I watch a lot of movies. And I enjoy persuading or dragging people to watch good movies with me. Here are the top five movies I watched in 2015, and will continue to rewatch in the years to come.
5. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2
I’m not a big Hunger Games or Jennifer Lawrence fan, but I was still excited to watch the final installment to the Hunger Games series. And I wasn’t disappointed.
Mokingjay, Part 2 picks up where Part 1 left off–no flashbacks, no long-winded explanations. This is a war movie now. And with that comes nerve-racking action scenes where no characters are safe. The action scenes are built up really well, too. It’s not one action scene after another. The movie lets the audience breathe, lulling you into a fall sense of security until it’s time to blow up characters again. I found the quieter scenes as compelling as the action scenes because that’s when the the characters reveal their motivations and relationships with each other.
What I really liked about Mockingjay, Part 2 was that it’s not all about good versus evil. Katniss’s motivation for joining the rebellion is mostly selfish–revenge. Her allies are shady. Peeta battles the evil within himself. And even Snow shows morality.
The last scene in Mockingjay, Part 2, which I fully credit to Jennifer Lawrence’s acting, is my favorite. Even though the battle was won, even though Katniss is with someone she loves and who loves her, we see how the effects of war still run deep in her. She may even have mild depression. That Katniss seems the most vulnerable when the world is already at peace was a good contrast and a statement that life goes on.
I love Emily Blunt and I will watch whatever movie she’s in, and Sicario is one of her best movies to date.
Sicario is a movie about the drug cartel in Juarez, Mexico. Emily Blunt plays Kate, an honest, law-abiding, and capable FBI agent who was recruited by the CIA on a mission to bring down the head of the cartel. She is joined by Josh Brolin who plays Matt, the mission leader, and Benicio del Toro as the scary, mysterious killing machine Alejandro. All of them are amazing in this movie.
Sicario will have you on the edge of your seat until the last second. At the cinema, I felt the audience collectively holding its breath whenever some shit is about to go down. Throughout the movie you’ll fear for Emily Blunt’s character’s life. What makes Sicario suspenseful is its unpredictability; except for Kate, all the characters are shady.
Mexico looks beautiful in the landscape and overhead shots that I want to visit it. But the movie is so effective in showing the perils of Juarez that I’m also scared.
A good-looking guy who sleeps around because he has commitment issues suddenly finds The One. Sounds familiar? Now replace the good-looking guy character with a woman, and you have Trainwreck. Except it’s so much more than that trope.
Trainwreck is a romantic-comedy written and starred by the funny Amy Schumer playing a character named Amy. I use the term romantic-comedy loosely because it’s really more comedy than romance. It follows the rom-com format yet avoids being a cliche. In Trainwreck, Amy is awful to the guys she sleeps with, and the movie doesn’t try to redeem her or make her more palatable to the viewer by making her cutesy. Even Bill Hader’s character Aaron, Amy’s love interest, isn’t trying to save, fix or change her, which I found refreshing.
I also need to mention how funny John Cena and LeBron James are in this movie. John Cena’s sex scene with Amy and his delivery of the crossfit joke is so on point that Dwayne Johnson needs to be worried if Cena decides to continue pursuing acting. The sensitive LeBron James character is also well-written.
Many romantic-comedy movies end with a song or dance number or both, and Trainwreck is included in that list. There are two things that usually happen during these production numbers: either the lead character performs really well or fumbles really badly in a super cute, hilarious manner. Amy’s performance is neither. She really tries to get the dance steps down. And when she makes a mistake, it’s not depicted like “Oh, she made a cute, little mistake. Isn’t she adorable?” No. She goes balls off for the performance and stresses about not being in synch with the professional dancers. It’s awkward, real and funny.
2. Inside Out
I had high expectations for Inside Out because of Up. And at the cinema, my expectations only increased after watching the short animated film Lava that preceded the actual movie. (It was so sweet!) It’s unnecessary to describe the concept of Inside Out by now because I feel like everyone has already watched it. And that’s a good thing. Our lives are so much better because we have this movie.
For a change, we have a Disney movie lead character whose parents are both still living. But the real change is how Riley, the young girl whose feelings we’re watching, is a complex human being. We actually see how she grows to be a multifaceted girl.
I grew up watching Disney princesses and these characters were graceful, kind and forgiving even when they were being treated in the worst possible way. And it’s great to teach kids kindness. But I never fully related to these princesses because I’m not always kind and good.
So it’s revolutionary to see a Disney character be depressed when life turns sour. And to use that movie as a mirror for the viewers, especially kids, to understand and acknowledge their negative feelings is such an achievement.
The impact of Inside Out in understanding our emotions is huge, but movies should be, first and foremost, entertaining. And it is. It will make you run through the gamut of emotions, especially that one heartbreaking scene; Pixar is worse than Game of Thrones when it comes to killing beloved characters. It’s such a joy to see all those bright colors on screen. And being Pixar, the animation is flawless.
It’s a movie based on a simple, genius idea with solid storytelling and perfectly executed animation. We’re all better people for watching it.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
Other than watching the trailer, I had no idea what Mad Max: Fury Road was going to be about until I stepped in the cinema. By the end of the film, I was blown away.
Watching Fury Road was an experience, like a well-timed rollercoaster ride giving you just a millisecond to gather yourself until the next drop. The action scenes are fast-paced and chaotic but coherent–the viewers always know what was going on with each character. The crazy, hyper supporting characters keep the tempo building. Fury Road was shot so well that you could almost feel the heat of the desert on your face and the sand in your mouth.
The eponymous character Max is played by Tom Hardy (*swoons*), but the movie was really about Imperator Furiosa, played strongly by Charlize Theron, and the women she’s saving.
The movie alludes to a number of issues like the gap between the rich and the poor, cult mentality and false messiahs, feminism, and effects of abuse. The real triumph is that they managed to cover these topics, but the characters only had minimal dialogues.
I haven’t watched the original Mad Max and didn’t see the point of remaking movies until Fury Road.