Richard Martin’s Top 10 Films of 2015

Richard Martin’s Top 10 Films of 2015

**Disclaimer**
Admittedly it has been a very poor for me on the film front (plenty of stellar TV to fill my precious free time), watching under a measly 35 films in 2015, of those, 17 were released this year and only 12 were feature length so bear with this rather hodgepodge Top 10!

Top 10 Films of 2015 in reverse order!

jwnew110. Jurassic World (Cinema)
JW was a pretty decent popcorn movie and was made for the big screen. Great to see the park open finally, a really immersive world was created here. I really wish JW was a real park! Daydreaming aside, beyond the gorgeous visuals there wasn’t much substance to the story. Character actions were sometimes completely nonsensical and this pulled me out of the illusion. Had some elements been presented a bit differently JW could have gone from good to great with little changed from the core viewing. I still enjoyed it though, go T-Rex!

9. Spectre (Cinema)
One of two spy thrillers on this list; Spectre was quite enjoyable to watch. It has been criticised for its relevance in this day and age, with the character himself in-film, getting criticised for his own relevance since Goldeneye. Well I agree in so much that how can you tell the same story for 50 years; tall, dark, handsome international man of mystery, secret spy, kills the baddies, finds the hidden liar, gets the girl and drives the car. Albeit for newer audiences Spectre is another solid entry into the already jam packed back catalogue of Bond movies. It just fell a bit flat for its third act, not as good as the previous Skyfall.

antman8. Ant-Man (VOD)
I didn’t end up seeing Ant-Man when it first came out in the cinema. As with a lot of people I didn’t feel a lot of hype around the character and assumed it was just Disney cashing in on Marvel’s b-listers. Sitting down one recent Sunday to Netflix and chill and decided I’d watch AM. With no expectations going in I was blown away at the quality of the film, its story, action and humour rivalling that of Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers Assemble. Paul Rudd fits the role perfectly and I look forward to future entries in the series that incorporate the Ant-Man!

7. The Martian (Cinema)
Being at the butt of a few jokes regarding Matt Damon’s uncanny ability to be on the receiving end of a retrieval in a few films to date, The Martian still managing to tell a convincing and relatable story. The problem with these types of rescue films however, is that you can be fairly sure the stranded character is going to be rescued; be this person lost at sea, an island, a prison and in this case another planet. If they don’t survive the 90mins runtime the emotional investment is wasted. This aside, the banter had with Damon’s character and him coping with rationing and survival is worth the journey.

tgblu6. Terminator: Genisys (Cinema)
As a lifelong fan of Arnie, it could be a bit biased of me to include the 5th instalment of the Terminator franchise on this list. Boiling it down, it’s a reimagine of T1 and T2 set in a staggered future, telling the same story for the fifth time; Skynet vs Sarah and John Connors and Kyle Reese. But let us be honest with ourselves, nobody was expecting story telling brilliance. Great action and nostalgic quips with Arnie reprising his role as an aged T-800 Model 101 named “Pops” was worth the ticket price alone. A recommended watch for both Terminator and Arnie fans alike.

5. The Babadook (VOD)
As this film came out in late 2014, it’s a bit of a cheat that it made this list, but I feel it deserved to get a mention in this year’s line up, as I was blown away by the quality of this horror movie. My initial thoughts were; here we go again, another haunted house/possessed child rehash but the overall commentary on stress, grief, PTSD, anger, frustration, parenthood, was such a breath of fresh air and a credit to the team that put this masterwork on the screen. Having slipped under my radar last year I’m so glad this one didn’t pass me altogether. Highly recommended for any horror fan, which I assume we all are, this being read on UKHS after all 😉

kungfury4. Kung Fury (VOD)
Had Kung Fury been a feature length or even just 15min longer it would have made number 1. I followed its Kickstarter from the beginning, the wait was intense. The whole concept in its ridiculousness was exactly what I love; 80’s cheesy action, Miami, neon, synthwave tunes, cop drama, tongue ‘n cheek approach. It was such great fun to watch at only 30min runtime and freely available on Netflix and YouTube, I highly recommend this passion project!

