The year wraps up with old franchises making big bucks: some of the highest earners that fit this category don’t make it in this list (Jurassic World and The Avengers: Age of Ultron were decent movies that failed to live up to the high benchmark of earlier films in their series). However, some of the better ones, Mad Max, Star Wars and Mockingjay Part II, offered some of the most enjoyable film events of the year.
The return of Pixar was very welcome with the excellent Inside Out and middling The Good Dinosaur. Female-led comedies gave me the most laughs with Melissa McCarthy and Amy Schumer leading the pack (I can’t wait for the all-female Ghostbuster reboot!) The more conventional spy films (James Bond: Spectre, The Man from UNCLE) did what they were supposed to, but it was the send ups of the genre (Spy and The Kingsman) that really scored!
I was most happy about Heneral Luna, which was definitely the film of the year on the local scene. I feel partially responsible for its success, sharing the information about film showings with friends and families for it to become the highest grossing Filipino historical movie of all time. A film on Gregorio del Pilar by director Jerrold Tarog is set to follow. Another film though, earned the title of top grossing Pinoy movie, the John Lloyd Cruz and Bea Alonzo starrer “A Second Chance”, earning P556 million worldwide after its four-week run in the cinemas.
Entrants of the MMFF are not included in this list as I have not seen them yet (though I doubt any would make the grade since the one really worth watching Honor Thy Father was disqualified recently). Oscar contenders also tend to show in the Philippines in January and February so those are not here unless released earlier. But some of last year’s contenders, which were released later in the Philippines (such as The Imitation Game), do qualify.
George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road is a visually magnificent, compelling, and a masterly actioner that everyone must see. Feminism is not destroying our culture. In fact, if it is generating such fantastic pieces of art and entertainment such as this, then this goes more towards the suggestion that the diversity that feminism asks for is actually improving culture. May this film’s success bring on many more feminist action movies, and why not throw in a few more black and LGBT empowerment epics while we are at it!
Inside Out can be seen as a return to form after the disappointment of some of Pixar’s later efforts. The jokes come regularly and cleverly, the animation and action are things of beauty and the character development, well, it is practically a whole movie about character development. The only question I have is whether kids will enjoy it; there is a lot of psychological jargon here I doubt younger kids can understand, like “core memories” and “aspects of personality”. I have heard from friends with kids that they do enjoy the visual spectacle of the film, even if they don’t quite grasp why it is all happening. For older children though, it is a good, cinematic primer on emotional understanding.
The Martian is ultimately a hope-filled film but not in the way I expected. Okay, it is about survival against adversity and how the use of knowledge, science and virtue is our salvation. However, it is not your run-of-the-mill the individual-against-all-odds kind of survival film. Instead it shows what we really need to survive, which is community. The Martian is an opus to cooperation. This is an opportune message when our human family needs global cooperation to survive global warming, overpopulation and the over-exploitation of our resources.
Trainwreck is a wonderful date movie for a more mature relationship. Not only will you laugh, but you will also wryly smile with recognition in the ups and downs of learning to love someone. Amy Schumer proves that honesty can be refreshing.
JJ Abrams has rebuilt the family home as a lovely, cozy place in which you can become a child again. Keep it light, stuff it full with the old favorites you know are nutritious, and don’t forget to add some zing in your dialogue for extra depth of flavor. Upon returning home, it is always the best feeling to know that you are in a safe place, and it is very comforting to understand that for future films, you have this to keep coming back to.
Heneral Luna is history as filmmaking in the Mel Gibson mode. It is light on historical accuracy (the script is written in modern language), but it did take the most juicy parts of the Luna story and dramatized it entertainingly. Like Gibson’s historical movies, the baddies are really bad (the Americans, those genocidal bastards!), and Luna is a flawed but macho hero, admirably characterful. I am glad that the director, Jerrold Tarog, portrayed Luna’s craziness with some emphasis, as it lifted the film above the normal Filipino historical/hagiographical movie. Luna still comes out as quirkily lovable, as it is clear that the film creators love their hero.
The Imitation Game deals with themes that no other war film has ever tackled successfully (war from the queer and female perspectives). That it does so in a conventional style will be disappointing to some. There are scenes of the codebreaking that feel very artificial, spanners in the work that seem thrown in to build up the tension. The conventional narrative style, however, does make the story very accessible, which ultimately brings it to more people; this is a story which everyone should know. Alan Turing deserves fame, respect and admiration as one of the people who made the modern world and who helped save that same world from the evils of the Nazis.
British director Matthew Vaughn makes many of the most entertaining films out there (Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-men: First Class); he seems able to direct very fast-paced and high energy combat sequences peppered with bullets of equally rapid fire dialogue. Kingsman is unembarrassed about taking its inspiration and many of its set pieces from the early Bond era of Connery/Moore. Basically, Kingsman is Bond if the reboot went lighter instead of darker.
While relentlessly bleak, the humorous vein of the earlier films still remain, only it reaches ever darker as it looks with unflinching details at the horror of war. This is genuine satire. The role of the media in its manipulation of the masses is brought to its bloody conclusion. While the fight scenes are exciting, they are never glorified. Killing is never cool here; even the deaths of the worst villains remain sad and questionable. The damage of war affects all its characters, and no one is left unharmed.
Comic capers are very hard to pull off and the team effort involved from the cast and creators do it in fine form. With characters that you don’t just laugh at but like, Spy lives up to Melissa McCarthy’s earlier Bridesmaids promise. As a good, silly way to unwind for a weekend as a date or gimik (do people still use that word?), Spy and Melissa are acceptably enjoyable, light fare.