The Imitation Game – The story of Alan Turing. Another superb biopic. Another great story filled with awesome performances. Benedict Cumberbatch puts in a sterling performance as Alan Turing. If you like your World War II history, this should be on your to watch list. Extremely well written. Excellent!
Birdman – Superb! Michael Keaton (Mr. Mom. Beetlejuice. Batman.) is on form. No CGI. No EXPLOSIONS. No car chases. Except for that one bit. An exceptionally well written story with some excellent performances. I do like this time of year. SPOILER: When Michael Keaton goes for a smoke, and gets locked out. Hah-hah! Excellent! I heard a rumor there could be a sequel to Beetlejuice in the works. If Tim Burton's on-board, this sounds like a very good idea!
Whiplash – Wow! Perfect practice makes perfect. What an awesome story. The writing is superb, and you can feel the emotion it invokes from the performances. From the opening scene right through to the final scene when Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons are up on stage. As much as I like a good summer blockbuster, it's these types of stories that really leave a lasting impression. This is what storytelling is all about. They offer roles that actors can really get their teeth into. Roles where they have to dig deep. Enthusiasm. Emotion. Energy. It just bleeds from this story. And the writing is outstanding.
American Sniper – SPOILER: It's the final scene, and real-life footage that really leaves a lasting impression. It makes quite an impact, and it's very thought provoking. Gives you a lot to think about. To go through four tours, and then have that happen. Well written, and Bradley Cooper puts in a great performance as Chris Kyle. Very Good.
Foxcatcher – Action. Adventure. Sci-fi. It's none of that. This is a slow-paced story. And from my point of view, a character study. Having just read the book which this is based on, I was keen to see where the story starts and finishes. The book is very good, and definitely worth reading. While very interesting, this is a very sad story. Based on how I imagined John du Pont in the book, Steve Carell puts on an amazing performance. He's unrecognizable for the most part. One minute, du Pont comes across as being interested in Mark. Then totally seems disinterested in him the next. Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo also give fine performances. If you're into any kind of sport, you should check this out. Check out the trailer here. Extremely well written. Excellent!
Paddington (Bear) – when it was announced this was being done, I was a little dubious. A feature adapted from Michael Bond's books. No way. They'll screw it up! But they haven't. While it's a world away from the TV series, they've done a good job. The animation is great! And it ticks along at a quick pace, so it keeps the kids entertained. A fun-filled family movie. It'd be great if they do a sequel, or even an updated TV series. Very enjoyable. Very Good.
Inherent Vice – Firstly, how do you write something like this? It's based on the novel of the same name. But, honestly, how the heck do you write dialogue like this? Then there's the performances. I haven't watched, Walk the Line (2005), or We Own the Night (2007) yet, but Joaquin Phoenix (Parenthood 1989) really owns this role. Then there's the other cast members. Josh Brolin (The Goonies 1985), and Benicio Del Toro (The Usual Suspects 1995). The list goes on! Martin Short, ha-ha! It's one of those movies that you'll probably need to watch two or three times to fully catch everything. Some class moments in it, especially with the dialogue. Excellent!
Gone Girl – Intense! Intense! That's one murderous, psychotic sociopath! Whoa! Much like Inherent Vice, this is based on a novel of the same name. It's a bit of a slow-burn up until the one-hour mark, but after that it kicks up several gears, and this is when the story really shines. David Fincher (The Social Network 2010) does it again. Ben Affleck (Argo 2012) and Rosamund Pike ( Jack Reacher 2012) put in great performances. It's at the one-hour mark when Rosamund Pike's character really comes to life. This is definitely a screenplay I would like to read. Awesome! Excellent!
Wild – was in two minds about watching this. But I'm glad I caught it. It's quite a story, and certainly different. When you're trying to clear your head, what could be better than going on a thousand-mile plus hike across the Pacific Crest Trail. It's a pretty deep story, that gives you a lot to think about, come the end. Reese Witherspoon puts in a great performance as Cheryl Strayed. Deciding to take off on a hike is one thing, but to go on one that lasts that amount of time is something else. Especially with all the possible dangers and troubles you might encounter along the way. Some great photography, and scenery as well. Wish there'd been more. Looked pretty amazing! If you're into hiking, long-walks, or just thinking about life in general, definitely worth checking out. Very Good!
