2015 saw many wild and unruly characters causing havoc and mayhem on the big screen.
- MOMMY Antoine Olivier Pilon delivered a powerful performance as Steve, the troubled, sometimes violent, and totally unpredictable son of a widowed mother (Anne Dorval) who is overwhelmed by the difficulty of raising him. The tension increases when their mysterious new neighbour Kyla (Suzanne Clément) awakens the lover in Steve. This controversial film was written and directed by Xavier Dolan. The film won nine Canadian Screen Awards at the 3rd Canadian Screen Awards in 2015, including Best Motion Picture and ten Jutra Awards at the 17th Jutra Awards, including Best Film. It was also Best Foreign Film at the 40th César Awards. It was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or in the main competition section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Jury Prize. 25-year-old Dolan attracted international attention with his first feature film, I Killed My Mother (J’ai tué ma mère), which he wrote, directed and starred in.
- BIRDMAN Michael Keaton was terrific as Riggan Thomson, a faded Hollywood actor best known for playing the superhero Birdman decades ago in a series of films. He is often tormented by the mocking, critical inner voice of Birdman, and frequently visualizes himself performing feats of levitation and telekinesis. Riggan hopes to reinvent his career by writing, directing, and starring in a Broadway production of a loosely based adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. This satirical black comedy-drama film was directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, and was written by Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo. The film won the Academy Award for Best Picture, along with Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography, and also won Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture at the 21st Screen Actors Guild Awards, as well as Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy for Keaton and Best Screenplay at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards.
- MAD MAX: FURY ROAD Tom Hardy was sensational as Max Rockatansky, a survivor of a nuclear holocaust, trying his best to live in a world that has become a desert wasteland when civilization collapsed. He is captured by the War Boys, the army of the tyrannical Joe, and taken to Joe’s Citadel. Designated a universal blood donor, Max is imprisoned and used as a “blood bag” for a sick War Boy called Nux. Equally magnificent is Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, one of Joe’s lieutenants, who is sent in her armoured truck, the “War Rig”, to collect gasoline. Directed and produced by George Miller, and written by Miller, Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris, it marks the fourth instalment in the Mad Max franchise. The primary theme of Mad Max: Fury Road is survival. As the underlying goal for Max, the theme of staying alive has been carried over from the previous instalments of the series that also highlight issues such as ecological collapse and moral decadence. “Survival is key”, explained Miller. “I think it’s a reason why the American Western was such a staple for the better part of a century in American cinema. They were allegorical tales with figures in the landscape working these things out”.
- ENEMY Jake Gyllenhaal was at his best as two men who are physically identical, but different in terms of personality in this mind-bending Canadian-Spanish psychological thriller film directed by Denis Villeneuve, loosely adapted by Javier Gullón from José Saramago’s 2002 novel The Double. Both director Villeneuve and leading actor Gyllenhaal spoke of their desire to make the film a challenging exploration of the subconscious. To Villeneuve, Enemy is ultimately about repetition: the question of how to live and learn without repeating the same mistakes. Regarding the two physically identical characters: “You don’t know if they are two in reality, or maybe from a subconscious point of view, there’s just one,” said Villeneuve. “It’s maybe two sides of the same persona … or a fantastic event where you see another [self].” Gyllenhaal says that Enemy is “about a man who is married, his wife is pregnant, and he’s having an affair. He has to figure himself out before he can commit to life as an adult.
- NIGHTCRAWLER Jake Gyllenhaal was equally brilliant as a former thief who starts shooting footage of accidents and crimes in Los Angeles and becomes a ruthless maniac, selling the content to local news channels as a stringer. This outstanding neo-noir crime thriller was written and directed by Dan Gilroy in his directorial debut. Gilroy took inspiration from stories of 1930s Crime photographers, and their modern-day equivalents. Gilroy, by his own admission, became “obsessed” with the world of stringers and specifically of its potential for a movie. In writing the screenplay Gilroy tried to steer the audience away from labelling Lou as a sociopath, calling it a “reductive label”. In the end Gilroy wanted the audience to realize that “that the problem wasn’t Lou,… The problem is the world…the society that created Lou and rewards Lou.”
