Monthly Rewind for February

Hello, everybody!

The second edition of Monthly Rewind is here, and we’re doing February! (I know it’s late, going through some laptop changes and had to switch everything over)

I mentioned in the last post that I’m going to change how I did these going forward, and that’s going to happen here. I originally did all the movies I watched that month and gave my reactions to all those movies, good or bad. The new change is that I’ll still be doing that, but this time with only the movies that really left an impression or stood out. I’m not saying I won’t mention the bad movies, but for the most part, it’s going to be the ones that stood out.

If you know something came out during that month, or year, and it’s not on here. It’s a good chance that I haven’t seen it – yes, even after all these years – or I just completely missed it while putting the list together. It’s a lot of movies after all.

Alright, let’s get started with 2010!

 

2010

Cop Out

District 13: Ultimatum

The Wolfman

From Paris with Love

Shutter Island

The Crazies

 

Thoughts: There were a few disappointments this month in Kevin Smith’s action comedy Cop Out starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan, which was heavily reported that Smith and Willis fought on set – which is probably the only thing that people remember from this movie. Then there was Joe Johnston’s The Wolfman, which cast-wise (Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt, Hugo Weaving and Anthony Hopkins) and practical effects of the titular character (done by the legendary Rick Baker) were all done right, but execution of the movie left a lot – A LOT – to be desired.

Another slight disappointment was District 13: Ultimatum. The sequel to the highly touted District B13, which blew up when it reached here in the States, didn’t really have the right amount of energy as the first. Sure the budget was bigger, but there was just something off about it.

From Paris with Love was, and still is, a weird movie. Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays an employee at the US Embassy who gets paired with a spy, played by John Travolta (yes, you read that right, and his name was Charlie Wax) to stop a terrorist attack. You want to see Travolta in a cheesy, over-the-top role, this is it.

Shutter Island came out this month which gave us the twisty, dark tale of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Teddy Daniels trying to catch killer on an island for the criminally insane. Of course, it’s the ending that sticks out for everyone, with some figuring it out and others, arguably, still not really understanding the ending.

Finally, The Crazies, one of the better remakes out there, is a solid horror thriller about a small town that gets effected by a virus making everyone, well, crazy. Lead by Timothy Olyphant and Radha Mitchell, it is definitely one you should check out if you haven’t already.

 

 

2011

I Am Number Four

Unknown

Drive Angry

Thoughts: aka the lightless February on the list. We’ll start with the Liam Neeson-starring Unknown, which saw him playing a man waking up from a coma, only to find out that someone else has taking over life, along with his wife. It’s probably one of the more forgettable Neeson-starring action movies, especially with a weird, and pretty unnecessary twist.

I Am Number Four, based on a book series, had an interesting concept – aliens and their guardians hid on Earth to avoid being killed by alien bounty hunters. The aliens can only be killed in numerical order, and we follow Four (Alex Pettyfer). It wasn’t a bad movie, but it also wasn’t a great movie. At least we got Teresa Palmer.

Finally, Drive Angry. Look, this movie knew EXACTLY what it was, and was not afraid of even going beyond that. Nicolas Cage hamming it up, William Fichtner hamming it up too as a character only called The Accountant, and for those interested, Amber Heard in short shorts. I love how cheesy this damn movie is and no one is going to tell me any damn different!

 

 

2012

Tomorrow, When the War Began

Goon

Act of Valor

The Innkeepers

This Means War

Chronicle

Safe House

Thoughts: This is the year that studios started bulking up February. I’m going to start off with two movies I happened to see at a short-lived action film festival in Goon and Tomorrow, When the War Began. Goon has picked up some love thanks to streaming, and followed Sean William Scott playing a “goon” aka a hockey player who is there only to start fights. It leads to a showdown with another “goon” played, surprisingly, but Liev Schreiber.

Tomorrow, When the War Began, based on a book series, is basically an Australian Red Dawn, with a Mad Max chase in the middle of the film. I haven’t seen the movie in a while, but I remember enjoying the hell out of it when I saw it. It could have been the film festival vibe, but I’ll get back to you on this.

