The positive buzz for my 2017 and 2016 rankings has inspired me to share my 2015 rankings, as well as 2014 sometime soon. '14 was the first year I started tracking my motion pictures, so after those rankings I will start branching out a bit more with my CinemAce content. I hope you'll enjoy.
Anyway, here we go. Like 2014 and 2016, 2015 was busy.
1. Kingsman: The Secret Service; A+
The sequel also topped my 2017 list, though it was considerably less popular with the masses than its surprising predecessor. Based on the comic by the legendary Mark Millar (Civil War, Old Man Logan), Secret Service piqued my interest with some amazing trailers and an intriguing Bond meets Tarantino spy story. Upon viewing, it took up a spot as not just a top film of the year, but one of my all-time favorites.
Led by brand new Hollywood face Taron Egerton and dynamite performances from Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine, Mark Strong and Sofia Boutella, the movie is total chaos. Good chaos. Exciting chaos. Jackson's villainous Valentine is hilarious and demented, but at the same time has a point to make. The best villains are the ones with a plan. (Except, of course, the GOAT.)
Few direct action like Matthew Vaughn (who previously adapted Millar's Kick-Ass as well, and who chose this project over an X-Men sequel to his successful First Class reboot) while composers Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson take the movie from epic to iconic with an unbelievable, spy-tastic score.
Thanks, Kingsman, for a Happy. Meal. And obviously, the church scene.
2. Ex Machina; A+
Ex Machina is absolutely horrifying. Not because of ghosts and goblins, but because of humanity and the dark, slippery slope of artificial intelligence. Hank Pym didn't create this one, either.
The movie is pretty much Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson and the extremely beautiful Alicia Vikander as the robot Ava. Because of this, Alex Garland's film relies on its actors. It was a good choice, because they all put in remarkable, chilling performances. This film is an absolute work of art and I really can't say enough about it.
3. Avengers: Age of Ultron; A+
Fans were ready to pick apart the highly anticipated Avengers sequel, and boy did they. I'll concede that the Natasha/Bruce romance thread could have been shelved for more Thor questing to discover the infinity stones, but getting Cap's spangly uniform right this time around makes up for that.
Marvel films since have all seemed to be home runs since the comparatively lukewarm reception to Age of Ultron. Even with a mildly engaged Joss Whedon, the movie hits the action, emotional and character beats all throughout. And no, I didn't hate the farm scene. I liked it.
But there's no doubt that there are less productive character moments here --and a few too many missed jokes-- than the MCU films that followed the Avengers sequel. Cutting the in-between between Kevin Feige and Disney brass has been a blessing.
I wish Falcon and War Machine had a little more to do, especially Falcon, instead giving way to the introduction of Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch and Vision. James Spader voices Ultron with haunting brilliance and yes, he was a little too jokey, but he was created by Tony Stark in this world, not Hank Pym.
Last note on AOU: even though I absolutely loved it, the mob mentality of people bought into the critical reception and seem to poo poo it. That, and the combination of Civil War being an incredibly lit a year later, seemed to replace Ultron as the official Avengers sequel. Which is fine. But let's not take for granted the accomplishment Age of Ultron is.
4. Sicario; A+
Like Ex Machina, Sicario is thrilling and gives you the sweats because of its real world relevance. Instead of AI, we deal here with terrorism. It also relies on a trio of dynamite performances from Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro. They're extraordinary.
Up until the credits roll, you are holding your breath. Sicario really could place anywhere between third and fifth here, the top six of CinemAce 2015 are very close. The sequel hits theaters this summer.
5. Ant-Man; A+
Volume two in the "This will be Marvel's first failure" narrative, Ant-Man's page-friendly premise tilted the odds against him becoming a household name like Captain America or even as popular as Thor.
For a decade, Edgar Wright had been attached to direct. Creative differences saw him back out and give way to Peyton Reed. If you didn't know there was some drama behind the scenes, you never would have guessed.
Starring Paul Rudd as Scott Lang and Michael Douglas as the mentoring Hank Pym, these two as well as Evangeline Lilly's Hope Van Dyne elevate the movie with emotionally weighted performances. Also, the film delivers genuine laughs. No surprise there, as Rudd helped write the script. And Michael Peńa exists.
The action scenes involving ants and shrinking tech show just how insane movie-making has become, and while Yellowjacket is pretty carbon copy as a villain, his suit is super awesome and I appreciate the original idea for the completely different comic character.
The size, circumstance and powers of Ant-Man allow the movie to show us a different kind of combat. Also, a kickass cameo from an Avenger and a very sneaky mention of another in the film's final moments.
