2015

The following is a comprehensive list of every film I’ve seen that debuted in the year 2015 in a U.S. theater, or if not released in the U.S., then released in 2015 in its home country. My favorite 20 films are ranked, while the remaining are in approximate order according to overall feelings and lasting impressions. Films near the top are worth watching, while films near the bottom are not worth your time. Those movies seen in the middle portion are worth filtering through and watching, depending if it peaks your specific interest in the film, whether because it has a favorite director, actor, or interesting plot. A good rule of thumb: if it’s below the middle of the unranked section, then it probably isn’t worth watching.

1. The Revenant

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visually and technically the best movie of the year. DiCaprio puts out an Oscar worthy performance and the film’s direction is flawless by incredible filmmaker Inarittu. in terms of story and plot, there may be something more the audience would hope for, but in every other aspect this film is a masterpiece.

2. Inside Out

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easily one of the most imaginative and successful animated films you will ever watch. achieves every thing it sets out to do, in addition to creating characters you feel unconditionally attached to. really a masterpiece and worthy of an Oscar nod in multiple categories.

3. Sicario

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you could very well put this as the top film of the year, but part of me feels its a story that has been told to a degree before. the writing and direction is top notch and feels like a winner, but there seems to be something missing. absolutely a must watch, and expect this to be nominated for some Oscars.

4. Mommy

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incredibly riveting and powerful drama about the tribulations of parenting. some real great acting, writing, direction and the setting is wonderfully designed. absolutely a must watch for the year, and worthy of awards.

5. Spotlight

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really really well written and paced, and a perfect execution of the true story. found it gripping and exciting to watch, and i think any film that can do that without action or melodrama deserves extra recognition. absolutely a must watch for the year, and expect some Oscar nominations.

6. Room

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a wonderfully shot and paced drama; great acting and a must watch. i think when you start to get to this level of quality in a film, it’s hard to compare, so i won’t say this is or isn’t the best film of the year, but it can definitely be in the top 10 for almost everyone who watches it. such a unique and interesting story, and it’s so beautifully told.

7. The Big Short

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easily one of the most important and enjoyable films of the year. great performances all around, and well written, yet the subject matter is what makes this film so special. a seemingly perfect description of the Great Recession of 2008 and highlights those who saw it coming. definitely a must watch film.

8. Beasts of No Nation

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one of the most important films of the year, and a very well done adaptation of the book. this is a must watch, but i will say some of the direction and the story development can be at times imperfect.

9. Victoria

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wow this is awesome. the movie is about the events of one night, starting with a girl meeting a guy at a club. what unfolds is an incredible story with perfectly executed direction and constantly building tension. definitely a must watch, and probably one of the ten best films of the year.

10. Dheepan

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another beautiful film from acclaimed director Jacques Audiard. definitely a must watch for its uniqueness, but also for how visually stunning many of the shots are. great acting from first time actors, and its surprisingly exciting to watch given the genre.

11. 99 Homes

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Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield star in this indie drama. really awesome and riveting story with great acting, great writing and powerful directing. definitely a must watch and one of the best of the year.

12. Ex Machina

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incredibly smart film about artificial intelligence, and from a director who understands what makes an intelligent film. acting is great and the setting and characters are all perfectly executed.

13. Creed

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awesome followup film for young filmmaker Ryan Coogler. you’ve hopefully already heard about this and have seen it, but in case you haven’t, its definitely worth the watch. its not necessary to have seen the Rocky films or even know anything about them.

14. Tangerine

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great indie film set in Hollywood. story about a mix between street walkers and a cab driver. there is much to enjoy about this for lovers of indie dramas. this director seems to be an up and comer in the genre.

15. What We Do In The Shadows

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one of my personal favorite films of the year and truly hilarious. the characters are a bit satirical yet somehow feel real and worth caring about. i think if you only watch one film about vampires in your life, it should probably be this one.

16. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

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very touching yet funny and well paced coming-of-age story about a kid in high school dealing with the ups and downs of life and death. surprisingly uplifting yet very emotional and heart breaking at times. must watch movie from this year, great for all ages.

17. Mustang

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beautifully shot foreign film with very realistic and well written characters and plot. must watch from this year and a must watch for anyone who loves indie or foreign film.

