Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Movie Review: Brooklyn (PG13 – 111 minutes)

In continuing my quest to see as many of the 2016 Best Picture nominees as possible, I watched Brooklyn, which is nominated for 3 awards: Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay (it’s based on the novel by Colm Toibin).

Brooklyn tells the story of Eilis (pronounced Ay-lish) Lacey.  In 1952, she is living in her small town of Enniscorthy in southeast Ireland and working for a mean woman named Miss Kelly who runs a general store, feeling like nothing is going her way and she has no life to speak of.  Her older sister Rose has worked with a priest in New York to get her sponsored to go to the U.S.  She takes the ship-ride over, getting sick on the way, and battling bunkmates for the bathroom.  Arriving in New York, she moves into a boarding house with several other young Irish women, and starts working at a department store, despite her shy nature.  Her housemates and new boss help her try to overcome her homesickness and general quiet demeanor.  

The priest gets her enrolled in night bookkeeping courses to try to help with her sadness.  Her housemates take her to a dance, where she meets a local boy from a huge Italian town, Tony.  She and Tony begin dating, including a beach date to Coney Island.

She then (spoiler alert!) receives word from home that her sister has suddenly passed.  She decides to go back and visit with her mother for a short time, and Tony is worried she won’t return to him, so they decide to quickly and quietly get married – but not tell anyone, they’ll tell everyone when she gets back.  

So, she heads back to Ireland, where her mother swiftly starts in on the “I’m so alone here,” guilt trips, and has her write out her thank you notes for the sympathy cards.  She tells Eilis that she will need to stay through her friend’s wedding, as she has already RSVPed for both of them – even though the wedding is a week after she was scheduled to head back.  Eilis says okay, but you know I’m going to have to go back to America, which her mother basically ignores.  Well, her engaged friend shows up to visit, and brings a young eligible bachelor with her to set Eilis up, and as much as Eilis tells her hey, I totally have a boyfriend back in America, and I’m going to back to him, everybody is all about hooking her up with this random dude, Jim.  Incidentally, she does all the things with Jim that she did with Tony that won her over: dancing, beach dates, and dinner with his family – beach dates must have been a huge thing in the 50s.

On top of that, the place where her sister used to work calls her because they’re struggling without her sister, Rose.  She says she can help them get the payroll in order, and they let her know next week they’ll have more for her.  She reminds them that she has a job in America, but they’re not really interested in that and just keep handing her work.  So – suddenly, Elis has her mom, a friend’s wedding, a boyfriend, and a job - all these situations which seem to conspire to try to keep Eilis in Ireland – showing her a future there that she couldn’t see when she was actually living there.  However, the mean Miss Kelly shows back up, and for some reason that I couldn’t figure out, tells Eilis she knows Eilis is married and she’s going to tell everyone!  Eilis says, yep – I’m totally married, and now I’m leaving here for real and heading back to America.  She immediately says goodbye to her mother and leaves.  And she seems to live happily ever after with Tony.

The movie is directed by John Crowley, and it does look lovely.  I’m a little surprised they didn’t get a costuming nomination, as all the 50s clothes were pretty great – especially the scene where Eilis has to buy a bathing suit for the first time.  The cast was great, and certainly fit the story.

  • Saoirse Ronan (pronounced Sher-sha) is nominated as Best Actress – and yes, I think she deserves the nomination, as she definitely carried the movie.  She does a good job of showing Eilis’s transformation from meek and shy girl to happy and determined woman.

  • Fiona Glascott plays her sister Rose, who helps her get going on her life.
  • Jim Broadbent plays Father Flood – the priest in America who sponsors her to come over.

  • Jane Brennan plays her father, Mary – who tries to get her to stay in Ireland.
  • Julie Walters (Mrs. Potter) plays Madge Keogh, the woman who is running the boarding house and who tries to keep all the ladies in line and behaving like proper 50s ladies. After all, how else will they ever find husbands? She actually was pretty hilarious, and made her parts of the movie really entertaining – I only wish the rest of the movie matched her tone.

  • The ladies who play the other housemates are all pretty fun, but the only one I recognized was Emily Bett Rickards from Arrow.  I couldn’t tell if she was supposed to be doing an Irish accent and was terrible at it, or if her character was American, and so had no accent – but all the other girls in the house were Irish…It was a little confusing. But hey – Felicity!

  • Emory Cohen plays Tony, the local Italian plumber and he’s quick to woo Eilis.  He also takes her over to his family’s house for dinner, which was pretty entertaining because since she had never had Italian food before, her housemates gave her a training session on how to eat pasta.

  • Domhnall Gleeson plays the very eligible Jim Farrell, who Eilis’s friend sets her up with promptly upon her return to Ireland.  He’s certainly nice, but I just kept thinking that Eilis should just head back to America and put a stop to all this.

Personally, I found the movie extremely boring.  Really nothing happens – she comes to America, gets settled, head back to Ireland where everyone there tries to keep her there – then comes back to America. The end.  I suppose the nuance is in the acting and the subtleties of the story.  Like I said, the movie looks lovely, and everyone does a great job – I suppose it’s just not my cup of tea.  

4 out of 10 – just too boring for me, but well-crafted.  Julie Walters gets all the points for her hilarious dinner conversations.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Movie Review: Spotlight (R- 128 minutes)

In my continued effort to get through as many of the 2016 Best Picture nominees as I can, I have successfully watched the movie Spotlight, which has 6 nominations (Best Picture, Best Director, Best supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing).

