’13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi’ Review

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Director: Michael Bay

Writer: Chuck Hogan

Cast: James Badge Dale, John Krasinski, Pablo Schreiber, Max Martini, David Denman, Dominic Fumusa, Alexia Barlier, Peyman Moaadi, David Giuntoli, Demetrius Grosse, Toby Stephens, Matt Letscher, and David Costabile

Synopsis: An American Ambassador is killed during an attack at a U.S. compound in Libya as a security team struggles to make sense out of the chaos.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based on the book my Mitchell Zuckoff and inspired by the real life events that happened in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi focuses more on the action and soldiers than it does with the geopolitical issue. Being directed by Michael Bay, you can only assume what you’re walking into action-wise, but despite my dislike for Bay and his recent movies, this is better than I had thought it would be. But if you’re looking for a more political aspect while watching, you’ll be left out in the cold.

13 Hours follows a team of former Special Forces ops who have turned into security contractors to watch over secret CIA installations in Benghazi. The team is lead by Tyrone ‘Rone’ Woods (Dale) who brings in an old friend in Jack Silva (Krasinski). When Silva arrives at the CIA outpost he meets the rest of the team in Kris ‘Tanto’ (Schreiber), John ‘Tig’ Tiegen (Fumusa), Dave ‘Boon’ Benton (Denman), and Mark ‘Oz’ Geist (Martini). We follow the team as they help out with some assignments that include helping/protecting Sona Jillani (Barlier) make a deal with a native, and helping more contractors in Dave Ubben (Grosse) and Scott Wickland (Giuntoll) help protect U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens (Letscher).

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Boon (David Denman), Jack Silva (John Krasinski), Tig (Dominic Fumusa), Tanto (Pablo Schreiber)

As we now know, something terrible happens and during the anniversary of September 11, Anti-American Libyans attack the CIA outposts. This leads our heroes to pick up their weapons and go against orders by the station chief, Bob (Costabile) to fight. What follows is the team protecting everyone in the station from a siege where they can’t tell who is there to help or kill them.

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Again, it’s directed by Michael Bay, so you know what to expect when you watching the action. I’m not saying the action is bad either. It’s actual nice to see a action film with Bay’s name on it that doesn’t include CGI robots hitting each other. Not saying the action is always easy to follow. It’s sometimes hard to make out who are heroes are from time to time, but if you want action, there is plenty of it in 13 Hours, and thankfully the majority of it is worthwhile.

That being said, the action can’t hold a whole movie together and 13 Hours would have feel shorter if it weren’t for the some of the cast. Before I get to them, I do want to mention that despite the little nuggets that every character gets, it isn’t until around the end of the movie that we finally start to get to really know them. Every character has their own traits and nuances, but again, it isn’t until around the end of the movie that we finally get to know them and what makes them tick a little more. Is it enough to root for them because they are the heroes of the movie? Take away the fact that all these people are based on real people that went through this terrible situation and event, but sometimes that isn’t enough, and other real life war events like this have done better at making us care about the character way before the end of the movie. That isn’t a knock on the real people that went through this, some of them even helped the crew to make the events more real, but I want to know more about a character and feel more for them, especially if there is a chance we may not see them make it until the end.

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Now thankfully, the cast do great with what they have. John Krasinski, who got really ripped for the role, is one of the most well-rounded characters, since he is the lead along with James Badge Dale’s ‘Rone.’ I’m glad to see Dale get a lead role because I think he’s one of the best underappreciated and unknown actors around. Pablo Schreiber’s ‘Tanto’ is the comic relief-type character, Dominic Fumusa’s ‘Tig,’ David Denman’s ‘Boon’ and Max Martini’s ‘Oz’ have their moments to shine, but are more background characters. David Costabile’s Station Chief Bob is the no-nonsense and dickish character that doesn’t think too highly of the group until they are his only hope to survive.

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Again, if you’re looking for a geopolitical movie that delves deeper into what happen in Benghazi, this isn’t a movie for you. This is an action movie about the guys on the ground that did everything they could and fought off everyone that came at them, and the people they protected that night. You do feel for the characters during this, despite what I said earlier, but not as much as we could if we got to know them more at the beginning of middle of the film. The film does touch on politics a bit when Bob and the people inside the compound try to get help, but that’s about it.

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All in all, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is much more of an action movie than it is a drama or even an action movie with political undertones. Instead Michael Bay decides to focus on the men that put their lives on the line and lets us see what they went through to survive. With solid leads in James Badge Dale and John Krasinski and some worthwhile action, 13 Hours is worth the watch.

 

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

3.5 out of 5

‘The Forest’ Review

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Director: Jason Zada

Writer: Nick Antosca, Sarah Cornwell, and Ben Ketai

Cast: Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoshi Ozawa, and Eoin Macken

Synopsis: A woman goes into Japan’s Suicide Forest to find her twin sister, and confronts supernatural terror.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Aokigahara Forest aka The Suicide Forest, or Sea of Tress, at the base of Mount Fuji is a real place. Aokigahara is actually very famous for being a common suicide site and being associated with demons in their mythology. So in other words, it’s prime for a horror movie setting. So, first time director Jason Zada along with Game of Thrones actress Natalie Dormer set The Forest within the famous and eerie location in their subpar horror film that has some issues that keep it from being more than just a generic horror film.

The Forest starts off when Sara (Dormer) has a nightmare about her twin sister Jess running in a forest. Her “twin connection” makes her feel that Jess is in trouble and Sarah decides to fly off to Japan where Jess is teaching at a school. What Sarah eventually finds out is that Jess went into Aokigahara Forest, which she finds out is the Suicide Forest. Despite what some people she encounters are saying, Sarah is convinced that her sister isn’t dead and wants to go into the forest to search for her.

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Sarah also encounters a travel writer, Aiden (Kinney), who along with local guide Michi (Ozawa), say they will take her into the forest to look for Jess. However, once there Sarah is constantly warned by Michi to stay on the path and not be fooled by what she sees in the forest, because it is all in her head. He also warns her to stay close because she is filled with sadness, something the forest thrives on. From there, what follows is supernatural occurrences and Sarah’s mission to find her sister and get out alive.

The Forest is not that great of a movie, however, it’s not that bad of a movie either. There are some things that really work for it and I’m quite impressed with how great the cinematography was by Mattias Troelstrup. It probably shouldn’t be that much of a surprise since Zada is music video director and some of the shots in the film, especially some tracking and swooping shots of the forest are beautiful to look at, in fact the way the film is shot, makes the forest feel like it is its own character. There’s one particular sequences right before the final act of the film that is a major highlight for me personally and is, arguably, the creepiest part of the film.

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The other best part of the film is Natalie Dormer. Her first real leading role playing twins is pretty fun to watch. Although there is a nice scene between the twins around the start of the film, we follow Sarah from start to finish as she journeys into Aokigahara Forest. Dormer handles herself very well in the horror genre and you believe her when she has to deal with everything that is thrown at her. Although The Forest isn’t the best movie for Dormer to showcase her talents, she even seems to phone it in at the beginning, although I don’t necessary blame her for that, Dormer’s Sarah is still a good lead to follow.

The rest of the supporting cast, which aren’t many mind you, are a bit one-note. Taylor Kinney’s Aiden is a mixed bag as his intentions are left unclear and unanswered, which more on that in a bit, but his character is met to be shrouded in mystery. There’s also Yukiyoshi Ozawa’s Michi, who could have been a great character if he was given more to do than just be the guide into the Suicide Forest and warning Sarah about the dangers of it. Eoin Macken pops in as Sara’s husband, who shows up in the beginning of the film and just disappears and isn’t really mentioned until the end.

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Now, going back to the unclear and unanswered statement I made, The Forest, had potential, but it’s overall a missed opportunity because of some big unanswered and unclear questions that the film brings up. There is also a big setup that adds to Sarah’s story and plays a factor later on, but the payoff is underwhelming with how it plays out which is a shame because it could have been powerful. The Forest also deals with a pacing issue which thankfully gets fixed by the end of the film, but it is a bit distracting for a good chuck of the film. There are quite a few pop-up scares that are scattered throughout, and some work more than others, but thankfully the ones that do are memorable.

The one thing you’ll probably be left out on Aokigahara itself. The movie just brushes past a lot of its history and simply uses the forest as a mere set-piece and backdrop for Sarah’s story. It isn’t too much of a bad thing, but the movie tries to put some emphasis on the importance of Aokigahara Forest, especially telling us that the souls of the lost in the forest are not ghosts, but trapped souls stuck there forever that are called Yurei. While the thought is appreciated, they could have put a little more thought into it, but the movie is Sarah’s story, so I can see why they wouldn’t go down that route.

Another thing that will divide audiences is the ending. I’m indifferent about it to be honest, because for me it lacks the extra punch because of the pacing and unclear/unanswered questions the movie leaves before the final shot.

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All in all, The Forest is an okay horror movie for January – dare I say the best one since Mama (for me anyway) – and while it leaves a lot of things up in the up, Natalie Dormer, the cinematography and a few standout horror/creepy scenes are worthwhile.

 

The Forest

3 out of 5

‘The Revenant’ Review

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Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Writers: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu & Mark L. Smith

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck, Paul Anderson, Kristoffer Joner, Duane Howard, Fabrice Adde, and Lukas Haas

Synopsis: A frontiersman named Hugh Glass on a fur trade expedition in the 1820s is on a quest for survival after being brutally mauled by a bear.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based in part on the novel by Michael Punke, The Revenant is also based on the true story of Hugh Glass, who goes for revenge against the people that left him for dead. So take that story and add the team of director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, with great actors in Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, and you get yourself an amazing visual film with performances that will stick with you.

