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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‘Star Trek Beyond’ Review

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Director: Justin Lin

Writers: Simon Pegg and Doug Jung

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella, Joe Taslim, and Shohreh Aghdashloo

Synopsis: The USS Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a new ruthless enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test.

 

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

 

It’s only fitting that a new Star Trek film comes out on the 50th anniversary of the franchise, and that it’s actually great. Star Trek Beyond has a lot of things going for it, and some things going against it, not in the bad way though. One, a new director in Justin Lin. One of its stars, Simon Pegg, co-wrote the script, and it doesn’t follow any previous story told before. The other thing is the film has two stars that sadly passed away in Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin, which the film is dedicated to the two. Getting past that, Star Trek Beyond is a great addition to the Star Trek franchise, and one that deserves to come out on the 50th anniversary.

Beyond follows the USS Enterprise on its third year of its five-year mission, and Captain James Kirk (Pine) is starting to feel the effects of being in space for so long, saying everything feels “episodic.” It also doesn’t help that his birthday is around the corner, and for him it’s bittersweet. It’s not that he’s another year older, but it’s also the day his father died protecting the members of his crew – which will also make him older than his father. He vents to “Bones” (Urban) that he might be living in his father’s shadow, but the issue is put aside when the crew arrives at a new starbase called Yorktown. There, the crew has a short time to relax as a ship comes with an alien saying her crew was attacked and is stranded in the far reaches of space. The Enterprise then go off when they are attacked by a swarm that takes over and destroys it, leaving the crew to scatter and crash land on an uncharted planet. With most of the crew captured and taken prisoner by the villain Krall (Elba), the rest of the crew has to find a way to not only rescue them, but also rest off the planet before Krall can unleash a very dangerous and powerful weapon.

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One of the best things that Star Trek Beyond did, and one of the reasons I think it works, is that it splits the crew up. Making the film follow the crew for the majority of the film rather than making the film just about raising the stakes and stopping Krall’s plan. Yes, the crew eventually bands together to stop Krall, but that doesn’t happen until the final act of the film. It’s everything that builds before that which makes the final act better.

Uhura (Saldana) and Sulu are in Krall’s camp with the majority of the crew, Scotty (Pegg) gets found by the alien warrior Jaylah (Boutella) and helps her fix her “home,” Kirk gets help from Chekov (Yelchin), and Bones is with Spock (Quinto) going through the terrain of the planet. All of them have their own strengths and leads to some great dynamics with the highlight being Bones and Spock. The back-and-forth between Bones and Spock is easy enough to steal the film as a whole. Spock’s part in the trek, no pun intended, with Bones throughout the planet might make some hardcore Trek fans a bit conflicted, but it totally works in context.

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However, despite the focus being put on different groups, the central conflict that is introduced at the beginning – Kirk’s feeling about being out in space so long – gets thrown to the side once the action picks up and the crew is on the planet. It helps that the action is great; especially the takeover of the Enterprise and a scene that takes place outside Yorktown, but Kirk’s central conflict gets lost in the shuffle and isn’t bought back up until the very end when he’s going up against Krall. If anything, this would be the biggest misstep that Star Trek Beyond has. Which does suck a bit since Kirk is seen here as a true captain, and not trying to prove himself to his crew or the rest of the Federation like the first film or Into Darkness. The inner conflict also rose an interesting question, that we do get answered by the end, but would have been nice to see play out throughout the while film.

The returning cast all do great, this is their third outing after all, and the two new cast members aren’t that bad either. Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah is a great addition to the film, playing a strong alien character that holds her own in her solo fight scenes. When it comes to the villain Krall, Idris Elba nails. Elba already has a pretty demanding presence onscreen, but covering him up with heavy alien makeup makes him a bit more scarier. Krall does have an interesting twist, which I know a TV spot spoils (thankfully I avoided that), but his villain character is very Trek, and does mirror a bit of what Kirk feels and what he goes through.

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All in all, Star Trek Beyond is a fun, entertaining, and action-packed addition to the Star Trek franchise that is well worth the watch. The action is great, and while it does follow some of the summer blockbuster formula, the film never lacks nor eliminates its originality and fun. There are nods to the original series that are pretty organic and aren’t just thrown in for the sake of it. Thrusters on full!

