Films Worth Seeing from 2015: The Serious ones

Dramas(ish)

Inside Out

Inside_Out_(2015_film)_poster

Yeah I’m putting this in the drama section; go fuck yourselves if you disagree. For every laugh out loud moment, which there are a few; Pixar’s latest masterpiece is littered with heartfelt and moving moments that will warm the cockles of your aging bitter heart and will make you cry. The idea behind it is amazing and while the plot it follows isn’t anything new, it’s execution is near flawless. I knew from the opening melody of the main theme Bundle of Joy (my pick for best original score of the year), that this film was going to be exactly what everyone wanted from a Pixar film, and it was.

Steve Jobs

steve-jobs-posterProbably the most intense and thrilling film of the year, and not one shot is fired and not one car is chased, it never goes beyond people just talking (and screaming). Set in three real-time acts spread across the 1970s-1990s, this film gets to the heart of Steve Jobs the man/the character (he was quite a dick it turns out), and the heart of what it means to be innovative and push the boundary of what technology can be for people. Thrilling, heartstopping, emotional, and surprisingly beautiful to look at, Steve Jobs is a breath of fresh airconditioned air for the Biopic genre…and the fact it made less that jObs is just depressing.

 

Youth

Youth_poster_goldposter_com_1

Another funny but heartfelt film that is a meditation on fame, but even more so is about aging, love, and parenting. Directed by Italian autor Paolo Sorrentino, it’s led by a best in decades Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel, as two friends at a Swiss retreat in the Alps trying to keep their lives going. Now this is a bit of a tricky film to talk about, as its light on plot and heavy on strange things happening and characters reacting to them. So just trust me that Youth is a beautiful film and the kind of bold artistic statement that makes you glad that the studio process still lets creatives work their magic on us.

Spotlight

20104185723_0ca6c3e963_o

An in-depth investigative drama that follows the journalist team who uncovered the Child abuse coverups by the Catholic Church in the early 2000s; and it will piss you off for all the right reasons. I’m a sucker for a good investigation film, like Zodiac or All The Presidents Men, and this was no different. Though I don’t think it’s up there with Zodiac, this is still a very well written and compelling drama/thriller that step by step will take you through the disturbing looking glass. Led by a stellar cast of Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and more, this film is a masterclass of restrained filmmaking and acting. With a topic as hot as this, Spotlight could have easily become an over-dramatic spotlight-S_070416_rgblifetime mess, but director Tom McCarthy made the wise choice of keeping everything restrained, realistic, and beautifully drab (never has a cast of A-listers looked so normal), all so the facts can speak for themselves, and they scream.

 

The End of the tour

film-sundance-end-of-the-tour-first-look-2b1b02c3b573cbe3Already talked about this in our 2015 Film Awards, where it was one of the films awarded with best picture, but I’ll talk briefly about it here. It’s a funny and heartfelt road movie that meditates on fame, creativity, and loneliness, through the indepth and witty conversations of its protagonists. Whether you know David Foster Wallace’s work or not, this is an accessible and great film.

Wild

WILD_movie_posterFollow a mesmerizing Reese Witherspoon on a thousand mile hike as she flashes back to the different traumatizing points in her life that led her to the hike. It’s a compelling character film of the purist nature, and with a combination of a great soundtrack, editing, and sound-editing, is the best film I have ever seen capture the feeling of fleeting thought.
But this is a bit of a divisive film it appears, depending completely on whether you like the main character, as she is not really a good person; and not in the love to hate them way, but in a realistic way. I did like her, or at least I was engaged by her, while my fellow Troubled Production’s producer did not, leading to me putting this as one of the best films of 2015, while he put it as one of his worst. (See his personal blog here).

99 Homes

99-Homes-new-poster

Michael Shannon is on terrifying form as a realtor looking to make money during the housing crises of 2010, and Andrew Garfield finally acts his age to heart-breaking effect, as a single father kicked-out of his home by Shannon, and taken under the corrupt realtor’s wing. Another film that finds it’s intensity in its emotions; this film grabs you by the throat and keeps you electrified as you watch a normal man grapple for his morality and his fall to ‘the darkside’ as it’s the only way to provide for his family.