3. Kingsman: The Secret Service (Cinema)
The year for spy thrillers as two have made this list. Kingsman knows what it is and thus, has some fun with it while not making it a complete cheese fest. Yes that means plenty of gadgets, girls and tomfoolery, presented in a convincing and engaging manner and doesn’t devolve into the crudeness of say Austin Powers. Highly entertaining and surprising as this was completely off my radar with no hype around it, I didn’t even watch the trailer so I was completely blind going in, which is a rarity in an age of teaser trailers and pre-teaser trailer teaser trailers (so meta).

mmfr2. Mad Max: Fury Road (Cinema)
A fine spectacle of cinema goodness; I say cinema as this film was made for the big screen. What is essentially one long chase scene; has us at the edge of our seat from start to finish. The burnt out wasteland of post-nuclear Australia where both water and fuel are king is very engaging and entertaining. Saturated vistas and plenty explosions, you can almost smell the clutch, rubber and petrol of the war machines. Charlize Theron steals the show as the one armed Furiosa putting Tom Hardy’s Max in her shadow, which is very refreshing to see a strong and convincing female lead in a summer blockbuster action film. Mad Max narrowly misses the top spot on my list with a very late entry! Mad Max however, is sheer brilliance in simplistic storytelling, fine acting and breath taking action, all perfectly executed as far as I’m concerned.

swtfa1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Cinema)
There is little I can say that won’t give away major plot spoilers, as this is a very late addition to this list. For old and new fans of this long running franchise, fret not. This far exceeds the prequel trilogy and really adds new flare and talent. The music, the transitions, the set pieces, the characters, are all stunning. Hitting a fine balance of humour, action and stoicism from the characters, it is a testament to J.J. Abrams and his very talented team. A must see for anybody, Star Wars: TFA is a great way to end 2015 cinema!

Dud 1: Avengers: Age of Ultron (Cinema)
After enjoying the first film this dull, carbon copy of the original brought nothing new to the table and was an absolute snooze-fest. The previous villain swapped out for a new one presenting the same treat as before, a cataclysmic event that will wipe out the planet, the plans (again) foiled after the resolution of the (again) conflicts within the team for them to (again) realise they should work together to (again) defeat the Big Bad. Seriously the height of laziness and a real let down, with less humour and less action than the previous it was pathetic.

FSG_31_5_Promo_BW_3F.inddDud 2: Fifty Shades of Grey (Cinema)
A true talent is needed to make a film that which I’d the lowest expectations for, to even be worse than anticipated. A PG-13 take on the world of BDSM. Painting the female lead as a complete puppet and Mr. Grey as an egomaniacal, borderline rapist is so far removed from the truth of this subculture its embarrassing. What was hyped up to be a porno could never have been as it’s a mainstream studio making this for the mainstream audience. Admittedly only watched out of curiosity, it failed to even arouse that, never mind anything sexual! 50 Shades of Tame.

Rosie Gibbs’ Top 5 Horrors of 2015

Rosie Gibbs’ Top 5 Horrors of 2015

deathgasm5 – ‘Deathgasm

Taking the cultural staple of heavy metal and the Devil naturally going hand-in-hand as its theme, this inventive horror romp was unleashed this year, from director Jason Lei Howden and starring Milo Cawthorne as loveable ne’er-do-well metal devotee Brodie. Our hero unwittingly releases an evil entity from Hell itself during band practise in his uncle’s garage, and along with his girl-next-door crush Medina and his misfit bandmates, he must save his normally sleepy New Zealand home town (and Earth!) from certain self-destruction. This is a no-holds barred giggle-along which is sure to become a modern classic – if you’re in the mood for in-your-face blood and guts by the bucket, witty dialogue and a killer black (or is it death?) metal soundtrack, this definitely delivers the goods on all that – essential horror viewing from 2015!

iood4 – ‘In Order of Disappearance

More of a black comedy / thriller than a horror outright, ‘In Order of Disappearance’ still presents us with a subtle measure of gore and there’s no denying this story still qualifies as a killing spree! Stellan Skarsgard plays Nils, a mild-mannered Swede who resides in Norway, earning a quiet and peaceful living as a road maintenance and clearance worker. After his only son is mistakenly murdered by local drug barons, Nils sets out for revenge – and by his hand (and with the assistance of his huge mother of a snow plough), bad guys aplenty of various nationalities and creeds start dropping all over the place. Hans Peter Molland directs this very enjoyable piece, and the beauty of snow-blanketed Norway doesn’t exactly work against it visually. Skarsgard is wonderfully understated as Nils and the supporting cast are top notch also, and while the storyline isn’t highly original, the film doesn’t try to present it as so – it’s simply a murder revenge tale outlined in classic subtle Scandinavian style, and all the better for it. ‘In Order…’ delivers an enjoyable and satisfying thrill for a good night in and deserves a place in any horror DVD collection worth its weight!

