The 10 best films of 2015 (UK release)

When I stepped back to look at my list of the 10 best films of 2015, I noticed 4 of my choices are science fiction and a further 3 are animated.

Cinema is escapism and if I wanted real life I’d stay at home. When I go to the cinema I want to go to places I can’t go in real life. There’s no place I can’t go to more than outer space.

Any film holds the possibility for fully exploiting cinema’s epic potential if it combines intelligent storytelling, tremendous visuals, an out of this world scale and a sense of humour.

As ever it’s impossible to see every film released each year, and so the absence of drama 45 Years (2015) and documentary Amy (2015) shouldn’t be read as a judgement upon them.

However the absence of probably Oscar contender Carol (2015) is deliberate. You can read about here.

Top 10 films of 2015

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

George Miller’s barkingly brilliant reboot of his own 1979 action classic is an extraordinarily epic non-stop thrill-ride, an apocalyptic nitrous charge of pure cinema.

2. The Martian

Matt Damon was marooned on Mars in this breathless, big budget sci-fi adventure which rockets along to a disco beat. Who knew Ridley Scott could do funny?

3. Song of the Sea

This gorgeous Irish fairytale is a moving and magical adventure full of enchantment and transformation. Oscar nominated for Best Animated film.

4. Ex Machina

Sexy, sharp and stylish, this brilliant British sci-fi thriller explores man’s relationship to machines with verve, wit and polish. Alex Garland is happy to acknowledge the debt it owes to long running comic 2000AD.

5. Whiplash

An aspiring jazz drummer clashes with his menacing music teacher in this  exhilarating music masterclass. Won three Oscars including Best Supporting Actor for JK Simmons.

6. Big Hero 6

Disney gave us this hilarious, joyous and thrilling tale of a boy and his inflatable robot Baymax. Winner of the Oscar for best animated film.

7. Birdman

Michael Keaton soars in this extraordinarily ambitious black comedy about a desperate actor enduring a nervous breakdown. It’s funny, sexy, brave and bold. It won Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay and Cinematography.

8. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Magical and moving, this animated folktale of a young girl who comes of age is a charming, moving and beautifully crafted joy, bursting with humour and life.

9. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

A light speed blast of fun from this epic seventh and third best episode in the long running sci-fi saga. Fast, funny and visually spectacular. The force is strong in this one.

10. Spring

Little seen but fabulous horror of an American in Italy who falls for a mysterious girl. A gorgeous and terrifying love story. Narrowly edged out It Follows as best horror of the year.

And the best of the rest:

Horror 

It Follows

Documentary

Red Army

Precinct 75 

Western

The Salvation

Slow West

Bonus movie:

The return of Keanu Reeves in kick ass form as the puppy-loving assassin John Wick.

Top Ten worst films

1. Jupiter Ascending

2. Entourage

3. The Last Witch Hunter

4. The Boy Next Door

5. Seventh Son

6. Captive

7. The Visit

8. Vacation

9. Hot Pursuit

10. Everly

Spring

Director: Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (2015)

A young American suffers the holiday romance from hell in this seductive supernatural shocker.

Having lost his mother and his job and finding himself wanted by the police, Californian cook Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) high-tails to Italy to sort his head out.

Having hooked up with foul-mouthed Brits Tom and Sam (Nick Nevern, Jonathan Silvestri) Evan accompanies them on a road trip to the beautiful port of Bari.

Once there Evan is picked up in a bar by a raven-haired beauty in a startling red dress. She says she’s called Louise (Nadia Hilker).

She’s a forthright and well-travelled genealogy student who has a secret skin-care regime and may be lying about her age. Louise is also averse to having her photograph taken and says she tries to be vegetarian.

Evan is smitten and as his Brit friends disappear to Amsterdam, he takes a labouring job on a farm in order to stay close to the enigmatic Louise.

His boss is taciturn widower Angelo (Francesco Carnelutti) whose melancholic devotion to his crops adds depth to the slowly gestating romantic tone.

Evan tries to woo Louise with dinner dates, boat trips and museum visits. Together they’re charming and funny and we want them break through the emotional barriers keeping them apart.

Unknown to Evan, Louise suffers a condition and it’s getting worse. Macabre tones twist up through the romance as maggots, insects and snakes begin to intrude.

For reasons which become horribly clear, Louise enjoys unprotected sex and there are discarded needles on her bathroom floor.

We appreciate the danger Evan is in long before he does and the fate of their relationship is dependent on the arrival of the imminent spring equinox.

Inventive, intriguing and gently hallucinogenic, Spring benefits from deliciously visceral physical effects, a confident and precisely constructed script and two likeable leads who share an engaging chemistry.

Their deadpan banter is cut from a similar vein to the horror classic An American Werewolf In London (1981) – but also sweet and tart like the fruit of Angelo’s grove.

Co-director Benson wrote the script and his partner Moorhead acted as cinematographer. Both are in healthy command of their respective disciplines and combine to create a film substantially more than the sum of its low budget parts.

Moorhead’s camerawork is fluid and controls the rhythms of the story, contributing to the sly and slightly trippy tone. He makes the old town quarter of Bari look fabulous, as much a character as Vienna was in Don’t Look Now (1973).

The romantic touchstones would be Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995) and of course F.W. Murnau’s masterpiece Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans (1927).

With it’s expertly mixed combination of horror, comedy and romance, Spring is a smart, enjoyable and accomplished addition to the cinema of 2015.