Thursday, July 30, 2015

The top 10 best movies of the 1st half of 2015...

Ching's Top 10 best movies of the first half of 2015...and the worst movie of the year so far

Welcome to my top 10 list of the best movies of the first half of 2015, and my pick for the worst movie of the year so far. I know I'm going to get shit from a lot of people as my pick for worst movie was a big hit with many critics. 

Without further ado, here we go...

Honorable Mentions:

Trainwreck, About Elly, Kung Fury, Entourage

10. Kingsman  ****

My pick for the best action movie of the year. The church massacre scene...just, holy shit! Quite possibly the best action scene ever made! Then there's that mushroom clouds scene...okay, not as cool as the church action scene, but trippy as fuck, surreal, and kind of mind blowing...literally. While not quite as good as Kick-Ass, I will still refer to Kingsman as the Kick-Ass of spy movies. I'm down with turning this into a series, and I'll be more excited for the next installment of this than the next Bond.

9. Predestination   ****

This is a movie I feel like I have to watch at least 3 or 4 times to fully get the plot. Even reading the plot summary on wikipedia after the movie, trying my best to comprehend everything, I felt like my brain was hurting. Of all time travel movies, this one is the biggest mind fuck, and perhaps the most mind blowing as well.


8. Cobain: A Montage of Heck  ****

Surprised to say that the trippiest movie of 2015 is a documentary about Kurt Cobain, which kind of reminded me of the brilliant short Canadian documentary RYAN. I was expecting your standard talking heads with concert footage documentary, and was very surprised by the incredibly surreal style of the movie, with a psychorealist style, depicting the psychological breakdown of Kurt Cobain. They have a lot of good source material including Kurt Cobain's own notebook (which is animated in such a cool way), audio interviews with Kurt Cobain, where his stories are animated in a rotoscoped style, interviews with his family, and what's even kind of haunting is actual home video footage of him and Courtney Love. It's documentary filmmaking that thinks way outside the box. It's definitely the best documentary I've seen about a musician.


7. Ex Machina  ****

This is a movie that you appreciate more after the credits, having time to think it over and discuss it. In fact, I actually had this movie ranked lower on my list originally, but it was a conversation I had with a friend of mine that lead me to give it a higher rank, as our talk made me appreciate the movie's complexities more. 

This is the most low key AI movie I've seen in a long time. Primarily a cast of 3 actors, an ultra rich scientist who's designed the most human looking robot imaginable, the expert that's asked to come talk to the robot, and determine whether she can pass as an actual human being, and of course the robot her...itself? When you develop a machine with human-like consciousness, should the robots get the same rights as humans? Is it wrong to destroy a machine, if it has consciousness?

Ex Machina is smart, unpredictable, with its fair share of fucked up moments. Not only do you not know where the plot's going, the characters' motivations are unknown, including the robot herself. Ex Machina never goes into overblown Hollywood territory, it stays low key, with some nice twists to it. Admittedly I was a little restless at times, but the 3rd act of the movie completely won me over.


6. Chappie  ****
So...this is not quite as smart of an AI movie as my #7 pick, in fact, the movie gets so utterly absurd towards the end. On the other hand, I never expected that a movie about a scientist being able to put human consciousness into a robot for the first time (the scientist raving about a robot that can write poetry) would end up in an absolutely hilarious movie where a group of thugs get a hold of the robot and turn Chappie unknowingly into a gangsta robot. The scene of Chappie stealing cars is one of the funniest things!! Hilarious all the way through, then Hugh Jackman is some evil dude that unleashes his super duper ass kicking robot, and when it turns into a full blown action movie, it delivers far better robot action than anything in the Transformers movie. So yes, this is a leave your brain at the door movie, but a damn good one!  

5. Spring  ****

This is a very interesting arthouse blending of genres to which I have to say, I wish I could be ranking this movie higher. Kudos to the filmmakers for being inspired by Before Sunrise and saying, "What if we made a horror movie version of Before Sunrise?" Man meets beautiful woman who turns out to be some crazy transforming...I still don't know what to call her, but it's a more complicated explanation than just being a werewolf. Spring has easily the most powerful opening I can remember in a long time. 3 minutes into the movie, I was already in tears.

Once it turns into a romance...unfortunately the couple don't quite have the chemistry of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight. Once it goes into horror movie mode and the guy realizes what type of beautiful beast he's fallen in love with, its plot is more complicated than you'd expect, and it's fun going along with the movie's surprises. With the horror, there's a sweetness to it and some brilliant comedic bits. If only the chemistry between the couple was better, this really could have been #1.


4. Inside Out  ****1/2

Pixar's best movie since Toy Story 3, and a definite return to greatness! This is what we want from Pixar movies which has been lacking for the past few years, a visually dazzling movie that will entertain the kids, but an intellectually stimulating movie for adults, as well as one that will emotionally resonate as well, with an original premise.

Inside Out is probably the most psychologically complex movie Pixar has done so far. The human brain is the single most complex object in the entire universe, and the representation of the world of the brain in Inside Out is done with so much imagination. Making characters out of each human emotion and how it controls the person is brilliant. I have read a complaint which I do agree with, which is that Joy and Sadness's journey does go on a little long (this is mostly to entertain the kids), but their journey does lead to the movie's big moral which I won't give away, but god damn what an important life lesson it is.

