2015 – Best of the Best, Worst of the Worst, Grand Totals

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Well hello there!  I wound up skipping my Best of 2014 list because when 2015 rolled around there were still too many “2014” movies that I hadn’t been able to catch.  Then one thing lead to another…and it was March!

So here we are starting the fifth year of this blog!  Hard to believe it and boy, does time fly.  Below I’ve compiled my list of the best and worst of 2015.  At first I was going to do a Top 10 for both because I absolutely had candidates to fill all the slots, but then I decided to stick with five each to truly highlight the best of the best and worst of the worst.

As always, I’ve appreciated your feedback, your patronage, and your general presence in my blog. Even if you read this everyday but have never commented or made contact I can still tell you’ve been here and that means a lot.  My readership and subscriptions continue to increase every month and it’s all thanks to your word of mouth, likes, and shares.  If you haven’t already, make sure to follow this blog, follow me on Twitter (@joemnmovieman), and like my Facebook page so you can help me continue spreading the news about The MN Movie Man.

Best Wishes to you and yours for a most Happy New Year!

~Joe (The MN Movie Man)

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5. Mad Max: Fury Road – like a lightning rod, the fourth Mad Max film conducted the kind of electricity that could fuel a dozen other pictures.  Director George Miller upped the ante for not only summer blockbusters but for filmmaking as a whole with his non-stop action flick that took no prisoners and left most 2015 films in its fiery dust. Starring Tom Hardy but owned by Charlize Theron, this Mad Max signaled the start of the summer season with a rocking battle cry. Truly amazing.

4. Creed – the best unexpected TKO of the year, Creed is really Rocky 7 but don’t let that stop you from entering the ring.  Star Michael B. Jordan brings a blistering intensity to the role of a young boxer trying to make a name for himself out from under the shadow of his legendary father’s career.  The biggest surprise is original star Sylvester Stallone stepping into the mentor role for his best performance since the original Rocky.  Stallone is valiant, vulnerable, and, under the direction of writer/director Ryan Coogler, fairly unforgettable.  A champion of a film.

3. Carol – anchored by two of the strongest performances of 2015, this love story between young Therese and married Carol is an achingly beautiful achievement from director Todd Haynes.  Delicate as a flower but steely enough to cut deep, it’s a picture about the understanding and acceptance of one’s own desires. Unlike anything else I’ve seen this year, it’s a gorgeous looking film that lingers in the memory long after you’ve left the theater.

2. Brooklyn – the most charming film of 2015, Brooklyn is a sweet love story set against the backdrop of Ireland and New York in the 1950’s.  It’s funny, sad, poignant, and delightfully underplayed so that by the time it reaches its emotional climax the tears it wrings from you are well earned.  Superbly acted and glowing with grace, it’s a wonderful wonderful period piece.

1. The Martian – the best film I saw in 2015 (twice) is Ridley Scott’s grand space adventure adapted from Andy Weir’s best-selling novel.  A full meal of a movie, there’s a little bit of something for everyone here from comedy to action to drama to suspense and even some surprisingly emotional arcs.  Powerfully led by Matt Damon and a small army of familiar faces, movies like The Martian are the reason why we go to movies, to be transported and changed. 

Honorable Mentions: Paddington, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Cinderella, Jurassic World, Magic Mike XXL, Far From the Madding CrowdThe Visit, Sicario, Crimson Peak, RoomStar Wars: The Force Awakens

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5. Love the Coopers – arriving like a stale piece of fruitcake, this turkey is reason enough for even the sweetest Christmas fan to say “Bah Humbug”.  It’s an obnoxious and lazy attempt at creating a warm family togetherness film with neither the direction nor the performances to help it rise from the sludge. Wasting the talents of its diverse ensemble cast, this is a White Elephant of a yuletide film.

4. Point Break – making the original 1991 film look like High Noon in comparison, this atrocious remake diverts so far from its dopey origins that it should have just ditched the title and shrugged off the obvious comparisons from its detractors.  With his unforgivable man-bun, heinous fake tattoos, and not good enough for the Sci-Fi channel acting, Luke Bracey leads the film right off a cliff sans parachute.  More focused on being an eco-message film than a heist flick, it sports beautiful cinematography but is overall a lamentable effort.

3. The Lazarus Effect – Kudos to you, Olivia Wilde.  You appeared in two of my least favorite films of the year.  Beautiful as she is, Wilde just can’t seem to find a film that suits her in the acting department and The Lazarus Effect is a prime example. Barely 80 minutes long, there’s no amount of spiritual help that could raise this one from the graveyard of bad horror thrillers.

2. Aloha– pay no attention to the critics that championed this gigantic turd of a film in 2015…they’ve been blinded by a devotion to a filmmaker that has lost his way.  Cameron Crowe’s colossal misfire makes every wrong turn in the book, from casting pale Emma Stone as a Native Hawaiian with a half-Asian father to an inability to assemble a movie that makes any kind of sense.  Legendary in its production for going through titles and reshoots like candy, the final product was more of an ‘adios’ to Crowe’s storied status in Hollywood.

