The Best of 2015
Another year has gone by and with its passing must come an obligatory year-end list. 2015 has been filled with big blockbusters, supersized sequels and some amazing TV moments, but only a select few can squeeze their way into our top picks. Cody, Jordan and Wesley have meticulously chosen their favorite films, games and TV shows of the past year to bring you the finest that 2015 had to offer. The NerdSpeak crew usually share fairly similar opinions, but for the sake of this list everyone picked unique entries. Without further ado, here is NerdSpeak’s Best of 2015.
Ex Machina is your typical “boy meets girl” story, if that girl was actually a frighteningly lifelike A.I. prototype and that boy was part of an elaborate experiment. It’s not your typical sci-fi flick either. There aren’t any space battles or lasers. In fact, there are only about four people in the entire movie and they all deliver stellar performances. Alicia Vikander may be the only one to snag a Golden Globe nomination for her role, but it’s Oscar Isaac who truly steals the show as the charmingly sinister CEO of a tech company. He also gets a chance to show off his amazing dance skills too. It may not have made as much money as this year’s other sci-fi movie starring Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson, but it definitely had us on the edge of our seats.
Master of None
What do you do after a massive hit like Parks and Recreation? If you’re Aziz Ansari, you create and star in your own hilarious Netflix series. Master of None plays out like a Louie for the social media generation. It’s the same setting, similar circumstances, but through the eyes of a completely different type of character. The show effortlessly tackles important issues like racism, sexism, relationships and immigration. In fact, there are a lot of teachable moments in its 10 episode season, but it always seems organic. Hell, Aziz Ansari’s parents are even played by his real life parents. It doesn’t get more organic than that. Let’s just hope the second season is way longer.
It seems like every year Pixar comes up with a new and creative way to make adults start sobbing in movie theaters. The majority of Inside Out takes place inside a girl’s head, which leads to some ridiculously clever gags about the way our brains work. Everything from imagination to abstract thought is touched on because what kid doesn’t love a good joke about non-objective fragmentation?
The casting is genius as well. Amy Poehler reprises her Leslie Knope role as Joy, Lewis Black channels himself to play Anger and Phyllis Smith proves to be the heart of the film as Sadness. All of these characters are great, but it’s an imaginary friend named Bing Bong who steals the show. I won’t spoil anything for those who haven’t seen it, but let’s just say I have tears welling up in my eyes as I type this.
Marvel blessed us with not one, but two Netflix original series this year. The second, Jessica Jones, turned out to be more than any of us could have expected. What do you even call this show? It’s somewhere between a noir and a cerebral thriller, yet it still feels very Marvel. Krysten Ritter plays the titular character, a cunning and foul-mouthed private investigator with a heavy drinking problem. If that sounds a little darker than the usual family fare found in the MCU, that’s because it is.
Jessica’s past haunts her throughout the season in the form of Kilgrave, a sharply dressed psychopath with mind control powers. Mind control is a pretty popular theme in pop culture, but it’s usually associated with goofy characters like Kaa in The Jungle Book. That’s not the case here. Jessica Jones shows mind control as a violation and we get to see firsthand what kind of effect it has on his victims, not to mention David Tennant is equal parts frightening and charming in the role.
The Hateful Eight
Quentin Tarantino has single-handedly resurrected the Western, but his latest ode to the genre almost didn’t make it to the big screen. In early 2014, the script for The Hateful Eight leaked online and Tarantino was on the verge of cancelling production altogether. Fortunately, he decided against it and gave us one of the most entertaining experiences of the year. The Hateful Eight almost feels like a Civil War era Reservoir Dogs, with the majority of the action taking place inside a single location. Eight not-so-nice characters are stranded with one other during a blizzard, each with their own motives. Basically, it’s everything you would want from a Tarantino film. There’s witty dialogue, an all-star cast of Tarantino favorites and LOTS of bloodshed. Like, an excessive amount of bloodshed. A 70 mm roadshow version of the film was released in select theaters and it provided one of the best theater-going experiences of 2015. If watching a movie in 70 mm isn’t enough to bring out your inner cinephile, the roadshow version also included an overture, extra footage, an intermission and a freakin’ program for every audience member. Why don’t all movie tickets include programs? It’s a movie made by a guy who loves movies and it definitely shows. You’d be hard pressed to find a more entertaining way to spend 3 hours of your day.
