‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter’ Review

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Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

Writer: Paul W.S. Anderson

Cast: Milla Jovovich, Iain Glen, Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Eoin Macken, Fraser James, Ruby Rose, William Levy, Rola and Ever Anderson.

Synopsis: Picking up immediately after the events in Resident Evil: Retribution, Alice is the only survivor of what was meant to be humanity’s final stand against the undead. Now, she must return to where the nightmare began – The Hive in Raccoon City, where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering its forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors of the apocalypse.

 

After six films and fifteen years, the Resident Evil films are done. Whether you like them or not, the films had staying power due to its devoted fanbase and the love that Paul W.S. Anderson and star/wife Milla Jovovich had for the franchise (again, whether you liked it or not). Now, The Final Chapter has arrived and it sends the film franchise off on a somewhat proper note for the film and the characters. Not without it’s problems of course.

The film opens with a new recap of how we ended up where we are, but also giving us the backstory of how the T-virus was created and why. We then find Alice, who is coming out of bunker in a now destroyed Washington D.C. and while she’s finding her bearings, The Red Queen – played by her daughter this time around in Ever Anderson – suddenly appears and tells her about a cure to the T-virus that can end everything and stop Umbrella from accomplishing total domination. Alice reluctantly agrees to go back where it all became: The Hive in Raccoon City. Along the way, Alice meets a new group of survivors lead by Alice’s old friend, Claire Redfield (Ali Larter) and eventually the group makes it to the dangerous Hive to stop Umbrella and a returning Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen) and Wesker (Shawn Roberts).

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Like most Resident Evil films, the film leaves most of the characters from the last film out and skips a potentially big plot point. Alice is by herself at the opening, but we don’t see any signs of the characters like Ada Wong, Leon Kennedy or Jill Valentine. That’s always been something I never liked about the Resident Evil movies, they add and drop characters like nothing. It is something that drove me absolutely crazy, and all for the sake of following Alice.

Nothing against the Alice character, she has come to become her own character and her arc does reach an conclusion here thankfully, but in true fashion in these films – it’s utterly ridiculous in its own way, but in a way that somehow makes sense in these movies. Jovovich already knows the character in and out, and at this point she could have played the character in her sleep, but she still finds a way to spew out one-liners the only way she knows. Alice is also the only one that really gets in some of development.

The rest of the cast is okay, but none of them really do anything that lasts or too memorable, which begs the question again, why not bring back characters people love and know? That would have upped the ante and the real risk of the mission to finally stop Umbrella, especially this being the last film. Anyway, with the expectation of Iain Glen and Ali Larter, the rest of the cast is just there. Shawn Roberts, who has already played Wesker literally does nothing throughout the film and just stands around looking at computer screens and talks to Dr. Isaacs. Eoin Macken’s Doc, Fraser James’ Razor, William Levy’s Christian and Ruby Rose’s Abigail have a short scene each to let us know who they are, but it’s never enough.

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Even when it comes to Ali Larter’s Claire, it’s almost like she’s a completely different character, and that’s saying something considering she lost her memory in Afterlife. Iain Glen returns in – again – the way only way this franchise can bring back a character, but his performance is a little odd from what we’ve seen before. I’m not saying the Resident Evil films are built on Oscar-worthy performances, but some character personality continuity would be nice. There’s also an out-of-the-blue/out-of-nowhere subtext that was never once hinted, but knowing it now, it still makes no real sense.

Thankfully, the film avoids the overabundance of slow-motion during its fight scenes, but instead switches them for quick cuts and tight camera work that you can’t even tell what’s going on half the time. The only time that’s not too much of an issue is when Alice fights Dr. Isaacs, which is good considering they are the two focal points of the franchise. Also, The Final Chapter is filled with action which should make fans of the franchise happy. Although, I could have gone with one less action scene for some character development, to be honest.

All in all, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is more-or-less of the same name from the past with only a few minor improvements. The film sadly doesn’t let you know the other characters keeping its focus on Milla Jovovich’s Alice and Iain Glen’s Dr. Isaacs. While the film does go through its ridiculous stages, a franchise staple, the film does feel like a proper sendoff to the series. Although, I wish they brought back popular characters to make the film feel more important.

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Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

2.5 out of 5

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‘Split’ Review

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Director: M. Night Shyamalan

Writer: M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, and Betty Buckley

Synopsis: After three girls are kidnapped by a man with 24 distinct personalities they must find some of the different personalities that can help them while running away and staying alive from the others.

 

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

 

M. Night Shyamalan may be back ladies and gentleman. Shyamalan had lost many of his fans after his films progressively got worse and worse, but returned to form in a small dose with The Visit last year. Now, with Split, it looks like Shyamalan is back to form and making compelling films again. While the film isn’t a straight out horror film, Split is a lot more than the trailers have you believe. Not only that, the much talked about twist ending is something I never would have imagined. I will say though, please do yourself the favor and don’t seek the twist ending. Seeing it for yourself is well worth it and totally deserved after you sit back and think about it, or read Shyamalan’s quotes.

The film centers on James McAvoy’s Kevin, who suffers with Dissociative Identity Disorder, which gives him twenty-three different identities. One of his identities, Dennis, kidnaps three young women in Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula) because they are needed for a special ceremony for a new twenty-fourth identity emerging within Kevin known only as The Beast. What follows is the girls trying to escape, and avoid becoming “gifts” for The Beast.

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Like I mentioned, there is a lot more in Split than the trailers have you believe. The film is told with three different stories. One is the girls trying to escape and trying to convince one of the identities in Hedwig, who believes he’s child, to help them escape. The other is the relationship between Kevin and his psychiatrist in Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley), who starts to notice that maybe one of the identities is taking over more than she likes, and finally, Taylor-Joy’s Casey’s story, which is told through flashbacks. All of them, of course, intertwine near the end in a surprising way that I won’t even hint at, but it leads to the overall theme of the film, once you step back and look at it. That is why Split works, and why I think Shyamalan is back to form.

Split works on the thriller level as well, that’s all thanks to the James McAvoy’s stunning turn as Kevin. Some already have taken to say the film is trying mental illness as an easy way to make a “villain,” but Shyamalan treats the situation with respect. He never truly makes out to be the villain, although he essentially is – he did kidnap three girls after all. However, we rarely “see” Kevin, we mostly see his other identities, and even then we only spend time with Hedwig, Dennis, Barry – a fashion designer – and Patricia, the “mother” of the group. Regardless, McAvoy is amazing filling all the roles and I honestly couldn’t imagine seeing Joaquin Phoenix – originally set to play Kevin – doing the role now. McAvoy’s little subtleties to each identity make the performance that much better as well.

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When it comes to the rest of the cast, Anya Taylor-Joy and Betty Buckley are the only real characters to be rounded out. Once Casey’s story is fleshed out, we understand why he acts the way she does. Buckley’s Dr. Fletcher is our guide to Kevin’s disorder and makes us understand Kevin on a more deeper level. Haley Lu Richardson’s Claire and Jessica Sula’s Marcia don’t have a ton of screen time, but do show some smarts as they try to find a way out of the situation rather than just play “victim.”

While Split does work on a lot of levels, it also has some downfalls. The film drags a bit near the middle of the film, and the lack of character development toward two of the three girls we see kidnap does hurt the film a bit. Finally, the end of the film could border on being a bit too on-the-nose and telling the audience what exactly is going on, so it lessens the message just a bit.

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All in all, Split is Shyamalan’s best films in years, which of course, isn’t saying much considering his resume, but still. It’s a return to form in both storytelling and visuals that is showcased by James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy. Finally, that twist will have your head twirling and wondering, what’s next?

