2015 is nearly half-way over and it's a good time to reflect back and look at the movies that have made an impact in the first six months of the year. I always felt that 2015 would be a great year for genre films, especially science fiction and comic book based movies. The reality of where we stand as of today is less than I expected given the the number of films that have been released. There's been some disappointing movies, whose flawed stories and execution are difficult to understand given the talent associated with the production. There have been, however, some great 'cinema fantastique' ...
1. Ex Machina
By far the most powerful genre film to be released in Australia this year, Alex Garland's directing debut is a great piece of film-making that made me stop several times after seeing it and think about how people relate to the world in which they exist. The film challenges the viewer to consider the question: do we really ever know anybody? Outstanding performances from the three main cast members (Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson & Alicia Vikander) make for great viewing in this intimate character-driven film. Alex Garland, who to this point has been highly regarded for his writing, shows that he is also a visual story-teller of considerable skill and gives the film a Stanley Kubrick feel, with his very deliberately staged shots and slow-build story tension. This is a five star film that more people need to see immediately.
Read the Screen Fantastique review of Ex Machina
2. Mad Max - Fury Road
Thank goodness! An action movie that relies more on physical stunts and the skill of the live-action movie-makers than it does post-production CGI. Don't think I'm anti-CGI, but Mad Max: Fury Road came along like a breath of fresh air with its simple car chase plot, an emphasis on on-set action and an oddball cast that captured the best of all three previous Mad Max movies and repackaged it for the 21st Century. Charlize Theron is an absolute stand-out as Furiosa, creating an iconic character who, according to some, is slated to re-appear should Warner Bros proceed with another film in the franchise. Despite a long, troubled production process, Mad Max: Fury Road has been worth the wait and reaffirmed George Miller as Australia's most talented and inventive film-maker.
Read the Screen Fantastique review of Mad Max: Fury Road
3. Kingsman: The Secret Service
Matthew Vaughan did to Spy-Fi in 2015 what he did to comic book movies with Kick-Ass back in 2010, giving the genre a right royal reaming with his cutting satire about British society dressed up as an anti-Bond adventure. Colin Firth is great as Harry Hart, proving that there's no type of role to which he can't bring his unique brand of style and sophistication. Taron Egerton provides a solid account as Firth's protege 'Eggsy', but it's the supporting cast in Mark Strong, Michael Caine and Samuel L. Jackson that make Kingsman a stand-out piece of entertainment.
Read the Screen Fantastique review of Kingsman: The Secret Service
4. Fast & Furious 7
It's hard not to like Fast & Furious 7. It's a big, over-blown, ridiculous exercise in how far one franchise can take a set-piece action sequence, but it's a hell of a lot of fun. Despite Vin Diesel trying to ground the film in some sort of dramatic reality, his co-stars have other ideas as Dwayne Johnson, Kurt Russell and Jason Statham all recognize that a little bit of scenery-chewing is going to hurt anybody. None of the cast are going to be lining up in the Awards season, but as entertainment they don't come much bigger than this. The film also manages to pay a fitting tribute to the franchise's leading man Paul Walker, who, sadly, was killed in a car accident during while on a break from shooting the film.
Read the Screen Fantastique review of Fast & Furious 7
If there's an award for getting the most impact from the smallest budget, Director & Writer Shane Abbess would have to be right up there in contention for it. Abbess pays homage to the likes of Ridley Scott and John Carpenter in his sci-fi tale about an inter-planetary Rescue Team sent to bring home the sole survivor (Daniel MacPherson) of a failed mission. What they lack in resource, the cast and crew of Infini make up for with enthusiasm and intensity. MacPherson and co-star Luke Ford make sure things remain interesting right until the very end and, dependent upon its digital download performance, it would be great to see what a second Infini adventure could look like with a little bit more in the budget.
Read the Screen Fantastique review of Infini
Let's us know what you think. Do you agree with the Screen Fantastique Top 5 Movies for the first half of 2015?
There's also a lot we're looking forward to seeing in the second half of 2015, including Terminator Genisys, Ant-Man, Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, Fantastic Four, Hitman: Agent 47, Sinister 2, Maze Runner: Scorch Trials, The Martian, Crimson Peak, Spectre, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part Two and Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. It's a big second half of the year and it all culminates in one of the biggest, most anticipated follow-up movies in cinema history. Let's do this all again in six months time!