Spotlight is the name of the special investigative reporting team on the Boston Globe – they are three reporters (Mike Rezendes, Sacha Pfeiffer, Matt Carroll) and their boss, Walter “Robby” Robinson.  In 2001, the Boston Globe hired a new editor, Marty Baron, and in doing his research on the paper he just joined, he was researching some prior articles and found a small piece about a lawyer, Mitchell Garabedian, who stated that the Archbishop of the Boston Catholic Church (Cardinal Law) knew that a priest was sexually abusing children, and did nothing to stop the priest.  Baron encourages Spotlight to revisit the article, and in their subsequent digging into the situation, they eventually find evidence that 6 percent of priests or 87 Boston priests, had abused children, and the church did nothing to stop it – or at the very least, supported very mild responses to the allegations.  The Spotlight team pushes to get details for the story, despite pressure from the town and the church to drop the story.  Eventually they published their findings in 2002, causing major uproar across the country as people realized this was happening in many more locations, and giving many more victims the courage to come forward. 

This is another awards-season movie that tells a difficult story in a very high quality way. Directed by Tom McCarthy (who previously directed the Station Agent, Win Win and the Cobbler), the movie is very interesting and tackles a very difficult topic in a new style.  By following the Spotlight team and focusing on the reporting of the evidence, the story sticks to delivering the facts in a very straightforward method and allows the audience to feel the reporters’ rising anger as they realize that the church did find this situation to be ‘no big deal’, and had been more invested in covering it up than stopping it.  The cast is key in this, and having the right people in these roles helps to make them approachable and relateable.  

  • Michael Keaton plays Walter “Robby” Robinson, the leader of the Spotlight team. It’s a subtle and determined performance from him (very different from last year’s Birdman), and he’s excellent, especially as Robby slowly realizes that he had the opportunity to run this story years ago when it was first brought to his attention, but too many people shifted his focus elsewhere.

  • Mark Ruffalo is nominated as Best Supporting Actor and really does a great job of slightly disappearing into Mike Rezendes, he’s consumed with his job, and seems to constantly be chasing down the truth.  He gets angry when Robby wants to hold the story until they get enough to mention all the priests instead of publishing when they have enough to only call out one.

  • Rachel McAdams plays Sacha Pfeiffer, and has been nominated for best supporting actress.  She does a good job – I’m not sure it’s worth the nomination – but she’s very good.  She has some especially difficult scenes where Sacha has to attempt to relate with her very catholic Nana as her own faith in the church crumbles. 

  • Brian d’Arcy James plays Matt Carroll, and does an amazing job playing the surprise and horror of a reporter who realizes that one of the church’s “treatment centers” for priests accused of abuse is near his own home.  Shocked as he continues to find details – he requests that his children stay away from that location.

  • John Slattery plays Ben Bradlee Jr., who was a reporter and editor at the Boston Globe, supervising the Spotlight team. He did a really good job of portraying a man who wanted to protect his city – but also needed to expose the depths of this story once the evidence was uncovered.  The real Bradlee has a cameo in the movie as a journalist with a notepad listening to Slattery talk in a post 9/11 meeting.

  • Liev Schreiber plays Marty Baron, the new editor of the Globe who struggles with moving to a new city, being Jewish in a large Catholic area, and then promptly backing a story that most of the town doesn’t want to hear about.  Schreiber does a fantastic job of humanizing Baron, and making the audience root for him.

  • Stanley Tucci in a pretty good wig plays lawyer Mitchell Garabedian.  He’s the one trying to get justice for the victims, and helps Rezendes find some of the documents that he filed as proof.

  • Billy Crudup plays Eric Macleish, an attorney who helped the church bury previous accusations.

I will say that I missed the fact in the beginning of the movie that the Archbishop’s last name was ‘Law’, so every time the team mentioned that Law knew, or Cardinal Law had been informed, it took me a bit to figure they meant Cardinal Law, a person, and not cardinal law – a law that applies to cardinals.  It resulted in some confusion for me, but hey – just goes to show I should be paying better attention.  The movie is long, but very interesting, and really does a great job of reminding you how important newspapers reporters can be.  Because we currently live in a time where any information (with or without backing facts) can hit almost immediately via social media and TV, we often forget how important the grunt-work of newspaper reports can be.  The Spotlight team had to go out and painstakingly research each and every detail of the story to ensure they presented the facts. I really appreciated that aspect of the movie. The movie doesn’t demonize or hero-worship anyone – it sticks right with the facts by focusing on the reporters doing their work. I also found it interesting that there have been several members of the catholic church that have come out in support of the movie.

7 out of 10 – Big points for telling a hard story in a unique way with some really great performances.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Movie Review: Deadpool (R – 108 minutes)

In 1989, The Punisher was released.  Based on a fairly obscure (at the time) Marvel comics character and starring Dolph Lundgren with his hair dyed black, Louis Gossett Jr., and Jeroen Krabbe as the villain, the movie was …well … forgettable (the 2009 Thomas Jane version was better) - who knows how the Jon Bernthal version will be on the Daredevil show..that dude is intense enough already, and now they're letting him play the Punisher?

In 1998 Blade was released, an R-rated movie based on a Marvel comics character.  The movie was great, Wesley Snipes was born to play Blade, but the sequel by Guillermo del Toro was even better. Please give us a new one…please!