Split

4 out of 5

‘xXx: Return of Xander Cage’ Review

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Director: D.J. Caruso

Writer: F. Scott Frazier

Cast: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, Kris Wu, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Rory McCann, Michael Bisping, Hermione Corfield, Tony Gonzalez, Al Sapienza, Toni Colette and Samuel L. Jackson

Synopsis: Xander Cage if left for dead after an incident, though he secretly returns to action for a new, tough assignment with his handler Augustus Gibbons.

 

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

 

After sitting out the sequel of xXx, Vin Diesel returns to the series he helped create with the appropriately titled Return of Xander Cage. It also has Diesel’s fingerprints all over it, as it now involves Xander Cage having to work with a group of people like him to bring down a dangerous weapon and people that cause mayhem on Earth. Sound familiar? That’s not necessarily a bash at the film, but knowing that you’ll see some of the comparison. Also, if you’re looking forward to a smart action film, no, just no. This, like the other xXx films are dumb fun action films that is filled with cheesy and ridiculous moments.

After a crashed satellite seemingly kills Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), NSA agent Jane Marke (Toni Collette) finds Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is alive and well, and decides to bring him in after she finds out that the satellite was brought down by a device called Pandora’s Box. Cage then finds out that Pandora’s Box is being held by a mysterious figure named Xiang (Donnie Yen) and his own dangerous group – Serena (Deepika Padukone), Talon (Tony Jaa) and Hawk (Michael Bisping). Cage knowing that they can’t stop him the “traditional” way gets his own team in sniper Adee Wolff (Ruby Rose), stunt man Tennyson Torch (Rory McCann) and “fun guy” Nicks (Kris Wu) to bring them down.

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While there are some descent actions scenes, thanks to the always reliable Donnie Yen, the film fails to make us really connect any sort of connection to the characters. While most of the names may be familiar to some all of them have mostly one quality that you can remember. Although, all of them are better characters than Diesel’s Xander Cage. Xander still feels like he’s stuck in the first film, and comes off just a bit smug and thinks he’s better than anyone else. We probably shouldn’t suspect different, but you would think that he would change a bit since then. Also, if you looking for an elaborate reason to why he’s still alive, won’t happen.

The film of course tries to add the big extreme scene like the avalanche scene from the first film. Here the film has the heavily promoted riding on the ocean scene that has a more ridiculous scene that if you roll your eyes or laugh, it will be okay. That being said, the film is cheesy and fun in a good way. While it feels like Diesel, who is a producer on the film, is trying to recreate the Fast & Furious formula, it could help if fans go out to see it.

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All in all, xXx: Return of Xander Cage does have some problems with its tone, and while the cast works together nicely, a majority of them are not developed enough. Is the film fun and enjoyable? Yes, for the most part it is. But Return of Xander Cage hits the mark for enjoyable dumb fun action films, but misses when it comes to almost everything else.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage

3.5 out of 5

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Mini-Review – Underworld: Blood Wars, Sleepless, Patriots Day, Live By Night & The Bye Bye Man

Hey everybody!

Welcome to another edition of Mini-Reviews. This is a longer one than usual, due to me falling behind. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Underworld: Blood Wars

Director: Anna Foerster

Writer: Cory Goodman

Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, James Faulkner, Peter Andersson, Clementine Nicholson, Bradley James, Daisy Head and Charles Dance.

Synopsis: Vampire death dealer, Selene fights to end the eternal war between the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her.

 

The Underworld series started off as an interesting franchise that had some cool mythology and made Kate Beckinsale a big name to those not familiar with her. The sequel came along and was just okay which lead to a prequel for the third film. Then the fourth film came out and things took a turn for the worse. The series had lost its footing and became lost in its attempt to make itself relevant. This now leads us to Underworld: Blood Wars, which is more of the same, but thankfully better than Underworld: Awakening, which isn’t saying much really.

Blood Wars starts off by giving us a bit of a refresher on the series so far – leaving some things out – but also shows that Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is now a fugitive from the remaining vampires and new Lycan leader, Marius (Tobias Menzies), who wants the location of Selene’s daughter. The problem is that even Selene doesn’t know where her daughter is, and with the help of David (Theo James), his father Thomas (Charles Dance), and a vampire council member Semira (Lara Pulver), Selene is brought back into the fold to help deal with Marius.

Like I mentioned, Blood Wars is more of the same from the previous films – stylized action set-pieces, new mythology and characters being introduced and Kate Beckinsale in tight leather kicking-ass. Other than that, the film doesn’t really do anything that feels substantial. Things are brought up that would be considered twists or could have landed bigger if written better or anything the film did actually mattered.

The film is too rushed for its own good. Everything lands too quickly, and the final act of the film just happens. One particular part in the final act does mean something since it’s connected to the beginning of the film, but other than that the final act is structurally not sound.

When it comes to the cast, they all do the best they can with what they are given. Kate Beckinsale is the only real saving grace of the cast since she’s played the part so many times now. Theo James is just as bland as he was in the last film, while Tobias Menzies’ Marius is supposed to be this great Lycan leader, but doesn’t really do anything that frightening – also his cheap two dollar CGI wolf character doesn’t do him any favors. Lara Pulver as Semira could have been a great character if she had more screen time as could have Clementine Nicholson’s Lena, who is part of a new vampire clan, Finally, Charles Dance’s Thomas should have had more time, because you know, its Charles freaking Dance.

All in all, Underworld: Blood Wars is a passable sequel, and a better one than Awakening, but again, that’s not saying much. Things feel like they just happen, and the structure of the film is just off that you can never really feel any sort of enjoyment. One thing that really bothered me is the ending. I obviously don’t want to spoil it, but considering how it ends, it just felt like the whole film was for nothing.

Underworld: Blood Wars

2.5 out of 5

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Sleepless

Director: Baran bo Odar

Writer: Andrea Berloff

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan, Scoot McNairy, Gabrielle Union, Octavius J. Johnson, T.I., Dermot Mulroney, and David Harbour

Synopsis: A cope with a connection to the criminal underworld scours a nightclub in search of his kidnapped son.

 

A remake of the French film Nuit Blanche, Sleepless takes place mostly in one location and is surprising a little better than I thought it would be, even though I had watched the original film years before.

Sleepless follows Las Vegas officer Vincent Downs (Jaime Foxx), who along with his partner Sean (T.I.) steal a bag of cocaine at the beginning of the film. Little do they know, the cocaine belongs to a crooked casino boss Stanley Rubino (Dermot Mulroney) who is going to sell the drugs to the dangerous Rob Novak (Scott McNairy), the son of a local mob boss. In order to get the drugs back, they kidnap Vincent’s son Thomas (Octavius J. Johnson) and demand he return their product. Of course, things don’t go over smoothly as Internal Affairs agents Jennifer Bryant (Michelle Monaghan) and Doug Dennison (David Harbour) become involved.

Like I mentioned, the film is a little better than I thought it was going to be, but Sleepless does run into some issues throughout. The film doesn’t do Jamie Foxx any favors besides making him look like an action hero. Foxx’s usual charisma is put on the backburner so he can be almost stoic at times, which is a bit of a shame. Although, the result does lead to impressive fight scenes, including a kitchen scene and a highly impressive hotel room fight.

The rest of the cast do their best with what they are given. Scoot McNairy is one of the best underrated and unknown actors around, and while he plays a villain well, they could have done just a little more with him. Michelle Monaghan plays the straight-laced IA agent who has her moments, and after watching this, I hope we see more roles like this from her, and her chemistry with the always reliable David Harbour is spot on. Dermot Mulroney looked like he enjoy playing a slimy villain, Gabrielle Union only has a handful of scenes, so her casting feels wasted and T.I. also has only a few scenes but all of his scenes feel the same when you look back afterwards.

