Friday, 22 January 2016 11:00

My Favorite Movies & Blu-rays of 2015

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Well, I promised a couple of “Best of” lists, and here they are (I was a bit of an overachiever and got the lists done quickly, so... you’re welcome). Please keep in mind that this is simply my personal favorite movies or titles based on what I’ve actually seen throughout 2015 and it doesn’t necessarily represent both sides of the industry as a whole. This is, more or less, my favorite of the movies and Blu-ray Discs that I saw in 2015.  [Read on here...]

And please take note that if we have done a Blu-ray review for these titles, a link will be provided for you to check it out. With all of that in mind, let’s go through my picks…

My Favorite Movies of 2015

10. Turbo Kid – This was a welcome surprise. It seemingly came out of nowhere and hit VOD with a big splash. A hardcore throwback to 1980’s culture and moviemaking aesthetic with a rocking soundtrack, this little trip to post-apocalyptic 1997 was a fun and charming bit of business.

9. Krampus – This might well be one of the best Christmas horror movies in years. It hits all of the right notes, being satirical and self-aware at times while getting the horror elements absolutely spot on. I would expect nothing less from the director of the immensely rewatchable Trick ’r Treat.

8. Kingsman: The Secret ServiceThis isn’t a popular choice for many, I’m sure, but that over-the-top action scene in the church in the second act of the movie just slayed me. A bit of Colin Firth and Samuel L. Jackson as a villain with a lisp didn’t hurt either. It was a movie that I went to the theater for as a blind watch, and more often times than not, that pays off. It did in this instance, for sure.

7. Shaun the Sheep Movie – Where is the love for this little animated charm factory? I know Inside Out pulled everybody’s heartstrings in 2015 the most, but this was one that tugged at your heartstrings just enough but left room for everything else. I had been a fan of the show for a long time and I was thrilled when it finally made its way to theaters unscathed and untouched by outside influences.

6. Ex Machina – If you’re any kind of a science fiction fan, 2015 was a red letter year for you. Outside of big name franchises there were two solid sci-fi films that came along, Ex Machina and The Martian, the latter of which I still haven’t seen yet. Ex Machina has some very delicate sensibilities mixed with some amazing ideas and performances, making it one of the finest of its kind.

5. The Hateful Eight – Oh, man. If you got the chance to see this properly in 70mm, you were in for a real treat. I can’t say it’s Tarantino’s best, but it was damned entertaining. Strong characters and dialogue, as always, mixed with strong visuals (much stronger than some critics might lead you to believe) made this one a pleasure to go to the cinema and see in 2015.

4. Creed – There’s no way in hell that I would have predicted the quality of this movie, and there’s also no way in hell that I would have bet money that a semi-sequel to the Rocky franchise that wasn’t about its main character would have been successful. I was thankfully wrong on both counts. Creed is a real crowd pleaser, the kind of movie we don’t get too often. It may feel like it’s hitting familiar territory at times, but that’s time well-spent in territory worth revisiting. And not just the fight scenes either, but ALL of the character moments. Everything just shines about Creed.

3. What We Do in the Shadows – Unfortunately, not many horror titles made it onto my list this year. Not that it wasn’t an interesting year for horror, but there was so much to sort through that I just couldn’t get to all of it AND keep track of everything else. One movie in particular seemed to outshine them all though, What We Do in the Shadows. Not only was it the funniest movie I saw all year, but also the best vampire movie I had seen in ages. With a mockumentary aesthetic and a straightforward story about a group of vampires living in a flat together, it’s comedic gold, and easily the best horror comedy since Shaun of the Dead.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road – Whew... I could go on about Fury Road for days. This is damned epic and fucking amazing filmmaking right down to its core. There’s not a single wasted frame with every piece serving a purpose. People have gone on and on about how George Miller, a 70-year-old man made not just a great sequel to the franchise he created and guided, but also the best of the movie of the series, as well as the best action movie in decades. And whether you’re an action fan or not, you can’t deny the amount of care and craft that went into making this piece of gold. It’s a testament to just how far you can push filmmaking in today’s age without resorting to trends or needless technological advances. Quite simply, a masterpiece, through and through.

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you knew this one was coming sooner or later. The Force Awakens is my favorite theatrical experience of the year, and my favorite film of the year, even over Fury Road. I have rarely been so floored in a cinema. Like most people, I had given up on a good Star Wars movie. I’ve never been much of a Star Wars fanboy. I never read the books or comics, played any of the video games, or bought any of the merchandise. I’ve just simply appreciated the hell out of the three original films. And after the prequels, I had given up on seeing a good Star Wars movie ever again. It’s all that I really wanted out of it when I heard about, merely a “good” movie. What I got was a great movie, better yet, a minor miracle. J.J. Abrams pulled off the impossible. People have bitched and moaned about the similarities between it and the original Star Wars, but it’s all pointless chatter to me. This was a damn good movie, one that I’ve seen four times at the theaters (so far), and I’ll continue seeing it until it’s no longer there for me to see it. It’s special to me. I felt like a kid again, weeping when it was over after watching it for the first time. No movie has had that kind of power over me in a long time.

