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The Top Twenty Movies of 2015 — Part Four!

And so we arrive, at last, at my five favorite movies of 2015.  Click here for part one of my list, numbers twenty through sixteenClick here for part two of my list, numbers fifteen through elevenClick here for part three of my list, numbers ten through six.

And now, my five favorite movies of 2015!

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5. Inside Out Another triumph from Pixar, this hugely original film explores the inner workings of the mind of an eleven-year-old girl.  I am blown away by how magnificently well thought-out the film is, how carefully considered every detail is.  The film is a complete fantasy, and yet it’s a remarkably sophisticated presentation of the way the emotions inside a young girl might actually work!  This is genius-level filmmaking here, with brilliant philosophical ideas wrapped in a deeply moving adventure tale.  The film is elevated into the stratosphere by its magnificent casting, with the absolute perfect actor chosen to represent each of Riley’s five main emotions: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Fear (Bill Hader), & Disgust (Mindy Kaling).  The film is very funny and also absolutely heart-breaking.  (Has the great Richard Kind ever been better than he is here is Bing-Bong?)  Inside Out is a master class in the how animation can be best utilized to tell a remarkable story, a story that couldn’t possibly be told any other way.  (Click here for my original review.)

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4. Avengers: Age of Ultron I can’t believe how under-rated and under-appreciated is Joss Whedon’s spectacular follow-up to the smash hit that was 2012’s The Avengers.  Yes, Age of Ultron doesn’t have the never-been-done-before thrill of that first huge super-hero crossover film, which was the culmination of Marvel Studios’ Phase One, bringing together all the characters from the proceeding individual films.  (This was something that had never, ever been done before, a fact easily forgotten now that Marvel’s model is being widely imitated by every studio in Hollywood.)  It’s incredible to me that now, only a few short years after The Avengers, the extraordinary achievement that is Age of Ultron is being dismissed as ho-hum.  Just look at pretty much any frame of this film and marvel (pun definitely intended) at how amazing is it how Joss Whedon and his team have brought all of these wonderful characters to life on film!  Who ever would have thought such a thing would happen?  Who ever would have thought we’d ever see the famous comic-book villain Ultron depicted on film (brought so brilliantly to life in the film by James Spader)?  Or The Vision???  (Paul Bettany’s performance combined with note-perfect make-up effects and CGI made it feel … [continued]

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Holy Shit! Mad Max: Fury Road!!

Based on the awesome trailers and the strong early reviews, I had high hopes for Mad Max: Fury Road, but holy cow, I was not expecting the masterpiece I have just beheld.  Fury Road is a triumph, a guts-gripping thrill-ride filled to overflowing with extraordinary visual inventiveness, absolutely bonkers insane action, wonderfully compelling characters with rich emotional arcs, humor and horror and fun all wrapped up together in a breathtaking cinematic package.  I stand amazed.

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This movie really should not exist.  George Miller directed a trilogy of low-budget Mad Max films back in the seventies and eighties, with Mel Gibson in the lead.  I’ve been reading for decades that Mr. Miller wanted to mount a fourth film, but it seemed like his chance had long-since passed.  This franchise felt well and truly done.  The last Mad Max movie was back in 1985.  In the last twenty years, Mr. Miller has only directed four films, one of which was a TV documentary and two of which were the animated Happy Feet and its sequel.  It didn’t seem to me that Mr. Miller had ANY films left in him, and if he did, the chances that they would be any good seemed slim.  And returning to a thirty-year-old franchise?  I can’t think of a single example of that happening and working — the most well-known similar examples of a sequel made after many years had passed all resulted in enormous levels of fan disappointment.  (I’m thinking of the Star Wars prequels, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and The Godfather Part III.)

But my goodness has seventy-year-old George Miller blown the barn doors off of my expectations.  Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the most astonishing films I have seen in years.  This is a big-screen film if ever there was one.  Every frame of the film is filled with extraordinary creativity, and this is a movie worth soaking in on the very biggest screen you can possibly see it on.

Fury Road is the fourth Mad Max film, but it completely stands on its own.  Everything you need to know about Max is established in the film’s opening minutes, and all of the other characters and situations in the film are completely original to this film.  (The Mad Max films have always had a very loose sense of continuity — see Bruce Spence appearing as two entirely different characters in The Road Warrior and then Beyond Thunderdome.  And that continues to be the case here, as Max somehow has his iconic car back when the film begins, despite the fact that it was destroyed back in The Road Warrior.)  The film’s opening is clever.  I loved … [continued]