The Most Read Film Reviews of 2015

How to enrage God's flock in 322 words or less

“Most-read” is not the same as “most-liked” – indeed, readers flocked to our most popular film review of the year to tell the critic she got it wrong.

In fact, I’m that critic, and it was my critical evaluation of the Christian drama War Room, one of the first reviews nationally of the Kendrick Brothers’ sleeper hit, which inspired so many pitchforks, not to mention my favorite reader comment ever: “Joke reviewer is a joke.” (I’m thinking about needlepointing it onto a decorative pillow.)

2015 was the year box-office watchers could no longer deny the tremendous ticket-buying power of Christian audiences, and three films intended for that audience made our list of the year's 20 most popular reviews. But our readers have catholic taste in film; also making the cut were summer blockbusters and indie darlings.

Let's get to that list now, shall we?

1) War Room

“The filmmakers are upfront about their religious intent, and it follows that their audience is a targeted one. But the Kendricks have further limited that audience by presenting an emphatically anti-feminist picture of faith, repeatedly underscoring the idea that a woman must be submissive to her husband. I’m no expert on warmongering, but alienating half your army doesn’t seem like sound strategy.” (Aug. 28, 2015)

Read Kimberley Jones’ 1.5 star review.

2) Mad Max: Fury Road

Fury Road is, to paraphrase Mad Max’s Nightrider, “a fuel-injected suicide machine, a rocker, a roller, an out-of-controller,” and a genuine, mindblowing masterpiece of pure action cinema. If any other film this summer tops its N02-powered adrenaline rush, I’ll eat Mel Gibson’s boots.” (May 15, 2015)

Read Marc Savlov’s 4.5 star review.

3) Jurassic World

“It’s all in good fun, and critic-proof to boot, but Jurassic World doesn’t even come close to that most intimate and dearly coveted ‘Gosh, wow’ sense-of-wonder that the original film mustered so easily. Roar more, bite less.” (June 12, 2015)

Read Marc Savlov’s 2.5 star review.

4) The Martian

“The geek is the hero and not the sidekick in the consistently entertaining The Martian, the perfect summer popcorn movie but for its release in the fall film season. … It’s a role tailor-made for Matt Damon, who beautifully expresses a range of nuanced feelings without (thankfully) resorting any hand-wringing theatricality. His concentrated performance is close to perfect; you can’t imagine it played any differently.” (Oct. 2, 2015)

Read Steve Davis’ 3.5 star review.

5) Ex Machina

“Oscar Isaac owns the movie by way of brute force. He’s playing a brainiac at ease with both Ludwig Wittgenstein and the Bhagavad Gita, but it’s Isaac’s physicality, the way this muscled megalomaniac moves through the world, that’s most breath-catching. He’s like a slab of meat injected with the juice of Steve Jobs, Howard Hughes, and Colonel Kurtz.” (April 17, 2015)

Read Kimberley Jones’ 4.0 star review.

6) Inside Out

“Like the very best Pixar movies, Inside Out speaks to multiple generations, in multiple guises, from zippy entertainment to meaningful drama. (This adult – in hiccuping near-meltdown – had to call on her own central command to shut this shit down after a third-act turn had her dangerously close to audible sobbing.) To borrow from the Internet lingo of the day, you might say Inside Out will make you feel all the feels (seriously: so many feels).” (June 19, 2015)

Read Kimberley Jones’ 4.0 star review.

7) The Age of Adaline

“On the surface, Age is a low-stakes, high-concept romance, gifted with warm cinematography and lush period trappings. Assisted in no small part by Hugh Ross’ droll narration, director Lee Toland Krieger (Celeste and Jesse Forever) maintains a nimble grasp on the story’s sense of magic realism. Furthermore, what elevates this love story above recent Sparksian competition is its canny awareness of both the weight of time passing us all by and the difference between that and Adaline entirely sitting out life as something of a defense mechanism.” (April 24, 2015)

Read William Goss’ 3.5 star review.

8) 90 Minutes in Heaven

“The Christian faith-based film genre takes a dramatic leap forward with 90 Minutes in Heaven , a well-appointed work based on Don Piper’s bestseller, that, for a change, doesn’t look and sound as though it was written, performed, and recorded in some church basement.” (Sept. 11, 2015)

Read Marjorie Baumgarten’s 2.5 star review.

9) Everest

“Combined with the unrelenting cold, lacerating wind, and blinding snow with flakes as fine as sand that dominate a landscape stunningly captured by cinematographer Salvatore Totino, these physiological effects are often overwhelming to witness, looming over the film like the shadow of the massif the hapless expedition members seek to conquer. This is a movie you feel deeply in the pit of your stomach. Sometimes, it literally hurts to watch it.” (Sept. 18, 2015)

Read Steve Davis’ 4.0 star review.

10) Love & Mercy

“Thankfully, Bill Pohlad’s second directorial effort largely eschews biopic formula, abandoning the cradle-to-grave, rags-to-riches routine to focus on two primary points in Brian Wilson’s life and career: making erratic progress on the now-beloved album Pet Sounds during the Sixties, and recovering from a stint of intense reclusiveness in the Eighties.” (June 5, 2015)

Read William Goss’ 4.0 star review.

The Next 10

Freetown, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, Trainwreck, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Un Gallo con Muchos Huevos, I’ll See You in My Dreams, The Gift, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Straight Outta Compton (pictured), Far From the Madding Crowd

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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Top 10s, War Room, Mad Max Fury Road, Jurassic World, Everest, The Martian, Ex Machina, Inside Out, Age of Adaline, 90 Minutes in Heaven, Love & Mercy

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