All in all, Sleepless feels a bit hallow at times, but it does have its moments that make the price of admission worth it.

Sleepless

3.5 out of 5

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Patriots Day

Director: Peter Berg

Writers: Peter Berg, Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Michelle Monaghan, Kevin Bacon, Alex Wolff, Themo Melikidze, Jimmy O. Yang, Rachel Brosnahan, Christopher O’Shea, James Colby, Michael Beach, Vincent Curatola, Jake Picking, Melissa Benoist, and J.K. Simmons

Synopsis: An account of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorist responsible.

 

Considering Patriots Day is based off a real event, and one that I’m sure most of us remembering watching on TV as the events unfolded, I’m going to play with the “no spoilers” rule here a bit. The film follows the events at the Boston Marathon and what the first responders and FBI did to find and capture the Tsarnaev brothers.

The film has a lot of players on the board, we mostly follow Boston Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg), a made up character based on several people, who is at the finish line of the marathon when the first bomb went off. The events bring everyone is like Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), Governor Deval Patrick (Michael Beach) and FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) to find Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze) and his brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff) which involved shutting down all of Boston and lead to a dangerous shootout in Watertown.

Peter Berg really does have a knack for true-story films, Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon were great films, and all star Mark Wahlberg, but the thing that makes these films, along with Patriots Day is how he handles the material. Berg treats the events with tremendous respect and never tries to feed the audience a political agenda or lean the audience a certain way. He lets the story tell itself and lets the characters come to life in their own way, even though most of the characters are based on real people. It’s also a credit to the great cast that they are able to do so.

However, with a big cast like this, the film does have a lot of characters to follow that a lot of them don’t get real time to breathe and don’t get the justice they deserve. J.K. Simmons has a small, but good, role as the Watertown sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese, Rachel Brosnahan and Christopher O’Shea play couple Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes who were close to the first blast sight, Jake Picking plays Officer Sean Collier, who was shot by the brothers, and Jimmy O. Yang plays Dun Meng, who has a dangerous encounter with brothers halfway through the film. Another thing Patriots Day falls into is some pacing issues before the final act of the film, but again, it’s the cast the keep the film together.

Two of the highlights of the film, if that’s what you want to call it considering the nature of the real life events, is the aftermath of the bombing. How Berg moves the camera through the destruction and through the eyes of Tommy is both horrifying and telling on how the first responders probably felt when they helped so many that day. The other is the shootout before Dzhokhar runs and hides in the boat he was later recovered from.

All in all, Patriots Day isn’t an easy film to watch due to the nature of the events and how Berg was able to recreate it. The cast, despite being one person too many, does a tremendous job paying respect to people they were playing and to those affected by the actions that happened that horrible day and what happened afterwards.

Patriots Day

4 out of 5

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Live by Night

Director: Ben Affleck

Writer: Ben Affleck

Cast: Ben Affleck, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Elle Fanning, Zoe Saldana, Robert Glenister, Remo Girone, Chris Cooper and Brendan Gleeson

Synopsis: A group of Boston-bred gangsters set up shop in balmy Florida during the Prohibition era, facing off against the competition and the Ku Klux Klan.

 

Based off the novel by Dennis Lehane, Ben Affleck writes and directs what has become a bit of a passion project for him, so it’s a bit odd to see what became of the film. Affleck has shown he’s a great to solid director with films like Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo, but Live by Night will be – hopefully – the only blemish on his resume.

Ben Affleck plays Joe Coughlin, a former World War I soldier and son of a police officer (Brendan Gleeson), who returns home and starts to see himself as an outlaw and runs heists throughout Boston. He eventually falls in love with Emma Gould (Sienna Miller), who happens to be the mistress of Irish mob boss Albert White (Robert Glenister). This puts him on the sights on White’s rival, Italian mob boss Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone) who wants Joe to work for him. Joe eventually does and Maso sends him down to Tampa to run his bootlegging operation. Once there, and reunited with his old partner Dion Bartolo (Chris Messina) and they make a nice empire for themselves. That all changes when Joe starts falling in love with Graciela (Zoe Saldana), and struggles to keep his moral code in place.

Live by Night is unfortunately a bit of a mess, which is odd considering Affleck was passionate about getting the film made, and took so long to make. That’s not to say there is some great stuff within the mess, but it is the scattered material that keeps the film from being great. Not only that, the film has a bit too much going on that by the end, it feels like the film is forcing itself to tie-up the loose ends that were introduced beforehand. It’s a bit of a shame too, considering Affleck has shown he can handle himself with great material.

The cast itself is great, but it’s a shame that some characters don’t have time to expand and get developed more. Chris Messina, who is always great with the right material, playing Joe’s right-hand man Dion Bartolo could have used more time onscreen as could Elle Fanning’s character Loretta, the daughter of Tampa sheriff Figgis played by Chris Cooper. Especially considering Fanning is involved in a big subplot. Zoe Saldana also pops in but doesn’t really do much after her initial introduction, and reminding Joe that he doesn’t need to be cruel to do the life he’s involved in. Brendan Gleeson’s glorified cameo suffers just a bit due to him using his natural Scottish accent that makes it a little hard to understand. Sienna Miller’s character could have been an interesting character, but her arc gets cut too soon.

Affleck does okay as the Joe, and even though we follow him throughout the film his moments of doubt and morality being tested are usually rushed to the point that it just feels like Affleck is trying to get to the next scene, which is odd considering the film is over two hours. When it comes to working with his production designer and cinematographer, he works well. Every scenic shot is beautiful to look at, and the sets look amazing.

All in all, Live by Night has some issues that could have been avoided, but sadly they aren’t which hurts the film in the long run. The cast is great, but none of their characters are developed fully or pushed to the wayside to tell Ben Affleck’s Joe story. While the action scenes are top-notch, Live by Night is just a tad underwhelming in the long run, but in no way should change your view on Affleck’s directing ability.

Live by Night

3.5 out of 5

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The Bye Bye Man

Director: Stacy Title

Writer: Jonathan Penner

Cast: Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, Cressida Bonas, Jenna Kanell, Michael Trucco, Cleo King, Leigh Whannel, Doug Jones, Carrie-Anne Moss and Faye Dunaway

Synopsis: Three friends stumble upon the horrific origins of the Bye Bye Man, a mysterious figure they discover is the root cause of the evil behind man’s most unspeakable acts.

 

It’s a bit of a shame that after the great year horror had last year – finally – a film like this comes along and washes all that away. Apparently based off a story called “The Bridge to Body Island” by Robert Damon Schneck, The Bye Bye Man has an interesting concept that falls apart once the film gets going. That’s only the beginning of this film’s issues.

The film follows three college friends in Elliot (Douglas Smith), his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas) and their friend John (Lucien Laviscount) who buy and move into an old house off campus. Everyone seems okay at first until Elliot finds an old coin on his nightstand left by the previous owner. He then discovers writing underneath the drawer that says “Don’t Think it, Don’t Say it” and under that are craved words “The Bye Bye Man.” At first he laughs it off, but when the three start experiencing strange things in and out of the house, they soon learn The Bye Bye Man (played by the awesome character actor Doug Jones) is indeed real, and after them.

One of the problems with The Bye Bye Man – one of many – is we don’t get a sense of the characters, and hardly care for them. Elliot is the closet one to actually having a backstory, while Sasha is just the girlfriend who, at the beginning, tries to convince Elliot that what is happening is real, but after Elliot goes along with it, she becomes a bit annoying, and John somewhat disappears for a bit and we really don’t miss him. Jenna Kanell pops in as Sasha’s friend Kim, who is a psychic of sorts and, based off the trailers, is the one that gets killed by the train, which is the highlight of her character.

