1. The Visit - Fucking stupid-ass horror movie. I absolutely hated it. I'm not a fan of M. Night Shyamalan, but I try to give his movies a fair shot. He did create the worst movie ever made, and then a bunch of less than mediocre ones, but I saw some spark of ingenuity with Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense. This movie isn't quite as bad as his worst (which is The Happening, btw), but it's pretty damn close. I think it's really odd that this movie did receive some positive reviews; some calling it "funny" and "thrilling". I didn't laugh at all, but I sure did cringe a lot at the awful dialogue and predictable "old people are scary" fodder. Then there is the rapping. Oh the rapping. I've never wanted to punch a little boy in the face before this movie. I think this is what some reviewers might have seen as "funny", but I found it obnoxious and probably the most horrifying element of the movie. There are just so many other things wrong with it, as well. First, found-footage films are over. Period. Also, the story is insanely ridiculous - a women sends her two kids to visit their grandparents, with whom she's estranged from. Then these two people start acting super creepy and the kids are just like *shrugs - old people, am I right?*. If you saw your grandmother vomiting uncontrollably, would you run into your room and hide? The *twist* is dumb and, also, DUUUUH. But the dumbest thing is that these two healthy, young children can't outrun their 70 year old "grandparents". Oh yeah, and this girl, after figuring out the twist, GETS INTO AN OVEN. Willingly!! And the mom calls the police station instead of 911 when her children are in danger. And...I could go on for pages on end, but I'll just stop myself and say don't waste your time with this garbage. I usually suggest that one should watch every movie and decide for themselves what they like, but nothing about this movie is worth a visit (oh...I didn't even mean to make that pun, but I like it).
2. Macbeth - Huge Shakespeare fan, remember?! I had many reasons to look forward to this movie, the main one being Marion Cotillard. I just adore her. She is definitely the highlight of this movie. Fassbender is terrific, as well. And Scotland is such a stunning backdrop for a movie. The scenery almost stole the whole movie; I could just stare at those landscapes all day. "Macbeth"is hardly my favorite Shakespeare play, but it's certainly one of his best, and definitely the play that I've read and studied the most (Drama Studies major, so I took countless Shakespeare classes - "Intro to Shakespeare", "Shakespeare on Film", "Women in Shakespeare", "Advanced Shakespeare"...I could go on). Personally, I prefer when movies do a more modern version of a Shakespeare story - like Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet, or The Lion King, or my favorite adaptation, 10 Things I Hate About You (No, really. I'm serious. It's wonderful.). However, I appreciate the traditional take on this story - the grit and grime of it all is brutal and ugly, combined with the gorgeous cinematography and set design - it's certainly an interesting watch. There are a few really beautiful, intense scenes like the murdering of the king, and the last scene with the red and orange tinted lens. I admit, I was a little disappointed, but not because it wasn't done well, more because it doesn't offer anything new. It's just such an expected interpretation, so I was a little bored with it.
3. Crimson Peak - Another movie with stunning cinematography. It's just so beautiful to look at, it's hard to focus on the actual story (which is less than average). Mia Wasikowska is probably my favorite young actress right now; more because of the choices in film roles - never expected, always complicated roles. Jessica Chastain is also amazing. These two actresses in one movie already set expectations super high. Plus, I've never seen Charlie Hunnam in a role outside of Sons of Anarchy (ok, I guess you can count Pacific Rim, but that didn't really require much acting), and I'm excited for his career. They all kept this movie afloat (along with Tom Hiddleston - I guess, but I'm still not really sure how he became so popular so quickly). I like that the movie is more of a Gothic costume drama, than a traditional horror movie. There are no jump-scares of ghosts jumping out at you, which from what I understand, is why it was criticized by audiences; instead it's atmospherically creepy and mysterious. I think if the story wasn't so mediocre and predictable, and also slightly boring, this movie would have been among the best of last year. It's still definitely among the most beautiful, well-made movies of 2015.