Act of Valor has probably been forgotten in time, but at the time it was released, it heavily promoted that it was lead by a cast of mostly real-life former soldiers, which lead to it feeling a bit ridged or wooden in the performance camp, but the action sometimes felt like watching a Call of Duty mission.

Next on the list is Ti West’s The Innkeepers, which I know has a lot of fans, but personally I’m not the biggest fan of it. I appreciated the old school homage that West was going for, but it just lacked a certain something for me.

Look, This Means War is not a perfect movie, nor was it the best use of Tom Hardy or Chris Pine…BUT, I hate to say that I enjoyed watching the back-and-forth between Hardy and Pine as best friends/spies who fall for the same women, played by Reese Witherspoon.

Safe House was one of those movies that I really liked when I first watched it. I’ve watched it once since the release and some parts still stick out to me, but for the most part it stuff that you’ve usually seen before. Ryan Reynolds plays a young CIA agent who is tasked to look after a fugitive (Denzel Washington), and both go on the run when the CIA safe house gets attacked. It’s a pretty entertaining action thriller for the most part.

Finally, Chronicle. It’s a rough sell now, considering the actions my Max Landis – the writer – and the allegedly bad work ethic of director Josh Trank (who went on to direct Fantastic Four, where the work ethic story came from). All that said though, looking back at the movie it shocked a lot of people, and meshed the superhero genre and found footage genre together to flip it on its head. The three leads in Dane DeHaan, Michael B. Jordan (yes, he was in it) and Alex Russell did a great job of playing teenagers who get superpowers, and of course, eventually it gets to their heads – some more than others.

 

 

2013

Dark Skies

Snitch

Bullet to the Head

Identity Thief

Side Effects

A Good Day to Die Hard

Warm Bodies

Thoughts: This year was definitely a weird one. Let’s start off with Dark Skies, which I don’t think anyone remembers, I barely remember it. It followed a family that was getting haunted by aliens. It, it wasn’t good. Let’s follow it up with Snitch, a Dwayne Johnson-led drama, which was reportedly based on a true story, which followed a father, who works with the DEA to free his son after his son is set up in a drug deal. It’s not the typical Johnson movie we know of him now, but it just didn’t click the way I think they want to.

Speaking of things not really clicking, A Bullet in the Head, which starred Sylvester Stallone, a hitman, and Sung Kang, a detective who have to work together to bring down the hitman (Jason Momoa) who killed their partners. This is another I don’t remember too much from either, but I did remember it being a little too cheesy for a movie in 2013.

Identity Thief was one of Melissa McCarthy not-as-good comedies (I’m sure some of you are saying none) where she plays a, well, identity thief to Jason Bateman’s Sandy. Bateman’s Sandy then goes after her and it leads to an odd-couple buddy comedy. It also had a weird subplot with bounty hunters chasing after McCarthy. Like I said, not great, but just okay.

Let’s go from just okay to what the hell, with A Good Day to Die Hard. The fifth installment in the Die Hard franchise where we see Bruce “I’m here to get paid” Willis team up with his now CIA operative son (played by Jai Courtney) in Russia to stop a nuclear threat, and ridiculousness ensues. Look, I love Die Hard and even Die Hard with a Vengeance. But this was SOO far removed from what Die Hard was it doesn’t even feel like a Die Hard movie. At all.  

Let’s move on to Steven Soderbergh’s twisty mystery drama Side Effects. It followed Rooney Mara, a woman who kills her husband (Channing Tatum) and it may have been because of bad prescribed drugs given to her. Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones also appear and I remember when I first saw it I was a little confused about the whole thing. It took a second viewing to getting a better grasp of everything. I wouldn’t say it’s Soderbergh’s best, but it was the first time I started to recognize Mara’s name.

Finally, Warm Bodies, a horror comedy romance in the vein of Romeo and Juliet, where a zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult) saves a living-women Julie (Teresa Palmer) and the two start a friendship/odd romance. Honestly, when I first saw it I thought it would be dumb, but once you pass the concept, it’s actually pretty entertaining for the most part. Hoult and Palmer definitely make it through while with some nice supporting cast performances by Rob Corddry and John Malkovich.