However, the saving graces of the film – cast wise – is the small roles by Carrie-Anne Moss, Faye Dunaway and Leigh Whannell. Faye Dunaway appears near the end of the film and adds to some backstory of The Bye Bye Man, Carrie-Anne Moss plays a local detective that could have been played by really anyone else, but Moss adds some gravitas to the role. Leigh Whannell plays Larry Redmond a writer that “discovers” The Bye Bye Man and is involved in the best scenes in the film: flashbacks. Finally, Doug Jones does this best he can with what he’s given as the titular character.

All in all, the concept of the film sounds good at first, but once we start seeing what he does and really think about it afterwards, The Bye Bye Man fails to execute on its promise. The characters are bland and are never developed and a muddled story doesn’t help. The Bye Bye Man is almost passable film while watching, but nothing you’ll remember.

The Bye Bye Man

2 out of 5

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Let me know what you think.

‘A Monster Calls’ Review

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Director: J.A Bayona

Writer: Patrick Ness

Cast: Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, and Liam Neeson

Synopsis: A boy seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mum’s terminal illness.

 

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

 

Based on the book by Patrick Ness, who also wrote the film, that was based off the idea started by Siobhan Dowd, A Monster Calls is a visually, beautifully story done so well that hits you on every emotional level that you won’t leave the theater with a dry eyes. The story is a simple one, but what director J.A Bayona was able to do with his behind the camera team is nothing short of amazing and heartbreaking to watch.

The film revolves around a 12-year-old boy named Conor O’Malley, played by newcomer Lewis MacDougall, as he deals with seeing his mother, played by Felicity Jones, go through the final stages of chemotherapy for her cancer. When things take a turn for the worse, Conor loses himself in his drawings, but one night the giant tree in the cemetery near his home comes to life and visits him. Simply called The Monster, voiced by Liam Neeson, he comes to Conor and demands he listens to his three stories, and when the time is over, Conor will tell The Monster a fourth, which will be Conor’s truth.

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Conor not seeing the meaning of this, of course, comes to terms and hears The Monster’s stories that come to life in beautiful animation that looks like watercolors. The moments in-between involve Conor dealing with his Grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) that wants him to move in with her, and Conor’s father, played by Toby Kebbell, coming to visit from America. However, Conor is left with The Monster to deal with the grief of his mother.

From the moment I watched the first trailer for A Monster Calls, I knew this film was going to be special, and while watching I knew I was right about the film. While the visuals of The Monster and his stories are amazing – seriously – The Monster is an amazing effect and almost looks real in some shots. Combine that with Liam Neeson’s voice that conveys both terrifying monster, but compassion in some scenes as well. It’s a fine line that Neeson walks, and he does it so well.

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However, the film is put on the shoulders of newcomer Lewis MacDougall, who handles it with ease. Technically his second film – he starred in Pan – it’s still hard to think that MacDougall is a newcomer. He handles himself with so much poise and maturity around seasoned actors like Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver and Toby Kebbell. Conor, and really MacDougall, is the driving force of the film, and without him, and what he goes through, I don’t think A Monster Calls would have worked.

When it comes to the rest of the (human) cast, Felicity Jones as the mother is heartbreaking to watch, and while she doesn’t say too much, Jones says more than enough with her body language. Toby Kebbell has a small role as Conor’s father, but Kebbell brings a certain reality and humanity to the situation, while James Melville plays Harry, a bully at school. Finally, Sigourney Weaver as the Grandmother takes some time to really delve into what her really makes her tick, but is worth the journey as well.

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All in all, A Monster Calls is a film that keeps you invested from beginning to end, and never let’s go. The film is carried by its young star Lewis MacDougall and Liam Neeson as The Monster. Also, any film that can hook me in and have me on the verge of, or have me in, tears is going in my book. Seriously, bring tissues. Lots of them.

A Monster Calls

5 out of 5

New Podcast: Year in Review, Thor: Ragnarok Synopsis, Woody Harrelson Eyed for Young Solo Film & More

The first podcast of 2017 is here!

January Movie Releases

Happy New Year!!

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, we have a new year in front of us which means one thing: new movies! Now, January is usually referred to as Hollywood’s “Dump” Month. Meaning they will release movies that they don’t think will perform well or are not confident in. Sometimes that is the case, but sometimes a movie will shine through. January is also filled with expanded releases of movies that came out in December so there is also that to look forward to.

You’ll notice that I will put the companies attached and responsible for releasing the film as well. Just trying something new to expand the page a bit and instead of posters, now you’ll be seeing trailers. I’ll try to update whenever new trailers come out.

 

 

6th

 

Wide Release: Hidden Figures

Based on the book my Margot Lee Shetterly, a team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions. I had the opportunity to watch the film on its limited release late last year, and I have to say it is a fantastic film. Do yourself a favor and go watch this. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge and Glen Powell.

 

Wide Release: A Monster Calls (Fantasy Drama – Focus Features/Participant Media/River Road Entertainment/Apaches Entertainment/La Trini)

Based on a script and book by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls follows a boy as he seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom terminal illness. The film stars Liam Neeson as The Monster, Felicity Jones as the Mother, Sigourney Weaver as the Grandmother, Toby Kebbell as Dad, and Lewis MacDougall as the boy and Lily-Rose Aslandogdu as Lily.

 

Underworld: Blood Wars (Action – Screen Gems/Lakeshore Entertainment/Sketch Films)

Selene (Kate Beckinsale) returns to once again try and end the war between the Lycan clan and the Vampire fraction that betrayed her. Blood Wars does look like a step-up from the last film, but I don’t know how the film will actually turn out. The film also stars Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, and Charles Dance.

 

 

13th

Wide/Expansion Release: Patriots Day

 

Limited Release: The Comedian

A look at the life of an aging insult comic played by Robert De Niro. The film also stars Leslie Mann, Danny DeVito, Cloris Leachman, Harvey Keitel, Eddie Falco and Billy Crystal.

 

Wide Release: Live By Night

Based off the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, Ben Affleck writes, directs and stars in this great looking film that is set during the Prohibition and follows Joe Coughlin, the son of a prominent Boston police captain, as he rises through the ranks of the criminal underworld and the trouble he falls into along the way. Besides the film looking great, it has a great cast in Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Sullivan, Anthony Michael Hall, Titus Welliver, Max Casella, Chris Messina, and Chris Cooper.

 

Wide Release: Silence 

Based on the book by Shusaku Endo, Martin Scorsese directs this historic drama set in the seventh century when two Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor (Liam Neeson) and propagate Catholicism. Based off the trailer the film looks very powerful, and the early word from its limited release has made that statement true. Now tith its wide release, hopefully we’ll get a chance to experience that. Silence also stars Tadanobu Asano, and Ciaran Hinds.

 

The Bye Bye Man (Horror Thriller – STX Entertainment/Intrepid Pictures/Los Angles Media Fund)

An adaptation of the short story “The Bridge to Body Island,” by Robert Damon Schneck, the story centers on three Wisconsin college students in the 1990s, who move into an old house off campus. They unwittingly unleash a supernatural entity known as The Bye Bye Man, who comes to pretty upon them once they discover his name. The friends must try to save each other, all the while keeping The Bye Bye Man’s existence a secret to save others from the same deadly fate. The film looks okay, and a bit cheesy based on the first trailer – at least for me. This is actually the third move for the film as it was set for an October release, then a June release, then a early December release, and now this date.