Big Hero 6 – why is this coming out now? That's the first question. The second question. Why's this being released at this time of year? Seems like an odd choice. The Lego Movie (2014), came out at the same time last year! But that was a whole different ball game. This plays and looks like a Summer movie. As soon as I saw the trailer for it, I wanted to see it. The animation is amazing, and Baymax, what an awesome creation. This is such great entertainment for the entire family. With some great themes running through it. Some really good imaginations went to work in creating these characters. A bit of research has just revealed that these are Marvel characters. Awesome! By the end of the movie, I was debating, should they follow through with a sequel, or an animated TV series? Why not both? Lots of potential here. Really enjoyable. Excellent!
Selma – Awesome! Martin Luther King's campaign to gain equal voting rights. No idea how historically accurate it is, but it's extremely well written, and acted. Great performances all round, with a few familiar faces making brief appearances. Nice seeing Cuba Gooding Jr. (Boyz n the Hood) and Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs) in it. Some pretty powerful and emotional scenes in there. And the footage at the end, superb! Really felt emotionally invested in the story from the beginning. In a story such as this, that's a requirement. David Oyelowo does an outstanding job! Excellent!
Nightcrawler - How do you write something like this? Not only is this amazingly written, but it has a fantastic cast, and Jake Gyllenhaal nails his character. What a superb performance. Worth seeing just for his portrayal of Louis Bloom. He really digs deep and gets into the mind of this character. If you like this, check out Prisoners (2013), another gritty movie. Excellent!
Kingsman: The Secret Service - Ludicrous! Preposterous! This may be an odd one to add to the list. But for pure escapism, and silliness, where you can basically shut your brain down for two hours, you could do far worse than this. While I was surprised by the amount of bad language, and violence, considering the rating, this generated quite a few laughs along the way which was surprising. If you're going into this expecting an Oscar worthy story, forget it. This is definitely not for you. The overall plot is paper-thin, which makes it incredibly easy to follow. Is this a parody, yes it is, of sorts? Does it contain a lot of slapstick, and over-the-top scenes, yes it does? Many viewers will find it offensive, while others will see it as a very lighthearted romp. Well done to Matthew Vaughn and company for coming up with something completely ridiculous, yet strangely, entertaining. Very Good!
Still Alice – An emotional roller-coaster! That's the only way to describe this extremely well-written story. Very heavy material that's adeptly handled in a very thought provoking, and touching way. It will certainly give you much to think about when you finish watching it. And the cast is great. Julianne Moore (Boogie Nights, 1997) puts in a great performance as Alice Howland. Excellent!
Cinderella – A fairy tale through and through. Props to Kenneth Branagh and company for bringing this live version to the big screen. Very enjoyable with a great cast. Very visual, colorful, and creative. It's a long time since I've watched the animated version, but this felt pretty close to it. Lily James (Downton Abbey) gives a good performance as Cinderella. In fact there may well have been a bit of a Downton Abbey reunion going on. Is this her first feature? Cate Blanchett puts in a memorable performance as the nasty Stepmother. A great fun-filled family movie. Very Good!
Fast & Furious 7 – Fourteen years ago! That's when The Fast and the Furious (2001) came out. Hard to believe. They've come a long way since then. If you're a fan of the previous movies, and Paul Walker, check this out. Some completely ludicrous set-pieces and action sequences make this an enjoyable and entertaining ride. Definitely worth watching. Not sure if they'll make another, but they've definitely left it open for a sequel, or spinoff of sorts. Very Good!
John Wick – Keanu Reeves is back! As far as action movies goes, this is as good as it gets. The one-on-one fight scenes are just awesome. Well choreographed! Always makes a difference. Once the action starts it doesn't let up. Non-stop action right through to the end. And it's all because of a dog and a car. Not sure if they're planning a sequel, but this would make an awesome TV series. A lone hit-man trying to find himself. Bring in a love interest. All the interesting characters at the hotel. So many possibilities, and avenues. Very enjoyable and entertaining. Excellent!
Avengers: Age of Ultron – Marvel! Action! Entertaining! Joss Whedon! Really enjoying the direction these stories are going. Marvel and company are really doing the legwork on these. Not entirely sure if they're planning crossovers anytime soon, but there's a lot of potential here. Looking forward to the sequels, and the other movies taking place in this vast universe. Excellent!
