2015 Year-End Movie Review: Jason Zingale

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It seems like every December, someone laments how mediocre of a year it’s been for cinema, and while it’s hard to argue that point, the movies that were good were really freaking good. Though 2015 was arguably the year of the sequel, with “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Creed” and others performing well both critically and commercially, it was also the year of the book adaptation, several of which are featured on this list. But no one or nothing had a better year than Irish-born actor Domhnall Gleeson, who appeared in four movies in 2015, with three of them landing a spot in my Top 10. (For the record, the fourth fell just outside the bubble in my Honorable Mentions). It’s hard to say what that means, if anything, other than Domhnall Gleeson has really good taste in films.

Best Movies of 2015

1. “THE MARTIAN

Although it’s the third film in as many years about astronauts in distress, “The Martian” is a smart, captivating and humorous adaptation of Andy Weir’s bestselling novel that covers very different narrative and emotional territory than “Gravity” and “Interstellar.” For starters, it’s a lot more uplifting than most sci-fi fare, eschewing the usual doom-mongering for a story about the power of optimism and perseverance that also doubles as one heckuva recruitment video for NASA. (Who knew science and math could be this much fun?) Matt Damon is perfectly cast as the Everyman astronaut forced to “science the shit” out of his seemingly impossible predicament, while the supporting cast – including Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejifor and Jessica Chastain – is absolutely stacked with talent. This is hands down Ridley Scott’s best movie since “Gladiator,” and it owes a lot to Drew Goddard’s screenplay, which takes a lighthearted approach to the high-stakes drama in order to produce one of the most purely entertaining crowd-pleasers in years.

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2. “SICARIO

“Sicario” isn’t the first movie to tackle the illegal drug trade along the U.S.-Mexico border, but it’s easily one of the best, a relentlessly suspenseful crime thriller that offers a merciless look behind the curtain of the real War on Drugs. The film rarely takes its foot off the gas, continuing director Denis Villeneuve’s excellent form with a masterclass in building tension that will tie your stomach in knots. Roger Deakins’ cinematography is as stunning as ever, somehow finding the beauty in an ugly situation, but it’s the performances from the three leads that really elevate the material. Benicio Del Toro is especially good, delivering his best work in over a decade as the silent but deadly consultant – a veritable wolf in sheep’s clothing who eventually bares his teeth and claws in the explosive final act. Though a few missteps prevent “Sicario” from true greatness, it’s an outstanding, white-knuckle thriller that will leave you mentally and physically exhausted in the best possible way.

sicario

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2015 Year-End Movie Review: David Medsker

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I am not a difficult person to please when it comes to movies. There is a big joke among the film critics in town that we are either film critics or movie reviewers, meaning that film critics dissect everything at a subatomic level, while movie reviewers talk about whether or not they liked the film. I am squarely in the latter category.

This year, however, something was off. There are films getting a ton of film group buzz that I just didn’t get, and even worse, I found myself enjoying what was widely considered to be the worst movie of the year, but more on that later. First up, the movies I liked.

Movies I Liked

1. “SPOTLIGHT”

Nothing comes even close to this one. This expertly-paced account of the Boston Globe’s expose on the Catholic Church’s systematic covering up of abusive priests is top-notch storytelling, one in which the city of Boston becomes not just the backdrop, but the main character.

2. “KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE”

Ten bucks says Daniel Craig likes this film more than any of the Bond films he’s done, and with good reason. “Kingsman” is the most entertaining spy movie I’ve ever seen, and it earned this spot on my list for the church scene alone.

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3. “THE REVENANT”

The bear attack. Once you’ve seen it, you can’t un-see it. Alejandro Inarritu’s film about life in the Pacific Northwest in the 1820s is every bit as hostile and unforgiving as the landscape in which it is based. There is a scene, though, where Leonardo DiCaprio’s character gets his hands on some raw meat (the first he has seen in a while), and he scarfs it down, even though there is a fire burning nearby. Dude, put it on a stick and cook that thing!

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Drink of the Week: Hot Milk Punch

Hot Milk Punch.Merry Christmas from Drink of the Week!

Now, the way we figure it, your holiday is likely breaking down in one of two ways. Either you’re being besieged with relatives — or are yourself a besieging relative — or you’re one of those folks who, for whatever reason, are finding yourself with not much more than a movie and maybe the proverbial Chinese dinner to keep you company this year.

