Entertainment year in review: My top five of 2015

Force-Awakens-Kylo-RenBy Ashley Pauls/Box Office Buzz

At the end of year, I normally put together a top 10 list of my favorite entertainment items. When I first started blogging, I just did five items, mostly because I was still figuring this whole blogging thing out, 😉 but I later bumped it up to 10 because I had a hard time narrowing my list down. This year, however, I decided to drop it back down to five again. It wasn’t necessarily that I couldn’t find 10 things I liked; it was just that unlike the past couple years, there weren’t 10 items that clearly stood out.

I felt like this year, there were several franchise continuations that didn’t quite live up to their predecessors. “Age of Ultron,” “Spectre,” and “Mockingjay – Part 2” were all fun in their own ways (“Spectre” was probably my favorite of the three), but they didn’t achieve the heights of “The Avengers,” “Skyfall,” and “Catching Fire,” respectively. Interestingly, this might be the first year that only one of the movies from my beginning of 2015 “most anticipated” list ended up on my actual “best of the year” list (I bet you can’t guess what that movie is…). 😉 This year, there were several fun surprise break-out hits, and one highly anticipated movie that definitely lived up to the hype. So, here goes my list, counting down to my favorite film of the year…

Honorable mentions: Jurassic World and Cinderella

I know I’m already breaking my own rule to stick to just five. 😉 However, while these two movies didn’t make the top five, I still wanted to give them a shout-out. “Jurassic World” was a fun addition to the franchise and tried to recapture the spirit of the original 1993 film. Chris Pratt and his team of raptors were the highlight of the movie for me, though a stronger script probably would have landed this film higher on the list. I thought this year’s live action “Cinderella” was a sweet, charming fairy tale that managed to feel both fresh and traditional, updating a classic while not straying too far from the source material. I added both these to my movie collection this year.

5. The Martian

“The Martian” may be based on a fictional novel, but this film — which is a blend of “Gravity” and “Apollo 13” — feels all-too-real. Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is abandoned on Mars after his crew mistakenly assumes he has died during an emergency evacuation. Watney has to figure out how to survive alone on Mars, unable to even communicate with Earth to let them know he is alive. While this is an inspiring survival story with gorgeous cinematography, it’s also surprisingly funny. Watney maintains his sense of humor and determination to survive even though the odds are stacked against him. I’ve read the book, and it’s really good too.

4. Daredevil

While most of the items on my end of the year round-up tend to be movies, I couldn’t leave off Netflix and Marvel’s excellent new superhero show “Daredevil.” This show was darker and grittier than we’re used to seeing from Marvel, but the character development and plot were excellent. Charlie Cox shines as blind lawyer Matt Murdock, who moonlights as a vigilante known as Daredevil. Vincent D’Onofrio also was great as the show’s surprisingly nuanced villain Wilson Fisk (a.k.a. the Kingpin). The character was capable of terrible cruelty towards those who betrayed him, but he also expressed a sense of sacrificial tenderness towards the woman he loved.

3. Mad Max: Fury Road

This film definitely wasn’t on my radar at the beginning of 2015, and I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that it would end up on my highlights of the year list. However, this turned out to be a rousing, thought-provoking action film. The plot is deceptively simple — it is, essentially, a two-hour post-apocalyptic car chase — and the title is deceptive, too. While it’s called “Mad Max,” the movie essentially belongs to Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, who dares to defy a dangerous warlord. It’s a dark, violent film, but there’s also plenty of hope.

2. Ant-Man

Technically, I think “Mad Max: Fury Road” is probably a better film than “Ant-Man,” but Marvel gets the sentimental vote here (I do love my Marvel movies). 😉 I didn’t initially have very high hopes for “Ant-Man”; a superhero who runs with ants seemed like a hard concept to pull off onscreen. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this movie and found I actually liked it better than “Age of Ultron.” Paul Rudd is likeable as everyman hero Scott Lang, who dons the Ant-Man suit after receiving training from the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). The film has some great touches of humor, my favorite being the fight on the trainset, and Michael Peña provided some excellent comic relief as Lang’s best friend.

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This comes, I’m sure, as a surprise to no one. 😉 It was my most anticipated film of the year, and I’m so happy I also get to list it as my favorite. There was so much pressure riding on this film, and I was very excited but also very nervous. Thankfully, the movie lived up to the hype, and it turned out to be the perfect blend of old and new, paying homage to the original trilogy while also introducing great new characters. I had a chance to watch it in IMAX over the holidays, and I liked it even more after a second viewing. Sitting in that darkened theater, watching the space battles and lightsaber fights play out on screen, I felt like a little kid again. It was magical.

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