So, Wesley called Jessica Jones… What ever will I do? Oh, maybe I’ll just pick, what is in my opinion, one of the best things Marvel has done to date. Daredevil was just so… Different. In a Cinematic Universe that really has started to become just a little stale, a healthy dose of bloody violence, dark storylines and incredible characterization are very welcome. Luckily, Daredevil brought all of that in spades. In Wilson Fisk, it gave us Marvel’s best on screen villain since Loki. That statement right there should be enough to get you interested. It also helps that Charlie Cox brings incredible gravitas to the role of Matt Murdock/ Daredevil.
The show is by no means perfect, but it really opened the doors for Marvel to take risks on their Netflix series. Also, it’s totally worth watching the show just for a particular hallway fight scene. Trust me. Just watch the show.
Sometimes you go into a movie expecting a great movie and when this happens there are really only two outcomes. You walk out satisfied or you walk out disappointed. The opposite goes for a movie which you have basically no expectations for. I walked into Creed not really knowing what to expect. Sure, the previous Rocky movie was decent, but a Rocky movie starring Apollo Creed’s son? Sounds kitschy on paper. But by the time the credits rolled I was a believer in Adonis Creed. Director Ryan Coogler delivered one of the true surprises of the year by giving us a really, really good movie. Not a good Rocky movie. Just a good movie. Creed stands on its own merits with the old Italian Stallion there just as a symbol of the past and to help bring in the new. Creed was a passion project for Coogler and it shows. See it for the nostalgia, but stay for a hell of a film.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
It’s not very often when the third game in a series is by far the best, but that’s what The Witcher 3 accomplished this year. I had very briefly played The Witcher 2 before this game released, but I just couldn’t help myself. I succumbed to the hype beast and purchased The Witcher 3. Boy, am I sure glad I did.
Heavy in lore and bursting at the seams with side quests and other non-plot activities, you will be playing The Witcher 3 long after you complete its already lengthy story. I’m not even a huge fantasy guy, but the Witcher-world is so intriguing. I found myself getting just as invested in the various side missions that explored the nooks and crannies of the world as I did with the main plot. And the main plot is fairly solid, so that’s really saying something. Mix in some pleasantly fun hack and slash fighting with spell casting, a streamlined RPG system and loot galore, and you have yourself one hell of a game that will keep you busy for 100 hours or more.
Did you read our Best of 2014 list from last year? Because if you did, you know that I fucking love science. Like, if I wasn’t kinda dumb, I probably would have studied science in college. Instead, I’m stuck here writing this blog, so go figure. But I digress. I love science and I love movies that do science-y things. The Martian may not be 2015’s best movie, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t have a whole hell of a lot of fun watching Matt Damon science the shit out of Mars. The Andy Weir novel that the movie was adapted from is already one of my favorite sci-fi novels of the last decade. When you add in Ridley Scott in prime form and Matt Damon doing his usual Matt Damon stuff, Cody is a very happy nerd.
Sure, the movie isn’t perfect, but it’s the best adaptation one could ask for a book that consists mostly of one guy’s ramblings/scientific explanations. The Martian was full of big names and happily continued Hollywood’s run of successful big budget sci-fi films. Hell, The Martian was so good that it almost made me forget about Jupiter Ascending. Almost, but not quite…
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
SUCK IT BOYS, I CALLED STAR WARS FIRST! But seriously, it’s freakin’ Star Wars. What do I really need to say? It already holds a bunch of records and has grossed over a billion dollars. The fans have said it for me. After the relative clusterfuck that was the Prequel Trilogy, Disney wrenched the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas’ chubby little fingers and placed all of their (new) hope in one man: JJ Abrams. Not the most inspired choice, but goddamn it JJ, you crazy bastard, you did it. You gave us a Star Wars movie that doesn’t make me want to hurt myself.
Abrams and company not only breathed new life into an old franchise, they gave us hope for its future. With an incredible new cast of young actors and just enough of the original cast, The Force Awakens was an all-around win for fans and the Disney overlords alike. Just like every movie, The Force Awakens isn’t perfect (it’s a little too reliant on the formula of the Original Trilogy and there is no one who can deny that), but why would I give a damn when I’ve got a goofy grin on my face for most of the movie? You better believe I’ll be headed back for my third viewing just as soon as I can.
