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ComicMix Six: Box Office Democracy’s Top 6 Movies of 2015

ComicMix Six: Box Office Democracy’s Top 6 Movies of 2015


When I started making this list I was very down on 2015 but I was wrong. I was delighted to relive all of these films; 2015 was a fantastic year.

Honorable Mention: Get Hard – Get Hard is not a movie I reviewed for this site or even one I saw theatrically but rather on an airplane. The marketing for Get Hard was so unappealing to me, but I laughed harder while watching it than I did at any other movie this year. It had all of the uncomfortable moments where this or that rape joke or borderline racist moment happens but it’s overpowered by better jokes and a better attitude. I’m not much for movie quotes anymore but I have found myself saying “You are a disappointment to your parents, who I fucked” a few too many times for polite conversation and that’s got to be worth something.

  1. Furious 7/The Big Short – These are the movies that are probably not good enough to be on this list that I just couldn’t bring myself to cut. In their individual ways these films were both made for me. Furious 7 is not as good as Fast Five or Fast & Furious 6 but the goodwill from those sublime pieces of action cinema is too strong in me. I can’t dislike that movie even if the action sequences might be finally tipping over the edge of my suspension of disbelief and even if the characters might be getting a little too cartoony I love it too much. The touching tribute to Paul Walker is just icing on the cake.Similarly as a economics major who now works as a film critic I’m not sure any film has ever been aimed quite so squarely at me than The Big Short. Explaining the 2008 financial collapse in an understandable way is a herculean task and they accomplish it with no lack of gusto. The acting and the directing are also fantastic, but they feel a little too much like they’re aiming for awards to rate higher on this list. I don’t go to baseball games to see the players swing for the fences with every at bat, and I would appreciate a little more subtlety in my cinema as well.
  1. Inside Out – The real brilliance of Inside Out is in the simplicity of the idea. Of course our emotions are different people inside our heads just like of course our toys come to life when we aren’t looking. It just makes an intrinsic amount of sense. Inside Out is a simple story told very well with dizzying highs and devastating emotional lows and that kind of journey is rare in any movie and even more so in movies intended for children. That Pixar has made this kind of filmmaking so routine is a testament to their sublime artistry and I’m so happy to have them around.
  1. Straight Outta Compton – It’s been a long time coming for a serious filmmaker to make a movie about the dawn of hip-hop in a way that respects its audience, acknowledges the political reality that was urban America in the mid-80s, and respects the artistry the same way the endless parade of rock biopics have done over the years. Straight Outta Compton fulfils that promise and more. I hate when people describe actors as “channeling” a real person when they portray them on film but I feel myself reaching for that word when I want to describe how uncanny the acting performances were in this film. The icing on the cake is how relevant the struggles with the police feel even 30 years later because of the myriad ways nothing has really changed.


John Ostrander’s Summer Movie Wrap-Up


Labor Day 2015 is upon us. Technically, the season’s change on September 23rd but for all intents and purposes, summer closes shop right after Labor Day. The summer movie season is over and the fall seasons are gearing up. Among things to look forward to is the new Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, coming out around Christmas. However, we’re going to look back at the offerings from last summer, specifically the ones I saw and most enjoyed.

I freely admit I haven’t seen all the cinematic offerings that were out. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation got missed, for example. I saw a fair amount, though, and I’m prepared to talk about those. You should be prepared for spoilers since I may reveal plot elements. That’s okay; you should have seen these films by now anyway.

There are six films on the list – Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Tomorrowland, Inside Out, Jurassic World, and Mad Max: Fury Road. All entertained me, some surprised me, and I’ll want all of them on disc for repeated home viewing, some more than others.

Remember: these are my opinions. Your mileage may vary.

Avengers; Age of Ultron moved the whole Marvel franchise forward and, together with Ant-Man, rounded out Phase 2 of the Marvel Conquers the Cineplex movement. The Avengers film had everybody and then some (played by their usual thespian counterparts), and included the Falcon in the mix and debuted Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, and the Vision, always a personal favorite of mine. The Big Bad was the nasty computer program in the crisp robotic shell, Ultron, voiced by the always silkily threatening James Spader.

Did I like it? Yes. Did I like it as much as the first Avengers film? No. It seemed more disjointed to me. There were also odd additions – a possible budding romance between the Black Widow and Bruce (The Hulk) Banner (?). The suggestion that Black Widow had relationships with most of the other male members of the Avengers (because – why?). The fact that Hawkeye has a wife and kiddies out in the hinterlands. None of it seemed very central or even germane to the plot and seemed only to pad it out.

On the other hand, it also had the return of Nick Fury and, at a key moment, the original SHIELD Helicarrier, which I loved. The big fight at the end went on a bit long and didn’t always make a lot of sense. Nonetheless, I enjoyed all of it.

Ant-Man was the surprise to me. Like last year’s Guardian’s of the Galaxy, I would not have bet you money going into it that I would enjoy it so much. But I did. Paul Rudd was a hoot and I bought his heroic side when it surfaced. Michael Douglas took the Famous Older Actor In a Surprise Supporting Role that Robert Redford did in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Marvel/Disney really can afford just about anyone it wants to get.

Ant-Man may be better suited to the movies than the comics. The shrinking man and large objects around him works better on the screen than the page. I may be looking forward to this Blu-Ray even more than the Avengers one.

Tomorrowland is based, conceptually, on a portion of Disneyland but, like the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, is so much more entertaining than it needs to be. Part of that can be traced back to Brad Bird, who directed it and co-wrote the screenplay. You may know Bird better as the director on Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and others.

The film stars George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, and Britt Robertson as the spunky young gal who is the center of the story. The city of the title exists in a fold between time and space and it’s where the dreams of the future become real. It’s in danger of being corrupted and made prosaic by those who think they are saving it. What it needs is dreamers.