The Revenant is, at its barebones, a “man vs. nature” and survivalist film. The film follows fur trapper Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) who helps Captain Andrew Henry (Gleeson) and his men get fur for the winter and so they can sell. The group includes other traders and soldiers, but the core people we follow are Glass’ half-Native American son Hawk (Goodluck), a young Jim Bridger (Poulter) – who would become one of the Old West’s most legendary mountain men, but this isn’t his story – and a self-interested and temperamental John Fitzgerald (Hardy).

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The opening of the film sees the group getting attacked by a Native American tribe of Arikara lead by their chief (Howard), who have their own storyline of looking for the chief’s daughter, but it doesn’t add a ton of the overall story, so I’ll avoid talking about that. Anyway, our main group lead deep into the forest to avoid the Arikara, but soon after Glass is attacked and horribly mauled by a grizzly bear. Captain Henry insists that they take Glass, who is clinging to life as it is, back to their fort. Fitzgerald, not wanting to risk his life for a man who’s already dying, decides to “stay behind” with Hawk and Bridger to give Glass a proper burial once he finally dies. Of course, Fitzgerald doesn’t honor that and kills Hawk and leaves Glass for dead in a pit. Glass eventually gets out and seeks his revenge against Fitzgerald.

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The Revenant is a tough movie to sit through. Not because it’s bad, but because of what we see Hugh Glass who through, physically and emotionally, and what he has to do in order to survive. The bear mauling scene alone is standout sequence in the whole film, but seeing Glass go through the vast wilderness in the dead of the winter to get the man that killed his son and left him for dead is just gut-wrenching to watch. However, what makes the film work even more is knowing that everything was done particular. It truly is a testament to the cast and crew to put the film together. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Inarritu and Lubezki decided to film the movie on location, during the winter in Calgary and Argentina (yes, Argentina!), and only using natural light to shoot the film. The way that Lubezki shoots the film is visually amazing to look at in every way. From the long and tracking shots – which he’s famous for – of rivers, the sky, and trees that tells us the other part of the story and connecting theme, to the close-ups of DiCaprio’s Glass gritting his teeth through the pain and his breath in the cold weather. Lubezki is truly one of the best cinematographers in Hollywood today.

But besides the amazing cinematography, the film is nothing without the performances. Of course the film belongs to Leonardo DiCaprio, in the film that could hopefully, and finally, win him an Oscar. Hell, DiCaprio doesn’t really have a ton of lines in this, as his performance is strictly him trying to survive in any way possible, a few grunts and simply standing still. As for Tom Hardy, like DiCaprio, is reliable in everything he does, but here his performance is showier than Glass, and any time he’s on screen he chews up the scenery. One scene in particular has Hardy’s Fitzgerald telling a story about his father to Bridger. The speech – again – fits into the overall theme and who the character really is.

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The rest of the supporting cast has their moments, but the film belongs to DiCaprio and arguably Hardy as well. Will Poulter’s Bridger and Forrest Goodluck’s Hawk bring in the young vulnerability to the frontier and their trip, while Domhnall Gleeson (who’s everywhere now, and good for him) brings the character to life, who could have been nothing more than a one-note or throwaway character. Arthur Redcloud also has a small role as a Native American character that helps Glass is somewhat memorable.

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The Revenant isn’t a film for everybody. Some, including myself at times, will find the middle of the film to drag on and feel a bit repetitive. But the argument can be made that it is Inarritu trying to make us feel like we are there suffering the long road back with Glass. Following that, some of the survivalist moments of the film will probably take some out of the film.

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All in all, The Revenant, like all Alejandro G. Inarritu films has more going on that the simple story that we see. Yes, the film is about a man seeking revenge, but it’s the way that Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki shot the film that makes it more than that and makes it a beautiful, yet gritty and dangerous story and film. The film could be one of those that you could watch again to catch some of the nuances in the cinematography or even the performances, but make no mistake The Revenant is truly one of the those films that will stick with you.

 

The Revenant

4.5 out of 5

My Best/Favorite Movies of 2015

I held out to put my list for a few films and I had yet to see that would have – and did – make it. So, forgive me for putting out the list late.

So, there were some great films that came out this year. The list really ranges all over the place, so you’ll see a wide array of titles, and even some surprises. But, of course, this is my list and my opinion so your list might be different, obviously, it is okay.

The list will have the films in alphabetical order, just to be fair, and because I really don’t want to go through the trouble anymore of picking a number one because it would be really tough. First let’s start off with the film that I didn’t get around to watching, whether it’s because I missed out when it was in theaters, or because they were only in theaters in my area for a short time, or because they were on a very limited release (I’m looking at you The Reverent) then we’ll move to the films that just missed the list, honorable mentions and then the big one.

 

Movies I Missed That I Wanted to Watch

A Girl Walks Home Along At Night

Amy

Anomalisa

Beasts of No Nation

Black Sea

Carol

Daddy’s Home

Faults

Goodnight Mommy

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Mistress America

REC 4: Apocalypse

Selma

Slow West

Still Alice

The Walk

The Babadook

Trumbo

Turbo Kid

While We’re Young

Z for Zachariah

 

Just Missed The List

American Ultra (PalmStar Media/Circle of Confusion/Lionsgate/The Bridge Finance Company/Likely Story/FilmNation Entertainment)

Bridge of Spies (Dreamworks/Amblin Entertainment/Fox 2000 Pictures/Participant Media/Reliance Entertainment/TSG Entertainment/Marc Platt Productions)

Chappie (Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Media Rights Capital/Simon Kinberg Productions/LStar Capital)

In the Heart of the Sea (Warner Bros./Village Roadshow Pictures/Imagine Entertainment/Spring Creek Productions)

Joy (Fox 2000/Annapurna Pictures/Davis Entertainment/TSG Entertainment)

Krampus (Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures)

Legend (Universal Pictures/Cross Creek Picures/Working Title Films)

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails (20th Century Fox/TSG Entertainment/Temple Hill Entertainment)

Run All Night (Warner Bros./RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Vertigo Entertainment)

Southpaw (The Weinstein Company/Escape Artists/Fuqua Films/Riche Productions)

Trainwreck (Universal Pictures/Apatow Productions/Denstu)

The Good Dinosaur (Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios)

The Night Before (Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/LStar Capital/Point Grey Pictures/Good Universe)

Victoria (Adopt Films/Radical Media/MonkeyBoy/Deutschfilm/Westdeutscher Rundunk)

 

 

Honorable Mentions

[Wild (Fox Searchlight/Pacific Standard)]

Wild is technically a 2014 film, but I didn’t watch until after I put out my list and the second week of January, but it’s such a great film to not mention on a best of lists.

 

A Most Violent Year (A24/Participant Media/Before The Door Pictures/FilmNation Entertainment)

Two of the best working today in Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain led this drama that is a one of those films that simply relies on the actors delivering and that is what A Most Violent Year does.

 

American Sniper (Warner Bros./Village Roadshow/RatPac-Dune Entertainment)

Clint Eastwood directed and Bradley Cooper-led film about the true story, well depending on who you ask, about one of most deadly snipers in Navy SEAL history Chris Kyle. The film is put on the shoulders of Cooper who handles it perfectly.

 

Black Mass (Warner Bros./RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Cross Creek Pictures/Free State Pictures/Head Gear Films)

While the film was just okay, it’s the performances that elevated the film enough for me to make Black Mass enough to pop in the list. Even if you didn’t like the film, you have to give credit to the awesome performance by Johnny Depp as James “Whitey” Bulger and Joel Edgerton.

 

Crimson Peak (Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures)

Being a huge fan of Guillermo del Toro, I was looking forward to watching Crimson Peak especially knowing how del Toro put into the film. Actually making Allerdale Hall and making actually come to life is what made Crimson Peak work so well.

 

Focus (Warner Bros./RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Zaftig Films/Kramer & Sigman Films)

Focus was rather surprising to me. The trailers really didn’t do too much for me and I thought the film looked rather boring to be honest. But, let this be a lesson boys and girls, sometimes a good or descent movie can have a crappy trailer. I did love the first half much more than the second half, especially with a standout scene that involves an unrecognizable BD Wong.

 

Goosebumps (Sony Pictures/Sony Pictures Animation/Village Roadshow Pictures/Columbia Pictures/LStar Capital/Original Film/Scholastic Entertainment)

I wasn’t really expecting much from Goosebumps, but I was highly surprised to how good it was and how much I thoroughly enjoyed it. It wasn’t just a fun family movie, it was just a fun movie all around.

 

Inherent Vice (Warner Bros./IAC Films/Ghoulardi Film Company/KVH Media Group)

Paul Thomas Anderson adapted Thomas Pynchon’s novel of the same name and it was, well, interesting. The crime comedy drama gave some standout performances by Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, and Katherine Waterston, but it is rather interesting story and how it plays out is all over the place.

 

It Follows (RADiUS-TWC/Animal Kingdom/Northern Lights Films/Two Flints)

I’d only heard some good things about It Follows before I actually watched the movie, and it is one of the rare cases that I didn’t watch the trailer and went in completely blind, so to speak, and I’m glad I did. It Follows felt like an old-school horror film that relied more on playing with your senses and paranoia than with gore and cheap thrills.

 

Pixels (Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Happy Madison Productions/1492 Pictures/China Film Co.)

I know, I can’t believe it either, but Pixels was damn enjoyable. I didn’t think I would like it to be honest, and while it wasn’t perfect and some things felt forced or just didn’t work (like some casting), Pixels was filled with great stuff and the heavily promoted Pac-Man chase was much more fun to experience as a whole sequences. Also, I was surprised by how the special effects worked and they didn’t cut corners.

 

Spotlight (Open Road Films/Participant Media/Anonymous Content)

Focusing of The Boston Globe when they uncovered the huge scandal of child molestation and the cover-up by the Catholic Church in Boston, the film was jam-packed with a great cast and equally great performances by the cast that highlighted by Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Brian d’Arcy James and Stanley Tucci. There was something so simple about the film, yet so special to experience.