 

Monster Trucks (Sci-Fi Adventure – Paramount Pictures/Paramount Animation/Nickeldeon Movies)

Another film that was moved three times now, although this one was done to complete post-production, Monster Trucks takes the idea of the popular derby and flips it on its head by making it literal. There are alien monsters that take over trucks and are on the run. Of course humans help them and what follows is some insane looking over-the-top action. Stars Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Rob Lowe, Amy Ryan, Barry Pepper, Samara Weaving, Holt McCallany, Frank Whaley, Thomas Lennon, and Danny Glover.

 

Sleepless (Action Thriller – Open Road Films/FilmNation Entertainment/Vertigo Entertainment/Riverstone Pictures)

A remake of French film Nuit Blanche (which I highly recommend you watch), a cop with a connection to the criminal underworld scours a nightclub in search of his kidnapped son. The film look okay, I was a huge fan of the original film, and this one does look like they’re upping the action, which is fine if the movie turns out good. The film stars Jamie Foxx, Gabrielle Union, Michelle Monaghan, David Harbour, T.I., and Scoot McNairy.

 

20th

Limited Release: The Red Turtle

Produced by the famous Studio Ghibli, the dialogue-less film follows the major life stages of a castaway on a deserted tropical island populated by turtles, crabs and birds.

 

Wide Release: 20th Century Women

 

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (Family Romance Comedy – High Top Releasing/WWE Studios)

Gavin Stone (Brett Dalton), a washed up former child star, is forced to do community service at a local megachurch and pretends to be Christian so he can land the part of Jesus in their annual Passion Play, only to discover that the most important role of life is far from Hollywood. The film also stars Neil Flynn, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, Liam Matthews, D.B. Sweeney, and WWE Legend Shawn Michaels.

 

The Founder (Biography Drama – The Weinstein Company/FilmNation Entertainment/The Combine)

Michael Keaton stars in this film that tells the story of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. I don’t think I’ve ever actually thought about the story of McDonald’s and since I’ve seen the trailer, it’s peaked my interest and I’m sure to many others as well. Also, the studio has high hopes as they moved the film from its release date last year in August to prime Oscar contention time. The rest of the cast includes Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson, Linda Cardellini, Nick Offerman, B.J. Novak, and John Carroll Lynch.

 

 

Split (Thriller – Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/Blinding Edge Pictures)

M. Night Shyamalan is back at it. The film stars James McAvoy as Kevin, a man with at least 23 different personalities, is compelled to abduct three teenage girls. As they are held captive, a final personality – “The Beast” – begins to materialize. The film also stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Sterling K. Brown and Betty Buckley. Honestly, this doesn’t look that bad. McAvoy looks like he’d nailing the role and it actually looks like a cool and effective thriller.

 

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (Action Thriller – Paramount Pictures)

Directed by D.J. Caruso (Disturbia, Eagle Eye, I Am Number Four), Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), thought to be dead, is bought back by his handler Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) to lead a team to stop a massive attack. The film also stars Nina Dobrev, Donnie Yen, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Toni Collette, Rory McCann, and Deepika Padukone.

 

27th

A Dog’s Purpose (Dramedy – Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment/Walden Media/DreamWorks SKG)

Based on the novel by W. Bruce Cameron and directed by Lasse Hallstrom (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Dear John, The Hundred-Foot Journey), the film follows a dog (voiced by Bradley Cooper), who looks to discover his purpose in life over the course of several lifetimes and owners. The film also stars Britt Robertson, Peggy Lipton, John Ortiz, and Dennis Quaid.

 

Bastards (Comedy – Warner Bros./Alcon Entertainment/The Montecito Picture Company/DMG Entertainment)

Upon learning that their mother has been lying to them for years about their allegedly deceased father, two fraternal twin brothers hit the road in order to find him. The film stars Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Glenn Close, Ving Rhames, Terry Bradshaw, and J.K. Simmons.

 

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Screen Gems/Constantin Film International/Capcom Entertainment)

The last installment of the Milla Jovovich and Paul W.S. Anderson Resident Evil series, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on how you feel about the series. The Final Chapter picks ups immediately after the events from the last film and follows Alice (Jovovich) returning to Raccoon City where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors. The film will bring back Ali Larter as Claire Redfield, Iain Glen as Dr. Alexander Isaacs and Shawn Roberts as Albert Wesker with new cast members Ruby Rose, William Levy, Eoin Macken, and international star Rola.

 

Gold (Drama Thriller – TWC-Dimension/Black Bear Pictures/Living Films/Hwy61)

An unlikely pair venture to the Indonesian jungle in search of gold. The film is giving off a semi-American Hustle vibe and seeing Matthew McConaughey lose himself in the character should be interesting to watch. The film also stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Edgar Ramirez, Toby Kebbell, Rachael Taylor, Corey Stoll, Bruce Greenwood, Bill Camp, and Stacy Keach

 

What are you looking forward to?

My Best/Favorite Films of 2016

It’s the end of the year boys and girls, you know what that means? It’s list time!!

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 in theaters, or because they were only in theaters in my area for a short time. Also, the list won’t include limited release like Live By Night, A Monster Calls, Patriots Day or Silence since they didn’t open in my area, so I’ll include those in my list of 2017 (assuming they make the list of course). Then we’ll move to the films that just missed the list, surprises of the year, honorable mentions and then the big ones.

 

Movies I Missed That I Wanted to Watch

Anomalisa

American Honey

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Café Society

Captain Fantastic

Eye in the Sky

High Rise

Indignation

I Saw the Light

Loving

Miss Sloane

Swiss Army Man

The Birth of a Nation

The Hollars

The Invitation

The Light Between Oceans

The Wave

 

 

Just Missed The List

Demolition

Don’t Think Twice

Lights Out

Nocturnal Animals

The Magnificent Seven

Train to Busan

 

 

Surprises of the Year

Bad Moms (STX Entertainment/Block Entertainment)

If you told me that Bad Moms would be as funny as it was at the beginning of the year, I’d probably walk away from our conversation. But, I gave Bad Moms a chance and I actually had an enjoyable time watching it. It isn’t perfect, but there are plenty of laughs with a great lead cast in Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn.

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Ouija: Origin of Evil (Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/Platinum Dunes/Hasbro/Allspark Pictures)

I never watched the first Ouija (and I still don’t at this point), so walking into Origin of Evil knowing it was a prequel, I didn’t know what to anticipate. Thankfully, the sequel/prequel really worked, and honestly, worked better as a family drama than it did horror. Although some of the horror moments by Mike Flanagan, who directed films like Oculus and Hush, worked really well and of course it helped that he had a great cast, especially standout and young star Lulu Wilson.

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Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (Universal Pictures/Party Over Here/The Lonely Island/Apatow Productions)

Popstar was one of those films that I watched the trailer and found out what it was about, I couldn’t see myself watching it. Add the fact that I’m not that big of an Andy Samberg fan, but boy was I wrong. The movie was way more funnier than the trailers, and the mockumentary really adds to the movie as a whole, especially the bee “scene.” I’m okay with being wrong this time around.

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (Sony Pictures/Screen Gems/Cross Creak Pictures/Head Gear Films/Handsomecharlie Films/QC Entertainment/MadRiver Pictures)

I had actually been looking forward to this for a long time now, and while it wasn’t perfect, I still really enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies knew what it was and didn’t try to overdo it or be something else.

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Storks (Warner Bros. Animation/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Stoller Global Solutions)

Storks didn’t grab my attention at all until the second trailer came out, and even then I wasn’t completely sold on it. Then I watched it and I was glad I did. I genuinely had a great time watching the film. It had solid jokes that had me laughing for a good while after, and a very touching story with a satisfying ending that I didn’t think it would.

