Top 10 movies of 2015

With the end of the year approaching, It’s traditional or as traditional as is possible for my blog, to have a quick look at the top films of 2015. (You can see my list of TV shows here)

It was quite a strong year for what I would call ‘proper films’.  Not your whizz-bang plotless teenage Marvel Comics style film, though sadly they were all too prevalent too, but for movies with a bit more to them.

I always think it is a little tough for the films that were released in the Spring as it is hard to remember just how great they were 9 months on when we are all being bombarded by Christmas blockbusters but from what I remember, there was a succession of really interesting films out at that time.

11.  The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I was a big fan of the first film and predictably nothing much had changed between that and this.  For those who don’t know, the film tells the story of a group of retired British travellers who have found themselves in Jaipur, India along with the enthusiastic local entrepreneur who is combining his plans for opening a second hotel with sorting out the details of his upcoming marriage.

It’s a very gentle sort of drama-comedy with lots of great actors including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and Dev Patel.  It makes for a great get-away from the world with lots of jokes in a beautiful location, namely India.

If they made a third film, I’d probably go and see it.

 

10. Testament of Youth

Testament of Youth is a film based on the true life memoirs of Vera Brittain who overcomes the restraints on women in Edwardian Britain to study at Oxford University only to give it up to help with the war effort.

This was such an incredible story and tremendously well told.   It was truly heart-breaking to see all the men in her life go off to war and die.  Even more so because as a nurse she somehow managed to find someone she loved who was seriously wounded and left for fead only to nurse him and then find out that he later died in battle.

Understandably, Vera went on to play a prominent role in the Universal Suffrage, peace and labour movements after WW1.   I don’t think there were many dry eyes at the cinema when we watched this film.

 

9. The Bridge of Spies

This is a sort of old fashioned Cold War film that doesn’t seem to get made any more but I absolutely loved it.  It tells the true story of captured KGB spy Rudolf Abel and his lawyer James Donovan who against all the odds, does his best to see that the Russian gets to see real justice and not the superficial processes that much of the rest of the American establishment wanted to see.

As it happened James saved the day in more than one way as when an American pilot was captured in the Soviet Union, there was at least someone to do a prisoner trade with in a very snowy East Berlin.

I thought Mark Rylance and Tom Hanks were great in this film, it was very suspenseful and a very mature film which was well worth spending my money on.  It brought back my memories of the Cold War and also interesting parallels with the paranoia of society in the 60’s and that today.

8. Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max kind of sneaked up on me this spring.  I didn’t even know there was going to be such a film until the day I went to the cinema.   I was always a fan of the original Mad Max films, one of the many 80’s franchises I was into when my peers were watching less violent fare so I thought I would give it a shot.

Mad Max tells the story of a road-warrior in a post apocalyptic world where life is cheap but water and vehicle fuel is priceless.   There isn’t much of a plot in Mad Max as it consists almost entirely of one long massive car chase with lots of shooting, fights, crashes and explosions.

The pace is breathtaking and the set-pieces are wonderful so I’d say it was a big success as far as it went but it could have been a little more rounded.

7. The Theory Of Everything

It might be rather heretical to say such but I’m not a very big fan of Eddie Redmayne.  He is just one of those people that annoy me.  I’d probably be annoyed by the Kardashians but I’m probably one of the last people in the world who don’t really know who they are or what they look like.  I do know though that Eddie Redmayne suffers from diction problems in earlier BBC productions and so that has rather tainted my opinion of him.

The Theory of Everything is the third film on my list to be based on a true story, this one of the renowned physicist Stephen Hawking.   The film covers everything about the professor from his times at University before he became struck down by his awful condition and then his fight to stop disability from impeding his career any more than it had to do.

Fair play to Eddie, he did a great job in this film as did the supporting actors and I really enjoyed it.  A remarkable film about a remarkable man.

6.  Paddington

Everyone loves a comedy and everyone in Britain loves Paddington Bear who was a star of his own cartoon in the 1970’s and 80’s.  I’m not one for Disney or Pixar animated films, something about the dialogue and humour just isn’t for me but from the first adverts I just knew I would love Paddington.

It tells the story of a bear from darkest Peru who comes to London under the mistaken impression that is the centre of civilisation and whilst it may once have been, like many others Paddington arrives and is shocked by the hustle and bustle of the place.  That and the fact he is a bear and no-one wants anything to do with him.

Happily he is taken in by a kindly family which gives Paddington ample opportunity to cause total chaos and mayhem wherever he goes.  I remember laughing out loud a lot during this film and still remember the scene in the trailer that starts off with him using his hosts toothbrush to clean out a revolting amount of wax from his ears.

Starring several big name acts such as Nicole Kidman and Hugh Bonneville from Downton Abbey it is said to be the best family film since Mary Poppins but I think it is so much better than that.

 

5. The Martian

Starring Matt Damon, The Martian tells the story of a near future 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. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring “the Martian” home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible, rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney’s safe return.

I found The Martian to be quite a gripping story and taking the right tone between science and the requirements of a Hollywood movie.  It’s a long story with lots of ups and downs but I really bought into the plight of the astronaut and it was really beautifully shot,

Bizarrely when watching it I realised that parts of it weren’t CGI or filmed on Mars (I know!) as I recognised the mountain range as being one I had visited in the deserts of Jordan.  No wonder it looked so realistic, anyway when I got home and checked the internet I was right, they had filmed sections in Jordan.

I really recommend this film.

 

4. The Imitation Game

As often seems to be the way in the world of Cinema, two similar films come out depicting similar subjects whether it is Volcanoes, asteroids, tornados or brilliant scientists.  The Imitation Game tells the true story of Alan Turing, one of the most brilliant and under-rated figures of the 20th century.

