With 2015 coming to an end and 2016 starting off without a break, it’s time to take a look back. As inevitable as someone cracking the “See you next year” line on New Year’s Eve, what this pretty much entails is building a list, a list of anything that one can kind of think of and do justice to the whole bunch of movies put out this year. To a great extent, a list of the top movies is pretty much an exercise in subjectivity, bias and as far moved away from a scientific approach as possible which is pretty much how this particular list below has also been generated apart from incorporating a few basic parameters like fun had, re-watchability, quality etc
This blog has never been shy about its love for the spectacle, joy and entertainment that a blockbuster movie brings to the screen (well, hence the title for this post) and paying tribute to the best blockbuster movies of the year is usually more about wondering which movie to leave out. The expectations for 2015 blockbuster movie were quite high given how quite wonderful 2014 had turned out to be and the slate of movies 2015 had in schedule – sequels to prior awesome movies, reboots of previously successful and beloved (in some cases) franchises, original property from acclaimed directors amongst them. In a way, those expectations were met and exceeded. Box office numbers from these movies were the highest ever and new opening week records were set and reset through the course of the year. But that isn’t really the true judge of the quality of a movie and the list below indicates pretty much that.
Mad Max: Fury Road spent quite some time in development hell and production dungeon before the sheer insane driving force and stubborn vision of George Miller brought it to life and is easily the movie of the year. The title pretty much conveys the mad and furious nature of what is essentially a chase movie but a chase done with so much style, unrelenting fierceness and with surprising amount of substance in its subtext, that it was viewed multiple time on the big screen. Make no mistake, this is edge of the seat, nerve wracking, pulse throbbing action packed visceral ride backed by some absolutely crazy stunt work and vehicular homicide set to a pretty kickass music score and creative imagery. Who can forget the Doof Warrior setting the tone for the chase playing a flaming guitar in a red onesie surrounded by gigantic heavy duty speaker systems? Lest it feels that the actors in the movie are just superfluous, banish the thought. Charlize Theron gets to play an awesomely strong lead character while Tom Hardy, relegated to a support character despite being the titular lead, conveys a fair amount of desperation and horror at the situation he finds himself in and how the world turned out to be
Speaking of horror, Crimson Peak by Guillermo Del Toro is less a horror movie as advertised and more a creepy movie but built and designed through all the love GDT can lavish on, through arresting visuals and fantastic set design. This is a slow burn movie that in the first half does spend a fair amount of time focusing on the Tom Hiddlestone , an aura of charm, mystery and tragedy around him, who is front and center until the second half where Jessica Chastain comes into prominence. Mia Wasikowska brings in the right amount of vulnerability and naivety to the role. Deeply atmospheric, this is a moody film that takes its own sweet time and pace until rushes to the climax
The opposite of atmospheric is the delightful romp, The Man from UNCLE – a movie that is all style but not so much substance. With the typical Guy Ritchie touches and flourishes, the movie is a fun ride with the cast playing perfectly off each other. Henry Cavill as the charismatic American agent Solo, Arnie Hammer as the dour upright Ilya and the delightful Alicia Vikander playing the supposed damsel in distress display fantastic chemistry and antagonism even as they try to work together towards common goals which each pursues their own agenda as they try to work each other out
Movies often deal with managing the feeling towards an external party but it takes a Pixar special to help us understand how feelings work internally and why even the so-called negative feelings are important. A strong contender for the best animated movie Oscar, Inside Out visualizes and gives shape to each feeling, and how these feelings are responsible for the development of personality in a human being. Shaping it like an adventure, this movie for kids and not for kids truly a wonderful, subtle and innovative piece of movie making
Subtlety is not usually a feature associated with the Fast and Furious franchise and with the untimely death of Paul Walker, there were fears indeed on how badly that would play out. However, Furious 7 assuages those fears and gives Paul Walker a truly emotional and heartfelt send-off that is just perfect and in no way feels crass. The rest of the movie is suitably loud with over the top stunts and wafer thin plot keeping in line with the rest of the series. There is a sever sense of foreboding but James Wan takes it in a different direction than expected. Kurt Russell pops in as a secret government agent but really hams it up having a lot of fun while Jason Statham plays the bad guy proving to be quite a physical match to Vin Diesel