6. Star Wars: The Force Awakens; A+
Only three movies in the history of the Earth have made $2 billion dollars at the global box office. Avatar almost hit $3 billion, Titanic and then The Force Awakens. (And this summer, Infinity War.)
The first Star Wars movie under the Disney umbrella, J.J. Abrams graduated from Star Trek to Wars to direct the monumental film. Overall, he played it pretty safe, rehashing the plot from A New Hope --desert planet, cantina, Death Star, etc.-- but to his credit, Awakens is a damn good movie.
Unlike the sequel coming two years later, and like the standalone feature coming a year later, the movie is very good. It introduced new characters, reintroduces beloved old ones and tells an exciting story that sets the table for a new era in the galaxy far, far away.
It seemed the studio's first priority was to reintroduce the franchise, not build on it. Kylo Ren is not Darth Vader, but he's still a fantastic new addition. Rey is not Luke and Poe is not Han and Finn is not Lando. They don't need to be. It would be nice if they were a tad more interesting, but seeing Han, Leia and Chewie back on screen again, as well as R2-D2 and C-3PO was worth waiting for.
The indisputable John Williams also gives great new sound to yet another Star Wars movie, especially with a very beautiful new theme for Rey and an awesome, bombastic theme for Kylo Ren. Following up his iconic themes from the previous movies, like "The Imperial March" or "Duel of the Heroes" was a task only he himself could do.
7. The Gift; A+
Joel Edgerton is so great in this. The movie is more suspense than scary, but again, I'm a sucker for situations that can actually happen. Home invasion movies keep me up at night more than demonic entities.
Written, directed by and starring Edgerton, he knocks this one out of the damn ballpark. Everything you think you know, you don't. The ending is jaw dropping. And man, Jason Bateman plays the perfect dick. I hope he's not really that big of a dick.
8. Spotlight; A+
The truly unbelievable story of catholic church sexual abuse gets told on screen and deservingly wins the Academy's highest honor of Best Picture. Not just riveting stuff, the movie gives an honest, impactful portrayal of journalism. We're not all heathens.
9. 99 Homes; A+
Had an arduous time finding this in theaters. Thankfully I finally did. Andrew Garfield loves his Orlando Magic in this movie, which is the biggest stretch of belief in the film! Michael Shannon is suitably terrifying, demented and just terrific.
10. Chappie; A+
"I am Chappie." Not as popular of an outing as District 9 for Neil Blomkamp, but another tale in South Africa that mixes fantasy with reality. Sharlto Copley voices the adorable Chappie with reverence and while everyone may not embrace the other main players --or Hugh Jackman's mullet-- the emotional undertone here and the commitment to reality-based entertainment is appreciated, and very exciting.
11. Room; A+
Troubling realities like kidnapping and abductions are unsettling. The effect it has on Brie Larson’s character, and a rock solid performance from young Jacob Tremblay, are worthy of the Oscar praise.
12. Cop Car; A+
Just a simple story about two playful youngsters coming across a seemingly deserted police car. Kevin Bacon’s police car! Things, as expected, go kind of south. How south they went was pretty startling.
13. Batman vs. Robin; A+
The middle —and best, in my opinion— entry of the “Damien Wayne trilogy", the sequel to 2014’s Son of Batman incorporates the Court of Owls comic book story and plays it seamlessly into the power struggle for the future of the troubled new Robin.
14. Creed; A+
In an age of reboots (how has someone not tried and failed a new Wizard of Oz?!), Ryan Coogler boldly took on Rocky, which itself had spun off three, four or five too many Rocky’s. Digging into Apollo Creed’s unexplored past was a brilliant idea. Casting Michael B. Jordan and making Sly Stallone’s Rocky the grizzled mentor ended up being, for me, the best movie in the entire franchise.
15. Jurassic World; A+
I'm a big fan of those prehistoric beauties. I love dinosaurs. Aladar, anyone? Obviously you've heard of The Land Before Time. And then, of course, Jurassic Park. For World, the dinosaur movies were allowed to exist in the modern CGI landscape, and the results are astounding.
Chris Pratt always gets an A+ from me, and Bryce Dallas Howard is great, too. The two younger brothers aren't as interesting but once they meet up with Pratt and Howard, things pick up. If you came for the comprehensive narrative…oh well.
16. Bridge of Spies; A+
Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance team up for a Cold War drama about, well, trading spies on a bridge! I promise, there is more to it than that. #WouldItHelp?
