by A.C. Hall
Another year has passed, and it’s time once again for the most enjoyable best and worst list in Tarrant County. Yes, I’m that popular of a movie critic. In fact, I’m so popular that in 2009 someone sent me an email to tell me that I’d misidentified the type of rodents that starred in the terrible family film G-Force. I’d called them Gerbils in my review, and this keen eyed fan pointed out that they were actually guinea pigs. Any reviewer who can inspire such email from readers must be doing something right. So yes, you are in for a holiday treat, and it’s just about time for us to embark on this magical journey that I like to call the Best and Worst movies.
Before we begin, I want to point something out. It’s the holidays, and schedules get wacky. Therefore, I’m writing this feature before the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. If Star Wars is as magical as we all hope it will be, just imagine that it’s in my top 5 best movie list. If it’s an incredible let down, just imagine that I put it as my biggest letdown of the year.
Now that all the Star Wars nerds have been appeased, let’s begin!
Mad Max – Fury Road
Not only does Mad Max have the best action sequences of the year, it’s basically just one long evolving action sequence. This movie is jam packed with some of the most inventive and incredible action I’ve seen on film in years. There’s not a moment of this film that’s not wildly
original and that extends to the gorgeous action. Explosions, gun battles, snipers, spike covered cars, and a giant vehicle made of amplifiers with a guitar player known as the Doof Warrior strapped to the front make this the most action packed film of the year by far. It helps tremendously that stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron are as cool as they come as they dispense justice and mayhem throughout the film.
Biggest letdown: Avengers 2 – Age of Ultron
For a long time, Marvel movies were the standard of quality among comic book blockbusters. That era died in 2015 thanks to Age of Ultron. How bad was this movie? At one point, one character says “I’m only going to say this once” and someone responds, “How about nonce.” Yes, that’s the level of the writing in this film. After capturing pure magic in the original Avengers, this second entry in the franchise is a mess of the highest degree.
The writing in this movie is so stupid that the way the characters deal with their creation gone wrong of a rogue artificial intelligence robot is by creating a new rogue artificial intelligence robot. Filmmakers also thought it would be a good idea to make Hawkeye, the most boring of all the Avengers, the centerpiece of the film. Did you know he’s got a secret farm where his secret wife and secret kids live? Oh, you don’t care? Yeah, nobody did.
I could go on for quite a while about the badness of the film. The ending was extremely similar to the end of the first Avengers, there’s a super weird and uncomfortable romance between Black Widow and the Hulk, James Spader prances around and says James Spader stuff in the guise of a James Spader shaped robot, Hawkeye’s farm, it’s just not a good movie at all. It was hard to see the mighty Marvel misstep so wholly with this one and hopefully it’s not a dark omen for the future of comic book movies.
Worst actress: Adam Sandler – Pixels
Adam Sandler is so bad that he transcends categories. When I was thinking about the worst actress of the year, my first thought was to see what movie perennial worst actress Cameron Diaz ruined in 2015. She decided not to torment the earth with any performances in 2015, which left me scrambling for a suitable replacement. Enter Adam Sandler.
If I ever have children I’m going to force them to watch the entire Sandler film history from beginning to end. It’ll serve as an important lesson in what happens when you give up on life. Sandler hasn’t actually put forth any effort in a movie since eight or nine years ago. In his recent body of work, he actually appears to be sleepwalking through his performances. I’m serious here. He’s so disinterested in what he’s doing that he can’t even be bothered to open his eyes. Sometimes he mumbles something dumb, and then he slowly stumbles off screen, eyes 85% closed. It’s a sad, pathetic waste of a comedic talent that decided many years ago that being funny and making halfway decent films just isn’t worth his time or effort anymore.
Best actress: Karen Abercrombie – War Room
This year there were few characters more enduring than the prayer loving grandma Miss Clara in the film War Room. She’s full of wit and energy, giving this movie plenty of sass and fun as she anchors this faith based story about the power of prayer. What’s truly disconcerting is
when you find out that the woman playing Miss Clara isn’t an elderly grandma after all. She’s actually a vibrant woman who doesn’t look a day over 39, which makes her perfect portrayal of 80 year old Miss Clara in the film so amazing. To this day, many months after discovering this, I still struggle with the thought that it wasn’t an actual old lady playing the part of Miss Clara. In a strange way, I almost felt tricked. And if Karen Abercrombie is good enough to make me feel that way, then she most definitely deserves to be named best actress of 2015.
Best horror movie: It Follows
Great horror movies present terror in a new and interesting way. It Follows presents the idea that an unstoppable evil is coming ever so slowly towards the main character and there’s nothing that can be done to stop it. It can look like anyone, and all it has to do is reach you and it’s all over. This ever present, shambling evil gives this movie such an amazing sense of looming dread. You spend your time scanning the
background of every scene, wondering if any of the extras in the background are actually the evil entity making it’s way towards the film’s unfortunate main character. It’s fun, full of tense atmosphere, and wonderfully original.
