That Was The Year, That Was
...well, I know the title is a little bit premature, what with 2015 having a few days left to run (and at least one decent-sized release from this year still on my to-see list), but frankly, what with the demands of the season and all, I haven't had the chance to get to the cinema this week. Still, I think it's fairly unlikely that anything too major is going to happen before New Year's Eve, and so I'm going to do the customary round-up now.
Looking back on 2015, it's hard to shake a slight feeling of disappointment, given so many major releases, particularly the eagerly-expected franchise movies, proved a bit of a disappointment – or, alternatively, did nothing to exceed my low expectations of them. Your mileage may differ, of course, but the year's major Marvel movie, the James Bond film, and the first Disney Star Wars all left me feeling rather flat. Lots of other big franchise films also ventured into the realm of dreadful, of course.
Of course, it wasn't all bad, either, which is why I have decided to do something different (again) and present to you my top five best and worst of 2015, with some brief commentary on each one for anybody who doesn't fancy looking at the original reviews again. Usual rules apply: these are listed in order of release, not actual quality.
Fifty Shades of Grey: Now, I'm the first to admit that all this thrusting sort of amatory business is not exactly my strong suit, but I can recognise a silly, dubious film when I see one. Not so much a turn-on as headache-inducing, if you know what I mean.
Minions: Technically very proficient, and utterly inescapable in its media presence, of course. But also technically a comedy, on which terms I found it inexcusably short of laughs, trading much too heavily on the supposed charms of the title characters.
Terminator Genisys: Now, I'm not saying there aren't good things about this movie, because Arnie still has undeniable screen presence and the first act of the film has an insane sort of bravado in the way it runs amok through the series' continuity. However, pretty soon it turns into a shockingly poorly-scripted mess, abandoning any pretence at telling a coherent story in favour of empty spectacle. Unfortunately the film's big take in China means the threatened sequel (in which, we are promised, the plot holes in this one will be addressed) is back on. The title is extremely annoying too.
Fantastic Four: I'm not sure if this movie quite deserved the huge avalanche of opprobium which descended on it – kicking Josh Trank's superhero adaptation became a sort of fad for a few days there. But the fact remains that, given the impressively high standard of comic book movies these days, this film was almost uncannily bungled. At least it looks like we may be spared a sequel.
The Man from UNCLE: Again, not a comprehensively awful movie, but hardly a great one – and it earns its place here for the utterly cynical way the name-recognition value of the UNCLE name is deployed to service a film which in every significant way bears virtually no resemblence to the original TV series.
Whiplash: Deservedly successful during awards season, this was the first really outstanding film of the year for me, with great performances, a compelling story, and some interesting things to say about the teacher-student relationship.
Jupiter Ascending: Not sure whether or not to apologise for putting this bizarre tale of egg-harvesting, dog-hybrid hunks, and flying space crocodiles on my best of the year list, but I enjoyed it so much it would be a bit chicken to stick it anywhere else. A typical visual and narrative riot from the Wachowskis – in all honesty, probably a terrible film (it's hard to be certain), but still much more of an adventure than most good ones.
Shaun the Sheep – The Movie: Aardman Animation has long been synonymous with the highest standards of quality and imagination, but that doesn't make their films less impressive or entertaining.
Samba: Not just an intelligent, funny, and moving film for grown-ups, this look at the lives of immigrants in western Europe also looked at some important issues of the day. But it came out a bit too early to really be topical, plus, of course, it's not in English, so it struggled to get the attention it deserved.
The Martian: I've occasionally almost felt bad about my inability to get as excited about Ridley Scott movies as everyone else, but this one at least I have no problem seeing the quality of. The concept of the film had potential, but in making something so funny, accessible and thrilling, the director achieved something very special.
(You know, looking back, there were many more contenders for the Best list than the Worst one – just bubbling under were the likes of Chappie, Ant-Man, and Bridge of Spies.)
And so to the films of note we can expect in 2016. There are, of course, all the usual suspects: a whole bunch of superhero movies, with Deadpool, Captain America: Civil War, and Batman V Superman the ones attracting the most attention right now – and of course, from now on, the prospect of a new Disney Star Wars movie every year. No doubt, as usual, it's the unexpected gems which will prove the real pleasures, and as this column rumbles implacably towards its 15th anniversary, I look forward to uncovering them.