He was pivotal in breaking the German enigma machine code in WW2 which Prime Minister Churchill clearly thought cut several years off the war and saved countless lives.

Alan turing didn’t really fit in with many of the establishment figures of the time and his dedication to his work and his early computers alienated him from the others who couldn’t see his brilliance.

Sadly for Alan, he was also a homosexual at a time which to actively be so was a serious criminal misdemeanour.  When a few years after the war he was arrested for an indecency related offence, he was compelled to go through terribly humiliating treatment.

The film itself gives the indication that everyone knew it was wrong and nobody really wanted to do this for such a brilliant scientist and war hero but somehow it still happened and shortly afterwards Alan Turing was found dead, apparently by suicide.

I’m a big fan of Benedict Cumberbatch and I think he would have won the Best Actor Oscar if the role of Stephen Hawking hadn’t been such a physical challenge to play out in A Theory of Everything.

A really brilliant but sad film.

3. Spectre

I had waited about 3 years for Spectre, ever since Skyfall had been released.  I’m a huge fan of Daniel Craig in the James Bond series which is a big achievement as I couldn’t stand Pierce Brosnan… he suffered from the Eddie Redmayne syndrome obviously!!

It was always going to be hard for this James Bond to surpass Skyfall or even Casino Royale and in fairness it perhaps doesn’t quite do so.  However it comes very close and has a number of spectacular moments including the opening sequences in Mexico City.

For the first time in the current era of James Bond, we get to see something of a classic adventure with numerous exotic locales, train journeys and car chases though as usual I guessed the entire plot within the first few minutes in London.

I really liked Spectre and I hope Daniel Craig will star in one last film.

 

2. Far From The Madding Crowd

I’m not sure if anyone else agrees with me but I often find myself having favourite films which aren’t necessarily the best.  Or indeed best films that aren’t necessarily my favourite.

Far From The Madding Crowd is my favourite film of 2015 and maybe even the best film of 2015 but it only comes in at number 2.  This sort of thing happens to me a lot, even discounting the number 1 film below.

Far from the Madding Crowd has been called the “warmest and sunniest” of Thomas Hardy’s novels. In contrast to the inexorable tragedy of Tess of the D’Urbervilles or the nihilistic horror of Jude the Obscure, it indeed has a conventional happy ending. The narrative follows the fortunes of the spirited “woman-farmer” Bathsheba Everdene and her three suitors: the sturdy, steady shepherd Gabriel Oak; Sergeant Troy, a dangerous Don Juan in uniform; and the repressed gentleman farmer William Boldwood. Gabriel is ultimately rewarded for his constancy, and the book ends with his wedding to Bathsheba.

However, the plot also contains elements which are far from warm or sunny: murder, insanity, a macabre coffin-opening scene featuring the corpses of a mother and her baby, life-threatening elemental eruptions of fire and thunderstorm, numerous violent animal deaths, and sexual symbolism so brazen that it can only have been intended to cock a snook at Victorian prudery.

I’d never read this classic novel but was obviously aware of it.  Much like the last classic novel I had never read but whose depiction onto cinema (The Great Gastby), I adored it stars Carey Mulligan.

The story has many ups and downs and Carey plays the headstrong heroine in a gripping and yet endearing fashion.  The story, music, costumes and beautiful countryside made it my favourite film of the year and it was such an unexpected pleasure.  I can’t wait to see it again.

1 Star Wars – The Force Awakens.

The astute amongst you will realise that this list has 11 films in it rather than 10 and the reason is I got delayed in writing the reviews until after Star Wars came out and having seen it, I just had to add it.

As mentioned in my recent review of the film, I really enjoyed Star Wars.  J.J. Abrams repeats the trick he played with Star Trek by rebooting the series and yet continuing to tell the ongoing story but this time with Han Solo rather than Mr. Spock.

The leading lady plays a wonderfully gutsy character and it is great to see Harrison Ford and Chewie back on good form.  Two weeks on, it is still everything that I hoped a new Star Wars film would be and I am so pleased it wasn’t like a prequel film.

Almost everyone I know who has seen it has thought it the best thing since sliced bread and so Star Wars has to be my top film for 2015, if not my favourite or indeed best 🙂

There are some great films coming up in 2016.  I’m particularly waiting to see Revenant in January.

Don’t Panic Captain Mainwaring but the Dad’s Army film is out in March and then in the summer is the one I’m waiting for with Star Trek Beyond coming out just in time for the 50th Star Trek anniversary and your favourite blogger hopes to have his Star Trek book out for then!

 

 

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About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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9 Responses to Top 10 movies of 2015

  1. merrildsmith says:

    I also enjoyed many of the films you mentioned. I had kind of forgotten about some that we saw many months ago, such as Far From the Madding Crowd, so it was nice to be reminded. Recently we have seen so many great movies. I’ve mentioned a few in some of my posts. Yesterday, we saw “Carol,”–Cate Blanchette and Rooney Mara give incredible performances. The movie is also beautifully done and has a wonderful score. Before that we saw, “The Danish Girl,” (I know you’re not an Eddie Redmayne fan, but he’s very good, and Alicia Vikander is wonderful.), “Brooklyn,” and “Spotlight.” Those four films in about a month, and all of them great.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t had chance t see “Carol” yet but “The Danish Girl” does look good. I think Alicia Vikander is great, I think she was the lead in “The Testament Of Youth” on my list. It is funny how there are periods of the year when nothing good comes out and then there is a good run of them. Have a Happy New Year Merril.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Ringing Out the Year: Going to the Movies with the Smiths Redux | Yesterday and today: Merril's historical musings

  3. aFrankAngle says:

    Of these I saw 1, 3, 4, and 7. Good list … and Happy New Year to you.

    Liked by 1 person

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