Ant-Man by Nick Spencer
Marvel’s tiniest hero got his shot at a feature film this year, and the reception by fans and critics was a bit of a mixed bag. As is Marvel’s tradition when it comes to movie releases, they released a new comic series a few months before the film released to drum up interest in the character. Ant-Man was no different. Beginning earlier this year at the helm of writer Nick Spencer and artist Ramon Rosanas, this series (which was relaunched after far too short a time thanks to Secret Wars) easily takes the cake as the best comic series I read this year. If you had told me 5 years ago that I would be putting an Ant-Man series on a “Best of” list, I would have laughed at you. But dammit if Spencer doesn’t give us the most charming, endearing, interesting take on Scott Lang I have ever had the pleasure of reading. The writing is consistently hilarious, the tongue-in-cheek look at typical superhero comics is immensely entertaining, the stellar supporting cast (especially Scott’s “employees”) provide even more to love, and the series has a surprising amount of heart. In fact, the end of issue #5 almost made me tear up. That’s some damn good writing.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Just in case you couldn’t already tell, we’re Marvel fanboys here at NerdSpeak. Marvel tends to dominate most of our conversations, but for good reason: they put out quality films. Such is the case with the sequel to Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron. I have to admit, I was actually a bit surprised to see that neither Cody nor Wesley had picked this for their lists. Age of Ultron, while not quite measuring up to the astronomical standards of its predecessor, is still a wonderful film in its own right. Joss Whedon knocked it out of the park again with his sophomore Marvel outing, again showing that few people in Hollywood can handle an ensemble cast better than he can. Special props have to be given to the new additions to the MCU, such as Scarlet Witch and Vision, even if, *SPOILER ALERT* Quicksilver didn’t quite make it out of his first outing with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. All of the new characters will make wonderful additions to the ever-expanding universe, thanks in no small part to the excellent casting choices. Speaking of which: James Spader as Ultron is one of the most perfect casting choices for a villain Marvel has ever made. Hands down.
What Best of 2015 list would be complete without arguably the most anticipated video game to release this year? There’s nothing I can say about Fallout 4 that you haven’t already heard. The game is amazing. If you’ve played it, you know this. If you haven’t, why the fuck are you reading this? Go play Fallout 4. Like, now. From the unbelievably awesome weapon customization to the speaking protagonist (Always hit the “Sarcastic” speech option. End of discussion.) to the perpetually alive open world that will always have more things for you to do, the game encapsulates everything great about a Bethesda RPG and expands on it. And now back to listening to “Atom Bomb Baby” on repeat while I blast the fuck out of some Deathclaws.
Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game
No, this game was not originally released this year, so this may be cheating a little. BUT! Fantasy Flight Games, the company that has created this stellar miniatures game, has continued to support it for years after its initial release with more expansions and extra ships than you can shake a lightsaber at. 2015 was no different. Not only did they release 3 separate waves of expansions throughout the year (one of which added an entirely new faction to play as besides the Rebels and Imperials), but for the first time since its initial release, Fantasy Flight released a new, updated Core Set centered around The Force Awakens. This updated Core Set provided those who have yet to experience one of the most unique, fun Star Wars “board” games ever released a great way to get into the game, with updated rules and a Force Awakens spin on the action. If you have yet to try this game, don’t be deterred by its unconventional method of play: it may seem a bit daunting at first, but once you get a hang of the rules, and get used to the fact that you’re playing a game that doesn’t have a board, you’ll be engaging in galactic dogfights the likes of which would make Han and Chewie blush.
Oh… Oh fuck. I needed that.
Can you imagine?
There was literally a point in this abomination of a film that I hung my head in shame and embarrassment and had to reevaluate some choices that I had made in my life, such as actually parting with my hard earned money to see this toilet bowl abortion Fox tried to pass off as a film (in my defense, me, Cody, and Wesley went and saw this BECAUSE of how horrible we knew it would be, so that we could do a podcast about it). I wouldn’t wish a viewing of this disgrace on my worst enemy.
Seriously, Fox: the fans have spoken. Sell the god damn movie rights back to Marvel so we can have a real Fantastic Four movie and you can keep playing with the X-Men until Marvel figures out a way to get them back, too.