1. The Water Diviner – this waste of a film won three Australian Academy Awards.  Three.  And one of them was Best Picture.  Well, turnabout is fair play and I’m awarding Russell Crowe’s directing debut with Worst Picture of the year honors.  An interminable slog through an incomprehensible plot and ridiculously banal performances, I was praying for some sort of divine intervention to cut the screening short.  It’s bad from the moment it starts until it releases us from our agony.

(Dis)Honorable Mentions: Inherent Vice, Blackhat, The Boy Next Door, Woman in Gold, Terminator Genisys, The Gallows, Dark Places, American Ultra, Freeheld, Jem and the Holograms, Victor Frankenstein

 

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Most Misunderstood

Hot Pursuit – Ok, so I’m not going to sit here and waste my time telling you that Hot Pursuit is a good movie because it’s fairly derivative from countless other female buddy pictures, too broad for words, and in the end is an inconsequential blip on the careers of stars Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara.  Where I took issue was how the movie was dragged through the grime by critics that would laud the same type of movie had it been released with males in the leading roles.  People took actual offense that Witherspoon went from an Oscar nominated turn in Wild to something so lightweight as Hot Pursuit and I kinda just wanted to tell ‘em all to scoot up a tree.  The film plays right into the strengths (and assets) of both leading ladies and is ultimately harmless.  It’s not great entertainment, but it’s not the garbage mess that people would have you believe.

Honorable Mention: San Andreas

Joe’s Humble Pie Award of 2015

The D Train – I’m a die-hard anti-Jack Black fan but even I had to admit that The D Train was one of the more unexpected small victories of 2015.  Black is winning as a lovable loser running his class reunion that makes a bid to get a famous-ish classmate to attend.  Flying out to California to convince the guy (James Marsden) to make an appearance, the film takes an unanticipated turn that audiences just won’t see coming.  The film has a dark charm and strong performances to justify your seeking it out.  I think you’ll be surprised…I was.

Honorable Mention: Mistress America

Movies You Probably Haven’t Seen But Should:

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

I’ll See You in My Dreams

Song of the Sea

The Hunting Ground

Beyond the Lights

Playing by Heart

Good Kill

Starry Eyes

The Taking of Deborah Logan

Click HERE for a full listing of films seen in 2015

Total Movies Seen in the Theater: 146

Total Movies Seen at Home: 176

Grand Total for 2015 (not counting films seen multiple times): 317

Where I Saw the Most Movies: Showplace ICON – 66!

Movie Review ~ Point Break (2015)

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The Facts:

Synopsis: A young FBI agent infiltrates an extraordinary team of extreme sports athletes he suspects of masterminding a string of unprecedented, sophisticated corporate heists. “Point Break” is inspired by the classic 1991 hit.

Stars: Édgar Ramírez, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Delroy Lindo, Ray Winstone

Director: Ericson Core

Rated: PG-13

Running Length: 113 minutes

Trailer Review: Here

TMMM Score: (2/10)

Review:  When the first trailer for this remake surfaced back in May, I went against the popular opinon that decried its very existence and said “here’s hoping the boys of summer bring some heat to the holidays.”  Little did I know that the heat I was hoping for came in the form of pure fury.  In retrospect, calling that early preview ‘kinda fun’ makes me shiver in my snowboots that I ever truly had faith that the 2015 Point Break could ever hold a candle to the original from 1991.

Now, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that that Keanu Reeves/Patrick Swayze led action film was any kind of classic.  It’s very much a product of its time and capitalized on what both stars brought to the table, the laid-back (nigh sleepy) performance of Reeves and the dangerous-but-I’d-still-like-to-be-his-friend vibe Swayze was great at delivering.  That it was helmed by a female director (future Best Director Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow) with more macho bravado than any five films directed by her male peers only made it more of an attractive property over the years, strangely fascinating with each subsequent viewing.

So yeah, I kind of get why a remake of Point Break looked somewhat appealing.  The original wasn’t so much of a blockbuster that it felt untouchable and its slight cult status in the years following its release didn’t give off a feeling that a remake would be outright condemned.  And I can imagine that the studio heads over at Warner Brothers cooed when they hired director Ericson Core to not only direct the film but serve as the cinematographer as well.   Add in a script updated by Kurt Wimmer (who also delivered a new treatment for Total Recall in 2012), lock in some hunky but cheap talent, and decide to release it in 3D and call it a day.

If only they had quit while they were ahead.

Moved from an intended summer release date to Christmas Day, instead of riding the wave to holiday thrills this remake is hanging ten on my worst of the year list.  It’s an abysmally conceived action film with hardly any action that winds up taking itself so seriously that you can’t help but laugh every time a character waxes poetic about nature and our place in the ecosystem of life.

