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There may still be just slightly over a month left, and the small business of the return of the biggest film franchise in history (Star Wars in case you’ve been frozen in carbonite and missed all the buzz), however 2015 is already been etched into the cinematic history books and it seems like an apt time to reflect on what has been an reasonably enjoyable, though perhaps ultimately underwhelming, year at the cinema.
Saying 2015 was a slow starter would be a gross understatement. The first couple of months in any year are notorious for a deluge of poor quality movies, in fact across the pond January has been infamous named “the dumping month” in which studios release all their schlock. If you were unfortunate enough to visit your local movie theatre during the first three months of the year you might have had to suffer through such appalling films as Taken 3, Fifty Shades of Grey, Jupiter Ascending, Chappie and Seventh Son. At the beginning of April there was really only one film truly worthy of your time, in the form of the wonderfully stylish indie horror It Follows, it’s fair to say that if you were into movies it was hard not to feel a little glum as Spring rolls in.
Once industry critics and writers have gained a little distance with the passing of time I think 2015 may well be remembered as the year of overreaction. Perhaps it was the aforementioned lack of quality films in the first three months of the year or maybe it’s just because twitter is a breeding ground for overzealous affection (and equally overbearing criticism) but several movies this year were lavished with praise to an almost hilarious degree. Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Gift, Sicario and in particular Mad Max: Fury Road received far more praise then they deserved. Now don’t misunderstand what I’m saying, I personally gave Fury Road a hearty recommendation in my review back in May, but I’ve heard some ridiculous hyperboles about the film which has actually served to somewhat sour my enjoyment of it.
The first huge blockbuster of the year was also one of the most surprising. Fast and Furious 7 was a genuinely emotional film with the death of franchise star Paul Walker being tastefully handled and the film being a loving tribute to his life’s work. The biggest surprise of the year, at least in regards to the Blockbuster side of the industry, was how divisive Avengers: Age of Ultron ended up being. The film was ripped apart by some keyboard warriors for its handling of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Window (resulting in director Joss Whedon quitting twitter, good job fanboys!) and a lacklustre villain in the form of Ultron who didn’t quite live up his potential.
The summer movie season, which again started even earlier this year (I reckon that by 2020 the blockbuster season will start in the previous year!), featured plenty of underwhelming comedy films such as Pitch Perfect 2, Ted 2 and Spy and blockbusters that ranged from passable at best to downright awful at worst. Tomorrowland: A World Beyond, Jurassic World and Ant-Man being examples of the former and Terminator: Genysis, Pixels and Fantastic Four belonging to the latter category. Going to the cinema throughout summer 2015 often felt like a game of Russia Roulette, except all the chambers were loaded, a classic no win situation.
At this point it seemed like 2015 was shaping up to be an awful year for movies, or maybe I’m just a miserable bastard who hates everything, but thankfully after the disappointment of the first two thirds of the year things really started to pick up. The gritty Straight Outta Compton signalled a wave of quality that continued throughout September. The biopic of rap group NWA was followed by Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, a wonderfully charming indie comedy that deserves more attention, The D Train, a classic example of why you shouldn’t judge a film by its trailer, and the end of the month saw the release of The Martian which is easily my favourite film of 2015 to date.
As winter grew ever closer audiences over all over the United Kingdom went crazy for latest instalment in the long running James Bond franchise, Spectre, which was frustratingly more Quantum of Solace than Skyfall. Halloween came and went with the usual release of another Paranormal Activity film in this case the equally awful Ghost Dimeson and the beautiful but flat Crimson Peak.
Moving towards the tail end of the year we’re starting to get a firmer picture of which films will be competing for awards glory next year and so far it’s looking like an unenviable task to separate these contenders. Black Mass sees the return of the Johnny Depp of old, you know the one that we actually liked, as the most notorious gangster in US history. Brooklyn is a wonderfully charming romantic drama that, while extremely conventional, is effortlessly likeable with a powerful leading performance from Saoirse Ronan to boot. Released just this last week, Steve Jobs has one of the sharpest screenplays of the entire year and its unconventional narrative structure, though at first hard to swallow, really does add a great deal.
There have been a few underrated gems that I’d be remiss if I didn’t implore you to make a top priority to watch. The End of the Tour is probably the most pretentious movie of the year but it’s also one of the most relatable as two authors grapple with life’s biggest questions. Director Noah Baumbach released a duo of exceptional indie comedies this year in While We’re Young and Mistress America, I’d firmly recommend both but if you can only see one then go with the latter. If musicals are your thing then The Last Five Years is sure to satisfy and in the compete opposite direction Ryan Gosling made his director debut with Lost River, a tribute to surreal filmmakers such as Nicolas Winding Refn and David Lynch, which is a isolating but essential experience.
I’d be lying if I called 2015 a particularly excellent year for cinema, though we’re starting to see some really excellent films releasing as we get closer to Christmas there were simply too many months with almost no films of quality to speak off and one of the most underwhelming summer movie season of the last ten years with pretty much only Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Inside Out being worthy of your time and money certainly didn’t help matters. When the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Day few cinephiles will be sorry to see the back of the 2015 but there is a solid handful of films released this year that were genuinely excellent they were just unfortunately buried in a sea of disappointing and all too often downright awful movies that will likely come to define 2015 in the years to come.