 

 

2014

Pompeii

Non-Stop

Robocop

The Lego Movie

Thoughts: Oh, 2014. Okay, let’s start off with the bad movies: Pompeii and Robocop. Pompeii saw Kit Harrington play a slave-turned-gladiator who has to save the love of his life from a corrupt Roman senator as Mount Vesuvius is about to erupt. Honestly, the only thing that really pops out to me thinking about this is Kit Harington looked JACKED, and the ending of the movie. Not the movie’s ending, no, I’m talking about some of the people in my theater when the ending happened. I heard, I kid you not, loudly auditable gasp and “why!?” Clearly those people did not know about Mount Vesuvius, and I was very disappointed.

The remake of Robocop was…a movie? I’m not anti-remake/reboot/reimaging but Robocop gave me a real argument to be that person. Not only did the movie miss the entire point of the original, it really did nothing to stick out on its own, other than the lackluster new suit.

Okay, let’s move to a descent movie in Non-Stop, the second movie in the Liam Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra team-up. Non-Stop had Neeson playing an air marshal who, in a transatlantic flight, has to find a terrorist onboard after being sent a text that someone on the flight will die every twenty minutes. It’s not Neeson/Collet-Serra’s best movie together, but it’s a descent thriller.

Finally, the biggest February movie at this point was The LEGO Movie. I can’t tell you how much I love this movie. I, like many others, was heavily surprised that they were able to pull off a LEGO movie, but also make it so damn good!

 

 

2015

Jupiter Ascending

Seventh Son

Hot Tub Time Machine 2

The Lazarus Effect

The Salvation

Focus

Kingsman: The Secret Service

What We Do in the Shadows

Thoughts: Okay, let’s start with The Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending. Oh, boy this was a mess. Credit to the siblings for trying to tell an ambitious, out-there story, but it was probably too out there…okay, too out there. Let’s talk about another fantasy action adventure movie in Seventh Son, which was not too ambitious and out-there, but lazy, and a waste of Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore, and early Alicia Vikander.

Now let’s talk about some disappointments starting with Hot Tub Time Machine 2. I really liked the first movie, but the second one really didn’t live up to the built-in hype, and losing John Cusack was a bit of a hit. Secondly, The Lazarus Effect, which followed a group of medical researchers discover a way to bring the dead back. Instead of taking a more serious route with the science, considering they did go into it a lot, they went the “traditional” route and ended up with Olivia Wilde dying, only to come back with a demonic presence in her. Also, the trailer gave a lot away.

The Salvation saw Mads Mikkelsen playing an European American settler in the old West whose family gets murdered, but when he takes his revenge, he kills the brother of a land baron (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and when he finds out what happens, the two get into a collision course as he goes after the settler. The movie was kind a weird one, as it really slows down in the middle of the movie, so when the action picks up again, I kind of lost a little bit of interest, which I was really bummed about. The movie also starred Eva Green, if you need another reason to watch.

This next one is an indifferent one for me. Focus starred Will Smith as a veteran con man, who takes an amateur con artist played by Margot Robbie, under his wing and when they get romantically involved, he calls it quits – because you know, love and con artists don’t match? – however years later Robbie’s Jess and Smith’s Nicky meet during a new con and things get complicated. Focus isn’t actually that bad, with Smith and Robbie playing really well off each, and that’s really what keeps the movie going. But, honestly that’s about it.

Finally, Kingsman: The Secret Service. Matthew’s Vaughn’s take on the spy genre with a balance of top notch action, quippy comedy and a great cast with the introduction of Taron Egerton to us fans, Kingsman deserves all the love it got and still gets. And yes, the church/”Free Bird” scene is still awesome to this day.