 

Star Trek Beyond

4.5 out of 5

New Podcast: George Takei and Simon Pegg Talk Sulu, Ghost in the Shell Producer Talks & Ton More

After a couple weeks off due to health reasons – had a tooth removed – the podcast is back up!

Also remember to like my Facebook page for the podcast here: https://www.facebook.com/MoviePit

‘Finding Dory’ Review

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Directors: Andrew Stanton (co-director Angus MacLane)

Writers: Andrew Stanton and Victoria Strouse (Additional screenplay material by Bob Peterson)

Voice Cast: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Hayden Rolence, Ty Burrell, Sloane Murray, Idris Elba, Dominic West, Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton

Synopsis: The friendly-but-forgetful blue tang fish reunites with her loved ones, and everyone learns a few things about the real meaning of family along the way.

 

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

*Reviewer Note 2: There is an end-credits scene.*

 

It’s been about 13 years since Finding Nemo came out and stole most of our hearts with the loveable characters and touching story. While sequel talks were discussed way back then, nothing ever really came about it, until a couple years back when it was announced that Dory would be getting her own story. While many were hesitant and asked if Dory could lead her own movie, and if Finding Nemo needed a sequel, many of us were still okay to see what Pixar could come up with. And if you haven’t learned yet, we should never underestimate Pixar. Ever.

We get a cool little prologue in Finding Dory, as we see a young Dory (voiced by Sloane Murray) with her parents (Levy and Keaton) before she is mysterious by herself and grows up to the Dory we are introduced to in Finding Nemo. From there we jump ahead a year to the present where Dory is now with Marlin (Brooks) and Nemo (now voiced by Hayden Rolence). Suddenly she remembers something about her old home and family, and sets out to find her family. What follows is a grand adventure of Dory traveling through the sea that eventually lands her in marine biology institute where she meets an octopus named Hank (O’Neill), a beluga whale named Bailey (Burrell) and a former whale friend named Destiny (Olson). All the while, Marlin and Nemo try to track her down.

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I’ll be honest, I shared most of the fears that many people had about Finding Dory not being a worthwhile sequel, and potentially following some, if not all, of the same story structure that Nemo did. Although, it does somewhat mirror Nemo, thankfully the team behind the film didn’t fall into that pitfall. The film does enough to separate itself from the first film, but still makes it feel like it is set within the same world.

The film is also a lot funnier than I thought it would be too, but with that, the film also has a lot of heart. Dory is the center piece of the film and has a great journey. She doesn’t spend the film with Marlin or Nemo, instead she spends the majority of it with Hank, and the two characters work so well together. Dory’s story is a great one that will probably hit home with many and is one that will tug on your heartstrings, the only way Pixar can.

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Marlin and Nemo take a backseat this time, but do have a nice arc about their own relationship. Destiny and Bailey also work tremendously together and with Dory, and it’s kind of a shame that they don’t have more screen time. Idris Elba and Dominic West pop up as sea lions that don’t really get enough screen time at all, but are great fun to watch when they are.

All in all, Finding Dory is a prime example of why we should never underestimate Pixar. While the sequel may not be better than the first film in some people’s eyes, it is a worthwhile sequel that fans will like or love.

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Finding Dory

4 out of 5

‘The Jungle Book’ Review

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Director: Jon Favreau

Writer: Justin Marks

Cast: Neel Sethi

Voice Cast: Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito, and Christopher Walken

Synopsis: The man-cub Mowgli flees the jungle after a threat from the tiger Shere Khan. Guided by Bagheera the panther and the bear Baloo, Mowgli embarks on a journey of self-discovery, though he also meets creatures who don’t have his best interest at heart.

 

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

 

I know I’ve watched the animated 1967 film, but I don’t actually remember too much from it. So going into The Jungle Book, I went in pretty fresh, not knowing a ton about the story and how things would work out. Thankfully, Jon Favreau and the special and visual effects team did a great job of bringing Rudyard Kipling’s characters to life in a remarkable and effective way.