Physicality and combat skills are what we expect from Jason Statham but displaying a vein of comedy hitherto never seen before, his extended cameo almost steals the limelight from a perfectly cast Melissa McCarthy in Spy. An action comedy thriller from Paul Feig, with a storyline that zips through the kind of global locations a James Bond movie would use, McCarthy plays the relegated desk agent who gets into the field with refreshing candor and allows her to naturally evolve from her timid self to the profane, cursing, headstrong Melissa McCarthy that we are familiar with. For all the comedy in the movie, the action is perfectly balanced and often searing humorous dialogs are deadpanned, mostly by the indestructible Jason Statham. Jude Law has a ball as well playing the suave James Bond kind of agent
There is a moment in the delightful movie, Kingsman: The Secret Service, where the stiff upper lipped Michael Caine superciliously tries to guess what Eggsy’s dog’s name JB stands for. He goes for the usual James Bond/ Jason Bourne only to be told that it stands for Jack Bauer, slyly indicating that this ain’t that kind of movie; A movie that hides its penchant for violence and spilling blood under a stylish veneer of genteel British manners, accent and gentlemen clothing. Who would have thought Colin Firth would make such a fantastic action hero or Samuel Jackson as a limp wimpy villain except for the super talented Matthew Vaughn. The movie is ridiculously fast paced and entertaining while being playful at the same time and boldly R-rated violent, one of the best comic book movies of the year
One of the best books of last year was written to be made into a movie and with Ridley Scott behind the megaphone and with the pitch perfect casting of Matt Damon, The Martian turned out to be a fantastic movie. The key challenge in converting the book to the movie was in condensing the numerous monologues that Mark Watney, the stranded astronaut has with himself and that has been handled adroitly through video logs. Martian is a nifty piece of film making and more than anything is a feel good movie. The pace hardly every sags and Damon acts the sh*t out of it, never despondent and displaying the right amount of cockiness, resilience and spunk to make you root for him. The supporting cast is great as well even if they do have a fairly limited role in this Man vs Space contest
Space: The Final frontier – that’s how Star Trek begins. But this is not about Star Trek but about the other not-so-small Star movie that was released a few days back (and also a reason why this post didn’t come out immediately after the blockbuster season). In what can only be politely described as a seqoot (sequel + reboot), JJ Abrams manages the expectation of possibly the biggest and the most rabid fanbase in delivering a Star Wars movie, that is indeed a Star Wars movie. Star Wars: The Force Awakens brings in the old and the new in a tried and tested formula that repeats the beats of A New Hope but offers just that enough amount of divergence to make it stand on its own. Right from the goosebumpy John Williams score on the opening scroll to the appearance of the Millennium Falcon to the climatic set piece, the movie is a blast. What Abrams does well enough is to provide just that right amount of twist to set up exciting possibilities that will allow future sequels to run in a different direction and he is helped in this by the new cast. Daisy Ridley, an unknown face pretty much becomes the face of this new set of movies while John Boyega carries off his role with aplomb.
These 8 movies were the best that the blockbuster season had to offer. While this season was commercially more successful than the previous one, last year had a larger number of movies that were pretty good. 2016 is likely to be interesting with a slate of superhero properties guaranteed to make a lot of money scheduled to be released. Batman vs Superman, Civil War, Rogue One are ones that could definitely come close to breaking some of the records set this year and one really does hope that these movies turn out to be good as well
PS: For those wondering about the Avengers sized omission to the blockbuster list, Age of Ultron was a movie struggling under the weight of having to do too many things – serve as a worthy successor to Avengers, Set up Infinity War, Set up Civil War, Set up Thor: Ragnarok while introducing new characters we could get behind. It definitely wasn’t a surprise that the movie while remaining good in parts never came together as a cohesive whole. The moments where the team come together, share quieter moments are the best parts of the movie and in true Whedon style, the bantering, the quips and the humor are tremendously engaging.
PPS: Jurassic World was the other significant omission from this list. Well, the movie was oddly disjointed except for when the dinos come up on screen. Chris Pratt is quite engaging but I am not sure if the rough and tough hard guy role really suits him
PPPS: Other movies that were good but not great – MI5 and Ant-Man. MI5 had quite its share of thrills and the movie really gave us an awesomely fascinating female lead who could go toe-to-toe with Tom Cruise in Rebecca Ferguson. Paul Rudd is great as Ant-Man with just the right balance between humor and action but given this is an origin movie, it pretty much goes through the checklist approach. To be fair, the climatic fight is actually good and inventive and features Thomas the Tank Engine as well