4. 99 Homes - Michael Shannon is quietly on a career high right now. Not only with quality, but with quantity (check IMDB, he has 11 movies listed for 2016. I repeat. 11 movies for one year.). This movie came and went pretty quickly, but I read some really strong reviews for it, and his performance - some even argued it Oscar-worthy. I don't rate it that highly, but it's a really great movie, with fantastic performances from Shannon, and also Andrew Garfield. I'm glad that they decided to end The Amazing Spider-Man movies, freeing Andrew to pursue worthier movies that challenge him. I was actually really doubtful of his talent when he was announced as the new Spider-Man, but he won me over (and I thought he was great as Peter Parker). The highlight of this movie is that it features strong performances, but an even stronger story (which I think is my biggest problem with critically acclaimed movies of last year - Carol, Brooklyn, etc., superb performances, boring stories). This was like the slow-burn version of The Big Short (which is my second favorite movie of last year). It's a different perspective of the same story - the collapse of the housing market. It's told from the side of someone directly effected by the disastrous loans. I think it helps that I saw The Big Short first, because I understood the evilness of these loans, and the greediness of people who saw this collapse as an opportunity to profit off of those who lost everything. I feel like it's a very American story about the way people live above their means. I don't really understand living like that - I think I learned very quickly the dangers of credit cards (I don't even own one anymore), and I was given the best advice when I was young - figure out how much you need to live happily and once you make that, you have "enough". Don't kill yourself to always have "more". Can I afford to buy a house? No. But, do I really want to? No. Do I need a fancy car to drive 5 miles to work everyday? No. Can I afford to eat what I want, when I want it? Yes. Can I afford to do things that make me happy, such as traveling, watching movies, etc.? Yes. I'm on a tangent, but I think it's a really important lesson for everyone to learn. Otherwise, you are going to constantly live your life with debt and stress and never be able to enjoy all of the things that you work so hard for. Anyway, this movie focuses on someone who isn't necessarily living outside of his means - his home is pretty reasonable, and I think the important aspect of him losing it, is that it's his "family" home. I think there is a little bit of subtle references to the struggles of men who are responsible for "taking care of their family" - the stresses of masculinity, etc. (and yes, I do think that men still carry this burden, which is why feminism is so important - we want to help with this burden. It's a damn shame that some men can't understand this concept). There is also a deep moral struggle, that this character faces, which is absolutely fascinating and complicated. I dig this movie, a lot. The more I think about it, the more complicated it gets.
5. Suffragette - Oh...speaking of feminism! What a great movie to segue to! I wish I could say that this is fantastic insight into the suffragette movement, but it's really dull and expected. I guess having taken so many Women's Studies classes, I can't really find anything new about the story. It felt like every other movie about this topic. BUT, if you haven't seen any of those movies, or documentaries, then I guess watch this movie and learn about these incredible women that fought for our right to vote. A right that we still don't take advantage of as much as we should. I mean, imagine if even 75% of adult women in this country voted?! A revolution would occur. I think the interesting part of this movie is that they casually mention the abuse that these women encountered not only from law enforcement, but also from their own spouse (and this abuse wasn't illegal). I wish they stressed the fact that this very reason is why these women risked everything for the right to vote. Government has the ability to change laws, therefore women voting for people in government would directly effect laws, such as domestic abuse laws. It's common sense, yet, there are still so many women who see voting as a burden. Anyway, aside from the subject matter, I think the cast did a respectable job. I am a HUGE, GIGANTIC fan of Anne-Marie Duff (and an even bigger fan of her husband). I really want to see her in more movies, and not just as a co-star. I wish the roles were switched and she were the main character instead of Carey Mulligan. I like her, but she just plays the same character in every movie - and she cries. Or looks like she's going to cry. Either way, I'm tired of it. Also, they really shouldn't even advertise Meryl Streep in this movie - she is in a "blink and you'll miss it" role.