2015 in review

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Remo D
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2015 in review

Post by Remo D » Fri Jan 08, 2016 4:55 pm

Make no mistake, 2015 was an exciting and often outstanding moviegoing year, but it was definitely the year of the fantasy franchise (both recent and revived) and I was forced to stretch my definition of "horror" to even give the category a decent run. Plenty of science fiction, monsters, superheroes and superagents... not so much "horror." But let's start with our favorite genre all the same...

THE GOOD

The first decent horror release I caught in 2015 was one of the most acclaimed: the indy sleeper IT FOLLOWS, which was both thoughtful and creepy as sex stopped being a mere metaphor and became the source of the relentless and tangible threat.

UNFRIENDED was certainly one of the better examples of minimalist horror; holding one's attention without ever leaving a progressively lethal video chat session.

EX MACHINA is certainly more science-fiction than "horror," but the element certainly came into play before it was all over--the film itself was one of the best works Stanley Kubrick never lived to make.

THE GALLOWS played especially well for anyone who happened to be involved in live theatre--the setting and some genuine surprises brought this out of the "found footage" rut.

I didn't care much for THE GIFT when I first saw it (and again, it's pushing it to consider it "horror") but I had reason to re-evaluate what had gone on before and I certainly have to hand it to the cast for making it work. That dream sequence was still a cheat, though.

SINISTER 2 was about as good a sequel as could have been made to Scott Derrickson's original (which, but for the box office, scarcely called for one), but it still fell short of the top slot.

THE VISIT was a playful and creepy surprise from M. Night Shyalaman--moving to a micro-budget and a lack of 'name' stars (not to mention a lack of pretension) was the best move he could have made.

KNOCK KNOCK was one of several 'limited-release' films I only saw on-demand, but Eli Roth's remake of DEATH GAME featured an outstanding cast and proved that he could pull off an effective gore-free feature... even if it did raise some very disturbing questions (try this scenario with two men and one single mother and you've automatically got a completely different film).

Also straight to cable (for the most part) was the intense Western BONE TOMAHAWK... essentially THE SEARCHERS meets CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. Even though it's more quest Western than "horror film," it needs to be invoked in light of Eli Roth's OTHER 2015 release (later).

CRIMSON PEAK was a sumptuous Gothic terror tale as only Guillermo del Toro could have pulled off and one of the finest films of the year as I saw it.

KRAMPUS was good anti-Christmas fun from the director of TRICK 'R TREAT and is going to stick around for many a Christmas to come.

And my absolute favorite of 2015 was the one virtually nobody saw... VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN was a return to all the things that make classic monster movies CLASSIC monster movies... and I enjoyed every minute of it.

THE MIDDLE GROUND

Not much to mention here... 2015 horror either tended to be very good or downright awful.

THE LAZARUS EFFECT wasn't bad for a 'found footage' Stephen King rehash (without Stephen King).

Eli Roth's 2013 holdover THE GREEN INFERNO was a typically raucous and attitude-filled take on the Italian cannibal movies of the 1980s, though it trailed off into a completely unsatisfying ending. And then BONE TOMAHAWK had to come along and show us how it's REALLY done.

And SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE was one of those movies that I wanted to love (after it got off to a great start), but it ran out of steam long before it ran out of sight gags.

THE BAD

Okay, nobody saw VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN. But would it have KILLED Hammer films to have tried something like that instead of the deadly dull and utterly pointless THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2: ANGEL OF DEATH?

How about that POLTERGEIST remake? Oh, you skipped it? Lucky you. I bit. So did the movie.

INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3 was just what we were all waiting for... a prequel featuring a character whose hash was already settled on screen. Had this been the VERY first film in the series, it might have climbed a rung or two. As such, it's completely redundant.

THE VATICAN TAPES was yet another "found footage" movie that was going to blow the lid off... just what, exactly? Do CRANK 3-D before it's too late, okay?

And speaking of "found footage?" After PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION, we just may have finished it off.

But the very, VERY worst film of 2015 (and don't take that as a recommendation) was the pathetic, boring, shrill and utterly worthless THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 3: FINAL SEQUENCE. (Notice how I did NOT use the word "offensive" no matter how the film begged me to?) This one-trick pony should have been put out to pasture a LONG time ago.

Okay, let's run through the franchises and the other et cetera...