So, yes, there have been rated R movies based on Marvel characters released previously.  However, the Punisher is always more of an action/vengeance story, and Blade was a vampire movie – bordering on horror.  There has never really been an R-rated ‘superhero’ movie…even though Wolverine probably needs one to really show what Wolverine is all about.  The Disney-owned Marvel Film company owns some of the Marvel Characters, some are owned by Fox, and SpiderMan has been with Sony.  That’s why the current Marvel Cinematic universe is dealing with ‘inhumans’ rather than ‘mutants’.  Fox owns the word mutant. Yes, it’s that crazy.  In any case, Fox owns Mutants, X-Men, and Deadpool.  In 2009, Wolverine got his first spin-off movie, tracing the events that led up to his run-in with the X-Men in their first movie in 2000.  Yes, I know the timelines are confusing.  In that Wolverine movie, Wade Wilson was introduced.  He was a loudmouth mercenary who was entered into the Weapon X program, and became a version of Deadpool that was unrecognizable from the comics character. 

Ryan Reynolds did get to play him, and was equally as disappointed in the depiction of the character as all the fans were.  He basically then started fighting for a Deadpool standalone movie, and has finally won that fight. 

In terms of Marvel characters, most of the ones you are most familiar with from the movies are old characters, dating back to the 60s, and in Captain America’s case, the 40s.  In those terms, Deadpool is practically a baby, created in 1991.  Initially, he was created as a villain, but has since become an anti-hero, who occasionally does good things, but always for his own reasons. Wade Wilson is a disfigured and mentally unstable mercenary, with the superpower of accelerated healing.  He’s always been known as the “merc with a mouth” because of his very (very) talkative persona, and tendency to break the “fourth wall” and talk directly to the audience.  His completely off-the-wall persona quickly gained him a rabid fan base, and in a 2004 comic – he actually refers to his own appearance as “Ryan Reynolds crossed with a Shar-Pei”. 

In 2014, test footage of Deadpool, voiced by Reynolds, was leaked, and the fans loved it – and immediately clamoured for a movie, resulting in getting the full-length project greenlit much faster.  Reynolds has almost denied leaking the footage himself, stating that he’s 70% sure it wasn’t him.  Fast-forward to now and we finally have a full-length rated-R Deadpool movie.

The movie begins with a very tongue-in-cheek credits sequence (“Starring a hot chick – a british villain”, etc.) over the car crash sequence you’ve seen in the trailers.  Deadpool then walks us through his backstory through a series of flashbacks.  Basically – he’s a mercenary for hire who meets the love of his life, Vanessa, then gets aggressive cancer. In a desperate move to save himself, he makes the mistake of signing up with a shady organization run by ‘Ajax’ with assistance from the super-strong Angel Dust. They promise to cure him, but they weren’t completely up front with him, and instead of curing people, they’re forcing them to mutate.  Wilson gets cured, but ends up severely disfigured.  He’s convinced he can’t go back to his love with his new face, so he makes himself a fancy red outfit and starts tracking down Ajax to try to get his face fixed.  Along the way, he gets help from his pal Weasel, his blind roommate Al, and occasionally from X-men Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead. 

It’s a really simple story when you break it down – he just wants his face fixed, and unlike other superhero movies – the earth is never in peril, and no villain is looking to kill/take over anything.  The spectacular part of the movie is in the near-flawless execution.  The action sequences are fantastic, the movie is fast-paced, and makes me really excited for whatever first time director Tim Miller is going to do next.  Which I surely hope is just more Deadpool.  The cast is just fabulous, and really help with elevating the material.

  • This is clearly the role Ryan Reynolds was born to play, it’s clear how much he loves this character and how happy he is to be in the movie.  The complete sarcastic, comic nature of Deadpool is really entertaining – and honestly, is something you’ve seen Reynolds do before, just not in this context.  The fourth-wall breaking is done just enough to be hilarious, but not get over-used or tired.  I can’t wait to see him continue to do this over and over again.

  • Ed Skrein plays aforementioned British villain Ajax.  This might be the first thing I’ve seen that uses him correctly. He was in the Transporter re-fueled, and just felt not-quite-right in that role.  Here he gets to be charming and vile at almost the same time and really is the perfect too-straight-laced-counterpart to Deadpool’s nonsense.

  • Colossus is all CGI, but the voice acting is done by Stefan Kapicic, and he’s really wonderfully square.  He continues to pester Deadpool to be more of a hero, and to step-up and possibly join the X-Men. 

  • Brianna Hildebrand plays Negasonic Teenage Warhead, and she’s absolutely perfect as Wade’s description of a teenage girl, giving “either sullen silence or saying something mean.”  Her power in the movie is different than her power in the comics, but honestly, the movie power seems to fit her name better. 

  • T. J. Miller plays Weasel and he’s just as hilarious as you expect T. J. Miller to be, but on a more low-key level than you might be expecting. He doesn’t have as much to do as he could, and while most of his lines seem to be improv, I could have used just a little more. Also – what’s up with his hair? There’s no need to do that to T.J.’s hair.

  • Morena Baccarin plays ex-prostitute (or perhaps current prostitute?) Vanessa.  She and Wade hit it off almost immediately, realizing they are both screwed up and loving each other anyway. She’s a pretty fun character who, even when captured, manages to not be too much of a damsel in distress.

  • MMA Star Gina Carano plays Angel Dust, and honestly, looks like the super-strength has always been there.  She seems way more at ease in this movie than she has in previous movies.  I’m happy that Colossus saved her at the end, so she’ll probably get to be back in the next one.  Her fight scene with him was just fantastic, by the way.  Incidentally, if you haven’t seen Haywire – Netflix that now.