17. Project Almanac; A+
Not many saw this movie. Not many liked this movie. I saw this movie. I loved this movie. I found the premise of jumping through time while trying not to change things --but also change things-- not only creative but well executed. Young actors across the board get the job done —so do Imagine Dragons — and the movie makes its “found footage” style pay off in the end.
18. Southpaw; A
"Diet Creed," if you will. Overshadowed by the other amazing boxing movie, that one however involving Rocky, Jake Gyllenhaal bulks up from his scrawny Nightcrawler display and plays a boxer who loses everything. I mean, everything. The movie holds nothing back and I appreciate that. Forrest Whitaker is brilliant and it’s one of the last works done by the late, legendary composer James Horner (Titanic, Avatar, The Amazing Spider-Man).
19. The Martian; A
A great soundtrack accompanies an inspiring Matt Damon performance, something that has been seriously lacking in the past couple years. The movie is smart, showing you how someone would actually try to survive on Mars, and it entertaining while doing a lot of showing you stuff. Also, Sebastian Stan is in it and I’m an absolutely huge fan of Chiwetel Ejiofor.
20. Legend; A-
If not for Tom Hardy, the movie about the twin gangster Kray brothers probably goes for not. It’s a bit jumbled and loses steam as the runtime boasts on, but remains a very fun watch with the the focus on Hardy and Hardy.
21. Ted 2; B+
Seth Macfarlane's comedy speaks to me. I even liked The Cleveland Show. Probably more than he did. The first Ted was good, not great. The second Ted had me laughing constantly.
22. Spectre; B+
Casino Royale and Skyfall are on a way different level than Quantum of Solace, and Spectre is closer to the good side than the... less good. However, it’s far too formulaic and clichéd —everything these new Bond movies don’t want to be—and doesn't make the most of a demented Christoph Waltz or charming Ralph Fiennes. I hope Daniel Craig does another Bond, and number five should be good if we’re sticking to the pattern here.
23. Sinister 2; A-
The first Sinister was a way different story than this one. That one starred Ethan Hawke and was directed by Scott Derrickson, who by now was working on Doctor Strange. A different crew still delivers a very good scary movie and "Mr. Boogie" is as terrifying as ever. At least to me.
24. In the Heart of the Sea; B+
Debuting a week before The Force Awakens, Ron Howard's movie was dead in the (literal) water at the box office. But I saw it! Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy and hey, even pre-Spidey Tom Holland fight for their lives in the Moby Dick tale. Lucasfilm made it up to Howard and let him complete Solo in 2018.
25. Hunger Games: MockingJay Part 2; B+
After a wildly unnecessary Part 1, Part 2 actually gives us the stuff that makes the Hunger Games novels so captivating. Instead of relying on Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth, we get to see the events of the book play out on screen. One of my favorite book series, I was very satisfied with the way it evolved on screen in Part 2.
26. San Andreas; B+
Eye candy meets destruction meets The Rock. I'm always impressed by CGI and am constantly marveling at what movies can do now. San Andreas, a disaster movie stemming from the titular fault out west, plays out with some cheesy dialogue, massive carnage and unrealistically heroic efforts. But that's for the nitpickers. The movie is extremely entertaining.
27. Mad Max: Fury Road; B+
It's not quite a comic book movie. Therefore, the Oscars were comfortable giving it awards not under the effects, music or prop department. I really enjoyed it, just apparently not as much as everyone else. Tom Hardy is his usual amazing self but steps aside for Charlize Theron to be even more of a badass. I dig everything about this movie, from the lawless guitar solos to the ridiculous aesthetic.
28. Run All Night; B+
Liam Neeson. Liam Neeson. LIAM NEESON! He is the man, despite some dialogue in this one that kind of demeans his royal stature.
29. No Escape; B
An unlikely Owen Wilson role. But nonetheless a terrific film of a relocated American family trying to escape a savage warzone. It's very tense and very real about the dangers that we fortunately don't have to deal with in America. That's why it's great cinema.
30. Insidious: Chapter 3; B
The third in this “suspense franchise” is not as good as the first two and the fourth in 2018 should mark the end of things. However, the new story and characters, accompanied by the returning Elise, Tucker and Specs make for a worthy time.
31. Steve Jobs; B
I'm realizing quite a few 2015 movies seemed to go under the radar. It's almost like Star Wars, coming at the end of the year in December, coupled with the huge success from Marvel, has revitalized a movie industry that was losing footing to streaming and on demand services. But that is now and this is then.
Yet another movie about Apple genius (see what I did there?) Steve Jobs, this one is actually exceptional. Only two years after the meh Ashton Kutcher version, Michael Fassbender steps into the role of an older Jobs battling life and his company. He is fantastic.
