The Best & Worst in Film: 2015

bestworstfilm2016

I was all set to call 2015 a disappointing year for film, but per usual, Hollywood’s last minute Christmas blitz cranked out a few gems.  No matter what you think of this year’s movies, I can safely say it was a memorable year.  We saw the opening weekend record get broken twice.  We saw a superhero movie flop harder than Green Lantern.  The Hunger Games franchise has ended (let’s be serious though, there will be spin-offs).  Both Rocky and Han Solo returned to cinemas.  Leonardo DiCaprio fought a bear.  And we learned it’s possible to train velociraptors.  It was quite a year.  With my top five films already determined in our Best of Movies piece, it’s time to reflect on all the specifics before those pesky Oscars do.  That’s right – it’s my Academy today, and it’s an Academy of one.

Here it is: My Star Killer sized Best and Worst in Film 2015!

*Also, just to be safe – STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS SPOILERS*

BEST ACTOR

Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)

This wasn’t the year for Best Actor like it was the previous two, but DiCaprio’s visceral performance in The Revenant would have been hard to beat in any year.  Aside from The Wolf of Wall Street, this may be his best role yet.  While Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs) and Eddie Redmayne’s (The Danish Girl) parts were challenging, they get a lot to work with including sweeping monologues and flashy sequences.  DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass doesn’t have that luxury.  It’s pure, unbridled emotion.  When you look at DiCaprio’s best performances, they are usually energetic and manic.  The Revenant is a complete 180 – contemplative, intense and on the brink of death.  Much like Tom Hanks in Castaway, we feel like we are right next to DiCaprio as he goes through two hours of pure torture.  That’s why he’s my pick, and why I believe he’ll finally win the Oscar.

THE REVENANT

Honorable Mentions:

Steve Carell (The Big Short)

Matt Damon (The Martian)

Samuel L. Jackson (The Hateful Eight)

Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)

BEST ACTRESS

Brie Larson (Room)

There were some great leading roles this year such as Cate Blanchett (Carol) and Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn), but this one’s not even close.  I get the feeling it won’t be come Oscar time either.  Hopefully more people will see Room once it gets a ton of nominations, but Brie Larson is an acting tsunami in this picture.  She has to play both sides of the spectrum and everything in between.  At one point she’s a tough as nails determined mother, but other times completely weak and volatile.  It has the power of Natalie Portman’s Black Swan.  It’s the type of role an actress dreams of getting, and Brie Larson takes advantage of every opportunity.

Honorable Mentions:

Cate Blanchett (Carol)

Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2)

Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road)

creed

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

I considered this one for a while as I wanted to make sure I wasn’t purely picking with my heart, but I truly believe Stallone is tops in this category.  It helps playing a character we’ve known and loved over multiple generations, but this was easily Stallone’s best turn as the character since the original.  Even in 2006’s Rocky Balboa, Stallone was still the pure boxer.  In Creed, not only can Rocky no longer fight, but he can barely stand at times.  It’s Stallone’s understated take that really surprises you.  Rocky goes to places we’ve never seen before, even close to giving up at times.  In one scene he talks about how everyone has left him, which really kills you.  The performance would not have been as effective if Michael B. Jordan hadn’t delivered as well, but let’s be serious – it’s all about Rocky.

Honorable Mentions:

Christian Bale (The Big Short)

Benicio Del Toro (Sicario)

Joel Edgerton (Black Mass)

Michael Shannon (99 Homes)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Rooney Mara (Carol)

Carol-Poster

This should probably be in the lead category, but SAG has her in supporting, so I’m going with that.  While obviously different from DiCaprio, I gave Mara the nod for similar reasons.  Mara’s character doesn’t get flashy sequences or huge speeches.  This is a very shy, understated character.  Mara nails the nuances with pure accuracy and care.  On paper this would be a hard character to connect with for over two hours, but Mara brings her to life as she struggles to figure out who she is.  A cliché notion, but always works in film nonetheless.  Mara’s reserved performance compliments Blanchett’s outgoing nature beautifully, which is why the film works so well.  By the end though it’s Mara who leaves the bigger impact.