Like I said, the cast seems to be super happy to be in this, and it shows – the movie is so much fun, so entertaining, and really enjoyable.  I will mention – there were kids in my showing – this movie is a hard R.  I mean it – I get that it’s a Marvel comic character, and if you’re not paying attention, maybe you think it’s okay for kids, but there’s a high level of gore, violence, and cursing, and even if you think that’s okay for your kid (sorry your kid’s so messed up), the high level of sex and nudity probably is not.  Unless you don’t have an issue explaining to your 6 year old how Deadpool’s lady is enjoying him with a strap-on.

9 out of 10 – almost flawless.  Removing 1 point for T.J.’s hair, and for no Wolverine cameo, but hoping that will be in the sequel.

Bonus SDCC 2015 panel:

And this bit of fantastic:

Friday, February 12, 2016

2015 Year In Review

There has been a lot of hub-bub (you heard me - hub-bub!) about the Oscar nominations this year.  Every year, I find their nominations to be a bit silly – the majority of the movies nominated are things that average folks have not seen, and quite frankly, have no interest in seeing.  There’s nothing wrong with tiny, independent movies – but they’re not inherently better than large, big-budget flicks, and that really should be accepted as a personal preference.
Just because it’s a based-on-a-true-story acting powerhouse does not make it a better movie than something with two or three completely CGI characters and a couple explosions (okay, a lot of 'splosions).  Honestly, if you want to know what the people thought were the best movies of the year, check the box office records – that tells you what people wanted to see: 1) Star Wars, 2)Jurassic World, 3) Avengers 2, 4) Inside Out, 5) Furious 7, 6) Minions, 7) Hunger Games 3, pt.2, 8) The Martian, 9) Cinderella, 10) Spectre.
The Academy’s job is to highlight quality – but, keep in mind, it's their definition of quality – which I almost never agree with.  They tend to be elitist, stuffy, and pretentious.  But hey, if it weren’t for the nominations, I would almost never see some of these smaller movies, so I will acknowledge that they bring awareness to projects that otherwise would have been completely under my radar.

As to the racial controversy, yes, the nominees are all white – but they’re almost always all white.  That is both frustrating and upsetting, but the nominations don’t reflect my personal movie taste, and they never have.  Hopefully the controversy will bring about some good change, opening the Academy’s mind to a wider range of films to nominate and their own shortsightedness, as well as opening more roles for people of color in a wider range of films.  If you haven't seen SNL's take on the nominations - check it out, it's pretty hilarious (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ospx7tXWYbI)
Ice Cube had the best reaction when asked if he was upset Straight Outta Compton wasn’t nominated more.  He said no, he wasn’t upset, they didn’t make the movie for the critics – they made it for the fans.  I’d so much rather see a movie made for the audience than one made for the purpose of winning awards.

Thanks to my love of Excel Pivot Tables, I’ve once again tallied the Oscar Nominations, and determined which movies the Academy thinks are the best for the year – I’m giving you the top twenty, below that, they all get to single nominations.  The blurbs are taken from IMDB, because they sum up the movies better than I could.  Currently, I’ve seen two of the 9 best picture nominees.  I’m working on some of the rest, but it’s really tough to get motivated to see some of them!  Again, I've included videos from Screen Junkies's Honest Trailers and Cinema Sins 'Everything Wrong With', because they are just hilarious.  If you have the time, go ahead and fall down a YouTube hole of those videos.

The Academy’s Best:
1.       The Revenant (12 nominations) “A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team”.  I haven’t seen this yet, I’m not sure I will.  I am not a diCaprio fan, not for any particular reason, just don’t find him interesting.  Folks are saying he’s better in this than he’s been in a while, and this will be his best chance so far to win Best Actor.  I didn’t really like Inarritu’s last movie, Birdman, so I’m not super-amped up about forcing myself to watch this one.  I’m not really against it, I’m just ambivalent.

2.       Mad Max Fury Road (9 nominations) “A woman rebels against a tyrannical rules in post-apocalyptic Australia in search for her home-land with the help of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshipper, and a drifter named Max”.  Hard to believe, but the second movie on this list is on my top list too. I thought this movie was fantastic, but mainly just because it was all visuals and practical effects.  Charlize Theron was fabulous as Furiosa, a woman who drives angrily for about an hour to get to a place, learns that place isn’t what she thought it was, so drives an hour back being chased by various groups of baddies the whole time.  Basically that’s it – nothing much else happens.  But it’s the incredible visuals along the way that sold the movie for me.

3.       The Martian (8 nominations) “During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew.  But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet.  With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.”  Haven’t seen this yet either, mainly because when it was out – I couldn’t bring myself to find three hours to sit through it.  Three hours!  That’s a long time to watch Matt Damon “science the hell” out of anything.  And now, I’m even less inclined to watch it since it despicably won ‘Best Comedy’ at the Golden Globes.  You fail Globes judges…fail!

4.       Bridge of Spies (6 nominations) “During the Cold War, an American Lawyer is recruited to defend an arrested Soviet spy in court, and then help the CIA facilitate an exchange of the spy for the Soviet captured American U2 spy plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers.”  This I’ve seen, and it’s certainly a well-put together Spielberg/Hanks production.  Everybody in it is great, Hanks doesn’t give you anything new, but Mark Rylance stole the movie for me as the alleged Russian spy.  I’m hoping he wins Best Supporting Actor.

5.       Carol (6 nominations) “An aspiring photographer develops an intimate relationship with an older woman.” This is on my list of movies to force myself to watch, it just sounds helplessly boring.  A lot of sitting around and talking in the 30s. 