 

 

2016

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny

Gods of Egypt

Triple 9

Hail, Caesar!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Eddie the Eagle

Deadpool

The Witch

Thoughts: Okay, let’s get this one out of the way – I’m looking at you Gods of Egypt! A movie that was probably done ten years too late, with weird and wonky CGI and an uninteresting lead, the whole movie is just a bit oof. We then move on to Triple 9, which honestly was disappointing in all regards. The movie followed a gang of criminals and corrupt cops who plan on murdering a cop to pull off a heist across town. The reason it’s a disappointment is because this thing is jam-packed to the gills with names, but can’t make anything work.

Let’s talk about Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, the sequel to the great film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The sequel is a bit of a mixed-bag with the action still being top notch, but the story gets a little too ahead of itself and just a tiny bit hard to follow.

Speaking of a mixed-bag, let’s talk about The Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar! which followed Josh Brolin’s Eddie Mannix, a Hollywood fixer, trying to keep the stars of a studio in check. But when George Clooney’s Baird Whitlock goes missing he has to deal with a whirlwind of cover-ups and twin sister reports played by Tilda Swinton. I think the thing that everyone remembers about the film is Alden Ehrenreich and Ralph Fiennes’ scene together, but other than that, the movie does have its charming moments, but at the end of the day, it’s a descent Coen Brothers movie, nothing more.

Look, I’m in the small camp that enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, taking the classic tale and turning the Bennet Sisters and Mr. Darcy into badass zombie killers, while still trying to tell the story in its own way. It’s not perfect, even I can say that, and not all the actresses playing the Bennet Sisters get enough screen time to really get a good feeling for who they are.

Eddie the Eagle, told the story of Eddie Edwards (played by Taron Egerton), who was the underdog skier in the 1988 Winter Olympics, along with his coach, played by Hugh Jackman. It’s your basic biopic underdog story with Egerton blasting his charm all over the place, and Jackman playing something a little different.

The long anticipated and would-it-happen-won’t-it-happen Deadpool movie came out this month, and while the movie divided fans, you couldn’t say that Ryan Reynolds and the team did the character some justice.

Finally, another divisive film that came out this month was The Witch, or The VVitch if you want to go that route. Either way, Robert Eggers directed a very atmospheric horror that followed a family getting tormented by a witch. It gave us Anya Taylor-Joy and Black Phillip. What more do you want?

 

 

2017

Rings

Collide

The Great Wall

Fist Fight

A Cure for Wellness

The Lego Batman Movie

John Wick: Chapter 2

Get Out

Thoughts: Okay, let’s talk about two bad movies to start off in Collide and Rings. Collide starred Nicholas Hoult as a driver who works for a gangster (Ken Kingsley) to pay for this girlfriend’s (Felicity Jones) medical bills, but things go wrong, and ends up in the crosshairs of a druglord (Anthony Hopkins). The movie wasn’t too out there, despite the concept, and speeds up –no pun intended – and then stops everything too often. Then there’s Rings…OOF. A sequel to the previous movies, and going “deeper” into the mythology that we already knew, a weird cult involving the tape, and the biggest f-k you ending that year.

Let’s talk about The Great Wall, or as some people just simply called it by the trailers “Matt Damon the white savor of China” Movie. The movie was not Damon playing the white savior of China, since the majority of the movie is played by actors of Asian descent defending the Great Wall of China from monsters. The movie itself is fine, and the thing that drew me in more was the cast since I knew who most of them were.

Now, let’s talk about a disappointment in A Cure for Wellness. Directed by Gore Verbinski, the surprisingly long creepy horror drama saw Dane Dehaan playing a young executive sent to a remote location “wellness center” to bring back the company’s CEO, but things aren’t what they seem. The movie itself does have a creepy vibe at times, but the movie sometimes moves at a snail’s pace and loses any bit of stream it’s built up. Plus, its ending comes out of nowhere, to the point that I was kind of onboard, but would have been more onboard if they had built it up a little more.

Next up is Fist Fight, starring Charlie Day and Ice Cube as high school teachers who, well, get into a fist fight on the last day of school. It’s a movie that should have been really dumb, but it was actually pretty funny seeing the complete opposites of Day and Cube go up against each other. And yes, the fight does happen, and it’s ridiculously descent.

