Pass the Popcorn: The best so far

Guest columnist Caleb Bishop catches us up on this year’s offering of movies

By Caleb Bishop | July 10, 2015

Tags: Movies Reviews

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It’s July. That puts us a little over halfway through the year. How crazy is that?

2015 has been a surprisingly solid year for movies, and it’s not even Oscar season yet. We’ve seen multiple interpretations of talking teddy bears, dinosaurs, apocalypses (isn’t that an odd word to see plural?), fast cars that make us cry, talking emotions and, of course, Melissa McCarthy. This year has made for quite the diverse viewing experience. So, which are the best?

Without further ado, I’ll attempt to answer that incredibly difficult question. Remember, ranking drastically different movies is a challenge, so bear with me.

10) Tomorrowland – PG Even though it’s filled with plenty of clichés (like the villain explaining himself just long enough to get foiled and an annoyingly sentimental death monologue), “Tomorrowland” has so much originality that it excuses a multitude of flaws.

Anchored by strong performances from emerging actresses and George Clooney actually acting (unlike in “Gravity,” where George Clooney played George Clooney in space), this movie stands to remind us that humanity shouldn’t just roll over and let the world fall to pieces around us, but rather to do something—anything—about it. It’s not without its flaws, but Disney should be praised for their ambition in “Tomorrowland.”

9) Spy – R “Spy” is the inevitable Melissa McCarthy comedy of this year. Fortunately, this is director Paul Feig and McCarthy’s second-best effort, falling just behind 2013’s “The Heat.”

In this vulgar, star-studded James Bond spoof, McCarthy plays a spy, and it’s as funny as that sounds to you. The jokes are plentiful and diverse, so the chances that you’ll see something you like are high. The highlight here is Jason Statham, who surprises with a totally uncharacteristic funny bone.

8) What We Do in the Shadows – R

“What We Do in the Shadows” is an improv-heavy comedy made by the guys who did “Flight of the Conchords” about the everyday lives of vampires. It’s not for people who don’t fancy dry humor, but for those who do, it’s bloody hilarious.

7) Furious 7 – PG-13 Rarely does a franchise make it to seven movies and remain relevant. While “Fast Five” remains the best that the franchise has to offer, “Furious 7” takes all of the testosterone-fueled stunts that fans know and love, and injects a bunch of heart to make this one a must-see. The death of Paul Walker was a tragedy, but it was a delight to see such a meat-headed franchise handle this emotional event so deftly.

6) Mad Max: Fury Road – R Featuring the best car chases that cinema has ever seen, “Mad Max: Fury Road” put the pedal to the metal and never let up. From the richly barren world that George Miller presented, to the underlying themes of feminism and cult behavior, this movie raised the bar for R-rated blockbusters. If Cirque du Soleil made a “Fast and Furious” movie, this would be the result.

5) Jurassic World – PG-13 No one can take away the importance of “Jurassic Park.” However, movies, much like people, age with varying levels of success, and “Jurassic Park” is no George Clooney. “Jurassic World” takes the basics of the dinosaur survival-horror plotline and gives it the 2015 makeover with spectacular results. Immensely entertaining and awe-inspiring, “Jurassic World” rewards fans of the original, ignores the other two Jurassic films and serves as a cautionary tale against greed. This made for one heck of a trip to the theater, and it’s not often that a movie can make a grown man yell, clap and jump out of his seat simultaneously. If any part of you likes dinosaurs (or movies, for that matter), see “Jurassic World.”

4) It Follows – R Every year, there seems to be one horror movie that stands head and shoulders above the rest. Last year, it was “The Babadook,” and this year, it’s “It Follows.” This John Carpenter-esque film relies on true horror and tone as opposed to jump scares, like most modern horror. It’s not easy to tackle the subject of frivolous sex, but “It Follows” will convince you that waiting for marriage is a great idea, otherwise the sexually transmitted demon will get you. It sounds funny, and even a little dumb, but this excellent film will terrify you. It also has an amazing ’80s themed soundtrack to boot.

3) Kingsman: The Secret Service – R I fully recognize that as a college-aged male, I was the target audience for “Kingsman,” but of the two James Bond-style movies on this list, this is the superior by far. Take all the aspects that make James Bond films great, make them way over-the-top, add in some self-awareness and Samuel L. Jackson with a lisp, and you’d have “Kingsman.” Filled with clever humor, gorgeous action, adorable puppies, dapper gentlemen and potentially the best fight scene I’ve ever witnessed, “Kingsman” lived up to every expectation I had for it.

2) Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – PG-13 “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” is a near-flawless film, and should be necessary viewing for anyone with eyes and ears to see it. This isn’t just another story about a girl with cancer. Instead, it’s a story about a guy who knows a girl with cancer, and doesn’t really care that much. Think of it as the anti-“Fault in our Stars.” It doesn’t get bogged down in trying to be super sad or making grand, cheesy observations about the universe, but rather fills up that space with hilarious, relatable comedy that will crack a smile on the face of anyone who’s ever been in high school. It’s all of this, and also serves as a necessary reminder that life isn’t always about you. Bring a box of tissues to this one, you’ll cry (in a good way).

If you know me well enough to have ever had the horror of experiencing one of my movie rants, you know exactly what movie you’re about to see at number one.

1) Paddington – PG I know what you’re thinking. OK, maybe I don’t, but I really don’t care. “Paddington” is without a doubt not only the best family movie I’ve ever seen, but one of the best movies I’ve seen, period. It tells the story of a bear named Paddington who goes to England looking for a home. It’s a simple story, sure, but it’s positively overflowing with heart and joy, and reminds us that a little kindness goes a long way. Filmed with bright colors and symmetry reminiscent of Wes Anderson, “Paddington” is sure to leave you with an embarrassingly large smile on your face. If it doesn’t, I’m more than a little convinced that there’s no heart beating in your chest.

Honorable mentions: “Ex Machina,” “Unfriended,” “While We’re Young,” “Inside Out,” “Monkey Kingdom” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

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