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The Shallows (Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Ombra Films/Weimaraner Republic Pictures)

Another film I had no expectation for but ended watching anyway was the Blake Lively-trying-not-to-get-eaten-by-a-shark film. But, The Shallows wasn’t all that bad, in fact, it kind of made me change my mind on Lively as an actress. Granted it was one film, and it had everything to do with the material she was given, but The Shallows hands down is my surprise film of the year that didn’t suck.

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Honorable Mentions

10 Cloverfield Lane (Paramount Pictures/Bad Robot/Spectrum Effects)

Considering the title for the film came out of nowhere, many were waiting to see what 10 Cloverfield Lane would bring to the table. Thankfully, it came in the form of a great film than probably most people didn’t anticipate. The third act twist to make it connect to the overall world of Cloverfield and all the online marketing threw a lot of people off, but nothing can take away what this film was able to do, in the short time we had to adjust. 10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the best thrillers of the year.

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Christine (The Orchard/Great Point Media/Fresh Jade/BorderLine Films)

Based on a true story I didn’t know before this film, I was still excited to see how they would approach the material. Also, knowing what was going to happen didn’t affect the final product at all. Rebecca Hall is a standout in this and her performance is amazing to watch from beginning to end.

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Deepwater Horizon (Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment/Participant Media/Di Bonaventura Pictures/Closest to the Hole Productions/Leverage Entertainment)

Peter Berg feels like he’s become a “based on a true story” director, which is fine if they’re anything like Deepwater Horizon. Whether you think the concept of making a film based on the BP oil spill is a “good” idea, the film was more about the actual workers there. Not only that, the film is heavily emotion that I will not lie, made me tear up.

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Doctor Strange (Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Marvel continues its trend of changing the way they make their films and keeping the fans on their feet. Doctor Strange introduced magic to the already well-oiled machine that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Filled with trippy, and great, visuals Doctor Strange may not be the best Marvel film, but one that definitely sticks out, and will leave a lasting impression.

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Don’t Breathe (Sony Pictures/Screen Gems/Ghost House Pictures/Stage 6 Films/Good Universe)

Fede Alvarez had a lot of eyes on him after he directed the not-as-bad-as-people-thought-it-would-be remake of Evil Dead, and Don’t Breathe was a worthy follow-up. The film was filled with great tension throughout that was helped by the great sound design. Not only that, the film was vastly different from what the trailers made you think you were walking into, which is always nice.

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Eddie the Eagle (20th Century Fox/Marv Films/Saville Productions/Studio Babelsberg)

Based on the real life of Eddie the Eagle, Taron Egerton continued to prove that he is one of the best young and upcoming actors working today. Add in the fact that he’s playing a real person whose story was not only a feel-good one, but one that is truly inspirational was great to watch. Also, anytime we get to see Hugh Jackman is a plus, right?

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Finding Dory (Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios)

Many, myself included, worried whether a sequel to Finding Nemo was even necessary, but doubting Pixar at this point has been a bad move. Not only was Finding Dory a worthy sequel, it was a ton of fun. The film never tried to be like the previous film, and instead did things differently to tell its story, and thankfully it paid off.

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Found Footage 3D

One of the highlights of the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival was Found Footage 3D. Keeping true to the title, the film is shot in found footage in 3D, and as terrible as that may sound to some, Found Footage 3D is a lot of fun and worthy to seen. I’ll say this about the film, it’s the Scream of found footage movies.

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Ghostbusters (Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Village Roadshow Pictures/LStar Captial/Feigco Entertainment/Pascal Pictures/The Montecito Picture Company)

Yes, I actually enjoyed Ghostbusters. The film didn’t deserve all the hate it got. Was it perfect? No, but it wasn’t terrible either. And yes, the female-led cast actually worked. The film was funny, and the last act – although fell into typical Summer Blockbuster Movie tropes – had some cool things going for it, like ghosts taking over Time Square.

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Green Room (A24/Broad Green Pictures/Film Science)

One of the main attractions of Green Room for many I’m sure was seeing the always loveable Patrick Stewart play a terrifying Neo-Nazis leader, and that’s what he did indeed. Also, it later turned out to be one of the last films by Anton Yelchin. With all that said, Green Room did turn out to be much more than those points. While the film had some horror elements, Green Room works better as a survival thriller.

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Hacksaw Ridge (Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment/Cross Creak Pictures/Demarest Media/IM Global)

Say what you want about Mel Gibson, and maybe he still deserves it or maybe not, but the man can direct a damn movie! Hacksaw Ridge is a powerful film that, like some films on the list, is based on a true story that maybe not a lot of people knew, and props to Andrew Garfield for bringing not just the character, but the actual man, to life. The war scenes were brutal, sure, but it was Garfield’s performance that really made this movie shine.

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Headshot (Infinite Frameworks Studios)

Headshot was the newest film that starred The Raid and The Raid 2 stars Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle and Very Tri Yullisman. The film does lean more on the drama side before the action kicks into overdrive and becomes the martial arts film that the trailers promised.

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Here Alone (Vertical Entertainment/Lola’s Productions/Easy Open Productions/Manhattan Productions/Gentile Entertainment Group/Preferred Content) 

One of the biggest surprises of the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival was not really too much of a horror film, but a thriller drama that follows a woman trying to live her life in a post-apocalyptic landscape. The film sounds simple but it is so much more than the synopsis has you believe. The film surpassed any sort of expectations I had for it, which was none, because I didn’t know anything about it before hand.

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Hidden Figures (20th Century Fox/Fox 2000 Pictures/Chernin Entertainment/Levantine Films)

This could have gone in my surprises of the year, but I ended up really liking Hidden Figures a lot more than I had original thought. Along with a story that really happened, I had to include it in my list of films of the year. The film was smart, funny and highly entertaining from beginning to end. Also, the wide release is early January, but I managed to see a “Special Engagement” showing, so I was able to put it on my list for 2016.

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Midnight Special (Warner Bros./Tri-State Pictures/RatPac Dune Entertainment)

Another film that I wished more people got to see was this film. Midnight Special may have the backdrop of a sci-fi film, but it really is a story about family and what a father would do for his son. The film is a independent film to the truest point, and even when the sci-fi elements come into play, it never undermines the family drama.

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Moonlight (A24/Plan B Entertainment) 

There’s something special about Moonlight when watching it. The film’s decision to follow our main character from childhood to adulthood was an interesting move, but also made sense when you remember everything that was shown beforehand. The film’s theme was also something that was handled extremely well, and since the trailer – at least from what I remember – didn’t say or hint at anything about it, I was surprised and floored. Moonlight takes the risk and it pays off.

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Pete’s Dragon (Walt Disney Productions)

I had never seen – or at least don’t remember – the original Pete’s Dragon, and I’m kind of glad of that because this iteration is great. It did feel like more of a older crowd film, but there was enough for kids to enjoy and understand. The film also didn’t have a hard time pulling on the heartstrings, and Elliot the Dragon, was worth the price of admission alone.

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The Autopsy of Jane Doe (IFC Films/IFC Midnight/IM Global/Impostor Pictures/42)

Directed by Trollhunters director Andre Ovredal, The Autopsy of Jane Doe is one of those films that just came out of nowhere, and one you should see if you get the chance without knowing too much about it. All you need to know is Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch have great chemistry as father and son coroners who have to deal with a mysterious body and creepy as things going down.

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The Edge of Seventeen (STX Entertainment/Gracie Films)

This was a film I wasn’t too excited about just based off the premise, but once the cast came together and watching the first trailer, it went to must-watch watch. The Edge of Seventeen is a great coming-of-age film that is lead by Hailee Steinfeld and had a great supporting cast. It wasn’t the best coming-of-age film this year, but one of the best for sure.

