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Friday, January 8, 2016

My Top Ten Movie Picks for 2015

Spotlight1. Spotlight * * * * Stars
My quote as a critic: "Taking place in the early 2000's and helmed by director Tom McCarthy, Spotlight moves along like a jack rabbit. Yeah this flick is talky but it never comes off as insipid. There are a lot of continuity cuts between scenes, ensemble acting (where everyone helps each other out) of the highest order, and crackling intrigue inhabiting every frame." Rotten Tomatometer Score: 97%

2. Steve Jobs * * * 1/2 Stars
My quote as a critic: "Steve Jobs is lean, mean Oscar bait yet it doesn't promote it, it earns it. Dialogue-driven, frustrating, exhausting, and psychologically formidable, you can already put it on my list of 2015's best films." Rotten Tomatometer Score: 85%

3. Burnt * * * 1/2 Stars
My quote as a critic: "The look of this vehicle is slick and unblemished. The screenplay by Steven Knight (he wrote and directed 2013's Locke) is juicy in that it deals with themes of anger, absolution, irony, and alienation. In terms of casting, Bradley Cooper really brings to life the persona of an unsound, head chef (this is based on all the Food Network shows I tend to watch). The role of Adam Jones really caters to his fast-talking, manneristic style of delivering lines." Rotten Tomatometer Score: 28%

4. The Intern * * * 1/2 Stars 
My quote as a critic: "If you've recently watched The Internship (2013), you'll somewhat be reminded of The Intern. Both films start off similar yet the latter ascends to something much greater. Bottom line: Chalk up another round of effective, sentimental goo courtesy of the veritable Nancy Meyers." Rotten Tomatometer Score: 61%

5. Joy * * * 1/2 Stars
My quote as a critic: "In 2015's Joy (my latest review), Jennifer Lawrence doesn't push her character too hard. Her performance is raw, underplayed, and it doesn't feel like she's grandstanding (or clamoring for an Oscar like in Russell's two previous flicks). This is probably the best work she's ever done and the movie despite having a sort of pat ending, is David O.'s strongest since 2004's I Heart Huckabees." Rotten Tomatometer Score: 60%

6. Everest * * * 1/2 Stars
My quote as a critic: "Overall, beautiful cinematography, a considerable cast, and accurate locales (certain scenes were actually shot in Nepal's South Base Camp) make Everest a candidate for one of the year's best. A powerful, powerful moviegoing experience." Rotten Tomatometer Score: 73%

7. Black Mass * * * 1/2 Stars
My quote as a critic: "Mass" has the cojones to kick in the door and possibly kick you in the teeth. It's a gangster pic scaled down to the bare minimum (for my money, that's a good thing). Bottom line: A great cast, a few Scorsese-like exterior shots, a top five performance from Depp, clean editing, and some tasty Massachusetts locales give you the final rub. Yeah it's violent, yeah it's unforgiving, and yeah it's altogether antagonistic. But Black Mass checks in as a winner pretty much the whole way." Rotten Tomatometer Score: 75%

8. Run All Night * * * Stars
My quote as a critic: "2015's Run All Night is the third collaboration from Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra. They scored with last year's Non-Stop and actually top themselves this time with "Night". It's a hard-ass, moxie noir that makes you feel unsafe and doesn't give you a chance to breathe. Dare I say that this might be the crowning achievement in Liam's career as a vigilante who's on the verge of collecting his veritable social security." Rotten Tomatometer Score: 61%

8. (Tie) The Revenant * * * Stars
My quote as a critic: "Despite the film never sustaining the power of its opening battle sequence (between a tribe called Arikara and Henry's hunting party), you're still entertained while being drawn along with Emmanuel Lubezki's brilliant cinematography plus a harrowing musical score by three different composers (Bryce Dessner, Carsten Nicolai, Ryuichi Sakamoto)." Rotten Tomatometer Score: 81%

9. McFarland U.S.A. * * * Stars
My quote as a critic: "McFarland, USA is a conventional yet well filmed sports drama. With a little heart, a little tug, and a little shine courtesy of Australian cinematographer Adam Arkapaw, it gets the job done. The running scenes are profusely shot with the Southwest California landscape glistening in the background. Its authenticity is paramount showcasing unknown, young cast members (from what I read, actual students from McFarland High School as well) and the mighty Kevin Costner whose old world weariness, scruffy demeanor, and acting as veritable comfort food deem him perfect for the role of Jim White." Rotten Tomatometer Score: 80%

10. The Walk * * * Stars
My quote as a critic: "The three-dimensional space in "Walk" is sumptuous and avant garde. The look of it is salt and peppery, the sense of time and place is physically real, and the performances by all the actors are thoroughly impactful (especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Edited quickly yet overwhelmed by large amounts of buildup (is said French dude finally gonna be "Mr. Man On Wire" and cross over?), this thing still keeps you interested. Rotten Tomatometer Score: 85%

Honorable Mention: The Martian, The Perfect Guy, Entourage, Survivor, Mad Max: Fury Road. These are all good films that didn't quite make the cut.

And the worst...

1. Nightlight
My quote as a critic: "2015's Nightlight was directed by two people. It is possibly the lamest horror film ever made. You watch in disbelief and wonder how worse it could have been had only one person been behind the camera. Blatant characteristics of 2007's Paranormal Activity and 1999's The Blair Witch Project come to mind when taking in a viewing. But imagine those landmark vehicles with almost no scares, shallow and meaningless characters, mediocre acting from the leads, and countless scenes of tedium." Rotten Tomatometer Score: 17%

2. Poltergeist
My quote as a critic: "This is the worst re-imagining of any cinematic endeavor that I've ever had the displeasure of viewing. Director Gil Kenan sticks to the basic blueprint of 1982's original only to not respect nor honor anything that made it emotionally (not to mention eerily) effective." Rotten Tomatometer Score: 30%

3. Hot Pursuit
My quote as a critic: "Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon obviously had a lot of fun making this flick. Myself? Well, I didn't have a lot of fun watching it. In fact, I would rather endure a four hour insurance seminar with walking pneumonia than to have to take in a second viewing. This is screwball comedy masked as faux implausibility. This is Thelma & Louise revealed as the galling, stepdaughter version. Heck, this is "Hot" Garbage touted as working title incarnate." Rotten Tomatometer Score: 7%

4. Home Sweet Hell
My quote as a critic: "With a juvenile script, a desperate side role for James Belushi, and a clear, direct-to-video stench, Home Sweet Hell doesn't deviate from cliches, it glorifies them." Rotten Tomatometer Score: 5%

5. Vice
My quote as a critic: "This is something that throttles its Sci-Fi jargon completely through the mud. It's a swindle of copycat stuff that's straight from the playbooks of Blade RunnerThe IslandStrange Days, and even A.I. There's some B movie kitsch going on here with matter-of-fact acting and a sometimes elaborate screenplay." Rotten Tomatometer Score: 4%

5. (tie) The Boy Next Door
My quote as a critic: "The Boy Next Door as a movie, is artificially staunch. Rob Cohen directs and his results are nothing less than uninspired (look for a scene where some poor audio dubbing is used, who would have thunk it). He veers away from his more complex and flashy work with The Fast and the Furious to churning out bad camp that resembles something more along the lines of his 2000 vehicle, The Skulls." Rotten Tomatometer Score: 10%

Written by Jesse Burleson

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