Best Movies of 2015... So Far

Scene from 'Fifty Shades of Grey'
The first #1 movie of the year was Taken 3, continuing Liam Neeson's arc as a middle-age, action star. Yet, the story of the winter has to got to be Clint Eastwood's latest, directorial effort.

American Sniper went into limited release in December where it did incredible numbers. Warner Bros. then put it into wide release on January 16, a day after the Oscar nominations were announced. Surprisingly, American Sniper got six nominations, including Best Picture, which in part helped to propel the movie to a record-breaking January weekend. It made $89 million, making it #1 that weekend. It remained #1 for three weeks straight. It grossed over $350 million domestically and over a half-billion worldwide. Its domestic haul was enough to put it into the top 30, a rare feat especially for a R-rated movie.

The second story of the winter is of course Fifty Shades of Grey. It was #1 for two weeks straight in February. It too has grossed over a half-billion dollars worldwide. It put the Twilight fanfiction-turned-trashy, S&M romance truly into the mainstream. Better films about S&M this year include The Duke of Burgundy. Documentaries on S&M that provide better insight are Kink on Netflix and Folsom Forever, but I have to admit that I enjoyed Fifty Shades of Grey and I'll probably be the only film critic, amateur or otherwise, that will have it on his or her best-of-the-year list.

Speaking of my best-of-the-year list, of the films I enjoyed that were released theatrically, there are only 3 out of 16 that were not strictly about women or have a leading female character in the story. According to film writer Matthew Brennan, writing for Indiewire, "To this point 2015 has been the year of the woman-centered film." I have to say that I have to agree somewhat. Even some films that on the face don't look they would be about women strangely ended up being about women. Two examples include Love & Mercy, which on its face is about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, but it pivots and also becomes about the character played by Elizabeth Banks. The same could also be said about Mad Max: Fury Road. The titular character takes a back seat to the character played by Charlize Theron.

Yet, if this has been the year of woman-centered film, it could also be argued that it's also been the year of the robot-centered film. A film that didn't totally bomb but didn't do well was Chappie, which kicked off a series of movies about artificial-intelligent robots. One of the big Marvel movies was Avengers: Age of Ultron. It didn't do as well as its predecessor, but it did achieve an impressive opening weekend and has made over $1.3 billion worldwide. A lot of the critical acclaim went to the smaller film about robots called Ex Machina. Critics mostly slammed Terminator Genisys, the latest in the franchise that has Arnold Schwarzenegger as the robot killing machine-turned-hero.

Disney turned another of its theme park attractions into a movie. People took to Pirates of the Caribbean but they didn't take to Tomorrowland. A wacky Johnny Depp was a lot more fun than curmudgeon George Clooney. Maybe Gore Verbinski is a better director than Brad Bird, although fans of The Iron Giant might beg to differ. He also can write, so maybe Damon Lindelof who co-wrote Tomorrowland needs to go back to television writing.

Chris Pratt in the biggest movie of the year, 'Jurassic World'
However, Disney can write that film off and be okay. The movie studio that's truly been in trouble is Sony Pictures, which has had one disaster after another for the past year. Yet, the movie studio that is currently on top is Universal Pictures. They were supremely bolstered by the smashing success of two recent properties. The first was Furious 7, which was #1 in the box office for four weeks straight in April. With an even more furious international take, the film is now in the top five of biggest, all-time films. As of July 4, it's currently at $1.511 billion.

In another great surprise, Universal also had the monstrous success of Jurassic World, which came out the gate breaking records. It's opening weekend was the biggest ever with $208 million in three days. It kept breaking records till its present standing of $1.38 billion worldwide. Now, with any movie that starts down this road, the obvious question is if it can beat James Cameron's Avatar or Titantic, which both stand as the two biggest-earning films ever. I have a feeling Jurassic World won't. It'll probably come close but again fall short. The movie landscape such as it is won't allow such a phenomenon during the summer.

New for me, this summer, I got to preview and review a bunch of films for the recent Frameline Film Festival, which is one of the biggest festivals that caters LGBT films. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movies were varied and very compelling this year. Along with my list of theatrical and video releases, I also included a list of a few of the best LGBT films I saw. Looking back this half year, here is my list of the best movies of 2015, so far:

Best Movies Released Theatrically

GETT: THE TRIAL OF VIVIANE AMSALEM by Ronit Elkabetz & Shlomi Elkabetz
CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA by Olivier Assayas
GIRLHOOD (BANDE DE FILLES) by CĂ©line Sciamma
INSIDE OUT by Pete Docter & Ronaldo Del Carmen
LOVE & MERCY by Bill Pohlad
DOPE by Rick Famuyiwa
THE WATER DIVINER by Russell Crowe
BOY MEETS GIRL by Eric Schaeffer
AMIRA & SAM by Sean Mullin
THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: SPONGE OUT OF WATER by Paul Tibbitt
APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR by Desiree Akhavan
THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY by Peter Strickland
FIFTY SHADES OF GREY by Sam Taylor-Johnson
WOMAN IN GOLD by Simon Curtis
PADDINGTON by Paul King
CAMP X-RAY by Peter Sattler

Best Overlooked DVD or VOD Releases

SONG OF THE SEA by Tomm Moore
HAPPY VALLEY by Amir Bar-Lev
THE CIRCLE (DER KREIS) by Stefan Haupt
LEVIATHAN (LEVIAFAN) by Andrey Zvyagintsev
4 MOONS (CUATRO LUNAS) by Sergio Tovar Velarde
BOYS (JONGENS) by Mischa Kamp
LIFE PARTNERS by Susanna Fogel
MISSIONARY by Anthony DiBlasi
SUPPORTING CHARACTERS (2012) by Daniel Schecter

Best Unreleased LGBT Films

BEAUTIFUL SOMETHING by Joseph Graham
NAZ & MAALIK by Jay Dockendorf
THE SURFACE by Michael J. Saul
ALEX & ALI by Malachi Leopold

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