Superagents: I wouldn't mind seeing more KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE, that's for sure. And SPECTRE continued to fine-tune the edge between classic and new-age Bond to highly-entertaining effect. WILD CARD was an okay remake of HEAT with Jason Statham in for Burt Reynolds... and Statham was certainly one of the best things in SPY (much as I dislike seeing him play second banana). On the other hand, THE TRANSPORTER: REFULED proved they could carry on that series without him--or it would have had anybody gone to see it. But the most shamefully underrated and ignored such release of 2015 was Guy Ritchie's good, old-fashioned 60s spy take on THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.

Superheroes... THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON was a surprisingly lackluster followup to the "sure thing" franchise, but I'm still looking forward to CIVIL WAR. ANT-MAN was a lot of fun, of course. FANTASTIC 4 was anything but.

Other franchises included the breathtakingly awesome MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, JURASSIC WORLD (stupid characters but super monsters), the completely wonky but hugely entertaining TERMINATOR: GENISYS, the snore-inducing extended conclusion to the HUNGER GAMES saga (MOCKINGJAY: PART 2) and, of course, STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS which made a liar out of my psychic powers and rekindled the old magic along with some new in a way the prequels never could.

Non-franchise sci-fi (minus EX MACHINA) that I saw included the amusing but highly derivative CHAPPIE and the high-concept (and little else) PIXELS.

Non-genre franchise films: VACATION was still pretty funny, and CREED was expertly-handled ROCKY formula.

And in the days while we still had an Osio ("arthouse" to you out-of-towners), there was a last round of low-profile suspense dramas and assorted miscellany... THE LOFT was an engaging remake of a Dutch "locked room" mystery I never saw. MAPS TO THE STARS was David Cronenberg at his most depressing and ugly. WILD TALES was a whoppingly good "revenge" anthology--not to be missed! CUT BANK was a disappointing FARGO wannabe, and THE LIVING (the last film I saw to date at the Osio) was a sad and ultimately predictable take on the futility of vigilante revenge... but the latter two films DID feature some surprisingly strong psychopathic turns.

And, of course, I saw THE HATEFUL EIGHT in time to make this list, but I just talked about that one.

Looking forward to 2016! More horror, please?

Remo D.
Last edited by Remo D on Wed Jan 13, 2016 9:13 am, edited 1 time in total.


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Darth Tanner
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Re: 2015 in review

Post by Darth Tanner » Tue Jan 12, 2016 6:32 pm

Nice wrap-up Remo (as usual)! For me, 2015 was a somewhat disappointing year in terms of movies. I haven't really commented on much of the discussion since I didn't see many movies this year and didn't have much to say about the ones I did see. I honestly don't make it out to the cinema anymore as there really isn't much that I want to see on the big screen (not to mention I have my time and money tied up in other things). Another factor is the very quick turnaround from movies debuting in cinemas to being released on video 3 to 4 months later. Doesn't seem that long ago that movies weren't released on video until at least 6 months after they premiered on the big screen. Amazing how things have changed! As a result, I only venture out to see a movie on the big screen if it is something I REALLY want to see right then and there as opposed to waiting for video. Looking back on 2015, I only took in a whopping 6 theatrical viewings during the whole year. Luckily all of them turned out to be worth my time and money (with one notable exception). I also caught up to 4 other 2015 releases at home bringing my yearly total to an even 10 (plus one bonus release you'll see below).

So here is my take on 2015 in a nutshell starting with the theatrical viewings:


FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY - I only saw this because I had a free movie pass and was mildly curious to see what all the fuss was about. I never read any of the books in the series since I heard they weren't something I would like, but I can't say that this movie was for me either. It was totally boring and the two leads gave the worst performances I had ever seen in a mainstream movie. Even the little bit of sexual content did little to spice up the movie for me (I know that the video release is "unrated", but I don't know if that version would be any better that what I saw on the big screen). I hate to say that the Hollywood adaptation of EXIT TO EDEN (despite being a white-wash of Anne Rice's novel) was more entertaining and titillating than FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY. Although the remake of POLTERGEIST was the worst movie I saw in 2015, this one was the worst I saw in the cinema. Give me Jess Franco's adaptations of the works of Marquis de Sade any day over FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY.


KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE - I was initially curious about this one since Matthew Vaughn was involved, but I got even more excited after reading a glowing review by a certain Remo D. This movie was a lot of fun and definitely helped to erase the painful memories of my previous theatrical viewing. If anyone reading this still hasn't seen KINGSMAN I would highly recommend checking it out as well. It was definitely more entertaining to me than any of the AUSTIN POWERS movies.


AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON - I have to empathize with our resident reviewer as I am also a bit burned out by the glut of superhero movies being released in the last few years. Although this one was nowhere near as good as the first AVENGERS movie, I still enjoyed it a lot more than IRON MAN 3 or AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2. The only part of the movie I thought was really bad was the casting of Elisabeth Olsen. I'm definitely looking forward to the CIVIL WAR movie as well and hope that one delivers.


TERMINATOR: GENESYS - I initially had my doubts about this one, but I have to say it was a nice surprise and definitely the best in the series since TERMINATOR 2. It's nice to see that Arnold can still pull it off. I just hope that the filmmakers decide to stop while they are ahead and not drive the series into the ground.


SPECTRE - Don't have too much to say about this one. It's nice to see that the 007 formula continues to go strong and Daniel Craig has definitely proven to be a good fit as Bond. Although SPECTRE was a lot of fun, I still put it a notch below SKYFALL.


STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS - Being the STAR WARS fan that I am, I may sound biased when I say this was my favorite movie of 2015. But it certainly was since it was the most enjoyable experience I had in the cinema in a long time. The best part was that I honestly felt I was reliving my childhood memories while seeing it in the theatre.


Now for the other 2015 releases I caught up to at home:


MAP TO THE STARS - David Cronenberg is hit or miss with me. Out of the handful of his films I have seen so far, there have only been a few that I've really liked. This one wasn't too bad and Julianne Moore gave a great performance, but the movie overall was pretty depressing for me to really get into it. Maybe I'll give it another chance at some point.


AREA 51 - I've never been a fan of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY films, but I have always been interested in the myths surrounding Area 51 so I was curious to see what the filmmakers of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY would do with the concept. Even though it was not perfect (especially parts in the beginning), I actually wound up enjoying this one. It was really great seeing the actual locations surrounding the base. Although not great, I'd still recommend checking out only for those who are mildly curious.


POLTERGEIST (the remake, of course) - Curiosity got the better of me on this one. I wisely avoided it in the theatre, but decided to check it out at home to save a few dollars. I could have honestly skipped this entirely and not miss a thing as this was the worst movie I saw all year. I saw the original POLTERGEIST as a kid and it still holds a special place in my heart, but I would certainly like to forget this one. I seriously doubt anybody will be talking about this remkae a few years from now.


MAD MAX: FURY ROAD - I can't say I was a fan of the MAD MAX movies before seeing this one (so far I had only seen the original and thought it was merely okay). But I have to say that I enjoyed the hell out of FURY ROAD and thought it was better than the original MAD MAX. In fact I regret missing this one the big screen since many people told me the 3-D effects were truly amazing. I honestly didn't care too much for Charlize Theron's skinhead look, but the rest of the movie was terrific and I was glad to have caught up with it.


And for that bonus title:


ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS - The title says it all. A really terrific and entertaining documentary about the infamous Cannon Films studio from the 1980's. I only wish the film had been a bit longer and that the filmmakers had gone more into depth in discussing certain issues (particularly the demise of Cannon). But this was still a great documentary that can now be seen on Netflix and I would advise everyone to check it out.


So there are my thoughts on 2015 in a nutshell. Looking ahead at 2016, I have to say it doesn't look much more promising but there are a few particular titles that I'm looking forward to. For starters, ROGUE ONE (the first STAR WARS spin-off) will be out later this year. Plus there is X-MEN: APOCALYPSE which looks like it will be promising. I'll also have to check out that BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN movie despite having my doubts about it. But I'm more excited that the long-delayed fifth PHANTASM film was recently completed before Angus Scrimm's passing and should be out later this year. Even better, there is talk that the original film is getting an extensive 4K remaster...which should mean that the long-overdue Blu-Ray release (as well as a possible theatrical re-release) can't be too far behind.

Hopefully I'll have more to talk about this year when it comes to movies. If not, then I'll see you guys back here this time next year ;)
Last edited by Darth Tanner on Wed Jan 13, 2016 6:19 pm, edited 8 times in total.

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Remo D
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Re: 2015 in review

Post by Remo D » Wed Jan 13, 2016 9:18 am

Just saw ELECTRIC BOOGALOO last night--and it's what you said. Thought it was fast, funny and extremely well-edited, but yes, it wrapped up too quickly and we only got one micro-second of Steve James near the very end...


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