It's that time of the year again, when we put together our annual lists of the best movies we've seen - read on for our top picks of 2015. And if you missed out on any of these, they're well worth seeking out this holiday season.
With a script by Aaron Sorkin and direction by Danny Boyle, this biopic was always going to turn heads but the result was much more interesting than I was expecting. Mostly that's down to the fact that the film isn't really much about Steve Jobs himself, more an interrogation of the nature of obsession and rabid determination. It's an elaborate fiction and a very entertaining one, thanks to some terrific performers relishing every syllable of Sorkin's wordy script. Special mention to Michael Fassbender, Jeff Daniels and a marvellous Kate Winslet.
Mad Max Fury Road
I had a great time with Fury Road, perhaps the most garish and lurid action experience of the modern era. The stunts were immense, the visuals were spectacular and there was enough breathless action to ensure that the trailers hadn't managed to spoil anything. I do wish returning writer/director George Miller took a little more time on his scripts but there was nothing else like Fury Road in cinemas in 2015, and that makes it important.
The writer of Sunshine and 28 Days Later, Alex Garland, made his feature directing debut with this tightly orchestrated thriller which is one of the purest sci-fi experiences for many a year. There are ideas here in their droves but they're never foisted upon the audience in a way which makes it too heavy, thanks to entertaining diversions and impressive performances by the likes of Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander and Oscar Issac.
Todd Haynes quiet number is a peerless drama, giving a fly on the wall glimpse at the interconnected lives of two women living in New York in the 1950s. It's the story of a relationship, one which was taboo at the time, and the struggle to come to terms with the reality of what they are doing. It's a small tale with brilliant central performances and some heart-rending moments which rarely falls into the easy trap of melodrama. Expect Oscar talk for Blanchett (again) and possibly Rooney Mara.
Ruben Ostlud's film may not be on your radar but a striking and unique feature which dives into unpleasant elements of the human psyche and lingers there while things get really, really uncomfortable. A Swedish family is on a ski-ing holiday when a major event causes ripples through their close knit group, and makes them question their relationships and even their sanity. That may sound intense, and it is, but this is also a deeply funny film and one which is guaranteed to get under the skin of any audience member, especially as things get more and more tightly wound on this holiday from hell.
Pixar's track record may have been a little generic of late, but Inside Out is the most fearless inventive film the studio has ever produced. The film was revised, rewritten and remade over a six year period and it's easy to see where all the work went, with every frame of the film crammed full of ideas explored with a depth I've rarely seen in a movie of any kind. This journey inside a child's mind is full of devices for getting at the abstract notions of thoughts and feelings, while the overarching narrative explores complex notions like the maturation of the brain and how supposedly negative emotions like sadness and fear have their place in a fully rounded human being. And it manages all this while still being entertaining to humans of all ages and including a singing figment called Bing Bong.
This film may feel quite old by now, it arrived in Irish cinemas January 2015 and had already had its award glory across the pond, but that just means its the perfect time to recall how brilliant Damien Chazelle's debut feature really is. This story of a drummer played by Miles Teller and his sadistic teacher (J.K. Simmons) manages to be utterly compelling from the first frame thanks to Chazelle's exceptional direction and an utterly stunning performance by Simmons. You've likely seen his marquee moment time and again now but every time he's on screen it's electrifying. Teller has the less showy role but is still terrific and every technical element is superb. But it's really the finale which marked this out as the best of the year for me - a blistering cinematic tour de force which took me to the edge of my seat and beyond. Essential viewing.
Onwards to 2016!