Its come to the end of the year – boo. It’s been a big one for me: got married, lost my job – twice, started my own company, trained for and completed my first half ironman and still managed to watch 93 films (yes I keep a tally – last year I watched 114).
“So – what were your favourite films of this year Kobestarr?” I hear you asking dutifully? Well am glad you asked – you see that is the whole point of this blog post, though you probably gauged that from the title “Kobestarr’s Favourite Films of 2015”
I do like a reverse order countdown, so starting at number…
This time of year is always tough. I watched 100 films in 2015. Most of them new for 2015 and most of them were worth seeing. I don’t know why I do it to myself every year but narrowing down my favourite films is tortuous but i’ve had a go and as it stand right now these are my favourite films of 2015
10.[easyazon_link identifier=”B0139TET14″ locale=”UK” nw=”y” tag=”kobestarrcom-21″]Going Clear[/easyazon_link]
I love a good documentary and nothing feels “ickier” than the realisation that, if the documentary is to be believed, this stuff really happened OR is happening right now. This year has been great including “Amy”, “Wolfpack” and true crime documentary series “The Jinx” and “Making a Murderer”.
“Going Clear” tells us the story of Scientology from its inception through to current position from the POV of people that were a part of the religion and have since left it.
Scientology has been given a lot of flack based on it’s doubtful origins and current litigation practices. Before I watched Going Clear I knew very little about it, nor did I care to, but I had to see if there was any fire behind the smoke. As well as the religious doctrine behind Scientology, director Alex Gibney, recalls Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbards earlier life as a prolific science fiction author through to stories of the horrific abuse enacted on the Scientology Patrons. Prior to watching Going Clear I simply thought Scientology was “more than a bit odd”. Now I think it’s both barking mad and power-hungry in a way that causes emotional, physical and financial harm against those that don’t conform.
Those that don’t conform include young children and members of the gay community. Truly horrible. The stories do make for a gripping true crime documentary.
9. [easyazon_link identifier=”B014W5E63A” locale=”UK” tag=”kobestarrcom-21″]Dope[/easyazon_link]
Dope is just a load of fun. Centering on the three “Inbetweener” High School Students based in the tough Inglewood Neighbourhood in Los Angeles. The three main kids Malcolm, Jib and Diggy are a mixed race gang of friends in a school that doesn’t appreciate the fact that they get good grades and are into things that “white kids” would normally be into, such as having a punk band.
They normally keep out of trouble apart from the fact they are horny teenagers which in this case leads them directly into a shootout between drug gangs and ending up with a lot more than they bargained for in a truck load of first class MDMA. The guys are coerced into selling the “molly” and in doing so take bad step after bad step in a bid to get rid of the drugs and get to college with a clean conscience and record.
Malcolm and the rest of the guys are 90’s Hip Hop nerds and the soundtrack for Dope reflects this and has you bouncing around. The first act lifts you up and gets you on board with the gang and their band “Awreeoh” who have a new catchy numbers on the soundtrack. The last half hour loses the edge that it set up early on and goes a bit wayward but the goodwill set up early on keeps you in great stead all the way through.
8. [easyazon_link identifier=”B013T5AYF8″ locale=”UK” tag=”kobestarrcom-21″]Precinct Seven Five[/easyazon_link]
The second documentary in my 2015 list gives insight into the working of corrupt police officers in Brooklyn New York in the 80’s. It tells the broad story about corruption at that time but centres on the corrupt skills of Officer Mike Dowd and his crew as “the Most Corrupt Officer in US History”. The documentary is extremely candid with interviews from Mike and all of his corrupt team as well as the internal officers that were fighting the corruption and the gang bosses that were paying off the police.
The depths of the corruption is at time jaws dropping but you find yourself empathising with the police when you see the financial pressures they were up against whilst simultaneously fighting losing gun fights. People on both sides were losing their lives and they were getting paid a lot less for it. What was surprising though us the lengths that the corruption went. The initial taking of a bribe here and there led to thievery and spiralling to selling drugs themselves.
This is poignant and relevant especially when considering the current civil unrest against the US Police. “Precinct Seven Five” highlights a murky chapter in US law enforcement. I’d like to see a documentary about the state of the US Police. These guys have to be an embarrassment to the US government at times!
