With two weeks to go until the end of 2015 its time for the second annual Renegade Six Pack Movies Round-up – the 2015 version of last year’s two part recap of the best films of the year. To be fair, last year was specifically geared toward twisted movies, because that’s what I love and that’s what there was plenty of in 2014. This year will focus on a more general collection of my favorite releases with no theme in mind other than what I thought was good (“good” being a relative term and obviously applied to different films for different reasons and to varying degrees). And so, in no particular order, we commence with part one of my look at the best 2015 movies…
This slow burn sci-fi thriller coincidentally stars two of Star Wars newest cast members, Oscar Isaac as a hard drinking scientific visionary and Domnhall Gleeson as an intelligent and enthusiastic contest winner who together perform a series of Turing tests to determine if the scientists revolutionary new A.I. is sentient or not. The result is a tense psychological rabbit hole pervaded by an underlying Pinteresque malevolence. Just as interesting as the human interaction and the duplicitous plot is the examination of human behavior and the human capacity for manipulation. Everyone has an angle in this movie and the audience is left betrayed by every revelation and secret intention.
I had this one on my Halloween list this year and I stand by it as one of the best overall movies of 2015. I literally knew nothing about this movie when my friend took me to see it and it allowed me to go into the theater without any expectations at all. What I came away with was a new and uninhibited experience in horror filmmaking, with a monster that attempts to carry out the conventional horror movie punishment for casual sex and a heroine who refuses to be defeated or shamed by her sexuality. While It Follows may as well be a metaphor for the worst STI ever, the storytelling is still exceptionally creative and the ending both haunting and hopeful – at least in a grimly determined kind of way.
The End of the Tour
The same friend who took me to see It Follows also took me to see The End of the Tour, another movie which I had not heard of and declined to do any research on before seeing. I didn’t even know Jason Segel was in it before he arrived on screen as David Foster Wallace in this film based on the extensive interviews between him and journalist David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg). The film is thoughtful and philosophical, exploring not only Wallace’s unusual ideas and creative genius, but also his unusual persona and psychological state. It is also about the dynamic between two basic strangers and the ebb and flow of connection and misunderstanding in the awkward first steps to friendship. And it is incredibly awkward, as well as incredibly funny, tense, heartbreaking, and heartwarming.
Mad Max: Fury Road
There was a lot of hype built up around this sequel thirty years in the making. Not only was it written and directed by the visionary George Miller who made the original trilogy, but it had a series of incredibly watchable and monumentally epic trailers that seemed to promise a grotesque ballet of violence and cars. As it happens, that’s exactly what Miller delivered, with a positive feminist message and a badass heroine included. And while the movie is basically a ninety minute car chase, the relentless action and freakish spectacle leaves you riveted and exhilarated throughout.
Crimson Peak is the most gothic-y horror a gothic horror movie has ever been. It pretty much has everything you could ever want for the genre – including ghosts, melodramatic romance, a psychologically disturbed sister, sinister schemes, “Gaslighting” husbands, and a troubled hero of the tall/dark/brooding variety. Throw in some vignetted transitions and some overwrought sublimated passion and you have everything you need. And as innocent as it all initially seems, there is something dark and twisted hidden just below the surface. Combine that with some pretty sexy sexual tension – and the pretty sexy Tom Hiddleston – and you have a mouthwatering potboiler of a movie.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Spoiler-free, I promise! The release of this highly anticipated and multi-record breaking Star Wars sequel is so recent that there’s not much I can say about the plot or the people in it without betraying its delicately designed secrecy. There aren’t many movies this big you can go into without even knowing the plot or basic storyline, and it says a lot about J.J. Abrams and the Star Wars fandom that 1. those basic secrets can be kept without question and 2. that audiences will still flock to see it without knowing that basic information. What I can say is that I loved it, and that I am actually more excited to continue the saga with these newly established characters than I am about catching up with the old gang – although a bit of both is best.