2015 Year-End Review

Best of Film

Normally, this would be a list of 15 of our favorite films this year, but instead, we’ve chosen the five we’ve loved most with three reasons as to why. It ends up being 15 in the end, get it? Yes? No? Hopefully.

1.Star Wars: The Force Awakens
There are countless great things about the latest Star Wars film and while we’re most definitely not qualified to review the movie in a way that’ll do it justice, we figured we’d discuss the moments that either had us in tears, on the edge of our seats, or too emotionally comprised to even speak.

  • Perhaps the most epic (at least in my opinion) scene during the film occurred towards the end when Kylo Ren and Rey fought in the forests reminding us all of the thrill that arises after witnessing a battle between light and dark. The Force Awakens left us with many questions, but it’s probably safe to assume that Kylo and Rey are either siblings or cousins thereby, making the battle even more climatic and gut-wrenching finely paying homage to the original familial battle that captivated us all with Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. Cinematically gorgeous and strikingly entertaining, the scene was a wonderful one.
  • When I first heard they’d be making new Star Wars films, I didn’t care anymore. It wasn’t going to make me happy because I was way too attached to the original cast and nothing could possibly be satisfying without them. And then I was notified of the fact that we would actually touch base with our original heroes and everything felt right again. When the second trailer released revealing Han Solo (Harrison Ford) telling Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) “we’re home”, my heart was filled with elation and I shed actual tears. So dramatic. Oh well. But that’s what The Fore Awakens ultimately is: coming home after years of being way. The décor may be similar, but the family members and neighbors won’t be; however, the comfort it brings though temporary, is still memorable. For everything the scene represented, to me, it was coming home — however dysfunctional it may be. As viewers, we were coming back home to a galaxy far far away, but these characters were coming home to something much more heartrending. Spoilers ahead, read at your own risk. Han, Leia, Luke, and Chewie, didn’t get the happy endings we were left with in Return of the Jedi — darkness found them once again and tore them apart in ways it never could’ve done in the past. Yes, it’s incredibly heartbreaking that the wonderful love story we’ve all fallen in love with has been torn apart, but I understood it. These characters fought through so much to ensure the end of darkness only to have their son fall into it. But here’s the thing that’s strangely okay, even though Han went back to his old ways and Leia continued giving her time as a General now, it’s clear that they’re still home to each other. Much like the Millennium Falcon, they’re home — the love hasn’t faded or diminished, they’ve just been broken in a way they could’ve never imagined. And that strange feeling of a dysfunctional family we’re all apart of is still comforting. That’s why when Han states that they’re home and discovers Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) piloting the Millennium Falcon, it feels right and it’s an interesting way for us to welcome these characters into our family. I loved watching Han and Rey interact aboard the Millennium Falcon because it felt right for her to be there — it felt right for him to welcome her in his inimitable Han Solo way. It felt like a family reunion with wives and husbands and kids and friends where everyone was meeting for the first time but it was extraordinary. A dinner filled with all sorts of discussions, quarrels, and laughs.
  • At this point, I would like to point you all into the direction of a perfect review reflecting on the roles of females in The Force Awakens and the beauty that’s found in the extraordinary moment where Leia tells Rey: “may the force be with you.” Katie over at Nerdy Girl Notes has truly outdone herself with this brilliant piece. That said, it’s probably my favorite part of the film as well. It’s ultimately why I so desperately want Rey to be a Solo — for more on the how it can be possible, this is the review that’s meant for you. Leia’s presence on my screen has always been comforting — she knew what she was doing and I always admired the confidence she’d exude. In every way, General Leia Organa is an icon for all women and the warmth she emanates towards Rey is incredibly heartening — the prime showcase of how women should behave towards one another. And it’s in the moment where essentially, after Leia’s encouragement where Rey captaining the Millennium Falcon with Chewie and R2-D2 feels like a new, captivating adventure’s about to begin. And it feels right. It feels like home still. A new and improved home with the memories of the past lingering in the corners reminding us of the strengths and versatilities within those who possess the force.

 

2. The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
If Star Wars: The Force Awakens hadn’t released this year, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. would’ve been the film of the year. Our readers have heard me talk about enough times this year to know that it’s now one of my all time favorite films in existence. In case you missed it, here’s the full length review I’ve written this summer. There’s a lot to love about The Man from U.N.C.L.E., but the captivating characters, gorgeous cinematography, outstanding score, and intriguing storylines will fly their way into your hearts forever.