7. [easyazon_link identifier=”B011RAY5PC” locale=”UK” tag=”kobestarrcom-21″]AntMan[/easyazon_link]
I think that I have AntMan in my top Ten as I continue to love the work that the Marvel Cinematic Universe are doing. AntMan was relatively unknown to the UK so a film based on this superhero would be a harder sell. Initial work on this film were based on British Director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) helming it, but there was an amicable split between Marvel and himself leaving the project limbo.
There were genuine concerns that AntMan would suffer as a result but this doesn’t seem to be the case at all. I enjoyed AntMan a whole lot more than I thought I would. Paul Rudd is an eternally likeable actor and as reluctant AntMan is funny and believable. Kudos also to Evangeline Lily but most of my love and most of the humour comes from the excellent Michael Peña (who also has a cracking role in this years “The Martian”) who made me laugh whenever he’s on the screen and is responsible for my favourite Stan Lee cameo.
6. [easyazon_link identifier=”B00S6PLF5A” locale=”UK” tag=”kobestarrcom-21″]Whiplash[/easyazon_link]
Yay! I want to play drums! Jazz drums! I’m not going to bleed for the right though. I’m not sure how they made such an energetic, vibrant, engaging and gripping film based around a college kid who wants to represent and dedicate himself to the jazz drums. I really didn’t expect much from the film but wow is t tense. J.K Simmons plays the teacher that drummer Miles Teller wants to impress and the explosive scenes are reminiscent of the drill Sergeant rants from the Full Metal Jacket Rants.
The Whiplash soundtrack has been the album on heaviest rotation for me this year – I had no idea that a percussion lead album could be so inspiring. It has inspired everything from long runs to gym sessions and tidying binges and cooking.
5. [easyazon_link identifier=”B014W9QBNY” locale=”UK” tag=”kobestarrcom-21″]Me and Earl and The Dying Girl[/easyazon_link]
You may think that the title says it all and that it’s a spoiler, but you’ll be missing out if you dismiss this film based solely on that. It combines the smart wit of Juno with ideas from “Be Kind, Rewind” and the heart of “The Fault In Our Stars”. MAEATDG is one of the films that hit me hard emotionally this year and has had me thinking about it for days after seeing it.
MAEATDG follows Greg (Me) and his friend Earl (Earl) who have an emotionally stunted friendship – Greg calls Earl his “colleague”- as they hand out and make parody films together, with titles such as “A Sockwork Orange”. Greg is forced by his mother into hanging out with Rachel (The Dying Girl). Greg is reluctant mainly due to his emotionally stunted nature and the fact that he would have to hang out with anyone let alone anyone who may suddenly drop dead from leukaemia.
I loved everything about “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” it’s a genuinely funny and touching film with splendid performances from the main cast as well as the supporting cast in the form of Jon Bernthal and Nick Offerman. The three “friends” get closer as the film develops and you feel drawn into their laughs and tears.
Is the title a spoiler? I’m not telling you!
4. [easyazon_link identifier=”B0170FTFOY” locale=”UK” tag=”kobestarrcom-21″]The Lobster[/easyazon_link]
It’s strange that I have placed “The Lobster” so high on my list as it’s position is based mainly on the first half of the film. It’s set in a world where every adult has to be in a romantic partnership otherwise you are turned into an animal of their choosing. The delivery is deadpan, the setups ridiculous and the laugh rate is high. “The Lobster” gets its name from the lead character David (Colin Farrell), who asks to be turned into a lobster if he is unsuccessful in finding a mate.
David becomes divorced at the start of the film and has 40 days to couple up before being turned into the aforementioned lobster. The first half of the film centres on an off-beat Hotel where singletons are vying for each others attention. The humour is dark and unsettling but in such a way that changes your resting state to a stricken grin interspersed with regular laugh out loud moments. The second half of the film sees David “escape” from the Hotel and and live out in the woods with outlaw singletons, think Robin Hood here.
Once you get to the woods there is a pacing change and the laughs and ideas don’t come as thick and fast and pronounced as in the hotel but still has it’s moments. You should watch “The Lobster” just for the setting in the Hotel alone – if you don’t like the hotel and you get to the woods section you might as well switch off!
3. [easyazon_link identifier=”B00S2LSALU” locale=”UK” tag=”kobestarrcom-21″]Ex Machina[/easyazon_link]
Imagine a super nerd of the likes of Bill Gates or the Google Guys who once they have made their gazillions decide to head to rural Norway and make Fembots to fight Austin Powers and you have the overall premise of “Ex-Machina”.
