Film Feature: Chad’s Top 10 Films of 2015

by Chad Liffmann on January 5, 2016

Spinning Platters film critics present their top 10 films of 2015

Spinning Platters film critics Carrie Kahn and Chad Liffmann each share their ten favorite films of 2015. Here is Chad’s list, presented in reverse-awesome order. Also check out Carrie‘s top ten list!

10.) Cinderella
Lily James emerging from her pumpkin-turned-coach.

Lily James emerging from her pumpkin-turned-coach.

A lack of the classic Disney song ‘Cinderelli!’ didn’t prevent Kenneth Branagh’s live action version of Cinderella from reaching magical heights. After a plethora of disappointing “re-imaginings” and “discover the true story” versions of classics — Maleficent, Alice in Wonderland, Oz the Great and Powerful — it was time for a movie to play it straight, and Cinderella did just that. With amazing performances from Lily James and Cate Blanchett and beautiful costumes and set designs, Cinderella (hopefully) represents the first in a new series of live action Disney remakes that stick to the strong source materials without egregious silly additions. (Read my full review of Cinderella here.)

9.) Black Sea

Jude Law, looking happy, in Black Sea.

Jude Law, looking happy, in Black Sea.

Many folks missed this tight submarine thriller when it came out (in wide release) back in January. Extreme claustrophobia, underwater thrills, and post-war sentiments provide a trifecta of tensions as a ragtag team searches for presumed gold aboard a sunken WWII U-boat. Jude Law leads the charge as the captain of the trouble-laden voyage, and a handful of solid supporting performances distract from any plot holes. If you enjoy being on the edge of your seat and holding your breath, Black Sea is the film for you. (Read my full review of Black Sea here.)

8.) Eden

EDEN

EDEN

Another film that saw limited release and festival circuits in 2014 but saw a small US release in the summer of 2015. Eden is a french film based on the life of DJ Sven Hansen-Løve. Check out the film and definitely check out the soundtrack (4.5 hrs long – here), both which chronicle the rise and influence of “French Touch”. Rarely has a modern period piece been able to immerse itself so deeply in the aesthetics—the sounds, colors, and lights— of the subject matter, and Eden‘s strength as a semi-fictional biopic is a testament to the talent and experience of the filmmakers. (Read my interview with Sven Hansen-Løve and Félix de Givry here.)

7.) Creed

Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone, l.) gives some pointers to up and coming boxer Donny, son of his late rival and friend, Apollo Creed.

The second best sequel “copy” of the original this year!

What a wonderful moment it will be if/when Sylvester Stallone wins the best supporting actor Oscar award for his deeply emotional performance in Creed. For those who’ve seen it, you’ll remember that one particular moment (even the line itself) when Sly broke your heart. Even with Ryan Coogler’s solid directing, Michael B. Jordan’s committed performance, and a smart script that ties up all potential loose ends with ease, it’s Stallone’s return to the role of the Italian Stallion that transcends ‘old tired man’ shtick into something more meaningful and more emotional. (Read Carrie’s review of Creed here.)

6.) The End of the Tour

The-End-of-the-Tour

I’ve never read David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest and I’m not even one of endless folks who’ve tried to read it. That being said, The End of the Tour — the small indie film depicting Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky’s five-day interview with the late author during the last leg of his Infinite Jest book tour— doesn’t require any pre-reading to make its points. The majority of the film consists of conversations between Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and Wallace (an incredible Jason Segel). The film is deeply personal. We see our own reflections in Wallace’s rants and ruminations, and are privileged to be privy to the mind of a lost genius, even if it is somewhat fictionalized.

5.) The Revenant

Grizzly man Leo.

Grizzly man Leo.

Like Gravity but in the 1800’s frontier wilderness rather than outer space, The Revenant is a tale of survival in the harshest conditions, with obstacle after obstacle getting in our protagonist’s way. The Revenant is the follow up to last year’s Best Picture/Director/Cinematography award winning Birdman, re-teaming director Alejandro González Iñárritu and DP Emmanuel Lubezki to deliver another outstandingly beautiful film. With only natural light used to light the scenes, and carried by a powerful performance by Leonardo DiCaprio (this is his Oscar year!), The Revenant is a gorgeous film to behold on the big screen. (Full review coming soon).

4.) Star Wars: The Force Awakens

landscape-movie-star-wars-the-force-awakens-daisy-ridley-john-boyega

Rey and Finn run for more screen time.

“The force is strong with this one!” The J.J. Abrams directed 7th installment of the Star Wars saga brought back all the best aspects from the original trilogy — practical effects, tongue-in-cheek humor, promising young actors, a sense of adventure, and Han Solo. Even a plot that closely mirrored A New Hope couldn’t prevent The Force Awakens from living up to the unparalleled expectations that came with its release. It’s a fantastic start to the new trilogy and I can’t wait for the next one. Just more Poe Dameron, please. (Read my full review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens here.)

3.) Inside Out

Screen Shot 2016-01-02 at 7.30.16 PM

Feelings got the feels!

We all got the feels from Pixar’s superior 2015 film release, Inside Out (The Good Dinosaur being the inferior release). The film is an incredible journey into the various compartments of the mind, featuring amazing visuals and music, strong voice acting, truly powerful emotional moments, and of course, inventive storytelling like only Pixar can deliver. Though we had been waiting for Pixar’s return to form since 2010’s Toy Story 3, Inside Out goes above and beyond meshing kid friendly stories with adult themes and knocked it out of the park. And months later, we’re still choking up about Bing Bong.

2.) The Big Short

The men who knew too much.

The men who knew too much.

Clever storytelling, satirical writing, and solid performances make The Big Short one of the most entertaining movies of the year, though it’s the most infuriating as well. Based on true events and characters involved in the housing bubble burst of 2007, The Big Short balances fact and fiction with ease, all the while ensuring that the humor doesn’t outweigh the devastating consequences of the historical events. Steve Carell and Christian Bale are the standout performers, but it’s the tight, sharp script by Adam McKay that may get the most recognition throughout awards season — yes him, the writer/director of Anchorman. (Read my full review of The Big Short here.)

1.) Mad Max: Fury Road

WHAT A LOVELY DAY!

WHAT A LOVELY DAY!

Mad Max: Fury Road re-introduced audiences to the type of visceral action that hasn’t been in movies since…since…who knows!? More importantly, the film employed a gender balanced cast and wound up delivering the most bad ass female character since Ellen Ripley, Charlize Theron’s Furiosa. What you may be sensing is that Mad Max brought a lot of good things back into mainstream blockbuster entertainment, and it did so in a super hyperactive style. 70 yr old director George Miller showed all young action directors (and all of Hollywood) what real action feels like — you know, the kind that makes your mouth gape wide open, and what strong female characters look like — you know, the kind that are equal to men, not just talking about men. Of course, the hope is that with a re-energized Mad Max series, the rest of Hollywood can take notice and begin to remove stereotypical gender roles from characters. It’s a good thing the best film of the year came along to deliver the message. (Read my full review of Mad Max: Fury Road here.)

Honorable mentionsTrainwreck, Going Clear, Bridge of Spies, Mr. Holmes, 7 Chinese Brothers, Macbeth

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