6.       Spotlight (6 nominations) “The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.”  I saw this, and while it's an upsetting story - it makes for a good movie as you root for the reporters to get the news out, and it does a good job of showing the importance of reporters. It is easy to get instantaneous information now, but detailed fact-finding is something reporters are still needed for.  The pacing is good, which can be tough with a movie like this.  There's a lot of talk about Rachel McAdams's performance and her nomination, but I think Ruffalo deserves his a little more. 

7.       Star Wars: The Force Awakens (5 nominations) “Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ratag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.”  My favorite movie of the year – which I enjoy more and more each time I see it – despite the fact that I was a huge fan of the novels already in place that told the stories of the Expanded Universe.  This movie does a wonderful job of continuing the story, and setting up entirely new characters.

8.       The Big Short (5 nominations) “Four denizens in the world of high-finance predict the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s, and decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight.”  Adam McKay directed an Oscar movie! Well, Awards Season loves movies based on true stories with overacting and ‘letting oneself go’ in the role.  McKay told everyone to gain some weight and look more sloppy, so the actors were happy. I thought this movie was fascinating, and it did a good job of trying to explain the mortgage crisis and how it caused the economic collapse, but man - it's still really confusing, and just made me really angry at the banks. 

9.       Room (4 nominations) “After five-year-old Jack and his mother escape from the enclosed surroundings that Jack has known his entire life, the boy makes a thrilling discovery.”  Holy crap was this movie depressing, like a heavy drama version of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Pinot Noir!).  I will say that Brie Larson's performance was exceptional.  The entire story is told from the point of view of the kid, which is annoying - but also gives the movie an entirely new level that pushes it over the top - I don't think it would have the buzz it has if it was told from the mother's point of view.  Half the movie is them stuck in the room, half is after they escape (spoiler alert - they escape), when Jack is attempting to acclimate to the real world.  Depressing, horrific, upsetting, and really well done.

10.   The Danish Girl (4 nominations) “A fictitious love story loosely inspired by the lives of Danish artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener.  Lili and Gerda’s marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili’s groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer.” Again, Oscars love loosely-based-on-a-true-life-event movies, and this one is no exception.  Eddie Redmayne may get his second award in as many years.

11.   Brooklyn (3 nominations) “An Irish immidgrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a romance with a local.  When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.”  It seems to me the best reason to see this one is to brag to your friends that you know how to pronounce Saoirse Ronan’s name. It’s “Sayer-sha”, Gaelic is weird.  I did see this and honestly, it's one of the most boring movies I've seen in a really long time. She leaves Ireland - gets settled in the U.S., meets a boy, goes back home to Ireland, where her friends and family try to get her to stay, but then one of them upsets her and she goes back to the U.S.  It's really long, and not much happens.  Essentially the point is Ronan's performance, which is good - but man, the movie is slow.  Also - the drama that the IMDB tagline hints at never really happens - her past doesn't really "catch up with her", and her 'choice' didn't seem all that drastic.

12.   Sicario (3 nominations) “An idealistic FBI agent is elisted by a government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.”  Benecio del Toro and Emily Blunt star in this gritty action/drama.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I will go ahead and support Blunt’s continued push toward’s action stardom.

13.   The Hateful Eight (3 nominations) “In the dead of a Wyoming winter, a bounty hunter and his prisoner find shelter in a cabin currently inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters.” A typical Quentin Tarantino movie – or at least a typical set up.  Again – I’m not really a fan of his, so I didn’t see this in the theater, but I’ll probably catch it on DVD – again, it’s almost three hours long, longer if you saw the version with the intermission.  Set up like a play, it allows some Tarantino regulars to play against one another in one room for a while.

14.   Ex Machina (2 nominations) “A young programmer is selected to participate in a ground-breaking experiment in synthetic intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breath-taking humanoid A.I.”  Easily my biggest surprise of the year, I loved this.  It is such a quiet and tight little movie that really relies on the performances to tell a great sci-fi tale.  Also – Oscar Isaac has a weird beard and a dance number.

15.   Inside Out (2 nominations) “After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – conflict on how best to navigate a new house, city, and school.” I saw this, and it was okay, but it’s Pixar pulling on your heart strings the way only they know how.  It’s well done, but honestly, shouldn’t we remove the animated category from the Oscars? Pixar just wins almost every year.  If the category is removed, then whatever they release, if good enough, can be nominated for best film.

16.   Steve Jobs (2 nominations) “Steve Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution, to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches, ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac.”  I can’t remember how many other Steve Jobs movies there are, so I’m not sure we really needed another one, but since this once focused exclusively on three specific product launches to tell its story, it’s different than the others…or so they say.

17.   Creed (1 nomination) “The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival, Apollo Creed.”  Another one on my list!  I was shocked by how much I liked this movie.  I expected Michael B. Jordan to be great, especially when paired with his Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler.  However, I was not expecting the exceptional performance that Stallone gave.  It was a surprise.

18.   Joy (1 nomination) “Joy is the story of the title character, who rose to become founder and matriarch of a powerful family business dynasty.”  Yet another David O. Russell/Jennifer Lawrence December release to gain some Oscar nominations.  This one has gotten lower reviews than the other two (Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle).  Maybe enough that he won’t give us another one next year?

19.   Spectre (1 nomination) “A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.” I keep going back and forth as to whether or not I liked this movie.  There were pieces that I loved – and pieces I didn’t.  Since it’s on my best list – I’ll leave the loved for below, and mention that Craig looks bored at best and irritated at worst during this very wooden performance.  Also – the movie criminally underuses the magnificence that is Monica Belluci, and reduces the other Bond girl to just another Bond girl even though she starts out as independent.  It seems one of Bond’s super-powers is removing a woman’s independence.