3. What we do in the shadows  ****1/2

It's a tough fight between this and my pick for #2 for funniest movie of 2015, but I think I'll give the slight edge to this one. If I had seen this movie in theatres, there would have been cases of missing certain jokes due to laughing so hard at the previous one. At least watching at home, I was able to pause the movie, wait for my uncontrollable laughter to stop then resume. It is unfortunate the movie loses a bit of steam towards the last act, but for how good the jokes are, it's very forgivable.

Vampire movies and shows have been done to death, but I love the idea of a mockumentary/reality show premise of simply following the lives of 3 vampires living in the same apartment. Among vampire problems such as sunlight, this movie addresses a bigger issue such as, how do you bite into a human without hitting one of the main arteries? Although this movie is a comedy, it sure as hell doesn't hold back on its gore which it uses to a hilarious effect. Premises like these, I often think like a comedy writer and think and complain about potential jokes that they missed. This one however, I can't think of any missed opportunities.They took the premise and made the absolute funniest movie possible.


2. Dope  ****1/2

It's cliched to say that Dope was dope. Maybe I'll use this analogy and say that Dope is the equivalent of the finest, stankiest, crystal laden purple kush you can find. (Maybe a bad analogy as the drug used in the movie is MDMA, or "molly", a term I had never heard until I saw this movie) This is easily the most entertaining movie of the year, and one of the funniest. It's like a mix of Boyz N the Hood, Friday, a tiny little bit of Dear White People and maybe a bit of a black version of Better Luck Tomorrow. When it comes to black people comedies, I think this one just might be my all time favorite...and yes, I'm picking this one over Friday. None of the comedy feels forced. All the humor feels so natural to the situation and it never feels like the filmmakers are trying to get laughs.

What is a harder life than being a black guy living in the ghetto? Being a black nerd living in the ghetto. I know some people will complain that the narrative is all over the place, but I enjoyed just going with it, as it's nice when you're unable to predict where the movie's going. To quote James Berardinelli's review as he sums it up a lot better than I could, "Criss-crossing genres like an out-of-control hip hop song, Famuyiwa dabbles in the teen sex comedy, the urban gangster story, and the fish out of water scenario. He gives us suspense, gross-out humor, a cute romance, and a sermon about the status of race in America."

Sadly Dope under-performed at the box office, and I hope it can find an audience when it's out on DVD. I hope that Dope can join the likes of Do the Right Thing, and Boyz N The Hood as the most iconic black movies as I think it's every bit as good.


1. The Voices  ****1/2

I do have to start this by saying that this is a really really fucked up movie. I would even say that Dexter comes off as a Disney show in comparison to how dark and fucked up The Voices is. You've been warned. This movie is not for everyone, but if you're willing to go into a really dark, fucked up territory, this is a very original movie you will not forget anytime soon. I was conflicted on whether to give #1 to this or DOPE, but I think I have to go with this one for its originality and it sheer audacity. If you look up the word "audacity" in the dictionary, the end credits of The Voices should be in it. Only people who've seen it will know what I'm talking about. 

Talk about transcending my expectations, this is the best serial killer movie I've seen in a very long time. The trailer makes it look like a one dimensional dark comedy (our main character has full on conversations with his pets...who are awesomely hilarious characters might I add); fact is, I don't remember the last serial killer movie that went as deep into the psychology of a psychopath, and his slow descent into madness as well as this one. The Voices is a phenomenal character study, on top of being such a morbidly dark comedy, and being pretty fucking suspenseful as well. I was surprised to learn that this was directed by the same girl who directed Persepolis. Talk about a female filmmaker with much bigger figurative balls than the majority of male filmmakers to make a movie this fucked up.


Worst movie of 2015 so far... 

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl  **

I am sure there were worse movies than this, but I didn't see them. If this movie didn't come with such a wave of praise, I might be easier on it, but this is one case where I truly feel the critics got it wrong. This movie is irritating! Instead of trying to be an authentic dramedy about someone dying of cancer, it becomes a big self indulgent, hipster, try so hard to be quirky and hip wank fest. First time I'll say this, I think intellectual, postmodern pandering is every bit as irritating as pandering to the lowest common denominator. This movie reeked of filmmakers being all pleased with themselves being like, "Hey look, we're referencing Ingmar Bergman, look how smart we are! We know our classics." Or even more irritating, having our main character read his college essay in a Werner Herzog accent. It feels like a movie that panders to intellectuals who are pleased with themselves for getting all these obscure references. It's a movie that lacks its own identity. I'm getting tired of this postmodern bullshit. Some movies do it well, DOPE made some really cool references. This one runs it into the ground. I don't see how people can be annoyed by JUNO trying so hard to be hip and quirky, but defending this movie. This one is 1000 times more irritating, with a much shittier sense of humor.

Here's the thing...this movie's comedy writing is fucking awful! The characters are rather 1 dimensional and the movie spends so much time trying to be all hip and cool that the drama just completely fails. Barely any of the movie felt authentic. It really is sad state of things especially for an indy film when I sit there watching it, wishing I was watching the mainstream, chick flick tearjerker The Fault in Our Stars instead. That movie sure as hell has much better comedy writing, much better developed characters, better performances, and it's simply a more powerful, authentic drama about cancer. 

Of all the critics, David Edelstein truly got it right: