Tuesday, January 12, 2016

BEST MOVIES & TV: 2015


Rey, the new star of Star Wars!



Shortcut links:
BEST MOVIES: 2015
BEST DOCUMENTARIES: 2015
BEST TV: 2015




"And...Action!"


BEST MOVIES: 2015





THINK




-SELMA
✭✭✭✭✭
Ava DuVernay's timeless reminder of the Civil Rights struggle is universally invaluable.
David Oyelowo is in fine form as the human and humane Dr. King.




-MR. HOLMES
Ian McKellan as Sherlock Holmes.
That should be enough, but clever inversions and nimble drama round it out.

-A MOST VIOLENT YEAR
The best movie 1974 didn't make. An understated and perfect homage to New Hollywood crime dramas.
Oscar Isaac channels his best Pacino beside an iron Jessica Chastain.

-LOVE AND MERCY
A moving biopic of Brian Wilson's musical triumphs and spiritual tragedies.
The period details are excellent, and the recording of Pet Sounds is worth the admission alone.

-SUFFRAGETTE
A strong docudrama of a young woman's rise from servant to rebel in the original Feminist revolution.
Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter.

-THE KEEPING ROOM
Brit Marling leads a trio of women trying to survive the end of the Civil War.

-SPOTLIGHT
A true story of a terrible social crime exposed by actual journalism (remember that?).
Plays like a relentless thriller propelled by a crack ensemble cast.




Most Valuable Player, Dept.:
Oscar Isaac

Like Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac is becoming ubiquitous as the go-to actor.

After breaking through in the Coen Brothers' INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (2013), with fine singing and guitar playing no less, Oscar's star is on the rise. This year he was the amiably conceited creator in EX MACHINA; the ethical man trying not to slip in A MOST VIOLENT YEAR; the accidental crusader in HBO's intense mini-series SHOW ME A HERO (from the creator of THE WIRE); and he ended on a high note as the best rebel pilot in the galaxy in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.







SMILE




-TANGERINE
Two untrained transexual actors shot by three iPhone cameras in the L.A. streets equals ludicrous magic.

-WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (New Zealand)
Twisted slapstick in a vampire mockumentary full of laughs.

-PEOPLE PLACES THINGS
A smart antidote to rom-coms, with fresh angles and Jemaine Clement (Flight Of The Conchords).







DREAM




Proper Star Wars art by Drew Struzan.

-STAR WARS: The Force Awakens
✭✭✭✭✭
A wonder and a blessing, perhaps the finest Star Wars film yet made.
Rey and Finn are terrific new leads for the future.




-EX MACHINA
A clockwork rose.
A smart character film with turns that reward multiple viewings.

-MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
THE ROAD WARRIOR was the best, and this is ten times better.
An epic completely grounded in empathy, swiped by true star Charlize Theron as Furiosa.

-TOMORROWLAND
Pessimism is passe, optimism takes real courage.
This smart, inspired film makes a fine case for the power of the positive.

-THE MARTIAN
Robinson Crusoe on Mars.
Ridley Scott brings us a gripping thriller with a sharp cast.

-SPECTRE
The Daniel Craig films are a perfect prequel arc of the origins of Bond.
And they've rebuilt him better for the future.



Underrated, Dept.:

-TERMINATOR: Genisys
The first hour's re-evocation of the first film is amazing.
A more proper substitute as the third film to a trilogy.





NIGHTMARE




-CRIMSON PEAK
Guillermo Del Toro's gorgeous gothic romance where craft is the star.
Like a Poe or James story filmed by Powell and Pressburger (à la BLACK NARCISSUS, THE RED SHOES).

-IT FOLLOWS
Like the best indie horror film John Carpenter didn't make in 1979.
Straightforward suspense with quietly layered subtext.

-FELT
A touching and disturbing indie film, and conceptual cousin to REPULSION (1965).




GRAPHIC IMAGES





-AVENGERS 2: AGE OF ULTRON
More ambitous even than the first, and more richly rewarding to the attentive.
The leads do well, but the non-solo-film characters grow and shine here.
All hail Joss Whedon!

-ANT-MAN
A fun romp better than anyone expected.
A Wasp-centered sequel promises even better.

-THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL
Phoebe Gloeckner's acclaimed graphic novels >> become an inspired and poignant dramedy.




ARTFLIX



-INSIDE OUT
Pixar makes films for adults who remember the wonder of childhood.
This navigation of the emotions is a profound guide for all ages.

-THE GOOD DINOSAUR
Pixar.


-WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE (Japan, 2014; English dub, 2015)
From Studio Ghibli; Yonebayashi channels Miyazaki's pastoral nostalgia with Takahata's emotional edge.
A moving and surprising story beautifully rendered.

-ANAMOLISA
An innovative and game-changing stop animation film that plays as a fine indie character dramedy.





