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Most Enjoyable & Most Disappointing of 2015

by Tony Medley

Here are my lists of the most enjoyable and least enjoyable/most disappointing/most overrated films I saw during 2015. The negative category includes some films that, while not the worst, were disappointing or overrated, or, while enjoyable, had huge flaws. The positive category is just how much I enjoyed them, not rated as I would rate an Oscarģ-winner. The "Most Disappointing" are listed by rank of how much I loathed them with #1 the most loathsome.

This list doesnít include two films I havenít seen, Brooklyn and The H8teful Eight. The former I probably wonít see, but everyone Iíve spoken with (not critics) says itís very good.

There were more enjoyable films this year and the bad list is shorter, but the bad films were really bad, maybe the worst since Iíve been writing this column. Some, like Trumbo and Truth, are especially despicable in their outright lies, failure to tell the truth, and intention to falsify history.

Most enjoyable:

  1.  Testament of Youth: Based on the true exploits of an English woman during WWI, if there was ever a better actress in Hollywood than Alicia Vikander, I havenít seen her.
  2.  The Gift: Hitchcockian brilliance from writer/director/co-star Joel Edgerton; the tension never lets up.
  3.  Far From the Madding Crowd: Blew me away.
  4.  Winter on Fire: Ukraineís Fight for Freedom: This documentary of the Ukraine Revolution is the most captivating action film you will ever see and itís all shot on site as the events are unfolding.
  5.  Woman in Gold: Another true story with very little Hollywood added; if it werenít for Alicia Vikander, Helen Mirren would be the best actress Hollywood has ever seen.
  6.  Amy: Terrific documentary about Amy Winehouse.
  7.  Cop Car: This one really snuck up on me. I liked just about every minute of it.
  8.  Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National   Lampoon: Also wonderfully funny.
  9.  Ex Machina: Alicia Vikander shines as a robot.
  10.  Mad Max: Road Fury: One of the pleasant surprises of the year for me. A more peripatetic, high octane, testosterone-fueled chase film you will rarely see.
  11. Spy: After a slow first hour, Melissa McCarthy sparkles in a riotous last hour.
  12.  Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Much better than I expected with star turns by veteran Harrison Ford and newcomer Daisy Ridley.
  13. The Letters: An eye-opening different take on Mother Teresa.
  14. The Martian: I never dreamed watching a guy stranded on Mars for several hours could be this good.
  15. The Salt of the Earth: This is not just a wonderful documentary about one of the greatest social photographers of the generation, Sebasti‚o Salgado, itís a picture of the brutal life of survival in the worlds far beyond our shores.
  16.  While Weíre Young: The story of idealism facing up to the way things are in the movie industry. The ending is surprising but in touch with the real world.
  17.  Kingsman: The Secret Service: An entertaining thriller/spoof of the James Bond genre.
  18.  The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: Hollywood meets Bollywood in this excellent sequel highlighted by fine acting and eye-popping color.
  19. 3 Hearts: While this seems on its surface to be a Racinian tragedy evolved in a complex love triangle, the music (Bruno Coulais) is constantly signaling that itís as much a thriller as it is a love story.
  20. Chappie: This story of a sensitive robot has a lot of action but is still appealing and humorous at the same time, especially if you don't take it too seriously.
  21. The Salvation: A Danish film with an international cast headed by Danish superstar Mads Mikkelson, this is in the grand tradition of Sergio Leone and his Spaghetti Westerns set in the American Old West but shot in Europe.
  22. Child 44: A tense thriller set in Soviet Russia in 1953; one of Tom Hardyís many terrific performances of the year.
  23. Clouds of Sis Maria: A lot of talk but a lot of psychological tension, too, along with scenes of the actual titular cloud (called the ďMajola snakeĒ).
  24. Jurassic World:  How can you go wrong with Spielbergís dinosaurs? This is better than the original.
  25. Run All Night: Nonstop Liam Neeson action highlighted by tension-enhancing music, exceptional cinematography, and good dialogue.
  26. Deli Man: 160 years of tradition of the Jewish delicatessen; who knew!
  27. Humpback Whales: This exceptional view of these magnificent mammals in IMAX 3D is an exhilarating film-viewing experience you can get nowhere else. I hated to see it end.
  28. In the Heart of the Sea: Spellbinding tale of the story of the destruction of the whaling ship, Essex, in 1820, upon which Moby Dick was based; I was rooting for the whale.
  29. Irrational Man: Hitchcock would have made this story a tense thriller; Woody Allen makes it a light-hearted comedic presentation, despite the dark undertones.
  30. Pitch Perfect 2: Highlighted by outstanding production values and upbeat, entertaining music, this sequel far outpaces the original, which I despised.
  31. Max:  A good dog movie.
  32. Southpaw: While I generally loathe boxing movies, this one is different in that it doesnít lionize the anachronistic activity and shows it for the brutality it is.
  33. Serena: This atmospheric romantic thriller starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, set in late-20ís Carolina mountains, molted in the can for three years before it was released and I think I was the only one who liked it.
  34. San Andreas: Terrific, if absurd, no-basis-in-fact, special effects picturing events that could never happen.