18. Tangerines

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made by a (European) Georgian director, this simple arthouse film is the perfect mix of realism and melodrama. something feels real authentic with this picture, and i think this will unfortunately go unnoticed by many. highly recommended if you like a good hearty subtitle film.

19. The Tribe

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beautifully shot Ukrainian arthouse film that is completely in sign language and no subtitles. it may not sound like something you would wanna watch, but trust me the story is good. it’s a little difficult to follow if you don’t know sign language but it’s still possible to follow through the story. i think there’s a lot of relatable themes here and many will appreciate it.

20. Wild Tales

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Argentinian film with multiple independent stories told separately. all are “wild” as the title suggests, and showcase different types of people put in different types of situations. truly something unique and worth watching. definitely entertaining in its own regard.

Mad Max: Fury Road

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yes, this is as good as everyone says. an incredible piece of cinema regardless of its history and its future. the characters are exciting, albeit erratic and frantic. the visuals are stunning and the plot and story are actually worth caring about. easily the best film of the Mad Max series.

Carol

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beautifully shot, directed, written and acted, but i do think the subject matter and story itself are lacking in substance. while the film is often gripping, the build up of tension is often unwarranted and the background of the characters is not as detailed as it should have been. definitely one of the better films, but probably not in my top 10 for the year.

’71

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great wartime movie about a soldier behind enemy lines and in a unique situation. well shot and acted, very realistic plot and enjoyable and gripping to watch. would recommend.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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one of the better films of the year, and honestly one of the best of the Star Wars series due to the great production value. the same old lovable characters and action packed sequences, with tons of drama and twists. i don’t think this is a more unique film than previous films of the series, due to recycled story lines, but obviously a must watch.

Timbuktu

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set in a small village in Africa, the spread of jihadist Islam disturbs the peaceful lives of several families. the story was decently crafted yet the dialogue can be a bit vague at times. can be boring arthouse for some people, but definitely a watch if you can respect foreign films.

The Fool

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a beautifully told story that highlights some of the many problems of current day Russia, including the poor living conditions and governmental corruption and bribery. the film becomes preachy and cliche at times, but the overall feel and direction is still good enough to overcome this.

Straight Outta Compton

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actually a very good, and seemingly realistic, depiction of the rap group N.W.A.. fun to watch, at times funny, sad or nail-biting, this really has everything you might want from this type of film.

Love & Mercy

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very enjoyable biopic about Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys. good acting, writing and direction. definitely worth the watch, regardless of your familiarity with the group.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

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nice and unique coming-of-age story about a hippie girl in the 70’s. i have no problem with this movie, but i think the direction is occasionally lacking and the plot is unrealistic at times.

Kajaki

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real good British war film. definitely worth the watch, unfortunately overshadowed by bigger budget American war films with bigger name actors. the tension built here is real and perpetuating.

Dope

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succeeds in that it does not feel cliche nor does it follow any sort of predictable line. it fails in creating a uniform style that makes sense. the feel and style of the movie is fun and enjoyable, and definitely worth the watch, but i think the writer creates a story that does not leave the audience with intense emotional connection to its characters like some other films this year. otherwise a great watch.

The End of the Tour

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based on a 5-day trip between a Rolling Stone writer and David Foster Wallace, the movie is a peak into the life of a famous writer at his peak. the simplicity to which he lives his life is surprisingly thrilling to watch and the philosophy discussed is something the audience can appreciate. i think the film is very well done considering the simple story and the acting is on point. would recommend to all.

Steve Jobs

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the styles of both Boyle and Sorkin are very apparent in this film, and i think this takes away from the realism of Steve Jobs the man. the film is enjoyable and thrilling to watch, although some may find the structure and plot to be boring, as the film covers only 3 events in time, each somewhat in real time. i think this will give some sort of a glimpse into who Jobs was, but i do not think this is the most realistic depiction of how he lived and who he was.

Paddington

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surprisingly great family film. wasn’t as cheesy as i thought, and i felt the need to put this higher up than a lot of the other films i saw from this year. really well done production.

Son of Saul

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Hungarian film set during the Holocaust in a concentration camp. the story follows a frantic prisoner/worker who tries to find solitude in burying what appears to be his son. beyond the tragic storyline and difficult images, the movie itself is nothing too unique or extraordinary, although still a must watch from this year, especially in terms of European films.

