Picking the best movies that come out in any given year is no easy feat. With over 800 movies released theatrically, there’s plenty to digest. As we reach the halfway point of the year, we decided to publish a list of our favourite movies thus far, in hopes that our readers can catch up on some of the films they might have missed out on. Below, you shall find the list of the top 30 films of 2015 to date, a list that ranges from independent horror films to documentary to foreign films and so much more. Here is part one of our three part list.
Effective time travel films must be able to set clear, established rules and be a means of achieving greater, emotional weight . Without the two, a film can be eviscerated by plot holes or become an unruly, empty spectacle. Predestination, an adaptation of an Robert A. Heinlein’s short story, “”—All You Zombies—”,” effectively coopts time travel and musings on fate and identity by anchoring the film emotionally with a stellar performance by Sarah Snook. Predestination is paradoxically both stylistic as well as barebones. Temporal agents hop via a pedantically named device in the form of a violin case, and the effects itself are minimal but still satisfy. This is not a typical time travel thriller nor a brilliant, nuanced allegory, but something in between. Although the twist will shock and amuse, it is the gradient performance by Sarah Snook in transforming Jane into John that sets an otherwise shallow film apart. Science fiction allows people to grapple with difficult and often nebulous themes, and although not perfect, Predestination does just enough to stand out in its dealings with time, fate, and identity. (David Tran)
24. Jupiter Ascending
There is a dearth of original films released to mainstream audiences in recent years, what with major studios and too many audiences preferring to play things safe with sequels, prequels, reboots and remakes. Original science-fiction motion pictures are often relegated to video on demand and the film festival circuit nowadays, but maybe, with a little bit of luck, 2015 will cause a dent in that tendency. Chappie, Ex Machina and Jupiter Ascending have all received widespread theatrical distribution, the latter harkening back to the days when filmmakers relished the opportunities to explore far off universes populated with fantastical creatures driven by stupendous stories of courage and sacrifice.
Starring Mila Kunis as the titular Jupiter Jones and Channing Tatum as Caine Wise, a human-wolf splice equipped with rocket boots, directed by the Wachowski siblings, the film invites viewers for a truly wild, witty, at times off kilter ride from the Windy City of Chicago, Illinois, to the depths of the universe when a powerful entrepreneur, Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne), earning bank on energy cells made from human mass, learns that earthling Jupiter may be the reincarnation of his long dead mother. Zax doesn’t want Jupiter to claim what in theory is her thrown as ‘owner’ of the Earth, therefore unleashing hoards and hoards of baddies to kill her off. If the plot sounds ostentatious, that is because it is, but then again, oftentimes the good space operas regale in such wonderfully loopy adventures. The Wachowskis understand this and deliver a film with the requisite amount of sophistication, knowledge of expertly crafted action sequences, pleasing visual effects, and two lead actors that are extremely difficult not to like. Most poignantly, Kunis’ Jupiter is an interesting character not by showing strength in brawn, but rather by showing strength in character, forced into making terrifyingly difficult decisions that favour the needs of the many over the needs of the few or the one. (Edgar Chaput)
The found-footage genre receives a boost of credibility with Levan Gabriadze’s Unfriended (previously titled Cybernatural), a deft little satire dressed in slasher garb that achieves a lot and entertains thoroughly without being all that scary. The setup is simple: A group of online chat room friends find themselves haunted by a mysterious, supernatural force using the account of their dead friend. Milking its ghost in the machine concept to the furthest degree, the film is fixated on how programs such as Skype, Spotify and Facebook work not only as a sudden means of communication, but also how each eventually harms or spooks the film’s characters in exciting and cruel fashion. Perhaps favoring fun over traditional horror, Unfriended’s scares usually come in the form of a character receiving a loud call via Skype or some other seemingly innocuous gesture that turns deadly; similar to It Follows, this is another movie where scanning the frame at all times proves to be an effective audience exercise steeped in paranoia. Director Levan Gabriadze hasn’t gone out and reinvented the wheel, but it would come as no surprise if his film doesn’t inspire its fair share of imitators. Slim, fun, and surprisingly well performed by a group of mostly unknown actors, Unfriended’s stance on white milennials being truly awful people is fresh and fierce. (Ty Landis)
22. Welcome to New York
Abel Ferrara has long been a vital voice in the New York underground film movement. Many of his best known and loved works have centered around his home city. His works are brutal, raw and tender, he never shrinks from the darker elements of the human spirit and is fascinated by a fractured sense of self, disturbed by violence and inequality. Welcome to New York is an extension of that exploration, though the film is also a bit of anomaly. Inspired by the story of rising french politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn who was arrested in New York City for assaulting a maid, the film zeroes in on the impossible life of decadence and privilege of it’s grunting boorish lead. Gerard Depardieu as Devereau is a commanding and horrifying stand-in for Strauss, his often grotesque physicality dominating nearly every frame he’s in. Depardieu’s sheer presence justifies his casting, but demonstrating once again why he’s among the best actors working today, he brings pathos and understanding to a character so adrift from the “normal” world most of us inhabit
This is in many ways the defining story of the post-financial age. It is a story of incredible wealth inequality, privilege and violent masculinity. The opening scenes of the film feel like a parade out of Satyricon, a portrait of a society lost to its own decadence. Ferrara’s consistently confrontational aesthetic, which drifts between raw and rough bringing a strange intimacy to the proceedings, perhaps one we don’t particular want to be witness to. Whereas other filmmakers are content with implying certain realities Ferrara is content with nothing less than the truth. (Justine Smith)
21. Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter
One of cinema’s biggest urban myths becomes a key focal point in the new drama by actor/director David Zellner. Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter centres on the lonely Kumiko (Babel actress Rinko Kikuchi), a Japanese OL (Office Lady), who is convinced that the money buried in the film Fargo is real. Armed with an embroidered map and her boss’s stolen credit card, she ventures to Minnesota to find the treasure buried 18 years ago by Steve Buscemi. The film is based on another urban myth surrounding a Japanese office worker, Takako Konishi, who was found dead in Minnesota in 2001. Media coverage of her mysterious death grew into speculation that she had moved to America to find the money in Fargo, when she actually fled to America after falling into a bout of depression and eventually committed suicide by the Detroit Lakes. She was the subject in the 2003 documentary This is a True Story. Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter borders on fantasy and reality but through its atmospheric narrative and Kikuchi’s powerful performance, it becomes a rare thing in film: a dream that you end up hoping is real. (Katie Wong)