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

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

SPOILER ALERT

While care has been taken to not give away major plot points, if you desire an untainted viewing experience you may wish not to read this until after you have seen the film.

Director: JJ Abrams (2015)

Strap yourself in for a light speed blast of fun in this epic seventh episode in the long running sci-fi saga.

Visually spectacular, fast, funny and very, very familiar, it’s a huge relief this is a vast improvement on the last three thunderingly dull films.

Director Abrams is such a super Star Wars (1977) fan and loves the original film so much he’s gathered all his favourite bits together.

Then he’s mixed them about, souped them up and sent them roaring back into the cinema.

There’s lightsabers, lasers, robots, aliens, stormtroopers and a bigger, badder Death Star called the Star Killer.

It’s the original surname given to hero Luke Skywalker in the early drafts of the first film, another of the geek orientated references littering the galaxy far far away.

Yes it’s the series’ third space travelling super weapon which contains enough fire power to destroy whole planets.

This one is controlled by the First Order, the new identity of the old evil Empire whose resurgence is threatening to destroy the peaceful New Republic.

Harrison Ford makes an emotional return as the swashbuckling space pilot Han Solo. Alongside Peter Mayhew as hairy first mate Chewbacca, he is once more in debt and on the run.

The first appearance of his battered spaceship the Millennium Falcon is brilliantly handled but as with many jokes in the film, it’s a moment which mainly plays to the fans.

Another persistent problem is using the film’s ferociously paced planet hopping to glide over the minor plot holes scattered about the universe.

As anyone who’s seen Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) will be aware, Abrams has never been particularly punctilious about plotting and simply uses his ample momentum to rocket across them.

Solo falls in with a scavenger, a renegade stormtrooper and a small orange beach ball style of a robot called BB8.

They’re trying to return the droid to it’s master as it contains information vital to the future of the galaxy.

Brit actors Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are brilliantly refreshing as Rey and Finn, bringing humour and energy to enthuse the old stagers.

2016 has been a great year for kick ass action heroines and in Rey it’s snuck another one in under the wire. She’s a physical, feisty and frequently surprised at her own abilities.

Stalwarts of the first trilogy Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels appear briefly as General Leia Organa, Luke Skywalker and C-3PO.

Cinematography Daniel Mindel is experienced with working on big budget CGI heavy sci-fi movies such as Abrams’ two Star Trek movies.

Though equally fabulous looking this is a less glossy, more dynamic affair. Following the Millennium Falcon in flight, his camera arcs, dips and spins in breathtaking manoeuvres.

Plus his camera is careful to capture the excellent production design by Rick Carter and Darren Gildford.

Their work gives the bashed, bruised and broken worlds the weight of history, anchoring the fantastical elements in their own mythology.

As the third best Star Wars film, the force is strong with this one.