Favorites of the Year 2015: Movies, Series, Books & Talents

It’s that time of the year where I share my favorite everything. Without further ado, here they are!

Happy New Year!

Movies

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Scene from a Movie

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Everything that involves Luis telling a story about something somebody said! (And pretty much all of Michael Peña’s scenes in Ant-Man.)

Also: EVERYTHING in Mad Max: Fury Road but especially the final chase sequence that ends with Immortan Joe’s death; the Ares III Crew’s rescue of Mark Watney with that near miss at the end; Bing Bong’s disappearance in Inside Out; the ‘head popping’ scene in Kingsman; Thomas the Tank Engine’s cameo in Ant-Man; old Sherlock Holmes’ break down in Mr. Holmes‘ most emotional scene; Tom Hardy fighting Tom Hardy in Legend!

Series

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Last year Fargo was my top favorite TV series. This year, it’s my favorite series on TV as well. The second season of Fargo is, in fact, much crazier and more violent than the the first season with the same level of script cleverness from the writers and acting brilliance from the cast. The one area where it’s better than the first season is the soundtrack. Also, it’s proving to be a show driven by amazing female performers: Alison Tolman won the first season for me, now it’s Kirsten Dunst’s turn. Her character is annoying (you wish you could just stab her repeatedly) but Miss Dunst just SHINES in this role. All the awards (again)!

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My absolute favorite web series, Sense8 was worth all the effort I made to watch it. All the characters are interesting, although not too developed that there’s no room for them to grow. In fact, the main attraction of the show is to see how the eight of them grew into their own skin after the troubles they faced. The number of characters also mean that some of them aren’t as prominent as the others but the concept is mind-blowing and the execution is flawless. Plus, it has a great opening credits and shiver-inducing music. Perfect.

Also: Marvel’s Agent Carter, Jessica Jones, Daredevil, London Spy, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Hannibal series finale, Wolf Hall, How to Get Away with Murder, Jekyll and Hyde, Poldark, Grimm, Galavant, Blindspot, Broadchurch and Quantico!

Books


I spent the entire year reading Joseph Delaney’s Wardstone Chronicle (with fear and trepidation from all the horror). But reading the book successfully erased my severe disappointment with the movie version. Despite that, I still use the still from the movie to illustrate my love for this series because without that disappointment, I wouldn’t have been driven to read the entire series. Book reviews are available at Bookerie.


I don’t usually listen to audiobooks but this one is one of my favorites this year. OBVIOUSLY. 🙂

And the rest…

Talent Interview

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Obviously this year is a FANTASTIC year in terms of interviewing talents. Pixar’s Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen come to mind, and Indonesian filmmaker Joko Anwar and the cast of Halfworlds as well. But of course the best was getting to talk to Mads Mikkelsen and Richard Armitage for the last season of Hannibal. The best of them all, however, was Mr. George Miller – director of my favorite movie of 2015 Mad Max: Fury Road – by phone. He indulged me for a 45-minute conversation and answered all of my ridiculous questions (because I’m a Mad Max novice!) He was very, very friendly and nice and articulate. I love these great taltens and I love my job.

The Mad Shall Inherit

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n the craziness that’s my job lately, I almost forgot to write about my wonderful experience last March interviewing a great filmmaker from Australia whose movie is out in cinemas this summer, George Miller.

It began with an offer for a phone interview earlier this year. The studio emailed us and asked if we were interested in talking to George Miller about Mad Max: Fury Road. After we said yes and filled out the appropriate paperwork (WB likes to make us fill out forms and stuff) we waited for almost two months to hear about the confirmation. It was in end of February/early March that we heard back from them, who said that yes, we got a slot with Mr. Miller at the end of March (27th to be exact) at 8 AM.

8 AM, Sydney time. I had to wake up at 2 AM in order to get ready for the interview at 4 AM my time because we’re 4 hours behind Sydney. But other than this time zone shenanigan, I was fine waking up at 2 and I was strangely excited about the interview.

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Scenes Of A Sexual Nature

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I watched Scenes Of A Sexual Nature the other day, in order to write about Andrew Lincoln’s performance in there, and I surprisingly liked it quite a lot. It’s a very low key movie with not much happening except people talking about relationships, which should be very boring, but there are some funny bits and amazing performances by some of the actors we’ve come to know as mainstream stars these days.

Lincoln, in particular, shows off a finely tuned comic timing. He’s always been a great comedic actor, which was why he wanted to do Strike Back at that time, because he wanted to play a badass role in something not comedy. He got his wish, of course, playing Rick Grimes but it’s been almost four years since he first took on Rick and now I miss his romcoms and funnier roles. Seeing him in a humorous act in this movie was so refreshing that I just wanted to back some more and watch all of his old movies.

But Tom Hardy.

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I swear this man is a genius. First, he’s got a great range. He can play anythingbecause he can do it all. Secondly, he’s got a way with voice. I mean, whatever accent he needs to do, it never seems to bother him because everything flows just right in the perfect pitch from him. And finally, there’s the looks. That he is good-looking, there is no doubt, but he’s no classic beauty. He’s got a distinctive look but he can always transform his face and his entire body to suit the characters that he plays. Here, you get his real face but with a slightly different hairstyle and wearing tight polo tee and tight jeans and boom, he transforms. (Does any of this make sense?)