BEST DOCUMENTARIES: 2015





-MONTAGE OF HECK
The secret life and creations of Kurt Cobain.



-MR. DYNAMITE
A solid overview of James Brown and a nice companion piece to last year's biopic, GET ON UP.

-SONIC HIGHWAYS
Dave Grohl's profiles of key studios and music scenes is required learning.
The Washington DC episode covering Trouble Funk and Go-Go, and Punk and Dischord Records, is essential.

-THE WRECKING CREW
From the late 50's to mid-70's, one session crew played on all of your favorite Pop songs.
Illuminating and heartfelt.


-DESPITE THE GODS
Jennifer Chambers Lynch fought the impossible to make a sabotaged film, and this behind-the-scenes documentary referees the struggle.



-SUFFRAGETTES FOREVER! The Story of Women and Power (UK)
Ever-timely and needed mini-series on the original Feminist empowerment struggles.

-THE BLACK PANTHERS: Vanguard of the Revolution
All Power To The People!

-HE NAMED ME MALALA
The betrayla and rise of Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.

-GOING CLEAR
An expose on the machinations of the Church Of Scientololgy.







BEST TV: 2015




(The season number follows each title.)





DRAMA




-RECTIFY 3
✭✭✭✭✭
Still television's best and most unknown drama.
As true a grasp of being human as can be found on the screen.

-BETTER CALL SAUL 1
✭✭✭✭✭
With quiet, assured grace this prequel to BREAKING BAD paves a new path and style.
The story of "Saul" is touching and surprising at every turn.

-FARGO 2
The ambitious second season is a stunner, at times breathtaking in its sharp skill.
This 1979 prequel arc homages much of the Coen canon, along with curveball surprises.

-MASTERS OF SEX 3

-SHOW ME A HERO (HBO mini-series)
A true drama about civil rights struggles in late 80's Yonkers.
Oscar Isaac shines in a project by WIRE creator David Simon.


-MR. ROBOT
That time Palahnuik, Easton Ellis, Moore, and Dick wrote a jam session to destroy our corporate overlords.
Or as close to it as a gleefully seditious show can get.



WONDER





-THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE 1
Philip K. Dick's celebrated novella about an alternate world where the Nazis won is adapted into a riveting series with finely-etched characters.

-12 MONKEYS 1
In which more good mileage is twisted out of Gilliam's film scenario than one could expect.

-GAME OF THRONES 5
Serious tumult and turnover as the series hinges toward the endgame.

-SENSE8 1
The Wachowskis drop the expensive FX of JUPITER ASCENDING for pure character and action.
A gestalt group of international players turn communion and boundaries inside out.



-THE WIZ (live special)
A new staging for the 40th anniversary of the urban Wizard Of Oz musical.

-CHILDHOOD'S END (mini-series)

Good:
-DARK MATTER
-KILJOYS
Okay, they're not FIREFLY, but they're enjoyable fun.





HORROR





-FORTITUDE 1
A strangely brave show set in an eerie arctic that's almost an alien world.
The first half is a brilliant mystery procedural... and the second half goes intrepidly bent.
Spellbinding and startling.

-HANNIBAL 3
The prequel reaches its crescendo adapting "Red Dragon".
Like a surreal fever dream too entrancing and horrid to look away from.

-THE RETURNED (U.S.) 1
A solid remake of the French "Les Revenants", nearly obsessive in its exactness, before forking to a new path at the end. But it was cancelled.

-LES REVENANTS/ The Returned (France) 2
At last, the delayed second season of the French original rebounds and expands on the mystery and promise of the resurrected.

-ASH vs. EVIL DEAD 1
Hilarious fun that balances horror and slapstick.
Bruce Campbell is almost effortlessly great with crazy lines.



UK




-OUTLANDER 1.2
The intimate GAME OF THRONES, more fleet and personal.
With one of the most exponentially hateable villains ever created.




-DOCTOR WHO 9
An evenly paced season that builds to a brilliant send-off for Jenna Coleman.
And Peter Capaldi is more assured and fun than ever.

-HUMANS 1
A terrific remake of the Swedish "Äkta människor/ Real Humans" that only improves it.
This series streamlines the strengths into a more unified, surprising whole.


-ORPHAN BLACK (Canada/BBC) 3
Tatiana Maslaney. The chameleon actor schools us in how its done so well that the plots seem like loose frameworks for the fun.

-PENNY DREADFUL 2
Eva Green. The League Of Extraordinary Coincidence takes on black magic, and pays a heavy toll.

-JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL (mini-series)
Excellent adaption of Susanna Clarke's book, bringing vivid life to an alternate 19th century London where magic exists.


Good:
-JEKYLL & HYDE 1
Crazed pulp fun with a crack cast clearly enjoying themselves.

-THE FRANKENSTEIN CHRONICLES 1
Sean Bean. An interesting take on fiction distorting 19th century reality in the wake of Shelley's book.