Opening with a stunt sequence that changes the career course for extreme action star Johnny “Utah” (we learn Utah is his nickname, related to his Native American heritage…oy), it features an accident handled so awkwardly it’s hard to fathom how it winds up playing such a big part of Utah’s later mission with the FBI.  Morphing from his extreme sports career to an FBI trainee in danger of being cut, Utah discovers a connection between a series of bank robberies and the test of the wills sort of vision quest he believes the burglars to be embarking upon.

Before you know it, Utah (remember, he’s not even a full FBI agent yet) is given carte blanche by his superior (Delroy Lindo, phoning it in like a pro) to cozy up to the men he believes are behind the daring swindles.  It brings him on a globe-trotting adventure where he forges a sort of kinship with the adrenaline junkies and their leader, Bodhi.  Lines between right and wrong get blurred for a period until it disintegrates into a stilted chase picture that wants to fly but never takes wing.

The film strays so far from its source material that I almost wished it had ditched the title and went on its own merry path, shrugging off obvious comparisons to certain touchstone elements of the original.  Making the film less about robberies and more about conservation of resources, it becomes a new age-y garbage dump of plot holes and extended action sequences that feel far too long.

There’s some praise to be had here, though, and that has to do with Core’s thrilling cinematography that takes audiences through mountains, waves, alpine slopes, and through the streets of its European locations.  Seen in 3D, there are some mighty impressive sights to behold, all filmed with elaborate flair from someone that obviously knows what he’s doing.

Where Core succeeds in cinematography, he outright fails as the overall director of the piece.  Aside from the aforementioned chuckle-headed script, the acting in Point Break is maybe the most offensive thing of all.  I can tell that Luke Bracey (The November Man) wants to make his character multi-dimensional but the way he plays it feels like an acting exercise gone horribly wrong.  Attaching the wrong emotion to nearly every one of his hysterically inane line readings, Bracey’s future looks bleak as an actor let alone a leading man.  He’s covered in some of the most atrocious tattoos ever put on film, making him look like a complete douchebag (the man-bun doesn’t help), offering him no chance to be someone the audience can root for.  Speaking of bad tattoos, nearly everyone in the movie sports some sort of heinous skin art…the kind of ink you wake up with after a drunken night in Cabo San Lucas.

Faring ever so slightly better is Édgar Ramírez (Joy) as the earthy Bodhi, a kind of spiritual father figure to Bracey’s lost boy.  Ramírez is a better actor than Bracey (actually Pauly Shore is a better actor) but is taxed with delivering the most grueling of the zen fortune cookie lines.  Ramírez and Bracey have several ab-offs as they flex, surf, and punch their way through a series of high stakes tests of their mettle.  At one point, I was wondering if they’d ever get back to robbing banks.

Thrown in for dictation is a lame love interest for Utah named Samsara (Teresa Palmer, Warm Bodies) and though I’m sure sparks are meant to fly here, Bracey and Palmer can’t rub their two sticks together to create anything more than a frustrated puff of smoke.  Palmer’s character waltzes in and out of the proceedings seemingly at will, only showing up when the testosterone level reaches its max peak.  At least the original film had Lori Petty as the love interest, Petty and Reeves had little chemistry too but she was such an interesting actress that you wanted to see more…here I couldn’t wait for Palmer to exit stage right.

I’m guessing by some poorly dubbed lines that the movie was filmed as an R-rated action flick but edited down to a more box-office friendly PG-13.  How else would you explain Bracey calling a group of thugs ‘funny a-holes’…a line that doesn’t match what his mouth is saying.

An endurance test to be sure, this remake of Point Break surfs shallow waters and sinks like a stone early on.  It never can overcome its shortcomings in the acting department, even if some parts are beautifully shot.  With so many better movies to see at your local theater, this is one to avoid at all costs…

The Silver Bullet ~ Point Break (2015)

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Synopsis: A young FBI agent infiltrates an extraordinary team of extreme sports athletes he suspects of masterminding a string of unprecedented, sophisticated corporate heists.

Release Date: December 25, 2015

Thoughts: I realize that this is going to make me sound like a tremendous hypocrite after decrying the recent remake of Poltergeist but I kinda think this reboot of the 1991 Keanu Reeves/Patrick Swayze action hit looks kinda…fun.  Sure, it seems to have precious little to do with surfing and stars Luke Bracey (The November Man) and Edgar Ramirez (Zero Dark Thirty) will never replace the memorable stars but just as the original was a product of its early ‘90s time, so does this remake look like it’s squarely set in the high adrenaline, tech-savvy new millennium.  Moved from its planned summer 2015 release date to a competition heavy bow on Christmas, here’s hoping the boys of summer bring some heat to the holidays.