 

Straight Outta Compton (Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures/New Line Cinema/Cube Vision/Circle of Confusion)

Straight Outta Compton surprised a lot of people and rightfully so as the film came out a lot better than what people were suspecting. Filled with great performances by Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre, O’Shea Jackson Jr. playing his father Ice Cube, Paul Giamatti as Jerry Heller, and the standout in Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E, the film is easily one of the best of the year, but honestly was a bit too long for my own liking, and I’m the last person to complain about a film’s length.

 

The Gift (STX Entertainment/Blumhouse Productions/Blue-Tongue Films/Huayi Brothers Media)

Joel Edgerton steps behind the camera for this one, making his feature directorial debut, but also playing one of three main characters in the film. The Gift may be one of the overlooked films of the year, but the film does have some great moments of suspense and mystery and an ending that I didn’t see coming.

 

Sicario (Lionsgate/Black Label Media/Thunder Road Pictures)

Director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins put together this great tense, dark and unapologetic film about the war on drugs on the border between the U.S and Mexico. However, the standout in Sicario was definitely Benicio Del Toro.

 

Spectre (Columbia Pictures/MGM/Eon Productions/B24/Danjaq)

In what could be Daniel Craig’s last James Bond film, and director Sam Mendes’ last one as well, Spectre has a lot of things working for it, but it did fail to really capitalize on what Skyfall did before it.

 

Steve Jobs (Universal Pictures/Legendary/Scott Rudin Productions/The Mark Gordon Company)

Danny Boyle directed this interestingly laid out biopic about former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, played by Michael Fassbender. The film is blocked off in three different parts, set right before the launch presentations of three different products Jobs was a part of (none of which were the IPhone’s and IPods by the way). While the film lost some steam by the end, the performances made the film worthwhile, especially a standout scene between Fassbender and Jeff Daniels in the middle of the film.

 

The Big Short (Paramount Pictures/Regency Enterprises/Plan B Entertainment)

Tackling the housing and financial crisis in 2005 to 2007, The Big Short is filled with great performances by its ensemble cast and directed by Adam McKay – yes, that Adam McKay – the film really puts you in there. Sometimes, it gets a little too technical that you feel like you’re going crazy and lost, but that’s kind of the point.

 

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Warner Bros./RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Wilgram Productions/Davis Entertainment)

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. could have been a movie that got lost at the wayside, and while some will say that’s true, Guy Ritchie’s spy film worked on a lot of levels for me. It had some great and funny moments and the opening action scene and last chase scene were great fun to watch along with the performances by Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, and Alicia Vikander.

 

 

Best/Favorite Movies of the Year

Ant-Man (Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Motion Pictures)

Ant-Man has gone through a lot. Originally it was going to be part of Marvel’s Phase 1, but got pushed back until now. Then it took a big hit in losing long-time attached director and fan in Edgar Wright. However, Peyton Reed and the cast were able to still bring a great Marvel film to the fans.

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron (Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios)

Even I can admit that Age of Ultron wasn’t perfect, but there was still a ton of to be had with the massive sequel. Joss Whedon was able to keep most of the craziness from going off the rails and let’s face it, Age of Ultron was probably one of the most comic book-y movies we’ve seen.

 

Brooklyn (Fox Searchlight Pictures/Wildgaze Films/Parallel Film Productions/Irish Film Board/Item 7)

A great film – also based on a novel – that tells the story of an Irish immigrant played by Saoirse Ronan that comes to America and finds love and a new life, but her past and love for her former home comes back to her, which leaves her to make a decision to accept her new life, or old one. I ended up loving this film more than I thought I would. It’s a beautiful story and told in such a way that anybody can connect with it.

 

Creed (Warner Bros./New Line Cinema/MGM/Chartoff-Winkler Productions)

Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone’s performances in Creed are one of the best aspects of the film. The film wasn’t a cheap way to get to make more films with Rocky Balboa, the film was treated with respect to the films that came before, but was also a great standalone film.

 

Dope (Open Road Films/Forest Whitaker’s Significant Productions/IamOTHER Entertainment/Revolt Films)

I didn’t really expect much from Dope, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well handled the film was and the great performance by breakout star, Shameik Moore. It’s one of films that keeps you on your feet with comedy and big dramatic moments.

 

Ex Machina (A24/Universal Pictures/DNA Films/Film4)

Alex Garland, the writer of films like 28 Days Later, Sunshine, and Dredd, finally steps behind the camera and what a way to make his debut. Garland tackled A.I. in a different take and the way they approach the story and theme was great to see unravel. Plus, Ex Machina has great performances by Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac, but an even better one by a standout performance (maybe of the year) by Alicia Vikander.

 

Furious 7 (Universal Pictures/Original Film/Media Rights Capital/One Race Film, Dentsu/Original Film)

James Wan stepped into some big shoes replacing Justin Lin, and while mostly known for his horror films, Wan completely fit into the world. Furious 7 also had some troubles along the way and felt more powerful for some with of course the death of Paul Walker during production. The film paid nice tribute to Walker and the character at the end of the film.

 

Inside Out (Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios)

Damn you, Pixar! How is it that one studio has their hands on all of your pulses and always find a way to make us either cry or tear up? I haven’t decided where Inside Out falls on my favorite Pixar films list, but it’s definitely up there. I mean, they made a movie about feelings. FEELINGS!

 

Jurassic World (Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures/Amblin Entertainment)

Let’s face it, this probably shouldn’t have worked, and while some will think that it didn’t, I thought Jurassic World worked at just the right amount of levels for me to thoroughly enjoy it. Also, what’s not to love about seeing giant dinosaurs back on the big screen?

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service (20th Century Fox/Marv Films/TSG Entertainment/Cloudy Productions)

Kingsman: The Secret Service is definitely one of the biggest surprises of the year, and probably surpassed many people’s preconceived notions of the film. I mean any movie that can make Colin Firth into a badass spy should work right? Also Sofia Boutella’s Gazelle was probably one of the coolest villains of the year. But for me, what made Kingsman a standout was the awesome and chaotic church fight scene. Seriously, that scene was a thing of beauty.

 

Macbeth (The Weinstein Company/DMC Film/See-Saw Films)

Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard absolutely nail down the performances of arguably one of the most well-known literary figures and plays. Justin Kurzel brings a fresh, dark, gritty, and visually compelling adaptation and different approach to William Shakespeare’s play. Macbeth is one of those films that probably won’t grab you at first, but hits you very later on.

 

Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros./Village Roadshow Pictures/Kennedy Miller Productions)

What a lovely day, indeed! Mad Max: Fury Road was essentially one long chase scene and while it did slow down a bit – rightly so – I freaking loved every minute of it. The impressive action sequences, the score, and the two main leads of Hardy as Max and Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa. Definitely one of the best films of the year and probably one of, if not, the best action film of the year.

 

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (Fox Searchlight Pictures/Indian Paintbrush)

Based on the novel of the same name, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a film that hit me hard. I loved the book and I loved what they did in the film. They were able to recreate some of humor and managed to keep the spirit of the novel, but also do their own thing which was great to watch. It’s definitely one of the best dramas of the year.

 

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Paramount Pictures/Bad Robot/Skydance Productions/TC Productions)

2015 was a good year for spy films, and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation may have been one of the best of the year. Like the Fast & Furious films, it’s a little hard to believe that the Mission: Impossible films keep getting better with every passing installment. Tom Cruise still feels like he’s on top of his game and with a standout performance by Rebecca Ferguson, Rogue Nation ups the ante on the series.

 

Room (A24/Element Pictures/No Trace Camping/Film4)

Room might be one of the best dramas of the year and one that came out of nowhere. Two of the best performances of the year go to stars Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, who give heartbreaking and heartwarming performances in a film that isn’t always easy to watch. Do yourself a favor and watch this as soon as possible.

 

Spy (20th Century Fox/Feigco Entertainment/Chernin Entertainment)

Melissa McCarthy had some misfires going on there, but thankfully she came back to form with Paul Feig – of all people – with this awesome take on the spy genre. Melissa McCarthy is as funny as ever and Jason Statham gives a gut-busting performance

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Walt Disney Studios/Lucasfilm/Bad Robot/Truenorth Productions)

Out of all the movies that came out this year, this one was the most unpredictable. It could have been great or it could have been bad. Thankfully, J.J. Abrams put on a hell of a movie that makes a great addition to the Star Wars franchise. The new characters were great, the movie was a ton of fun to watch, and more importantly it was just fun.

 

The Final Girls (Stage 6 Films/Groundswell Productions/Vertical Entertainment/Ulterior Productions)

I honestly didn’t think I would have loved The Final Girls as much as I did. I thought the meta horror comedy would have some great moments, and while it does, it was the other big story in the film between Max (Taissa Farmiga) and Nancy/Amanda (Malin Akerman) that really stuck out and got to me. I didn’t imagine that I’d get emotionally invested in a horror comedy, but lo and behold I did.

 

The Peanuts Movie (20th Century Fox/Blue Sky Studios/Feigco Entertainment)

Yet another film that probably shouldn’t have worked and people had their preconceived notions on it, but The Peanuts Movie was damn enjoyable. Sure it wasn’t done in the traditional style that we all know and love, but the film didn’t add any pop culture references or pop songs. It stayed true to its roots and reminded you why you love Charlie Brown and the whole Peanuts gang.

 

The Hateful Eight (The Weinstein Company)

While the final product is still a little iffy for me, one of the reason The Hateful Eight is on the list is for the characters, setting, and production design. The cabin – Minnie’s Haberdashery – was a great looking aspect to the film and just a confined space for all these characters that it elevated the film much more. As for the characters, Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Walton Goggins are the highlights of the film that keep the slow burn mystery drama film in tact.

 

The Martian (20th Century Fox/Scott Free Productions/Genre Films/Mid Atlantic Films)

Based on the novel of the same name, The Martian was every bit as good as the novel, and maybe even more. Matt Damon is tremendous as the lead and Ridley Scott was able to make us feel like we were really on Mars and we can really sense the dread that Damon’s Mark Watney felt, but there was also beauty behind everything that was being filmed.