Best bad movie I enjoyed: Jurassic World
Now now now now now, don’t get angry. Take a deep breath and really think about this. Jurassic World wasn’t actually a good movie. The characters are paper thin, the movie spends 40 minutes making us listen to two kids whine about their parents marriage troubles before giving us any dino action, and the villains in the movie are among the dumbest villains with the stupidest motivations ever. The film’s very existence is
dumb. In Jurassic Park, a dino theme park fell apart and resulted in the murder of many people. In Jurassic Park 2, people try to gather up some of the remaining dinos and take them to the United States. In the process, a bunch more people get murdered. Jurassic Park 3 returns us to the ruins of the original Jurassic Park where, you guessed it, dinos still be murderin’ people. So yeah, it makes PERFECT SENSE that someone would build another dino theme park in Jurassic World. Just as it makes perfect sense that it all goes wrong and, yeah, dinos start murderin’ once more.
So yes, this is a badly paced movie with bad characters and a really bad premise. But, it was just so much fun to watch, wasn’t it? Over the course of my life I’ve learned that when dinos rampage, I like to see it happen. If I had a time machine, I’d probably go to dino times and watch dinos rampage around a jungle. And then they’d murder me, because that’s apparently what always ends up happening with dinos. But just as it is in Jurassic World, it would be a lot of fun to watch.
Worst actor: Johnny Depp – Mortdecai
A long time ago, Johnny Depp portrayed some outrageous yet lovable characters in movies. But it’s been many long years since Depp did anything worthwhile or good on screen. Yet for some reason he is always around. Like a strange virus that doctor’s don’t know how to treat, awful Depp performances just won’t go away. His movies continuously bomb and are universally hated and somehow they just keep happening.
It doesn’t help that the forever strange Depp gets weirder every year. He’s seemingly lost himself in a sea of odd characters, and now he just appears confused and overly medicated. Mortdecai is perhaps the worst Depp film ever made, which is really saying something. He gives an anti-performance, unveiling a harrowing form of anti-comedy that leads to anti-entertainment.
I can’t stand Johnny Depp, and while I understand he’s easy on the eyes, I hope that he stops making movies. He’s obviously not able to do them well anymore. Either he’s too high on his own legacy or too high in general, but either way something’s just not working for this guy. I saw him in a weird cologne commercial recently where he silently drove a motorcycle and then stood in the desert and I thought, ‘yeah, that’s the proper use of his talents’.
Best actor: Michael B. Jordan – Creed
Those who have been paying attention already knew that Jordan was a special young actor. After his star making performance in Creed, everyone’s aware of it now. If he continues to pick smart, quality roles this is an actor who will go a long way. His quiet intensity was perfect for
the roll of Adonis Creed in this continuation of the Rocky boxing film franchise. Jordan has good comedic skills as well, making him the kind of well rounded actor that could do anything he chooses. In the coming years it’s going to very interesting to watch the role choices Jordan makes. The right ones could lead to him being one of the best actors in Hollywood. For now, he is my pick for best actor of 2015.
The one the critics got wrong: Burnt
I didn’t love this overly dramatic Bradley Cooper film about a disgraced chef’s redemption but it certainly didn’t deserve the huge amount of hate it got from critics. Behind it’s many flaws, this was an engaging and interesting movie with plenty of great characters and performances. One reviewer said it was more like a lackluster TV pilot than a feature film while another called it too earnest and too glossily daft, which doesn’t even make sense.
This is far from a perfect film. My own review was full of criticisms, but Cooper’s performance goes a long way in covering up the film’s flaws. A very strong start and a great finish make this a movie that certainly didn’t deserve the critical smashing it got. When it comes out to rent in a few months I strongly suggest checking it out.
Most heartbreaking film: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
It’s not easy to accurately describe this movie in one paragraph. This is a quirky, odd, offbeat, beautiful, earnest, amazing movie. I loved it dearly, but as you can tell from the title, it deals with some heavy stuff. As an extremely odd high school senior befriends a classmate with a
serious illness, the movie explores mortality, life, and friendship. I was blown away by the great performances and uniqueness of the characters and the dialog, but it’s the emotional punch of this movie that has stuck with me long since I saw it.
Worst Movies of 2015
Before we get to the good, we gotta take one last chance to skewer the bad. These five films are among the worst movies I’ve ever had the displeasure of sitting through.
I despise storybook fairytale style entertainment. From Peter Pan to Cinderella, I’ve never enjoyed these kinds of stories. But for some reason, I was really excited about Pan. It looked like a cool new take on the Peter Pan story and had some actors I really like in Hugh Jackman and
Garret Hedlund. Then I saw it, and I was actually upset. I was at the Coyote Drive In theater, and I sat in my car and just angrily glared at the screen as this movie played. The acting is atrocious, the story is beyond generic, and I pretty much despised every minute of this movie.
#4 Paul Blart Mall Cop 2
The original Paul Blart was a surprisingly delightful film. Part ludicrous comedy and part action film, it was a reminder of why over the top comedy can work so well when executed properly. Paul Blart 2 is the complete opposite. Nothing works in this film, and it stands as a
monument to why sequel greed is among the worst things in Hollywood. All the heart, charm, comedy, and quality action from the original are nowhere to be seen in the sequel. It’s among the most uninspired sequels I’ve seen in a long time and is a truly sad excuse for a movie.
#3 Fantastic Four
For a film that deals with inter-dimensional travel, super geniuses, and people with super powers, Fantastic Four is shockingly boring. As it
tells it’s story with all the excitement of a monotone voice reading you the phone book, the movie also features some of the worst performances of the year. In a story all about the camaraderie between four people, there is zero chemistry or spark between any of the characters. Kate Mara and Miles Teller are particularly bad, each giving performances about as exciting and lively as my mailbox.
In modern Hollywood, Adam Sandler is the worst. He gives zero effort in his films, and Pixels is a good idea that’s wasted on the awful Mr. Sandler. I hated this movie so bad that in my review of it, instead of talking about the movie, I listed all the things you could’ve done with the
film’s $100 million budget. This movie accomplishes something pretty incredible as it delivers opposite-comedy. At every moment, the thing most opposite of comedy is done or said. Prior to seeing Pixels, I didn’t even know it was possible to be this lame and unfunny. Watching Sandler sleepwalk through this movie will fill you with rage, as it’s clear that any other living being on the face of planet earth could’ve done a better job in his role than he does. A lizard, a bug, a baby, a sloth, anything would’ve been more entertaining and would’ve had better comedic timing and instincts than Sandler does in Pixels.
Yes, I would rather watch Pixels again than watch Mortdecai again. I would watch all four of the other worst movies of 2015 in a row before I would watch this one again. That’s how bad this Johnny Depp film is. This movie is charmless, humorless, and useless. Depp’s bumbling
eccentric investigator character is quite possibly the worst character ever captured on film. I think this movie is in my all time top three worst films of all time. I hated this movie so much that I’m just going to write the word hate twenty five times. Hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate. Every person who worked on this movie should be barred from moviemaking for life, and every unfortunate soul who had to see this movie should be given 300 hours of free counseling to help us get over the wounds inflicted to our psyche by this awful, awful, awful, awful film.
Best Movies of 2015
Luckily for me, there were also some really incredible movies this year. Here are the five best films of 2015.
#5 Project Almanac
This time travel movie didn’t get much love when it released early in 2015 but it was one of my early favorites this year. I recently watched it again and was reminded just how good of a film this is. Well thought out time travel films are some of the best in existence, and Project
Almanac makes time travel fun as it puts a time machine in the hands of some brainy teenagers. Inventive, dramatic, and just an absolute blast, this is definitely one of the best films of 2015.
I love Sylvester Stallone and I love the Rocky franchise, so I was worried when I saw Stallone was relinquishing the writing and directing duties
and letting someone new takeover. Those worries couldn’t have been more wrong. Creed is a beautiful modernization of the Rocky mythos. It moves Stallone to a mentor/supporting role and allows Michael B. Jordan to step in and make his mark as a leading man in Hollywood. Plus, the boxing action is presented in a wholly unique and incredible way, taking the audience right inside the ring for every punch.
Marvel didn’t have a very good year, but thankfully along with stinkers like Avengers 2 and Fantastic Four they also gave us Ant-Man. This comedic super hero movie was one of the most delightful movie going experiences I had this year. This movie isn’t just funny, it’s hilarious.
Supporting character Michael Pena steals the show, delivering comedic gold every single time he opens his mouth. Ant-Man reminds us why we fell in love with comic book movies in the first place. It’s charming, funny, exciting, and witty. This is one of Marvel’s best films in years.
#2 War Room
As a Christian and a movie critic, I’ve sometimes had the unenviable position of having to give bad reviews to faith based films or ignore them completely. Christian movies are notoriously cheesy and bad, but in the past few years they’ve really started to improve. War Room is easily the
best Christian movie of all time. It’s the most genuine and absolute expression of the real life changing power of prayer and a life devoted to God that I’ve ever seen. I cried four or five times in the theater while I watched this movie. It’s full of charm and warmth and gets some great performances out of the small cast.
#1 Mad Max: Fury Road
If I asked if you wanted to spend 100 minutes of your day watching a moving about a truck getting attacked you’d almost certainly say no. But somehow, Mad Max: Fury Road does this exact thing and makes it the most thrilling and incredible experience of the year. In addition to the
unending action, this movie is the most creative and unique film I’ve seen in years. Everything about it just oozes with creativity. The costumes, the weapons, the vehicles, the names, the weather, it’s all a never ending clinic in how to be original in modern Hollywood. This movie isn’t for everyone, but for me, it was an easy pick for best movie of 2015.