I just love to see him perform because he always loses himself completely in those roles and manage to sell those characters to us. The only other British actor I’ve seen who can do this is Martin Freeman. Martin, too, is an actor who can convincingly sell a character to us – no matter what the setting or the background is – and he loses his own personality in the roles he plays. Guys like Hardy and Freeman are always fun and exciting to watch because when I watch them, I get preoccupied in their characters’ stories and plight. In Tom Hardy’s case, I can name a few of my favorites: Stuart, Handsome Bob, Eames, Tommy Conlon and Ricki Tarr. And now there’s Noel from Scenes Of A Sexual Nature.

Films like Star Trek: Nemesis and The Dark Knight Rises didn’t give him enough to work with so his performances in these two franchises are probably more forgettable than others but he truly shines in character-driven films.

TLDR: I love Tom Hardy. I adore him. I can’t wait to see what he does next (i.e.Locke and Child 44).

Scenes Of A Sexual Nature: Recommended. Watch it for the performances, not for the story.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

I watched Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy earlier this afternoon as a part of my Long Weekend Movie Marathon. I have been waiting for this movie to play in the local cinemas but, well. War Horse got cancelled even though we’d heard that it was going to be playing here (it was the reason I had to write several pages worth of original article in the last month’s issue of TFI). I didn’t hold out much hope that TTSS was going to play here, especially because I didn’t even hear rumors about it playing here.

I was afraid that the movie wasn’t going to live up to its hype but I had my doubts cleared away by the movie right from the beginning.

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Warrior

Has everyone seen Warrior, the movie starring Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte? If not, you should. Because this movie is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, if not the absolute best.

It’s a lot like The Fighter in that it’s a movie about two brothers who play the same sports and goes through a little bit of sibling rivalry and comparisons are inevitable. I haven’t watched The Fighter so I don’t know which one is better but I can safely say that Warrior will probably come out on top in my list of favorites.

The story is full of sports movie cliché of two underdog fighters who beat the odds and reach the top. There’s family drama along the way that’s meant to give the story emotional depth and substance. There are dramatic moments that some may accuse of being cheesy and over-the-top. It’s probably not going to win any Best Original Screenplay at any award shows.

But the execution of this cliché, linear and familiar story? FLAWLESS.

Director Gavin O’Connor presents the story at a leisurely pace since the beginning, taking the time to build up the situations, the characters and the action. Each one of his characters – Brendan, Tommy, Paddy – has a dark past but all of them live in the present. What happens in their past is never fully explained and that’s the beauty of it – O’Connor lets us, the audience, figure it out on our own. This in no way means the movie is cerebral, though. It’s more like a gesture of faith from the filmmaker’s part, trusting his audience to think for themselves instead of spelling it out for them. His storytelling is masterful and stylish… he tells a feel-good story with an arthouse/indie-esque sensibility.

Before watching this movie, I read that O’Connor wanted to make a movie where the audience ends up rooting for both of the Conlon brothers even though they’re rivals. He managed to do exactly this. Brendan needs to win because he wants to put a roof above his family’s heads. Tommy needs to win because he has a high sense of honor and duty. Brendan is the poor teacher whom life treats unfairly. Tommy is the tortured superhero-like war vet who breaks the law. They’re both flawed, very much so (there’s a scene where they both treat their father Paddy with so much disrespect that I wanted to slap them both), and yet they’re both equally sympathetic. If you watch this movie and see how Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton play their characters, you will understand. Both actors are extremely good, have a strong chemistry with each other despite appearing in only a handful of scenes together, and it will be quite impossible to say which I like more. I don’t have one that I like more; they really are equal in my eyes and yes, I end up rooting for them.

Which is why I never stopped crying for the third of the movie. I literally had tears running down my cheeks for at least half an hour toward the end of the movie. It was that emotional.

By the way, Nick Nolte? If he doesn’t get an award nod at least once for playing Paddy, I will be very disappointed. He’s amazing!

And although I previously never had an interested in mixed martial arts, I have to admit, it’s a very sexy sport. I think I would’ve still said this if Hardy and Edgerton never played characters who were involved in MMA. How do you say this? The combination of various disciplines of martial arts make for one thrilling fight choreography and O’Connor definitely knows how to shoot the fights to make them look interesting. There’s also something very sensual about two male athletes with god-like physique battling each other in a tangle of limbs and sweat. It’s not at all revolting as I’d previously thought it would be.

But to tell you what makes Warrior works as a movie as a whole is going to take me dozens of paragraphs and I doubt I can be coherent at explaining what it is. It’s not just one thing, but a lot of things. Each key scene is a big picture with an underlying minor moment that wrings out a reaction out of you – laughter, tears, gasps and whatever else it is it demands from you. An excellent performance by the actors is accompanied by either an intense fighting act and/or solemn, triumphant score that raises the goosebumps on your skin. A particularly bloody and brutal fight has humorous commentaries and may reveal a facet of the characters’ personalities. The movie is a combination of a lot of good things that is neatly presented as a wonderful package. Perfection.