 

So what are some of your favorite films of 2015?

Here’s to another great year in films!

Favorite/Standout Action Sequences, Genres, and Special Effects

This is a continuation of my Favorite/Standouts of the Year, this time focusing more on the genre side of things and my favorite/standout fights and action sequences and special effects.

 

Fight/Action Sequence

Ant-Man: Ant-Man vs. Falcon & Ant-Man vs. Yellowjacket (Cassie’s Bedroom)

A nice early preview of what we could see in Captain America: Civil War, and it was great to watch. It was actually a rather nice to surprise to see the scene play out and it was a ton of fun. Ant-Man was a great movie, but having this scene in there, was pretty damn cool. As for the Cassie bedroom fight, let’s face it: That was one of the funniest, goofy and action-packed scenes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron: Hulkbuster vs. Hulk & Hydra Base Siege

This was teased for a while, and every fan knew it was coming eventually. So when it finally happened, it was like it was ripped out of the comic books. The two literally tried to beat the crap out of each and in true Marvel fashion, there was some inject humor.  As for the base siege which opens the movie, it is arguably, one of the best openings and action scenes that Marvel has done – with the expectation of Captain America: The Winter Soldier – and it involves all of our heroes. The scene has it all; humor, great moments, and in that great shot of all the Avengers leaping into battle.

 

Creed: Adonis Johnson-Creed vs. Leo ‘The Lion’ Sporino

There was something about how the scene was structured and filmed by director Ryan Coogler that made this boxing match in Creed more of a standout than the final match. The way Coogler shot and framed the scene really made you feel that you were part of the match, and you saw the viewpoint of each character which made it even more special.

 

Jupiter Ascending: Chicago Chase

While Jupiter Ascending wasn’t all that great of a movie, it at least gave us one good thing: A great action sequence right here in Chicago.

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service: Harry Hart/Galahad vs. Church Congregation

This may be not just my favorite fight sequence of the year, but may join my favorite fight sequences list ever. Colin Firth may not be on everyone’s list for playing a badass character, but this definitely had to silence doubters. Of course we have to give credits to the stunt team, director Matthew Vaughn and cinematographer George Richmond for putting together the scene.

 

Furious 7: Deckard vs. Hobbs, Ramsey Rescue & Deckard vs. Dom

First, It’s like a dream match come true: Jason Statham vs. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. And holy hell was it brutal and fun to watch. Second, Ramsey’s (Nathalie Emmanuel) rescue happens a little before the mid-point of the movie and was heavily promoted in the ads. But, nothing comes close to the actual scene which plays out a little more than we thought. Overall, the scene is great. Finally, the whole movie builds up to this fight between Deckard (Jason Statham) and Dom (Vin Diesel) and when they finally meet, you can tell it’s going to come down to the last man standing. It’s not as good as Deckard vs. Hobbs, but the intensity is still there.

 

Jurassic World: Indominus Rex vs. T. Rex and Blue

This was like a kid’s dream come true. Hell, it was probably even mine. I don’t even know what else to say because, well, just look at it!

 

Kung Fu Killer: Hahou Mo vs. Fung Yu-Sau

Kung Fu Killer might have not gotten a wide release, but any chance I can see Donnie Yen on the big screen, I’m going to take it! The movie was filled with great fight sequences –no surprise with Yen involved – but it was the final fight in the movie that I picked because the fight had some high stakes to it and the final build up made the fight really great to watch.

 

Macbeth: Macbeth vs. Macduff

This was a short, brutal and visually fascinating scene to watch. Felt like watching a moving picture at times. I loved the aesthetic that director Justin Kurzel chose to go with for the scene.

 

Mad Max: Fury Road: Imperator Furiosa vs. Max Rockatansky & The Rig Escapes The Biker Gang

It’s almost hard to even choose a favorite action sequence in Mad Max: Fury Road, only because all of them have their awesome moments and the whole movie feels like an extended action sequence. But these two are definitely two that stood out to me. The fight between Furiosa and Max was hard hitting, vicious, knockdown drag out that totally fits into the movie and shows how tough Furiosa really is. The escape scene works on a number reasons, it shows the trust that Max and Furiosa finally get and the amazing score by Junkie XL elevates the scene even more.

 

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation: Car and Motorcycle Chase

One of the best parts for me in Rogue Nation was definitely the somewhat promoted action scene that involved a pretty lengthy chase that involved Ethan (Cruise), chasing down Ilsa (Ferguson) and Syndicate henchman. There was also something that McQuarrie didn’t use a real score and instead used the sound of motorcycles and cars instead.

 

Pixels: Pac-Man Chase

Despite what many people think about the film – it’s not perfect even I know that – Pixels had its moments and the full chase scene of the main characters and Pac-Man was a ton of fun to watch.

 

Sicario: Border Shootout

Sicario is one of those rare films that is unapologetic and, arguably, brutally honest about its subject matter. It’s also one of the most tense films I’ve seen in a long while and nothing is probably more tense than being stuck on the border between Mexico and the United States during a drug war. The scene bought out those feelings of not only being trapped, but having your options limited and trying to find the best way to get home.

 

Spectre: Bond vs. Mr. Hinx & Mexico City Opening

I love a great intense and hard hitting fight scene, and that’s exactly what we got in this fight between Daniel Craig’s James Bond and Dave Bautista’s Mr. Hinx. The henchman role felt tailor-made for Bautista especially seeing that fight scene. As for the opening scene that takes place in Mexico City during a Day of the Dead celebration, it is one of the best openings I’ve ever seen and one of the best one-continuous-take scenes I’ve ever seen.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Kylo Ren vs. Finn and Rey & Finn

It wouldn’t be a Star Wars movie without a lightsaber duel to end it. The Force Awakens is no different. The separate duels between Finn and Rey have different meanings. Both are done out of survival and revenge, but both of them have different meanings to each character. Finn is doing it because he’s finally fulfilling the hero role, and Rey is reaching her true potential.

 

Tomorrowland: Athena vs. Hugo and Ursula

Tomorrowland may have highlighted the house escape of Clooney and Robertson’s characters, but the highlight action sequence for me was Athena showing off what she can do for the first time. It was also a lot of fun to watch the scene in the surrounding it was in.

 

 

Honorable Mention

American Ultra: Mike vs. Laugher

Avengers: Age of Ultron: Sokovia Battle

Creed: Adonis Johnson-Creed vs. ‘Pretty’ Rick Conlan

Kingsman: The Secret Service: Harry Hart/Galahad vs. Thugs (Bar)

Run All Night: Jimmy vs. Price

Sicario: Alejandro Goes Solo

Ted 2: Comic Con Fight

Terminator Genisys: Guardian vs. T-800

The Man from U.N.C.L.E: Napoleon and Illya Chase Alexander & Napoleon and Gaby Escape Illya

Tomorrowland: Casey and Frank Home Escape

 

 

GENRES

Action

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Even with some of it, arguably most of it, being CGI, some of the action sequences were top notch and the beginning base siege was a ton of fun to watch.

 

Furious 7

The Fast & Furious franchise is priding itself on upping the ante on their action and Furious 7 did just that. Although, it hard to get any bigger than bringing down a big ass plane and then shooting a car out of it, but hey, the next big thing would probably be a car jumping from building to building and cars skydiving out of a jumbo plane.

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Probably one of the biggest surprises of the year, Kingsman: The Secret Service not just delivered on doing a great spy film, but also a action great film. Because let’s face it, that church scene was damn awesome.

 

Mad Max: Fury Road

I’d have to say hands down, Mad Max: Fury Road is the best action film of the year. The whole film is one long chase scene that almost never lets up and when it does it always comes back in full force. If I just wanted to pick one movie to be the best action film of the year, it goes to Fury Road. 

 

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Yet another film that is priding itself on upping the ante with every installment, Rogue Nation literally gives it to us right at the beginning with Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt hanging off a plane as it goes up in the air. You can’t get crazier than that right? RIGHT?

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has the right amount of action, and it’s action that’s a ton of fun to watch. The lightsaber duos had me riled up and the X-Wing flights where just great.

 

 

Honorable Mentions

American Ultra

Kung Fu Killer

The Gunman

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

 

 

Horror

It Follows

It Follows was a nice throwback in terms of story and tone. It doesn’t go for the easy gore and nudity tropes, although there those things in the film, it’s actually tied in to the primary story. The film is a slow burn and plays with your paranoia and makes you uneasy while watching. Also, the “monster” is so simple, along with the film that it is pretty cool to experience.

 

Krampus

I had a lot of fun watching Krampus and while it was sluggish at time, there was a lot more to it than I originally thought. What made the film work for me was definitely the fact that they went with practical effects and puppetry for the creatures that visually made them more terrifying.

 

The Final Girls

The Final Girls is a nice balance of comedy, drama, and horror, but the meta-horror elements isn’t even the main basis of the film, but are still great to watch the horror elements, especially considering how they handled it.

 

 

Honorable Mention

Insidious: Chapter 3

 

 

Comedy

Dope

Dope worked as both a drama and comedy coming-of-age film, but the film was one of the best comedic films I’ve experienced this year.

 

Inherent Vice

The film could be also labeled as a crime drama, but there was something more about the humor that makes this film special. The comedy was one of the only real things I understood about the film when I was first watched it. Not because the film has a weird or crappy structure, but because it was so weird.

 

Spy

Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy returned to form with Spy, a nice twist on the spy genre and didn’t rely on fat jokes that some films McCarthy has done in the past. Instead the film lets her actually show off her comedic and acting chops. However, the rest of the cast also steal the show, especially Jason Statham.