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The Handmaiden (Amazon Studios/CJ Entertainment/Magnolia Pictures/Moho Film/Yong Film)

Directed by Chan-wook Park, this erotic thriller – to put it lightly – was like nothing I ever thought it would be like. I mean, seriously, like. Nothing. I. Never. Thought. It. Would. Be.

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The Witch (A24/Parts and Labor/Rooks Nest Entertainment/Code Red Productions/Mott Street Pictures/Code Red Productions/Maiden Voyage Pictures)

The Witch was one of those films that I couldn’t shake off after watching. That doesn’t happen often, and that’s saying something coming from a guy that watches a lot of films in general. From start to finish, the film grabs you with its unique cinematography, eerie setting, and overall sense of dread.

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Zootopia (Walt Disney Pictures/Walt Disney Animation Studios)

After watching Zootopia, I thought, that’s it for animated films this year right? Well, no, but Zootopia is still right there on top of the list. Filled with smart social commentary and a great voice cast, Disney has done it again with their animated films.

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Best/Favorite Movies of the Year

Arrival (Paramount Pictures/FilmNation Entertainment/Lava Bear Films/21 Laps Entertainment)

Arrival was one of those films you make you feel comfortable until it hits you with all the emotions it’s gathered up throughout the film. It’s also one of those films that leaves you thinking way after watching the film, and start asking questions about what you would do. It’s a great film that came out of nowhere, and one we need a little more of.

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Captain America: Civil War (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Marvel Studios)

The Civil War story in the comics is unbelievable, so when Marvel announced they were going to put it on the big screen, I was a little hesitant – even though I trust Marvel. So when I watched Civil War, all I could think about was how great they were able to bring their own story into the film, and make it work and make Captain America: Civil War one of the best Marvel films so far.

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Carol (The Weinstein Company/Film4/Killer Films/Number 9 Films)

Technically a 2015 film, but considering its wide release rollout – which is when I saw it – wasn’t until 2016, I’m putting Carol here. Of course, it doesn’t really matter where you put this film because it is such a great film. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara made these characters and story feel so real that even with the period piece, you can easy see how modern the story is as well.

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Deadpool (20th Century Fox/Marvel Enterprises/TSG Entertainment)

Deadpool could also be labeled a Surprise Film of the Year, but let’s face it, Deadpool belongs in a favorite films of the year list. Considering it took so long to get this film made, all the kudos goes to Ryan Reynolds, director Tim Miller, and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick to bring, arguably, one of the most hardest comic book characters to life on the big screen.

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Everybody Wants Some!! (Paramount Pictures/Annapurna Pictures/Detour Filmproduction)

Richard Linklater’s spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused is so relatable to many, it’s kind of weird. We’ve all been there at some point of our lives and Linklater has this ability to find actors that we can relate to and root for it’s almost impossible.

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Hell or High Water (CBS Films/Lionsgate/Oddlot Entertainment/Sidney Kimmel Entertainment/Film 44)

Hell or High Water is one of those films you watch and wonder, why didn’t this get a bigger release? It had great performances by the cast all around, the story and cinematography were great, and feel of the film is constant throughout. If you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor and watch this film!

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Hunt for the Wilderpeople (The Orchard/Piki Films/Defender Films/Curious Film)

This is one film I didn’t know too much about before going to see it. All I knew was it was getting rave reviews and it was directed by Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Flight of the Conchords, Thor: Ragnarok). I loved Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and one of the reason I loved it was because it was so different in its own quirky, weird, fun way.

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I Am Not a Serial Killer (IFC Midnight/Fantastic Films/Floodland Pictures/Winterland Pictures/Liquid Noise Films/Level 5 Films)

Having read the novel a few years back, I didn’t even know a movie was being released until it premiered on the film festival circuit. However, I Am Not a Serial Killer is definitely of those rare films that surpasses the source material, and what helped was the casting of Max Records and Christopher Lloyd.

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Jackie (Fox Searchlight Pictures/LD Entertainment/Wild Bunch/Why Not Productions/Protozoa Pictures/Bliss Media/Fabula)

Natalie Portman gives an absolutely crushing and great performance as Jackie Kennedy. The film is built and carried by her as we see Portman literally go through every emotion she can go through bringing the former First Lady to life that lost her husband in front of her, who also happened to be the President of the United States in a very public way.

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Kubo and the Two Strings (Focus Features/Laika Entertainment)

Laika Entertainment’s fourth film, and for me personally, their best, Kubo and the Two Strings is a beautifully done film with tremendous production design and awesome score. The story at times feels simple, but man did I fall in love with this film.

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La La Land (Summit Entertainment/Black Label Media/Marc Platt Productions/Impostor Pictures/Gilbert Films)

I was blown away by La La Land! I didn’t think the film would be as good as people were saying it was, but I’m glad it was. The film was beautifully done and filled with a great and emotional soundtrack that I’ve slowly become addicted too. The fact that is also feels like an old Hollywood film is what makes the film go above the rest.

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Manchester by the Sea (Amazon Studios/Roadside Attractions/B Story/Big Indie Pictures/Pearl Street Films/CMP/K Period Media)

Films about grief are common in Hollywood every year, however what makes Manchester by the Sea stick out is that it feels overly real than the rest. There’s no pouring his emotions out by Casey Affleck’s character, and the film shows people go through grief in their own ways. Add on the breakout performance by Lucas Hedges, and the small but powerful performance by Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea is one of the best films of the year.

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Moana (Walt Disney Pictures/Walt Disney Animation Studios)

Disney Animation continues to bring powerful, emotional and beautifully done films, and it felt like this year was a great year for them. Moana tells a great story through its character, but also its amazing soundtrack, which probably makes sense since they had Lin-Manuel Miranda helping them out.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Lucasfilm/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Allison Shearmur Productions)

Let’s face it, Rogue One was a huge risk for Lucasfilm. Another prequel? Really, did they learn nothing from the past? Well, we were wrong! Rogue One was not only a great prequel to A New Hope, but a great Star Wars film in general. It brings a whole new level to the franchise, and whether you are a hardcore fan, a moderate fan, and someone who is just starting, Rogue One is a ton of fun, action-packed and filled with great characters.

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Sing Street (The Weinstein Company/FilmNation Entertainment/Likely Story/PalmStar Media)

I remember watching the trailer for Sing Street and automatically knew it was going to be something special, and it looked like I was right. Sing Street is one of those films that you may have seen before, but the cast and soundtrack they were able to pull together makes this film not only one of my favorite films of the year, but one of the best films of the year.

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Star Trek Beyond (Paramount Pictures/Skydance Productions/Bad Robot/Sneaky Shark/Perfect Storm Entertainment)

Star Trek Beyond is one of those films that I don’t think many people gave a chance because Into Darkness was underwhelming and disappointing. Which is a fair assessment. However, Star Trek Beyond was a better film and a more fun film that was reminiscent of the first film in the rebooted franchise.

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The Conjuring 2 (Warner Bros./New Line Cinema/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Evergreen Media Group/The Safran Company/Atomic Monster)

At this point, I think I’ll follow James Wan anywhere. I don’t know if The Conjuring 2 was better than the first film, but it is a worthy sequel and one that works within the world that Wan created. Not only that, he continues to bring creepy as hell characters to the big screen to fill our nightmares.

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The Jungle Book (Walt Disney Pictures/Fairview Entertainment/Moving Picture Company)

Another worthy candidate for Surprise of the Year, The Jungle Book proved you can take an old property and do something new with it, and add to it. Also, the fact that the film only has one real person in it in Neel Sethi, and everything else was done in CGI that looked real in some cases, it’s rather impressive.