Honorable Mentions:

Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)

Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)

Juno Temple (Black Mass)

Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

BEST DIRECTOR

George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Oh boy, this was a tough call between a lot of guys.  I could have gone with Inarritu, who might have been the only director that could have made The Revenant work as well as it did.  There’s also J.J. Abrams who makes every right decision possible with Star Wars.  At the end of the day though, Mad Max: Fury Road is like watching a symphony.  We get so many generic, sloppy action movies every year that it was hard to ignore Miller’s efforts.  It’s hard to even comprehend how all of this came together so well, and that’s why I have to give him the nod as this year’s Best Director.

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Honorable Mentions:

Lenny Abrahamson (Room)

J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (The Revenant)

Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight)

BEST SCREENPLAY

Josh Singer/Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)

This was the easiest decision yet.  Spotlight is an example of a flawless screenplay.  Tight.  Efficient.  Perfect use of characters.  Powerful.  Phenomenal storytelling.  This will win the Oscar.  The end.

Honorable Mentions:

Ramin Bahrani/Amir Naderi/Bahareh Azimi (99 Homes)

Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight)

Pete Doctor/Meg LeFauve/Josh Cooley (Inside Out)

Aaron Sorkin (Steve Jobs)

SCENE OF THE YEAR

The Death of Han Solo (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

Star Wars Force Awakens Poster

If you thought this was going to be something else, I don’t know what to tell you.  How the hell could this not be scene of the year?  Not only is it one of the most iconic characters in all of cinema, but the way he went out adds another layer of heartbreak.  I know there are complaints, but it’s only because you had this moment built up in your head for too long.  Yes it’s telegraphed, but that’s the point.  As soon as Han Solo walks out onto that catwalk, you know what’s about to happen.  It creates that pit in your stomach.  Great storytelling isn’t about unpredictability and forced surprises.  It’s executing the big moments you know are inevitable, and that’s what Abrams achieves with this scene.  Kylo Ren’s dialogue.  The hand on the face before he falls.  Leia sensing Han’s death.  Chewbacca’s reaction.  This is a perfect scene.  A tough scene to take, but perfect.

Honorable Mentions:

Adonis and Rocky on the Steps (Creed)

The Bear Attack (The Revenant)

Alejandro’s Revenge (Sicario)

Luke Skywalker (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

MOST OVERRATED FILM

Dope

I don’t get the love affair with this film.  It shows some promise in the first half, but by the end it has no idea what it wants to be.  Is this still a comedy, kind of a drug movie, drama?  The lead character is interesting, but he gets swallowed up in the sloppiness of the whole film.  At times this is a JV Wes Anderson rip off, then shifts into slap stick for long stretches.  Chances are you’ve barely heard of this film, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we got a lot of whining and complaining on how it’s not being considered for more awards.  Spoiler alert – it won’t be.

Poster for the movie Dope

Honorable Mentions:

Ant-Man

Beasts of No Nation

Ex Machina

Furious 7

MOST UNDERRATED FILM

Sicario

You’ve already seen it mentioned a few times, but Sicario was the easy pick here.  It did okay, but essentially got lost in the shuffle this year.  Emily Blunt continues to show why she’s an actress in demand, but this was clearly Del Toro’s show.  If you loved the movie Traffic, go see this.  It is a tension filled look at the war on drugs, told from many different perspectives, and they’re all gripping.  Unlike a lot of these types of movies where the characters are one-dimensional, Sicario succeeds by focusing on character.

Honorable Mentions:

99 Homes

Joy

Spy

Terminator: Genisys

MOST DISAPOINTING FILM

Daniel-Craig-Spectre-Poster

Spectre

I can’t believe this was the Bond movie that followed Skyfall.  The script is utterly pathetic, combined with the fact that nobody seemed to care.  Aside from a cool opening sequence, I felt like Sam Mendes was dragged to the directing chair kicking and screaming.  Daniel Craig looks bored as hell.  Christoph Waltz can’t even save it.  What really pisses me off about Spectre though was the unnecessary need to tie it to the other Craig movies.  Why?!  Just make another great Bond movie!  Did Goldfinger connect to the other Connery films?  No!  Not only is this a forgettable Bond film, it hurts previous Bond movies.  This was a complete miss.

