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Created Mar 07, 2015 12:21AM PST • Updated Mar 07, 2015 12:21AM PST

The Great, Really Great & Perfect new movies I’ve seen in `15: new movies I graded 4.0, 4.5 or 5 beams out of 5. Includes movies officially designated 2014 but not out wide till 2015.

Average

  • Really Great
  •  
  • 78 Points
Title Released Trust Weighted Summary Viewable
1st Kingsman: The Se...
2014 Great 83 Points
_100

The same brilliant, depraved and amoral crew who brought us Kick-Ass have now delivered Kingsman: The Secret Service, another comic take on a well-trod movie topic. James Bond movies are the inspiration this time. The result is tremendously entertaining, albeit as sordid as it is sleek. And it is very sleek indeed.

Kingsmen are a snooty spy service literally headquartered on London’s snooty Savile Row, with Colin Firth and Michael Caine running the show. Excellent casting, that. They must defeat a brilliant billionaire bad guy played by Samuel L. Jackson, another bit of excellent cas…

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Added Mar 07, 2015 12:21AM PST • Updated Mar 07, 2015 12:21AM PST
2nd Run All Night
2015 Great 83 Points
_100

Run see Run All Night if Liam Neeson bonding, then brawling with Ed Harris sounds like your cup of tea. It sounded like mine, and was. The two venerable actors certainly don’t disappoint in their manly duet.

Formulaic in the extreme, RAN still has lots to like, starting with a great cast that also features Vincent D’Onofrio & Génesis Rodríguez. He’s nails as an NYPD Homicide Det. and she’s regal as a wife & mom.

Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra has made a specialty of Neeson revenge thrillers, Run All Night coming after Unknown

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Added Mar 18, 2015 11:26PM PST • Updated Mar 18, 2015 11:26PM PST
3rd Kill Me Three Times
2014 Great 83 Points
_100

Kill Me Three Times is a terrifically entertaining piece of pulp fiction. Three deadly sins – wrath, greed, lust – play out in darkly comic circumstances. Set in a sunny beach town, it’s a ripper from Down Under.

The mere seven person cast seems larger. Simon Pegg ably anchors it as a hitman with an entitled attitude. Teresa Palmer, Luke Hemsworth, Alice Braga, Sullivan Stapleton and Bryan Brown also stand out.

The movie starts in reverse chronological order, opening with the hitman’s demise – Kill Me One Time per a title card. It then reverts in time to fill in blanks from the st…

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Added Apr 15, 2015 08:04PM PST • Updated Apr 15, 2015 08:04PM PST
4th Danny Collins
2015 Great 83 Points
_100

Al Pacino plays faux-rockstar Danny Collins like a demented Neal Diamond, complete with big singalong. Danny Collins instantly enters the Pacino Pantheon, Extreme Extrovert Wing. Rockstar Al is in the house.

The film is entirely high concept, albeit inspired by a real story: John Lennon wrote an encouraging letter to a young singer-songwriter in 1971, who didn’t come across it until 2010, causing him to reassess his life.

The movie features perfect music: lots of Lennon interspersed with Danny Collins, including a new Danny Collins song. Hey Baby Doll – with its chorus of "Sweeet…

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Added Apr 17, 2015 08:36PM PST • Updated Apr 17, 2015 08:36PM PST
5th Lambert & Stamp
2014 Really Great 66 Points
_100

The Who get deconstructed in the cheeky documentary Lambert & Stamp, about Kit Lambert & Chris Stamp, the fifth & sixth members of the band. Whimsy, rockstar excess, sex and drugs and money, lots of money, inform the stories that get exuberantly recounted by Pete Townshend, Roger Daltry, Chris Stamp, Terence Stamp and others in their coterie. It radiates the demented glory that British rockstars do so well.

Kit Lambert, an Oxford swell, son of a famous classical composer, was flamboyant in an upper-crust way.

Chris Stamp looked like a moviestar and lived like a rockstar.
He subsequ…

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Added May 01, 2015 02:03PM PST • Updated May 01, 2015 02:03PM PST
6th Ex Machina
2015 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Ex Machina deserves the fulsome praise it has received from professional and amateur critics alike. Intellectually intriguing and erotically provocative, it unsheathes surprises and turnabouts to the very end. However, it does have a glaring flaw, one that deserves attention before further examining its virtues.

