We are nearly halfway through the year 2015 and there are still some films we have been salivating for many years including the next Quentin Tarantino western and another installment of the “Star Wars” film franchise. For the second year in a row, one of the best action films in years has taken its place on top of this list. The rest of the films on this list are just as good and worth checking out whether it is still in theaters or currently streaming online.
10) “Loreak (Flowers)”
Set in the Basque region of Spain, “Loreak (Flowers)” is a meaningful and tranquil film about three women – a toolbooth operator (Itziar Ituño), her mother-in-law (Itziar Aizpuru) and a timid woman with early-onset menopause (Nagore Aranburu) – who are brought together by an unexpected tragedy. The story spans several years after the life-changing event as it shows how it had effected each of these women as they deal with grief in their own way. Directors Jon Garaño and Jose Mari Goenaga, who co-wrote the movie’s subdued and tolerant script with Aitor Arregi, explores the theme of love and loss without being maudlin.
9) “The Holders”
Making its world premiere at this past year’s Miami International Film Festival, director Carla Forte’s documentary about unwanted pets residing in Miami-Dade County’s Animal Services shelter is heartbreaking because the reasons most of them are there are for reasons such as the owners’ changing their mind or losing interest of their pet. While there is no doubt that pet owners will be moved by this documentary, it also motivational as it becomes a vociferation to stop treating pets as property and recognize them as cognizant creatures.
8) “Dawg Fight”
“Rakontur” founders/filmmakers Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman unveiled their latest documentary, “Dawg Fight” at this past year’s Miami International Film Festival. The documentary chronicles the world of backyard bareknuckle fighting in Perrine, a local suburb south of Miami, which takes place behind the house of Dhafir “Dada 5000” Harris. While his past films have mostly focused on things such as the drug scene in Miami or the notorious history of the University of Miami Hurricanes, Corben proves he can tell a great story whether he is showing the brutal bareknuckle fights or making you feel for the people who fight inside the ring. “Dawg Fight” is now streaming on Netflix.
Filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead has made an atypical love story in the form of “Spring,” which is an excellent entry into the horror/romantic genre alongside movies like “Bram Stroker’s Dracula” and “Only Lovers Left Alive.” Lou Taylor Pucci plays a young man who lives his troubled past behind to travel to Italy where he meets a beautiful and smart woman named Louise (Nadia Hilker) who conceals a mysterious secret. The true (and Lovecraftian) nature of Louise is seen in brief glimpses before she is reveled in a sequence that showcases some fantastic CGI and prosthetic work. “Spring” is now streaming and now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
6) “What We Do in the Shadows”
The funniest film of the year and the funniest horror film to come out of New Zealand since Peter Jackson’s “Braindead” comes from the guys who brought you HBO’s “Flight of the Concords.” Jermaine Clement co-starred, co-directed and co-wrote this faux mockumentary with Taika Waitit about three vampires (Clement, Waititi and Jonny Brugh) in New Zealand who are struggling with modern life and the mundane things whether it is paying the rent or getting into a nightclub. Anything and everything about the mythology of vampires are perfectly spoofed in the movie. Even though some might see this movie as nothing but a series of vignettes and/or skits about vampires, there is enough story in “What We Do in the Shadows” that keeps it thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining. “What We Do in the Shadows” is now streaming and available Blu-ray/DVD.
5) “Ex Machina”
Screenwriter Alex Garland (“28 Days Later,” “Dredd”) made his directorial debut with this fascinating sci-fi tale about a young programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) who is selected to spend the weekend with the reclusive tech genius (Oscar Isaac) of the company, but he soon finds out that he will be evaluating an AI robot (Alicia Vikander). This is an intelligent take on what make us human and a cautionary tale of what happens when the perfect embodiment of artificial intelligence just wants to break free. The performances from Vikander, Isaac and Gleeson are terrific and there are top-notch aspects of the production such as the production design and the score. “Ex Machina” is now streaming and available on Blu-ray/DVD.
4) “Inside Out”
After Pixar’s lackluster efforts in recent years like “Cars 2” and “Monsters University,” they have finally hit a home run with their latest effort, “Inside Out,” thanks to filmmakers Pete Docter (“Monsters Inc.,” “Up”) and Ronaldo Del Carmen. This animated film literally takes you inside the head of a young girl named Riley, where her emotions are physical manifestations that try to live together in peace. After Riley and her family move to San Francisco, it becomes a little more difficult for Riley and her emotions to adjust to her new life. The pitch-perfect voice casting are perfect representations of the emotions they play whether it’s Amy Poehler’s Joy, Phyllis Smith’s Sadness or Lewis Black’s Anger. There are also brilliant and uniquely funny concepts courtesy of the inventive filmmakers that showcase how the mind works when it comes to things like nightmares and the mind’s subconscious. “Inside Out” will be available on Blu-ray/DVD November 3rd.
3) “White God”
There is not an image more memorable in motion pictures this year then the sight of 274 dogs running rampant on the streets of Budapest in “White God.” The movie is about a dog named Hagan who is abandoned by the father of his 13-year-old master, Lili. While Lili searches for her dog, Hagan is struggling to survive dogcatchers and other oppressors. “White God” is a powerful and emotional film that manages to showcase a terrific animal performance while giving moviegoers something to think about of how society treats dogs. “White God” is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
At the age of 25, filmmaker Xavier Dolan has crafted a masterpiece in the form of his latest movie, “Mommy.” The film itself is a beautiful and endearing portrait of a love-hate relationship between a mother (Anne Dorval), her bipolar son (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) and their neighbor (Suzanne Clément). Shooting the movie in a 1:1 aspect ration, Dolan also uses different cinematic tools to uniquely tell this story. With terrific performances from Dorval, Pilon and Clément to boost, “Mommy” also features an outstanding soundtrack that perfectly matches the mood of the film’s characters whether it is Celine Dion’s “On ne change pas” or Oasis’ “Wonderwall.” “Mommy” is now streaming and available on DVD.
1) “Mad Max: Fury Road”
It took nearly a decade for filmmaker George Miller to revisit the post-apocalyptic world of “Mad Max” and bring into the 21st Century. Filling the shoes of Mel Gibson in the role of Max Rockatansky this time around is Tom Hardy. Hardy’s Max teams up with a one-armed renegade truck driver by the name of Imperator Furiosa, who is searching for safe passage not just for her, but for the “wives” of a ruthless warlord. Despite Hardy as the title character, the film really belongs to Theron, whose character belongs next to other characters such as Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor as one of cinema’s most powerful female action heroes of all time. “Mad Max: Fury Road” not only has some of the greatest action and car chase sequences to be portrayed on the silver screen, but also memorable and unforgettable characters aside from Max and Furiosa like Immortan Joe, his War Boys and a flame-throwing guitar-playing figure that accompanies Joe and his gang like a traveling, yet demented minstrel. “Mad Max: Fury Road” is now streaming and will be available on Blu-ray/DVD September 1st.