P.S. The song also sucks.

Honorable Mentions:

Fantastic Four

Hot Tub Time Machine 2

Pixels

Tomorrowland 

THE “MOVIE I THOUGHT WAS GOOD WHEN I FIRST SAW IT, BUT ON FURTHER REFLECTION, YEAH, IT’S NOT THAT GOOD” AWARD:

Chappie

Chappie pic 1

Every year there’s always a review I look back on and can’t believe I gave it a positive review.  Enter Chappie.  It’s not like I gave this a glowing review (7), but that’s way too high.  On further reflection, this was pretty stupid.  I appreciate Sharlto Copley’s voice acting, but this was a silly endeavor that is essentially a serious version of Short Circuit.  In fact, I’d rather watch Short Circuit 2.  I hate to do this, but Neill Blomkamp is trending in the M. Night Shyamalan career path.  Amazing first movie followed by a series of progressive crap.  Even the Shyamalan though had Unbreakable after The Sixth Sense.  Also, Hugh Jackman needs to fire his agent!  Seriously, can this guy ever be in a good movie that isn’t X-Men related?  He’s always great, but I’m sick of seeing him carry mediocre crap.  Looks like this trend will continue in February’s Eddie the Eagle, some generic sports movie.  For crying out loud!

Honorable Mention:

Black Mass

THE “MOVIE I THOUGHT WAS GOING TO BE THE END OF ME, BUT IT TURNED OUT TO BE OKAY” AWARD:

Spy

You want to talk about biggest surprise of the year, here it is.  I don’t even think I was originally supposed to review this, but luckily fell into it.  I bought the king size Junior Mints before walking in to alleviate the painful experience I assume would take place.  When I reviewed last year’s Tammy, I said Melissa McCarthy could be hilarious if given a good script, and she got it with Spy.  This film is downright hilarious, and even made me a believer in director Paul Feig.  We’re lucky to get one great comedy a year, and this was surely it.

spy-poster

Honorable Mention:

Jurassic World

BREAK OUT STAR OF THE YEAR

Everyone From Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I certainly don’t mean guys like Harrison Ford or Andy Serkis, but definitely the newcomers.  People were aware of John Boyega and Oscar Isaac, but now they are likely to become household names.  I also expect Adam Driver’s career to take off.  The actress who most falls into this term though is Daisy Ridley.  There is no way in hell she is going to fall into the type cast curse.  This is an actress who will be with us for many years, and is about to get an influx of amazing roles.  There’s also a rumor BB-8 might be in the next Martin Scorsese film.  It’s all coming up Star Wars.

Honorable Mentions:

Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation)

Brie Larson (Room)

Amy Schumer (Trainwreck)

Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, The Danish Girl)

THE “PLEASE GO AWAY” AWARD

Daniel Craig as James Bond

sicario

To be honest, I’ve never been a huge Daniel Craig fan.  If you like boring performances, check out Cowboys & Aliens (awful movie).  As James Bond, Craig was good, but not great.  While a bad script certainly hurt, Craig seems tired of playing this character.  There’s been talk of Tom Hardy or Idris Elba taking over, two guys who would definitely make excellent choices.  Whoever it is, it’s definitely time for new blood as the franchise will need revitalization after the good, but clearly disappointing box office take when compared to Skyfall.

Honorable Mentions:

The Taken Franchise (Taken 3)

Horrible Marvel Cinematic Universe Villains (Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man)

Prejudging Movies Months in Advance (Terminator: Genisys)

Making Excuses for Johnny Depp (Mortdecai)

BEST LINE OF THE YEAR

“Luke is a Jedi, but you are his father.” -Leia to Han (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

A simple, yet powerful line.  Even in the Star Wars galaxy there are forces more powerful than a Jedi Knight.

