A lot of great stuff happened in 2015. Star Wars is back (and pretty cool again), James Bond returned, Fargo was better than ever … choosing only 15 great things from the year wasn’t the easiest task in the world. But when one decides to write about 15 – and only 15 – great things from 2015, that burden is just part of the game.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. By far the best thing about 2015 was George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road. Arguably the best action film ever made, nothing this year came close to matching Fury Road’s excitement. Few directors could’ve pulled off a blockbuster film that, believe it or not, was as artistic as it was entertaining, and even fewer get the opportunity. If there’s justice in the world, Miller will nab an Oscar nomination for Best Director.
The other great moments of 2015, in alphabetical order…
All Amy Schumer did in 2015 was take over the world. Inside Amy Schumer went to epic heights with the insta-classic 12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer, Trainwreck was a solid hit (and a return to form for director Judd Apatow), she handled the silly body shamers with a simple flick of her wrist, and … um… oh! She became one of the most popular comedians on the planet.
Ash vs. Evil Dead
Hail to the king, baby. Ash vs. Evil Dead doesn’t reboot the classic horror series, instead picking up the action in present day and expanding upon the universe built in the first two Evil Dead films (Universal owns the rights to Army of Darkness, so that one isn’t mentioned so much). The show is as fun and zany as the original films, and nobody delivers one-liners better than Bruce Campbell. Nobody. Ash vs. Evil Dead has already been renewed for Season 2, so happy 2016 everybody!
Ansari was all over the place in 2015, from helping to properly send off Parks & Recreation, his fantastic look at post-modern dating with Modern Romance and the excellent Master of None, Ansari established himself as a vital voice not only in comedy, but in examining life in 2015 America.
Everything surrounding Star Wars: The Force Awakens
As a film, The Force Awakens is an okay film. Despite some great set pieces and a great new crop of characters, the story is a poor man’s A New Hope and there’s way too much world-building, but when it came to getting excited about a movie, few did it better. Each trailer brought with it new speculation about what would happen in this new trilogy, and snippets from director and co-writer J.J. Abrams were scrutinized with an electron microscope, building to a massive fever pitch on the film’s Dec. 18 release. There was no way the film could meet the gargantuan expectations placed on it, but the frenzy around The Force Awakens sure was fun, wasn’t it?
Female action heroes
This year featured a bunch of fantastic action heroes in Rogue Nation’s Rebecca Ferguson, Mad Max: Fury Road’s Charlize Theron, Sicario’s Emily Blunt and Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Daisy Ridley. All brought added depth and complexity to their roles, and all three proved more interesting than their male counterparts. Hopefully, Hollywood will take notice and keep it up.
The Hateful Eight Road Show
Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight is a good movie. It’s may not be anywhere close to one of Tarantino’s best, but even a lesser QT movie is better than 90 percent of the stuff out there. Making the The Hateful Eight an event with a Road Show, which allowed audiences to see it in 70mm and featured an overture, intermission, and collectible booklet, was a stroke of genius. Not only did it make seeing The Hateful Eight a special occasion, but the Road Show also served as a celebration of Tarantino and his love of film. Honestly, there’s no better way to see a Quentin Tarantino film.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
So what if Janice from accounting don’t give a f–k? With Jon Stewart leaving The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert shifting to mainstream late night TV, Oliver and his Last Week Tonight crew took over the title of best political satire show with a vengeance. Last Week Tonight was excellent when it began in 2014. In 2015, building off of both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, Last Week Tonight used the freedom HBO allows to create something that not only pokes fun at the establishment, but with bits like Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, tries to affect change as well.
Pixar getting it’s groove back
Pixar was in a straight-up rut after Toy Story 3. Cars 2, Brave, and Monsters University were all lackluster, a tragedy considering the level of quality Pixar established with their previous films. With June’s Inside Out, one of Pixar’s most imaginative and entertaining movies, the studio got its mojo back in a major way. The Good Dinosaur, despite all of the production issues, was decent enough, but the animation was some of the best ever done.
Rebecca Ferguson in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
The fifth entry in the mega-franchise, Rogue Nation hangs Tom Cruise off the side of an airplane in the first five minutes. How did Cruise & Co. top that? With Rebecca Ferguson. As the double-agent Ilsa Foust, Ferguson proved more than capable of going toe-to-toe with Cruise’s super spy Ethan Hunt, giving the series its most compelling character. Word that Ferguson is returning for M:I-6 can only mean good things.
Ryan Reynolds aka Deadpool aka Ryan Reynolds
Reynolds had to wait a long time after 2009’s rotten X-Men Origins: Wolverine to reprise his role as Deadpool, but he isn’t wasting any time now that he’s back as the Merc with a Mouth. Not many actors have played characters outside of their respective films (Deadpool opens Feb. 12), but Reynolds seems like a man on a mission. He gave Conan O’Brien a massage, assassinated Mario Lopez, cursed out a bunch of kids dressed as X-Men characters for Halloween, and did a host of other things in character this year. It’s obvious Reynolds is having the time of his life playing Deadpool, and the movie hasn’t even opened yet. Here’s to Deadpool being a big hit so we can take part in Reynolds’s glee for years to come.
TV shows nailing the landing
Justified, Key & Peele, Mad Men and Parks & Recreation all pulled off what so many shows have struggled with in the past – sticking the landing. It doesn’t matter how good a show was during it’s initial run. If the finale is flubbed in any way (see: The League, Seinfeld, Battlestar Galactica), it sours the rest of the series. Want more proof? Which series holds up better now that they’ve ended, Breaking Bad or Lost?
Walton Goggins in The Hateful Eight
A veteran of fantastic TV shows like The Shield and Justified, Goggins first had a bit part in Tarantino’s Django Unchained. Tarantino films are always chock full of great performances, and The Hateful Eight is no exception. As the new sheriff of Red Rock, Goggins steals the show from the impressive cast, which includes Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Tim Roth, and a never better Jennifer Jason Leigh. Goggins should be in the conversation for a Best Supporting Actor nomination.
Bonus! Anyone worried about Channing Tatum playing Gambit should see The Hateful Eight. He’s going to crush it.
What We Do In The Shadows
What We Do In The Shadows was released with little fanfare back in February, but for anyone who sought out the New Zealand-set vampire mockumentary, the movie proved to be one of 2015’s best comedies. Co-directed by Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, who won the directing gig on Thor: Ragnarock thanks to Shadows, the film is endlessly fun, and full of the laughs that made Conchords a hit here in the states.