Thursday, January 28, 2016

Review: The Danish Girl

I cried four times during The Danish Girl. It's that moving. Eddie Redmayne gives a stirring
performance as Lili Elbe, one of the very first recipients of sex reassignment surgery while Alicia Vikander is captivating as Gerda, Lili's wife (give her the Oscar already!). As wonderful as these two are on their own terms, it's their undeniable chemistry together that will warm your heart and jerk your tears. These two love one another immensely and seeing them fight to keep their love alive while struggling to support each other both emotionally and physically will set you on a roller coaster of feels. This is one of the best films of 2015.

The Danish Girl is definitely worth your time. Bring tissues.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Casting the Batman Universe (& Other DC Characters)

If given the opportunity right now to make a Batman movie, this would be my ideal cast:

Jon Hamm as Bruce Wayne aka: Batman
 There's already an aura of success surrounding Hamm as a shrewd businessman harboring a dark secret. Sure, he'd be more of a Dark Knight Returns Batman at his age, but what's wrong with that? Besides, he's got a more gnarled, Frank Miller-esque look to him than Batfleck.

 Miles Teller as Dick Grayson aka: Nightwing
 Teller has proven he's got some edge and that's exactly what it takes to put up with Batman.

Ansel Elgort as Jason Todd aka: Red Hood
Somebody a little younger than Nightwing but more radical who's willing to take lives and cry. Ansel is talented enough to play such a traumatized young psycho.

Levi Miller as Damien Wayne aka: Robin
The son of Bruce Wayne and the youngest of the Robins. Miller can pull off the disobedient but loving spawn of Batman.

Christopher Plummer as Alfred Pennyworth
Plummer is a vet. He can be funny and serious and you'd believe him if Alfred had to bust out those old British Intelligence combat moves to protect his family.
Bryan Cranston as Commissioner James Gordon
Yeah, yeah, Cranston's been there and done that, but that's what makes him perfect for the role. He's experienced and would adapt effortlessly to live-action with his world-weary face.

Val Kilmer as Harvey Bullock
Just put a fedora on his head and a cigar in his mouth.

Emma Stone as Barbara Gordon aka: Batgirl/ Oracle
In a suit or behind a computer screen, Stone has the chops to pull off badass crime-fighter and tragic genius, the voice inside Batman's head.

Jake Gyllenhaal as The Joker
How many lunatics must Jake play before the world's convinced he's ready for this role?

Anne Hathaway as Harley Quinn
The ditzyness of 13 Going on 30 meets the edginess of Catwoman combined with the heartbreak of Les Miserables. Plus she's only two years younger than Jake.

Daniel Day Lewis as Ra's al Ghul
A theatrical actor for a theatrical villain. I know Lewis has his multiple Oscars, but this was the role he was born to play.

Penelope Cruz as Talia al Ghul
Seductive, deadly, and the ultimate daddy's girl. Penelope has proven that she's got what it takes to portray Batman's baby momma, both physically and emotionally.

Tom Hardy as Harvey Dent aka: Two-Face
It's easy trusting one of the most talented actors around with any role, but Tom Hardy has a resume of characters with split personalities ((see Legend (sort of) and The Drop)).

Eddie Redmayne as Edward Nygma aka: The Riddler
It isn't just the glasses, I swear. Already in his young career, Eddie has won an Oscar, which has to stand for something, right? Besides, he seems interested in pushing the limits of his talent and the methodical maniac in green would be a tremendous opportunity to do just that!

Vin Diesel as Victor Fries aka: Mr. Freeze
Beneath that macho exterior lies some real talent. If his time as Riddick has shown us anything, it's that Vin Diesel can be a true brute with a tender heart and underneath all that cold machinery lies a man who simply longs to be with his wife once more. Pure poetry.

Nick Frost as Oswald Cobblepot aka: Penguin
If this picture doesn't sell you, I don't know what will.