Honorable Mentions:

“Don’t be soft.  Do you think America gives a flying rats ass about you or me?  America doesn’t bail out the losers.  America was built by bailing out winners.  By rigging a nation of the winners, for the winners, by the winners.” (99 Homes)

Star Wars pic 2

“Time takes everybody out.  Time’s undefeated.” (Creed)

“Forget it, Jake.  It’s Cloudtown.” (Inside Out)

“BEN!” (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

FUNNIEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR

Spy

Another forgettable year for comedies, but at least we got this.  I’ve already talked ad nauseam about Spy, but it has it all – funny dialogue.  Funny slap stick.  Funny everything.  Not even Jason Statham was able to ruin it.

Honorable Mentions:

The Big Short

Entourage

Inside Out

The Martian 

BEST SCORE

John Williams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

Pure, classic Star Wars music, while also giving us a new iconic theme with “Rey’s theme.”  As long as he’s able too, I hope John Williams continues to compose Star Wars music.

Honorable Mentions:

Ludwig Goransson (Creed) 

Junkie XL (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Ennio Morricone (The Hateful Eight)

Bryce Dessner/Carsten Nicolai/Ryuichi Sakamoto (The Revenant)

robert_downey_jr_avengers_2_poster

THE BIGGEST DEBACLE

Ultron (Avengers: Age of Ultron)

I couldn’t go this whole piece without laying waste to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, come on now.  If you love the MCU, I get it, but can you at least give me that their villains suck?  Oh yeah, Ultron was supposed to be the menacing baddie we’ve been waiting for, just like Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin, right?  Ultron was yet another example of the MCU trying to please all demographics.  The character is a complete mess.  He’s menacing one minute, cracking jokes the next.  There’s no flow to this character whatsoever.  His motivation was sloppy as hell.  It’s like the script didn’t know what to do with him, but then just said, “Eh, he blows stuff up at the end.”  I also found James Spader’s performance to be obnoxious, per usual in the MCU.  Maybe if they cut out all the scenes with Thor’s side quest and the Vision, we could have spent more time developing Ultron, but heaven forbid we ignore the set ups for future movies.

Honorable Mentions:

The Third Act (Fantastic Four)

Johnny Depp’s Mortdecai Performance (Mortdecai)

The Spectre Organization (Spectre)

The Opening Dance Number (Ted 2)

BEST TRAILER FOR A 2016 FILM

Suicide Squad

Even though I’m concerned about this film because of my serious worries with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, there’s no denying this trailer alone is flat out awesome.

Honorable Mentions:

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (COMIC CON Trailer)

Deadpool

X-Men: Apocalypse

Star Trek Beyond

THE WORST MOVIE OF THE YEAR

Mortdecai

I admit this category is always tough because I do my best to avoid the real stinkers.  For instance, I didn’t see Jupiter Ascending or Fifty Shades of Grey.  Is Mortdecai the worst movie of the year?  Well, it’s the worst one I saw.  In seeing Mortdecai though, I find it hard to believe there could have been something more putrid than this.

Mortdecai poster

Mortdecai is a disaster.  Imagine if you took Austin Powers but made him twenty times more annoying.  That’s what Johnny Depp does.  This is a nauseating character who is relentless in his annoyances.  The film is also boring as hell.  It’s under two hours, but feels longer than Gone with the Wind.  This was a chore to sit through, and that’s ultimately my red flag for being worst film of the year.  If you had gotten a better comedic actor in the role, this could have been passable.

Not only does Johnny Depp fail to improve the film, he makes it significantly worse.  I can’t keep talking about my opinions on Johnny Depp anymore.  I’m tired and worn out.  The only good thing about Mortdecai is I might get a call from a news station about being one of the rare people who actually saw it.  I think Star Wars made more money in five minutes than Mortdecai’s entire theatrical run.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night screaming with Mortdecai’s voice in my head.  Thanks a lot, Pop-Break.

Honorable Mentions:

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Hot Tub Time Machine 2

Our Brand is Crisis

Vacation

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.