It’s the end of the year, so it’s list time – and what you’ll be wanting to know is what was worth seeing in UK cinemas in 2015 – and what wasn’t.
Rather than a single “best and worst” list, we’re giving you two for the price of one; to reflect the fact that, as industry agent Julian Friedmann once told me – I paraphrase: “If everyone liked the same thing, film would be a very boring industry” – you’re going to get a “best and worst” list from each of our critics, here at What’s Worth Seeing.
And just to complicate matters, we each had last year’s Oscar-contender Whiplash at the top of our lists, so I’m giving that to Maria, to allow us to give you more of this year’s silver screen highlights.
What was Worth Seeing in 2015...
|...according to Jason Korsner||...according to Maria Duarte|
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS - After three tremendously disappointing prequels, JJ Abrams has restored faith in the force with an Episode VII that will recapture the childhood of anyone in their 40s, while winning over a new generation of fans, with thrilling action, stunning effects and the right mixture of references and imagination.
WHIPLASH - Turned jazz drumming into a nail-biting art form/thriller as J.K Simmons bullied the hell out of Miles Teller as an ambitious young jazz drummer, in an Oscar winning performance. Who knew jazz drumming could be this exhilarating and spine chilling at the same time.
|THE LOBSTER - The most surreal log-line in recent cinema history (in a world where everyone has to be in a couple, singles are sent to a hotel and anyone who fails to find a partner in 45 days is turned into the animal of their choice) plays as a darkly comic thriller and a social satire worthy of Luis Buñuel, although the second act doesn't have the impact of the first.||HE NAMED ME MALALA - A gripping and inspirational documentary which paints an intimate and empowering portrait of the remarkable Nobel Peace Prize winner and campaigner Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban for speaking out for girls’ education.|
|THE WALK - Robert Zemeckis comes as close as possible to giving us a reason for a narrative remake of the excellent Man on Wire, as he thrills us with Philippe Petit's dramatic Twin Towers tight-rope walk - from above - in 3D.||BROOKLYN – a gentle and gorgeous coming of age romantic drama set in the fifties about an Irish immigrant girl in New York who is torn between two differing countries and cultures. Saoirse Ronan is both striking and captivating as Eilis who transforms from a shy and homesick Irish girl into a confident and sophisticated New Yorker.|
|WHILE WE'RE YOUNG - Ben Stiller in one of his darker comedy-drama turns, in a must-see film for men approaching a middle-aged crisis. It’s an entertaining, enlightening and uplifting romp through the personal and creative difficulties and decisions that life throws at us.||KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE – Bond meets Mission Impossible in this smart and hugely entertaining teen spy spoof movie which features a stellar cast headed by Colin Firth, Michael Caine and Samuel L Jackson.|
|BIRDMAN - No best of 2015 list can be complete without the year's Best Picture Oscar winner Birdman, Alejandro González Iñárritu (soon to be back with The Revenant) directing Michael Keaton (back on form in the upcoming Spotlight) as a blockbuster actor trying to reclaim the limelight with a pretentious theatrical production||INSIDE OUT - Pixar explores the mysterious inner workings of a child’s mind in this wonderfully imaginative and charming yet terribly touching animated feature for all the family.|
|JUST MISSED THE CUT: Steve Carell's turn as a psychopathic wrestling billionaire in Foxcatcher; Ethan Hawke killing Iraqi insurgents from the comfort of a prefab office on a Texas military base in Good Kill; Paul Rudd's turn as Marvel's Ant-Man in a film that works as well as a comedy as it does as a comic-book adventure; and Tom Cruise's latest high-octane outing as Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.||JUST MISSED THE CUT: Sir Ridley Scott's smart, thrilling and surprising Robinson Crusoe adventure in The Martian; the taut and gripping Sicario, that analyses the drugs war across the US-Mexican border; the powerful and heart-breaking documentary, A Syrian Love Story; and the wonderfully surreal Iranian vampire spaghetti western, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night.|
What was not Worth Seeing in 2015...
|...according to Jason Korsner||...according to Maria Duarte|
CRIMSON PEAK - Guillermo del Toro scored a rare miss with this complacent gothic horror romance, which was neither scary nor romantic - whose unimaginative story was formulaic and directorial flourishes overused
FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS Its A-list cast, led by Russell Crowe, can’t save this unfathomable, clichéd, painfully sentimental father/daughter love story. Crowe stars as a renowned writer turned widower who is forced to give up his only daughter following a mental breakdown while Amanda Seyfried plays her as a young woman who is dysfunctional due to her troubled childhood.
|HACKNEY'S FINEST - It really pains me to do this as I like to support independent British film, but when everything - from the writing and directing to the acting and cinematography -looks or sounds cheap, all it does is make it harder for the next no-budget British crime flick to get a look-in.||BY THE SEA - This is Angelina Jolie Pitt’s vanity project in which she directs and stars with her real life husband Brad (for the first time in ten years) as a married couple in crisis. They travel to the South of France to rekindle his writing career and save their marriage which they do by spying on the sexual antics of the newlyweds in the room next door through a hole in their bedroom wall. It is truly the pits.|
|TED 2 - Without doubt, the biggest disappointment of the year, as the sequel to one of the most imaginative and boundary-pushing comedies turned out to be a lazy re-run of the best bits wrapped around a shameful and complacent effort to milk a franchise.||MORTDECAI – This willfully unfunny and truly bizarre art heist caper strikes another low for Johnny Depp who seems to be emulating the late and great Terry Thomas.|
|VACATION - You'll laugh, but you'll feel as dirty as the excrement that the characters find themselves in for it, with a string of mindless gags, tied together by a weak and derivative but ultimately uplifting narrative.||The D-TRAIN – This is nasty and wholly unfunny as Jack Black and James Franco hit the buffers in this bromance comedy which goes tragically off the rails.|
|AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON - Another huge disappointment as the latest episode of a previously glorious franchise delivered little more than noise, an intricate plot that will be inpenetrable to anyone new to the characters and corny efforts to introduce depth. Its action set pieces do at least make it enjoyable, if you switch your brain off.||THE GALLOWS – Set in a high school theatre this is one of the worst found film footage horror flicks post Blair Witch. It is dull, derivative and amateurishly made.|
|JUST MISSED THE CUT: Will Smith's slick conman fails to thrill or surprise in a film that doesn't live up to its title, Focus; and Suite Française, a pedestrian wartime melodrama with a clunky narrative that undersells the actors.||JUST MISSED THE CUT: the musical abomination of London Road, that depicts the gruesome Ipswich prostitute killings of 2006; and the bland and generic cat-and-mouse thriller, Momentum.|