have evoked the experience of living in a nightmare as effectively as It Follows, the horror sleeper hit of the year. David Robert Mitchell’s atmospheric low-budget film is set in the suburbs of Detroit, where teenagers are pursued by a mysterious supernatural killer. The evil presence can take the form of any person, and though it moves slowly, it is relentless — it cannot be stopped, only stalled (though we won’t reveal how, as it’s too delicious a twist to give away). The monster of It Follows easily becomes a metaphor for the end of teenage innocence, or the inevitably of death. It’s also scary as hell, keeping the audience on high alert as we scan the background of every shot, trying to catch the slow creep of the killer before the characters do.
8. Avengers: Age of Ultron
There’s no arguing that Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron is overstuffed, straining under the weight of the ever-sprawling, all-consuming Marvel Cinematic Universe. But damn, it’s a bunch of superhero all-stars fighting legions of killer robots. That’s what summer movies are all about! Where the sequel really succeeds is with the elevation of lesser characters — Black Widow sees serious action; Hawkeye (!) delivers the gravitas — and the introduction of strange, powerful new heroes, notably Scarlet Witch and Vision. Plus, James Spader’s oily Robert Downey Jr impersonation as Ultron is a gift to us all.
It’s no surprise that Melissa McCarthy is hilarious and appealing in Spy, Paul Feig’s affectionate comic riff on the James Bond genre. But Spy is also full of secret comedy weapons, including Rose Byrne as an aristocratic villain, Jude Law as a bumbling spook, and Miranda Hart as a chatty CIA analyst. Most surprising of all is Jason Statham, hilarious as a cocky field agent who can’t stop boasting about his death-defying accomplishments. (“I’ve jumped from a high-rise building using only a raincoat as a parachute and broke both legs upon landing. I still had to pretend I was in a f---ing Cirque du Soleil show!”) Not only is Spy a great comedy, it’s also a capable spy movie, which benefits from letting McCarthy be a real hero — not just the butt of jokes, but a smart, sexy CIA agent who comes into her own.
6. Furious 7
Parachuting muscle cars; Jason Statham as the new villain; and an unforgettable tribute to a fallen family member: That and more made Furious 7 one of the best moviegoing experiences of the year so far. Cartoonish in its grandiosity, the car-adept crew managed to step up the action yet again under new director James Wan (the Saw series). Gaining a new member in hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel of Game of Thrones), the group globetrots before landing in the city where it all started: Los Angeles. Dom (Vin Diesel), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and Brian (the late Paul Walker) lead the way and, in the end, when Dom and Brian part ways on life’s big metaphorical highway, it’s hard to hold back tears.
A breakout hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Dope is like a John Hughes movie set in South Central Los Angeles. It stars newcomer Shameik Moore as Malcolm, a smart kid who loves ’90s hip-hop, and who’s dead set on going to Harvard… if he can get out of his treacherous neighborhood. Together with his equally outcast pals (played by The Grand Budapest Hotel’s Tony Revolori and Transparent’s Kiersey Clemons), Malcolm scrambles through the city, trying to unload a stash of drugs that’s almost literally fallen into his lap, all the while dodging angry dealers, sexed-up neighbors, and even teachers. It’s a wild chase, with a solid dash of digital shenanigans, but it never loses sight of the characters at its heart.
4. Ex Machina
Like technology itself — with its eternal promise of making life easier, and its constant threat of exposing our secrets — Alex Garland’s sci-fi thriller is equal parts chilling and seductive. Ex Machina tells the story of Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), a computer programmer who’s been summoned to the isolated estate of mysterious tech magnate Nathan (Oscar Isaac) to help him test a new invention. That invention is an artificially intelligent woman, Ava (Alicia Vikander), and it’s Caleb’s job to figure out whether she has achieved true humanity. But Nathan hasn’t told Caleb everything, and Ava might not be exactly what she appears to be. Ex Machina keeps us guessing until its genuinely shocking finale, which forces us to gaze at the frighteningly blurry line between human and machine.
3. The Wolfpack
Crystal Moselle’s fascinating Sundance hit introduces us to the Angulos, six cinema-obsessed brothers in New York who were homeschooled, and rarely allowed to leave the confines of their Lower East Side flat. The films of Tarantino, Coppola, and Scorsese became their lifelines and connection to the outside world, inspiring the brothers to create their own costumes, and produce low-budget recreations of their favorite movie scenes. The documentary, named after Moselle’s nickname for the brothers, is a heartfelt love letter to film, and a powerful portrayal of the boys’ fraternal bond.
2. Inside Out
Pixar’s high-concept head-trip set a few box-office records when it opened, and it’s easy to understand why: Inside Out digs into the mind of Riley, a slightly hyper (and certainly hyperaware) 11-year-old, whose brain is ruled by such emotions as Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Anger (Louis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). Inside Out’s version of the brain is a colorful, theme- park-like wonderland of tubes, orbs, and strange little fiefdoms, and the film’s mix of comedy and sentimentality have incredible powers over the minds of the audience — prompting them to laugh, cheer, and cry. It doesn’t hurt that it has one of the best voice performances in years, thanks to Richard Kind, who plays Bing Bong, the imaginary friend guaranteed to start your sniffles.
The kinetic, frenetic chase scenes of Mad Max: Fury Road. The sweet-natured, brain-bending shenanigans of Inside Out. The raise-the-raptors finale of Jurassic World. We're only halfway through 2015, but movie audiences have already experienced enough breathtaking, tearjerking, heart-stopping moments to last a lifetime. Here are 25 amazing movies we’ve seen so far this year — including a few we caught early at festivals, and which will be heading your way soon. Don’t worry if you haven’t had a chance to check ‘em all out yet: Your best-of-the-year list isn’t due for another six months.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
Handed the keys to the long-dormant Mad Max franchise for one more joyride, septuagenarian director George Miller spent almost two years in the desert, and returned with his magnum opus. Fury Road’s narrative mechanics may be simple — the characters essentially go from here to there and back again — but the movie’s “How did they do that?” formal complexity, plus the immersive post-apocalyptic future that Miller has created reveals fresh details with each viewing. And then there’s Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, an Ellen Ripley for the 21st century and the movie’s true star, no matter whose name is in the title. The film depicts her journey from oppression to liberation, while Tom Hardy’s feral Max rides shotgun. Fury Road is the year’s finest blockbuster, but whenever Theron is onscreen, it’s also its most compelling character study.
Article courtesy of Yahoo Movies.
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