32. Crimson Peak; B
Not as much scary as it is visually enthralling, Crimson Peak probably lost points with people for not delivering the frights. I enjoyed the story, the plot making up for any perceived lack of scares, and Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain are very good.
33. Trainwreck; B-
John Cena is seriously funny. When did that happen? Amy Schumer is good in this, I'm not usually about her cup of tea. But the movie really takes off with its performance from Bill Hader, not to mention an absolutely epic extended cameo from LeBron James; he and Hader are the heartbeat.
34. Krampus; B-
I find the whole idea of an anti-Santa fascinating. My first knowledge of Krampus actually came from an American Dad episode. The movie balances some comedy with some really violent scares. I dig it.
35. The Gallows; B-
The noose is loose.
36. American Sniper; B-
Takes some liberties to tell a more cinematic fairytale, but the effects of our soldiers in real life is truly troubling.
37. Everest; B-
It moves a little slow, as I imagine climbing Mount Everest would be. But between Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal and others, there is high altitude drama. Again, real. world. scenarios.
38. Daddy's Home; B-
The sequel in 2017 was complete trash (from me that's saying something) but the first installment struck a great cord between Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. Reuniting after 2010's The Other Guys, the chemistry between the goofball Ferrell and straight-shooting Wahlberg —as well as the always hysterical Hannibal Buress— is the film’s best strength.
39. Justice League: Gods and Monsters; C+
An animated DC movie that was an original story, the story itself is not the problem and very interesting. Taking place in an alternate reality where the Justice League consists of just the “big three” that is Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, the movie does a great job quickly and efficiently introducing the alternate versions of the heroes. Writing is the film’s weakness and the inclusion of sex banter is misplaced.
40. Taken 3; C+
Why the hell not.
41. Self/Less; C+
Heavy on the sci-fi, Self/Less involves an older man (played by SIr Ben Kingsley) attempting to combat cancer by using a futuristic method of moving your consciousness into a younger body (played by Ryan Reynolds). It's certainly out there. I think Reynolds is perfectly fine sticking to Deadpool right now.
42. The Divergent Series: Insurgent; C+
The movie effectively killed the franchise of not only this book adaption, but any attempt at recreating the Hunger Games or Harry Potter magic have largely been shelved in the past few years. With that said, I thought it was alright! Big, big, big Octavia Spencer fan.
43. It Follows; C+
Scary movies either become abhorred or adored by critics. It Follows falls into the latter, and I will say it is alright with a very cool premise, but it's not that good. But The Witch also drew critical acclaim. Critics prefer scary movies that are not scary.
44. Secret in Their Eyes; C+
Julia Roberts revenge tale! Also starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, it is a decent flick.
45. Mortdecai; C+
I confess, I thought the Johnny Depp vehicle was funny. Plus, Ewan McGregor and Gwyneth Paltrow are in it, so sue me.
46. Victor Frankenstein; C
Anytime you adapt a beloved film, like Frankenstein, even if you are doing it verrrrry loosely, you are dealing with serious expectations. This movie fell under them. I'm not defending it as something fantastic, but it's serviceable and boasts great performances from James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe.
47. Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse; C
Entertaining enough with clever writing.
48. The Gunman; C
Sean Penn gets in on the "old man kicks ass" narrative and the results are decent, at best.
49. Blackhat; C
Chris Hemsworth's endeavors outside of Thor have been mostly misses. In the Heart of the Sea was good to me, but invisible to most. Blackhat was victim to a story that tried to go in a million different directions, and wasn't garnering much interest to begin with.
50. Black Mass; C-
I honestly remember nothing about this movie. After googling it, I remember better and remember liking it enough to enjoy Depp's performance as Whitey Bulger, but not enough to view again.
51. The Visit; C-
Blumhouse has become the powerhouse studio in the horror genre. "From the producers of" adds The Visit to that list, but I was disappointed. Had some freaky moments, especially with the oven, and the twist is pretty good if not predictable to a smarter person than I.
52. Poltergeist; D+
Now you know they remade Poltergeist! You are very welcome.
53. The Lazarus Effect; D
Mark Duplass is really good in this. But I can't help but feel like this effort was half baked. Awesome idea, though.
54. Unfriended; D-
Speaking of effort, the idea here is a winner. The social media scary movie market has not yet been exploited. It certainly wasn't here. A for effort, D- for real.
55. Minions; F
I fell asleep. All due respect to the Despicable Me universe, I found the Minions annoying. For someone who enjoys some bad movies, me falling asleep is big.
56. Fantastic Four; F-
Stan Lee didn't cameo in the reboot of his very first superhero team. That about explains it.