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South Texas Living


Best movies of 2015 ... so far




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At the movies
July 1, 2015 | 3,207 views | Post a comment

The year is halfway done, and it’s a fantastic time to highlight the best movies so far. If 2015 has been about anything thus far, it’s been about a resurgence in horror. It’s been such a desert for the genre in recent years that I’m normally happy if one film is good enough to make a top 10. So far, there are four. Each of them is a fresh take on the genre.

10. “Jurassic World” This film manages to take its action seriously while crafting jokes from a mix of the franchise’s smartest and stupidest moments. This is Jurassic Remix. Much of its success is due to Chris Pratt, your go-to if you need a self-deprecating actor for your self-effacing movie. Making the plot hinge on the loyalties of the first film’s villains, velociraptors, is either brave or insane. Somehow, they make it work.

9. “What We Do in the Shadows” The best comedy in a year that’s weak for them, this is an 86-minute series of sketches about a reality TV crew filming a group of roommate vampires. It juxtaposes gothic tropes and a lot of blood against the awkwardness of apartment living and figuring out the chore wheel. Throw in more than a few swipes at “Twilight,” make the vampires lame and self-conscious, and you’ve got a fresh, comedic take on the found-footage horror movie.

8. “Unfriended” A “locked room play” is a type of play that traps characters in a closed space. They’re forced to solve a mystery and face uncomfortable realities about each other without the ability to escape. Here, social media is the locked room in question, as the Internet ghost of a bullied girl terrorizes the student characters. It’s the first film I’ve seen that takes commonplace moments in online life and twists them this effectively.

7. “Chappie” In most metrics, audiences rated this much more highly than critics did. Those films always intrigue me. The story of a robot learning to be human in a gang-ridden South Africa, it’s a violent spiritual successor to films like “Short Circuit.” Despite its cute story, it doesn’t coddle the viewer. It pulls off robot fights while also capturing tremendous emotion, and it even touches on some very risky science-fiction ideas.

6. “Predestination” Sci-fi legend Robert Heinlein’s short story “All You Zombies” was long considered impossible to adapt to film. One of the first time travel paradox stories, it twists in on itself in the most intimate and surprising ways. Containing incredible performances by Sarah Snook and Ethan Hawke (his best since “Gattaca”), the film deserves consideration as a new sci-fi classic.

5. “Under the Dome” Take Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” strip the ego away, and throw in a lot more journalism, and you’ve got Chai Jing’s “Under the Dome.” The documentary confronts China’s pollution issue and how it contributes both to the country’s ill health and climate change. Jing has a background as an investigative journalist -- the film’s strength rests with her ability to show how money and bureaucracy create laws that are never enforced. The free film’s popularity (you can find it on YouTube) exploded upon release, causing a scramble in China to block it that only increased its fame and importance.

4. “Inside Out” Pixar’s latest animation is a movie that heals like few others. While it’s adventurous and filled with slapstick humor, few movies are able to portray a helpless character so privately and humanely as 11 year-old Riley. Her emotions run amuck in her head as characters unto themselves. No other film on this lists understands so well what it’s like to feel powerless, or how panic and anxiety build in ways that make it difficult to seek help.

3. “Mad Max: Fury Road” If an action movie has a great chase scene, it lasts five minutes and it’s half as good as the two-hour chase that is “Mad Max: Fury Road.” This year’s definition of spectacle keeps CGI to the background and focuses on real stunts in a beautifully realized post-apocalypse. Even as Charlize Theron’s Furiosa drags Max and a host of refugee women in tow, she stands out as one of this year’s most intense (and feminist) heroes.

2. “Ex Machina” Watching this is top-notch suspense, but I found myself obsessing over the film and its messages for weeks. It’s about two men deciding the fate of an android -- a woman created by one and tested for humanity by the second. It’s incredibly layered, boasting the best screenplay in years. Without leaving the perspective of one character, it demands viewers think about events from the perspectives of all three. It gets inside our own senses of desire and morality and asks very difficult questions.

1. “It Follows” I called this the most important American horror film in decades and I stand by that. “It Follows” strictly adheres to the logic of a supernatural villain passed from one victim to the next like an STD. It feels like it takes place in the 50s and the 80s and today all at once, lending it a dreamlike quality that haunts you. Few films feature a dread this inescapable, and few films pack this much story and meaning into their framework. The finale shoved my heart into my throat and gave me chills. This is legendary horror.

Gabe Valdez grew up in Chicago, went to college in Massachusetts, is a former news reporter in Floresville, Texas, and worked in politics in Oregon. He writes and directs films when he can find the time. Reviews, views, photos and more can be found at http://basilmarinerchase.wordpress.com. Email him at vlasicary@hotmail.com.
 

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