5. Straight Outta Compton
Like basically every other rock biopic, Straight Outta Compton is about packaging a series of disparate, contradictory events into a feel-good through line. Presumably the thinking with these things is to renew enough interest to sell some more best-of compilations. Shepherded to the screen by Dr Dre and Ice Cube in full control freak mode, F Gary Gray's film ditches any of the misogyny or outright underhandedness inherent to NWA's story to arrive at a heart-warming yarn about a bunch of friends knuckling down and doing well.
4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
JJ Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt's rejuvenation of the Star Wars brand not only locates several distinct, likeable characters, it also finds time to snatch ideas from the Prequel run and transform them into engaging narrative grist for an expanding saga. It's tempting to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens as Lawrence Kasdan's moment, the Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars sequels writer finally getting to steer one of the great movie brat franchises without Steven Spielberg or George Lucas breathing down his neck. The structural bones may be familiar but the relationships and agendas Kasdan and his co-writers plant promise a different kind of saga.
3. Ex Machina
Ex Machina completes a loose trilogy from writer-director Alex Garland about the effects of othering and automation on the human psyche. Never Let Me Go (adapted from Kazuo Ishiguro's novel) proposed an underclass of clones bred for the express purpose of organ harvest, Dredd a ruling class of men and women trained to act like robots. Ex Machina circles similar neuroses, lasering in on a new lifeform that is able to take the limitations men have imposed upon it and transform them into a formidable arsenal.
2. Bitter Lake
Adam Curtis waded through thousands of hours worth of raw news footage to assemble a piece that presents history as a chaotic beast that refuses to fit into any one narrative. Bitter Lake plays as an antithesis to the kind of glib, bullet point reporting designed to fill its audience full of certainty. The film clocks in at 136 minutes and rambles incessantly. Curtis uses growling sunspot electronica and shapeless video footage to arrive at a street-level impression of how various hot and cold interventions have shaped Afghanistan post-World War II.
1. Mad Max: Fury Road
How does this film even exist?
Whiplash / Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation / Chappie / Tomorrowland / John Wick / Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief / Spectre / Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films / Inside Out