Mad Max: Fury Road – A high-octane, jet-fulled extravaganza! George Miller makes good on bringing Max Rockatansky back to the big screen. The second this starts, it doesn't let up. Sprinting all the way to the finish line. Action! Action! Action! Mayhem and chaos right through to the end. Some great set-pieces and gags set this apart from other action movies. Charlize Theron really steals the show as Furiosa. Her whole appearance and demeanor fits her like a glove. Considering the shoes he's filling, Tom Hardy gives a memorable performance as Max. Really enjoyed this. Looking forward to what George Miller and company have lined up for the sequels. Excellent!
Ex-Machina - Really enjoyed this. Didn't get a chance to watch it on the big screen. Nothing like a good story about artificial intelligence. Enjoyed Oscar Isaac's performance, especially on the dance floor. Hopefully he won't be attempting any dance moves in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Very Good.
Straight Outta Compton – Wow! When I first heard about this project, my first reaction was, no way! No way can they make a movie about NWA. Not possible. You can't do it. No way. Got that wrong. Fantastic. Superb! This is really good, and the performances are exceptional. Especially Jason Mitchell's take on Eric 'Eazy-E' Wright. Outstanding! As someone growing up listening to a lot of hip-hop and rap, this was a blast from the past. Especially when the first track starts. 1988, that's when you had a lot of class rap and hip-hop artists. Then NWA came on the scene, and they unleashed Straight Outta Compton on the world. Intense, edgy, risky, and very hard lyrics. This is right up there with Boyz n the Hood (1991) and Menace II Society (1993) Excellent!
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation - A little late in the day, but I managed to catch a showing of this before it vanishes. Awesome! Great opening scene. Some will argue that there's no backstory, and that we know nothing about any of these characters. Which is true to some extent. If you've never watched any of the previous ones. This can be easily fixed by watching Mission Impossible (1996), and Mission Impossible; Ghost Protocol (2011). No need to watch the 2nd or 3rd one. Really enjoyed this. Action scenes and sequences are outstanding. Glad so see there's a Jack Reacher sequel in the works. Very Good!
Inside Out – Different! Certainly not what you'd expect from Pixar, which gives you all the more reason to watch it. While very different, it reminded me of the more adult-orientated Where the Wild Things Are (2009 ) From the moment we're introduced to Joy, and the other characters, you just know we're going to be in for a visual feast. And Pixar doesn't disappoint. This is definitely a story that both the kids and adults will be able to relate to on some level. Hopefully, Pixar will keep pushing the boundaries and offering up stories that are both unique and different. Looking forward to watching The Good Dinosaur (2015). Excellent!
Sicario - Let's talk movie scores. A good soundtrack that draws you in as an audience member goes a long way. And the music written by Jóhann Jóhannsson really creates a sense of danger and dread as the story progresses. This is extremely intense. From the opening scene, right through to the end. It doesn't let up. Benicio Del Toro gives an outstanding performance, as do many of the other cast members. One of the best movies of the year. This is one screenplay that I'd love to read. Awesome! Excellent!
Black Mass - Is there anything new here? Probably not. There have been countless stories involving similar characters and situations over the years. Is this at the same level as Goodfellas (1990) and The Departed (2006) and various other gangster movies, no? That's not to say that it's not good, or worth a watch. Johnny Depp gives an almost unrecognizable performance as James 'Whitey' Bulger. One of his best performances in a quite a while, as does Joel Edgerton as John Connolly. Very Good.
The Martian – No idea what the novel's like, but going on how this plays out, should be an outstanding read. Well done to Andy Weir. A diet of potatoes, awesome! From the moment this starts, it keeps you invested in Mat Damon's character and the situation he finds himself in. Great performances all round. A space pirate! There's a story there somewhere. Excellent!
Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Terrible! Absolutely terrible! No idea what happened here, but this was probably one of the worst movies of the year. ONLY JOKING! After letting the dust settle, and giving myself a few days to digest this, all I can say is well done to everyone that made this work. From the music, right through to the visuals, and more importantly, how the story evolves over the course of two hours or so. I don't like putting movies down, but this was a far cry from the prequels. What happened there? Best forgotten. There were a few things I found troublesome, but nothing that takes away from the overall story. And how it plays out. No spoilers here. Go see it. And if you haven't seen them yet, watch the original trilogy first, then go watch this fun-filled extravaganza. Excellent!