Now then, let’s move on to my favorite Blu-ray discs of 2015.

My Favorite Blu-rays of 2015

10. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – Even though the movie was released in 2014, I didn’t discover it until it hit Blu-ray. It’s an amazing film and its Blu-ray release features a top-notch A/V presentation, but unfortunately, a little lackluster on the extras. Thankfully, the movie and the presentation make up for that.

9. Mad Max: Fury Road – Here is another release of an amazing film that has a top of the line presentation but with supplemental material that leaves you wanting a lot more than what you get. Hopefully, this is one that’s revisited sometime down the road. I’d love to see a down and dirty, full-length documentary devoted to the making of this film. It wholeheartedly deserves it.

8. Tales from the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight/Bordello of Blood – Collector’s Edition – This one is cheating a little bit, I know, but both of these releases are a tie for me. They’re movies that I loved as a young teenager and give me a warm feeling whenever I see them now. Besides the terrific presentations, the extras on these releases are also terrific, particularly the sordid details of the goings-on behind the scenes on Bordello of Blood.

7. Robot Jox – I’m reasonably certain that this is one that probably won’t make a lot of top ten lists this year, but I had to single it out (and be rest assured, this isn’t the last Scream Factory title you’re going to see on this list). The presentation is very good, but the supplemental material is one of the best packages the folks at Scream Factory has ever put together. This was also a movie that I was aware of for a long time but hadn’t seen. I ended up loving it because of this release, and it gets a lot of points for that in my book.

6. What We Do in the Shadows – I’ve already gone on and on twice now about this movie, but it’s Blu-ray release is not to be overlooked. It has a great presentation and extras, especially the deleted scenes and outtakes. This was a project stuffed with good ideas and funny bits, and not all of it wound up in the movie. It’s also interesting seeing the original short film and how similar it is to the finished movie.

5. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension – Special Edition: Special Edition (Region B) – I am a major fan of Buckaroo Banzai, and I’ve been bummed that a Blu-ray release of the movie has yet to make it stateside. Thankfully, the folks at Arrow Video (who also produced another title on this list), have not only tided me over, but sated me as well. It’s full of nearly everything from the wonderful Special Edition DVD that MGM released a more than a decade ago, plus delivering a top-notch transfer. The only thing missing is a soundtrack release (I’m looking at you various independent music labels... you know who you are).

4. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Extended Edition – It feels strange including a release of a movie in this list that I wasn’t all that enamored with initially, but producer Michael Pellerin’s extras on this release make it worth revisiting, as they usually do with all of his projects. Detailing all of the sordid details behind the scenes, a lot of which I felt was missing from the previous releases of the other Hobbit movies, it really gets into the nitty gritty, more so than any of the Lord of the Rings sets. It can also be quite touching as well.

3. Blood Rage: Special Edition (Region B) – Now this is what I’m talking about! Blood Rage is a fairly recent review, but I can’t deny how much I loved and appreciated it. It’s a gonzo movie with almost nothing redeeming about it, and the fact that Arrow Video have seen fit to include three different versions of the movie with extras in a spectacular little package makes the collector and cinephile in me weep with joy. These heavy-handed releases of obscure titles like this is what keeps me coming back for more, and this one didn’t disappoint.

2. Escape from New York: Collector’s Edition – There aren’t enough consonants and vowels in the English language for me to properly express my love for Escape from New York. This is a disc and a movie I watched many, many times in the past couple of years alone, and every time has always been a good time. Scream’s treatment of it with an excellent A/V presentation and a bevy extras almost made it my favorite Blu-ray release of the year, if not for one other release...

1. Army of Darkness: Collector’s Edition – This is one of those releases that was an absolute pleasure to review. I watched all five versions of the movie, as well as the enormous amount of extras, in one weekend, and never once in that timeframe was I ever bored. I love the Evil Dead movies, and I especially love Army of Darkness. Yeah, it’s the campiest of the bunch, but it’s also one of the most entertaining entries in the franchise. Scream Factory knocked this release out of the park, continuing to prove themselves to be the best Blu-ray production companies in the US. And with this kind of treatment for titles that I love, keep ’em coming.

And there you have it. And please, if you choose to contact me about my selections, be kind. I’m sure you have valid selections on your lists as well. Do share them with me if you like.

With that, I bid 2015 adieu and get on with 2016.

Thank you for stopping by and I’ll be back again soon.

- Tim Salmons


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