20.   Straight Outta Compton (1 nomination) “The group NWA emerges from the mean streets of Compton in Los Angeles, California, in the mid-1980s and revolutionizes Hip Hop culture with their music and tales about life in the hood.” I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this one as well. It’s definitely a movie, not a documentary, and there are some liberties taken with the truth. It's definitely well put together – and absolutely humanizes the members of the group that was demonized by the media at the time.

Now, Here are my 20 favorite of the year, again – by no means the best quality, but my favorites…the ones I enjoyed the most.

1.       Star Wars: the Force Awakens: Just my favorite thing of the year – so much fun, so well done.  Yes, it feels the same as Episode IV, but honestly, I liked that about it.  I liked the inclusion of the Legacy characters and the introduction of the new characters.  Poe is fun, Finn is fantastic – but Rey….Rey is everything.  She is a fantastic action star, an amazing Jedi-to-be, and helps to make Star Wars the mainstream madness that it has always deserved to be.  If I could only tell my younger self that not only would it someday be cool to like Star Wars, but that there would be a badass girl leading the Star Wars universe… amazing. I cannot wait to see what happens next.

2.       Ant-Man “Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, cat burglar Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.” Of the two Marvel movies this year – this is the one I preferred. I really enjoyed this quirky little movie.  The action was great, the characters were great, and I really loved the heist-nature of the story.  I also loved the side characters – and that giant ant that just starts running around at the end.

3.       Jurassic World “A new theme park is built on the original site of Jurassic Park.  Everything is going well until the park’s newest attraction – a genetically modified giant stealth killing machine – escapes containment and goes on a killing spree.”  Thin on plot but high on CGI dinosaur action.  I loved this.  It’s a fantastic popcorn movie.  I definitely missed the practical nature of the dinosaur effects from the first Jurassic Park – when they are entirely CGI, you do miss a bit; however, I would watch Blue and her pack of raptors on their own adventures in a heartbeat.  Blue was amazing! Also – I really need to get a pair of those shoes that Bryce Dallas Howard had, if you can outrun a TRex in them, clearly they are amazing. 

4.       Avengers Age Of Ultron “When Tony Stark and Bruce Banner try to jump-start a dormant peacekeeping program called Ultron, things go horribly wrong and it’s up to Earth’s Mightiest heroes to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans.”  Tony is just constantly making things more difficult for the other Avengers.  This one suffered a bit from too-much-syndrome.  Probably too much on the action scenes, maybe too much on the characters, and maybe just a bit too much on the amount of robots in the finale.  But – it’s still great fun and I’ll never get tired of seeing a bunch of Marvel heroes on screen together.  Plus – Vision was fantastic.

5.       Spy “A desk-bound CIA analyst volunteers to go undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer, and prevent diabolical global disaster.” I don’t care what Damon is science-ing – this was far and away the best comedy of the year.  Melissa McCarthy is always funny, but what stole the movie for me was Jason Statham as her sidekick.  Absolutely hilarious – please franchise this!

6.       Ex Machina: “A young programmer is selected to participate in a ground-breaking experiment in synthetic intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breath-taking humanoid A.I.”  Alicia Vikander’s super-creepy performance of the machine working its way towards being human is just amazing. Creepy, weird, small, quiet, and really interesting.

7.       Trainwreck “Having thought that monogamy was never possible, a commitment-phobic career woman may have to face her fears when she meets a good guy.”  The second best comedy of the year with a surprisingly hilarious role from LeBron James. If you like Amy Schumer’s stand up or Comedy Central show, you’ll love this.  If you have no idea who she is, but enjoy a quality R-rated comedy with a surprising amount of heart now and then, you’ll love this.  If you like seeing Tilda Swinton surprise you by playing a very un-Tilda-Swinton character, you’ll love this.  If you like John Cena and want to see him in more movies, you’ll love this. Honestly – it’s pretty hilarious, chances are you’ll love it.

8.       Mission Impossible Rogue Nation “Ethan and team take on their most impossible mission yet, eradicating the Syndicate – an Internation rogue organization as highly skilled as they are, committed to destroying the IMF.” A really high-quality action movie where that insane plane stunt from the trailers is in the cold-open.  Tom Cruise cares about delivering entertaining popcorn flicks, and it shows.  This movie is big time fun, and really watchable.  Plus – Rebecca Ferguson is fantastic as a female operative equal to Ethan Hunt – she’s everything that Bond movies refuse to include…

9.       Kingsman: the Secret Service: “A spy organization recruits an unrefined, but promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program, just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius.” Second best Surprise of the year.  Not knowing anything about this other than I like movies directed by Matthew Vaughn, I was really pleasantly surprised.  It’s silly, over-the-top, nonstop action.  I’ve never laughed so hard at multiple heads exploding! Plus, Samuel L. Jackson with a silly lisp!

10.   Furious 7: “Deckard Shaw seeks revenge against Dominic Toretto and his family for his comatose brother.” They can keep making these, and I will keep seeing them.  One of the only summer tent-pole movies with a global and diverse cast – it provides exactly what it promises – big time action sequences with cars.  And, a surprisingly touching and sweet send-off for Paul Walker.

11.   Creed: “The former World Heavyweight Champion Rocky Balboa serves as a trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnosn, the son of his late friend and former rival, Apollo Creed”. Again – an amazing performance from an aging Stallone who is now the same age that Burgess Meredith was in the first Rocky.  Yes, just think about that for a minute.  Michael B. Jordan is amazing, and will win an Oscar someday, but not for this – this one is Stallone’s as Rocky deals with the surprising appearance of Apollo’s kid and his own declining health and advancing age.