The Martian

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i took issue with parts of the beginning of the film, but by the midpoint, the movie was fully enjoyable and kept the audience enthralled. great acting and writing, although parts of this story are just not realistic, even for NASA.

The Hateful Eight

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i really enjoyed the story and thought it was wonderfully paced with rising tension. the acting is decent, although i didn’t really enjoy Tarantino’s dialogue. i think some of it felt awkward, but still was a very enjoyable film.

10,000 km

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wonderfully shot and edited drama about a couple dealing with a long distance relationship. the emotion can be felt through the solid acting and very realistic dialogue and plot. definitely a must watch for indie film lovers or foreign film lovers.

45 Years

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how well written and well acted this is makes up for the somewhat bland story that takes place. this is essentially British arthouse and can be very slow for some, but i personally felt attached to the characters and was never really bored. a good watch and an interesting look at relationships, even those that have made it over 45 years.

Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

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kind of a knockoff of A Separation from a couple year’s prior, this Israeli drama is set to the tone of realism in a religious country, where morals and logic doesn’t always dictate law. the acting is great, the writing is decent, but the direction and overall plot is kind of simple and uneventful. definitely better than most films this year, but still boring at times.

Brooklyn

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beautifully shot and acted story about a girl’s immigration to Brooklyn, New York in the 1950s. its well told and seemingly authentic, although the story is not as rich and fulfilling as it could be. i kept waiting for a hook or climax, yet at the end of the day, this isn’t a melodrama. just a good old fashioned realistic story of a girl.

Theeb

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a very nicely done foreign film that feels almost too authentic. there is nothing Hollywood about this, which means for some this may be a tad boring, but for the average cinephile, this is a very nice artsy watch with beautiful imagery.

Black Mass

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a story about the infamous Whitey Bulger, a criminal mob boss in Boston in the 1970’s and beyond, the movie is well directed and written. the acting feels a little fake, as most of the actors put on a cliche Boston accent, but overall a decent, above average movie.

Bridge of Spies

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decent Cold War film about a prisoner exchange and touches on some related thematic elements about humanitarianism and morality. well done but nothing groundbreaking in terms of film making. i enjoyed the watch but i may soon forget about it.

Trumbo

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very well told story about the blacklisting of Communist writers and actors in Hollywood. Cranston is awesome in this, and the rest of the cast is well suited. there’s really no problem with this film, other than the story is kind of predictable and doesn’t put you on the edge of your seat. otherwise a very nice movie about a very important era of Hollywood.

Infinitely Polar Bear

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an emotionally driven but very uplifting story with an incredible performance by Mark Ruffalo and others. well directed and written, although some may find the story bland and simple in plot.

Youth

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beautifully shot foreign arthouse film with Michael Caine. there are many themes being discussed, including life and mortality, love and lust, and style and intellect. would not recommend to all movie goers, but definitely a good watch for most film lovers.

The Walk

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decent little film that’s fun for the whole family. story about the man who walked on a wire strung between the two World Trade Center towers in 1974. good watch, but not a necessary watch.

The Salvation

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a Danish American film set in 1800’s old West America, this has a story worth watching with its fair share of drama and action. the lead actor is a well known one, but this isn’t his best work. definitely kept me excited throughout, and its not a long film, so I’d say its worth the watch.

Mistress America

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another hip indie flick from Noah Baumbach. a good watch with a classic story structure that will make you laugh and cry, and leave you happy and sad. worth the watch.

Trainwreck

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very funny and entertaining comedy written and starring Amy Schumer. i enjoyed the dirty humor, the celebrity cameos and the feel good story.

While We’re Young

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cool indie flick by Noah Baumbach. i like the commentary about youth in modern society and i think the story and writing is well constructed. the characters are realistic and the acting is well done.

The Danish Girl

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was not as thrilling or exceptionally done as i expected it to be. good performances by all, and decent direction, but the screenplay does not do a good enough job of bringing out the development of the title character. worth the watch, but not in my top 20 for the year.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

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fun stuff, some great action scenes, and some that are just laughable. the writing is surprisingly good and its not too cheesy. the story brings up some interesting points about the real world also, but nothing groundbreaking.

