After much soul searching, I can finally finish the list of my 6 Favorite Movies of the Summer that kept on giving. And giving. And giving!
Read Part I, where I cover my 6th through 4th favorite movies now if you missed it.
First, I must make a clarification; on the first part of my list, I stated that I’m trying to balance quality and enjoyment level when ranking the best films of Summer 2015. I now realize, that what is really important is the enjoyment factor. In fact, looking back, #6: Man From UNCLE, #5: Ant-Man, and #4: Avengers: Age of Ultron were already based on enjoyment factor and NOT quality of film. So I intend to continue that trend… Now!
SPOILERS may follow for any of the films covered.
If I were to base this list purely on quality of film, then Mad Max: Fury Road would have been #1. It really is a masterpiece; light-years better than any of George Miller’s previous Mad Max films, though that has nothing to with replacing Mel Gibson with Tom Hardy. You can tell Miller has been working on the film (at least in his head) for 20 years, and the result is visually stunning with an unbelievably complex “feminist” narrative supported by limited dialog. And George Miller is one of the only people making films in the 21st Century that does stunts… for real.
Highlights: Everything mostly… mostly.
As stated previously, the movie is visually stunning, from the amazing color contrast of the “Australian” wasteland (shot in Africa) to actually watching REAL cars flip and explode. Sure, there is CGI abound, but it is there to enhance the effects (and create a crazy sandstorm that would make 2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol jealous), not replace the real feeling of flipping or blowing up dozens of vehicles.
This Mad Max is also the best at world building, from Immortan Joe’s Citadel, to the valley watched over by those with “spiky cars,” mention of “Gas Town,” the former “Green Lands” of the many mothers, and finally that creepy bog with human survivors walking on stilts, almost appearing bird-like in their garb.
The plot is fantastic, though simple on the surface, dialog is sparse but effective, and Tom Hardy rocks the role of Max Rockatansky just as hard (if not harder) than Mel Gibson. Charlize Theron is obviously fantastic as well as the true protagonist of the movie, with Max just along for the ride.
Finally, can we talk of Junkie XL’s score? Amazing on every level: you don’t simply watch Fury Road, you rock out to it. Can’t wait to hear the composer’s Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice score as well as his recently announced Deadpool music.
Weaknesses: As I find with most films showered with critical acclaim, Mad Max: Fury Road is just not as re-watchable as nearly any other film on the list. It is indeed the highest quality, but it doesn’t offer the same enjoyment and re-watch-ability as the next two movies on my list.
2. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION
I don’t know how they do it. Mission: Impossible is one of the few franchises getting better by the film, after the terrible M:I – 2. I keep waiting for a stinker, but each M:I film has been better than the last ever since J.J. Abrams saved the franchise with M:I:III.
If the 1st Mission: Impossible had a baby with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and the Usual Suspects had a baby with Edge of Tomorrow (which you may know as Live. Die. Repeat.)… and those babies fucked… you’d have Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. That’s the result of baby fucking. (It’s no surprise the writer/director of Rogue Nation previously wrote both Usual Suspects and Edge of Tomorrow.)
Rogue Nation is the second best film in the franchise, in my opinion, because the 1st film is a Sacred Cow, not unlike Jurassic Park, which can be honored with good sequels, but never outdone.
Highlights: I LOVE that the film hearkens back to the slower thriller elements of the first Mission: Impossible while simultaneously combining the action and spectacle one would expect coming off of Brad Bird’s endlessly entertaining Ghost Protocol.
You got your, “Oh-My-God-I-Can’t-Believe-Tom-Cruise-Did That!” element similar to Ghost Protocol‘s Dubai Tower scene, this time with Tom Cruise attaching himself to an actual A400 airplane and doing 7 full take-offs to get the scene just right. Like George Miller, Tom Cruise feels he owes it to his fans to do as much as he can for real, one of the main reasons the film ranks so high. Though my #1 favorite movie of the summer is a CGI bonanza, I have extreme respect for Rogue Nation‘s attempt to use as little CGI as possible in exchange for stunts like Cruise on a plane, the crazy motorcycle chase, and his underwater adventures for which he did hold his breath for over 3 minutes a take!
Meanwhile, you have a more personal and one could say, smaller scope film that brings back the espionage and thriller elements of the original film. After all, though M:I – 2 through Rogue Nation are action movies, the 1st film is a tight and smaller thriller, with only one full action scene to speak of. Rogue Nation does a little of both. There’s a lot of smaller, yet impossible situations than the Plane Sequence, from the conundrum at the Opera to the personal/not-action-packed finale on the streets of London. A shoot-out closes Rogue Nation, in contrast to the giant action scene that closed out Ghost Protocol.
Now, let’s talk about the new talent on screen! Rebecca Ferguson nearly steals the film from Tom Cruise as the, “Can we trust her?” Femme Fatale. In this more personal film, she is what “The Woman” (Irene Adler) is to Sherlock Holmes; Ethan Hunt’s female equal.
Meanwhile, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is caught in a game of cat-and-mouse with the supremely creepy and soft-spoken Soloman Lane, played by Sean Harris (Prometheus), and his “Syndicate.” What SPECTRE is to 007, the Syndicate is to Hunt, including with Soloman Lane serving as a sort of Moriarty or Blofeld, always one step ahead of the disbanded IMF.
Weaknesses: Well, it’s not as good as the 1st one, but I can’t hold it against Rogue Nation.
Mainly, I just wanted to see more Soloman Lane! He is pulling the strings behind everything, again making Moriarty and apt comparison, but Sean Harris doesn’t have enough scenes to really make his creepy presence known. Though I believe him to be the best villain of the franchise, he is without meaty scenes like Phillip Seymor Hoffman had in M:I:III. Lane’s nasal voice and his creep factor could have been even more effective if we saw more of him!
1. JURASSIC WORLD
There you go! Not the highest quality movie of the summer, only average-to-pure-popcorn-movie if you judge it purely on quality, but God Damn Jurassic World is the most enjoyable movie I watched all summer!
I don’t need to go too far into it, because I’ve written about Jurassic World again and again, including writing an actual review, but the movie delivers everything you want from a Jurassic Park sequel…
A theme park setting! New dinosaurs! Classic Spielbergian elements! Velociraptors devouring people (most important)! T-Rex!… The list goes on and on.
I feel like my other posts about Jurassic World speak for themselves.
So, with that, here are the Best Films of 2015!
6. MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.
4. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON
3. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
2. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION
1. JURASSIC WORLD
Great summer, all! Can’t wait to judge me some Holiday blockbusters! SPECTRE and Star Wars: The Force Awakens are on the horizon!