 

The Night Before

This could have easily been a forgetful comedy that happens to take place on Christmas Eve, but The Night Before was a little more than that. The film was done to bone a story about three friends – that treat themselves as family – and the bond that real friends go through. The comedy really had its moments and this is coming from a guy that is starting to grow on Seth Rogen.

 

 

Honorable Mentions

Goosebumps

Ted 2

The Final Girls

Trainwreck

 

 

 

Animated

Inside Out

Oh Pixar, how is it that you always find a way of making us tear up, cry and warm our hearts? You did it again with Inside Out. The supposed “I guess they ran out of ideas” film sure had a lot of heart and heartwarming and breaking moments that left me wanting more and satisfied at the same time.

 

The Peanuts Movie

I’m not going to lie, this film probably shouldn’t have worked, but it really did. The Peanuts Movie stayed true to its roots and didn’t try to add anything new or ruin what fans loved from the original. Kudos to them for sticking to their guns and keeping what everyone loves about Charlie Brown and the gang.

 

Honorable Mention

The Good Dinosaur

 

 

 

Drama

American Sniper

Clint Eastwood’s biopic drama about Chris Kyle was meant with some mixed reactions over the fact of “is all or any of this true?” Despite all that, American Sniper worked best when it focused on the characters themselves and what they go through, and Bradley Cooper does a tremendous job of doing that.

 

Brooklyn

Brooklyn is one of those films that everyone will connect to in some way. It’s a coming-of-age story, a love story, and a story about being an outsider in a new environment and wanting nothing but to go back home. It’s a touching story that I loved watching and experiencing.

 

Creed

Creed is every bit as good as the original Rocky, but it’s also its own standalone story about someone wanting to break out on their own and not trying to completely live up to someone’s legacy. The film worked even better with the performances of Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone. Any time they are together the film works better.

 

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

I read the book this was based on and when I saw the film, I couldn’t believe they captured the same spirit, heart and humor but was also able to turn the dial and make it even more stronger. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl isn’t the easiest movie to sit through – it does have Dying Girl in the title after all – but it truly is one of the best films of the year and one of the best dramas and indies of the year.

 

Room

Definitely one of the best dramas of the year, and one of the hardest to sit through Room also gives two of the best performances of the year by Brie Larson and newcomer Jacob Tremblay. The film follows the two as they escape the room they were trapped in for years and Jack (Tremblay) sees the outside world for the first time. It’s one of the most touching and heartbreaking films all at once.

 

Sicario

Sicario is one of those rare films that isn’t afraid to go to places that normally other films water down. It is definitely an unapologetic, gritty and raw look on the war on drugs between the U.S and the border of Mexico. The film is only stronger thanks to the performances, especially Benicio Del Toro.

 

Spotlight

This is straightforward filmmaking at its finest, and I say that it the best way possible. Spotlight is filled with great performances and tremendous cast that easily makes it an Oscar favorite and thankfully it’s great even if it wasn’t.

 

Steve Jobs

The story of Steve Jobs – in real life – is definitely a dramatic one. Thankfully, the film brings some of that in, but instead focusing more on the actual man himself. Michael Fassbender brings the right amount of cockiness, ignorance, genius, and humanity to the character that people will love or hate.

 

Straight Outta Compton

While Straight Outta Compton loses a lot of its great steam by the end, the film was a great experience to watch. Seeing the lives and rise of one of the most popular groups in music, especially with the cast they put together makes Straight Outta Compton a huge surprising hit.

 

The Big Short 

Nothing says drama like a true story about the housing and financial crisis in 2005 to 2007. It’s one of those movies that if you really paid attention to everything that happened back then, you appreciate it more. If not, then you’ll feel a little lost, but that’s find of the point.

 

The Martian

The Martian is undoubtedly a drama in terms that it’s about a man stuck on Mars…by himself.  You can’t really get more dramatic than that right?

 

Honorable Mentions

A Most Violent Year

Black Mass

Everest

In the Heart of the Sea

Southpaw

The Gift

The Hateful Eight

(Wild)

 

 

Special Effects

Ant-Man

Marvel’s Ant-Man has had a long road, but it finally got made and damn was it great to watch. The special effects are what really made this special too. The shrinking effect and the swarm of ants was really cool watch onscreen. There was one particular scene that involved Ant-Man running in model of the building that I think was a combination of special effects and physical (I’m not sure), but it sure as hell looked awesome.

 

Chappie

Director Neill Blomkamp has always been known for his visual work and Chappie is no different. The film harkens back to his District 9 effects given the fact the main character is a robot – with the motion capture done by Sharlto Copley – but there was something about Chappie that made him feel real and part of the story.

 

Crimson Peak

Leave it to Guillermo del Toro to show off some creepy special effects. Although Crimson Peak was more a gothic romance rather than a horror film – it was advertised as a horror film – the film still had strong visuals that only del Toro would ever think of pulling off, not only that he actually built the set they were working on.

 

Ex Machina

Chappie wasn’t the only robot of the big screen this year, Alex Garland’s directorial debut featured one of the best performances of the year by Alicia Vikander, and one of the most tension-filled  final acts I’ve seen. It’s also one of those films about A.I that will make you think “yeah, maybe we shouldn’t do that.”

 

Jurassic World

It’s been a while since we’ve seen some great looking dinosaurs on the big screen, and what better way to bring them back than a Jurassic Park movie. While the film decided to go more CGI than the original, there were moments of some good old fashion practical effects that bought the specialness of what made the original film so great.

 

Pixels

Pixels was a surprise for me in a lot of ways. No, it wasn’t the best movie out there, but I sure had a ton of fun watching it and was better than I thought it would be. One of the things I was really surprised at was the special effects and how well they really looked. The Pac-Man chase down New York was amazing to watch on the big screen and the finale was a grand showing of all these old-school video gaming.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I feel like The Force Awakens can also get credit for having the best practical effects as well because it has a great balance of the two type of effects and makes them work for the film instead of against it.

 

 

Honorable Mentions

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Goosebumps

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails

Tomorrowland

(The Good Dinosaur)

Favorite/Standout Directors, Lead and Supporting Actors, & Villains

I did this last year and I figured I should keep doing it, because, well, why not? Here I’ll take my favorite and standout individuals from directors, lead actors and actress, supporting actors and actresses and villains. We all have our favorites, and these are mine. This is of course my opinion. I tried to shorten the list as much as I could, but like last year, it was a bit too hard so I left the lists as such.

Also, villains are considered Supporting Actors in other lists and some actresses who are considered Supporting Actresses in some might pop up as Lead Actresses if they have the efficient enough screen time and or are the only real female character in the film. Also it helps make the lists shorter, I want the villains to have their own category, because everyone loves a good villain right?

Finally, everything and everyone will be in alphabetical order. This is also part one of two different lists, with the other being “Genre, Action/Fight Sequences and Special Effects”. Enjoy.

 

Directors

Alex Garland – Ex Machina

Alex Garland is a well-known writer in Hollywood with films like 28 Days Later, its sequel, Sunshine and wrote the fan-favorite Dredd remake.  So it was nice to finally see Garland step behind the camera and direct this great sci-fi film about Artificial Intelligence. It also helped that he got great leads in Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, and a standout performance by Alicia Vikander. This film made excited to what he does next, which happens to be Annihilation.

 

Christopher McQuarrie – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

The Mission: Impossible films have always been a steady franchise, with the films somehow outdoing themselves and managing to still have great characters, story and action. McQuarrie adds another great addition of the franchise with some great sequences and solid performances to add to the strength of a franchise that doesn’t look to stop.

 

Colin Trevorrow – Jurassic World

Trevorrow did what very little people want to do in Hollywood: Do another Jurassic Park movie. However, Trevorrow did manage to create something that the other Jurassic Park sequels missed, a sense of wonderment and terror. Trevorrow is also pretty new to the scene so getting young blood to tackle an established and loved franchise was a great move by Universal Pictures and Legendary Pictures.

 

George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road

George Miller returned to the Mad Max world nearly thirty years after Beyond Thunderdome. But, Miller didn’t lose his step and created, again, a great world of crazy looking cars, weird-named characters, and awesome car/action sequences. Oh what a lovely day it was. Definitely one of, it not, the best action film of the year.

 

Guillermo del Toro – Crimson Peak

Guillermo del Toro has been one of my favorite directors since I first watched Hellboy (the first movie of his I saw), and since then del Toro has proven himself to everyone that he is one of the best visionary and visual directors in Hollywood. Crimson Peak does bring him back to the form of Pan’s Labyrinth and even some The Devil’s Backbone, but Crimson Peak is a whole other animal and del Toro managed to bring to life a beautiful, dark and twisted gothic love story.

 

James Wan – Furious 7

Wan mostly known as a horror director – with the exception Death Sentence, which had some horror elements – fills in the big shoes of director Justin Lin, who pretty much rejuvenated the franchise. Wan did a great job with the already huge established cast and characters, and managed to keep bringing the intensity and all-out mayhem that the franchise is known for. Of course, it wasn’t all easy. Wan had to deal with the tragic and unfortunate death of star Paul Walker, but made a beautiful tribute to the actor and character at the end of the film. Wan finished directing The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist and will direct Aquaman next.

 

J.J. Abrams – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

If there was ever any doubt that J.J. Abrams would “mess” up Star Wars. He proved everyone wrong with The Force Awakens. Abrams embraced the future of the franchise and didn’t lean too much on the past films, and was able to bring some fresh, exciting and new.

 

Joss Whedon – Avengers: Age of Ultron

Joss Whedon did the impressive feat in bringing one of the most popular and biggest teams in comic book history to the big screen with The Avengers. So it was only fair that Whedon came back and made the film and characters bigger than before. The movie did have a lot going on, but Whedon bought his nerdy and quick-wit to the film that all comic book and Whedon fans can enjoy. Was it the greatest film, no, but it was still great to see.