John Wick: Chapter 2 upped the ante from the first John Wick in every way. From the action, to the world, to the mythology of John Wick himself, Chapter 2 delivered on the action sequel I wanted.

The LEGO Batman Movie, a sequel/spinoff of The LEGO Movie, follows LEGO Batman (voiced again by Will Arnett) on his own crazy adventure with Robin (voiced by Michael Cera). The movie did feel like a huge love letter to Batman, and for the fans.

Finally, Get Out. Jordan Peele’s directorial debut broke ground just about everywhere. From its themes, cast and story, Get Out is still talked about today with respect and love, and that’s the biggest accomplishment I think.

 

 

2018

The 15:17 to Paris

Winchester

Annihilation

Operation Red Sea

Black Panther

Game Night

Thoughts: The last year of our Monthly Rewind, and we’ll start with the “bad” movie of the month in Clint Eastwood’s The 15:17 to Paris, which is based on the true events of three American tourist who stop a terrorist attack on a train to Paris. The movie is, arguably, Eastwood’s “worst” movie, but that’s mainly because he cast the three actual heroes of the event to play themselves, and they didn’t have any real acting talent. It’s not their fault, clearly, but the movie didn’t really go anywhere considering the event only took a few minutes and Eastwood stretched it out to an hour-and-half.

Next, Winchester, which is also “based on a true story” of The Winchester Mystery House built by Sarah Winchester (played by Helen Mirren), the heir of the Winchester rifle, who builds a massive house to keep the spirits of those who were killed with rifles. It’s an okay movie, with Mirren really being the selling point here, but the movie itself leads to a finale that feels kind of just blah.

Let’s talk about the very divisive, Alex Garland-directed adaptation of Annihilation. Based off the novel written by Jeff VanderMeer, it follows a team of different scientists who go into an unknown environmental zone called The Shimmer, to look for Natalie Portman’s Lena’s husband character (played by Oscar Isaac). The cast, of pretty much all actresses, was great along with the visual effects. The “problem” came in with the final act, where it truly goes “out there” which some people went along with it, and other didn’t.

While we’re at it, let’s talk about Marvel’s Black Panther. A lot of people had things to say about Black Panther before, after and during its run in theaters. The movie was a massive milestone in the current comic book movie trend and culture, and in movie history itself. While I personally felt the movie was good, it didn’t speak to me like it did for others, who truly connected to the film, as it should.

Next, Operation Red Sea, a Chinese production which followed a Navy Marine Corps team who are sent to rescue hostages in a dangerous and country during a coup – which is loosely based on a true event in 2015. The movie was hands-down one of the best action films of 2018, with some impressive action sequences and a group of characters that you really connect to.

Finally, we got Game Night, honestly one of my favorite comedies of 2018 – and it came out in February. The movie followed a group of friends – lead by Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams – who meet regularly for game night, but one night things are changed up, and it leads to a kidnapping and everyone trying to figure out if it’s real or not. It’s a great concept with a killer cast – Billy Magnussen and Jesse Plemons being the standouts – and jokes that completely work.

 

And that’s it everyone. Admittedly, this was still a lot movies, but I can’t help that enjoy a lot of movies more than others. But more importantly, I want to know what you guys think about this. Let me know what your favorite movies in February were?

My Best/Favorite Movies of 2015

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

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

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

 

Movies I Missed That I Wanted to Watch

A Girl Walks Home Along At Night

Amy

Anomalisa

Beasts of No Nation

Black Sea

Carol

Daddy’s Home

Faults

Goodnight Mommy

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Mistress America

REC 4: Apocalypse

Selma

Slow West

Still Alice

The Walk

The Babadook

Trumbo

Turbo Kid

While We’re Young

Z for Zachariah

 

Just Missed The List

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

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

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

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

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

Krampus (Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures)

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

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

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

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

Trainwreck (Universal Pictures/Apatow Productions/Denstu)

The Good Dinosaur (Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios)

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

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

 

 

Honorable Mentions

[Wild (Fox Searchlight/Pacific Standard)]

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Crimson Peak (Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

Best/Favorite Movies of the Year

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Inside Out (Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

The Hateful Eight (The Weinstein Company)

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

 

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

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

 

So what are some of your favorite films of 2015?

Here’s to another great year in films!

‘Focus’ Review

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Dir: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa

Writer(s): Glenn Ficarra & John Requa

Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Adrian Martinez, Rodrigo Santoro, BD Wong, Brennan Brown, and Gerald McRaney

Synopsis: In the midst of veteran con man Nicky’s latest scheme, a woman from his past – now an accomplished femme fatale – shows up and throws his plans for a loop.

 

 

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

 

 

Con Artist films are always tough. The cast and crew have try their best to not give too much away, but gives us enough that they don’t lose the audience. But, if they do lose the audience, they have to get them back right away. Basically, con artist films have to play a con on the audience, but do it in a great way or the audience will turn on them. Focus, surprisingly, keeps us engaged enough that we don’t turn on the film, but it struggles from time-to-time to keep us engaged.

 

Focus follows Nicky (Smith), a lifelong conman who hires an eager protégé Jess (Robbie), after a failed attempt to scam him. However, he sees the potential in her and decides to take her under his wing. He doesn’t hold back and the two go down to New Orleans for Super Bowl to show how big Nicky’s operation, and eventually they start falling for each other, which goes against Nicky’s rule of “there’s no room for heart in this game.”

 

I’ll be the first to admit that I was not really suspecting much from Focus, but I was mildly surprised how much of the film actually worked. The film even works as two parts, I don’t know if directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa divided the work, but the first half of the film focuses on Nicky teaching Jess everything he knows and setting the ground work for their relationship especially for things later on. The second half of the film takes place in Buenos Aires where Nicky reunites with Jess after a fall out in New Orleans and where he is doing a job.

 

Ficarra and Requa create some great tension when need be and that is when the film is at its best. When the film starts to slow down it does take away from film and leaves little to be desired. Nothing against Smith or Robbie, because they do have some great chemistry but after great tense filled scenes, the slowing down scenes are just that: slow. There is also some technical things, like the Super Bowl game, isn’t really the Super Bowl even though they are playing it at the Mercedes Benz Stadium and it’s a championship game. Small stuff I know, but still.

 

The supporting cast is also great, sometimes stealing the spotlight from Smith and Robbie. Adrian Martinez plays Farhad, an old friend of Nicky’s and the comic relief, and while his character is a bit thin but whenever he shows up it does add some air to the scenes. BD Wong appears as a Chinese high stakes gambler, in one of the better scenes of film and really does steal the show a bit from Smith. Rodrigo Santoro is a racing millionaire who hires Nicky for a job and is the weakest of the supporting roles, probably only because he doesn’t have much to do. Finally Gerald McRaney is Santoro’s character security agent, and McRaney is always reliable and is the same here.

 

However, Focus belongs to Will Smith and Margot Robbie. Will Smith brings back the usual charisma that we all loved about him and proves that he could still lead a film, if the doubt was in anyone’s eyes. Margot Robbie holds her own against Smith and continues to prove she is a star on the rise and is here to stay.

 

All in all, Focus might stumble from time to time, but with a great cast and standout scenes, it becomes more than an average con artist film.

 

 

Focus

3.5 out of 5

February Movie Releases

So how are those New Years Resolutions coming along?

 

Just kidding!

So let’s talk about some movies shall we? February is going to go by fast it looks like, and there seems to be at least one major movie that is going to make every fan happy. Let’s take a look shall we

 

(All release dates are based off Box Office Mojo and IMDB and all movies are either nationwide releases or large limited releases)

 

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6th

SpongeBob: Sponge Out of Water: I was on the borderline of the whole SpongeBob phase in my life, so I really don’t have any interest in seeing this. Also the live-action, cartoon and CGI combination always feels weird to me and doesn’t always look great. Maybe I’m just becoming a grumpy old man.

