Thursday, January 28, 2016

Pick of Movies Watched in 2015

I don't seem to watch as many movies as I used to. I only saw one movie
on the big screen in the whole of 2015. Until recently, I would borrow
and watch at least one movie on DVD a week, but lately it's more like
one or two a month. And I don't often watch movies broadcast on TV
either. That's in part because I've found TV shows in this so-called
"platinum" age of television more interesting and satisfying. I'll say
more about that in a future post.

Anyway, there were some movies I did enjoy watching for the first time
in 2015.

1. New Releases

* "Inside Out"
"After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San
Francisco, her emotions - Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness -
conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school."

A solid return to form for Pixar. Most of the studio's movies are
technically excellent, but this one had a great and touching story as

* "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"
"Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat
arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag
group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance."

Like many fans, I was a bit nervous about Episode VII. I went to see it
at the cinema with a longtime friend and fellow Star Wars tragic. After
the less-than stellar prequels, we were both very satisfied with the
first release of the Disney era. Echoes of the classic trilogy are
definitely present, but it was original enough, held together well
(ignoring the questionable physics), and some cool new characters were

* "Ex Machina"
"A young programmer is selected to participate in a ground-breaking
experiment in synthetic intelligence by evaluating the human qualities
of a breath-taking humanoid A.I."

That premise was always going to grab my attention, and overall, this
relatively low-budget movie delivered. I enjoyed it enough to re-watch
it to see if I could catch any tells.

2. Past Year Releases

* "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
"The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous hotel
from the fictional Republic of Zubrowka between the first and second
World Wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most
trusted friend."

Inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig, this Wes Anderson-directed
comedy entertained me. I really enjoyed the fable-like qualities.

* "Coherence"
"Strange things begin to happen when a group of friends gather for a
dinner party on an evening when a comet is passing overhead."

When I heard about this very low budget ($50,000!) parallel worlds
sci-fi/thriller, I was intrigued. I don't buy the comet tie-in with
quantum theory, but what really matters is the characters react to the
situation. At only 90 minutes long, I had no qualms re-watching
immediately to better grasp the intricate plot.

* "Gone Girl"
"With his wife's disappearance having become the focus of an intense
media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it's suspected
that he may not be innocent."

I held off watching this, but caved due to my crush on Rosamund Pike,
and the fittingly edgy soundtrack by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. I
haven't read the book, and probably won't since it's all about the
twist. It held my interest throughout.

* "The Wolf of Wall Street"
"Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy
stock-broker living the high life to his fall involving crime,
corruption and the federal government."

I'd probably watch traffic directed by Martin Scorsese. I also enjoy
seeing the shenanigans and excesses of the financial world being played
out. Overall, worth watching despite the long playing time.

* "Certified Copy"
"In Tuscany to promote his latest book, a middle-aged British writer
meets a French woman who leads him to the village of Lucignano. While
there, a chance question reveals something deeper."

They had me at Tuscany, but it wasn't just the scenery and architecture
that kept me watching. It was almost like a two-person play, with the
action mostly taking place over a single day. Solid acting and complex
characters that required a repeat viewing to fully appreciate. It's
probably not for everyone, though.

3. New Releases NOT seen yet:

* "The Martian"
I've read and enjoyed the book (see earlier post), and will definitely
catch the movie on DVD soon.

* "Mad Max: Fury Road"
After hearing lots of positive responses, I was tempted to go watch this
on the big screen. Will also have to wait for the DVD.

Feel free to suggest anything else I should check out.