Whichever of these positions you find yourself in, tonight might well be the perfect time for a super-duper relaxing hot drink. How relaxing? Well David Wondrich, usually at no loss for words in providing mixology advice along with generous dollops of background and history, only had two words to describe this recipe for Hot Milk Punch: “liquid Ambien.”

Now, to be clear, punches of all types, including milk punch, have quite a long history and I’m only starting to learn about them myself. There’s a cold version of this drink and we might well revisit the topic then. In the meantime, it’s Christmas and, most likely, you’re either trying to escape from numerous family duties while reading this, or perhaps distracting yourself in various ways. So, let’s keep it about as simple as we can.

Hot Milk Punch

1 ounce dark rum
1 ounce brandy
6 ounces milk (full fat, probably)
1 teaspoon sugar
nutmeg (garnish)

Heat the milk, preferably in a pan. For whatever reason, microwaved milk seems to lack a certain comforting consistency. While you’re heating the milk, combine the booze and sugar in a coffee cup. Pour in the hot milk and stir. Top with some ground nutmeg and sip cautiously. Whatever your situation, be grateful if you have a roof over your head and have the wherewithal to supply yourself with delicious alcoholic concoctions. Maybe think about actually doing something nice for people who don’t.

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What with the holidays and all, it’s been a pretty crazy week here at DOTW Manor. On the one hand, that made Milk Punch just the right beverage…on the other hand, my general high level of busyness limited my experimentation to a certain degree.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed my drink using both Martell and Reynal brandy combined with Whaler’s Rum, a very inexpensive and very sweet dark rum. Using much pricier (and generally really delicious) Papa’s Pilar dark rum wasn’t quite as comforting somehow. Bacardi 8 simply wasn’t dark enough. Indeed, I really enjoyed the drink when I discarded complexity entirely and used two ounces of the Whaler’s with no brandy at all.

So, make it entirely with a very sweet dark rum, or go whole hog sophisticate and use only cognac. It’s your bedtime. Hope the day that comes before it turns out to be a more or less merry one.

  

Blasts from Christmas past

We want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

While we’re at it, here are some Christmas features we’ve done in the past that may help you enjoy the holiday, particularly if you need some distractions from your crazy family . . . .

When people make lists of the best Christmas movies of all time, there’s usually a heated debate over “Die Hard,” a classic that most guys appreciate but hardly qualifies as a traditional holiday movie. With that in mind we created our Yippie Ki-Eggnog list of five unconventional Christmas movies you can enjoy.

five unconventional Christmas movies

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Movie Review: “Point Break”

Starring
Luke Bracey, Édgar Ramírez, Teresa Palmer, Ray Winstone, Delroy Lindo
Director
Ericson Core

Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 cult classic “Point Break” has already been remade once before with “The Fast and the Furious” (if not in name, then certainly in spirit), but whereas that film retained many of the key elements that made “Point Break” so enjoyable, the 2015 version – which coincidentally is directed by Ericson Core, the cinematographer on the first “Fast and Furious” – is an overly serious dud. Though replacing Californian surf culture with the high-adrenaline world of extreme sports was a smart choice by writer Kurt Wimmer, the movie is hindered by an overbearing stream of hokey Zen philosophy and a paltry story that cares less about its characters than what cool stunt they get to do next.

Luke Bracey stars as Johnny Utah, an extreme sports poly-athlete who joins the FBI after his best friend dies in a motocross accident. Desperate to prove to his academy instructor (Delroy Lindo) that he’s ready for field duty, Johnny volunteers to go undercover to investigate a gang of fellow extreme athletes posing as modern day Robin Hoods who steal from the rich and give to the poor. Johnny believes that the group, led by the enigmatic Bodhi (Édgar Ramírez), is attempting to complete The Ozaki 8 – a series of trials created to honor the forces of nature and deliver spiritual enlightenment – which they’re using to rationalize their crimes. They don’t view themselves as criminals, but rather as righteous eco-activists who give back to the planet by returning something that was taken from it (like raining diamonds onto the streets of Mumbai) after each death-defying ordeal. But as Johnny’s admiration for Bodhi grows the closer he gets to the idealistic daredevil, he must decide where his true loyalties lie.

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