Michael Fassbender as Dr. Jonathan Crane aka: Scarecrow
We know Michael cleans up nice and he'll need to in order to portray the more sane, professor in Dr. Crane; however, Fassbender is a born villain. Just look at that smile! Oh, and by the way, he's one of the most talented actors out there. 

Javier Bardem as Bane
Okay, so Bane doesn't have a heritage traceable in the real world; however, going by his accent in Batman: The Animated Series, I'd feel safe casting a Spanish actor in his role; especially a Spanish actor who has had a successful run of movie villains and is of intimidating physical stature such as Javier. 

Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Selina Kyle aka: Catwoman
I'm going to be honest, I gave myself a pat on the back for this one. Gugu has proved to be a fine actress and in Beyond the Lights, she slayed the role of a sexy, confident (if not till later) woman whose world was her oyster. After all is said and done, isn't that really what Selina Kyle embodies? 

Emma Watson as Poison Ivy
Face it, you can't argue with this pick. Watson would absolutely nail it. 

Jude Law as Lex Luthor
Suave, sophisticated, intelligent, balding, and completely full of himself. Wonder where we've seen that before?

Benicio del Toro as Slade Wilson aka: Deathstroke
Del Toro is a proven badass. Just give him an eye patch and a katana and he's ready to roll.

Simon Pegg as Jarvis Tetch aka: The Mad Hatter
British, wears glasses, and has a face you just want to punch! It also helps that Star Trek has already convinced us that he's a tech wizard. It's a perfect fit.

James Franco as Zsaz
Bald, has tattoos, and just as insane as anyone in the industry.

Tilda Swinton as Dr. Hugo Strange
Forgive the pun, but this might be my strangest pick. I know what you're thinking: "But Hugo Strange is a guy!" True, but Tilda has been one before too (on screen). Besides, there isn't any reason Strange couldn't be a woman, is there? Either way, Tilda is so talented, she's got it covered. 

Danny Devito as Arnold Wesker aka: The Ventriloquist/ Scarface
Short? Check. Bald? Check. Wears glasses? Check. Is believable as a coward on screen? Check. Is believable as an intimidating authority figure on screen? Check. Besides, Danny's ventured into the world of Batman before. Give him a dummy already! 

Casting Other DC characters:

Idris Elba as John Stewart aka: Green Lantern

Michael B. Jordan as Sinestro

Brad Pitt as Oliver Queen aka: Green Arrow

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Martian Manhunter

Anna Kendrick as Zatanna

Just thinking about these picks gives me shivers! Let me know your thoughts on this potential roster and let me know who you'd pick for your own Batman movie!

Review: The Boy

I am happy to report that the latest January horror flick, staring The Walking Dead's Lauren Cohen, is not complete garbage. That being said, it's not that impressive either. Cohan plays a nanny (if you can believe it) hired to look after a prized doll belonging to an elderly couple who seem a bit off their rocker. As the story unfolds, The Boy shows brief flashes of inspired creepiness, but mostly relies on genre convention on its way to hitting on every cliché in the book. Big empty house? Check. Strange noises upstairs? Check. Stuffed animal heads on the walls? Check. The list goes on and on, right up to the twist reveal, which unfortunately has been done better in previous films.

Is it worth your time? No. Though this film is not terrible, there isn't anything here we haven't seen done before or even better in other flicks.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Review: Carol

I was legitimately shocked when I saw that the Academy nominated both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara for their rolls in the forbidden love drama Carol. Now I love both actors and their performances apart from one another are enchanting enough, but when they share the screen together, the passion that is supposed to exist between the two just isn't there. It's largely a cold film made even colder by the dreary set design. And for a film seeking to challenge the status quo, Carol is quite safe. It never pushes any boundaries like you'd expect a movie about a socially unacceptable romance to. This film rarely moved me.