Loosely based on multiple versions of Rudyard Kipling’s novel, The Jungle Book follows Mowgli (Sethi), a “man-cub” raised by wolves lead by Akela (Esposito), and his “mother” Raksha (Nyong’o). However, Mowgli’s presences upsets the tiger Shere Khan (Elba), and asks the animals who live in the jungle is Mowgli is still worth keeping around and reminds them that he will grow up and older and become they thing they fear the most. Mowgli, wanting nothing to happen to his pack, decides that it’s time to move on and is lead out of the jungle by his friend Bagheera (Kinglsey), but Khan sneaks attacks them and Mowgli runs deeper into the jungle.

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Along the way, Mowgli encounters different characters that’s he’s never met like the hypnotic snake Kaa (Johansson), the cunning and lovable bear Baloo (Murray), and gigantopithecus King Louie (Walken). His adventures lead Mowgli down a path to find out where he truly belongs, with man or the jungle, and face the dangerous Shere Khan.

Obviously, one of the big selling points for this iteration of The Jungle Book is the visual effects, and that’s not a bad thing. The visuals that director Jon Favreau was able to get out of everyone involved is phenomenal. The photorealistic approach to not just the environment, but the animals really brings you into the world that is being created. While some effects are blatantly visual effects, there are some moments that have you second-guessing. Yes, that’s how great the effects are, it makes you second guess. However, that might also be a problem because you’re wondering whether or not it’s real, partially real or full CG (no animals were used around Neel Sethi, but still).

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Besides the technical level success, The Jungle Book is also elevated by the great voice performances by the cast and newcomer Neel Sethi. Sethi is the only real non-CGI character in the film, and for his first movie, Sethi is able to handle himself pretty well, especially considering he was probably working off tennis balls or stand-ins, but even saying that, Sethi draws you in every important scene that he needs to. There are moments where he misses his mark, but not only is this his first movie, it’s also a movie where he is the only human character.

The voice casting is perfect of Shere Khan with Idris Elba. Elba already has the swagger and demeanor that demands respect, and every time Khan was onscreen you understood why the rest of the animals were afraid of him and Elba’s voice just makes it more powerful. Ben Kingsley’s black panther, Bagheera is the no nonsense teacher that tries to make sure Mowgli fits in with the pack and learns the ways of the jungle since he found him when he was a baby, and forget his “human tricks.” You can say that Bagheera is more of the father-figure to Mowgli, than Akela. Finally, Bill Murray seems like he was born to play Baloo. Murray injects The Jungle Book with his comedic and light-heartedness, and is so likeable you can’t help but laugh along with me.

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The rest of the voice cast like Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha, Mowgli’s wolf-mother has her real moment to shine when Mowgli decides to leave. Scarlett Johansson has a glorified cameo voice appearance as Kaa, in one of the darkest and creepiest scenes in the movie and Giancarlo Esposito’s Akela is, unfortunately, the loose-end of the voice cast, but that’s nothing against him, just the character not giving enough to do. Finally, Christopher Walken’s King Louie was mixed for me personally. In fact, his whole scene kind of takes the wind and good pace the film had and the middle of the sequence seems forced and out of place with the rest of film.

I’m also trying to imagine what the film looked like in 3D, but I assume it adds to the experience. I didn’t watch it in 3D, but just watching the film, I can only imagine they used the 3D pretty well with the environment they were given.

All in all, The Jungle Book is a great family film, despite some dark and maybe too intense scenes for kids, it also carries some messages that they can pick up on. However, the big positive out of the film is the amazing visuals, the great voice cast, and newcomer Neel Sethi.

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The Jungle Book

4 out of 5

‘The Gunman’ Review

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Dir: Pierre Morel

Writer(s): Don MacPherson, Pete Travis (screenwriter), Jean-Patrick Manchette (novel)

Cast: Sean Penn, Jasmine Trinca, Mark Rylance, Ray Winstone, Javier Bardem and Idris Elba

Synopsis: A sniper on a mercenary assassination team kills the minister of mines of the Congo. Terrier’s successful kill shot forces him into hiding Returning to the Congo years later, he becomes the target of a hit squad himself.

 

 

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

 

 

Based off the novel “The Prone Gunman” by Jean-Patrick Manchette, director Pierre Morel, who arguably, rejuvenated Liam Neeson’s career with Taken tries to do same here with Sean Penn. The Gunman takes some of the same elements from Taken but fails a little short of getting to Taken’s level.

