The good, the bad and the Grimmy

Our movie guy picks the best and worst flicks of 2015 so far

In this here year of 2015, we’ve gotten some good and even very good movies. As for things that could be called masterpieces, we have but one.

The summer has offered a few duds, and one gut-punching disappointment (detailed below). For the most part, it’s been a lot of OK movies that fit the bill for summer fun but little more. Tomorrowland, Jurassic World, Furious 7 and Spy all fall into that “passable” category.

Here’s the mid-year report card of the best and worst movies of the year, so far. This list usually changes significantly in the second half, where studios usually show off their more awards-worthy offerings. Oh, and Star Wars. Disney will be giving us a new Star Wars. That just looked weird to me when I wrote that.

The best so far

1. Inside Out: Far and away, the best movie of the year so far. Pete Docter directs a fine animated movie (he also did Up and Monsters, Inc.) and this one stands tall among the Pixar classics. It’s a true original in every sense. I’d say it was going to win the Oscar for Best Animated Film, but Pixar actually has another movie (The Good Dinosaur) coming out this year, and they can never be counted out.

2. Ex Machina: Oscar Isaac is on my short list for year-end “Best Supporting Actor” honors for playing the isolated genius who creates an artificially intelligent robot that turns out to be very complicated. Alicia Vikander does an astonishingly cool job playing that robot.

3. Love & Mercy: Paul Dano and John Cusack play Beach Boy Brian Wilson, young and old, in what turns out to be one of the better rock biopics in recent years. It’s an uncompromising look at the triumphs and hardships Wilson lived through in the ’60s and the ’80s. Dano and Cusack are both incredible.

4. It Follows: Some high school kids get followed by an unstoppable evil force that takes human form, and we the audience get stomach problems while watching it. It has shades of John Carpenter in his heyday.

5. Slow West: Michael Fassbender is picking great projects—loved him in last year’s barely seen Frank—and this one is a keeper. He plays a tracker on the American frontier who winds up guiding a young man (Kodi Smit-Mcphee) in his pursuit of the woman he loves. It’s an awesome treatment of the American frontier. It’s also one of the best movies to go straight to iTunes and On Demand during a limited theatrical release. Studios are starting to release more and more good films this way. Check your iTunes and On Demand every Tuesday and Friday for good stuff.

6. Cinderella: I didn’t get to take my annual Disneyland trip this year, but Kenneth Branagh’s sumptuous live-action treatment of the Disney animated classic proved to be a nice alternative. Branagh knows what Disney junkies want. Lily James is luminous as the title character, and Cate Blanchett is treachery incarnate as the evil Stepmother.

7. Mad Max: Fury Road: George Miller’s long awaited next chapter in the Mad Max saga. While Tom Hardy isn’t half as interesting as Mel Gibson in the title character role, this definitely contains the franchise’s best stunts, and one of its best performances. Charlize Theron is awesome as a one-armed rebel who refuses to be happy on any level.

8. Dope: A terrific throwback comedy/drama that echoes the directorial styling of Spike Lee, but also stands as an original work. It’s the sort of daring filmmaking that has been missing since, well, Lee went into somewhat of a slump.

9. While We’re Young: Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts play a middle-aged couple who start palling around with much younger folk (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried). This is a fun comedy from writer-director Noah Baumbach.

10. The Wolfpack: Six brothers, who have lived most of their lives without leaving their Manhattan apartment, pass the time meticulously recreating movies like Reservoir Dogs and The Dark Knight Rises in their home. So far, this is the year’s best documentary.

The unmistakably odorous

1. Fifty Shades of Grey: As erotic and exciting as a sized 15 work boot making nefarious contact with your nether regions. This thing made Valentine’s Day, the day after its release, the most disgusting and mundane evening for a lot of folks thinking they were going to see something romantic. It made the holiday creepier than Halloween.

2. Unfriended: An entire movie looking at somebody’s computer screen as she Skypes her douchebag friends. It managed a 61 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which makes this the most overrated film of the year.

3. Poltergeist: Sam Rockwell cries like a little bitch in this piece-of-shit remake of the 1980s haunted house classic. It stands as the most embarrassing moment in his mostly brilliant career. If you want to see a good haunted house movie this year, watch We are Still Here. If Poltergeist is playing in a room or theater you happen to be standing in, do yourself a favor … get out!

4. Blackhat: Michael Mann directs this hackneyed hacker thriller starring Chris Hemsworth, and oh, how the mighty have fallen. Both Mann and Thor take a major tumble for this one.

5. Insurgent: Unlike The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, this series didn’t get better after a weak start. It got much, much worse.

6. The Gunman: Behold Sean Penn’s abs and buttocks in his worst movie since I Am Sam. It’s a little too late in the game to turn yourself into an action hero, Sean.

7. The Cobbler: Adam Sandler employs his softer, still whiny dramatic voice for a strange movie about a creepy voyeur dude who figures out he can be other people by putting on their shoes. This is gross in so many ways. Hopefully, Sandler will redeem himself a little in this summer’s Pixels.

8. Chappie: The other 2015 artificial intelligence movie about a robot trying to be human. I’m seriously hoping the total failure of this film hasn’t stopped 20th Century Fox from allowing Neill Blomkamp to make his Alien 5 movie. The internet has been suspiciously absent of news regarding that one since this turd hit theaters.

9. Black or White: Lost in this dreck is some pretty good drunk acting by Kevin Costner. I wish he had starred in a movie straight up about an alcoholic jerk rather than this awful statement on race relations when it comes to raising children.

10. Avengers: Age of Ultron: This is one of the bigger blockbuster disappointments since Avatar. It played like a bunch of those after-the-credits Marvel movie scenes strung together into an entire film. It rendered the Hulk boring, and that’s hard to do. This one was narrowly edged out by Unfriended for most overrated movie status.

This one goes to 11 …

11. San Andreas: Earthquakes, tsunamis and The Rock’s teeth are quite amazing in this movie, but the dialogue is so terrible it destroys the film in a way not unlike the temblors decimating San Francisco as The Rock runs around scowling.