It Follows

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pretty creepy horror thriller. weird story, somewhat metaphorical. characters you can relate to, and story line you can follow. i think this might be a little slow for the average movie goer though.

Furious 7

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a worthy sendoff to Paul, and a fun flick to eat popcorn to. not the best of the series, but not the worst. obviously cult fans might disagree with that, so i’ll just say watch this film for completeness.

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

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a sort of satirical, Malick-esque dry comedy focusing on the sad realities of life. a mix of Wes Anderson style and philosophy that is open to interpretation. this film isn’t for the average movie goer, nor the viewer looking to live on the edge of their seat. but the imagery and storytelling is definitely unique and unlike most of what you have seen.

The Stanford Prison Experiment

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a memorable and unique film about a real life story about psychology and social issues. very interesting and pretty fun to watch. not your typical action or drama though.

Anomalisa

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theres something beautiful and dark about this film. it definitely leaves you feeling a certain type of way, and i think for many this will be an emotional journey. for others, this can seem strange and overly abstract in concept at times.

Ant-Man

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just a good, old fashioned superhero movie with just the right amount of humor and action. nothing will blow your socks off about this film, which makes it somewhat forgettable other than the fact that this is a new superhero with a new power. the plot itself is as standard as it comes.

Bajirao Mastani

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not the best Bollywood movie, but the actors are nice to look at and the story is decent. kind of long and the CGI ain’t that good.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

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i like the idea and i like many parts of this indie flick, but the story doesn’t seem to develop the character a whole lot, and the direction takes some weird turns. i like what they are trying to do though.

Southpaw

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standard Hollywood drama with a story you can root for and good acting. the script could have been better, but the acting makes up for it for the most part.

The Water Diviner

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typical feel good story with feel good acting. feels a little Hollywood but has a cool unique story. i think most might appreciate this but expect a drama and not a whole lot of indie vibes.

McFarland, USA

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a well told, feel good story about a winning high school running team built out of nothing. you will definitely root for the characters, but most of the film is predictable. watch it if you like other Disney sports movies.

Pawn Sacrifice

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pretty standard Hollywood drama, and i think it relies on cliches at times, but still a decent watch. dont think its very memorable as a movie as the script is pretty bland.

Macbeth

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very well done adaptation of the play “Macbeth”. the script is in old Scottish tongue and can be hard for many to follow, but the events and direction are very easy to understand. wonderful tragedy and drama built up, but those that do not enjoy Shakespeare may find this a tad boring.

The Night Before

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probably a very typical Hollywood comedy for most, but i loved the interplay between the characters and all the cameos, so for me this was an above average comedy with some positive feel-good moments. worth the watch if you’re looking for a Christmas themed comedy.

Spy

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an action comedy that does not rely on cliches, nor does it revolve around ludicrous inconsistencies in structure. the comedy is genuine and although it isn’t the funniest movie of the year, the story is definitely feel-good and entertaining.

Chappie

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besides all the technological and scientific falsities that it depends on, the story itself is decent and the action is fun enough to justify a watch. really cool having the band Die Antwoord be a part of it, and they were surprisingly good at acting.

Joy

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a happy ending drama with a weirdly satirical vibe. acting is pretty good, story is interesting, but overall this is just an average Hollywood flick. Russell is a good diector, so watch it if you are familiar with his other work.

Jurassic World

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well produced sequel to the previous Jurassic films. really nothing too unique here; its all just a bigger, badder and more advanced version of the previous ones, just like the film’s main villain.

Focus

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i think this is better than the ratings lead it on to be. a fun watch and some cool story development. not exactly an artistic movie, but still a fun Hollywood flick.

Concussion

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movie about the discovery of football’s link with chronic brain damage and the ensuing concussion protocol associated with it. Will Smith does a decent job acting and the film is of average quality. not a bad watch, but not a must-watch-film.

Fifty Shades of Grey

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this is exactly what we all expected it to be. soft-core porn with a typical love story. the screenplay isn’t very good in terms of dialogue and development, but the acting isn’t bad, and the romance can be felt at times. honestly worth a watch if you don’t mind the gratuitous sex; just try to watch it alone or with a significant other.

