‘Avengers: Endgame’ Spoiler Review/Thoughts

Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Cast: Everybody…I’m not writing them all out.

Synopsis: After the devastating events of Avengers: Infinity War, the universe is in ruins. With the help of remaining allies, the Avengers assemble once more in order to undo Thanos’ actions and restore order to the universe.

*Reviewer Note: This post WILL HAVE SPOILERS. It won’t be a full-blown review, but will have review elements. This is more of a free-flown thought post about everything. If it feels disjointed, I’m sorry.*

 

11 years and twenty-two movies has all led to this. Marvel and the Russo brothers have impressively weaved everything together for their endgame. From the moment we saw Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury coming out of the shadows to tell Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark that he’s now part of a bigger world, fans have been eager to see where all this was going to lead. Whether you were a comic book fan or not, Marvel and everyone involved behind-the-scenes made sure to make you, and keep you, invested in these characters, and make you care for these characters from beginning to end. In this case, keep you and make you invested in their final journey – well, at least for a few of them.

Avengers: Endgame will probably surprise some people. Because despite being a “comic book movie,” the first act of the movie – after the first ten minutes – is more of a drama, and one that focus of loss. We’re not use to seeing heroes lose, and even if they do, their turnaround happens later on. Instead, Antony and Joe Russo have the characters dealing with their losses and trying to on, but as Chris Evan’s Steve Rogers says, “most people move, but we don’t.” It’s not just a line, we see it on Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha as she’s trying to make sure the world doesn’t go completely lawless, and looks like she’s become a Nick Fury-esque leader, but the weight of it has gotten to her, especially when she hears about Jeremy Renner’s Clint has been doing since “The Snap” (I know it’s called something else, but we’re calling it The Snap).

Speaking of Clint, the movie opens with him dealing with The Snap all by himself, and it  almost makes sense why he would go down the road he’s chosen – for the comic book fans, they never all him Ronin. Then he has to deal with losing Natasha to get the Soul Stone – which I’ll get to in a little bit. Clint takes the punches and keeps going, and while it’s easy to hate or rag on the character, Clint is a valuable member of The Avengers, and it’s shown here as he’s basically the test dummy for going into the Quantum Realm, and getting the new Gauntlet into the playing field at the end.

Others who have great drama moments is Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang, who escapes the Quantum Realm when the machine – I forgot the name – is turned on (by the rat?) and he comes out in a post-Snap world. He walks the streets of San Francisco seeing the aftermath and the slow realization of what happened, and the horror of seeing him searching for his daughter Cassie’s name, only to see his own name. Plus, yes, the reunion of him and Cassie is, probably, the first tear-jearking scene of the movie – for me.

Then there’s Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, oh I’m sorry, I mean FAT Thor. The effects of losing everything, and thinking it was his fault, because he didn’t aim for the head, is played throughout the film and it makes sense. Everything Thor has been through in the franchise has lead to him being one of the strongest Avengers, even if it’s said for laughs half the time, so having him be that close to end all of it and failing all the same is going to take its toll. Although, playing what essentially is PTSD a little bit jokey is questionable, it make sense that Thor would be the way he is. That said, I also love this scenes with Rene Russo’s returning Frigga.

Finally, we have Tony and Steve. The two still have some heat at the beginning due to the events of Civil War, but when the chips are down they know they need each other. Tony, and Karen Gillan’s Nebula, being rescued from space by Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel was expected, but seeing Tony with muscle loss and calling out Steve at the beginning is hard to watch. We’ve seen Tony in situations that he can get out of or even manage to barely get out of, but seeing Tony like this – a broken man – is something we’ve never really seen before, and it’s so effective, which makes his arc by the end

As for Steve, his ending just makes sense. Steve going back to the past to return the Infinity Stones, and then staying there to become old with Haley Atwell’s Peggy Carter is the ending that almost every fan wanted. Steve was always a man out of time, and the constant reminders of Peggy throughout the whole Captain America series, and here in Endgame it made sense he would stay and live his life with the love of his life. It also puts Chris Evans out of his contract, and a fitting end at that.

Now, let’s get to some of the grips. Because despite what some non-comic book fans think, we fans can be critical of the movies – well some of us. One of the main things everyone was talking about was the length of the movie. In many ways, it didn’t matter in the end because the movie doesn’t really feel long at all. The pacing, for the most part, is great. Endgame does slow down a bit when it comes to small scenes like when Thanos finds out about Nebula, and some of the double Nebula and Gamora scenes kind of slow things down, but other than, the pacing is fine.

Arguably, you can say Endgame returns to Marvel’s villain “problem.” Josh Brolin’s Thanos screen time is reduced tremendously from Infinity War, resulting in him not even appearing until about halfway, maybe even little more than halfway, through the movie. Granted, Infinity War was really a Thanos story, and Endgame was more about our heroes dealing with he’s done and trying to reverse it with their “Time Heist” it still would have been nice to get a little more Thanos – even if it was the past Thanos.

Now, let’s talk about fan service. Some will probably see Avengers: Endgame as huge fan service, and you know what, in some regard, yes Avengers: Endgame has a lot of fan service. But, the way I see the fan service in the film is that it’s done right. It’s not too heavy handed, which is saying something since the final battle scene is basically the most comic booky thing you can ever see or imagine a comic book movie doing. That said, the final battle scene is everything these movies have been building up to if you really think about it, so I can’t really blame the movie or call it real fan service if this was the direction they were going to go with.

Yes, the final battle scene, even leading up to it, had moments fans have been waiting for. Captain America lifting Mjolnir and using it, every major hero you can think of showing up for the battle – even having all the women team up – and Captain America finally saying “Avengers Assemble.” That said, is that a bad thing? Does it take away from your enjoyment of the film? To go extreme, should it not have been in the movie at all? Sometimes fandoms can be a fickle thing.

Finally, the time travel. Look, time travel in movies is always a tricky thing, and once you start explaining it, someone else is going to come in and tell you how you’re wrong. Does the changes they made affect the timeline? Yeah, probably. Does it matter for your enjoyment of the future films? Probably not, unless they bring it up. It’s not really a pass we should give the film, but I think for this, I’m going to let it pass because “Back to the Future is bullshit.”

All in all, Avengers: Endgame was, to me, a perfect sendoff and end to a franchise that’s been going strong – with a few stumbles sure – for over eleven years and twenty-plus films. Character arcs were wrapped up, hints of future in the franchise and emotional moments all over the place.

Avengers: Endgame

4 out of 5

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‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Review (Please Read the Reviewer Note)

Director: Anthony and Joe Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Chadwick Boseman, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Sebastian Stan, Benedict Wong, Pom Klementieff, Dave Bautista, Danai Gurira, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Letitia Wright, William Hurt and Josh Brolin

Synopsis: The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.

 

*Reviewer Note: This review is going to work differently than others. The first half will be the usual way my reviews work aka non-spoiler. The second half, which will be labeled properly, will be filled with spoilers galore. Also, I have left things out, and probably forgot a few things too, so if something is not here, that’s the reason. I do highly recommend you watch the movie before seeing any kind of spoilers. Do yourself that favor.*

 

10 years and eight-teen movies in the making, Avengers: Infinity War is a true culmination of what Marvel has created with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Starting with Iron Man in 2008, Marvel has given us a slew of characters we’ve come to care about and all of that is put to the ultimate test here. Not only do we see almost of these characters in one movie, we finally get to see some dream combinations play off. But, more importantly, we finally to get see the big bad that’s been in the shadows since the very first Avengers movie, Thanos.

Avengers: Infinity War is a very busy movie, but the main story finds Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his henchmen, The Black Order – Ebony Maw (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), Proxima Midnight (Carrie Coon), Crovus Glaive (Michael James Shaw) and Cull Obsidian – on a mission to collect all six Infinity Stones. The reason? To put them on the Infinity Gauntlet so he can become the strongest person in the universe, and wipe out half of the universe to create balance. This puts him on a collision course with the now disbanded Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man and Doctor Strange who must stop Thanos and The Black Order from gathering them all.

That’s the basic premise of Infinity War, but as you can tell from the trailers, the characters aren’t all together. The characters are broken into groups pretty quickly, and they’re all pretty fun to watch unfold. Tony/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) finally meet, and it is everything you thought it would be. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is mixed up with the Guardians, mostly Rocket and Groot, and is on his own mission. Then there’s Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) who end up having to protect Vision (Paul Bettany) from the Black Order, with a little help from Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Wakanda.

Surprisingly, Infinity War puts into full throttle right at the start. You know where everyone is and what part they are playing in the grand scheme of everything. Could that have been seen as an oversight and lack of character development? Sure, but at the same time, we’ve seen pretty much all of these characters already. The only difference here is that they are finally together, and for the first time, it does feel like they are facing a genuine threat that they may not be able to win. It’s also rather surprising that one particular character, who has been a prime focus in these other team-ups, is kind of just a background character, especially with all the hype surrounding the movie.

Thanos and the Black Order pull no punches whatsoever. Thanos has a twisted way of looking at balance, and even though he knows its extreme, he thinks he’s the only one able to actually see it all the way through. We also get a descent amount of Thanos too. His character is rather interesting because of his ideals. I mean, once you get passed the killing half of humanity to create balance bit, Thanos has a lot more to him in this movie that I’ll get to in the spoiler section of the podcast. Let’s just say, Thanos is the villain we’ve been waiting for, as a threat and as an actual character.

As for the Black Order, they serve the role of henchmen to a tee, with Proxima Midnight being the more physical standout, but Ebony Maw being the more in-depth standout, and helps explain to others why they are people conquered. And if that sounds evil to you, that’s the way it comes out.

The heroes are great, but they are a mixed bag – I mean look at the cast list. Cumberbatch gets to play a lot more with Doctor Strange, Chris Pratt’s Peter/Star-Lord is a little more cocky than usual, which does play a role later in the film, Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillian as Gamora and Nebula aka the daughters of Thanos do play a big role in this, although one of them has a bigger role than the other that hits hard. I’ll leave the other cast members in the spoilers section.

All that said, despite me nerding out hard throughout the movie, and believe me there is a lot to nerd out over, Infinity War does suffer from being a bit too bloated. Wakanda is a massive set-piece in the movie, but that’s it. T’Challa, Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Shuri (Letitia Wright) are glorified cameos at best, and that could be seen as a bit disappointing especially after Black Panther came out not too long ago. Some characters aren’t given enough time to breath, and one particular big character is just kind of there – again, more on that in the spoiler section.

All in all – for the spoiler-free section – Avengers: Infinity War is the movie fans have been waiting for since the Marvel Cinematic Universe started. There are important things that happen and moments that will stick with you as you drive home or talk about it with your friends or co-workers. Ten years in the making, and now, nineteen movies in, Marvel has done not just the most ambitious Marvel movie to date, but the most ambitious superhero movie of all time. You are definitely not ready for this. The humor – which is top notch – really helps, but please, PLEASE, do yourself a favor and don’t read any spoilers before watching this.

Avengers: Infinity War

4.5 out of 5

 

 

FROM THIS POINT FORWARD, I WILL BE TALKING SOME SERIOUS SPOILERS. SO STOP READING IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE. SERIOUSLY, BACK AWAY….I SEE YOU TIMMY, STOP IT.

 

Okay, let’s dig in to this beast of a movie. First of all, WHAT THE HELL?! No, seriously, what the actual hell Marvel. Yes, Kevin Feige, the cast and the Russo Brothers warned us that we wouldn’t be ready for this, but damn I was not expecting that.

Let’s start at the beginning. Infinity War starts right where Thor: Ragnarok left off. Thanos and his Black Order boarded the ship and have pretty much killed all of Asgard (Valkyrie and Korg boldly missing). Ebony Maw says they are “saved,” which doesn’t really make sense, since it looks like everyone is already DEAD. Regardless, Loki hands over the Tesseract aka the Space Stone to Thanos, but not before he gives a great callback to The Avengers. This leads to pretty much our first look of how much Thanos is a threat when he, basically, beats the shit out of the Hulk. Seeing the massive threat on the way, Heimdall sends Hulk to Earth, and is promptly killed by Thanos himself.

And you would think that’s the first big death of the movie, right? NOPE, Loki has one last moment of redemption in him – calling himself Odinson was a nice touch – before trying to kill Thanos. Of course, Thanos saw it coming and literally chocked the life out of him, leaving all(?) of Asgard and Thor behind.

We then jump to several different locations, and where the teams will be set up.

Group A: Doctor Strange and Wong (Benedict Wong) are warned by Bruce (Mark Ruffalo), which leads to our first scene between Strange and Tony, which a nice Pepper Potts cameo. Tony, and us, get a breakdown of the Infinity Stones by Wong before Ebony Maw and Cull Obsidian comes to Earth and get we our first big action piece with Spider-Man included. Strange does get caught by Maw, and Tony and Spider-Man, now with the Iron Spider suit which was teased in Spider-Man: Homecoming go into space toward Titan.

Group B: the very beginning of the movie, we hear a distress call being made, and guess who answers the call? The Guardians of the Galaxy. Of course, Rocket doesn’t see the point, but Peter/Star-Lord hopes to get some money out of it. Once they get there, they see what’s left and bring in Thor, who’s still alive. After some hilarity with Thor’s unconscious body, Thor is woken up and off-camera tells them what happen. Gamora then tells us what would happen if Thanos does in fact gets all the Infinity Stones. We then get some Star-Lord-y humor with Thor, which isn’t completely out of character, but I found a little too much, even for him.

Thor, then takes Rocket and Groot to Nidavellir so Thor can get a weapon powerful enough to kill Thanos. Which he does get later on in the movie, which is a battle axe called Strombreaker. Which sounds like a Game of Thrones sword, and something I find funny, since we get a great cameo by Peter Dinklage playing Eitri, the Giant Dwarf. Anyway, Star-Lord, Gamora, Mantis and Drax head to Knowhere to get the Reality Stone aka the Aether from The Collector.

Group C: Here is where things get interesting, and rough. Our third grouping is everyone else. It starts off by showing Vision and Wanda away in Scotland together. Apparently, in the two years after Captain America: Civil War, the two have been secretly meeting to see if they can start an actual relationship, and right as they think they can, they see the attack on New York, and Vision gets attacked by Corvus Glaive and Proxima Midnight. A fight occurs and the two are saved by the returning Captain America, Black Widow and Falcon, which put up a pretty good fight, before the two villains beam away. The heroes end up back at the Avengers compound to meet up with Rhodes/War Machine (Don Cheadle) and Bruce, who blows off Secretary of State Ross (William Hurt).

They run down their options to get the Mind Stone out of Vision, and that leads to them going to Wakanda. We quickly cut there to see T’Challa give Bucky, or The White Wolf, his new arm, so he can be ready for the fight.

I say rough because this almost feels like a C-storyline, which it shouldn’t because not only Captain America here, but so is Vision, who is important to this part of the story. Cap, Black Widow and Falcon just kind of show up and don’t really do too much. Which is to be expected with everyone else on the board, but still. Hell, even T’Challa, who just had his own BILLION-dollar movie come out feels like a throwaway character.

Back to Group B, Quill, Gamora, Drax and Mantis get to Knowhere where Thanos has already gotten the Reality Stone, and puts on a trick for them which involves him torturing The Collector for the stone and leaving him open for Gamora to kill him. Thanos appears and shockingly turns Drax into pieces of stone and Mantis into rubber bands – not permanently, but the imagery is still shocking to see. Thanos gets a hold of Gamora and then Quill is left with a decision.

Earlier, Gamora made Quill promise her if Thanos got a hold her to kill her. It’s a rather big scene because it puts both of them in tough position. Does Quill keep his promise, while also killing the woman he loves? Or does he let Thanos get away? Well, Quill goes to actually shoot, but Thanos turns his gun into bubbles and disappears. And since we’re on Thanos and Gamora, let’s talk about that scene.

One of the major questions coming into Infinity War was where the Soul Stone was. Of course, everyone had their speculations and all of them were wrong. Turns out Gamora knew were the Soul Stone was this entire time, and didn’t tell Thanos. When Gamora finally does tell Thanos were the Soul Stone is, they arrive and find out to get the Soul Stone, they need a soul, and that’s not all they find. No, because apparently the keeper to the Soul Stone is someone I’m not going to mention, because that is something you should experience for yourself. However, a little FYI, the StoneKeeper (as people with the Stone are called by the Black Order), is not played by the original actor, but Ross Marquand (Aaron from The Walking Dead).

This also leads to one of the best scenes in the whole movie, and one that I’m not ashamed to say, bought a tear to my eye. It’s a scene that humanizes Thanos a bit, because we hear Gamora say that Thanos has never loved anything or anyone. Of course, we can see the anguish on Thanos’ face as he throws Gamora down the cliff, and since he gets the Soul Stone, yes, he did love Gamora. Which is twisted in its own right, and makes Thanos a tragic figure in his own way, so I guess it’s up to the viewer to decide if Thanos is that or not.

We then get to Wakanda where Shuri leads the charge to get the Mind Stone out of Vision, but it will take time. Of course, the fight comes to the heroes when an alien race charges toward Wakanda with Proxima Midnight and Cull Obsidian leading the charge. Here we get, arguably, the biggest fight of the Marvel films with all the tribes of Wakanda, Cap, War Machine, Falcon, Black Widow, Bucky and Bruce in the Hulkbuster. Yes, because that epic hero shot in the trailers and TV spots ISN’T IN THE MOVIE. Which is fine, really, since Marvel is known for including scenes in their trailer that don’t make it into the movie. Also, the fact that Bruce is constantly trying to get Hulk out to fight and can’t is a nice added layer to the Hulk, which we don’t see often. That’s also probably because Hulk got his assed kicked, which doesn’t happen often or at all. It would also fit the idea that Hulk is his own being now.

So for the sake of ending his massive post, let’s take about that ending. The ending of ending, especially for a Marvel movie. After a great fight sequence between Thanos versus Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Star-Lord, Drax, Mantis and Nebula, Thanos gets the Time Stone, in what a knee-jerk reaction would be, “what the hell.” Throughout the movie, Strange constantly tells Tony that he’s not giving up the Time Stone, even saying at one point if it comes down to saving Tony, Spider-Man or the Time Stone, he’s picking the Time Stone. Then at the end of that fight, when we get blue-balled with Tony dying, but Strange ends up giving up the Time Stone…what?

Yup, Strange gives Thanos the time, presumably to save Tony’s life. However, if you remember, Strange uses the Time Stone before the fight to see over a million possible outcomes, and only ONE goes in their favor. Was that one of them? I guess we’ll find out in Avengers 4.

After that, we go back to Wakanda where Vision sees Thanos beating down the last line of defense, tells Wanda to destroy the stone so Thanos can’t get. This is the other scene that was rather touching and emotional, although it could have been more, if we saw more Wanda and Vision together. It’s also a scene that comes out of nowhere. But, the jist is that Wanda is powerful enough to destroy the Infinity Stones, which I don’t remember being discussed or even mentioned beforehand.

Either way, Thanos makes his way to Vision but Wanda is able to destroy the stone, which in turn destroys Vision as well. BUT, Thanos uses the Time Stone and revives Vision only to kill him again (poor Vision) and collect all the stones. As Thanos basks in his glory, Thor throws Stormbreaker into Thanos, but Thanos snaps his fingers! Then, the most ambitious ending to a Marvel movie yet happens: characters start to fade into ash.

Bucky, T’Challa, Falcon, and Wanda fade away in front of allies who left in confusion as to what is happening. We then go back to Nowhere and see Mantis, Drax and Star-Lord go. Doctor Strange is next, but not before telling Tony “there was no other way.” But the most heartbreaking one is Peter/Spider-Man. Peter goes over to Tony and breaks down saying he doesn’t want to go. This one got to me too, and kudos to Tom Holland for absolutely nailing that scene.

And just like that, half of the characters we’ve been following for the last ten years and the whole movie are gone. Captain America, Black Widow, Bruce Banner, Thor, Rhody and Okoye are left in Wakanda dumbfounded. Tony is stuck on Titan with Nebula distract knowing he’s lost. Then to top it off, the movie ends with Thanos is some unknown planet in the mountains sitting down to watch the sun rise – which he mentions earlier in the movie – smiling that his work is done.

It’s an ending that is both effective and has you questioning what comes next. The bad guy won, and he didn’t just win, he wiped half of humanity out. Seriously, where do we go from here? How do The Avengers bounce back and potentially beat Thanos who still has all the Infinity Stones, but what looks like a damaged Infinity Gauntlet. How does Tony get back to Earth? And how does the Captain Marvel, who was teased at the end-credits, play into everything?

These are the kind of questions and wonderment we should have after watching this. You know, after we pick ourselves up from the fetal position and stop crying. Is Avengers: Infinity War, the best Marvel movie? Well, that’s up for you to decide. Personally, I wouldn’t say it is, but you bet your ass I’d put it up there. Idea and balls wise, it is. Who else has the balls to “kill” off their characters like that? (Besides Game of Thrones, get out of here you)?

 

Favorite/Standout Actors, Actress, Supporting Roles, and Villains of 2016

The end of the 2016 doesn’t just mean putting out your best/favorite movies of year. It can be a time to reflect the individuals like directors, actors, actress, supporting roles, villains and everything in between. So, that said, I’m here to do just that. 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 every year, it was a bit too hard so I left the lists as such.

Also, villains are considering Supporting Actors in other lists, but again, to not only 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. Enjoy.

 

 

Directors

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – The Revenant

Alejandro G. Inarritu has become one of the big name directors in Hollywood, especially around Oscar season, and The Revenant is one of those films. Of course, that doesn’t mean the film is just marketed and targeted toward Oscar viewers, the film is a beautifully shot and put together. What Inarritu was able to bring out of his cast – and put them through – just proves that he’s here to stay and a director everyone should get use to seeing.

 

Anthony and Joe Russo – Captain America: Civil War

The Russo Brothers have now directed, yet again, another great addition to the Captain America series and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The two were able to bring one of the most iconic storylines in the comics to the big screen, and not only create a great film, but one that was personal and emotional at the same time.

 

Billy O’Brien – I Am Not a Serial Killer

Billy O’Brien arguably made a film adaptation that was better than the novel. I Am Not a Serial Killer was a film adaptation I didn’t even know was getting made – having read the book a few years ago – and I’m glad I got to see this on the big screen, because it is so well done and perfectly executed. Highly recommend you watch this.

 

Damien Chazelle – La La Land

Damien Chazelle made waves with Whiplash, and while the two films are vastly different, I think La La Land was his better film. Dripping with homage to old Hollywood, even down to some of the style, the film surpassed any expectations I had. Chazelle is definitely a name you should look out for in the future.

 

Dan Trachtenberg – 10 Cloverfield Lane

Another not yet household name, Dan Trachtenberg really broke out in with his short film Portal: No Escape – based on the video games – but Trachtenberg held his own in his first feature film, and one that had a lot of attention toward it. What he was able to pull off was a great thriller that caught everyone off guard. Even the having to bring in the Cloverfield twist was handled okay, a bit jumbled, but still good.

 

Denis Villeneuve – Arrival

Denis Villeneuve has quickly become one of my favorite directors in the short time he’s been in the limelight, which is why I was looking forward to Arrival. What Villeneuve was able to do by balancing the drama in the story of Amy Adams’ character and the sci-fi element of the aliens – without turning it into a typical aliens coming to Earth film – was great to watch.

 

Fede Alvarez – Don’t Breathe

Fede Alvarez was under a microscope after he made his Evil Dead film, and he didn’t disappointment with his follow-up film Don’t Breathe. While this film doesn’t have as much gore as Evil Dead had, Don’t Breathe made up for it with the production and sound design.

 

Gareth Edwards – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

In a lot of regard, Gareth Edwards finally gave us a good Star Wars prequel. Even with all the criticism and worry that Rogue One was “suffering” because of the reshoots, Edwards proved all the doubters wrong by giving us a great fun-filled ride with a great cast with an amazing third act.

 

Jon Favreau – The Jungle Book

Jon Favreau was able to create, somehow, a vivid world that seemed real from the moment we saw it on screen for the first time. Not only that, he was able to create a great adaptation of The Jungle Book that we’ve never seen before, and arguably, probably never see again. Well, until the sequel anyway.

 

Justin Lin – Star Trek Beyond

At this point, we know that Justin Lin can come in to an already established franchise and bring something new to the table. However, what he was able to do with Star Trek Beyond was highly impressive. Especially after Into Darkness made some fans weary of the future films, but Lin made an awesome addition of the series, and what better way to do it than in the series 50th anniversary.

 

Robert Eggers – The Witch

Eggers isn’t a household name – yet – but the way he handled The Witch is a great start. He, along with his great cast and cinematographer, were able to pull off a creepy, unnerving and sometimes hard to watch horror film.

 

Scott Derrickson – Doctor Strange

Scott Derrickson, mostly known at this point as a horror film director, took the reins of Marvel’s most out there and magical character Doctor Strange, and absolutely nailed it. Doctor Strange was filled with special effects that have never been seen in a Marvel film, and some really trippy ones at that. However, what Derrickson was able in bringing this new side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a huge feat on itself.

 

Tim Miller – Deadpool

Tim Miller is one lucky man. He brought to life the film that many fans have been clamoring for: a true adaptation of the Merc with the Mouth: Deadpool. Miller, who directed the “leaked” proof of concept video managed to create a feature-length version that worked, and was an overall enjoyable film that made many fans, including me obviously, very, very happy.

 

Travis Knight – Kubo and the Two Strings

It’s quite surprising that this is only the fourth Laika Entertainment film, and it’s also the first film directed by CEO Travis Knight, who has also worked in the art department of all their films. I personally loved pretty much everything about Kubo and the Two Strings, and knowing how passionate Knight is with all their films, you can see that once again with this beautiful film.

 

 

Honorable Mentions

Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

Chan-wook Park – The Handmaiden

James Wan – The Conjuring 2

Jeff Nichols – Midnight Special

Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge

Peter Berg – Deepwater Horizon

Ron Clements/John Musker – Moana

Richard Linklater – Everybody Wants Some!!

Taika Waititi – Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Todd Haynes – Carol

 

 

Actors

Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss – Hacksaw Ridge

This year was definitely the year of Andrew Garfield, and while Silence wasn’t released in my area I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. However, his performance in Hacksaw Ridge can’t be forgotten. His portrayal of unknown real-life hero Desmond T. Doss was amazing to watch on screen. Garfield conveyed every emotion in his powerful performance that I couldn’t imagine not putting on my list.

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Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler – Manchester by the Sea

I sometimes feel that Casey Affleck doesn’t get the recognition he deserves, but that will definitely change after people watch Manchester by the Sea. Affleck’s performance in this was nothing short of magnificent as a man dealing with grief and finding out he has to take care of his nephew. The performance is very layered and becomes more enthralling as the film goes forward.

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Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America & Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man – Captain America: Civil War

We’ve seen Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. plays their respective Marvel characters multiple times now. However, there was something different in their performances in Civil War. We finally had to choose, who’s better and who’s right? The great thing they did was giving us reasons to choose them, but also giving us reasons to see how wrong they are. Evans and Downey already have these characters locked down, but seeing them reach a new peak in their characters was a grand experience to watch.

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Chris Pine as Toby Howard & Ben Foster as Tanner Howard – Hell or High Water

Chris Pine is always reliable when given great material, but it was also Ben Foster who made Hell or High Water a fantastic film to watch. Ben Foster is also one of those actors you tend to forget – only because he’s not in a lot of stuff – and then he does a film and role like this and you realize how great of an actor he is. Have these two play bank-robbing brothers and you have yourself two great leads.

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Jack O’Connell as Kyle Budwell – Money Monster

Jack O’Connell has made a nice name for himself here in the States with his indie performance in ’71 and the Angelina Jolie-directed Unbroken (even a small role in 300: Rise of an Empire), but it was his performance in Money Monster that really got me to notice him. O’Connell was able to make his character feel real, and you almost want to root for him, even though he’s supposed to be the “bad guy,” at least at the start of the film. Although, George Clooney is technically the lead, O’Connell shares the same amount of screen time with Clooney.

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Julian Dennison as Ricky – Hunt for the Wilderpeople

It’s a little hard to believe that Julian Dennison only has four credits to his name, and while watching him in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, it was hard to believe that. Dennison’s Ricky is the biggest highlight of the film, and I can’t wait to see what else Dennison does in the future.

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Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass – The Revenant

I mean seriously. Look at what Leonardo DiCaprio put himself through in this film. Not only that, for the lack of dialogue his character has, DiCaprio was able to get us invested in the hell he went through just by using body movement and facial expressions. If that’s not the sign of a true actor, I don’t know what it is.

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Max Records as John Wayne Cleaver – I Am Not a Serial Killer

Max Records was apparently the kid from Where the Wild Things Are, well, he’s little anymore! Records played John Wayne Cleaver so well you believed him as this conflicted character, and one that kept driving the film forward.

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Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy & Ryan Gosling as Holland March – The Nice Guys

It’s a shame not many people saw The Nice Guys because it was really good, and what made it work was the chemistry between Crowe and Gosling. It sounds like a miss-matched pairing, but believe me it really worked. The two off-set each other in the perfect way and work together so well, that I can’t wait to see if they do anything together again in the future.

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Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson/Deadpool – Deadpool

If anyone could have bought Deadpool to life, Ryan Reynolds is the man to do it. A fan of the character himself, you know he wasn’t going to mess it up, nor mess it up for the fans who have been waiting for a Deadpool movie for a long time.

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Honorable Mentions

Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange – Doctor Strange

Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Chris Pratt as Jim Preston – Passengers

Dwayne Johnson as Maui – Moana

Jake Gyllenhaal as Davis – Demolition

Jake Gyllenhaal as Tony Hastings/Edward Sheffield – Nocturnal Animals

Jason Bateman as Nick Wilde – Zootopia

Mark Rylance as BFG – The BFG

Taron Egerton as Eddie Edwards – Eddie the Eagle

Will Smith as Deadshot – Suicide Squad

 

 

Actress

Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks – Arrival

Amy Adams has had quite a year, but it was Arrival that sticks out the most. Adams perfectly embodied the drama and multiple conflicts the character faces throughout the film. All of it comes together in those last ten minutes of the film that is an emotional-filled rollercoaster.

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Angourie Rice as Holly March – The Nice Guys

It’s quite a feat when you can stand toe-to-toe or even steal a scene from Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, but Angourie Rice did just that in The Nice Guys. Playing Gosling’s daughter in the film, she was able to carry herself so well and really drive home the fact that even though she’s younger than the people around, she’s ten times smarter.

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Cate Blanchett as Carol Aird & Rooney Mara as Therese Belivet – Carol

After watching Carol, I don’t think it would have worked without the great performances by both these women. They felt like real people and watching those two in a real just talking was enough to keep me attached to them from beginning to end.

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Emma Stone as Mia – La La Land

There’s always something about Emma Stone when he does a big role like this, where it feels like you can’t tell where Stone comes in as an actress and when she’s doing the actual character. La La Land is no different, but it makes the most sense. Let’s also take a minute to appreciate her singing voice, and the song “Audition.”

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Madison Wolfe as Janet Hodgson – The Conjuring 2

If Madison Wolfe chooses her projects carefully in the future, she will be an actress to be reckoning with, because her performance in The Conjuring 2 was fantastic. She played the horror of being stuck in a haunted house and possessed greatly, and being able to hang with Vera Farmiga is so easy feat either.

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Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn – Suicide Squad

Margot Robbie almost seemed like perfect casting for the first big screen appearance of Harley Quinn, and when the film came out, we were all right. Robbie was able to tap into what made all of us fall in love with the quirky character and even bring her own little things to the role. Robbie seems down to keep playing Quinn, and I think all of us are okay with that.

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Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Michelle – 10 Cloverfield Lane

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is always reliable in the small roles or supporting roles she pops in on, 10 Cloverfield Lane was no expectation. Here she was able to stretch her legs a bit more and really show us what she was capable of when given the chance to play the lead.

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Min-hee Kim as Lady Hideko & Kim Tae-ri as Sook-Hee – The Handmaiden

The Handmaiden is one of those films that that hits you out of nowhere. The erotic drama thriller is held together by the compelling leads in Min-hee Kim and Kim Tae-ri, who bring their characters to life in a way I don’t think anyone could have ever imagined.

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Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy – Jackie

Natalie Portman’s portrayal as former First Lady Jackie Kennedy was by far one of the best performances of the year. Playing Jackie as a flawed, but grief-driven woman was amazing to watch and seeing what Jackie went through, not just as the First Lady, but as a wife was something worth of praise.

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Rebecca Hall as Christine – Christine

Rebecca Hall has been a name that’s always been out there, but she’s struggled to find her place amongst the busy actress crowd. It was finally Christine that made her standout among them. Hall’s performance as real-life Christine Chubbuck in this powerful film about her last days is truly something that Hall carries.

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Taraji P. Henson as Katherine G. Johnson – Hidden Figures

Taraji P. Henson maybe be making a name for herself on the FOX show Empire, but Henson has been around for a while and has always been a constant surprise in everything she in. Hidden Figures however was something she was able to break loose a bit. She has one particular scene that stands out around the midway point of the film that was worthy of getting her on my list.

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Honorable Mentions

Auli’I Cravalho as Moana – Moana

Charlize Theron as Monkey (Voice) – Kubo and the Two Strings

Eva Green as Miss Peregrine – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Gillian Jacobs as Samantha – Don’t Think Twice

Ginnifer Goodwin as Judy Hopps – Zootopia

Hailee Steinfeld as Nadine – The Edge of Seveteen

Jane Levy as Rocky – Don’t Breathe

Kika Magalhaes as Francisca – The Eyes of My Mother

Lucy Walters as Ann – Here Alone

Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan & Janelle Monae as Mary Jackson – Hidden Figures

Teresa Palmer as Rebecca – Lights Out

 

 

Supporting Actor

Alan Tudyk as K-2SO & Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Alan Tudyk is always great to see, or hear, on screen. That was no different with his new character in K-2SO aka everyone’s new favorite Star Wars droid. When it comes to Donnie Yen, it was just awesome to see him on the big screen in a big role like this in a big franchise.

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Alden Ehrenreich as Hobie Doyle – Hail, Caesar!

What a better way to have a breakout role then in a Cohen Brothers movie, with a damn great and funny character. I hadn’t really seen Ehrenreich in anything before, but what he was able to do with his makes me believe that we’ll be seeing him a lot more soon – he is playing young Han Solo. He’s got charm, charisma, likability and knack to tackle anything that comes his way. Don’t believe me, just watch that scene with Ralph Fiennes again.

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Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther & Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man

– Captain America: Civil War

Chadwick Boseman had the distinct pleasure of bringing a fan-favorite character in Black Panther to the big screen, and did a great job doing so. Boseman was able to tap into what people loved about the character, but bring his own flavor to it that made the character even better.

When it comes to Tom Holland, he stole the show. His Peter Parker and Spider-Man were what fans have been waiting for and even made sense. Holland played the goofy, awkward and brave Parker/Spider-Man that we all know so well. Although we should wait to see what he does in his own film, but so far so good.

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Chris Hemsworth as Kevin – Ghostbusters

I don’t think anyone could have imagined Hemsworth playing a dim-wit, but Paul Feig was able to do just that in Ghostbusters. Hemsworth’s Kevin was definitely one of the biggest highlights of the film and surprise performances of the year – at least for me.

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Christopher Lloyd as Crowley – I Am Not a Serial Killer

Lloyd’s Crowley in I Am Not a Serial Killer is one of those roles that leave a massive impact on the film when you step back and think it over. Lloyd has one particular scene that involves him reading out a poem that is so powerful, moving, and harrowing all at the same time.

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Evan Peters as Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver – X-Men: Apocalypse

A lot of people judged Evan Peter’s look in X-Men: Days of Future Past, and then people actually watched the movie (what?) and loved him. So when it was announced that Peters would return in Apocalypse many waited to see what kind of big scene they had in store. Turns out, it was bigger than the last film in every way possible.

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Jay Hernandez as Diablo – Suicide Squad

Jay Hernandez’s Diablo was one of the biggest question marks in Suicide Squad since he wasn’t in the promotion material too much. However, Diablo turned out to be one of the best and most well-rounded characters in the whole film. His arch is much more tragic than any of the other characters in the film, and makes Hernandez as bigger name in some people’s eyes. Although the scene comes out of nowhere, and felt a bit forced, it still was a great standout scene.

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John Gallagher Jr. as Emmett – 10 Cloverfield Lane

John Gallagher Jr. made a name for himself this year with the Netflix home-invasion horror film Hush, and his great supporting role in this as Emmett. Gallagher Jr. didn’t get to do too much in 10 Cloverfield Lane due to Mary Elizabeth Winstead getting the bulk of the work, but Gallagher Jr. took the screen time he had and made it impactful.

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Karl Urban as Doctor ‘Bones’ McCoy – Star Trek Beyond

Urban has already played Bones twice before, but there was something about his chemistry and performances with Zachary Quinto in Star Trek Beyond that made me love him even more as the character.

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Lucas Hedges as Patrick Chandler – Manchester by the Sea

If Lucas Hedges plays his cards right, we could be hearing his name more often soon. His Patrick takes some time to really buy into, but his highlight scene involves him finally breaking down and it felt so raw that made me finally buy into Hedges in the film.

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Sharlto Copley as Jimmy – Hardcore Henry

Sharlto Copley really had some fun filming Hardcore Henry. Jimmy is a kind of out there character and honestly couldn’t see Copley playing him at all, but low and behold he did and it was one of the best parts of this experimental film.

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Honorable Mentions

Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ray Marcus & Michael Shannon as Bobby Andes – Nocturnal Animals

Bill Murray as Baloo – The Jungle Book

Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Glen Powell as Finnegan – Everybody Wants Some!!

Joel Edgerton as Lucas & Adam Driver as Sevier – Midnight Special

Jonah Hill as Efraim Diveroli – War Dogs

Mahershala Ali as Juan – Moonlight

Matthew McConaughey as Beetle – Kubo and the Two Strings

Michael Sheen as Arthur – Passengers

Ralph Fiennes as Laurence Laurentz – Hail, Caesar!

Sam Neill as Hec – Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Ty Burrell as Bailey – Finding Dory

Woody Harrleson as Mr. Bruner & Hayden Szeto as Erwin – The Edge of Seventeen

 

 

Supporting Actress

Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Doubters, SHUT IT! Gal Gadot is our Wonder Woman. Arguably the best part of Dawn of Justice, Gadot was able to show she will be a kickass Wonder Woman in the very limited screen time she had in the much anticipated film.

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Lulu Wilson as Doris Zander – Ouija: Origin of Evil

Lulu Wilson is the definition of “creepy little girl” in horror films with her role as the youngest daughter in the sequel/prequel for Ouija. Her “description” scene was probably the most stomaching turning and nerve-racking scene I’ve seen all year.

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Kate McKinnon as Jillian Holtzmann – Ghostbusters

Everyone fell in love with Kate McKinnon as the witty and completely out there Jillian Holtzmann, and I can see why. McKinnon did bring a different kind of `humor to the film, and was one of the highlights of the film for sure, even having a cool action moment in the finale.

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Naomie Harris as Paula – Moonlight

Naomie Harris as the mother to the lead character in Moonlight was equal parts tragic, heartbreaking and emotional to watch. Harris is a damn good actress when given the right material, and Moonlight was just that. Seeing her transform through the life of the character was easily the other best part of the film.

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Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One – Doctor Strange

A lot of controversy went into the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, which sure is reasonable, but if you’re going to cast anyone other than someone who isn’t Asian – to play what everyone agrees was a stereotypical character to begin with – than you cast someone who is damn good like Tilda Swinton.  Swinton played the character so well that you always felt the weight of her lines.

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Viola Davis as Amanda Waller – Suicide Squad

While Margot Robbie seemed like perfect casting for Harley Quinn, Viola Davis screams out Amanda Waller. She had the no nonsense, cut throat and mission first ideal to her and Davis delivered on all accountants.

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Honorable Mentions

Abbey Lee as Sarah – The Neon Demon

Ariane Labed as Maria – Assassin’s Creed

Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead – Deadpool

Emily Blunt as Queen Freya – The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Greta Gerwig as Nancy Tuckerman – Jackie

Kathryn Hahn as Carla – Bad Moms

Sarah Paulson as Abby Gerhard – Carol

 

 

Villain

Bonnie Aarons as Demon Nun & Javier Botet as The Crooked Man – The Conjuring 2

Damn you, James Wan! His demonic creations in The Conjuring 2 were definitely some of the creepiest he’s created, especially the Demon Nun, which was created during reshoots for the film, I am seriously getting freaked out just writing about it. As for The Crooked Man (played by Javier Boet), I haven’t looked at shadows the same way since.

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Idris Elba as Shere Khan – The Jungle Book

There is just something about Idris Elba’s voice that makes you frighten, but also makes you respect him. Add all that to a tiger, and you have a formidable and scary villain.

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John Goodman as Howard – 10 Cloverfield Lane

I was hesitant to put John Goodman’s Howard here, but for all intent and purposes, he is pretty much the villain in 10 Cloverfield Lane. He doesn’t let Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) leave the bunker and the way he acts toward her and Emmet (John Gallagher Jr.) throughout the movie essentially makes him the villain. There’s especially one moment that makes him very villainous. On top of that, Goodman is phenomenal in this.

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Stephen Lang as The Blind Man – Don’t Breathe

Stephen Lang has been around for a while, but it wasn’t until Avatar that people started to actually remember his name. Something tells me that his character of The Blind Man in this will definitely make people never forget about Stephen Lang.

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Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald – The Revenant

Tom Hardy is well known for playing complex characters and while John Fitzgerald isn’t overly complex, it doesn’t mean his character isn’t damn good. Hardy always brings his A-game and there is something about him playing a villain that always sticks out. His character is driven by greed and simply not seeing the reason for Leonardo DiCaprio’s character to live anymore. It’s the little things he does in between that makes his character work so well.

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Honorable Mentions

Alicia Vela-Bailey as Diana – Lights Out

Charlize Theron as Ravenna – The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Daniel Bruhl as Zemo – Captain America: Civil War

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Sam – Desierto

Patrick Stewart as Darcy – Green Room

Rooney Mara as The Sisters – Kubo and the Two Strings

 

So, who were some of your favorites this year?

Be on the lookout for Part 2 of the list where we look at the other sections in Hollywood.

‘Doctor Strange’ Review

Director: Scott Derrickson

Writers: Scott Derrickson, Jon Spaihts, and C. Robert Cargill

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Michael Stuhlbarg, Scott Adkins, Benjamin Bratt, and Tilda Swinton

Synopsis: A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of the mystic arts.

 

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

*Reviewer Note 2: There are two post-credit scenes.*

*Reviewer Note 3: I do think the best experience of watching the film is in 3D. I know the extra ticket price and 3D in general might be a pain, but I think it’s worth it to gain the full experience.*

 

 

It feels like the last three years, Marvel has released films that everyone has either doubts about or feels like Marvel is taking too big of a risk. First it was Guardians of the Galaxy, then Ant-Man, and this year is Doctor Strange. And of course, every year those doubts are proven wrong. Not only is Doctor Strange another great addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it truly is unlike anything Marvel has ever done onscreen.

The film follows Doctor Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch), highly popular but arrogant surgeon whose life gets turned upside when he’s in a sudden car accident that severely injuries his hands. When he runs out of options to gets his hands better, he heads to Nepal to search for someone that could potentially cure him. That person is The Ancient One (Swinton), who then reveals to Strange that her way is through the mystic arts. While Strange is learning things he never thought were possible, an old student of The Anicent One, Kaecilius (Mikkelsen) is trying to open a portal to The Dark Dimension and summon a dangerous entity in Dormammu.

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Like the previous films I’ve mentioned, Doctor Strange was a risk for Marvel since not many causal movie fans will know who Doctor Strange is, but more importantly, the film is adding something and putting front and center in the MCU: magic. The interdimensional aspect of the film only works because of director Scott Derrickson. He was able to bring some really great and awesome looking visual effects that I’ve rarely ever seen on film. It also helps that Derrickson has worked in horror, because you can see that in some of the shots, especially when the Dark Dimension comes into play. You will definitely walk away talking about the visuals of Doctor Strange. Also, for a film that delves into magic quite a bit, I was surprised how much hand-to-hand combat there was in the film. Not complaining, just an observation.

When it comes to the film itself, Doctor Strange does feel familiar in terms of what we’ve seen before from Marvel in the way of an origin story. We see the arrogant and egotistical character on the top of his game when suddenly something tragic happens and he’s having a self-made crisis until he has to rise to the occasion and prove himself. Of course, it’s always nice to see those stories play out, and Doctor Strange does enough to make that formula work for it, instead of against it.

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Benedict Cumberbatch is pretty much perfect as Doctor Stephen Strange. He finds the right balance of arrogance and likeability to keep us invested in his story until the very end. However, one of the big highlights – cast wise – is Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One. “White-washing” controversy aside, which never made sense to me because it’s Tilda Swinton, she almost steals the show every time she’s onscreen. She also has her own balance of being a mentor, but someone who must keep her distance from people because of the responsibly of being the Sorcerer Supreme.

Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Mordo has his own history before the film that is hinted at, but is a by-the-books kind of warrior that teaches Strange along the way. Benedict Wong’s Wong is another highlight of the film, although I wish we had a little more with him. When it comes to Mads Mikkelsen’s villain Kaecilius, I’m sure many will see him as another underdeveloped villain that doesn’t fix Marvel’s villain problem. I wouldn’t be doing a good job of a reviewer if I didn’t agree with that to some extent.

Kaecilius doesn’t see himself as a villain and that usually makes the best kind of villains. Everything he does he thinks is for a grander purpose and makes a sound enough reason for his actions when he goes face-to-face with Strange, something even he points out that sounds good in theory, but in action not so much. However, the thing that keeps us invest in Kaecilius’ story – even for a moment – is Mikkelsen, who is always great in everything he does, and the same can be said here. But, it would have been nice to spend more time with him, and even see just a bit on how he became the way he becomes onscreen instead of just being told.

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One of the biggest cast missteps is Rachel McAdams’ Christine Palmer. There’s no denying McAdams is a great actress, and anytime she’s in something you know she’s going to give one hundred percent. However, here, she entirely wasted. Palmer doesn’t add much to the story. She does have one key moment before the final act of the film, but that is about it. Although, many probably won’t know him too much, Michael Stuhlbarg pops in the film as Dr. Nicohemus West, a character from the comics, and somewhat rival to Strange, but it’s nothing more than a lesser supporting role.

All in all, Doctor Strange is truly unlike anything Marvel has ever done before in terms of visuals and the “out there-ness” of it all. While the film does have some familiar beat-for-beat origin story Marvel moments, and loses just a bit of steam in the final act, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tilda Swinton keeps us invest from start to finish.

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Doctor Strange

4 out of 5

‘Black Mass’ Review

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Director: Scott Cooper

Writer(s): Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth

Cast: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Jesse Plemons, Rory Cochrane, David Harbour, Julianne Nicholson, Kevin Bacon, Adam Scott, Peter Sarsgaard, and Corey Stoll

Synopsis: The true story of Whitey Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf.

 

 

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

*Reviewer Note 2: I fell behind on my movie watching, so some anticipate some more reviews this week*

 

Black Mass is based on the book “Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob” written by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, and based on the true life of arguably one of the most notorious gangsters ever, James “Whitey” Bulger. Whether or not all the events in the film happen or not – two of the real life people that rolled with Bulger say some stuff was not true – the film is a brooding, dark, gritty and tremendously acted film.

 

The film stars in 1975 as we get an idea of who James, or Jimmy, “Whitey” Bulger (Depp) is to the people surrounded by him. The film is introduced by Kevin Weeks (Plemons) as he’s being integrated and says that Bulger was a small time guy and suddenly he became one of the biggest names in South Boston or Southie as they called it. From there we’re introduced to John Connolly (Edgerton), who has returned to Boston and has joined the FBI. His first ambitious move, reunite with his childhood friend Bulger and convince him to join forces to take down the Mafia running North Boston. Bulger seeing this as an opportunity to take down the competition agrees and here is what beings his reign as the kingpin of Boston.

 

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The film isn’t just about Bulger, the film is also about John Connolly. The two get the same amount of screen time and Connolly gets his hands a bit dirty in his own way as much as Bulger. Connolly thinks Bulger is the FBI’s saving grace against the Mafia in Boston and it clouds his judgment from time to time, and it makes him – arguably – as corrupt as Bulger. All of it, done well by the great and always reliable Joel Edgerton.

 

Here is where I run into a problem with Black Mass. The film itself is just okay, but it is elevated thanks to the performances of the impressive and huge cast. Depp and Edgerton at the forefront and the supporting cast play their parts well. Depp is back to true form here. This is the kind of films I like Depp in, where he show his true potential and great acting prowess. Forget the wacky roles that he’s been playing for years now, it is when he plays a serious and real character that you remember how great he is, and playing Bulger is one of those roles. He’s terrifying and intimidating when he has to be, that includes scenes with Dakota Johnson’s Lindsey Cyr and Julianne Nicholson’s Marianne Connolly, the wife of John Connolly. As good as he is as Bulger, he can also be rather charming when he has to be, which is rather odd to see after all the scenes that involve him being a terrible person.

 

Edgerton, on the other hand, has his fair share of great moments with and without Depp, but his character at times is so blinded by the myth that is Bulger that he becomes a bit distracted of his real duties as an FBI agent. He also becomes a bit cocky that he managed to get one of the most wanted criminals the bureau ever wanted to work for them instead of taking him down.

 

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The supporting cast all plays their parts on point and all have their moments to shine, considering how big the film is. Jesse Plemons’ Kevin Weeks and Rory Cochrane’s Steve Flemmi provide framing devices for the most part, but also Bulger’s most loyal allies that will follow him to the end, as does W. Earl Brown as John Martorano. David Harbour’s John Morris plays the more conflicted FBI agent when it comes to working with Bulger and has one of the best and most tension filled scenes that involves a recipe. Kevin Bacon pops in as head of the FBI section in Boston as Charles McGuire as does the surprise cast member of Adam Scott as Robert Fitzpatrick.

 

Unfortunately, some cast members don’t fare that well as others. Dakota Johnson, Julianne Nicholson and Juno Temple are the only real female characters in the film, but it feels like they don’t much as characters. Johnson and Nicholson have more substance to their roles but Johnson disappears after the first half hour of the film and her scenes with Depp are the best at getting some dimension from Depp’s Bulger, and you miss it afterwards. Corey Stoll appears at the end as new District Attorney Fred Wyshak and Peter Sarsgaard’s Brian Halloran is a bit all over the place and although his character calls for it, I could have seen anyone else playing that role. Finally, Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays U.S Senator Billy Bulger has literally about ten minutes – if that – of screen time and has only one real good scene with Edgerton near the beginning of the film. His brotherly connection to Jimmy Bulger isn’t even touched on too much, and they only have a couple scenes together. It’s kind of a shame really.

 

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So despite the great cast and performances, Black Mass doesn’t really do much in getting us more in the head of Bulger. It does early on with the scenes with Johnson’s Cyr but that’s about it. We don’t get more into his head at all and it probably tries to make up for it by giving those conflicted moral scenes to Edgerton’s Connolly, but great acting only takes you so far.

 

All in all, Black Mass is filled with by great performances led by Johnny Depp and Joel Edgerton. The film is a bit grim and hard to watch in some scenes, but the slow burn to the film may turn off some viewers anyway. Black Mass isn’t the perfect film or tale of Bulger’s legacy, but it worth the watch.

 

Black Mass

4 out of 5

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‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ Review

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Dir: J.J. Abrams

Cast: Chris Pine,Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin,Alice Eve, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bruce Greenwood and Peter Weller

Synopsis: After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world tocapture a one man weapon of mass destruction.

 

*Review Note:This is a NON-SPOILER review and if you comment PLEASE DO NOT PUT SPOILERS IN THE COMMENTS.*

J.J. Abrams has once again made a Star Trek movie for not just Star Trek fans (although they are mostly likely to catch the small winks and nods), but also for the general going audience. Some people will say Into Darkness had some plot holes and falls apart in certain areas (I slightly agree with some aspects but not entirely) but it will still be one of the most fun experiences you will have.

The opening sequence in the movie really sets the tone for the movie. It’s filled with humor, tension, suspense and action that is only pumped up as the movie moves along. We see the Starfleet still struggling with their adventures and how to come together as a crew. We see how Kirk (Pine) is still doing things his own way and ignoring regulations and Spock (Quinto)being by the book.

However, all there is really put to the test when John Harrison (Cumberbatch) shows up and sets in motion a series of events beginning with attacks on a futuristic London and having Starfleet big wigs setting up a manhunt into deep space for him. Of course, things don’t go as planned and Kirk and his crew are put to the test against Harrison’s smarts andnerve worthy intention.

Of course Cumberbatch’s Harrison character has been the spark of many fans on whether it is or isn’t a certain character. And since being a non-spoiler review I won’t confirm or deny but the reveal is pretty cool in my opinion. Cumberbatch, in no surprise, is excellent as John Harrison and you can truly see his character is willing to go anywhere to get what he wants.

Chris Pine has made Kirk his own bringing in his roguish,young, and humorous back but also bearing a lot of the emotional weight this time round. Zachary Quinto’s Spock is once again the soulful figurehead of this series, remaining clueless, in a good way, of “normal human interactions” while also dealing with two different both relationships in the film.

The rest of the cast tend to fade into the background behind this central trio (Cumberbatch, Pine, Quinto), fulfilling their roles when need be. Urban’s Bones has a lot more wise cracks than the first film while Pegg’s Scotty has his own sub-plot that involves him disappearing for a while but will still be a fan-favorite (if he wasn’t already). Zoe Saldana’s Uhura has a much smaller role than usual and when she’s not having her comic relief moments, she is having her romantic moments with Spock which honestly kind of slows the movie down just a bit. Also the addition on Alice Eve as Carol Marcus isn’t really all that besides her quick scene when she’s in her bra and panties.

I mentioned earlier that people will find problems with the movie. Which is fine by me because honestly what movie is absolutely perfect? Anyway,the movie does have fan-service and some might find it eye-roll worthy but I see it as Abram just doing that, fan-service, but also making general movie audience conformable and for many, it won’t matter.

All in all, Star Trek Into Darkness is a hell of a lot of fun, maintaining all of its tones in order that they don’t over power each other and ensures the viewer that this is a franchise you want to keep seeing.

Star Trek Into Darkness

5 out of 5