- WHIPLASH J. K. Simmons was captivating as the monstrous and tyrannical famed conductor who is abusive toward his students, mocking and insulting them. the film depicts the relationship between an ambitious jazz student (Miles Teller). It was written and directed by Damien Chazelle based on his experiences in the Princeton High School Studio Band. Early on Chazelle gave J. K. Simmons direction that “I want you to take it past what you think the normal limit would be”, telling him: “I don’t want to see a human being on-screen anymore. I want to see a monster, a gargoyle, an animal.” Many of the band members in the movies were real musicians or music students and Chazelle tried to capture real moments of terror from them. At the 87th Academy Awards, Whiplash won Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Supporting Actor for Simmons, and was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.
- FURY Brad Pitt was great as Don “Wardaddy” Collier, a battle-hardened U.S. Army staff sergeant in the 66th Armored Regiment, 2nd Armored Division, commands an M4 Sherman “Easy Eight” tank named Fury and its five-man, all-veteran crew when as the Allies make their final push into Germany during the final days of Worl War II. It was written and directed by David Ayer, who was influenced by the service of veterans in his family and by reading books, such as Belton Y. Cooper’s Death Traps, about American armored warfare in World War II. Ayer aimed for a greater degree of realism in the film than in other World War II dramas. Prior to filming, Ayer required the actors to undergo a four-month preparation process. This included a week-long boot camp run by Navy SEALs. Pitt stated, “It was set up to break us down, to keep us cold, to keep us exhausted, to make us miserable, to keep us wet, make us eat cold food. And if our stuff wasn’t together we had to pay for it with physical forfeits. We’re up at five in the morning, we’re doing night watches on the hour.” Ayer also pushed the cast to physically spar each other, leading to many black eyes and bloody noses. They insulted each other with personal attacks as well. On top of that, the actors were forced to live in the tank together for an extended period of time where they ate, slept, and defecated. In regard to his choices, Ayer defended himself, saying, “I am ruthless as a director. I will do whatever I think is necessary to get what I want.”
- MAPS TO THE STARS Mia Wasikowska caused uproar as a badly-scarred and estranged pyromaniac young woman who takes a job as the personal assistant of a very famous but aging and quickly-fading actress (Julianne Moore), living in the shadow of her legendary movie-star mother and feeling abused by her. It was directed by David Cronenberg, with a screenplay written by Bruce Wagner, who had written a novel entitled Dead Stars based on the Maps to the Stars script. The film concerns the plight of a child star and a washed up actress while commenting on the entertainment industry’s relationship with Western civilization as a whole.
- FOXCATCHER Steve Carell delivered a chilling performance and was unrecognisable as eccentric multi-millionaire John du Pont. Based on true events, it is a rich and moving story of brotherly love, misguided loyalty and the emotional bankruptcy that can accompany great wealth and power. Writer-director Bennett Miller (Capote) examines the perilous relationship between du Pont (Steve Carell) and Olympic Gold Medal-winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), who is struggling in obscurity and poverty in Wisconsin when he is invited by the wealthy heir to move on to his lavish estate to form a team and to train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Schultz seizes the opportunity, eager to step out of the shadow of his revered older brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo), a prominent wrestling coach and Gold Medal winner himself.