Spectre

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there is nothing better or worse about this film than any other Bond film, so don’t expect to be blown away. the movie is especially long and it is at times slow and boring. there are plenty of chase scenes and action sequences, but really this is not a must watch movie unless you need completion on the Bond series.

Sisters

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pretty funny Amy Poehler and Tina Fey comedy, with a nice story and some great characters. definitely a fun watch if you like these SNL actors and typical Hollywood humor. obviously not gonna be groundbreaking storylines or a unique moral of the story, but still worth the watch.

The DUFF

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slightly modified version of Mean Girls. fun and enjoyable coming-of-age story about a girl in high school. not the most unique high school movie, but still a decent watch.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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just like the first one, so if you liked the first, then watch this. no, its not exactly the same, but it has the same characters and the same direction, just a new plot.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

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a decent completion of the series. there wasn’t a need to split this into two films, but other than that typical Hollywood move, the series is good enough to watch and enjoy.

Legend

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cut and dry mobster story revolving around family and romance with most cliches you would expect. not a bad movie, just a completely predictable one. i enjoyed the 2 hours it took to watch it, but i will soon forget the story.

American Ultra

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a pretty fun movie to watch, yet completely lacks in meaning or motivation for the story. i felt like the plot was quickly thought of out of thin and next thing you know, they are shooting fight scenes. i found myself bored with the development and not caring for the characters.

Irrational Man

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another Woody Allen movie that lives up to its mediocre expectations yet still intrigues the viewer with its dark humor and witty banter. decent watch, but overall a bit pretentious and verbose, as is much of Allen’s recent work.

Manglehorn

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a not so well known indie film starring Al Pacino as a grumpy old man, this story of rebirth and moving on is nothing too special. i watched it because it is yet another film by David Gordon Green that is scored by the great Texan band Explosions in the Sky, but don’t feel obligated to watch this unless you like slow indie, sad instrumentals or Al Pacino.

Pitch Perfect 2

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yea this is pretty much like the first one. its not terrible, but its not groundbreaking. i think you already know if you should watch this.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

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yea it’s a fun Guy Ritchie film, but it’s not his best. cool characters, somewhat cliche story that’s probably been done. probably worth the watch, but don’t expect to be blown away.

To Write Love On Her Arms

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based on the true story, this movie is about the girl who inspired the movement which helps suicidal and drug addicted teens. decent execution and pretty good script and direction. the story isn’t quite as enthralling but the message is important.

Terminator Genisys

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yet another Terminator movie. i like the return of Arnold, but other than that it’s a pretty average movie for this series. par for the course, so watch for completeness. it won’t be the worst movie you watch this month.

Unfriended

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a seemingly simple idea with decent execution, but there isn’t much plot or character development to keep the audience truly entertained, besides the building tension and shock moments. worth the watch only if you love horror movies and you want to see a somewhat unique version of it.

Hot Tub Time Machine 2

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probably not as funny as the first one, but some cool moments, and unique stories. not as bad as the reviews say it is, but still a typical Hollywood comedy.

Ted 2

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just like the first one. the story kind of makes sense and is decently written with typical “Family Guy” style humor. really you should only watch this if you liked the first one and have time to kill.

Entourage

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if you took 4 episodes of Entourage and mashed them together, this is exactly what you would get. not surprising considering the makers of this are one in the same creators of the series. i like these characters and i like this series, so i enjoyed this. you should already know if you want to watch this.

Adult Beginners

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has a feel good story and some funny and sad moments, but overall it is a very cliche story and the character development is lacking in the script.

Maps To The Stars

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not that great of a film. i felt bored and confused at many of the characters and their development. this tries to be a smart indie flick, and honestly makes some very interesting points with characters worth caring about, but it’s still pretentious at times.

Daddy’s Home

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yea another Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg comedy. you know what you’re getting here, no surprises. Hannibal Buress is funny also.

Get Hard

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yea i mean, this is what you expect it to be. if you like the title actors, and you find them funny, then you will find this funny. the story is nothing special.

Jauja

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this movie was not for me at all. probably the most arthouse film of the year, and definitely slow paced, you should only watch this if you really want a taste of something different and indie.

Taken 3

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yea just another Taken film. not different or better, just more of the same.

Unfinished Business

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terribly written, cliche story, and not very good acting.


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