I love this film because, ultimately, it is so hopeful. It’s about the necessity of hope and that’s a message I think we need more of these days. It’s far from a perfect film but it’s message really appeals to me.

I’ve written before about Inside Out, the latest offering from Pixar. Quick summary: very inventive and imaginative, heartfelt, psychologically true (IMO) and wonderfully realized. I loved it.

Mad Max: Fury Road. Wow. Intense. As reboots go, stunningly successful. Tom Hardy makes a great successor to Mel Gibson and looks very much like him in the early Mad Max films. Charlize Theron kicks major league ass. George Miller is astounding. He’s seventy years old, it’s been thirty years since he last directed a Mad Max movie, and this film had so much raw energy, imaginative action sequences and filmmaking derring-do that you would have thought he was a much younger man taking over a sagging franchise. There’s lots of things that call back to the earlier Mad Max films while, at the same, time, laying claim to it all for a new generation of filmgoers.

Jurassic World. It’s been more than twenty years since the first Jurassic Park movie and about fourteen since Jurassic Park III (which, for the record, I preferred to Jurassic Park II although, from reports, Steven Spielberg did not.) This is essentially another reboot of a franchise although, strictly speaking, it does follow in continuity from the first one. It was a thundering successful relaunch; it made just buckets and buckets of money. It also marked Chris Pratt’s emergence as a bonafide and believable action film star. Oh, he was the star in Guardians of the Galaxy but his Peter Quill was a bit of a goofball as well; he had a strong streak of coyote in him. In Jurassic World, there is a young Harrison Ford feel to Pratt. Charismatic, strong, and a star.

One of the problems for Jurassic World is that, when we see the dinosaurs, there isn’t that same sense of wonder we had in the first Jurassic Park. The plot in Jurassic World mirrors that – the park itself is having problems because having dinosaurs is no longer “new” – not so much of an attraction — so the Powers-That-Be manufacture, by blending DNA strains, a whole new – and very deadly – form of beast. And, of course, it escapes. Jurassic World pleases us, it entertains us, but it doesn’t –- it can’t — give us that same sense of wonder, of discovery, that the first Jurassic Park did.

So – which of these was my own personal favorite? I enjoyed them all but there’s no question that Inside Out is my pick. It’s not a reboot, it’s not a sequel, it’s not another link in a cinematic chain; it’s fresh, it’s engaging, it’s funny, and it has its own truths to tell. Tomorrowland comes in second for the reasons I’ve already given. Like Inside Out, it is something new and fresh and that scores a lot of points with me.

So – how was your summer?


John Ostrander is Late To The Party

inside out disney

I’m not the most punctual person. Sometimes I am late to the party. Well, okay – I’m usually late to the party. Maybe showing up just as the party is ending. These columns, for example, usually get in just under the wire thus making my revered editor tear out what little hair he has left. I think of it as part of a game we play. I don’t think he likes the game that much.

I sometimes lose this game of temporal brinkmanship. Recently I missed a scheduled flight (for the first time in decades). I think I arrived at my brother-in-law Fred’s 75th birthday in time for his 76th birthday. I also have missed seeing at the theater some of the movies I really do want to see. Or getting in to see them just under the wire.

I recently had a chance to see Pixar’s latest offering, Inside Out, just before it left the theater. And I barely made it to that. So anything I may have to say about it may be moot. If you intended to see it, you probably already have and, if you don’t intend to see it, you won’t care. Maybe, however, you’re one of these people who wait until movies come out on disc or to Netflix or whatever so you can see it on your Apple Watch or whatever.

I do not approve of this practice; yes, I also buy discs but it is usually for movies I have experienced in the theater first which I regard as the proper way to see the film. Seeing a photograph of a famous painting is all right but it is not the same as seeing the painting itself. It’s better than not seeing it at all but it’s not the same experience. Hmmm… I’ve drifted a bit off-topic.

I’ve been a fan of Pixar for a long time and have seen almost all their films in the theater first. I initially passed on Cars because I’m not a fan of stock car racing. My mistake. I now have the disc which I watch frequently. I did, however, pass on Cars 2 and that, from what I’ve read, may have been the right choice.

Inside Out focuses on an eleven year old girl, Riley, who moves with her Mom and Dad from Minnesota to San Francisco. The gimmick is that we see Riley’s life and her responses from inside her head which are controlled by five essential emotions – Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust, and Sadness. Riley’s interior life is brilliantly imagined and realized visually. There are surprises at every turn and a deeply involving story. The movie is wonderfully cast (whoever thought to cast Lewis Black as Anger deserves a raise) and terrifically acted, full of genuine emotion. It also feels psychologically true to this layman. Inside Out has better characters, dialogue, and deeper insights into the human psyche than many so-called  “straight” live dramas.

This is what Pixar so often does. You think you’re going to see an animated film – a cartoon – and they give you so much more than you anticipated. Pixar’s films should have a shot at the Best Picture Oscar and not just for Animated Feature. I think they’re that good.

So, if you’re one of those who wait to watch movies at home, add Inside Out to your playlist and kick it towards the top. If it is still playing in a theater near you, run out and see it while you have the chance.

Don’t be late to the party.


Tweeks: Review Inside Out and Lava and More!

On Father’s Day we took our dad to see Disney Pixar’s Inside Out because it’s a Pixar movie and everyone loves a Pixar movie!  Plus, we really wanted to see it.  So here is our review of that, but we really wanted to also talk about Parks & Rec too since we both have been binge watching it for the past month.  We also wanted to talk about Toy Story 4, which is related.  Want to know how it is related, and also hear about which emotion Anya identifies with, learn about Maddy’s Thinking Panda, and see us fangirl over volcanos? Watch our video.