wloucover3 – ‘What’s Left of Us’ / ‘El Desierto

This one’s the hidden gem for me – it didn’t get a particularly wide release in cinemas but I was fortunate enough to get to review it this year for UKHS and it’s really something rather special. In Christophe Behl’s feature film directorial debut, we meet 30-somethings Ana, Jonathan and Axel, who have found themselves holed up in a well-barricaded Argentinian apartment after surviving your typical infection-based apocalypse. Over the weeks and months together, we see struggles unfold between the three as they cope with their isolation and co-habitation, with inevitable tensions arising. This film is a breath of fresh air from the usual dose of jump scares and high-end terror – if you want ‘less is more’ horror that makes you think and includes well-acted, engaging characters, this ticks those boxes. It also features the must-mention of the best, most original ‘zombie’ acting I have witnessed in a decade or two! ‘What’s Left of Us’ is well-worth seeking out – you’ll be very glad you did!

howldvd2 – ‘Howl

What can I say? This for me was the highlight of Manchester’s Grimmfest festival 2015. Director Paul Hyett this year brought us a tour-de-force, edge-of-your-seat belter of a werewolf tale with excellent special effects (that will last), on-point pacing, well-developed characters and a fresh storyline. Never before have I become so involved in a horror protagonist’s struggle and rarely have I been so thrilled by the sheer action in a horror film! Ed Speleers does an absolute star turn as put-upon rail worker-turned hero Joe and I was literally cheering him on under my breath during his final big push to escape the furry foes. The whole cast in fact is fantastic, particularly Rosie Day, Sam Gittins and good old Duncan Preston, and the werewolves are brilliantly designed. This is all in all an absolute must-see for every horror fan – so strap yourself in, prepare to be blown away and JUST SEE IT!

housebounddvd1- ‘Housebound

My absolute favourite of all 2015 horror releases (although it very nearly lost out to ‘Howl’!) is the simply excellent ‘Housebound’. Director Gerard Johnstone’s tale of coming home, secrets uncovered, reconciliation and ingenious use of household objects as defence weapons is an absolute joy and one of the best films I’ve seen in the last few years. Morganna O’Reilly and Rima Te Wiata are fantastic as the at-loggerheads mother and daughter trying to co-exist and crucially, work out whether or not their house really is haunted – and their quest leads to creative scares, moments of bonkers yet not over-blown humour and genuine pathos. Add to this its brilliant set design, unpredictable plot twists and likeable, well-acted characters – and viola, the result is perfection! Get hold of it, see it, treasure it!

‘Dud’ of 2015…

sotd1Soldiers of the Damned

In this film directed and produced by Mark Nuttall, we see Major Kurt Fleisher and his men stationed in Romania in World War II, instructed to escort a professor on her search within a secret forest location for a highly powerful occult artefact desired by one Heinrich Himmler. This is the one this year that sadly really didn’t cut it for me – it starts off promisingly with a few well-paced opening scenes but soon loses its way due to a rather confusing plot, wooden acting in places and clunky dialogue, mixed with uninspired scares to boot. Overall even at 99 minutes it felt far too long and as I said in the review, it’s not one I’d ever re-visit!

Tony Reid’s Top Films of 2015

Tony Reid’s Top Films of 2015

It was hard enough remembering what I’d actually watched over the last year let alone decide on a top ten. There have been a lot of good and bad this year, some quite painful and some really rather splendid. Anyway, after much head scratching here is my list.

exmachina10. Ex Machina

Basically, Frankenstein with a sexy robot. However, it’s well told and has great performances from its cast.

9. Extinction

It’s a bit slow at times taking too much time character building, but the casting, and performances, of Matthew Fox and Jeffrey Donovan together with a tense final act, strong visuals and smart direction make for a good little movie.

howldvd8. Howl

A cool, British horror that sees a group of commuters stuck on a broken down train hunted by werewolves. Sean Pertwee pops in and out in a cameo. He does like a good British werewolf flick!

7. The Subjects

A well made low budgeter that holds the attention with solid performances and a clever, witty script. What would you do if you could get superpowers?

itfollows6. It Follows

This has ended up on quite a few best of lists and deservedly so. A clever twist on conventional horror tropes. Well worth a look.

5. Jurassic World

I enjoyed it. Stupid, unoriginal and pretty pointless, but it’s fun and the fx are cool. Frankenstein with dinosaurs.

turbokid14. Turbo Kid

I imagine this too will be on a few Top Ten lists. Cool, quirky and clever. It has all the ingredients that made those cult 80s movies so amazingly memorable. The kind of film I’d have enthused about in the school playground if I’d seen it as a kid. A whole lot of fun!

3. The Gift

A tense, clever thriller that pulls us in different directions through out leaving us scratching our heads as to who exactly is the hero and who is the villain. A good directorial effort from actor and co-star Joel Edgerton who also scripted.

the visit2. The Visit

After showing us he can make bad movies with a series of misfires, M. Night Shymalan reminds us he can still make good ones. A good cast, a darkly comic script and solid direction make for a tense and engrossing little film.