 

Justin Kurzel – Macbeth

Directing a Shakespearian play film adaptation is a bit hard for a few reasons. Do you go with a straightforward iteration, a “modernize” take, or a blend of both? Kurzel decides to take a straightforward approach, but make is an atmospheric, gritty and visually artistic take on Macbeth filled with great performances by Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.

 

Matthew Vaughn – Kingsman: The Secret Service

Matthew Vaughn pretty much made his own James Bond movie, with some injected humor and self-referencing to the genre. Vaughn really turned this graphic novel adaptation into something special and something I’m sure not many people, including myself, didn’t see coming, but welcomed it. Vaughn will direct I Am Pilgrim next.

 

Peyton Reed – Ant-Man

Peyton Reed had some big shoes to fill when long time writer and director of this adaptation, Edgar Wright, left the project right before the movie was about to start shooting. Many were worried about how the film would turn out and if Wright’s absents would affect the film, but we should know by now that we can always trust Marvel. Reed may have used some of the original script that was co-written by Wright, but he bought his own vision as well and managed to create not only a good comic book movie, but a great action family drama film.

 

Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight

As much as I don’t like how Tarantino acts about himself sometimes, I can never take, nor will take, anything away from his talent as a director. He can clearly handle himself with a big and star-studded cast, and The Hateful Eight is no different. Tarantino takes a much more condense setting and fills it with, well, hateful and untrusting characters before it all blows to hell.

 

Ridley Scott – The Martian

Some, okay many, would argue that Scott has been in a slump recently, and some felt that The Martian could be his way back to the director that many fell in love with. Lucky for us, the film was that indeed. Scott managed to balance the film out and bring some of the great aspects of the novel to the big screen. Let’s hope he keeps the ball rolling.

 

Ryan Coogler – Creed

Ryan Coogler could have really messed this up, but what Coogler did with Creed was nothing short of greatness. Creed pays a lot of respect and homage to the original but Coogler also made his own film that works as a continuation but also a standalone film.

 

Honorable Mentions

Adam McKay – The Big Short

Danny Boyle – Steve Jobs

Denis Villeneuve – Sicario

David Robert Mitchell – It Follows

F. Gary Gray – Straight Outta Compton

Joel Edgerton – The Gift

Sebastian Schipper – Victoria

Todd Strauss-Schulson – The Final Girls

 

 

Actors

Benicio Del Toro as Alejandro – Sicario

Benicio Del Toro is one of those actors that has always given awesome and consistent performances, but also seems to be underappreciated and overlooked, which is a shame. However, Del Toro seems to be enjoying more of limelight recently with roles like The Collector in Guardians of the Galaxy, and this role in Sicario. Del Toro is absolutely great in this and honestly give one of the best performances of the year.

 

Colin Firth as Harry Hart/Galahad – Kingsman: The Secret Service

Let’s face it, Colin Firth is probably one of the last people you’d thought you see play an action hero. Well, surprise, because Firth totally nailed the James Bond-like action badass character and if not then you have to watch the church scene again.

 

Harrison Ford as Han Solo – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Harrison Ford showed up! Ford doesn’t phone it in and looked like he enjoyed himself playing one of his biggest characters. Ford didn’t lose a step playing Han Solo and seeing him around the new cast of characters was awesome to experience.

 

Jacob Tremblay as Jack – Room

Kid characters are always hit-and-miss. Sometimes they come off as annoying or too smart for their own good. Other times they come off as genuine and give a great performance, thankfully Jacob Tremblay as Jack in Room falls in the latter. There was something so naïve and touching about Tremblay playing a kid that essentially grew up in a room and knows nothing about the outside world. It adds even more to the performance that he holds his own and even steals scenes from his co-star Brie Larson. Take note of Jacob Tremblay’s name, because this kid has a future.

 

Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E – Straight Outta Compton

Jason Mitchell became a household name after his terrific performances and easily one of the best ones of the year playing famous hip hop and rap star Eazy-E in Straight Outta Compton. Mitchell really embodied Eazy-E and bought every emotion to the forefront and was able to hold his own and steal scenes from Paul Giamatti.

 

Johnny Depp as James ‘Whitey’ Bulger – Black Mass

I’m not the biggest fan of Johnny Depp, the crazy-wacky character actor (although I enjoyed Jack Sparrow in the early films). I like Johnny Depp, the serious character actor. Depp’s performance as famous mobster James “Whitey” Bulger was equally terrifying and fantastic to watch unfold. The film was a bit unbalanced, but Depp made the film completely worthwhile.

 

Kurt Russell as John Ruth & Samuel L. Jackson as Major Marquis Warren – The Hateful Eight

At this point, Samuel L. Jackson and Quentin Tarantino are a pair that could, potentially, not do any wrong. Thankfully, The Hateful Eight continues the string of great Tarantino/Jackson characters. With great, memorable and quotable lines that are said in the almost iconic way that only Samuel L. Jackson can deliver, Major Warren, was one of the best characters in the film. As for Kurt Russell, the mustache alone gets him a spot on the list, but it’s the chemistry he has with Jackson that opens up the film is what really makes John “The Hangman” Ruth really shine.

 

Matt Damon as Mark Watney – The Martian

Matt Damon is always reliable and his performance in The Martian was no different. His Mark Watney was equal parts funny and tragic character that gets stranded on Mars when his team thinks he’s dead. The resolve of his character is extraordinary and Damon was able to bring the character to life in such a way that only Damon could.

 

Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson – Creed

If Michael B. Jordan wasn’t a household name, he is now. Jordan’s portrayal of Adonis Johnson, aka the son of Apollo Creed, is one of those performances we can connect to in our own way and one that probably doesn’t seem like much at first, but eventually you’ll see the nuances in the performance after.

 

Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs – Steve Jobs & as Macbeth – Macbeth

Michael Fassbender tackled one of biggest individuals in history and one that changed the way the world is today. What Fassbender was able to emulate in three different times of Steve Jobs’ life was great to watch. But, if I had to pick, I think his Macbeth was his better characters of the year. He plays Macbeth as the tragic figure I’d always imagined him being and the intensity he was able to bring was so great to watch.

 

Shameik Moore as Malcolm – Dope

In what is easily his breakout performance, Moore is definitely someone to look out for in the future. He’s already signed on to star in the Netflix show The Get Down, and if does anything as close to what he does in Dope, then I’ll be watching.

 

Thomas Mann as Greg – Me and Early and the Dying Girl

Mann surprised me here. I’ve only seen him in one other thing, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, which I forgot he was in until I looked it up and remembered who he played. However, he’s come a long way from that. His character in the book adaptation of a new favorite book of mine is great. The build of his arch to the end is fantastic to watch and I can’t wait to see what he does in the future.

 

Tom Hardy as Ronald Kray/Reggie Kray – Legend

Not everyone can pull off playing duo roles, but Tom Hardy managed to pull it off, and not just any two people either, but real-life gangsters Ronald and Reggie Kray from London. Hardy was able to play the twins rather well and give them their own personality to the point that you knew forgot which one was which.

 

Steve Carell as Mark Baum – The Big Short

Steve Carell has slowly been moving to more dramatic roles it feels like, and they are great. He continues with Mark Baum in The Big Short. His character has his own special and personal arch that leads to a heartbreaking scene that is done so well.

 

Honorable Mentions

Arnold Schwarzenegger as Guardian/Pops/T-800 – Terminator Genisys

Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle – American Sniper

Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre & O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Ice Cube – Straight Outta Compton

Daniel Craig as James Bond – Spectre

Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo & Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin – The Man from U.N.C.L.E

Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope – Southpaw

Joel Edgerton as John Connolly – Black Mass & as Gordo – The Gift

John Boyega as Finn – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Mark Ruffalo as Mike Rezendes – Spotlight

Oscar Issac as Nathan – Ex Machina

Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man – Ant-Man

Sharlto Copley as Chappie – Chappie

Taron Egerton as Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin – Kingsman: The Secret Service*

Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky – Mad Max: Fury Road

 

 

Actress

Alicia Vikander as Ava – Ex Machina

Alicia Vikander, yet again, is someone you should look out for in the future. Her performance as Ava, a robot with Artificial Intelligence, is a standout performance and not just the best female performance of the year, but one of the best performances of the year, period.

 

Amy Poehler as Joy (voice) & Phyllis Smith as Sadness (voice) – Inside Out

Poehler and Smith get one credit because they worked so perfectly off each other it made Inside Out work so much better. Their characters are so different and their adventure was done wonderfully that I couldn’t help but fall in love with them, especially Sadness.

 

Brie Larson as Ma/Joy – Room

Brie Larson has been in Hollywood for a few years, but it seems like her star has rising within the last few years with films like Short Term 12, 21 Jump Street, and Don Jon (also as Envy Adams in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), but it was Trainwreck that probably put her front and center by playing Amy Schumer’s sister in the film. However, if you haven’t seen Larson in anything I’d recommend starting with this. Larson gives a great and heartbreaking performance as Ma and while her co-star Jacob Trembley steals the film, Larson’s performance is equally as great.

 

Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa – Mad Max: Fury Road

To say that Theron’s awesome performance in Mad Max was a standout would be an understatement. The movie may be called Mad Max, but make no mistake, Fury Road belonged to Theron’s Imperator Furiosa. She bought the right level of badass-ness, vulnerability, and leadership. I’d follow Furiosa into battle anytime.

 

Daisy Ridley as Rey – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I don’t know where Disney, Lucasfilm and J.J. Abrams found Daisy Ridley, but thank you. Ridley does fantastic as Rey giving us a great well-rounded female character. I can’t wait to see what Rey brings to the new trilogy and what Ridley brings next in her career.

 

Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue – The Hateful Eight

It’s been a while since I’ve actually seen anything Jennifer Jason Leigh has been in, and now I feel a bit ashamed, because she was great in this. While her character sometimes hides behind and could get lost in the shuffle of the other characters, anytime she stands out is great. More specifically, there is a scene in the middle of the film that involves her singing which is just mesmerizing.