HEROES




We're in a golden era of superheroes onscreen. This is actually the screen catching up late to comics revolutions that already happened on the page.

Every decade had comics renaissances that improved the maturity, craft, range, and credibility of the genre. Networked by comic shop outlets, the 80's sparked indie revolts like American Flagg, Love And Rockets, The Rocketeer, and Starstruck.


The two majors noticed. Marvel rebuilt their cred in the early 80's on Frank Miller's brutally noir take on Daredevil (and DC partially with Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.); stripped, adult, harsh, hardboiled, haunted. In the 2000's, writer Brian Michael Bendis revamped Daredevil in Tarantino terms with cinematic art by Alex Maleev and David Mack, pooling a loose collective of Hell's Kitchen defenders who were decidedly human and R-rated: Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, etc.

If upbeat mainstream shows like Flash, Arrow, and Supergirl echo classic mainstream comics, then the Netflix adaptions of Daredevil and Jessica Jones directly reflect the hard R comics of Miller and Bendis, down to the story arcs, the dialogue, the visual style, the adult tone, the credits, and the ad art.

The revolution is televised because it was already won in print.


-DAREDEVIL 1
An exact blending of Miller's template with Bendis' expansions, this bonejarring noir is the best Batman show never made.
Just as Miller's comics matured the medium, this streetwise series (and Christopher Nolan) reset the bar for adult comics on the screen.

-JESSICA JONES 1
Just as Bendis leveraged the momentum of Miller, this series raises the gravity and power razed by the companion Daredevil series.
Based on Bendis and Gaydos' ALIAS, the character drama tackled anger, pain, and loss to universal acclaim.




-AGENT CARTER 1
Hayley Atwell gets the star vehicle she deserves as 40's superspy Peggy Carter, mother of S.H.I.E.L.D.

-AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. 3.1
All the setups pay off in this turbocharged, twisty season.
With more to come.

-POWERS 1
A pretty good take on Oeming/Bendis' comics, that catches fire when Eddie Izzard and Michelle Forbes appear.

-THE FLASH 2.1
The Multiverse begins, bringing the DC mythos to mainstream success.

-ARROW 4.1
More magic, more fun, and a good collective against a mercurial villain.

-SUPERGIRL 1.1
The Kryptonian we need, all positive hope and ethics!

-CONSTANTINE 1
John Constantine, as he was intended, briefly invades normal airwaves for a season.
Generally sharp with some great highs.

-VIXEN
The online cartoon companion to THE FLASH and ARROW, starring African superhero Vixen.





DETECTIVES




-AMERICAN CRIME 1
Oscar-winner John Ripley (12 YEARS A SLAVE) crafts what could be The Wire for mainstream TV.
Amidst our reductive kneejerk era, this carefully nuanced anthology instead covers all angles, quietly exposing all the false divisions that suffocate empathy and humanity.

-FARGO 2
Ambitious, intricate, arresting.

-BROADCHURCH 2
The first season was great, but the second is better, wringing unexpected dramatic gold with the aftermath of the murderer's trial.

-ELEMENTARY 4.1
Enter Holmes' father, and an even stronger focus.
Sherlock gets all the attention, but this underprized series continues to shine on its own.


Good:
-TRUE DETECTIVE 2
The genre anthology moves from Southern Gothic to Neo-Noir, subtly tracing by oblique angles the secret cabal that runs things.
Less quotable and clear, sure, but much more complex and daring.
Rachel McAdams, playing against type, was especially terrific.



COMEDY




-ASH vs. EVIL DEAD 1
Some of the funniest lines and most demented actions on the screen.

-BROAD CITY 2
Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson go more brazen crazin', and it's too late to stop them.

-MASTER OF NONE 1
Aziz Ansari.

-UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT 1
Ellie Kemper and Jane Krakowski, via Tina Fey.

-MAN SEEKING WOMAN 1
Absurdist.





THINGS TO CATCH UP ON, Dept.



Hey, who has time (or money) to see everything?


THE BIG SHORT
CREED
SLOW WEST
BROOKLYN
LEGEND

A HARD DAY (South Korea)
BLACK COAL THIN ICE (China)
ABOUT ELLY (Iran)

WILD TALES (Argentina)





See also:


BEST MUSIC: 2015

BEST MUSIC: 2014
BEST MOVIES & TV: 2014

BEST MOVIES & TV: 2013
BEST MUSIC: 2013

BEST MOVIES & TV: 2012
BEST MUSIC: 2012
BEST COMIX: 2012

BEST MOVIES & TV: 2011
BEST MUSIC: 2011
BEST COMIX: 2011

BEST MOVIES: 2000-2010
BEST COMIX: 2000-2010
BEST MUSIC: 2000-2010



How STAR WARS Is Changing Everything!


"Cut!







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