 

mmfr1. Mad Max: Fury Road

I’ve never been a huge fan of the Mad Max series and I wasn’t really expecting too much from this latest entry into the franchise, but it turned out to be a fantastic piece of cinema. Hugely enjoyable and excitingly paced. The grim future is well realised and although Max himself is a bit rubbish at times, getting captured and beaten up rather easily, especially considering he’s Mad Max and all, it has a wonderful cast, engaging characters and visually stunning. Great stuff!

Sinead Beverland’s Top 5 Films of 2015

Sinead Beverland’s Top 5 Films of 2015

It’s been a year of great films, with some weird and wonderful experiences along the way. It always feels like I could have crammed more viewings in to the past twelve months, but time flies and we’ve only one pair of eyes. So, my top five films from 2015 include a double dose of my favourite horror and documentary, alongside an Oscar nominee.

Curse of the Witching Tree (2015)
Director, James Crow
UK release date: 18th May 2015

This cracker from English writer, producer and director James Crow, was the first film I reviewed for UKHS and what a great start. The witching tree of the title is cursed by a woman accused of murdering her son and subsequently hung as a witch. Flash forward 500 years to present day and a new family move near the tree and unwittingly unleash the demons lurking within. A brilliantly constructed film, with top notch performances; as the tension builds there are some genuinely jumpy moments and the story spins towards a great climax. Entertaining, scary and well produced, as this is Crow’s first feature film, it is exciting to imagine what he will bring to the table next.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
Director, Ana Lily Amirpour
UK release date: 22 May 2015

Another film I reviewed for UKHS, this is a delicious and alluring tale of a female vampire who stalks the dark streets of Iran, discovering a connection with a young man equally lost. Shot in black and white with a fantastic soundtrack to boot, the film teases tension out of every moment and draws you in to its underworld. With a graphic comic feel bubbling under the surface, Director Amirpour delivers what feels like a fresh new vampire tale both in story and look. Definitely add this one to your watch list immediately.

Iris (2014)
Director, Albert Maysles
UK release date: 7th June 2015

As soon as I saw the striking poster image for Iris, I wanted to see the film. All I knew, is that it was a documentary by Albert Maysles who brought us the captivating Grey Gardens. The subject, Iris Apfel is a designer, business woman and 93 year old fashion icon and this intimate film gives an insight in to her unique and fascinating life. It manages to capture the spirit and passion of life, the love and companionship of relationships and the importance of being true to yourself. After meeting Iris on the big screen you’ll undoubtedly wish you could meet her in real life too.

Older than Ireland (2015)
Director, Alex Fegan
UK release date: 25th September 2015

A second documentary slips in to my top five, as it was just too touching and humour filled not to include. Director Fegan interviews 30 of Ireland centenarians about life, love and what it’s been like living in Ireland over the previous changing 100 years. As they take over the screen, the interviews are edited together seamlessly to produce a charming documentary that will challenge your expectations of ageing. Such an honest and heart-warming film deserves to be seen by all and trust me when I say, some of these characters will have you in stitches.

Whiplash (2014)
Director, Damien Chazelle
UK release date: 16th January 2015

Coming off the back of Oscar hype, earlier in the year I approached Whiplash tentatively, not wanting to be disappointed. I needn’t have worried. The story of Andrew, a student wanting to excel at drumming and become the best of the best is full of ambition, power, anger and passion. Pushed to his very limits by his teacher (a scene chomping J.K Simmons), Andrew (Miles Teller) gives us a character to hate and like in equal measure. This film is an actors dream and for the viewer, an exhausting watch for all the right reasons.

Dud of the year

However, not all films hit the mark and this year, for me, it was a slow-paced western that turned out to be my turkey.

Slow West (2015)
Director, John Maclean
UK release date: 26th June 2015

Perhaps a controversial choice, as this western has been lauded with praise, but when I left the cinema, I left feeling disappointed. The story follows a young Scottish man who follows his heart to America to find his sweetheart. When a mysterious wanderer (Michael Fassbender) offers to assist him, things become dangerous and soon other men are on their trail. The downfall of Slow West for me personally, was mainly due to a lack of belief or interest in the characters and the slow pacing. It meant I felt totally unconnected to the film and, worst of all, I had a flagrant disregard for the fates that might befall the characters themselves. It certainly looked good, but at no point did I feel like I cared. As a whole, it just felt like it was trying too hard and the core story irritated rather than moved.