A continuation of my top movies of 2015, with numbers 10 to 6 below:
10. TRUMBO: Bryan Cranston stars as Dalton Trumbo, one of Hollywood’s top paid screenwriters of the 1940’s. Trouble comes when conservative forces in Hollywood out him as a Communist. Helen Mirren gives a commanding performance as gossip writer Hedda Hopper, who along with cowboy star John Wayne works very hard to blacklist many top writers, directors, and actors in the post WW2 witch hunting.
Trumbo’s career is virtually destroyed when he goes to prison. After being released, he is forced to write under an assumed name, when no-one will hire him. Cranston fully researched this role, and plays it almost over the top. His wigs and mustaches were highly exaggerated, but he did give a strong performance. John Goodman plays the small studio head who hires Trumbo, who eventually wins an Oscar under another name. Director Jay Roach perfectly captures the paranoia for creative people in the 1950’s. we also learn who some of the good guys were. Kirk Douglas and director Otto Preminger jump out as a couple of them in old Hollywood, as they recruit Trumbo for screenwriter on two epic films, “Exodus” and “Spartacus”. “Trumbo” is a very important character study in today’s political climate, as blacklisting could happen again.
9. THE PEANUTS MOVIE: This film could have been made 50 years ago. It came and went fairly quietly before Christmas, but was very well done. Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy and all the rest were very well represented in state of the art 3D animation. In the tradition on the many “Peanuts” tv specials,the music was good, and we still hear no adults speaking.
8. BRIDGE OF SPIES: Stephen Spielberg directed a Coen Bros & Matt Charman screenplay about attorney James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) negotiating a prisoner exchange during the Cold War era between the US and Soviet Union (Russia) in 1960.Interestingly, the American pilot in Soviet hands was Francis Gary Powers who after his release became a “telecopter” reporter for a Los Angeles television station. His copter crashed while covering the Santa Barbara fires of 1977. Spielberg doesn’t get the awards he used to, but his fact based historical films are still very well done and entertaining.
7. THE REVERANT: Another film based on real characters, this time from the early 1800’s.Gorgeous landscapes from several states and South America are a backdrop for a very violent film of rage, injustice, and ultimately revenge. Leonardo DiCaprio will probably win an Oscar for his portrayal of Hugh Glass, a 19th century trapper whose son was murdered by his close friend John Fitzgerald, played by Tom Hardy. Fitzgerald is so evil, you will hate him instantly. “The Reverant” is difficult to watch because of the endless torture and violence, but is still a top contender for “Best Picture”.
6. STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON: This film was guaranteed to be a hit here in Los Angeles, but like the groundbreaking music it tells the story of, it was a huge hit all across the country. Whether you grew up in Compton, or Davenport, Iowa, it strikes a cord with youth of that era (mid 1980’s) all the way to today. No jobs, harassment by authorities, and nothing to do led to the merging of Rap and Dance music. NWA was the group fronted by Eazy-E, played brilliantly by Jason Mitchell. I almost cried in the hospital scene (near the end),with a very sick Eazy-E. This was one of the very best performances of 2015, and he should have been nominated for an Oscar. Paul Giamatti is the group’s controversial manager, who you never quite know is a good dude or a bad one. Eazy-E had trouble figuring that out too. Others in the group didn’t. Giamatti always gives a strong performance, but this may be his underplayed best. Director F. Gary Gray did such a good job on this one, I actually woke up @ 3am in the morning after seeing “Straight Outta Compton”, thinking police were beating on my front door. Ice Cube and Dr. Dre were 2 (of 6) producers credited. They should know. They were there. The WAVE’s own Greg Mack was portrayed in the film, and Greg himself, also has a cameo in the credits at the end.