 

 

Brooklyn

file_610952_brooklyn-poster-640x951The second Nick Hornby script on this list (the first was Wild), and it just shows you the versatility of his writing. In 1950’s an Irish immigrant moves to Brooklyn (go figure) where she finds love, life, and a future, but then finds herself torn between the life she wants in America and the life everyone else wants for her back in Ireland. Much more a classic Hollywood romance (in all the right ways) and less the love triangle bollocks the trailers made it look to be, this is really a beautiful film about striving to achieve your own happiness, and who you’re willing to hurt to keep it.

Advertisements

Why we love…Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

ironman33Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of my favourite films (I know, another one!). It’s also, technically, a Christmas film (like EVERY Shane Black film), so by that logic it must also be my favourite Christmas film….Okay no its not, as it’s not a film I associate strongly with Christmas, like Home Alone or Die Hard. But it is an underrated classic, it is Christmassy enough, and it’s a film I can ramble on about its awesomeness for a post. So here I go.

Kiss-Kiss-Bang-Bang-Movie-Direct-DownloadNow the film itself is a pulpy Neo-noir mystery, which follows a petty crook played by a pre Iron Man Robert Downy Jr, and a badass gay Private-eye played by post Batman and relevance Val Kilmer, who are forced to work together to solve a classic and very compelling murder mystery in LA.

Now based on that description the film could really be anything, from hard edged thriller, to straight to DVD action flick. But like most Shane Black pictures it’s one of my favourite genres, outrageously dark comedy, with some of that best pitch black humor this side of In Bruges (which would actually make a dapmnbk5i5mn fine double feature) and it is also gleefully Meta. It turns the classic hard boiled narration into a rambling fourth wall demolishing spiel delivered by whom else but Downy, who spends much of the film deconstructing film narrative and murder mystery tropes, in an enjoyably if sometimes too smugly, nit-picky and self-referential way.

kiss-kiss-bang-bang-movie-quoteBut the heart of the film, what really makes it tick, is the razor sharp, character driven, machine gun dialogue. In a world, of Tarantino and Brother’s Coen, this is one of the sharpest scripts in cinema. There is not a minute that goes by, where a clever bit of word play or a visual gag or a marriage of both isn’t being pulled off. And it’s not just a series of funny but generic one-liners that could be said by anyone in anything, the comedy is pulled from its characters, from their plight and problems, and walks of life. To laugh with them and at them, is to get to know them.

tumblr_ma0nd0s3bx1ractwko1_r1_500And there are characters beyond Downy and Kilmer…well character. With most of the cast ranging from two note Hench-men and campy as hell villains, the only other big character is Michelle Monaghan (one of the most drop dead gorgeous women ever). The fem fatale of the film, who really isn’t in anyway, but is actually the ditsy heart of the flick, adding the much needed warmth and tonal levity to this dark and funny tale of murder and sexual abuse….yup. Whose dynamite chemistry with Downy not only helps ground both characters and gets the plot moving, but will make you wish she’d pop up in a Marvel film just so you can see them bounce off each other again.

Now this may be hard to hear, but as great as Downtumblr_mw8h9tn6bN1r60h6bo1_250y and Monaghan are…this is Kilmer’s film. He is pitch perfect as the aforementioned badass gay Private-eye, known as, what else, Gay Perry. Now this is a 2005 film, so the handling of his gay character isn’t perfect, my biggest issue being how other characters overreact a bit too much to his gayness (though in funny ways). But his kisskissbangbang3-copycharacter itself is one of the best in fiction; because despite the name, it doesn’t define him. He’s a tough, foul mouthed, no nonsense talking, gun toting, sassily witted, motherfucking pimp, who also happens to be gay. And it’s not just shoved to the side either; it’s just one part of a whole character, who steals scenes like Robert Downy Jr steals hearts.

Oh and the films like set at Christmas and stuff, and there’s like fairy lights everywhere and Christmas parties and tings. It’s a Shane Black film. He even made Iron Man  a Christmas film!

tumblr_mxa8fpMjWd1qcga5ro1_500
Shane Black’s apology for Iron Man 3

 

Picture1But It’s movies like this along with other Downy classics like, Wonder Boys, A Scanner Darkly, Zodiac, and the very good A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, that still have me convinced that Robert Downy Jr did his best work pre Iron Man (not to knock it), when he was exiled from Hollywood (you know because of drugs), and was trying to crawl his way back in. And I wish he would go back to doing smaller more interesting films, than just the Marvel flicks; hell just films more interesting than The Judge. But I doubt he ever will, with everything Marvel still happening, the piles of money just his goatee is worth, and his recent comments about his hatred towards indie films. So I won’t hold my breath.

 

Why I love Zodiac

This isn’t a review; it is a spiel about our love of films and what not. So expect spoilers, biased opinions and general rants.

zodiac
Easily the best poster, and of course its the one you can’t get.

I’m not sure where my love of mysteries started, probably from a childhood (and teenhood, and adulthood) of watching Scooby Doo, nothing major, but a place to start. Now, from LA Confidential, to Memories of Murder, it’s hard to think of a mystery film I haven’t seen, (but please don’t try, I hate having to face my lies) but Zodiac is one of, if not, the best.

Scooby_Doo zodiax

Right out the gate I’ve gotta say, it’s my favorite Fincher film, followed closely by The Social Network and Gone Girl (yes you read that right, neither Se7en nor Fight Club do I consider his best). And Zodiac is a near three hour, investigative murder mystery journalism film, where they never catch the killer. And damn it’s riveting. It’s that last bit, about the Zodiac never being caught, being one reason to why I love and find this film so re-watchable (I watch it almost Bi-monthly). As unlike almost every other serial killer flick, when you know who did it, you can never not know, no matter how enjoyable of a film it is, the first watch is usually the best. That’s part of what makes Zodiac special, though it hazards a guess at who the Zodiac was, and follows it through with compelling, even satisfying evidence, you never know 100%, so with every watch your still looking, thinking, trying to see if there was anything you missed that could lead you to the Zodiac.

fincher filmns
I really don’t have any deep problems with any of Fincher’s films, I just thought this made a good image….Expect maybe Se7en!

It also features one of my favorite scenes in cinema, it happens in the last fifteen minutes of the film (I love it when the best part of the film is near the end, it’s something to look forward to during it), and it doesn’t feature a gun fight, it doesn’t move me to tears, it’s not shot in partially amazing fashion; it’s just two guys (Gyllenhaal’s cartoonist and Ruffalo’s detective respectively), sitting in a café, as Gyllenhaal lays out the entire case, the entire film in front of us. Every complex facet of evidence, every casual event, all the major characters, it’s all led to this, and it’s explained in a perfectly written scene, with an enthrallingly intense turn from Gyllenhaal, till it climaxes with this films closes thing to a big reveal. And god it’s satisfying.

cafe
Never has the choice over salt or pepper been so intense.

This scene also sums up why it’s my favorite serial killer film, and the tagline summaries it perfectly too. “There’s more than one way to lose your life to a killer”. It’s a film about obsession, and how it can eat you alive. Unlike films where you’re worried about the characters  dying, there’s rarely a moment where you think someone’s going to be killed (outside the victims obviously),  but as it unfolds and the characters (mainly Gyllenhaal) fall deeper and deeper and deeper, even when its all said and done, you can’t help but wonder. Can they live again?

Jake

Now I know it’s not cool to care about Academy Awards, and I get it, overall they’re pretty cheap with whom and what they consider worthy (no love for Jake Gyllenhaal unless he’s macking on a cowboy it seems). But at the same time, they do tend to choose pretty good films, and Zodiac easily should have been a major awards contender in 2008, for directing, writing, acting (Robert Downy Jr especially), cinematography (the usual Fincher staples), and the reason it wasn’t I completely put on the studio. They released it at the wrong time, and advertised it the wrong way. Selling it as a fun, messed-up, thrills per-minute serial killer film (Se7en cough, cough) and releasing it in spring; instead of in Oscar season (October-December) and as the investigative drama it is (All The President’s Men meets Citizen X), what the makers always intended it to be. But though I blame them for this, I can see why they did it. Coming off the big hit of the very enjoyable thriller Panic Room, and Fincher’s last serial killer film being a massive hit, I see why the studio treated it like they did. They wanted another Se7en, even though Fincher gave them something much more.

seven 2

It’s films like Zodiac that made me pretty happy when I heard Fincher’s series with HBO had fallen through, because despite how much I like House of Cards, and have heard that Utopia is a great show, I didn’t want Fincher’s spending all his time on a TV series when he could be making more films like this, or Gone Girl, or The Social Network. TV’s amazing right now (check out last weeks post on Breaking Bad, wink, wink), with a lot of hugely talented people creating epic feats of fiction, so we need to make sure Film stays great, and Fincher’s pretty good at that.
(Yes I’m aware he’s still producing the TV Show Shakedown and Video Synchronicity (both which sound really good), but who the hell knows at this point, and at least he’s not directing the entire series.)