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Some gems managed to surface amid the cinematic clutter of 2015
Ian McKellen stars in one of the year's best movies as "Mr. Holmes," which imagines Sherlock Holmes in his 90s. - photo by Chris Hicks
As the year wraps up, its time to assess 2015 in film, or at least the small portion of it that I saw this year, just over 100 titles.

I know what youre thinking: Did he say small?

OK, its probably a lot more than you saw, but its a couple hundred less than I used to see when I was a full-time movie critic. And even if Id seen every film that played locally last year, it would make nary a dent in the number of official North American releases.

The New York Times counted some 900 movies that opened during 2015. Thats right. No typo. Nine hundred.

Of course, thats New York openings, with the same number or thereabouts having also played in Los Angeles.

Fewer played in other big cities around the nation, but Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, etc., still got a lot more than the 300-plus that came through Salt Lake City.

Many of those 900 movies perhaps most played just a week or so and then went directly to video and streaming formats, never coming near theaters in what are lovingly referred to by East- and West-coasters as the flyover states.

Still, most of the bigger commercial and many of the well-reviewed, not-so-commercial titles did come here, thanks to the Broadway Centre Cinemas and the Tower Theatre. And some of the multiplexes also played a quite a few more art-house films than usual.

For most of the year, of course, it was business as usual with cluttered cinema multiplexes clattering with the usual bombastic major-studios fare.

Every thoughtful, dialogue-driven film seemed to be punctuated by explosions and crashes from the auditorium next door. When my wife and I saw Brooklyn, I was sure James Bond would burst through the wall at any moment.

Mostly there were sequels, remakes and stupid, raunchy comedies (sometimes all three in the same film). And superheroes lots of superheroes. And cartoons. And horror.

Not that they were all bad. In fact, many were quite good.

But if anyone else, like me, was suffering from a bit of comic-book-movie fatigue, there were, thankfully, some nice surprises, chief among them Ant-Man, which in addition to being the most inventive superhero flick this year was also, arguably, the years best comedy.

Also fun were the Fast & Furious, James Bond and Ethan Hunt blockbusters, respectively Furious 7, Spectre and Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation.

Then there was Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a sort of cinematic island unto itself.

But squeezed in here and there were some films for adults that reflect real life. And a lot of them were true stories including what I consider the years best film, Spotlight, which ranks up there with All the Presidents Men as one of the best newspaper films ever. (Its also unfairly rated R, but thats a discussion for another column.)

Others among my favorites this year which you should look for the next time you want to watch something that doesnt have car chases, random explosions and collapsing buildings are Ill See You in My Dreams, Woman in Gold and Mr. Holmes.

Also, McFarland, USA, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, 5 Flights Up, Love & Mercy and The Intern.

A pair of documentaries worth checking out include the comic Meet the Patels and the uplifting He Called Me Malala.

And then theres the foreign-language film Coming Home, which reunites Gong Li with Zhang Yimou, the Chinese filmmaker that made her a star in the 1980s and 90s with Ju Dou and Raise the Red Lantern.

Three major-studio releases by big-ticket filmmakers were surprisingly ignored in theaters but deserve your attention when they come to video: Steven Spielbergs Bridge of Spies, Robert Zemeckis The Walk and Edward Zwicks Pawn Sacrifice.

It was a very good year for faith films with three that I would highly recommend: the locally produced The Cokeville Miracle, and the national releases War Room and Captive.

As for the biggest box-office hits, allowing for the once and future king Star Wars: The Force Awakens to eventually take its rightful place as the years No. 1 film and given that other titles may shift a bit since a few are still inching their way up the charts this is the way the 2015 box-office tally is shaping up right now (well check back in January):

Until its inevitable toppling by Jedi knights, the No. 1 film by a wide margin is Jurassic World. Second is Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Rounding out the top five are Inside Out, Furious 7 and Minions.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is No. 6, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens has already overtaken No. 7 (by the end of its first weekend).

The top 10 is filled out by The Martian, Cinderella and Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation.

The second 10 is led by Spectre, which is followed by Pitch Perfect 2, Ant-Man, Home, Hotel Transylvania 2, Fifty Shades of Grey, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, Straight Outta Compton, San Andreas and Mad Max: Fury Road.

If you are among the rarified few who havent yet seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I hope you enjoy it.

If you have already seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I hope you enjoy it again.

May the Yule be with you.
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