As we hit the halfway point in 2015 and looking back over the cinematic landscape, one thing is clear - the blockbuster is going nowhere.
With the likes of Furious 7 and Age of Ultron breaking all kinds of box-office records, the death of cinema is still a long way off. But what else is out there? For one, the indie drama is in fine fettle and cleaning up regularly around awards season whilst animation, both niche and mainstream, still draws critical and commercial success.
Here's our Top 10 of 2015 so far...
Who'd have thunk it? Who'd have honestly thunk it? A film, directed by two former stunt people about an assassin who goes on a rampage following his dog's death, would be - by a very fine margin - the second best action movie of the year. Keanu Reeves' career has been flagging of late, not for his own lack of trying. However, with John Wick, we saw a revitalised bad-ass willing to scrap with the big budget blockbusters. If you haven't yet seen John Wick, seek it out. It's like John Boorman's Point Blank on steroids.
Animated dramas are, by and large, a tough watch. We're not entirely sure what it is, but they have the ability to get under your skin and lay eggs in your brain and heart and explode in a burst of emotion. Yes, that's a bit graphic. Anyway. Song of the Sea from Irish house Cartoon Saloon floored us with its rich tapestry of gorgeous visuals, mythic storytelling and genuinely heartbreaking characters. It's due for release in the next week or so and, for us, it's one of the best Irish films in recent years.
The Marvel juggernaut shows absolutely no sign of slowing down and it's easy to see why - they're loud, engaging blockbusters with well-established characters that people love and respond to. Fixing a major problem with Marvel movies to date, that of a lacklustre villain, Whedon's supposed final entry to the Marvel cinematic universe gave us James Spader as a seven-foot tall artificial intelligence that sounded like a Harvard professor. What movie could get away with that?
You might dismiss the Fast & Furious franchise as just another blockbuster series that's lost of the run of itself, but the figures speak for themselves. It became the fastest film to surpass ONE BILLION at the global box office, it's received near-universal praise and there's a huge amount of goodwill for these films. So, y'know, shut up.
Although some people may have expected Jurassic World to surpass the original, we had better knowledge. Nothing could or ever will. That being said, Jurassic World can and should be enjoyed on its own merits. You have Chris Pratt, at the height of his game, you have a young director eager to make his mark with a summer blockbuster and you have trained velociraptors. Really, what more do you want from a summer blockbuster?
Although we weren't huge fans of Pilgrim Hill, Gerard Barrett's second film knocked aside any pretence that it was a fluke and solidified his position as one of Ireland's rising stars in film. Sure enough, the US beckons as Barrett's slated to direct Brain On Fire with Charlize Theron and Chloe Grace Moretz.
The follow-up to 2013's massively powerful The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer returns to the scene of the crime. Following a survivor of the purges of Indonesia of the 1950s who visits his tormentors under the guise of an eye examination, The Look Of Silence has all the tension and tautness of a finely-crafted psychological thriller.
Oscar Isaac is marking himself out as a worthy successor to the likes of Al Pacino with his magnetic screen personality and willingness to shape his entire physique around a performance. Playing a quiet, restrained businessman who's struggling against turning criminal to keep his oil company afloat, Isaac and co-star Jessica Chastain gave the best duo performance of the year and reminded us that a great gangster film doesn't have to have a huge body count. Sometimes, the damage is under the surface.
We waited a long time to see Fury Road and now, finally, we understand the wait. Brilliance takes time. It can't be rushed out to meet a summer audience, it can't be fixed to follow on the standalone movie, it can't be rejigged to suit test scores. It has to be bold, uncompromising and stand for itself. George Miller's modern masterpiece was everything we had hoped for and more. Mixing truly insane stunts and action setpieces with social commentary was inspired and invigorating. Why can't all blockbusters be like this?
For a film about smooth jazz, there was nothing smooth about Whiplash. Chaos, anger, fear, violence and rage coalesced on screen, with JK Simmons giving the performance of the year and possibly his career. Even now, looking back post-Oscar hype, Whiplash still holds up as one of the best non-thriller thrillers we've ever seen. Definitely our tempo (groan).