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.

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New Podcast: Comic Con, The Rocketeer Sequel/Reboot, Joker Theory Shot Down & Ton More

The newest podcast is live!

I have a guest on today’s podcast, and not only did we have a lot of fun recording this, we ran down all those Comic Con trailers, the Marvel panel, this week’s items, and this week’s releases. So sit back, turn up the volume and enjoy.

 

‘Captain America: Civil War’ Review

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Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo

Writers: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely

Cast: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Daniel Bruhl, Frank Grillo, Martin Freeman, Marisa Tomei, and William Hurt

Synopsis: Political interference in the Avengers’ activities causes a rift between former allies Captain America and Iron Man.

 

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

*Reviewer Note 2: I think it goes without saying, stay for the credits*

 

After all the buzz, hype, and anticipation, Captain America: Civil War is here! And boy was it worth the wait. The concept is, of course, taken from the popular storyline in the comics that inspires the events in the film, but not a direct adaptation considering Marvel doesn’t own the movie rights to all their characters, and it would be really, really busy. However, that doesn’t change how great Civil War is, and how it handles its busy lineup.

Captain America: Civil War now follows Steve Rogers/Captain America (Evans) with his New Avengers in Falcon (Mackie), Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Olsen), and Natasha Romaonoff/Black Widow (Johansson) on a mission in Lagos as they hunt down Crossbones (Grillo) who’s trying to steal something. However, an accident happens that, to the world, is the final straw for The Avengers and causes the UN to create The Sokovia Accords. The Accords is a law that would make The Avengers essentially government agents who will go where they send them, and that’s it. No more Avengers going to a foreign land and acting as our saviors, if they sign, they will go where the UN sends them.

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This causes a rift between the team, more specifically, between leaders Captain America and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Downey Jr.). Stark believes the Avengers need to be put in check and the cost of innocent lives has become too high, while Cap thinks that the “safest hands are still our own,” and that the Avengers should be free to go where the danger is instead of others. The argument becomes more of an issue when a deadly attack happens and Bucky/Winter Soldier (Stan) looks to have done it. Cap, of course, jumps at the opportunity to protect his old friend and save him despite the circumstances and the Accords. With all that going on, a mysterious figure in Zemo (Bruhl) appears, and has his own plan in mind.

Despite the crowed feel and look to it, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and directors Joe and Anthony Russo really make Civil War work. Even with the inclusion of two new big characters in T’Challa/Black Panther (Boseman) and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Holland), they give every character their moment to shine, without making it feel forced or unnecessary. That’s a pretty big achievement considering this isn’t really an Avengers movie, but a Captain America movie.

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“Hey everyone”

Not only that, but the concern that many people had when the movie was announced about the Avengers not really having a fight, but just a “disagreement” that would resolve itself by saying “sorry I hit you so hard, man,” is not really there. There are consequences for the actions these characters make and the dynamic has certainly changed among the team, and even the public, just like the events in The Winter Soldier did. Sure there is the quirky back-and-forth between Hawkeye (Renner) and Black Widow during the big brawl, but you kind of suspect that from these two, well, at least I could.

However, here is the big thing McFeely/Marcus and the Russo’s where able to do, that was extremely important for Civil War to work. They were able to make us – the audience – see both sides of the argument. You understand where Tony is coming from and why he decides to sign The Accords, and you can see why Steve doesn’t and chooses to fight them. There is no black and white, there is a lot, and I mean a lot, of grey. Nothing feels forced and everything has its place. Even if you’re Team Cap or Team Iron Man, you can feel yourself being persuaded to switch sides. Neither side is more right than the other, that’s why the film works on the drama and political side of things. It also helps that we’ve come to know the characters. After all these years, you kind of hate that everyone is fighting each other, but that same time, you may not be too surprised. Obviously, the first time we saw Avengers together, they fought each other.

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So when it comes to the cast, everyone is on their A-game. Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is still the same Tony, but he’s more matured and headstrong than we’ve ever seen him before. Evan’s truly is Captain America at this point, if there was ever any doubt, it is going to be squashed after watching this. Chadwick Boseman carries T’Challa/Black Panther which such ease, that you forget for a minute that this is the character’s debut. Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo is likely, and already, being called one of Marvel’s great villains in sometime, which is hard to argue. His reasoning isn’t revealed until the very end, but everything he does up until that point is very slow and when it’s revealed why he’s doing what he is doing, you find it a bit genius, and leads to one most impactful moments of Civil War.

Everyone else, like I said that’s their moments, but this is a Captain America movie, so they don’t completely steal the show. Unless you’re Spider-Man. Tom Holland, who has a descent amount – not too much – screen time is great. You get a good feel for what we’re going to expect in Spider-Man: Homecoming. We should save our judgment for what we think of Holland as the character until we actually watch Homecoming, but so far, I really like what we have so far.

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All right, so the big brawl that has been promoted in all the ads was pretty damn great. Matter of fact, all the action in the film is pretty top notch. Not only that, all the action sequences feel and are very personal. I won’t get into why, but watching the film you’ll know why. But the big brawl that happens at the airport is one of the best parts of the whole film, and one of the best action sequences in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are a lot of surprises in there as well, which I obviously won’t spoil here, but as a fan, I didn’t think they would go there. However, after the brawl, a lot of steam and momentum gets sucked out of the film, which to me, is the only real misstep of the film.

All in all, Captain America: Civil War is one of the best films that Marvel has done. It also shouldn’t have worked with all its moving parts, but what a tremendous job by everyone involved to make it work, to make it fun, and make it emotionally challenging to watch. There a only a couple of missteps, but overall, I would not hesitant a minute to put Captain America: Civil War on my top five best Marvel films of all time. Maybe, even the top five comic book movies of all time.

Missing Spider-Man of course

Missing Spider-Man of course

Captain America: Civil War

4.5 out of 5

‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ Review

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Dir: Joss Whedon

Writer(s): Joss Whedon

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader (voice), Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Thomas Kretschmann, Andy Serkis and Samuel L. Jackson

Synopsis: When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and it is up to the Avengers to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans.

 

 

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

 

 

It’s hard to believe that Avengers: Age of Ultron is only Marvel Studios’ eleventh film, and what better way to cap it off with the second outing of one of the biggest teams in history. Joss Whedon returns to direct his last Marvel films – at least for now, hopefully – and boy does he go out with a bang. Avengers: Age of Ultron not only brings the gang back together, but also sets up the craziness that will be the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

 

Whedon doesn’t hold back and really shows us what the movie will be like with the opening sequence, which is a huge action sequence, with some great comedy and humor, involved, on a Hydra base as The Avengers: Tony Stark/Iron Man (Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Evans), Thor (Hemsworth), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Johansson), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Renner) and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Ruffalo), led an assault to capture an important item. While there they encounter The Twins, Pietro (Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff (Olsen), who are also called “enhanced,” and find out how deadly they can be. Wanda uses her powers to show them their worst fears, which varies on each Avenger, and I fears I won’t spoil here in the review.

 

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Moreover, Tony and Bruce discover what they think is a key to unlocking their “Ultron” program, A.I. Their hope is to have another peacekeeping option so their burden is not as strong. Of course, things don’t go according to plan and instead Ultron (voiced and motion captured by Spader) becomes a menace and sees the only way to peace is eliminating the human race and The Avengers.

 

If it is not clear by the opening sequence, Age of Ultron has a lot going on. Not only do we have the new characters, but also the multiple arcs going on that set up not just the rest of the movie, but also the future films, in particular Thor Ragnarok which actually slows down the movie a bit. One of the things that the movie is doing is pretty much showing us these characters aren’t always perfect, but also have their bad or imperfect sides, despite being labeled “superheroes.” They are still, for most of them anyway, human, they have flaws. Can they keep fighting forever?

 

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The other part that slows down the movie is the return of Nick Fury (Jackson). Don’t get me wrong, it is great to see Jackson back as Fury, but even his scenes slow down the movie too. Are they important scenes? Sort of. Fury is there to somewhat remind The Avengers why the world depends on them and why they were bought together, but during the third act they find that out themselves anyway.

 

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So let’s get the cast. Everyone has their moment to shine. The already established cast members do great in the roles as usual and do even better with the added depth the plot of the movie is giving them. Jeremy Renner’s Barton/Hawkeye does get some renewed justice, after playing a zombified henchman in The Avengers. He has a great and surprising arc in this that finally gives the character justice and more than a secondary character. Johansson’s Black Widow and Ruffalo’s Hulk have their blooming romance, which makes a bit more sense when you see it fully played out onscreen. Downey Jr. and Evans tease out their Civil War bout with their ideals on what to do with Ultron, and Hemsworth’s Thor is well, Hemsworth’s Thor (not in a bad way).

 

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As for the new cast members, they’re a bit hit-and-miss. Let’s start with the obvious, James Spader’s Ultron. I don’t like to compare the comics to the movies, because they movies are their own thing, but the Ultron here is a bit different from the comics (and that’s as far as I’ll go with that). The movie version of Ultron is a bit all over the place. For the most part, he is ruthless and wants to rid the world of pretty much everything and everyone. However, he does a quality that Spader really nails and makes Ultron a little bit more complex and truly a creation of Tony Stark. It was rather odd to behold, but kind of welcomed.

 

Secondly, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen as the twins Pietro and Wanda. Yes, they do have European accents, and no, they are not mutants (damn you 20th Century Fox, DAMN YOU). Instead, the Maximoff twins have been experimented on by Hydra’s scientists, mainly Baron von Strucker (Thomas Kretschamann), and are called “enhanced,” for their special powers for super speed and telekinesis and other psychic powers. It’s fairly clear in all the promotional that the twins work with Ultron at the start of the film and eventually end up working with The Avengers, which any comic book fan and maybe even casual fans would have guessed, so I don’t really consider that a spoiler. Taylor-Johnson’s Pietro, not Quicksilver which I don’t believe he’s ever called in the film, is cocky and a bit brash, while Olsen’s Wanda –also never called Scarlet Witch from what I recall, but is called witch by Tony– is both vulnerable, but mostly dangerous.

 

The two are a bit underutilized unfortunately. They have their own story as to why they want to team up with Ultron at the start, but after that they really don’t do a hell of a lot. Yes, they play a role in the final act, but this is the trouble with having so many moving parts, it was bound to happen. Again, that isn’t to say they don’t have their moments to shine, more so with Wanda as Olsen gets the edge of screentime than her onscreen brother, but as a whole they are just okay until the final act of the movie.

 

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Finally, Paul Bettany as Jarvis/The Vision. It’s a bit weird to say Bettany is a new cast member, since he has been a part of the MCU since day one as the voice of Stark’s helpful computer program Jarvis. But here in Age of Ultron, he is physically there with everyone as The Vision. I won’t say how he comes to be in the movie, but when he finally shows up and how he shows up it is truly great to see. More importantly, it is more great to see Bettany finally be an actual part/physically there for The Avengers from this point forward.

 

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There are some nice small appearances in there. Don Cheadle, Anthony Mackie and Cobie Smulders pop up during the fun and funny party scene that happens before the “Lift Thor’s Hammer Challenge.” Andy Serkis plays Ulysses Klaue, which if you’re not a big comic book fan, you should try to remember his face and name for the future. There is some other surprises, but I’ll leave you to see those yourself.

 

Age of Ultron is filled with great action, the opening sequence is great and the Hulk vs. Tony in his Hulkbuster suit was awesome, but it is also filled with great humor. Yes, some of the jokes fall flat or feel unnecessary, but most of them feel right and it’s nice to have a laugh when despair and destruction is going around. Also, there are some serious surprises in this, that I won’t spoil, but one truly comes to mind that I’m sure many fans will be talking about.

 

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All in all, Avengers: Age of Ultron does have a lot of stuff going on, but Joss Whedon being Joss Whedon manages to be able to balance a large chuck of it and make a great sequel to what many thought, would be an impossible team-up movie. Age of Ultron has it all; action, drama, humor, and a great cast. You will surely have a fun time watching this. Of course, stay for the first credits scene, no after credits scene.

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron

4.5 out of 5

 

 

‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ Review

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Dir: Anthony and Joe Russo

Cast: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Maximilano Hernandez, and Robert Redford

Synopsis: Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and battles a new threat from old history: the Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier.

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review. Also, (of course being a Marvel movie) stay for the credits, both of them.*

 

 

Loosely based on the Ed Brubaker arc The Winter Soldier, Marvel raises the bar and scope of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the Russo Brothers-directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The movie follows super soldier Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Evans) and Black Widow (Johansson) working for/with Nick Fury when they discover that S.H.I.E.L.D. may be compromised. Unsure of whom, if anyone, to trust, they must uncover a hidden threat before everything they know it torn apart.

 

The movie is one of, if not the strongest individual installments to date. Besides being a superhero/comic book adventure the movie is also, in many ways, a character journey with elements of a spy action thriller. The Winter Soldier hits all of the right notes and gives us the best of what comic book movies have to offer. The scale of the film alone is a huge and ambitious take for Marvel. Not only is it a great sequel but it also feels like a sequel to The Avengers in some way too. However, the ambitious take of this is the fact the movie has some major repercussions will change the Cinematic Universe and should be interesting how they manage that in the future movies.

 

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo managed everything close to perfection. The movie moves at great pace and never once does it seem like the time is wasted. Car chases, hardcore hand-to-hand combat, aerial dogfights and intense gun battles are interwoven that combines elements of at least three genres. But, another thing they do great is the humor. The movie even starts with a joke and though the plot is filled with serious themes and plenty of drama, it never forgets to make us laugh.  They’re not ironic laughs or defensive ones.  They’re just good-hearted, clever jokes, and they’re yet another example of why the movie is successful.
Not only does the film potentially shake-up the structure of their entire cinematic universe, but the creators understand the political thriller enough to get that if they’re going to do one, and do it well, then they’re going to have to introduce a strong point-of-view about something that is relevant to our world – and that they do. The Winter Soldier offers a strong perspective about a current political hot button issue – the cost and meaning of freedom. The execution isn’t hitting us over the head but is gone in a graceful way. There are ideas to think about, if you are into that, but at its core, the movie remains a fast paced piece of entertainment.

 

All that being said, usually character development gets lost when trying to expand the plot but with The Winter Soldier, character isn’t sacrificed. The big and small moments are equally filled with tension and there is some powerful development in this film. Of course the big one is Steve Rogers, the man out of time. There is a sequence early on in the film that hits the nail with the hammer, and is a bit sad to see but really shows the vulnerability of Rogers in this film. But, even with that said, early on and throughout the movie, we see him Rogers as a real badass. The shield is even utilized more as an offensive as much as a defensive one.

 

If Chris Evans didn’t prove himself to anybody that he is Steve Rogers or Captain America, then this will surely prove it. Evans brings a depth to the character that has not been seen yet. But, it’s Cap’s partner Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow that also has an arc here as well. Scarlett Johansson has played the character as many times as Evans and it isn’t until now that we get to know more about her. She is given a ton more to do than just be eye candy. Evans and Johansson have tremendous chemistry, and their witty banter or confrontations only adds to that.

 

Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury also gets more time to shine this time around. He plays a major role in the events of the movie but also brings in more humor and emotion than any of his other appearances.

 

New addition to the cast is Anthony Mackie, who plays Sam Wilson aka Falcon. A former solider himself, he now works at the VA helping soldiers who come back from war. Mackie brings in a good sense of charisma as Cap’s sidekick but has a great, possibly scene-stealing action sequence. Emily VanCamp’s Agent 13 will make some comic book fans happy, and give them a possible hint of things to come even though she doesn’t really do too much in the movie.

 

Then there is the odd one out of the bunch, Robert Redford who plays Alexander Pierce. Of course Redford has his share of spy-thrillers but in a way it also brings the spy thriller of this movie out in front. He brings the weight of his cinematic legacy with him, which also helps us to immediately buy into his character’s power and authority.

 

Finally, there is the man himself, The Winter Soldier. It’s arguable that Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier is – other than Loki – Marvel’s most successful, and terrifying, villain to date. Of course, if you are an avid comic reader than you know who and what The Winter Soldier is. His background is given in the movie as his history through time until now. Stan plays him in a heartbreaking and legitimately chilling way. He is relentless, feels unstoppable, and will do anything to complete his mission. Whenever he shows up, you are genuinely worried for anybody standing in his way.

 

All in all, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a game changer in every sense of the word. It’s funny, thrilling, action packed and above all, it’s entertaining as hell.

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

5 out of 5