Is it worth your time? It has a few captivating moments, but not enough soul to warrant a recommendation.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Oscar Nods Reactions

It's my favorite time of year! The time where everybody (me included!) manically pisses on and praises the Academy Award nominations! To make life simpler, I'm going to split my thoughts up by category and I'm only going to do the BIG categories-- otherwise we'd be here all day (and this blog IS called Movie MINUTES after all)- then I'll summarize with my overall impressions.

Best Picture Nominees
The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Bridge of Spies
The Martian

Thoughts: My first reaction is that this is a more accessible list for audiences. Most of these movies were at one point or another big blockbusters that a lot of people came out to see. If the Academy wants to justify their relevancy, these are the types of nods we need to see year in, year out.

Secondly, if you read my 'Favorite Films of 2015' then you know that about half of these films are at least mentioned in my list. Now I'm not trying to brag (OK, maybe a little), but I am trying to say that I am genuinely pleased with most of these picks. Typically since the Academy went to (at most) 10 Best Picture nominees, it's easy to dismiss at least half of them and narrow down the serious contenders. This year, most of the picks are deserving.

That being said, only eight of the ten slots are filled. The Academy missed a serious opportunity to include more minority stories into the available two slots, such as Creed, Beasts of No Nation, Carol, or the overly deserving Straight Outta Compton.

The absence of Inside Out from this bunch is also frustrating. Would it stand a chance to win in this bracket? Who knows. Animated pics never do well here; but it's an emotional roller coaster of a ride and also one of the most beautifully animated and original works this past year. It's tough to take the Academy voters seriously as admirers of art when they seem uninterested in promoting the most original story of 2015.

Best Actor
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Matt Damon, The Martian
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Best Actress
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Tom Hardy, The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies
Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Best Supporting Actress
Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs

Thoughts: I love that Mad Max: Fury Road was recognized for the second most awards. It speaks the language of cinema in a way that no other Best Picture nominee this year does. However, for all its success, it failed to reel in the nod for Charlize Theron and that's a shame. I know she already has her Oscar, but so does Jennifer Lawrence. It's a mystery how the Academy will recognize this great feminist flick, yet fail to recognize its face.

This was not a great year for women in the movies. I'm hesitant to say it was even a good year. Women are one of the minorities that the Academy has failed to appreciate in previous years. To be fair, there are more female-centric stories this year than last, but that's only because last year we had a grand total of zero. There are so many wonderful stories in the world that don't revolve around white men. It's about time the Academy got with the times and started honoring them.

Samuel L. Jackson, who gave two terrific performances this year, is oddly nowhere to be found.

Best Directing
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, The Revenant
Adam McKay, The Big Short
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Lenny Abrahamson, Room
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight

Thoughts: Like all of the categories, there is a lack of diversity here. Yes it's nice to have a Mexican director nominated, but Inarritu won last year. Plus, The Revenant and his Best Picture winner from last year, Birdman, both tell stories of white men.

Another thing: When Paul Walker passed away, Furious 7 took the shape of a tenderhearted farewell. Wiz Khalifa's beautiful "See You Again" not only became synonymous with the car sequel, but with Walker as well.  The film became (at the time) the fourth highest grossing movie of all time as seemingly everyone came to pay their respects and sing along. Though Walker will no doubt appear in the Academy's "In Memoriam" segment, they're still stubborn to endorse the adored as they skipped out on the song completely.

Overall Impressions:
The Academy once again failed to recognize the latest trends in their own industry, such as instant streaming, by skipping Beasts of No Nations entirely.

There are 20 actors nominated each year. This year, only four out of the entire lot are 46 years old or older. That's not even a fourth. Sure, the Academy wants to recognize the younger generation of upcoming actors and that's great, but plenty of older actors gave terrific performances and were all suspiciously overlooked.

