Top 15 films of 2015

A strong year for cinema, I must say. With the exception of the summer it’s been veritably crammed with decent stuff to watch month on month. As usual, I missed the boat on loads. What I did catch though I liked a lot, for the most part.

Here’s my top 15 of the year, plus a list of ones I assume I’d have loved, had I seen them.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
2. Ex Machina
3. Inside Out
4. Amy
5. Kingsman: The Secret Service
6. Whiplash
7. John Wick
8. Birdman
9. Wild
10. Avengers: Age of Ultron
11. Legend
12. The Theory of Everything
13. Far From The Madding Crowd
14. American Sniper
15. The Man From UNCLE

And some I haven’t seen/are not out yet and would, in all probability, make my list otherwise. They are:

Brooklyn
Macbeth
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Me And Earl And The Dying Girl
A Most Violent Year
It Follows
The Martian
Steve Jobs
Sicario
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Victor Frankenstein
By The Sea
Beasts Of No Nation
Black Mass

30 best films from the ’80s

I heard somewhere once that our obsession with the 1980s has gone on longer than the decade itself. And with Back to the Future being in the news for reaching the ‘future’ date not too long ago (and, alarmingly, accurately predicting loads of inventions and tech we now take for granted), I thought it a good time to revisit 30 (don’t ask why I picked this number) of my favourite films from that decade.

Aliens (1986)
Written and directed by James Cameron (and building on the foundations laid by Ridley Scott in the first film) he took the franchise to chilling and thrilling new places.
Batman (1989)
Michael Keaton as Batman, Jack Nicholson as the Joker and Tim Burton directing. At the time, a bit of a risk. But one that paid off handsomely, critically and commercially.
Back to the Future (1985)
Famously, Robert Zemeckis, shot a lot of this film with Eric Stoltz as the lead. Only to feel he wasn’t right. So he recast Michael J. Fox and the rest is history. Or future.
Beetlejuice (1988)
Michael Keaton again. Wild, unhinged and brilliant, chasing Geena Davis and Alec Balwin around the place. Held together by the magic of Tim Burton.
Beverly Hills Cop (1984)
Whilst Eddie Murphy made his screen debut a couple of years earlier, this is the film that made him and introduced his character of Axel Foley to the world.
Big (1988)
The whimsical nature and freedom of youth. In case you ever forget, Tom Hanks helps you to remember, dancing on a giant piano in this sweet-natured movie.
Die Hard (1988)
The great thing about the first film in this franchise is that John McClane, as a cop, was an average guy in the wrong place, not an action hero. That, and Alan Rickman.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
The original American PieFast Times introduced us to Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and also Phoebe Cates catching Judge Reinhold masturbating.
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
Stanley Kubrick set a benchmark when it came to Vietnam war movies with this entry, the story following Private ‘Joker’ as he witnesses a fellow recruit lose his mind.
Good morning, Vietnam (1987)
Blending comedy and poignant drama, Robin Williams made this film what it was, and rightly received critically acclaim for his affecting and committed performance.
Goonies (1985)
Sean Astin as Mikey (same as my name, a connection!), a story by Spielberg and a race to find treasure, this was the ultimate adventure film for kids. Endlessly watchable.
Gremlins (1984)
With a screenplay by Chris Columbus (now a talented director), an executive producer in Spielberg and Joe Dante at the helm, this was a monstrously delightful treat.
Ghostbusters (1984)
This film went on to be, commercially, the most successful comedy of the ’80s. And rightly so, it’s a classic. It also has Bill Murray at his odd and quirky best.
Highlander (1986)
With a Scot playing an Egyptian, a French actor playing a Scot and a soundtrack by Queen, there’s no way this should have worked. But it did. Instant cult classic.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Widely seen as the most violent Indy film in the trilogy and received mixed reviews on release; it’s since been seen in more positive light over the years. Good thing, too.
Labyrinth (1986)
You remind me of the babe.’ David Bowie in leather trousers singing his heart out. Honestly, do you need to know more? Odd, disturbing, yet kind of perfect.
Platoon (1986)
Oliver Stone at the top of his game directed this Vietnam film, winning an Academy Award for Best Picture in the process. A must-see for your Vietnam catalogue.
Raging Bull (1980)
Paul Schrader scripted this Martin Scorsese film with De Niro ‘going method‘ as boxer Jake LaMotta. De Niro won a Best Actor Academy Award for his performance.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Nominated for nine Academy Awards at the time (it won five), Raiders is one of the highest grossing films of all time and just a thrilling adventure from start to finish.
Sixteen Candles (1984)
Undisputed heavyweight champ of the coming-of-age teen movie in the ’80s, without a doubt, was director John Hughes. This remains one of his sweetest stories.
Scarface (1983)
Written by Oliver Stone with Brian de Palma at the helm, this film divided people at the time for its violent excesses, but has since been come to be regarded as a classic.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Surprising to some perhaps, but this second instalment in the Star Wars saga wasn’t well received initially and has built over time. Now one of the best films of all time.
The Three Amigos (1986)
Loosely based, amazingly, on Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 film, Seven Samurai, this film didn’t make much commercially, or get great reviews. But I don’t care, it’s still great.
The Karate Kid (1984)
Following in the footsteps of Rocky, this film probably seemed light on the surface, but go watch it back again and again to see new things. It’s deeper than you think.
The Money Pit (1986)
In a remake of a 1948 Cary Grant film, Tom Hanks here proved his comedy chops in this silly, yet sweet flick which sees him crack up as his house slowly falls apart.
The Untouchables (1987)
Written by David Mamet with Brian de Palma directing and Ennio Morricone scoring, this film saw Sean Connery bag an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
The Princess Bride (1987)
‘You seem a decent fellow, I hate to kill you.’ Shun this film at your peril, it’s so sweet, ridiculously silly and wonderful. With one of the best sword fights you’ll see in cinema.
The Breakfast Club (1985)
Quite simply, John Hughes’ best film. The most well-observed coming-of-age teen movie you’ll ever see, and one of the best of the decade. Don’t you forget about it.
The Terminator (1984)
The film that launched director James Cameron’s career and cemented Schwarzenegger’s as an acting force to be reckoned with. It hasn’t aged either.
The Blues Brothers (1980)
Directed by ’80s legend John Landis, this unholy mess of a movie is kind of part of its charm. I mean, imagine a John Belushi under control, why would you want that?

Top 10 superhero films of the last decade

We’re living in a time of caped crusaders, masked vigilantes, mutants with god complexes… anyway, you get the idea. Plucking a time period of the last ten years out the air to give this thing some parameters, here are my favourites, along with my reasons why.

10. Thor (2011)
Deciding that you’re going to stick a Norse God on screen and do it in a serious manner must have been a tough meeting. However, this is one that Marvel – and director Ken Branagh – pulled off with skill and dexterity, with Chris Hemsworth bringing the golden-haired chap to life with conviction. This film also introduced us to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki – a character that stole every scene he was in and threatened to steal the entire movie.

thor16f-3-web

9. Chronicle (2012)
Newcomer director Josh Trank twisted everyone’s melon with this found footage take on the genre. After three lads explore a hole in the ground they end up with a number of special powers. However one of them (the excellent Dane DeHaan) goes a bit mad with inner torment that causes things to quickly go awry. This film is about as far removed from the rest on the list as you can get, which makes it a refreshing change and worth a watch.

ea_chroniclefriends

8. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. And in the case of director Bryan Singer that was exactly the case, after he returned to the franchise he’d started all those years ago. To give himself a challenge he opted to go for the most mind bending plot yet, involving time travel and fighting in the past and the future. He also drew out some fine performances from Michael Fassbender as Magneto and Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique.

x-men-dofp-mystique

7. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
Guillermo del Toro really doesn’t get enough credit for the level of detail that went into some of the sets and scenes for this movie. The troll market, in particular, was astonishly detailed and quite masterful. Then there’s his characters, from Ron Perlman’s Hellboy to Doug Jones’ Abe Sapien, each were so well rounded, interesting and, despite their supernatural looks, human and fallible to the core.

Hellboy-II-hellboy-ii-the-golden-army-3963065-1200-799

6. Iron Man (2008)
Robert Downey Jr. aka an insurance nightmare, aka a massive punt by the studio, aka an actor at possibly the last chance saloon. Well, whadda ya know, he pulled it off, with a performance that wowed critics and audience and started a billion dollar franchise. And now, with his rapid fire delivery of lines and nonchalent attitude, you cannot imagine anyone else in the role.

Iron-Man-3-Robert-Downey-Jr-Suits

5. Watchmen (2009)
Another director that has his critics, yet Zack Snyder managed to bring what was widely considered an unfilmable graphic novel to the screen in a manner which emphatically delivered. Visually, it looked stunning, the story was well handled and the performances (particularly Patrick Wilson’s Nite Owl and Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorschach) were outstanding.

Watchmen-Movie-the-watchmen-1989073-1800-1200

4. Kick Ass (2010)
With everyone’s attention firmly fixed on the big studios for the next superhero film, this one – independently financed – snuck its way onto our screens and made a massive impact. Director Matthew Vaughn managed to rouse Nic Cage from his slumber to deliver a barnstorming performance. He also introduced us to the acting talents of Chloe Grace Moretz.

chloe-moretz-kick-ass

3. Batman Begins (2005)
It’s easy to forget that Christopher Nolan’s trilogy had to start somewhere for it to be as wildly successful as it was. And it began with Christian Bale and lots of character building. Indeed it was about 45 minutes of screen time before we actually saw Bale as the Bat. Yet it was worth the wait as Nolan had crafted a believable hero for the modern age and firmly shut the door on past versions of the character.

christian-bale-batman

2. The Avengers (2012)
Bringing together a bunch of superheroes in an ensemble piece is a big undertaking. If this hadn’t of worked, Marvel would have had to go back to the drawing board for a serious rethink. Luckily they weren’t to worry for they were in safe hands, those of director Joss Whedon. His sparky dialogue and style perfectly suited to a bunch of heroes that spend almost as much time fighting each other as they do their enemies.

the-avengers

1. The Dark Knight (2008)
What can you say about Heath Ledger’s Joker that hasn’t already been said? Whilst his performance got him a posthumous Oscar, it was not just his film alone (although he stole every scene he was in). Bale – ever the trooper – had to face off against him, and also probably delivered his best performance of the trilogy in what was effectively a triple role as Bruce Wayne the man, the playboy and the vigilante.

batman-joker