First some scene setting: Ex Mock-in-a tells the tall tale of a tech billionaire who plays god with comely robotic assistants of his own invention. This becomes a tangled web indeed when he invites a useful idiot to his fortress-of-solitude estate to interact with Ava, his l…

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Added May 04, 2015 11:03PM PST • Updated May 04, 2015 11:03PM PST
7th Woman in Gold
2015 Great 69 Points
_100

Woman in Gold glitters with performances that are charismatic and affecting, a story that’s fascinating and true, and a happy ending that delivers emotional closure. In short, it’s a small treasure of a movie.

Helen Mirren stars as Maria Altmann, whose aunt was the model for the painting Woman in Gold, a Klimt masterpiece looted by the Nazis and then appropriated by the Austrian government, til recently returned to its rightful owner. The movie deftly splits its time between 21st century L.A. & Vienna and 1930s Vienna as it…

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Added May 08, 2015 11:59AM PST • Updated May 08, 2015 11:59AM PST
8th Avengers: Age of...
2015 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Avengers: Age of Ultron is Avengers-worthy, as proven by its $200 million opening weekend and its Marvel-ous mix of human-scale comedy-drama amidst earthshaking fantasy. It’s also studded with LOLs, and not all them from Downey. He gets plenty, but the comic relief is more broadly spread around this time.

However, it’s wearisome trying to keep up with the plot, especially when it takes long detours into the mind-control of half a dozen key characters, each of whom have their own neuroses. In writer-director Joss Whedon’s defense, it all seems to hold together, in a "Marvel Cinematic Un…

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Added May 09, 2015 06:24PM PST • Updated May 09, 2015 06:24PM PST
9th Mad Max: Fury Road
2015 Great 83 Points
_100

George Miller reboots Mad Max for a new generation with Fury Road. Tom Hardy ably replaces Mel Gibson, while Charlize Theron shepherds five wives through hell, adding a woman’s touch to what remains an absurdly masculine movie. The result is an exhilarating – albeit ridiculous – entertainment experience.

The movie is one long chase scene, an operatic, absurd and heavy-metal chase scene through a forbidding landscape. Basically it’s a post-apocalyptic scream-dream. More wearing than exhilarating after a while, it feels somewhat repetitive over the course of 2 full hours. However, it i…

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Added May 25, 2015 09:35PM PST • Updated May 25, 2015 09:35PM PST
10th Good Kill
2015 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Obama’s War on Terror comes alive in Good Kill. Set in 2010, after the second POTUS to prosecute the Islamist War dramatically escalated drone warfare, it unflinchingly portrays the toll on airmen and their families from a new kind of combat in an incompetently defined war. Albeit fictional, it appears largely realistic. Thus it compares favorably to American Sniper and is arguably an even more important movie.

Writer-director Andrew Niccol has crafted a terrific 21st century war movie: fascinating, tense, provocative and se…

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Added Jun 03, 2015 04:07PM PST • Updated Jun 03, 2015 04:07PM PST
11th San Andreas
2015 Great 83 Points
_100

Yes I did and I’m glad I did, saw San Andreas, in 3D and everything. Having long since become a Californian, I felt ready for its disaster movie ethos of If you love something, destroy it on the big screen.

Fortunately, San Andreas is a consummately manipulative and charming blockbuster. Its M.O. is to juxtapose unfathomable destruction with beautiful people in tight clothing. First it head-fakes us with a terrific action sequence that presages the Big One to come. Then it lovingly pans over glamorous landmarks in L.A. and San Francisco, not to mention Hoover Dam. I love ’em all, s…

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Added Jun 12, 2015 08:00PM PST • Updated Jun 12, 2015 08:00PM PST
12th Jurassic World
2015 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Dinosaurs rule the summer 2015 multiplex, some twenty years after they first conquered the silver screen. Fact is, no one leaves un-entertained after experiencing Jurassic World, in 3D or not. No wonder then that it’s the biggest movie ever, or at least is off to the biggest opening ever, on its way to a billion dollar gross.

Steven Spielberg has exec-produced the best Jurassic chapter yet, complete with four legit moviestars and as many laughs as screams, which are several. We’re talking Genetically Enhanced Blockbuster here.

