Steve McQueen and a phenomenal ensemble cast help make "Widows" look effortless                "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" offers something for every type of Coen Brothers fan                Updated Academy Award predictions for early November                Review Round-Up: "Dr. Seuss' The Grinch", "El Angel" "The Long Dumb Road", and "Outlaw King"                Taking a look at potential Best Documentary Feature contenders                "The Front Runner" is a terrific and timely film for right around Election Day                Hollywood Film Awards Marked the Launch of Awards Season                Taking a first crack at Golden Globe predictions                “The Favourite” and “The Front Runner”: Films to see in November                Awkwafina to Host 22nd Hollywood Film Awards                Review Round-Up: "Bodied", "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms", and "The Other Side of the Wind"                Rosamund Pike is a force to be reckoned with in "A Private War"                Black Panther, Incredibles 2 to Receive Hollywood Film Awards                "Boy Erased" has Joel Edgerton stretching himself as a prestige filmmaker                Rami Malek does his best to elevate "Bohemian Rhapsody" from being a standard biopic        

“5 to 7” and “It Follows”: The Best of the First Quarter of 2015

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Time flies. Believe it or not, we’re now three full months into the 2015 movie calendar, which means we’re literally a quarter of the way through the film slate. That got me thinking about what the best of the bunch so far this year has been. Since now is the time when the film slate begins to transition into summer flicks (cough, Furious 7, cough) and counter programming independent fare, I thought it was the perfect time to praise the best of 2015 so far. Basically, anything that hit screens between January 1st and March 31st will be up for grabs here for my personal honors. I do have one release from this weekend that I’ve included, but only because of how eager I am to talk about it. Other than that, there’s no cheating…I swear!

Below you’ll find my top ten of the year so far, along with my awards for the first quarter of 2015. Here you go, and enjoy:

10. The Rewrite – A charming and simple Hugh Grant film, it likely would have been a hit had it come out a decade ago. Grant is at his wittiest in a while, with J.K. Simmons turning in yet another solid supporting performance as well. It’s nothing to go crazy over, but it’s a quietly enjoyable movie that I’ve already revisited more than once since it hit Blu-Ray and DVD last week.

9. Black or White – Even though this got a qualifying run at the end of 2014, it’s officially a 2015 release, at least in terms of its wide bow, so it counts here in my book. Kevin Costner is fantastic, while Octavia Spencer is very good too in Mike Binder’s latest flick. It made a few bucks, but it definitely deserved a much bigger audience than it received. The film is hardly perfect, but its heart is most certainly in the right place.

8. While We’re Young – I first saw this as the New York Film Festival’s Secret Screening, but it’s just as appealing here in the first quarter of 2015. Noah Baumbach’s most mainstream outing to date, he really gave us a great quartet of characters, ones essayed by Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, and Amanda Seyfried. It’s not on the level of some of his best films, but I still really liked it.

7. Amira & Sam – One of the bigger surprises this year for me so far, I fell hard for this romantic dramedy. Not only does it give Martin Starr his best and most dramatic role to date, it also crafts one of the better movies about New York that I’ve seen in the past few years. It was cruelly under-seen earlier this year, but I hope this recommendation does its part to fix that when it hits home video soon.

6. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief – Sure, this documentary is taking aim at a slightly easy target in the Church of Scientology and L. Ron Hubbard, but tons of incredible claims come out of it all the same. Director Alex Gibney isn’t doing his best work ever, but it’s still an angry and passionate bit of work. The ratings when it played on HBO were through the roof, so it’s definitely catching on.

5. ’71 – Another title I first saw at NYFF 2014, this war drama is the best tale of survival starring Jack O’Connell yet, and yes, I know that Unbroken exists too (that only furthers my argument). This is a small scale and gritty flick that manages to really captivate you. Another barely seen title that I want to shine a light on. Go seek it out folks!

4. The Hunting Ground – The best doc of 2015 so far is a sobering look at sexual assault on college campuses. Director Kirby Dick has basically made a follow up to The Invisible War, which looked at rape in the military. This might even be the more effective of the two, though both are incredibly worthwhile docs. More of you should have seen this, so correct that ASAP.

3. Kingsman: The Secret Service – Easily the most fun I’ve had with a movie this year. Granted, I loved Matthew Vaughn’s other Mark Millar adaptation Kick-Ass as well, so I’m predisposed to his outings of this ilk. Still, it’s just a blast of un PC carnage. Colin Firth as a bad ass action hero is genius casting in my book. Basically a blockbuster with its $100 million gross so far, expect a franchise to be born going forward.

2. It Follows – The best horror film in years, I think this is nearly a perfect bit of cinema. I’ve written about the movie a few times already, but filmmaker David Robert Mitchell and actress Maika Monroe deserve some more praise. It’s a towering fright flick achievement, trust me there. It expands into more theaters today actually, so more of you have an opportunity to see what I’ve been raving about for about a month. I nearly put it in my number one spot, but this is still a cut above, in general.

1. 5 to 7 – I took a while to decide between one and two here, but I went with emotion as my ultimate tiebreaker. Lead actor Anton Yelchin is incredible, Bérénice Marlohe is terrific, and so are Glenn Close and Frank Langella in supporting roles. Writer/director Victor Levin really gets tot he core of the human experience here in a very unique romantic drama. I won’t spoil what happens, but you all need to see this one right now. Yes, it comes out today and technically is an April release, but screw it, it’s too good not to cite here!

Honorable Mention: The Humbling, The Last Five Years, Match, Predestination, and Red Army

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Obviously my number one pick would be my choice for Best Picture so far (with number two the runner up, and so on, but here are the other awards I would give out…

Best Director: David Robert Mitchell for It Follows (runner up: Victor Levin for 5 to 7 and Sean Mullin for Amira & Sam)

Best Actor: Anton Yelchin for 5 to 7 (runner up: Kevin Costner for Black or White and Patrick Stewart for Match)

Best Actress: Maika Monroe for It Follows (runner up: Sarah Snook for Predestination and Bérénice Marlohe for 5 to 7)

Best Supporting Actor: Colin Firth for Kingsman: The Secret Service (runner up: Frank Langella for 5 to 7 and Adam Driver for While We’re Young)

Best Supporting Actress: Amanda Seyfried for While We’re Young (runner up: Glenn Close for 5 to 7 and Octavia Spencer for Black or White)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Kingsman: The Secret Service (runner up: Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief and The Humbling)

Best Original Screenplay: 5 to 7 (runner up: It Follows and While We’re Young)

There you go folks…now to eagerly await the next quarter of releases!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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