The Age of Adaline (2015)

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A young woman, born at the turn of the 20th century, is rendered ageless after an accident. After many solitary years, she meets a man who complicates the eternal life she has settled into. (IMDb)
The narration that bookends the film gives it a cozy, fairy-tale feel (although the science is a bit much) with Adaline–an ancient woman in a young body, played to refined perfection by Lively–a fitting protagonist: Eternally beautiful and wise, yet sad and lonely. The logistics of her long life are breezed over, but the relational implications are richly explored, most notably in the striking third act as her secret is revealed to both a past and a present lover in whirlwind of emotions.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

Spotlight (2015)

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The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core. (IMDb)
The dense dialogue doesn’t dumb anything down, to the film’s initial detriment (it’s tough to latch on), but ultimately giving it a welcome mature feel as the Spotlight team continues to determinedly dig their way to the disturbing truth. A no-frills story, solidly acted (Ruffalo’s passionate Mike and Schreiber’s calm and calculated Marty are two standouts) maintains this tone, dispensing with unnecessary character explorations and pushy pathos on the way to its subtly sentimental final scene.
8/10 (Great)

Dope (2015)

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Life changes for Malcolm, a geek who’s surviving life in a tough neighborhood, after a chance invitation to an underground party leads him and his friends into a Los Angeles adventure. (IMDb)
Despite a fresh-feeling setting, nice-looking cinematography, active editing, great music, and a trio of likeable protagonists, the film struggles to connect in a solid way up until Malcolm’s dramatic gun draw, thanks to some messy writing that half-hazardly breezes through a high school partying plot and too often feels try-hard with its humour. A unique fourth-wall-breaking “moral of the story” hits home though, and re-frames the film’s brazen Superbad-esque story in a thought-provoking way.
6.5/10 (Alright)

True Story (2015)

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When disgraced New York Times reporter Michael Finkel meets accused killer Christian Longo – who has taken on Finkel’s identity – his investigation morphs into a game of cat-and-mouse. (IMDb)
Has all the makings of a solid drama-thriller–a stirring psychological premise, striking cinematography, an unsettling stringed soundtrack–but a shoddy script (not helped by Franco’s flat performance as the killer in question) continually disappoints with its lifeless dialogue, suspense-less plot (the courtroom climax is anything but), underwhelming pay-off (the stolen identity bit is resolved in one sentence), and surface-y relationships (Finkel and Jill’s never warrants Jones’ tense looks).
6/10 (Mediocre)

Slow West (2015)

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A young Scottish man travels across America in pursuit of the woman he loves, attracting the attention of an outlaw who is willing to serve as a guide. (IMDb)
A tastefully simple and slow-paced Western adventure plot with just a dot of dramatic irony is accented by stunningly coloured cinematography, an earthy soundtrack, and unique camerawork (see the dead person stills at the end), and punctuated by a starkly violent final act. The ambling and artful script veers into vague melodrama a little too often (especially in its emotional climax) but with the film’s delicious aesthetic it creates a rich portrayal of melancholic frontier America.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

Get Hard (2015)

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When millionaire James King is jailed for fraud and bound for San Quentin, he turns to Darnell Lewis to prep him to go behind bars. (IMDb)
Grossly unfunny; repetitive jokes about dicks and prison rape aim for the uncomfortable extremes but they can’t make up for their severe lack of cleverness, creativity, and comedic timing. Racial and social class stereotypes abound in a script that on occasion seems to be trying to make some sort of serious statement, but mostly just comes off as stupid and tasteless. A childish plot (the detective-work final act is very weak) and made-for-TV quality camerawork solidify this as an awful film.
3.5/10 (Awful)

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

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Viago, Deacon, and Vladislav are vampires who are finding that modern life has them struggling with the mundane – like paying rent, keeping up with the chore wheel, trying to get into nightclubs, and overcoming flatmate conflicts. (IMDb)
The perfectly deadpan doc-style delivery is delightful as it presents with wonderful wit and mirthfully morbid frankness mundane expositions on the typical vampire lore, from watching sunrises on Youtube to debating over who has to clean the bloody dishes. Many clever mini-storylines (newbie Nick’s integration into the group is one highlight) and hilarious characters (see the never-fazed software programmer Stu and the pack of rational werewolves) add even further humour to this great premise.
8/10 (Great)

 

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

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A woman rebels against a tyrannical ruler in postapocalyptic Australia in search for her home-land with the help of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshipper, and a drifter named Max. (IMDb)
You know when there’s a wounded pregnant woman narrowly dodging a rock overhang while hanging off the side of a steampunk-style big rig that this is far from your typical action film. A gloriously refreshing set of protagonists (Theron leads a great cast of females young and old) drives (literally; it’s almost all insane car chases) forward a simple apocalyptic story beautifully filmed and fantastically decorated. Max’s backstory flashes are a little distracting without any context though.
9/10 (Amazing)

The Revenant (2015)

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A frontiersman on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team. (IMDb)
An immaculate cinematic experience; gorgeous forested landscapes and their well-worn inhabitants are captured in spectacular natural light and with as much gritty detail as breathtaking breadth. Swelling strings and impeccable action-camerawork add further flair. DiCaprio’s committed turn drives forward a brutal and bloody survival/revenge plot that fits its severe setting like a glove with its stark visceral simplicity, while Hardy and co. offer strong support in their own secondary narrative.
9/10 (Amazing)

The Big Short (2015)

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Four outsiders in the world of high-finance who predicted the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s decide to take on the big banks for their lack of foresight and greed. (IMDb)
The financial jargon and drama is thick and constant, but phenomenally and entertainingly packaged: The editing sizzles with both comedic and dramatic potency (lots of abrupt scene cuts and charming pop culture potpourri), the script is both serious and snicker-worthy (4th-wall breaks and snarky narration lie alongside tense moral exploration), and the big three put their acting chops on full display through some fantastic characters (the eccentric Michael, fiery Mark, and douche-y Jared).
8.5/10 (Amazing)