It’s a ridiculous movie, yet doesn’t even break a heel g…

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Added Jun 24, 2015 07:45PM PST • Updated Jun 24, 2015 07:45PM PST
13th Ted 2
2015 Really Great 83 Points
_100

America’s funniest Ted-Id-Bear is back in Ted 2, pursuing his own unique form of non-traditional marriage. Buckle up. This is compulsive satire, with the biting gags coming rat-a-tat-tat. It rarely goes more than two lines without a punchline, not even counting the visual comedy, which is nearly as on-the-beat. Plus there is ample singing and dancing. Creator-director-star Seth McFarlane is a prolific genius, the sick bastard.

Ted 2 is consistently LOL, with frequent giggles in between. Then there’s the regular gotta shake your head at how mean-spirited some of the jokes are. Some …

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Added Jun 27, 2015 12:22AM PST • Updated Jun 27, 2015 12:22AM PST
14th Love & Mercy
2015 Perfect 66 Points
_100

Love & Mercy is as much the story of one man’s mental illness as the story of his treasured musical genius. The man is Brian Wilson, the illness is schizoaffective disorder and the music is that of The Beach Boys. The movie is perfect, as inspired as a uniquely inspired Beach Boys song. Good, Good, Good Vibrations!

The Beach Boys weren’t my thing, notwithstanding always cranking up Sloop John B and being amazed by Good Vibrations. But I’ve long been fascinated by Brian Wilson’s tortured genius and troubled life, so Love & Mercy works for me as a pop culture history as well as a…

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Added Jul 01, 2015 08:54PM PST • Updated Jul 01, 2015 08:54PM PST
15th Dope
2015 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Dope is brilliant and features more fresh talent than any movie in years. Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Kimberly Elise, Chanel Iman, Quincy Brown, Blake Anderson, Zoë Kravitz & A$AP Rocky are as attractive and compelling a cast as any comedy could have. Clemons & Iman simply sizzle.

The compelling aspect means that Dope is also a drama, one that sheds significant light on America today, in communities that pride themselves on being African-American above all else. It is an of-the-moment lens into urban America, hip hop style, where the N-word is used as the primary 2…

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Added Jul 07, 2015 07:09PM PST • Updated Jul 07, 2015 07:09PM PST
16th Lava
2014 Really Great 66 Points
_100

Lava is love, Hawaiian Island style, delivered in seven minutes of sweet love song and volcanic activity. The dramatic contrast works wonderfully well: the violent and the accepting, the unyielding and the hopeful. Pixar should release this short separately after it’s done opening for the great Inside Out.

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Added Jul 13, 2015 07:50PM PST • Updated Jul 13, 2015 07:50PM PST
17th Inside Out
2015 Great 83 Points
_100

Inside Out is an intellectual high-wire act that’s cute, affecting and funny, a degree of blockbuster difficulty only Pixar would attempt. Yet the Emeryville hit factory succeeds magnificently, as they almost always do.

Pixar legend Pete Doctor & stalwart Ronnie del Carmen turn cognitive theory into animated burlesque: a garden of childhood delights, cognitive delights and cinematic delights. Their movie profiles an 11-year old girl named Riley from inside her brain out to the world around her. Her joy, her sadness, her fear, her anger and her disgust get more than explored, they get v…

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Added Jul 16, 2015 11:43PM PST • Updated Jul 16, 2015 11:43PM PST
18th Trainwreck
2015 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Trainwreck is a benchmark movie for a millennial society that refuses to grow up. Kinda autobiographical, it paints a portrait of a sexual girl named Amy who plows through hookups like a drunk quarterback at a cheerleader convention. Amy Schumer – the current supernova It Girl – based it on her college-age self, so she says! Yet she’s almost 30 in the movie, holding down a demanding job in between her very busy, highly intoxicated social activities. IOW, she’s a millennial manchild with tits and a vagina, as she might put it.

Now to the essentials:

  • Is it funny? Sidesplittingly so. M…
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Added Jul 26, 2015 01:09PM PST • Updated Jul 26, 2015 01:09PM PST
19th Mission: Impossi...
2015 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Best. Mission: Impossible. Ever.

Please Mr. Cruise, can we have another? Rogue Nation succeeds spectacularly well from the opening credits till the closing line, the very iconification of extremely entertaining action-movie hyper-reality.