  • The film has taken already established characters and reimagined them in a way that’s so incredibly entertaining, I left the theatre wanting a series with the modern day cast. In its two hour time frame, we get to know a thief with class and heart, a supposed ruthless agent who’s actually gentle and warm, and a female car mechanic with an effervescent spirit. Quarrels are bound to happen when sworn enemies come together for the sake of a mission, but in the end, each of them, in their own unique way play a role in influencing the others for the better. The best part of the film is essentially the fact that these figures are so well written, when I left the theatre I couldn’t get them out of my head. I couldn’t stop imagining what they’d be like if we were to be blessed with a sequel.
  • It is with zero shame that I admit there’s no trope I love more than the undercover lovers. Henceforth, naturally I’d come out of this film head over heels fascinated with the story that’s told through Gaby Teller (Alicia Vikander) and Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer). It’s fun, it’s fascinating, and it leaves us wanting so much more than what we get because it’s clear all throughout the film that the two are enchanted with one another in ways they didn’t want or expect to be. It happens with such unexpected gentleness which I personally feel is what’s so raw and gripping — there’s an innocence in both Illya and Gaby that’s projected in such a sweet manner. They’re different around each other, there’s light and compassion with a playfulness that’s both intensely and gracefully driven.
  • In our Best of Music Year-End review, we discussed two of our favorite tracks from the film, but besides the exceptional score, the cinematography is so riveting, it’s easy to escape into the 60s. It’s easy to get lost in this film with its plot, heroes, and compelling female villain. It’s easy to laugh because the dialogue is so wisely written, the humor feels effortless. At no point does it feel like any of the actors or character are trying to hard and in my honest opinion, that’s the greatest success in this movie.

 

3. Cinderella
Cinderella’s the film where even those of us who don’t watch something more than once in a theatre went to see it twice, even three times. It’s filled us all with the kind of magic only classic fairytales have the power to do so. If you’d like to read further thoughts, check out the little piece we’d written for Film Friday a while ago.

  • The message of “courage and kindness” has sunken into so many hearts in the most wondrous way reminding us all what truly matters in life. In the end, it’s kindness that prospers and even during trying times of adversary we must always do our best to be brave enough to sprinkle it everywhere. It’s a simple quote really and perhaps that’s why it’s so magical — it’s a reminder of the fact that it’s the two things we all have inside of us that we must always tap into. Where there’s love, there’s everything. A single person is capable of changing the world through the immaculate love they choose to sprinkle everywhere. Kindness is the greatest gift one can give and it’s entirely free. Such films are often perceived as cliche fairytales, but they’re the type of stories we could use as an inspiration no matter how old we get.
  • Who doesn’t love a beautiful romance? We sure do. And what we personally love about this masterpiece is the fact that we’re finally given the chance to watch the Prince and Ella fall in love. Cinderella does a remarkable job of celebrating innocence and while it’s conveyed gorgeously through both our leads individually, it’s also boldly evident in the way the two fall in love. They see themselves in one another — a need to care for things beyond their control and the vision of nobility that’s been growing in them from a young age. They don’t fall in love with one another in the traditional sense of “who’s the mystery girl”, but they fall for the soul that takes them by surprise through the kindness that’s exhibited. They fall in love with the one who makes it easier to be brave in trying times — the one who challenges and the one who treasures every moment. It’s the story of adoring someone because in a dark world of riches and hierarchy, light’s found in the one whose heart is most kind.
  • Every so often we all need to escape from reality into a world of make believe that gives us hope and faith. Kenneth Branagh captured the magic of Disney wondrously in this film allowing all of us to experience a little magic. For those of us who are still children at heart, it’s easy to absorb these films into our core — it’s easy to let them take us away and it’s easy to believe in goodness upon leaving the theatre. If you let yourself, you can be filled with wonder and hope just by watching this marvelous film. And that’s why we’ve all watched it more than once, it’s like visiting Disneyland it helps us believe and cherish all that’s in front of us. It inspires us to see the beauty in the world even through the ashes because really, life is more lovely that way.

 

4. Inside Out
Pixar can do no wrong and while that’s something we’ve established long ago, I never imagined I’d love a film as much as I loved Toy Story. Inside Out is a wonderful little gem that focuses on the mechanics of a human mind, constructed of the core emotions we feel daily, and held together by the memories that have shaped us. While Inside Out’s uniquely animated characters and colorful scenery appeal beautifully to children, it’s the depiction of psychological matters that speaks to the adults.