There is unbelievable talent among this year's nominees and I in no way want to diminish what they've all accomplished; however, this is the second year in a row where the public has unabashedly bashed the Academy for failing to recognize any non-white storytelling and this year the only thing they've done to reconcile that was hire Chris Rock to host. The Academy is socially responsible for honoring filmmaking as an art and art is for everyone, not just one group of people. The Academy still has a long way to go if they want to be appreciated by the public the way they appreciate themselves.

Hopefully Host Christ Rock decides to bite the hand that feeds him and puts the Academy in their place. It's about time someone did.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Minutes of Love: 15 Favorite Film Performances of 2015

15.) Jason Segel as David Foster Wallace, The End of the Tour
Artists who love their art want to be challenged and audiences who enjoy those artists' work want to see those artists push themselves. Jason Segel loves his art and goes against the grain with his performance as Author David Foster Wallace. The End of the Tour consists almost entirely of dialogue and serves as a character study of its two talented leads and Segel is keenly aware of this. He channels the repressive spirit of the depressed writer, giving off just enough flashes of charisma to cue you into the fact that there is so much more bubbling beneath the surface of his quirky scribe.

14.) Michael Shannon as Rick Carver, 99 Homes
Let's get this out of the way: Michael Shannon can do no wrong. He is great even when the movies he's in aren't necessarily so (*cough* Man of Steal *cough*). The man is so talented in fact that the word "typecast" doesn't even seem to be in his dictionary. He proves this yet again playing a corrupt, borderline sociopathic real-estate broker who kicks Andrew Garfield and his family out of their house. What's great about this performance is that, while Carver is undoubtedly the antagonist, Shannon is still able to tap into and draw from the shallow sympathetic well of this character. He may be a raging loon, but at least we get a sense as to why he is this way.

13.) Benicio del Toro as Alejandro, Sicario
First and foremost, acting is about the visuals and being able to cue audiences into what their character is thinking and feeling. So you know an actor has real talent when he or she can go the length of a movie with minimal dialogue and still communicate everything to the audience. Oscar-winner Benicio del Toro does just this as he portrays a silent but strong hired gun for the U.S. government. As each of the characters' moral beliefs become increasingly defined, del Toro effectively evokes each rich layer of his damaged hitman.

12.) Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass, The Revenant
As I alluded to earlier, acting is primarily a visual feat and Leonardo DiCaprio has always let his eyes do the talking. I'm here to tell you that no role better utilizes DiCaprio's talents than that of Hugh Glass in The Revenant. In a film that sort of feels like a bizarre mash-up of True Grit, Cast Away, and Die Hard, DiCaprio is largely on his own as he hunts down the man who killed his son. What's more impressive is DiCaprio only has a handful of lines yet he carries the entire film. We see in his eyes the hatred, the anger, the guilt, the sorrow, and all the other psychological complexities.

11.) Daisy Ridley as Rey, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
This pick is simply about pure joy. Now I didn't love the new Star Wars like everyone else, but I thoroughly enjoyed the performances by the new casts, particularly Daisy Ridley's. Supposedly Rey is nineteen years old at the time of The Force Awakens and Ridley triumphantly captures all the gleeful innocence as well as the teenage angst you would expect of somebody that age. Outside her age, Rey is legitimately an interesting character so it was a pleasure getting to spend time with her during the highs and lows of her journey. She will serve as a strong emotional foundation for the franchise moving forward.

10.) Sylvester Stallone as Rocky, Creed
Just like James Bond, Rocky has been around a while and has become a prominent pop culture icon. Unlike Bond, however, Rocky has only ever been played by one man and that's Sly Stallone. There are many reasons particular characters rise to status of icon while other don't. I would say it has something to do with charisma; we like our icons edgy on the outside but soft and tender on the inside, which gives us something to fall in love with. Sylvester Stallone has always played Rocky this way and continues to in Creed. You will tear up at his performance in the third act.

