The Movie Pit Podcast is up!
It was also a big movie trailer week, so give it a listen and let me know what you think. The podcast is also on iTunes if Youtube is too inconvenient for you to listen everybody.
The Movie Pit Podcast is up!
It was also a big movie trailer week, so give it a listen and let me know what you think. The podcast is also on iTunes if Youtube is too inconvenient for you to listen everybody.
Director: Paul Greengrass
Writers: Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse
Cast: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles, Ato Essandoh, Scott Shepherd, Riz Ahmed, and Gregg Henry
Synopsis: The most dangerous former operative of the CIA is drawn out of hiding to uncover hidden truths about his past.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
I’ve always been a fan of the Bourne films. There was something about them that made them different from all the other spy films at the time. It helped that Matt Damon completely evolved into the amnesiac CIA operative that went against the people that created him. Also, having a director in Doug Liman and then Paul Greengrass also helped. So when the films decided to go the spinoff route, it was understandable that fans were a little disappointed, but when Damon and Greengrass said they would return fans rejoice and waited for the next chapter of the Jason Bourne series. What we ended up with was a mixed bag of what makes the franchise great, but also a film that could arguably be considered a sequel we didn’t need.
Jason Bourne follows Jason Bourne (Damon) now living off the grid making money but street fighting. However, when former CIA analyst Nicky Parsons (Stiles), who now works for a Wikileaks-type organization, hacks into the CIA and finds a new program called Ironhand, and also finds out Bourne has been connected to the CIA’s deadly programs longer than he thinks, she takes the information hoping to get help from Bourne one more time. The hack doesn’t go as smoothly as she thought because it puts her in the crosshairs of new CIA director Robert Dewey (Jones), and CIA cyber ops head Heather Lee (Vikander). Dewey seemingly thinking Bourne is behind the whole thing sends a new asset (Cassel) to take out Bourne. What follows is Bourne doing this thing of punching, shooting and causing chaos everywhere he goes.
Jason Bourne seems like it has a lot going on, but at the end of it all the film goes for the action rather than the subplot of political themes. The film looks like it is going one place in a post-Snowden world, but instead just puts it in the back burner after the first act of the film. It’s a bit of a shame considering the films have never shied away from tackling political themes in the past. Jason Bourne tries to go there, but instead chooses to elevate the action sequences – which personally I don’t mind, being an action guy – but knowing what this franchise was built on, it is a bummer to see the film go in that direction.
We even see Bourne finally looking like he’s broken down. He’s not hunting down people from Treadstone or Blackbriar, he’s fighting people for a living – easily winning – but when his memories starting to come back, it does look like it’s having a bigger effect on him. Sure we’ve seen Bourne hurt before, but that is all physical pain, and what we see early on in the film is mental. When Nicky finally finds him and brings him into the fold all that is pushed aside.
So while it sounds like I didn’t like Jason Bourne, I actually did. The series did always have great action, but it wasn’t just built on it. This film has arguably a couple more action sequences than the other films. Not that it’s a bad thing since the scenes are great. The riot in front of the Greek parliament building really puts you into the action, and the final act of the film in Vegas is non-stop once the action starts and is topped off with the typical brutal and hard-hitting fight between Bourne and the asset.
The cast is great as always. Damon can play Bourne in his sleep at this point, but he never phones it in. Julia Stiles who returns for the opening of the film is a cool sight to see, but something seemed off about Stiles this time around, maybe it was me, but I don’t know. Tommy Lee Jones, who is known to phone it in a lot, looks like he’s there for the most part. It’s hard to tell, considering he plays the old time agent that knows all about Bourne. Alicia Vikander is a great addition to the series, but it hard to get a read on her character for most of the film until the end when we finally know where she stands.
Vincent Cassel plays the asset aka the hit-man. Cassel’s asset is different from the other assets we’ve seen in the other films like Clive Owen, Karl Urban and Edgar Ramirez. Cassel does have connection to Bourne, and has another aspect to his character that seems rather too convenient, but Cassel is a great actor that it doesn’t almost matter because at least more people will get to know him. Finally, Riz Ahmed plays Aaron Kalloor, who does play a factor into the film, but is forgotten for most of the film, and doesn’t really leave in impact which is a shame because Ahmed is a fantastic actor.
All in all, Jason Bourne could arguably be labeled as an unnecessary sequel, but it’s great to see Damon and Greengrass back in this world, that is may not matter to people. The action is great as always and the cast all hold their own. While the film delves away from its political undertones, Jason Bourne has enough for fans of the franchise to enjoy.
3.5 out of 5
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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)
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.
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
Dir: Guy Ritchie
Writer(s): Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram
Cast: Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Luca Calvani, Sylvester Groth, Misha Kuznetsov, Jared Harris and Hugh Grant
Synopsis: In the early 1960s, CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin participate in a joint mission against a mysterious criminal organization, which is working to proliferate nuclear weapons.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
2015 really does seem to be the year of the spy genre. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation came out a couple weeks ago and the next James Bond film, Spectre is coming out in November. Both films are totally different so it’s nice to see something a little more loose and fun with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. coming out his past weekend. Not to say the film doesn’t have its moments of seriousness, but The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a nice alterative to some of the other films out there.
Directed by Guy Ritchie, the film is based on the old 60s shows of the same name, is set in the early 1960s at the height of the Cold War, and follows CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Cavill) having to team up with and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin (Hammer) to work with an East German mechanic Gaby Teller (Vikander), whose father – a known scientist and ability to make a nuclear bomb – has been kidnapped by Victoria Vinciguerra (Debicki) to build a bomb. The plan is for Illya to pose as Gaby’s fiancés in hopes that Gaby’s Uncle Rudi (Groth) can arrange an introduction, as Solo tries to charm Victoria so they can get the Intel they need to rescue Gaby’s father and stop the bomb from being sold and used.
The film works as a pseudo-prequel to the TV show, as it shows how the group came to be. Solo is one of the CIA’s best agents, like Kuryakin is the best the KGB has to offer and are focused to work together in order to, for all intent-and-purposes, save the world. The two aren’t on the best terms since the film opens with an impressive chase scene – that also involves Gaby – and right before they team up, they beat the crap out of each other. They also have their own ways of going about a mission and it also doesn’t help that their respected agencies have their own agenda. However, despite being on different sides of the war, the two form a weird and competitive friendship and mutual respect for each other.
In fact, one of the best aspects of the film is the relationship and chemistry between Cavill and Hammer. The banter they exchange with and about each other is funny and brings another layer to them. Cavill – who actually replaced Tom Cruise after he left the project – brings a great dose of charisma and is heavily suave when need be. Cavill is easily enjoying himself here and loves chewing up some of the scene. Hammer, goes against the usual stereotypes of Russians as bad guys, and makes Illya more of earnest character that balances his anger than the other way around. Hammer also seems to be having fun playing the character and putting on the Russian accent.
Alicia Vikander, thankfully, isn’t a female character that is put off to the side and actually gets to be involved in the mission, for the most part. Vikander is becoming one of my early favorite actresses after seeing her in Ex Machina, and she doesn’t disappoint here. She stands out in her bigger scenes, especially one that involves her and Hammer in a hotel room. By the end, she does get a bit lost in the background.
The rest of the supporting cast really doesn’t work out that well, unfortunately. Elizabeth Debicki’s Victoria and Luca Calvani are supposedly to the villains of the movie, but they don’t essentially earn that title. Maybe we’ve been spoiled by good spy film villains with the James Bond and Mission: Impossible films, but The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is its own thing in being a bit looser, but still no excuse for not having a good villain. Sylvester Groth’s Uncle Rudi does okay, but by the time we know more about his character and is finally growing, the film is done with the character. Jared Harris plays Solo’s CIA contact and boss, but it really is nothing more than an extended cameo for Harris, and the same goes for Misha Kuznetsov who plays Illya’s KGB boss. Finally, Hugh Grant’s Waverly character pops in around the middle of the film and disappears until the final act, and I have to say, I wish he was in it just a tad bit more. The character feels more like he was a character they were building up for potential sequels, but I wish they gave him a little more to do in the actual film beforehand.
Guy Ritchie is sometimes known for choosing style over substance in his films, and while that rings true here in some areas, the other areas he find a nice balance in some of the scenes. But, the film almost lends itself in some areas to choose style of substance, especially in the beginning action sequence – which is a hell of a lot of fun – and in some instances during the final action sequence. Speaking of the final action sequence, it almost saves the film, in the sense that the final act makes up for some of the slow pace during the second act. The final action sequence is also elevated a bit more because of the score. The score adds another great layer to the scene that makes it even more fun to watch.
All in all, The Man from U.N.C.L.E is a ton of fun. Cavill and Hammer bring a lot of the fun and humor to the film that sets it apart from the other spy genres that are coming out this year.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
4 out of 5