  • Raise your hand if you cried like a baby when a purple elephant/cat uttered the words “take her to the moon”. Raises both hands! Bing Bong’s choice to sacrifice himself in order to get Joy and Sadness home to Riley was breathtaking. It’s such a thought-provoking concept for it triggers our own personal memories of invincible friends. If we still remember having them, then they’re obviously still there right? And in a sense, that’s a heartwarming little feeling I imagine none of us expected to feel at the end of the film. It’s comforting to know that maybe, just maybe, they still love us the same way we loved them as children.
  • Joy was a such a joy to watch (all the puns intended), and perhaps it’s due to the fact that Poehler’s voice work is similar to the brilliant Leslie Knope, but interestingly, it’s how much Joy learns by the end of the film that leaves me satisfied. She may be the glue that holds them all together, but at the end of the day, a good balance of each of the emotions (Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger) are all part of what makes us who we are. And that’s a riveting concept the animated film’s portrayed finely.
  • And lastly, I found the Personality Islands to be an incredibly fascinating part of the film, for it’s precisely what showcases the importance of balance. Family Island, Honesty Island, Hockey Island, Friendship Island, and Goofball Island. Of course these things vary from person to person but the visual representation of the traits and people that make us is genius. They all need to be properly balanced in order for our lives to take its proper course. It’s gorgeous that the film takes such an important fact about our lives and plays with it in all the right ways allowing us to understand that there’s no part of us that isn’t important.

 

5. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Age of Ultron was filled with mixed reviews, but ultimately, much like all Marvel films, it was such a good time in theaters it doesn’t often leave room for too much criticism. At least not for me? And perhaps that’s often due to which superhero we favor most or something along those lines, but for the most part, as a whole, flaws included, it was an excellent sequel.

  • It’s no surprise that Peggy Carter is a beloved character here at MGcircles henceforth; the fact that Steve’s vision included her was perfect to us. It doesn’t change the fact that fans will probably be weeping til the end of the time over the dance Steve and Peggy never got to have, but in some strange way, it’s nice to have a visual. It’s gorgeous to know that in whatever reality, fear, or vision, Peggy’s always going to be a part of Steve’s life. She’ll be home to him. She’ll be the dream he’d want to keep forever. She’s the dream that’d make his life perfect — his vision filled with serenity and wonder.Additionally, what Age of Ultron also did was showcased that Steve’s angry – the world isn’t at all what it can be and while at one point he may have been able to carry it all on his shoulder (with the help of Peggy), today, he can’t do as much and that frustrates him. He’s tired of the world paying for their mistakes. His nobility comes from the fact that he continues to fight with integrity. The war’s ended years ago, but Steve’s still there somewhere in the 19040s. Steve Rogers is still at war with himself and all the things he could’ve had – peace, friendships, and love. There’s an undeniable sense of guilt weaved in with his fears of losing more soldiers to organizations like Hydra or species he cannot even understand. His vision is the actual representation of the fact that even though Steve’s trying desperately to move on and he’s finally at place where he somewhat belongs, a part of him will always be elsewhere – home’s a place in Brooklyn where his happy ending includes a life with Peggy Carter.
  •  My new favorite thing is the epic bromance between Steve and Thor – the dorks who’re present but not really because they probably still don’t understand why words like ‘swag’ and ‘cray cray’ are part of a person’s vocabulary. And really, how great is it that Steve was almost able to lift the hammer because it makes their partnership that much more epic. He’s able to in the comics at times, so let’s hope that’s seen on screen some day. If there’s something I want more of it’s the shield and hammer creating an incomparable force. It wasn’t something they expected in the first film’s fight sequence in the forest, but in Age of Ultron, it was their technique. Additionally, the genuine respect between the two made for excellent teamwork in the sense that they’re essentially two of the noblest men in existence. It only makes sense that they’d gravitate towards one another because there’s a real, profoundly solid understanding between them.
  •  Age of Ultron had its weak areas, but the best of part of the film is how well the relationships have been established at this point. The Avengers are a team now and because of this, it’s easier to get through things. It’s a truly family. There are ugly moments, but there are also strong, successful times because they know they need each other just as much as the universe needs them. And having the already pleasant relationships established further is what’ll make the occurrences in Civil War that much more effective.

 

@GissaneSophia // @MGcircles

Bonus: Furious 7
(by @TanyaNazrian)

It seems like just yesterday when we heard the devastating news of Paul Walker dying in a tragic car accident.

As if that was not bad enough, this all happened when he was shooting the latest Fast and Furious installment, Furious 7. We all thought that this was it, they are going to stop production and we will not be able to see him “one last time.” However, were we wrong. The cast knew how important this film would be to everyone, especially the fans, so they decided to finish the movie and bring on board an extra special person, Walker’s younger brother, to finish the last few scenes he had left to do. If you could not already guess, my favorite scene, hands down, has to be the ending where we see Walker and Vin Diesel side-by-side in their cars, ready to “race” one last time. The cast goodbyes were also a very moving, caring, raw and emotional scene that left me bawling my eyes out.

The fact that it has been 2 years since Walker passed is crazy and unbelievable, but no matter what, he will always be remember and never forgotten.  

 

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