9.) Oscar Isaac as Nathan, Ex Machina
This may go down as 2015's most underrated performance. Yes, Alicia Vikander does an eerily
wonderful job; however, it is Isaac's more layered performance that elicits the strongest emotional response and more consistently so as Ava's genius creator. You're never sure if you trust this guy and you'll definitely flip flop on that a couple times. You can be sure though that whose ever side he's on, his big brain and strong personality is more a curse than a gift. In the end, it's a treat to finally learn the motivation behind this guy who keeps you on your toes the entire time.

8.) Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, Concussion

Thanks to Concussion, Will Smith now has his Oscar movie, playing a genius with upwards of ten different degrees who discovers that repetitive concussions can squash a football player's brain. I'm no actor but I cannot imagine portraying a real life person is an simple task. But Smith makes it look easy here, channeling Omalu's resonance with his uptight mannerisms and mastering the Nigerian accent. There's one scene in particular where Smith goes full on powerhouse. Smith shows he is as talented as anyone in the industry.

7.) Jennifer Lawrence as Joy, Joy
Jennifer Lawrence is one of the youngest recipients an Academy Award and though she's never off the screen too long, thanks in large part to her popular genre franchises, Lawrence reminds us of why she earned her prestige award early: she totally deserves it. Joy is all about her transformation from hopeful inventor to resilient businesswoman and while it may be overly long, you're never far from a laugh or a compelling character moment. Joy is another impressive turn for Miss Lawrence.

6.) Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel, Bridge of Spies
This movie could easily have been about our hero (Tom Hanks) and how he saves the lives of these POWs. That's the genius of Speilberg. He takes us deep into the mind of the man being saved. In fact, there are many moments when the main protagonist is pushed to the side to let Rylance shine as a Russian POW who's being exchanged for two of his American equivalents in Russia. His work is so compelling that I actually missed him when the story shifted focus a bit, but when he is on screen he owns it. I'm expecting Rylance to be a strong contender this year for Best Supporting Actor.

5.) James Spader as Ultron, Avengers: Age of Ultron
For all of Marvel's CU success, one thing they just cannot seem to do is develop a strong villain, with the exception of Loki (who, by the way, has had multiple movies). Writer-Director Joss Whedon has temporarily filled that void in the MCU (and did it with just one movie) with Ultron. Ultron manages to be many things at once: falsely confident, naive, egotistical, and even unsure of himself as he frantically tries to justify his own existence, which makes him so empathetic and hate-able at the same time. Spader's performance induces the physicality of the ranging emotions both with his body and voice. It's tragically beautiful work.

4.) Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman, Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs has one of the best ensemble casts this year, with Michael Fassbender playing some magnetic version of the titular character. Here he is smart, selfish, and overbearing and the only person capable of standing their ground against him is his personal assistant, Joanna Hoffman, an uptight, caring perfectionist who wants nothing more than for Steve to care for his daughter. She is the person we identify with and through whom we watch all the other drama unfold. As our window in the world of Steve Jobs, we see ourselves in Joanna's shoes and it's a testament to Winslet's work that we feel what she feels.

3.) Lily Tomlin as Elle Reid, Grandma
Lily Tomlin is superb in as the titular Grandma
helping her teenage granddaughter raise money for an abortion. The script hits on a lot of progressive ideas and flows quickly between comedy and heartfelt drama. The brilliance of Tomlin's performance is that she commits fully to her character and manages to keep up with the changing tide. You will laugh with her when she's cracking a joke and you will cry with her when she sheds a tear. Tomlin's performance ebbs and flows and so too will you as you grow more fond of her character.

2.) Samuel L. Jackson as Valentine, Kingsman: The Secret Service
Nobody had more fun at work last year than Sam Jackson. What a year he's had; but it's his role as the vivacious villain Valentine in 'Kingsman' that ultimately makes my list. Jackson is no stranger to being funny and a threat simultaneously, but here we get to see him as someone other than a badass, someone who physically is meager and intellectually rugged. It's a nice change of pace. From his lisp to his hipster getup, Jackson delivers just enough swag to pull off a performance that could easily have been labeled as "trying to hard" had the role gone to a lesser performer.