 

Seventh Son: This was supposed to come out last year in January but production delays made the movie get pushed a whole year. Now the movie also has the tag of “By the Studio that bought you…” some would say that’s sign the studio doesn’t have a ton of faith, but his is also the last movie Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. did together before they broke off their working relationship. Overall the movie looks okay and has a descent cast. Hopefully it’s at least enjoyable.

 

Jupiter Ascending: The Wachowski Siblings are back and are bringing universal action with them. The film will follow a human woman (Mila Kunis) who is a target of The Queen of the Universe and is protected by two warriors (Sean Bean and Channing Tatum). Based on the trailers the movie looks pretty cool and looks like it’s going to have some great special effects. And, come on, it’s the Wachowski’s

 

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13th

The Last 5 Years: Based on the musical, a struggling actress and her novelist lover illustrate the struggle and deconstruction of their love affair. The movie stars Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan. I honestly didn’t hear about this movie until I started doing this list and it also has a limited release, but I don’t think I’ll be catching this one.

 

What We Do in the Shadows: This came out during film festival season and got some descent buzz from the festival crowd. Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi who are responsible for Flight of the Conchords and The Inbetweeners, respectively, and they bring a horror comedy about vampires. I never got around to watching either show, so I don’t know their kind of humor, but maybe I’ll get around to watching this one.

 

Fifty Shades of Grey: Yes, it’s finally coming out. Based on the book, Fifty Shades of Grey already came with a history, for the lack of a better term, but the movie also had some troubles to get off the ground. Originally set to star Charlie Hunnam as the lead, he dropped out due to scheduling conflicts (although some say that isn’t true), then we got Jamie Dornan to fill his shoes. Fans aren’t too happy as they had their own dream casting but nonetheless, the movie is coming out. Get ready guys, you’re girlfriends and wives are dragging you in.

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service: Based on the Mark Millar comic book and directed by Matthew Vaughn (who also directed Millar’s Kick Ass), the movie looks pretty good. I mean we’re getting Colin Firth playing secret agent, and by the look of it gets to kick some ass. What more do you want?!

 

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20th

The DUFF: I didn’t know this was based off a book, but the movie follows a high school senior who instigates a social peaking order after finding out she’s a DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) to her popular friends. It’s not really marketed to me, or marketed at all until mid-January it looked liked, but the cast is filled with pretty faces and big names like Mae Whitman, Bella Thorne, Robbie Amell, and Allison Janney.

 

The Lazarus Effect: Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, Evan Peters, and Donald Glover star in this as medical students discovering they can bring back patients from the dead. Of course, they use it on one of themselves (Wilde’s character) after an accident. The trailer gives off a weird vibe – aka not so great movie – but the other problem I have with the movie is that it really gives away a character death. I know other movies show or hint at character deaths but this one goes all out and shows it! Not a good sign in my book.

 

McFarland, USA: Kevin Costner is sticking to the sports dramas based on true stories apparently. McFarland, USA has Costner playing a coach who decides to coach cross country in a California town that is down on its luck and no one believes in. The trailer gives the movie the typical, against all odds feel, but sometimes those movies aren’t that bad and inspiring to watch.

 

Hot Tub Time Machine 2: This was supposed to come out in December until The Interview decided to come out, and you all know how that turned out. Nonetheless, the sequel will come out and I have a strange feeling that it won’t be good. I’m sure it will be funny and have some great moments, but there is something about the trailer and the TV promos that give off that vibe.

 

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27th

Everly: Selma Hayek is the titled character and has to fend off a wave of assassins sent by her ex, who happens to be a mob boss. The movie looks like a straight out action film that has the action set in Everly’s apartment.

 

Maps to the Stars: I didn’t know about this movie until I did this list. The film is directed by David Cronenberg and stars Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Olivia Williams, and Robert Pattinson. The synopsis: A tour into the heart of a Hollywood family chasing celebrity, one another and the relentless ghosts of their pasts.

 

Focus: Will Smith and Margot Robbie – future Suicide Squad co-stars – star as con artists who get involved in something they can’t control, as well as possibly falling for each other. The film still hasn’t convinced me, but we’ll see.

 

What movie are you looking forward to more this month?