 

Jennifer Lawrence as Joy – Joy

Jennifer Lawrence is pretty much always reliable, and she continues here with her third film with David O. Russell. Although Joy is a mixed bag, Lawrence is what holds the film together as a single mother trying to get her invention – the miracle mop – to become a huge success she knows it can be, but she’s also dealing with the craziness of her family.

 

Jessica Chastain as Anna Morales – A Most Violent Year

Chastain has always been great in anything she does. However, there was something about her character in this that was completely different from what I’ve seen from her. She does whatever it takes to protect her family, even if that pisses off her husband who was played by Oscar Isaac.

 

Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman – Steve Jobs

Kate Winslet is probably one of the best unspoken heroes of Steve Jobs. Her character could be described as nothing more but a background character that has her moments, but what Winslet does with the role makes her, arguably, the heart of the film. She’s a constant in Michael Fassbender’s Steve Jobs, and one that is always there to calm him down.

 

Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth – Macbeth

Lady Macbeth is not an easy character to tackle, but leave it to Marion Cotillard to put on a damn awesome performance. Cotillard played Lady Macbeth like I’ve never seen the character played before and I just can’t get over how awesome her performance was.

 

Melissa McCarthy as Susan Cooper – Spy

McCarthy had a bad string of movies, but thankfully Spy brings her back to the form we all knew she could be: great. Gone are the fat jokes and what have you and welcome the funny, strong and badass female character. If anyone knows how to bring the best in McCarthy its Paul Feig, so give Spy a chance, it will surprise you.

 

Olivia Cooke as Rachel – Me and Early and the Dying Girl

Cooke has a good run in the A&E show Bates Motel, so getting to see her in the big screen was a nice to see. Cooke may not have the strongest performance out of the women here, but there was a few standout moments that I really loved that made me put her on the list.

 

Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

If you’re going to break out onto the scene, what better way to do it then in a Mission: Impossible film and working off Tom Cruise? Well, Rebecca Ferguson did just that and even stole the film from Cruise at times. Ferguson has done small things here and there, but Ferguson should be a household name after this.

 

(Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl – Wild)

Technically, this is a 2014 movie, but I didn’t see it until the first week of January after I had done my list. But, I can’t make a list without talking about Witherspoon’s performance in Wild. This was something really different from what she’s done in the past and you could see she went all in with this. Definitely should check this out if you haven’t.

 

Saoirse Ronan as Eilis – Brooklyn

Saorise Ronan is always giving great performances, but I feel like she goes under the radar a lot of the time. Hopefully, Brooklyn with all its acclaim can put her even more in the forefront. Ronan’s performance in this film could be one of the best of the year and one that is very relatable, which is why I really loved the film and her performance.

 

Tessa Thompson as Bianca – Creed

I’ve never seen Tessa Thompson before, but what a way to make an impression. Her character of Bianca was much more than a typical girlfriend/love interest. She had her own storyline and was a nice counter-balance to Michael B. Jordan’s character.

 

Yo-Landi Visser as Yolandi – Chappie

Known more for being in Die Antwoord with Ninja (who also stars in Chappie), Yo-Landi Visser absolutely nails her first movie performance. I was quite surprise that she was able to perform and hold her own with Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley and Jose Pablo Cantillo. If this is her only performance, then it is a damn good one to go out on.

 

Honorable Mentions

Amy Schumer as Amy – Trainwreck

Emily Browning as Frances Shea – Legend

Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne – Ant-Man

Lea Seydoux as Madeleine Swann – Spectre

Maika Monroe as Jay – It Follows

Margot Robbie as Jess – Focus

Sandra Bullock as Jane – Our Brand is Crisis

Taissa Farmiga as Max – The Final Girls

 

 

Supporting Actor

Ben Whishaw as Herman Melville & Brendan Gleeson as Tom Nickerson – In the Heart of the Sea

I put these two together because the film is elevated to a new level anytime they are onscreen, and it helps that they are always together in the film. Gleeson probably gets more of the credit, but no way they film or Whishaw work without Gleeson’s Tom.

 

Jason Statham as Rick Ford – Spy

Jason Statham is known for being the tough badass that spits out cheesy one-liners, but Spy not only plays with that notion, but shows that he can be funny as hell too. Seriously, this is probably one of the biggest surprises of the year for me.

 

Jeff Daniels as John Sculley – Steve Jobs

Jeff Daniels is always reliable, and his performance in Steve Jobs was a shining example of that. Daniels pops in the at the beginning and then disappears, but when he shows up in the middle of the film with his scene with Michael Fassbender, the whole film gets elevated to a new level. That scene they have is easily one of the best of the year and one of my favorites. It’s great to see Daniels getting more work and I hope it continues.

 

Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye & Paul Bettany as Jarvis/The Vision – Avengers: Age of Ultron

Jeremy Renner got the short end of the stick in the first Avengers movie, but you learn from your mistakes and Joss Whedon along with Marvel gave us a better version of Clint Barton/Hawkeye. The character is given a better arc this time around and, dare I say, some of the best lines in the movie. I hope they keep that up and can’t wait to see what they do.

Speaking of great lines and can’t wait to see what they do with the character is Paul Bettany. Finally – at least physically – Bettany joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe as fan-favorite character, The Vision. Bettany has been in the MCU since day one as the voice of Jarvis, but now he’ll have to do much more and Bettany is the perfect choice to do it.

 

Kurt Russell as Mr. Nobody – Furious 7

Although he didn’t have a huge role in Furious 7, there was something about Kurt Russell’s mysterious government agent, Mr. Nobody that stuck out. He brought his charm to it and it was nice to see Russell have some fun again on the big screen. We can look forward to Russell coming back in Furious 8 – at least we can assume that he will.

 

Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel – Bridge of Spies

Mark Rylance is one of the actors that has been in Hollywood for a while, but I’ve never heard of him before. But of the things I’ve seen of him recently, he’s been great. It’s also not easy for someone to steal the spotlight from Tom Hanks, but Ryalnce did that in Bridge of Spies, in fact the film worked better with the two of them working off each other. Also, what Rylance was able to do with that cold opening was tremendous.

 

Mark Strong as Merlin – Kingsman: The Secret Service

I’ve been a huge fan of Mark Strong for years and I pretty much love anything he does. Kingsman is no different. The mentor/teacher role of Merlin was yet another fantastic role that shows off Strong’s comedic/sarcastic chops, but also – in particular one scene – dramatic chops.

 

Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym & Michael Pena as Luis – Ant-Man

I don’t think any of us ever thought we’d see Michael Douglas in a Marvel film, let alone an Ant-Man movie. But, here we are and what a role and performance he gave.

Like I said about Benicio Del Toro, Michael Pena is one of those actors that is always great in everything he does, but it feels like it wasn’t until recently that his star is more on the rise and people are finally starting to see that he has tremendous talent. Pena as Luis in Ant-Man was hilarious and had me cracking up every time he was onscreen, to the point that I wish they bring him back for the sequels.

 

Paul Giamatti as Jerry Heller & R. Marcos Taylor as Suge Knight – Straight Outta Compton

I’ll put these two together only because they are two different sides of the same spectrum. Heller was greedy, manipulative, and saw an opportunity to take advantage of N.W.A. Suge Knight on the other hand used intimidation and brute force to get what he wanted. Giamatti is great in anything he does really and his portrayal of Heller was nothing short of great and even heartbreaking. Taylor’s Knight was damn scary and worked for the scenes he was involved in.

 

Richard Kind as Bing Bong (voice) – Inside Out

Never have I felt so connected to a character that I was okay with tearing up in a theater and not caring. Bing Bong was definitely the standout in Inside Out and Richard Kind was the perfect person to give the character life.

 

Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Simon Pegg has been a nice addition to the Mission: Impossible series since he was first introduced in part three. Pegg’s Benji has been a great comic relief, but has been showing real signs between the last two films that he can play the badass spy too.

 

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa – Creed

Sylvester Stallone has never been better. Seriously, Stallone shows up and gives us one of the best supporting roles the year and potentially his career. Stallone’s Rocky Balboa this time around is much more real and we get a much bigger sense of how he’s become this we last saw the character. His chemistry with Michael B. Jordan is tremendous and one of the only reasons the film works.

 

Ryan Gosling as Jared Vennett – The Big Short

Ryan Gosling is pretty much always reliable and it’s not different here. Gosling is always pretty damn funny in this too. Anytime he’s on screen it’s hilarious and when he’s missing you sense it.

 

Walton Goggins as Sheriff Chris Mannix – The Hateful Eight

Walton Goggins is always a great supporting actor and this is no different. It feels like Goggins can play anything any director throws at him. Goggins always bring a certain charisma, swagger and charm and his Chris Mannix is pretty much the perfect role for Goggins.

 

Honorable Mentions

BD Wong as Liyuan – Focus

Billy Bob Thornton as Pat Candy – Our Brand is Crisis

Chris Hemsworth as Stone Crandall – Vacation

Jon Bernthal as Mr. McCarthy – Me and Early and the Dying Girl

Justice Smith as Radar and Austin Abrams as Ben – Paper Towns

LeBron James as LeBron James – Trainwreck

Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld – Steve Jobs

Paddy Considine as Banquo – Macbeth

Peter Serafinowicz as Aldo – Spy

Pierce Brosnan as Hammond – No Escape

Stanley Tucci as Mitchell Garabedian & Brian d’Arcy James as Matt Carroll – Spotlight

Sean Harris as Macduff – Macbeth

 

 

Supporting Actress

Brie Larson as Kim – Trainwreck

Brie Larson didn’t have a lot of screen time in Trainwreck, but the time she did she left her impact. One particular scene was one that involved her Colin Quinn, playing her father, and Amy Schumer playing her sister. It was a rather powerful and short scene that really showed the kind of character Larson was playing and one that I wished was pushed out more in the film.

