Josh Byers


Writing about books, culture, ministry, design and my family

Film Review 2015

It's no secret that I like movies. Here is my annual list of films I thought were great, okay and ones you should never even think about seeing.

Note that not all of these came out in 2015, that's just when I happened to see them.

Also note that there is content in every single film I do not condone or endorse (yes even Pixar and “lesser rated” films). Film is philosophy and the main delivery method of influence to our culture. While it can be entertaining, it is also educational and helps us engage the worldview of the culture at large while helping us to understand our own Christian worldview. So do your research and view with intentionality.

10. Nightcrawler

This is a film I never intended to see because it just didn’t look that interesting but it was recommended strongly by a friend. The acting, pace, and story were very good and compelling. From a worldview perspective we were reminded that evil and depravity are in the hearts of all men no matter who they are and where they come from.

9. Mad Max Fury Road

I’m not one that typically gets into the apocalyptic dystopian genre so there is one reason this film makes my top 10 list. The visuals. This has to be one of the visually visceral films I’ve ever seen. From start to finish the landscapes, vehicles, concepts, characters and everything else put on the screen were amazing to look at. The story was lame which normally is the death knell for any film but that just shows how good the visuals were.

8. Avengers Age of Ultron

I’m a sucker for just about any comic book movie, especially since my 7 year old is all about the Avengers. Its just fun. Funny parts, good action, good characters, redemption, sacrifice – all elements that make for a good movie.

7. Ex Machina

A late entry, but very striking because of the incredible acting by all the main characters and the Twilight Zone/Black Mirror twist. The worldview implications were very compelling in this film also. It was striking that the title omits the first word from the traditional phrase Deus Ex Machina, as a main theme of the film was omitting the supernatural specialness of humanity. This then begs the question, without God is there any difference between man and machine?

6. 30 for 30 Hillsborough

Nearly every entry in the 30 for 30 series by ESPN has been amazing, but this particular episode intersected a great documentary with my newfound soccer passion. As I’ve become more invested in the English Premier League, its teams and histories have become very interesting. Hillsborough tells the story of one of the darkest days not only in soccer history but in England as well. This day changed soccer forever in England. It is compelling and riveting throughout with tons of actual footage from the disaster at Hillsborough.

5. The Martian

I like space movies and any film that needs to retrieve Matt Damon has traditionally been very good. Even with the subtext of “science as god,” the film is fun, very funny and shows how good of an actor Matt Damon is. If you like space, Cast Away and MacGyver, you’ll love this movie.

4. American Sniper

I love war movies. I love true stories. I love sniper films. Fantastic acting and great directing by Clint Eastwood make this a must see.

3. Star Wars the Force Awakens

This might have been higher had I seen it more than once. It was a lot of fun and what an experience to take my 7 year old son to his first Star Wars film! His face when the opening chords of the main Star Wars theme hit was priceless! I got a little bored with all the omages to the old films it lacked the gritty subtext that has made so many of the recent superhero films great and I think they missed opportunities to tell a deeper story, but overall it was a ton of fun.

2. Edge of Tomorrow

The surprise of the year for me was the Tom Cruise film re-titled Live, Die, Repeat. The best description is Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers. One of Cruise's best films in a long time, it had great action, great acting, a very fun story, and for anyone raised in the video game age a really cool plot device.

1. Inside Out

Pixar absolutely nailed it again. They understand human emotion and story better than any filmmakers right now. And we just happen to have an 11-year-old daughter going through very similar circumstances, so the emotion of the film was ratcheted up by about 100. But what a beautiful tale of family and growing up. From a Christian perspective I did wonder about the role of the Holy Spirit in all this and how the film would be different with that aspect as a part of the story.

Honorable Mentions

  • Making a Murderer – This is a multi-part documentary which is why I didn't include it, but wow. Must see.

  • Gone Girl – disturbing tale of human brokenness and today’s media voyeurism

  • John Wick – everyone loves a good revenge tale

  • Fury – Another true story war movie with great acting

  • Big Hero Six – Fun story and keeps the Pixar influence at Disney primary

  • Unbroken – Impossible to do justice to the book but a good effort nonetheless

  • Jurrasic World – Everyone has imagined, what if they actually got the park running & Chris Pratt is fantastic

  • Antman – Not the best comic book character, but still fun

  • Furious 7 – Good end to the franchise and respectable farewell to Paul Walker

Movies I haven't seen but might make next year's list

  • Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

  • The Hateful Eight

  • Creed

  • Spotlight

  • The Revenant

  • Sicario

  • The Gift

Movies I wish I could unsee

  • Kingsmen Secret Service

  • The Cobbler

  • Exodus Gods and Kings

  • Dumb and Dumber To

  • The Theory of Everything

Josh ByersComment