With the buzz of the BAFTAs last week and the Oscars just around the corner, this week’s top 5 on Friday will be featuring our pick of the unsung gems of 2015.
The following 5 films failed to meet box office expectations and/or didn’t gain the attention they deserved. The good news is they are all available to watch today.
5. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl | Starring Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler and Olivia Cooke
“High schooler Greg, who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl, finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate who has just been diagnosed with cancer.”
The comparisons between Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and The fault in our Stars are inevitable. Both are heartbreaking stories about youths diagnosed with cancer, their inevitable battle with the illness and the struggle to find life and love in a hopeless place. Whereas Our Stars paper thin protagonists manipulatively guns for the tear ducts in crassly predictable ways, Dying Girl’s mix of emotion and surprising humour makes the film succeed in many more ways.
4. The Voices | Starring Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick
“A likeable guy pursues his office crush with the help of his evil talking pets, but things turn sinister when she stands him up for a date.”
Ryan Reynolds has had a tough time finding his foothold in the mainstream, as a long term fan of his I am hoping the success of the newly released Deadpool will afford this Canadian born actor with the praise he deserves (and help audiences forget his less fortunate superhero role of 2011). The Voices is a quirk-filled serial-killer comedy with a likeable protagonist; Jerry, a psychologically troubled young ex-con who works in a bathtub factory and hears his pets talking to him (both voiced by Reynolds). He’s not necessarily good, mind you. Jerry challenges himself to embrace his sinister side while fighting to know what his happiness is, in admirably darkly comedic and horrific ways.
3. The Gift | Starring Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall and Joel Egerton
“A young married couple’s lives are thrown into a harrowing tailspin when an acquaintance from the husband’s past brings mysterious gifts and a horrifying secret to light after more than 20 years.”
Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut is more than admirable. The cinematography is beautiful and the pace is slow burning, but never dull. The Gift constantly subverts viewer expectations on how the story pans out. Unpredictable plot twists and shifting moral perspectives make this film one of the best thrillers of 2015 and is too accomplished to be ignored.
2. Kingsman: The Secret Service | Starring Colin Firth, Taron Egerton and Samuel L. Jackson
“A spy organization recruits an unrefined, but promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program, just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius.”
This is Matthew Vaughn’s second adaptation of a Mark Millar comic book (the first being 2010’s fantastically fun Kick-Ass). In a time where we see so many popular comic book character being overly saturated across the big screen it is gratifying to see the more obscure titles like Guardians of the Galaxy and (the aforementioned) Deadpool get the recognition they deserve. It is a shame therefore when the brilliances of Kingsman gets overlooked by so many.
Kingsman is more than a wink and a nod to the Bond movies, and frankly puts 2015’s disappointing Spectre to shame with it’s fresh edge, clever fun and super slick action – including one of the best choreographed sequences I have witnessed featuring one of the least likely action heroes ever.
This film is not for the easily offended or the squeamish.
1. Ex Machina | Starring Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac
“A young programmer is selected to participate in a ground-breaking experiment in synthetic intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breath-taking humanoid A.I.”
Domhnall Gleeson – whose has appeared in a few major films last year including both The Revenant and The Force Awakens – plays Caleb, a wiz kid coder working for a leading technology giant. Caleb is selected by the reclusive CEO of the company (played by Oscar Isaac – who also appeared in Awakens) to test his latest development; a highly advanced android called Ava (flawlessly portrayed by Alicia Vikander).
Alex Garland’s first directorial effort is a sci-fi masterpiece which examines how we interact with machines as humans, as well as how an A.I. could in turn, manipulate us.
Ex Machina deals with this familiar theme in a very unique way. It doesn’t bombard us with superficial action or special effects (although the subtle effects used are rather impressive). Its beauty lies in the nuanced performances of the cast as their characters discover what it means to be human.