This fifth M:I movie is the first to envelope a still potent and ever debonaire Tom Cruise with the killer music and trademark tricks of the original TV series, starting with Lalo Schifrin’s Theme from Mission: Impossible. Plus writer-director Christopher McQuarrie incorporates not one but two latex masks and not one but two "Your mission, if…

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Added Aug 02, 2015 10:47PM PST • Updated Aug 02, 2015 10:47PM PST
20th Straight Outta C...
2015 Great 83 Points
_100

Art imitates reality in Straight Outta Compton. Actually it amplifies, glamorizes and ultimately twists reality. The art is Gangsta Rap, the reality African-American ghetto life, the artistic twists many.

Twists aside, the movie is a semi-accurate chronicle of an important pop-culture movement, from which reverberations are still being felt. Black-on-black violence, criminal entrepreneurship and heavy-handed policing inspired breakthrough music from N.W.A., a cadre of naturally gifted young black men. They became crossover stars, their radical chi…

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Added Sep 13, 2015 01:20PM PST • Updated Sep 13, 2015 01:20PM PST
21st Black Mass
2015 Perfect 83 Points
_100

Black Mass is the best movie of the year, the Irish-American Goodfellas and the best dramatic performance of Johnny Depp’s legendary career. Bold statements for sure, yet each can be substantiated.

  • Black Mass dethrones the other perfect movies so far in 2015: Dope and Love & Mercy, each of which overcomes slight flaws. Black Mass is powerful, true, gut wrenching and f-ing flawless.
  • Goodfellas told the true tale of…
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Added Sep 26, 2015 09:09PM PST • Updated Sep 26, 2015 09:09PM PST
22nd Sicario
2015 Great 83 Points
_100

Narco-gang depravity meets its match when things go military on the Mexican border in Sicario, Spanish for “hitman”. A semi-successful Emily Blunt rebels against this turn of events. Semi-successful? Her performance, not her rebellion, which is unsuccessful. Yet the movie is much more than semi-successful.

Sicario is sickly great.

Loud and proud of it, Sicario features a panoply of macho male stars. Emily Blunt doesn’t stand a chance when Benicio Del Toro & Josh Brolin are doing some of their best work. The estimable Victor Garber and the combustible Jon Bernthal are also memora…

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Added Oct 02, 2015 10:58PM PST • Updated Oct 02, 2015 10:58PM PST
23rd Steve Jobs
2015 Really Great 66 Points
_100

Steve Jobs iconified the foundation myth of Silicon Valley. Brash, brilliant, started in a garage, changed the world, got stupidly rich. It was done before him and it’s been done several times since, but never as purely or dramatically. His career had more twists than a double-helix. Wannabe Steves populate the Valley today.

He’s thus an ideal subject for a Great Man theory of history biopic, though that wouldn’t be sufficiently interesting for 21st century audiences. Instead, Steve Jobs spends equal time on the great man’s feet of clay,…

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Added Oct 24, 2015 10:19PM PST • Updated Oct 24, 2015 10:19PM PST
24th Monkey Kingdom
2015 Really Great 66 Points
_100

Monkey Kingdom is a joy of a documentary, easily beloved by young and old alike. More fun than a barrel of monkeys … er, sort of a barrel of monkeys come to life, it profiles lovable little Sri Lankan primates.

These little macacas swing from each others’ tails, for goodness sakes. Yet they’re also heartless, cruel and tribal, a reminder that subhumans tend to live lives that are nasty, brutish and short. Don’t let that scare you away however. The movie is mostly sweet, very loving and extremely luxuriant.

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Added Nov 18, 2015 10:32PM PST • Updated Nov 18, 2015 10:32PM PST
25th The 33
2015 Great 83 Points
_100

Real-life drama ripped from TV news gets no more riveting or charming than in The 33, about the Chilean miners trapped half a mile below ground five years ago. Some three billion people followed their drama in 2010, including me and probably you. The fact that all 33 were safely brought to the surface in a NASA designed capsule doesn’t dim the drama of this fascinating and engaging English-language production.

It’s kind of an Apollo 13 true story movie. Failure is not an option, albeit The 33 is set 200 stories underground, not …

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Added Nov 25, 2015 02:28AM PST • Updated Nov 25, 2015 02:28AM PST
26th Best of Enemies
2015 Perfect 66 Points
_100

The future of TV politics hit the ABC News airwaves during the 1968 presidential nominating conventions. Best of Enemies, a transcendent documentary, brings it all back to life. William F. Buckley debating Gore Vidal is the proximate focus, but the larger story is the rise of opinion-centric TV news, often in the form of ad hominem attacks and with simmering identity politics roiling beneath the surface of high-toned debate.