 

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch – Avengers: Age of Ultron

Elizabeth Olsen is a fantastic actress that probably doesn’t get as much credit as she should. So I was pretty happy that she would get extreme exposure in not just a Marvel movie, but playing one of the most powerful comic book characters ever, and a fan favorite at that in Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch. The accent wasn’t perfect, but she still bought the feel of the character to life.

 

Jessica Chastain as Lucille Sharpe – Crimson Peak

All hail Jessica Chastain! Seriously, Chastain is one of the best actresses working on Hollywood today, and her performance in Crimson Peak was one of the best roles I’ve seen this year. What Chastain was able to do in being so cold and in limited dialogue was a sight to see. Jessica Chastain has always been one of my favorites, and with Lucille Sharpe under her belt now, I’m a fan for life.

 

Julie Walters as Mrs. Kehoe – Brooklyn

I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as hard as I did in a drama than with Julie Walter’s Mrs. Kehoe character. Her character didn’t hold back and she’s really the only character that stays the same from beginning to end.

 

Malin Akerman as Nancy/Amanda – The Final Girls

Malin Akerman is one of those actresses that I think no one really takes seriously, but every once in a while she’ll do something that really does show her talent, and The Final Girls was one of those roles. Her duel role as Nancy the mother and Amanda the movie character was equally funny, tragic and great to see unfold on screen. The Final Girls could have been an even more cheesier meta horror-comedy, but it came out being a more heartwarming story than I thought.

 

Miranda Hart as Nancy – Spy

Miranda Hart is a British comedian that I believe got first time exposure thanks to Spy (if I’m wrong about that forgive me), but what a way to get it. Playing Melissa McCarthy’s friend, Hart was hilarious is this and got some big laughs.

 

Oona Laurence as Leila Hope – Southpaw

What’s in the water this year, man? Child actors made their statement this year and Oona Laurence was one of those with her short, but sweet and powerful performance as Jake Gyllenhaal’s Billy Hope’s daughter. There was something about her performance that really hit me that stood out more than the other child actors this year.

 

Raffey Cassidy as Athena – Tomorrowland

Raffey Cassidy is new to the scene, and make no mistake, she was a scene stealer in movie that stars A-lister George Clooney and another up-and-comer, Britt Robertson. However, it was Cassidy that shined and was the breakout star of the film, maybe even the year. This young lady has a huge career ahead of her.

 

Honorable Mentions

Abby Ryder Fortson as Cassie – Ant-Man

Allison Janney as Elaine Crocker – Spy

Angela Trimbur as Tina – The Final Girls

Lupita Nynog’o as Maz Kanata – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Joan Allen as Nancy/Grandma – Room

Katherine Waterston as Shasta Fay Hepworth – Inherent Vice & as Chrisann Brennan – Steve Jobs

Krista Stadler as Omi – Krampus

(Laura Dern as Bobbi – Wild)

 

 

Villain

Common as Andrew Price – Run All Night

As much I liked Ed Harris’ villain character, it was Common who took the real villain spotlight. Common has a great presence onscreen in any role he takes, but his hitman character in Run All Night, was one of the best characters I’ve seen him play.

 

Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx – Spectre

Dave Bautista may be known for his work in the WWE, but has been able to break out of that mold by showing the man can act! And what better way to breakout even more onto the scene and with different crowd than by playing a James Bond villain. The role seemed to be tailor-made for Bautista and that train fight sequence was worth a place on the list.

 

Hugh Jackman as Vincent Moore – Chappie

It’s not every day that we see Hugh Jackman play a villain, but when we do it is a sight to see. Not only does Jackman use his natural accent, he sports a sweet looking mullet while trying to take down the lovable robot Chappie.

 

Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw – Furious 7

Jason Statham has played a bad guy before, but this villain is pretty different from the others. One, he’s driven (pun intended) by a different desire and is willing to do anything to do his worst. Second, he’s damn good at being bad.

 

Krampus and his Creatures – Krampus

One of the things that makes Krampus and his creatures memorable is that they are done practically, and not done the easy way with CGI. Although, one of them and Krampus for one particular scene is done with CGI, it doesn’t really hurt the creatures and Krampus’ look. I love that director Michael Dougherty went with practical effects instead of the easy route of CGI.

 

Samuel L. Jackson as Valentine & Sofia Boutella as Gazelle – Kingsman: The Secret Service

Although Boutella’s Gazelle is the standout between the two villains, the two worked great as a pair. At the same time, Jackson isn’t playing his typical type of villain. Jackson gives Valentine a bit of a lisp and cockiness to offset Gazelle’s tough, killer instinct, and cool swords for legs.

 

Walton Goggins as Laugher – American Ultra

Walton Goggins is one of my favorite underrated actors working today. Any time he pops in a movie I’m drawn more to his character and what’s going on. While his character doesn’t get a ton of screen time until the last act of the movie, it was still memorable enough for me to put him on the list.

 

Honorable Mentions

Adam Driver as Kylo Ren – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Christoph Waltz as Oberhauser/Blofield – Spectre

Ed Harris as Shawn Maguire – Run All Night

Hugh Keays-Byrne as Immortan Joe – Mad Max: Fury Road

Jack Black as (voice) Slappy – Goosebumps

James Spader as Ultron – Avengers: Age of Ultron

Rose Byrne as Rayna Boyanov – Spy

Sean Harris as Solomon Lane – Mission: Impossible – Rouge Nation

‘The Hateful Eight’ Review

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Director: Quentin Tarantino

Writer: Quentin Tarantino

Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Demian Bichir, Michael Madsen, James Parks, and Channing Tatum

Synopsis: In the dead of a Wyoming winter, a bounty hunter and his prisoner find shelter in a cabin currently inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters.

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Despite the script leak, Quentin Tarantino continued his eighth film with his mystery Western, The Hateful Eight. He also did something special by shooting the film in 70mm. Now if you’re not a huge cinephile, or just know what that means, it probably doesn’t mean too much, but considering the rarity of how films are made nowadays, The Hateful Eight is a special film. This film is filled with the traditional and very noticeable Tarantino tropes and works, but Tarantino still finds a way to make the film feel different and make the audience feel a bit uncomfortable watching these strangers stuck in a cabin as the tension between all of them arise.

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The film is set after the Civil War, and takes place in Wyoming as a blizzard comes roaring in. We follow bounty hunter Major Marquis Warren (Jackson) hitching a ride with John “The Hangman” Ruth (Russell), who is chained to his bounty Daisy Domergue (Leigh), who are on the way to Red Rock so Ruth can collect Daisy’s bounty. Along the way, they pick up former Confederate soldier Chris Mannix, who has just become the sheriff of Red Rock despite Ruth’s disbelief, and they all head to an inn in the mountains called Minnie’s Haberdashery. Once they get there, they meet the already there occupants in cowboy Joe Gage (Madsen), British gentlemen Oswaldo Mobray (Roth), former Confederate General Sandy Smithers (Dern), and Bob (Bichir), the man looking over Minnie’s as she’s away. Trapped in the inn for a few days as the blizzard blows over, Ruth and Warren try to figure out if everyone, if anyone, can be trusted which leads to a tension-filled environment that, in the typical Tarantino style, eventually goes into mayhem.

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The timeline for the film isn’t just some random place setting. The fact that Samuel L. Jackson’s Warren is the only real African-American character does lend itself to the plot and the characters later on in the film. Major Warren actually has something that everyone can’t believe he has, and leads to some funny moments, but also more tension between Warren, Mannix, and Smithers. Hell, the fact that Warren fought on the opposite side of Mannix and Smithers is enough to always keep your eyes on them. Warren makes a great point once everyone knows that he has the thing no one can believes he has that makes a lot of sense, not just in the movie, but even in today’s world. The Hateful Eight isn’t trying to be political; it just makes some interesting political points.

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What holds the film together is the very Tarantino-esque characters, and the great cast that brings them all to life. Of course, Samuel L. Jackson – the only actor in the cast that has worked with Tarantino the most – is great in this and delivers a great monologue-like speech around the beginning of the third act that could potentially send chills down your spine. It also reminds us why the film is called The Hateful Eight. On the other end, Kurt Russell’s John Ruth aka The Hangman doesn’t have a speech that makes us hate or feel awkward, although his mustache will probably make you envious, but the way he treats Daisy goes ranges from threatening to shoot her, despite wanting to hang her, to hitting her if she gets out of line. It’s an odd relationship that – somehow – seems to work once we see them juxtaposed to each other. Hey, speaking of Daisy, Jennifer Jason Leigh is just memorizing to watch. Daisy sometimes just blends into the background as we focus on the other characters, but every time Daisy is in the spotlight, she shines. One scene is particular had me going, which involved her simply sitting with a guitar and singing.

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The supporting cast is equally great in what they are given. Walton Goggins is the highlight for me personally. Goggins is always a great supporting character guy and he can do anything that a director throws at him, and he does it here again and has one of the best arcs at the end of the film. Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and Demian Bichir all have their moments to shine and bring some nice nuances to their roles. Bruce Dern doesn’t really do much until the middle of the film where his arch finally comes into play. Channing Tatum also pops up in a different role than he’s usually known for.

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On a technical level, The Hateful Eight is great to look at. The cinematography by Robert Richardson really puts you in Minnie’s Haberdashery, which is a great set, and out in the wintery landscape of Wyoming. Moreover, legendary spaghetti western composer Ennio Morricone score is both tense and a bit haunting, almost The Thing-like. The score is more haunting due to the fact the film is a slow burn through-and-through.

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All in all, The Hateful Eight is a slow burn, scene chewing, mystery Western that makes you question every character until the end. The great cast and the characters they play are elevated even more thanks to the secluded and close-quarters environment. If you love Tarantino films, this will be right up your alley, although it can be arguably said that this may not be Tarantino best film, but it still a great one in his filmography.

 

The Hateful Eight

4.5 out of 5