12.   Man from U.N.C.L.E.: “In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons.”  I enjoyed Henry Cavill in this more than in any other movie I have seen him in.  This ultra-slick spy was tailor made for him, and almost made me want him to be the next Bond (only if Idris Elba is too busy with his side-career as a DJ), which would be more in line with the Moore version.  It’s also the first movie that seems to have a clue what to do with Armie Hammer, who seems to have been a puzzle for Hollywood up to this point.  There were a few odd moments, but honestly, I really enjoyed this, the quick banter, the action, and especially Elizabeth Debicki’s villain.  She was easily the best part.

13.   Mad Max Fury Road: “A woman rebels against tyrannical rules in post-apocalyptic Australia in search for her home-land with the help of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshipper, and a drifter named Max”. Again – I loved the visual nature of this movie.  There’s almost no plot, but I enjoyed it for Furiosa’s complete owning of the situation, determination in saving the ladies that were being kept as basically pets, and for the fact that director George Miller (who did the original Mad Max) hired Cirque du Soleil performers and Olympic athletes to pull off the crazy car-related stunts.  Yes those are real people swinging back and forth on those poles.

14.   Pitch Perfect 2: “After a humiliating command performance at the Kennedy Center, the Barden Bellas enter an international competition that no American group has ever won in order to regain their status and right to perform.”  This is pretty much a movie where the plot is unimportant.  Elizabeth Banks directs all the Bellas from the first movie and a couple of new ones in new acapella nonsense with plenty of improv scenes.  And it’s hilarious.

15.   Spectre: “A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.” As I said above, pieces of this movie I loved, pieces I hated.  I loved the throwback feel, bringing in Waltz in as Blofeld was fantastic.  I loved that M, Moneypenny, and Q had some out-of-the-office action moments, and I loved the inclusion of Andrew Scott as M’s new nemesis, C.

16.   Run All Night: “Mobster and hit man Jimmy Conlon has one night to figure out where his loyalties lie: with his estranged son, Mike, whose life is in danger, or his longtime best friend, mob boss Shawn Maguire, who wants Mike to pay for the death of his own son.”  Here we have Liam Neeson doing what Liam Neeson does best.  Pairing him with Ed Harris as his best friend turned nemesis was a brilliant movie, and finally a movie that figures out what to do with Joel Kinneman.  He’s great in this as Neeson’s son caught in a sticky situation.  Also great? Common as a random hit man with no beard.  Common looks weird with no beard.

17.   Terminator Genisys. “When John Connor, leader of the human resistance, sends Sgt. Kyle Reese back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor and safeguard the future, an unexpected turn of events creates a fractured timeline.”  Okay, here we get down to the movies that we can argue about.  This one was obviously not a great movie, and certainly nowhere near the greatness of the original, or even the sequel.  I had very, very (very) low expectations, so I think there was enough good in it to win me over.  I liked the idea of Sarah being rescued by the T-800 when she was little, so that he basically raised her. I liked Emilia Clarke as a young Linda Hamilton, I didn’t mind Jason Clarke as John Connor (although I’m still pissed at the marketing for ruining the big twist in the trailers).  Schwarzenegger is just Schwarzenegger, and yes – his one-liners are wearing a bit thin, but I did enjoy his ‘old’ terminator.  Jai Courtney, as much as I want to be a fan of his, is still wooden, and it would seem that no one is really sure how to use him best.

18.   Crimson Peak: “In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider.  Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds, and remembers.” Here we have Guillermo del Toro’s gothic romance, and in a summer/fall of reboots, sequels, and relaunches – it was nice to see something original.  It’s a romance with a ghost in it, not necessarily a ghost story.  What makes it wonderful are del Toro’s visuals, which are stunning as always. 

19.   Last Witch Hunter: “The last witch hunter is all that stands between humanity and the combined forces of the most horrifying witches in history.”  Okay, yes, this one is just straight up bad.  But, what can I say – from time to time I enjoy a terrible movie, especially one with a great deal of Vin Diesel and Michael Caine over-acting.  Plus, Elijah Wood was pretty great. 

20.   San Andreas : “In the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, a rescue-chopper pilot makes a dangerous journey with his ex-wife across the state in order to rescue his daughter.” – Honestly, this movie is also terrible – but it’s a completely cliché-ridden, CGI Spectacle, over-the-top, piece-of-nonsense-style terrible that is actually fun to watch. And I do mean cliché-ridden.  It has every single disaster-flick cliché that you can think of.  Plus – the Rock – always a good thing. And Paul Giamatti trying to warn everyone about earthquakes and redeem his terrible reputation from Straight Outta Compton.  Also -  Ioan Gruffudd plays the terrible new boyfriend/stepfather figure.

And, just because it’s always fun for me to vent about what I hated – here is the bottom of last year,

1.       Fantastic Four: “Four young outsiders teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe which alters their physical form in shocking ways. The four must learn to harness their new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy.” – The reality is that Mortedecai is probably the worst movie of the year, but I’m giving this one the title mainly because I was just so incredibly disappointed.  It was burdened by bad word of mouth and a truly troubled production from the start. Dr. Doom is one of the most amazing villains in Marvel history, and he’s completely butchered in this movie.  Which is a shame, because I thought Toby Koebbel was a good choice.  Michael B. Jordan tries – he does, but everything else is terrible.  TERRIBLE.  It’s dark and moody when it’s a movie about Marvel’s first family, who are usually pretty light and entertaining.  The scene where the characters first get their powers is scary and something out of a horror film. Also – Reed leaves his family in the hands of the government for a year, which he would never do.  Also – Ben was always the pilot, not just a friend.  It’s physically painful to sit through all this mess and wasted potential. Hey, Fox, please sell the rights to this back to Marvel, and let them make a good movie out of their property.