1.) Ensemble, Spotlight
This may seem like a cheap way to cram in as many talented actors as I can into my top spot, but that doesn't mean these folks aren't deserving. Michael Keaton, Liev Schriber, Stanley Tucci, Mark Ruffalo, and Rachel McAdams bring a different human aspect to the Boston Globe's investigation into the Catholic Church's systemic cover-up involving their own priests molesting children. The film delves deeply into the working aspect of the journalism world; still, it's easy to follow and thanks to the performances it's anything but boring.

Minutes of Love: 15 Favorite Films of 2015

I would like to start things off by saying these are my favorite films of 2015. These are not necessarily the movies I thought were the best of the year; however, they are the handful I could not head into 2016 without or else I'd feel naked.

I'd also like to say that this list is subject to change a little bit, seeing is how I have not seen every single movie of 2015. I have, however, seen a lot so without further ado, let's begin!

15.) Creed
Everyone loves an underdog story, especially ones that are expertly told. Fruitvale Station's dynamic
duo (Director Ryan Coogler and star Michael B. Jordan) pack another punch with the latest of the 'Rocky' installments, which serves both as a meaningful extension to the saga as well as a tender, standalone story. Sylvester Stallone gives another endearing performance as the Italian Stallion and deservedly could see some Oscar love.

14.) Inside Out
Pixar's Inside Out reminds of us of why we all fell in love with the animation studio two decades ago. We begin with an imaginative tale brimming with quirky characters, throw in some vibrant animation as well as a charming sense of humor, and finish with a strong tug on the heartstrings. If you don't cry during this movie then you have no soul and I never care to meet you.

13.) Avengers: Age of Ultron
Age of Ultron is a good comic book movie and a solid sequel. It takes everything we loved about the original and makes it even bigger, introducing new characters and adding to the already rich mythology of the MCU (that's the Marvel Cinematic Universe for all you casual fans). Unlike previous Marvel movies, the highlight here is the titular villain. Ultron truly is a character and James Spader's performance is deliciously degenerate. Yes this sequel is crowded and there iss a lot going on, but isn't that in the spirit of the comic books?

12.) Jurassic World
I love giant monster movies. Moreover, I love watching giant monsters fight! I mean come on, that's what movies do best! And the last fifteen minutes of Jurassic World gave me goosebumps! Oh, and the rest of the movie is fun as well. If you're looking for some thrilling high-concept cinema, then feel free to dig into some popcorn as dinosaurs dig into ignorant tourists.

11.) Grandma
Don't let the title fool you, this film has an edgy sense of humor and tells a progressive story about a teenage girl who asks her grandma to help her raise money for an abortion. A slew of talented actors breath life into this quirky, yet heartwarming dramedy about the strained relationships. It's consistently insightful and funny. Lily Tomlin as the titular grandmother simply hits it out of the park. If she does not see any love come Oscar season, it would be a big disappointment.

10.) Bridge of Spies
Nobody does historical war movies like Steven Speilberg. The man is simply a master and this time he has his most dangerous weapon lock and loaded: Tom Hanks. Hanks delivers one of his best performances here and that's truly a feat. He plays an insurance lawyer hired to negotiate the exchange of American and Russian POW's. Mark Rylance is a revelation as the Russian POW and definitely deserves Supporting love come February.

9.) Steve Jobs
Not a lot happens in Steve Jobs, which may sound surprising after all its critical acclaim. We follow Michael Fassbender as the titular character while he wanders around backstage at the three most vital product launches of his storied career. Not exactly The Avengers I know, but the combination of the tremendous performances and smart writing make for gripping drama that explores the intimate nuances of one of the most complex and controversial business heads of the past few decades.