A gifted programmer, Caleb (Domhnhall Gleeson) is selected to join the Super Nerd and test out his fembots for true artificial intelligence aka “The Turing Test”. Can he tell if the main fembot is human based on his interactions with “her”. The main part of the film revolves around the chats/test conversations that Caleb has with the main fembot Ava and the debriefing conversations that Caleb has with the creator and super nerd Nathan. “Wow this place is great and Ava is super intelligent – why have you made her look smoking hot?”
Turns out that the reclusive Super Nerd is a heavy weight nut-job and all Ava want’s to do is escape. This is a fantastic low key sic-fi horror and I genuinely could not see where it was going. Splendid!
2. [easyazon_link identifier=”B019FFA2AI” locale=”UK” tag=”kobestarrcom-21″]The Force Awakens[/easyazon_link]
Hey – it’s not a perfect film but it makes me feel like a kid again and that is amazing. I just loved so much about Episode VII. As I write this I have seen it twice in the cinema and have plans to see it twice more.
I’m not giving away spoilers here so don’t worry so i’ll work this short review about the three main characters Finn, Rey and Kylo Ren.
Finn – is a stormtrooper who turned good guy after seeing battle for the first time and sees one of his stormtrooper pals get taken down and deciding that killing helpless villagers is not the done thing. John Boyega plays “Finn” and goes toe-to-toe with Han Solo when they are together. You can tell that the eternally grouchy Harrison Ford actually enjoyed his time with John and Daisy (Rey). Finn drives the early part of the story before hooking up with scavenger Rey, who was left on a dessert planet when she was young. Rey is biding her time until she is collected but helps Finn escape when they are suddenly attacked. Rey is strong female character who can fight and is an excellent pilot. This is the kind of female character we are not used to seeing in the Star Wars Universe and is breath of fresh air.
So what about the baddie Kylo Ren? I’m going to lean out on a limb and say that he’s my favourite Star Wars bad guy! He’s torn by being attracted to the light side of the force and that combined with unrefined petulance due to his age makes for a truly interesting character. I could go more into this but not without spoiling things. I’m super keen to see how he develops as a character – there is potential that he is stronger than Darth Vader was and that’s a scary prospect
The Force awakens has some faults that some people have taken issue with, but I think that much of the forensic picking apart is a result of the love for Star Wars. I have some issues with the film but no different to that of any film I have seen ever. In spite of it’s flaws many people have enjoyed it to the extent that they have watched it multiple times already. Actions speak louder than words.
It could be that people are giving The Force Awakens an “easy” ride because it has none of the tedium of the prequels. I personally think that it’s the funniest and darkest of the Star Wars films with my favourite bad guy and is the kind of film that I will always enjoy watching.
1. [easyazon_link identifier=”B012CGVY4A” locale=”UK” tag=”kobestarrcom-21″]Inside Out[/easyazon_link]
Wow! Pixar just smashed it out of the park.
In recent years by Pixars own high standards, I thought that they had become lacklustre. The films that they made such as Cars 2 and Monsters University would be fantastic additions to most studios rosters. But same problem with A* students suddenly getting B’s ad C’s. These are all passing films / marks but you know that Pixar can do better.
Inside Out is them doing the best ever. I’m gonna say it here and now. This is my favourite Pixar Film.
Inside Out tells the story of Riley from the when she was a small baby through to early teens and a tumultuous time when you are moved away from your friends to start a whole new life and school. There are two sides presented of Riley, the more traditional external version where she interacts with her parents and friends and there is the internal side as depicted by 5 emotions Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger and Fear.
As a childhood reader of “The Beano” – this premise reminded me a lot of “The Numbskulls” where little people in your head controlled your senses.
Each of the emotions feel real and nuanced and develop with age. The idea that as a baby you feel either Joy or Sadness which is then joined by the others as your cognitive functionalities develop is a great framing device and helps you empathise with Riley. As she gets becomes a teen we see that the feelings are a combination of the 5 elemental emotions.
This doesn’t seem to form the basis for an interesting, let alone fun let alone splendid film but the setup is so cleverly played by Pixar that it is all of those instantly. Inside out is beautiful to look at and voice cast fronted by Joy (Amy Poehler – a perennial favourite of mine) is great from start to finish.
So what did you think?
Let me know what you guys thought of this list! What was #1 for you?