I saw 44 films this year. The only films I saw twice are The Man from UNCLE and The Martian - and if you’d told me I’d put them above Avengers: Age of Ultron at the start of the year I’d have laughed at you.
Ex Machina - probably my favourite film of the year, and certainly the one that has stuck with me the longest given that I saw at the start of the year and I am still contemplating it. Also, it has Oscar Isaac, Alicia Vikander and Domnhall Gleeson in it, and they are now in everything and deservedly so. Inherent Vice - which managed to be both langerous and compelling - and also utterly hilarious. Absolutely makes the most of Joaquin Phoenix who was apparently born to play a stoner private detective. Carol - completely beautiful and a fascinating study of a number of relationships (not just Carol and Therese). Also much warmer than the book (which I read shortly beforehand). Highsmith does translate well, especially with actors who can bring out the likeable qualities in characters who she often delineates with all their flaws to the fore.
Fast and Furious 7 and Mad Max: Fury Road. Have a double bill of movies with car chases that completely transcend that basic fact. I’m still baffled by the fact that the Fast and Furious franchise is (a) a franchise and (b) a huge favourite of mine, given my dismissal of the first movie back in my early undegraduate days, but it is so. I think the films have bloated a bit since the pinnacle of the series which came the fourth and fifth installments, but this was both ace and emotional, and handled the emotion and the farewell that it needed to make so well. I ended up in floods. I went to see Fury Road mostly because people wouldn’t quit talking about it and I got intrigued. And then it was just that good: smart and entertaining, and god bless Tom Hardy for just getting out of the way of Furiosa.
Inside Out, Big Hero Six, and Shaun the Sheep. The animation triple bill. I get that Inside Out is probably the richest and the best, but - Sadness aside - I’m not sure it quite tugged at my heart in the same way as Big Hero Six’s Baymax helping Hiro learn to deal with grief, or tiny, plasticine Shaun desperately trying to get his farmer back. Aardman, in particular, are a joy and nourishment to my British soul.
Man from UNCLE and The Martian. A double bill of the most outrightly entertaining movies I saw this year. I knew nothing about Man from UNCLE until the trailer landed in the cinema and made me sit up. It’s stylish and funny and refuses to take itself too seriously, and it has a TRABANT CHASE. I read The Martian in one afternoon, gulping down its enjoyably high-speed plot - but I think it works even better as a film, bringing out some of the other characters and taking the overly-sciencey edges off the science. Plus, disco.
Love and Mercy. When I heard there was going to be a Brian Wilson biopic, my first instinct was to run for the hills. The Beach Boys are my favourite band, Pet Sounds and SMILE are in my desert island box, and there was no way this story couldn’t go terribly wrong on screen. And then it - didn’t. I still don’t know how, but it managed to balance its twin plot lines wonderfully and engage the emotions without ending up saccharine. And oh, the music.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I didn’t grow up with Star Wars so I don’t have any great emotional investment in the series. A bit of me wishes I’d seen the original trilogy at 31 rather than 21, when I probably would have been more open to the epic and magic they offered. But I really, really, really enjoyed this - even without the emotional investment many people I know had. And I’m going to go see it again, as soon as I can.
Crimson Peak, The Lobster, and The Lady in the Van. My honourable mentions. Crimson Peak is a beautiful, beautiful film, but I think I love the idea of it more than I actually loved the film itself - I was never quite swept up in it, but I am so glad that it exists. The Lobster was weird and creepy and on the nose, and I would really like it if Colin Farrell just made small films like this all the time, thanks. And The Lady in the Van was just a frothing cappuchino of delight with a slighty salty heart. I was glad it translated so well, loved playing History Boys bingo, and want to see Alex Jennings in more things, please thank you.
Biggest Disappointments Avengers: Age of Ultron which just didn’t deliver on its far-too-many fronts, despite some inevitable Whedonquotability (mostly from Bruce Banner and The Vision). I also fall on the side of ‘That Bruce and Natasha Conversation Was Really Awkward And Not In A Way That Worked.’ Pitch Perfect 2 aka the Law of Diminishing Returns (although I liked the fact that Becca’s boyfriend was a barely-there, angst-free, coffee-providing support network) and Into the Woods aka, um, what happened to Rapunzel, and by the way did you have to ham up Agony quite that much, and oh you wasted Simon Russell Beale there. And then I went home and downloaded a proper version on Digital Theatre. Spectre, which had a good beginning (till the sofa) and a good ending, and a very messy, fairly dull middle. There was a good movie in there about all the stuff going on between M and C, and ignoring Christoph Waltz entirely, but that prbably wouldn’t have been a Bond movie. In fact, it probably would have been the Spooks movie, which was actually solidlyy good.
Avoid-Avoid-Avoid Regression. Just, don’t go there. I’m still sad about it, Amenabar.