8.) Spotlight 
There have been many great ensemble casts this year but none better than Spotlight, which tells the
story of the Boston Globe's investigation into the systemic child molestation cover-up within the Catholic Church. A hot topic for sure, but it's a fascinating story and despite the lengthy digging by these journalists, it's easy to follow, which makes the performances all the more absorbing. If you're not already invested in this story, you will be after seeing this.

7.) Straight Outta Compton
One of the great things I love about a great film is that it has the potential transcend barriers like musical preference to deliver a hard-hitting human story that we all can relate to in one way or another. Straight Outta Compton does just this when recollecting the rise and fall of one of hip-hop's most important groups, N.W.A. The melodrama both within and outside the group is enthralling and the performances are nothing short of moving. Definitely keep an eye out for this one in the Academy's Best Picture category, at the very least.

6.) It Follows
From the opening shot, It Follows establishes a menacing sense of nostalgia: Midwestern suburbia, fall. It owes a large debt of its bone-chilling success to the classic suburban horror flicks of the 70s and 80s, most notable, A Nightmare On Elm Street and Halloween. This is a deliberately crafted slow-burn that draws its tension from the sluggish revelation that these kids are safe nowhere. It also has given us one of the best soundtracks of the year.

5.) Kingsman: The Secret Service
'Kingsman' is an action-packed homage to the Bond films of old. It's loaded with well-choreographed
stunts and witty, often uproarious dialogue delivered perfectly by its mostly British star-studded cast. The wildly unknown Welsh actor Taaron Egerton proves he has what it takes to carry this franchis forward. However, it is the charismatic Samuel L. Jackson who steals the shows as a loony wrongdoer with a speech impediment. If a film is only as good as its villain, then 'Kingsman' is a hoot... And it is.

4.) Mad Max: Fury Road
We are in the age of the cash grab sequel (and prequel and reboot). So it's a bit of an event when a good one comes around. But 'Fury Road' is better than "good." It's a great sequel and one of the best films of the year. Tom Hardy is one of the best actors around and he is the perfect choice to take the reigns from Mel Gibson. And as good as Hardy is here, it's an even more impressive run for Charlize Theron. I know she has an Oscar already, but she is the emotional weight that anchors the aforementioned madness. Other pluses include balls-to-the-wall stunt work and an enhancement of the already rich mythos of Mad Max.

3.) Sicario
Prisoners was my favorite movie of 2013. Now Director Denis Villeneuve brings me my third- favorite movie of 2015, Sicario. Here the American government contracts a foreign hitman to take out the drug kingpin of Mexico. It's a violent, graphic, and compelling story centered around a squad of complex characters with intense relationships which grow more heated as the film progresses. Benicio del Toro stands out as the contracted killer who lets his actions rather than his words speak for him.

2.) Room
In addition to being my second-favorite movie of the year, Room is also one of the most depressing movies of the year. I say this as a caution and not as a detractive statement. It's a phenomenal film about being held captive for nearly a decade through the experience of a five year-old boy who has only known one space his entire life. As the story progresses, we witness the physiological collapse of his traumatized young mother against the childlike wonderment of this boy's new discoveries. At tits core though, it's the complicated, loving mother-son bond that will endear you to the end.

1.) Ex Machina
After last year's Under the Skin, starring Scarlett Johansson, the science fiction genre spoils us again with a remarkable film by first time Director, long time Writer, Alex Garland. Here, a computer geek is chosen to assess the human-like characteristics of an artificial intelligence named Ava. It's a small scale effort brimming with large ideas and outstanding performances; in particular, one Oscar Isaac. This film will captivate you. It will challenge you. It will, at times, break your humanoid heart. For these reasons, Ex Machina is my favorite movie of 2015.

Honorable mentions:
*The Revenant
*99 Homes
*Furious 7

Well there you have it. I'm glad we were given these movies. All of them will definitely find their way into my collection and I am happy to have them moving forward. And if you took the time to read this, I thank you and would like to hear your picks for your favorite movies of 2015. Leave me a comment below and let me know!