- RIOT CLUB The world of a group of rich-and-spoilt undergraduates in The Riot Club is perversely painted in money and they don’t give a damn.The explosive drama of The Riot Club is an emotional journey into the world of corrupted minds where perverse violence rules their morality.Based on Laura Wade’s hit play, the film tells the story of an exclusive Oxford University undergraduate dining society. At the beginning of a new term new, candidates are selected to join the group and when Miles (Max Irons) joins them his world is turned inside out as their insane egocentricity runs wild and they rebel against convention. In the tradition of A Clockwork Orange, The Riot Club explores the excess of violence in an idyllic world, where malevolent evil corrupts sensible human nature and turns ordinary young men into monstrosities. It takes you into the heart of posh English upper-class society and, ultimately, reveals the dark soul of its lonely worshipers. The Riot Club is not a film about violence, but a poignant coming-of-age story, showing how easily innocence and first love can be corrupted and violated.
- LEGEND Tom Hardy delivered another riveting performance as the twisted Kray brothers. From Academy Award winner Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential,Mystic River) and Working Title (The Theory of Everything) comes the true story of the rise and fall of London’s most notorious gangsters, Reggie and Ronnie Kray, both portrayed by Tom Hardy in a powerhouse double performance. Together, the Kray Twins take over the city. But as their reign expands, power-struggles, fierce madness, and a woman diminishes their bond; the weak link that could cause their empire to collapse. Legend is a classic crime thriller taking us into the secret history of the 1960s and the extraordinary events that secured the infamy of the Kray twins.
- THE GALLOWS Fear The Gallows, it is the scariest film in years. With the tag line ‘Every school has its spirit’ the concept is brilliant, showing what happens when four high school friends are trapped inside a school’s auditorium where a student died 10 years before in a freak accident during Beatrice High’s production of the play The Gallows. The concept is brilliant, showing what happens when four high school friends are trapped inside a school’s auditorium where a student died 10 years before in a freak accident during Beatrice High’s production of the play The Gallows. Revenge has never been sweeter and more frightening, particularly with the film shot in found-footage style. The Gallows was written, directed and produced by Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff and shot entirely outside of the Hollywood system, and found its way to the big screen thanks to the filmmakers use of a much smaller one-the computer-and their own ingenuity.
- LOST RIVER Matt Smith plays the vicious local criminal named Bully in this fantasy-neo-noir film written, produced and directed by Ryan Gosling, in his directorial debut. It’s a bizarre and twisted dark fairy tale about love, family and the fight for survival in the face of danger. You will never forget this consummate masterwork from Ryan Gosling that weaves elements of fantasy noir and suspense into a haunting, modern fairy tale. Written and directed by Gosling, this dark and brooding drama is set against the surreal dreamscape of the vanishing city of Lost River. In the virtually abandoned city of Lost River, Billy (Christina Hendricks), a single mother of two, is lead into a macabre underworld in her quest to save her childhood home and hold her family together. Her teenage son, Bones, discovers a mysterious road that leads into a reservoir, where a once thriving city now lays submerged and forgotten by time. The mystery of this underwater town triggers Bones’ curiosity and sets into motion an unexpected journey that will test his limits and the limits of those he loves
BEYOND THE REACH Michael Douglas is in his element as Madec, an irrational businessman and game hunter who hires a young but experienced hunting guide Ben (Jeremy Irvine) out to a field trip beyond the reaches of the Mojave Desert to hunt game. When the cocky young Ben refuses to bow down to Madec, he threatens Ben with his high-powered rifle, and orders him to strip all of his gear including his clothes, then leaves him in the desert to die of dehydration and exposure. This contemporary western was directed by Jean-Baptiste Léonetti and written by Stephen Susco. It is based on the 1972 novel Deathwatch by Robb White.
- VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN James McAvoy tore into the role of radical scientist Victor Frankenstein who, searching for animal body parts at a London circus, meets gifted surgeon Igor Strausman (Daniel Radcliffe). Not only does the brilliant doctor offer Strausman his friendship, but also a chance to work with him on groundbreaking research that could change the world forever. When Victor’s experiments with life and death go too far, only Igor can bring him back from the brink of madness and save him from his monstrous creation. Based on contemporary adaptations of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein, it was directed by Paul McGuigan and written by 31-year-old Max Landis, the son of Johan Landis (An American Werewolf in London).