2.       Mortedecai: “Juggling angry Russians, the British Mi5, and an international terrorist, debonair art dealer and part time rogue Charlie Mortdecai races to recover a stolen painting rumored to contain a code that leads to lost Nazi gold.” Another nearly physically painful movie.  Depp again attempts to disappear into a character that is initially presented as a complete imbecile, managing to stay alive only with the assistance of his…man-servant?  However, we’re then supposed to accept that he is a talented art historian, and that his wife loves him – however Paltrow’s performance is seething with so much superiority, that at no point did I believe she loved her husband, or gave a damn about anyone in the movie besides herself.  Also – the movie wasted Paul Bettany.  Hey, Bettany – stop being in movies with Jonny Depp.  The Tourist, Transcendence, and now this – he’s lying to you when he says he’s got a good one for you.

3.       Get Hard: “When millionaire James King is jailed for fraud and boung for San Quentin, he turns to Darnell Lewis to prep him to go behind bars.” Here’s more wasted potential – Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart should be a hilarious pairing, but sheesh, this was an un-funny mess.   It may have been better to just let them improv the whole movie, never mind the script – which was more insulting than funny.
4.       Transporter Refueled: “In the south of France, a former special-ops mercenary Frank Martin enters into a game of chess with a femme-fatale and her three sidekicks who are looking for revenge against a sinister Russian kingpin.”  Here we have a useless reboot.  The first Transporter gave us Jason Statham, and is not nearly old enough to warrant giving us a reboot – especially with such an un-charismatic lead.  At least Ray Stevenson was fun, but he comes off like he’s in an entirely different movie.

5.       Pixels: “When aliens misinterpret video feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth in the form of the video games”.  Another movie that suffers from a huge waste of potential.  The idea that invading aliens take on the appearance and powers of 80s videogames could be a hilarious and interesting movie – instead, we get an Adam Sandler movie that is bad even by Adam Sandler movie standards.  Kevin James is the president, for some inexplicable reason, and Josh Gad and Peter Dinklage round out the ‘stars’.  Michelle Moghnahan is in the movie, as Sandler’s love interest…and their interactions are straight up horrific. To say there’s a lack of chemistry is not coming close.  Women are repeatedly treated as nothing more than trophies – literally and figuratively.  Here’s the one positive thing – the graphics are fantastic.  Watch the short film the movie was based on instead – it’s far superior.

6.       Sleeping with Other People: “A good-natured womanizer and a serial cheater form a platonic relationship that helps reform them in ways, while a mutual attraction sets in.”  I think this one is on this list as the fault of the marketing team.  It was advertised as a hilarious comedy, and features some comedians that I really enjoy.  However, I would classify it more as a dramedy –with touches of drama mixed in to the comedy.  It’s certainly well performed, mostly, but it’s not as funny as I wanted it to be, and the two leads are such terrible people that I never really felt invested in any of the characters.  Correct that – I liked Jason Mantsoukas’s character, but he’s in the movie for about 5 minutes.

7.       Hot Tub Time Machine 2: “When Lou finds himself in trouble, Nick and Jacob fire up the hot tub time machine in an attempt to get back to the past. But they inadvertently land in the future with Adam Jr.  Now they have to alter the future in order to save the past- which is really the present..” Even more insulting and juvenile than the first!

8.       Minions: “Stuart, Kevin and Bob are recruited by Scarlet Overkill, a super-villain who, alongside her inventor husband Herb, hatces a plot to take over the world.”  More proof that the minions are the best part of the Despicable Me movies, mainly because they are side characters – not the leads. Also – this movie is confused, the soundtrack was 60s rock, too old for the target audience and still too old for the parents of the target audience. 

9.       Secret In Their Eyes: “A tight-knit team of rising investigators, along with their supervisor, is suddenly torn apart when they discover that one of their own teenage daughters has been brutally murdered.”  A remake of a Spanish movie starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts, and the plastic-surgery enthusiast that used to be Nicole Kidman.  The story was interesting, but really could have been so much better.  It’s basically Ejiofor getting obsessed about the murder of Roberts’s daughter, and spending 13 years chasing down the killer – only to find out that it was a waste of time.  I wanted this movie to take a different turn, and let Roberts turn into a vigilante killer of sleezeballs, which would have been way more interesting, and let her stretch a bit, but instead, it gets quiet and still and a little boring.

10.   Focus: “In the midst of veteran con man Nicky’s latest scheme, a woman from his past – now an accomplished femme fatale – shows up and throws his plans for a loop.” Will Smith and Margot Robbie circle each other while trying to rob lots of people, with the assistance of the Discount Double Check Guy.  Another movie where the leads were so terrible I just couldn’t get behind any of them as the ‘hero’ of the movie. I didn’t want any of them to get away with what they were doing. It’s a shame, because the cast was good – but man, it just got boring – again, one of the biggest cinematic crimes.

There you have it – my summation of 2015 movies. I hope you enjoyed it.  Did I miss any? Did I put anything in the wrong spot?  I have to say, there were a lot of good ones this year, and I’m really looking forward to a lot of good ones in 2016 as well.