Tag Archives: Sicario

Our Favorite Movies Of 2015

The Best Of 2015. Our Favorite Movies

There were some great movies to come out in 2015. From Mad Max: Fury Road, Inside Out, The Martian, Sicario, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it was really a tremendous year for film.  Which is why we at the Film Box would like to look back at our very favorite movies of 2015. If you missed any of these over the course of the year don’t hesitate to catch up with them at a later date. These 2015 standouts are definitely worth your time.

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Sicario

Joseph Jo: Out of all the films that were released in 2015, Sicario was eventually the one that had me in awe throughout the film. The only thing I knew about this film was Denis Villeneuve was the director where couple years back I had the chance to watch his earlier work, the Incendies, which is another one of my favorite. I’m usually one of those theater goers, where I wait until everything dies down, and thankfully I was glad I went to watch Sicario few months after the release, because this is one of those films where you just have to watch alone in the big screen without knowing nothing about it.

I knew from the movie poster that Emily Blunt was starring along with Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro. Usually I don’t really care who’s in the picture, because ultimately I care about the story, structure, editing and how it was directed. And may all the deities bless the production team, because this movie made me feel exactly like Emily Blunt’s character throughout the movie, and that’s how I feel the movie was intended to be. If I had bothered to even read the tagline, I probably would have never felt the chill when Benicio’s character gave that eerie vibe when he said, “Welcome to Juarez.”

 

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Heart Of A Dog

Helen HighlyI would recommend Laurie Anderson’sHeart of a Dog” as Best Film of the Year. This 75-minute, poetic film-collage essay combines Anderson’s personal stories and musings with quotations from renowned philosophers, ink drawings on paper, printed words, animation, scratchy old 8mm home-movie clips, new footage of landscapes, surveillance camera footage with time codes, graphic images such as computer icons, and her ingenious use of music.

The movie is officially classified as a documentary and has rightfully been shortlisted (down to the final 15) for the Academy Award Best Documentary Feature. But it doesn’t feel at all like a traditional “non-fiction educational film.” It’s a playfully experimental memoir that is sometimes a meditation on how to go on living despite despair – “the purpose of death is the release of love,” an insightful (and not maudlin) reflection on America’s 9/11 attack, and also a witty tale on the nature of telling and remembering and forgetting. Ultimately, this is Laurie Anderson’s own love story – about her dog, her mother, her husband, and her city. It is uncommon and evocative film making and a true pleasure to watch

I think this may be the year of the documentary. There were so many interesting, important, and really well done documentaries that crossed over into mainstream film (or at least mainstream indie film). So I think it’s appropriate to name a documentary as “Best Of” this year. And the Laurie Anderson movie is truly beautiful and important as well as being surprisingly accessible (easy and fun to watch), once you start watching. And I also think this film has staying-power. It will still be relevant and worth-watching for years to come. It’s simply a great flick.

More of Helen Highly’s movie related rants and raves can also be found at HelenHighly.com

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The Big Short

Matt Taylor: In a cinematic landscape filled with big budget disaster flicks it’s a rare thing for a movie to come along with actual, real world doom as part of it’s narrative. The Big Short is a sobering reminder, and revealing portrait, of the 2008 Economic Collapse. Directed by Adam McKay, who you may recognize as the wacky mind behind so many Will Ferrell films such as Anchorman and Talladega Nights, The Big Short presented it’s subject matter in such a lively, innovative way that it had to be my number one pick for Best Film of 2015.

The Big Short follows a handful of bankers who discovered the housing market collapse years before it happened. The film has us follow them as they attempt to expose and profit from this collapse. The irony and hypocrisy on display is what made the film compelling. Sure, there’s a few characters that are bleeding heart crusaders trying to do the right thing, but at the end of the day they’re bankers turning a profit. Even the best among those in the big banking machine are both whistle blowers and profiteers.
The film was made was with a documentary style, with none of the usual documentarian tropes i.e. interviews. The characters do break the fourth wall and address the audience to explain things, and most interesting is the directors use of celebrities and public figures to break down the really tough to grasp financial terminologies driving the story. For example there’s a quick cutaway to actress Margot Robbie in a bubble bath who explains the sub-prime mortgage problem leading up to the financial collapse. The use of cutaways, sound design, camera movement and character made this film about finance, which could have been extremely dull, a fast paced riveting look at one of the biggest disasters in American, and dare I say, World History. It is for those reasons that The Big Short is number one on my list for the year 2015.
More of Matt Taylor can be found at Twitter

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The Woman In Gold

Charles Soste: My favorite film for 2015 after much consideration, was The Woman In Gold. It was a well-acted, brilliantly directed story of an Austrian victim of World War II seeking to retain priceless art work that was stolen from her family by the Nazis.  The film was incredibly moving and what all great cinema should be.  Helen Mirren was at her unsurprising best in the lead role and Daniel Bruhl and Ryan Reynolds were excellent too.

I should also add that very honorable mention should go to Spotlight, Mr. Holmes and The Martian for me as well since they were all fantastic.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Cameron Dueker: Like many others, for me, my favorite movie was Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I’ve been a huge Star Wars fan since I was younger and the franchise has held a special place not only in my heart but in my life because of it. I still remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard the news the news that Disney had bought out Lucasfilm and the doubts that crept into my head shortly after. George Lucas was out. J.J. Abrams was in. Would it follow the Expanded Universe or blaze a new trail of it’s own? Could the original actors still play a role in their old age? Any New Hope that filled me was simultaneously checked with cautious trepidation of the still  recent mixed bag of the prequels.

