As Oscar bait slowly begins to flood theaters, I pause briefly to reflect on the first seven months of 2015. Hollywood has provided us its share of muck, especially in those first few months of the year, but underneath the bad are the inevitable cinematic gems. Here are the five films that I’ve loved more than any others, from January through July.
5. Mr. Holmes
Ian McKellen gives us what could be the best-acted Sherlock Holmes in film history in this mysterious drama about a 93-year-old Holmes trying to recount his final case. Newcomer Milo Parker has a bright future ahead of him as his lively co-star.
4. Mad Max: Fury Road
This non-stop thrill ride is much more than an action movie. It’s a nearly flawless sequel thirty years in the making. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron are a winning duo, but it’s the weird-factor that drives this one above and beyond.
3. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Coming of age stories have become full of cliches over the years, but “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” flips them on their back with its refreshing take on the teen comedy. No movie this year has had a bigger heart, and few have bigger laughs.
Unpredictability is the key to the success of this spy thriller. Rarely do you expect what’s coming. Colin Firth is in classic form as the ass-kicking Galahad.
1. Ex Machina
The best movie of the year is this smart, sexy AI thriller with two brilliant leads in Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson. This one stays with you.