Most Disappointing:

1.   Trumbo: Dalton Trumboís Hollywood 10 were traitors who owed their allegiance to Joseph Stalin, but Hollywoodís fellow travelers and useful idiots (like Kirk Douglas) continue to portray them as heroes.

2.   Truth: Hollywood canít handle the truth, so its answer is to lie.

3.   Bridge of Spies: Steven Spielberg rewrites history portraying his protagonist as an ďinsurance lawyerĒ inexperienced in international affairs when, in fact, he had already played a vital role in The Nuremberg Trials, and affirms his leftwing credentials by casting a sympathetic eye on a KGB soviet spy, Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance, who gives a bravura performance, the only reason for seeing this).

4.   Spotlight: No All the Presidentís Men, this is as boring as they come.

5.   Concussion: A slow, uninvolving whitewash that misses the point of the NFLís fight against taking responsibility for all the injuries suffered by its former players.

6.   Focus: The worst chemistry between romantic leads Will Smith and Margot Robbie ever filmed with nauseatingly awful love scenes that looked like they couldnít stand to touch one another, exacerbated by an absurdly ridiculous script.

7.   Seventh Son: Do Oscarģ-winners Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore really need the money so bad to take part in this piece of junk?

8.   Entourage: This didnít lose something from the TV series; it lost everything.

9.   Get Hard: Nothing fails like weak attempts at humor like this.

10.            Knock Knock: Vamoose, vamoose.

11.            Magic Mike XXL: Itís no surprise to me that the genius behind this low intellect rubbish is Channing Tatum; itís hard to believe that heís trying to be a producer when he hasnít reached first base as an actor yet.

12.            Fifty Shades of Grey: I put the book down after 100 pages, but I had to stay until the end of this thing, so I liked the book better.

13.            Jupiter Ascending: Iíve always thought that Channing Tatum acted like an automaton. But thatís what he plays here and he canít do that, either.

14.            The Gunman: This is just an ego trip for a rapidly aging actor, Sean Penn, who apparently canít get a role in a good movie, to show heís still alive, to try to prove he can be an action hero at his advanced years, and to narcissistically display a buff body.

15.            Blackhat: Plot holes and situations that simply boggle the mind. I saw it at The Directors Guild and when we left the theater the guy sitting next to me said, ďNext time, I pick the picture.Ē

16.           The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: Tell me they werenít seriousÖplease!

17.            Hot Pursuit: See ďGet Hard,Ē above.

18.            Furious 7: These movies are junk.

19.            Ted 2: Two is two too many.

20.            Taken 3: It got took.

21.            Vacation: Iíll stay home.