Maybe the years of reverence surrounding the original trilogy  had simply set the bar for any new Star Wars films too high.

As information about the new film slowly leaked out it was clear to me these concerns were also weighing heavily on the cast and crew. You could just see the amount of love and care everybody involved was putting into The Force Awakens which only rocketed expectations into the stratosphere.

And when I finally saw the film I was blown away. It was a call back to 1977 true, but what is so wrong with that? The new characters were hugely compelling, the action was great, the story was intriguing and full of mystery’s still unsolved, and the feel was spot on with how WE all want a Star Wars film to be.

The Force Awakens may not be the best Star Wars film, Empire still holds that crown, but for me it was far, far away the best film of 2015.

 

Sicario Review

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Sicario Review:  An action movie worth the price of admission.

It’s rare that a day goes by without the news reporting trouble at the United States southern border. Between illegal immigration, and the infamous drug cartels, the border is a hot button issue no matter how you look at it. Our election cycles in the US inevitably revolve around what to do about those problems, and our government agencies burn through millions of tax payer dollars trying to combat the cartels. It’s a dangerous game, and an important issue. These topics are explored in director Denis Villeneuve’s latest movie Sicario. Starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Bencicio Del Toro, it tackles the brutality of the Mexican drug cartels and those in law enforcement who stand in their way. The pedigree of talent both in front of and behind the camera left me salivating for more from the very first trailer I saw. Unfortunately this film just barely misses greatness. It comes close, but a few nagging issues hold it back.

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The movie begins with a drug bust in Chandler, Arizona. Emily Blunt’s character Kate leads an FBI SWAT force inside a dilapidated home. What they find inside is far more heinous than mounds of cocaine and illicit cash deposits. Hidden behind the dry wall, covering nearly every square inch of the home, are bodies. Corpses, heads wrapped in plastic, line the walls. It’s a gruesome, visceral sight to behold. This scene helps set the tone of the entire story and shows us the gravity of the situations we’ll be witnessing. From there Kate volunteers to join another task force who’s gunning for the head honchos that run the entire cartel. She meets Brolin’s character Matt, and Del Toro’s mysterious Alejandro. Both men seem to be more than they claim, though both occupy different ends of the character spectrum. Brolin is witty and a little more light hearted in all he does. When we first meet him he’s in a government briefing wearing flip flops. If a picture is worth a thousand words that one must be worth a million. To contrast Del Toro plays a more stoic, dangerous, but disciplined kind of man. He’s the titular Sicario, which means hitman in Spanish. Kate is told he’s just a government liaison, but it doesn’t take a genius to see he’s no pencil pusher.

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I won’t bother diving too much further into regurgitating the plot. There’s a great deal that needs to be seen and experienced first hand to retain it’s impact, and a great deal more that is very obvious and doesn’t need explained. As I mentioned previously this movie misses the greatness mark by just a hair. It lacks a concrete focus. Early on Emily Blunt’s character is our focal point. She’s our window to this nasty world. There’s some inconsistencies in the character, however. She’s both a seasoned agency veteran, and a wet behind the ears rookie. I felt like she was a completely capable agent, but she was never treated as such by her fellow characters. It’s possible that was the point of it all, but the way it was delivered didn’t work. It seemed more that they just didn’t know exactly what they wanted from that character. There was also an uneven emphasis on Del Toro’s character. Halfway through the film the focus seemed to switch to him, with Blunt disappearing for a little longer than she should have were this her film. Del Toro’s Alejandro story is a revenge tale, and an interesting one to boot. The cartel’s murdered his family and now he’s a gun for hire type of character brought in by various governments to take out problem players. Had the film picked one of these stories and stuck to it completely the film would have played so much better. Go all in on either side, rather than giving us a taste of both. If they wanted to have both stories, perhaps adding a third focus like Brolin’s character would have given more perspective. By making the film more of an ensemble than it was it could have smoothed out the jarring focus switching. A more polished script would have launched this film into greatness, as it has a whole lot going for it, but without it just ends up somewhat lukewarm.

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When this film works, it really works. The score is one of the best I’ve heard in a long time, and I left the theater with a piece of that music stuck in my head. The performances were all fantastic, Blunt especially. She takes what she’s given to work with and runs with it. Benicio Del Toro gives an amazing performance as well, though I’ve never seen him not do an absolute fabulous job. Josh Brolin holds his own as well, but I wished we got a little more screen time. The highlight of the movie, for me, was how it was shot. The cinematography was absolutely stellar. There’s a shot towards the end of the government task force walking towards a sun set and dipping into the inky black of shadow leaving only the breathtaking ambers and blues of the sky on screen. The music, actors, and cinematography make for a very good film, but the script keeps it from a great film. Close, but no dice.

I do recommend this movie. it’s got enough going for it that it makes for an entertaining film. Like I said, it’s a very good film, just not great. It raises some important points on some sensitive issues, and shines a light on a segment of the world population that would rather remain in the shadows. Catch it in a matinee and have a good time. It’s worth that much.