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The Nice Guys (Warner Bros./Silver Pictures/Waypoint Entertainment/Misty Mountains)

Shane Black’s return to the dark comedy and noir films proved to be a good move with his great film in The Nice Guys. It’s a shame that no one really went out to see it because they missed out on the great chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe.

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The Revenant (20th Century Fox/New Regency Pictures/RatPac Entertainment/Anonymous Content/Appian Way)

Like Carol, Alejandro G. Inarritu’s new film was technically a 2015 film, but didn’t get its wide release rollout until 2016, which is when I saw it. Of course, the film earned Leonardo DiCaprio’s first Oscar, but it was also the performances of the other cast members like Tom Hardy and the reunion of Inarritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. Also, watching Leo go through the torturous journey is worthy of watching the film.

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So that was my year. What are your favorite/best films of the 2016.

Worst/Disappointing/Least-Liked Movies of the 2016

It’s the end of the year boys and girls, you know what that means? It’s list time!

I’ll put up my list of “Best/Favorite” movies of the year later, but with all those good/great/awesome movies I have, I had to sit through some stinkers unfortunately. Some of these I knew weren’t going to be any good walking in, but I ended up taking the hit anyway. The list ranges all over the place so don’t think I’m attacking certain movies because it’s easy. I walk into every movie with a clear mind and soaking up the movie for what it’s worth.

The list will have the movies 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 they weren’t good enough to make it on my other list. Like all lists, this is my opinion! So if you don’t agree that’s perfectly fine and probably justified. Film is subjective, and that’s why I love it.

Finally, there are other movies that could have gone on the list, but these are the ones that truly stuck out. Alright, let’s get this over with.

 

Dishonorable Mentions

Ben-Hur

Masterminds

Siren

 

 

Disappointments/Least-Liked/Worst Movies of the Year

Anitbirth (IFC Midnight/Traverse Media/Hideaway Pictures)

This is one of the many films I watched at the Bruce Campbell Horror Film Festival in August, and having heard nothing about the film or even watching a trailer, I didn’t know what was coming. I probably should have watched the trailer, because I didn’t like this movie. At all! I didn’t feel anything for the characters, and the story felt like it was going nowhere. The ending, oh man the ending, it literally came out of nowhere, and while the ending would have been shocking if the story hadn’t been bad, it didn’t help matters whatsoever. I know I said I wouldn’t label too many of the films, but this is easily one of my worst films of the year. Maybe the worst.

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Warner Bros./RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Atlas Entertainment/DC Entertainment)

This one may take the cake for the biggest disappointment of the year. Despite finally bringing two of the biggest comic book characters on the big screen for the first time, the film was filled with poor editing decisions along with being too crowed for its own good. Zack Snyder said the film was cut severely, but that shouldn’t mean a movie should suffer. While seeing Batman and Superman duke it out was nice to finally see on the big screen, it wasn’t enough to pick this movie up. Also, it doesn’t matter – I mean it does – but why would I sit through a movie again that’s longer to see the difference(talking about that “Extended Cut” on Blu-Ray).

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Blair Witch (Lionsgate/Veritgo Entertainment/Snoot Entertainment/Room 101)

What we all thought was just another found footage movie called The Woods actually ended up being a surprise sequel to The Blair Witch Project. The film was directed by Adam Wingard (You’re Next, The Guest) and his usual writing partner Simon Barrett –the previously films mentioned – and that had me from the very beginning. I’m a huge fan of those two, and when it was announced that the film was really Blair Witch, I was both hesitant and excited. Taking into account the film was riding high in praise it was getting in early screening, the end result was a mixed bag – being mostly negative. While the film tried to connect to the spirit of the first film, including revving up the finale, it just didn’t have that same connection the first film made. Some parts were interesting, but at the end of the day, I don’t think it was executed well.

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Gods of Egypt (Lionsgate/Summit Entertainment/Mystery Clock Cinema/Thunder Road Pictures)

Gods of Egypt was one of those movies I was excited to watch when it was announced, and when the cast came together with director Alex Proyas, I thought this has to be good, right? Turns out, I was wrong. Very, very wrong. Filled with very questionable (to put it very lightly) CGI throughout, the film felt more like a glorified SyFy Channel movie than it did a big budget Hollywood movie. It didn’t help that despite the pretty good cast, they couldn’t save this either. Dumb fun popcorn film at its finest, but still COME ON!

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Independence Day: Resurgence (20th Century Fox)

Oh boy, this was…ugh. The sequel was something many fans have been wanting for a long time, and I’m sure Resurgence destroyed any hope of getting a worthy sequel. The film had its moments, but only a few to be honest. It just was bad. I mean, I could point out the things I didn’t like with this movie or what was wrong, but that’s too much to write. Also, the more I thought about the film afterward – even know as I’m writing this – I can feel myself getting angry.

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The 5th Wave (Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/GK Films/LStar Capital/Material Pictures)

Based on the book by Ricky Yancy, The 5th Wave had a good set-up and source material to set it just a tad apart from the other young adult novel adaptation out there. I read the first book way before the film came out and was looking forward to seeing what they were going to do with this. Unfortunately, the film was bland, and felt way too generic for its own good. It never felt like anything was really happening even when it was, and one of its supposed standout twist moments involving a character reveal was to dark to see what was going on. A big disappointment considering what the book had to offer.

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The Neon Demon (Amazon Studios/Broad Green Pictures/Bold Films/Vendian Entertainment/Space Rocket Nation)

Oh, Nicolas Winding Refn. For me, Refn is a hit-or-miss director for the films I’ve seen. I really liked Bronson and Drive, but Valhalla Rising I couldn’t even finish, and I’ve heard nothing but bad things from Only God Forgives. When it came to The Neon Demon, I didn’t know what to anticipate, and even while I was watching it, I thought, what the hell am I watching? So The Neon Demon wasn’t even a disappointment, least-liked or bad movie, it just was a movie I watched that had its very Refn-esque moments, and some what the hell did I just watch moments.

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Triple 9 (Open Road Films/Anonymous Content/Worldview Entertainment/MadRiver Pictures)

Triple 9 had a lot of good things going for it with an amazing cast and a great director in John Hillcoat (The Road). So it’s a shame that the film ended up being a bit of a disappointment. The film had some great potential, and while the film does live up to some of it, it didn’t capitalize on what the film promised or what it could have been.

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Suicide Squad (Warner Bros./DC Entertainment/RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Atlas Entertainment/Lin Pictures)

If Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a disappointment, Suicide Squad just added to it. I didn’t get on the hate train like a lot of other people did. I liked most of it, and I thought some parts worked, but I couldn’t get over all the missteps the film had to make it good or even great. To even say it was better than Dawn of Justice (the theater cut) isn’t even saying that much either. I didn’t hate Suicide Squad, and while I had more fun watching this than Dawn of Justice, I can’t honestly say I loved it either. Also, Jared Leto’s Joker: ugh.

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Warcraft (Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures/Blizzard Entertainment/Atlas Entertainment)

I never played the games myself, but I knew how big the game was to some people. I also knew this film was in the works for a long time – Sam Raimi was originally attached to direct for a while – so finally seeing this on the big screen was a big deal. Unfortunately, for me, the movie didn’t click for me. The film at times felt too much like it was catering to the fans then casual or non-game fans, which is something I always thought the film shouldn’t have done. I didn’t dislike Warcraft, some of it was pretty good, but overall, the film felt jumbled at times and I had a hard time connecting to some of the characters.

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All right, so there are my worst, disappointments, least-liked films of the year. What were some of yours?

Be on the lookout for my other lists coming out soon.