Here are the first 5 movies in my list.
“Mad Max: Fury Road”, indubitably the best work in the Mad Max series, is a superb action film fully charged with enormous vigor and sparky excitement to overwhelm you to the very end. Mixing old and new elements together in its volatile concoction, this superlative sequel is the magnificent return of the director George Miller, and his stupefying artistic/technical achievement shows us here that he is still the same bold, uninhibited, and talented director who can drive the audiences up to the level of pure thrill and exultation. Relentlessly fueled by the powerful performances from Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, the movie is one hell of electrifying work which makes many lesser action movies look trivial and forgettable instantly, and it is indeed the best film of 2015.
Christian Petzold’s “Phoenix” is a quiet but compelling period drama revolving around disguise and manipulation with a touch of film noir. While trying to get accustomed to her new self which is reconstructed through a plastic surgery right after the World War II, its Holocaust survivor heroine finds herself getting involved with her treacherous husband who does not recognize her due to her changed appearance, and it is both poignant and unnerving to watch their strained interactions as they prepare and rehearse for the illusion they desire for different reasons. Petzold and his lead performers Nina Hoss and Ronald Zehrfeld eventually strike us hard with the somber but hauntingly powerful finale to remember, and we are reminded that truth always finds a way to get itself revealed in the end – no matter how much they let themselves blind and silent to it.
3. The Martian
Based on the SF novel of the same name by Andy Weir, “The Martian” goes forward with that enduring curiosity of ours. While its story is essentially a classic tale of survival with many familiar elements, it is a very interesting one with enough ideas and substances to intrigue and thrill us none the less. The director Ridley Scott is back in his element here in this film, and he and his crew dazzle us with numerous wondrous visual moments from the alien landscapes of Mars while Matt Damon’s stranded astronaut hero struggles for his survival alone and other characters in NASA try to help him as much as possible. This is a superb hard SF film to recommend, and it vividly shows us how tiny our existence is in the universe – and that how we can reach further into it if we want.
Serenely beautiful and heartbreakingly tragic, “Timbuktu” gives us a quiet but compassionate look into the world most of us are not very familiar with. As our eyes are drawn to its vast, beautiful desert landscapes to behold, we come to look closer to the people living in this unfamiliar world whose life is now being trampled by the oppression and brutality committed in the name of religion. Never breaking away from the calm, reflective attitude of his film, the Mauritanian filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako quietly observes the resulting human sufferings with silent sadness and indignation, and the movie will stay with you for a long time for its mesmerizing beauty and profound humanism.
5. Ex Machina
How will we react to artificial intelligence if that becomes possible through technological advance? Exploring the possibility of emotional exchanges between human and artificial intelligence, Alex Garland’s thought-provoking SF film “Ex Machina” goes into a dark, disturbing territory of deceit, obsession, and manipulation, and its chilly chamber drama is thoroughly compelling thanks to its clever handling of a familiar but ever-interesting science fiction premise as well as the captivating performances from its talented cast members. I really wonder – what will artificial intelligence think of how we have imagined them?