The movie is a time capsule from a half century ago. A last-place network resorted to a stunt to rescue itself from ratings oblivion. They paired consummate snobs …

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Added Dec 17, 2015 10:54PM PST • Updated Dec 17, 2015 10:54PM PST
27th The Martian
2015 Really Great 83 Points
_100

The Martian is an instant laureate in the SciFi Golden Age we’re now enjoying. Ridley Scott directs Matt Damon in this landmark movie, the latest in two careers full of them. Their Martian is the highest of high concepts, perfectly conceived. Andy Weir’s lauded novel comes gloriously to life in all its well-grounded spaciness, which is considerable: There are more hatches and pod-bay doors than you can shake a stick at.

This Great Scott Production does deserve dinging for being manipulative to the point of cheesiness. To wit, a rocketship doesn’t take off until just after it should hav…

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Added Dec 19, 2015 07:28PM PST • Updated Dec 19, 2015 07:28PM PST
28th Star Wars: The F...
2015 Really Great 83 Points
_100

Cinema’s most famous title crawl opens The Force Awakens. The Star Wars theme rises above, softly, then insistently, its familiar leitmotif arousing our deepest cinematic memories. J.J. Abrams’ revival of George Lucas’s epochal blockbuster proceeds to visit every other touchstone, extending them for a new generation.

How much fun is this for an old Star Wars fan like me? When a new pair of heroes happen upon the old Millennium Falcon, I literally began rocking with delight in my row 3 CinéArts rocker. The Millennium Falcon l…

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Added Dec 26, 2015 12:54PM PST • Updated Dec 26, 2015 12:54PM PST
29th In the Heart of ...
2015 Great 83 Points
_100

Ron Howard takes on Moby Dick, starring Chris Hemsworth, in the poorly titled but highly accomplished In the Heart of the Sea. It plays like a 19th century Jaws, albeit with a giant Sperm Whale seeking vengeance on puny humans instead of a Great White Shark. It also challenges 21st century sensibilities.

The shock stems from coming F2F with whaling. Save the whales? Uh no, the movie lionizes guys who kill them, the biggest, baddest hunters mankind ever produced, up close and personal. Howard plays this straight and irony-free, as is his wont. The result is an enthralling movie, at once…

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Added Dec 26, 2015 07:22PM PST • Updated Dec 26, 2015 07:22PM PST
30th Concussion
2015 Great 83 Points
_100

Mike Webster was a hero of mine, at a time when heroes were very, very influential in a young man’s life. Iron Mike Webster snapped the ball to Terry Bradshaw in four Super Bowls, all of which the Steelers – my Steelers – won. He famously wore short-sleeves and no arm-pads to avoid getting grabbed by defensive linemen and linebackers, who often outweighed him by fifty pounds. Webster – number 52 – regularly pulled round end from the center position – an extraordinary act of athleticism – to lead Franco Harris on bounding runs through the killer defenses of the Cowboys, Raiders and Vikings. …

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Added Dec 30, 2015 11:08PM PST • Updated Dec 30, 2015 11:08PM PST
31st The Big Short
2015 Great 66 Points
_100

The Big Short isn’t the Big Lie, but isn’t far from it either. The government hides just offscreen in Adam McKay’s seriocomic docudrama about the epic falsehoods that consumed the banking industry in 2008.

Falsehoods one and two were Washington’s ability to safely stimulate homeownership among subprime borrowers and the supposed safety of only allowing three companies to grade mortgage securities as AAA. Overstimulated and over-regulated, stoked by torrents of cheap money from an over-accommodative Fed, the housing economy turned into a massive bubble. When that bubble burst, the Great…

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Added Jan 10, 2016 02:12PM PST • Updated Jan 10, 2016 02:12PM PST
32nd What Happened, M...
2015 Great 66 Points
_100

Nina Simone’s name and presence had occasionally penetrated my consciousness and always piqued my interest. Happily, this well done documentary finally brought her consequential music and politics alive.

Dubbed the High Priestess of Soul, she was a unique and uniquely transfixing artist, fusing classical piano with soul singing in a way all her own. She was also a fascinating and troubled personality who became deeply engaged in the roiling politics of the 60s. What Happened, Miss Simone? is admirably forthright in presenting her, warts-and-all, while properly keeping the focus on her …

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Added Feb 11, 2016 10:20PM PST • Updated Feb 11, 2016 10:20PM PST

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