 

While in Congo, a group of humanitarians try to do the best they can during a mining crises, little do some of them know, there are a few of them like Jim Terrier (Penn), Felix (Bardem) and Cox (Rylance) that have their own mission. Jim ends up killing a top official and, per orders, is told to leave the continent leaving his life behind and the love of his life Annie (Trinca) without a word. Jump to eight years later, Jim is back in Congo to do real good and build wells for the villages, until three men come to kill him specifically. Jim jumps into action, kills the men and then leaves looking for answers.

 

It’s interesting how the film is structured. If you walked in not seeing any of the ads you would think you are going to watch a political thriller/drama with the way the film opens with news broadcasts telling us what the Congo is going through. Not that it really matters, the film is not a commentary or trying to give us a message, in fact the Congo stuff is an overall problem for Jim, but we only spend the first twenty minutes of the film in it. Not that it really matters anyway right? You’re probably watching the film for the action.

 

Speaking of the action, excluding Jim taking on the three assassins at the beginning, it takes a while for the action to pick up. In fact, after Jim finds out why he’s being targeted – and when the film starts picking up steam – the action scenes come more often, and some of them don’t disappoint. A house shootout and a fight between Jim and one of the baddies are the highlights of the action scenes in the film.

 

So you’re probably wondering if Sean Penn could pull off being the aging Hollywood star/action star. Well the quick answer is, yes, yes he can. Penn nails a ruthless demeanor and brings the sense that this character knows his stuff and is someone you do not want to piss off. Penn even beefed up for the role, to the point that I think he demanded shirtless scenes or shots that showed up his physic, because holy cow was he buff. I will admit though, after the third shirtless scene, it got a little distracting.

 

The supporting cast is okay at best. The film does belong to Penn, but it is kind of a shame that the supporting cast is either underutilized or just bland, which is a shame because they are great talents. Trinca playing Annie doesn’t do much for the story expect being Jim’s way of having a better life, constantly needed to be protected or saved. Also, for a film being rated R, they never actually show her naked. I don’t want that to sound pervy, but there are moments where Annie is shirtless or is about to put clothing on and any other film would have shown the actress’s breasts, but Morel doesn’t, which I do tip my hat to him for it, but it is very noticeable in where it looks like the camera tilts up right away, another distraction.

 

Bardem’s Felix is a bit odd, I won’t spoil it obviously, but you can clearly tell his character is a bit slimly. Ray Winstone plays the only friend to Jim, Stanley, which against is heavily underused. Finally Idris Elba pops up as a mystery character, which is easily the most underused, although he does have a great scene with Penn before the last act of the film.

 

All in all, The Gunman has a strong lead with Penn who delivers some descent actions scenes and scenes that really suck you in. However, it does take a bit to really find its footing and even stumbles at times. Nonetheless, The Gunman will be sure to you entertain you in some way.

The Gunman

3.5 out of 5

‘Thor: The Dark World’ Review

Dir: Alan Taylor

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, Jaimie Alexander, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Stellan Skarsgard, Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins

Synopsis: Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a non-spoiler review as always.  But I will say this, as with every Marvel movie, STAY FOR THE CREDITS! There will be a mid-credits and after credits scene.  Also if you watch the movie in 3D, you will get to see a 5 minutes preview of Captain America: The Winter Soldier*

 

Thor was probably the biggest question mark as to whether fans would understand the character enough to sit and watch a movie based on him.  Some were surprised when they saw the movie on how good it was (or bad for others) but once every one knew what the character was about and saw him team up with their other heroes they embraced him with open arms.  This continues most of the new found love for the character and changes things up.

The film kicks off with a prologue that finds Thor’s grandfather doing battle with an army of Dark Elves, led by Malekith (Eccleston), an angry elf who is hellbent on plunging the world into darkness with a powerful weapon called The Aether.  Thor’s grandfather ends up getting the Aether and hides it causing Malekith and a small portion of his army to hide.  Fast forward to present day, and Thor (Hemsworth) with Sif (Alexander) and The Warriors Three; Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) and Fandral (Zachary Levi, who replaces Josh Dallas) are busy cleaning up chaos in the nine realms.  Even though Thor is winning the adoration of his people and being groomed to be the new king, his heart is still with Jane Foster (Portman).

Speaking of Jane, she’s in London dealing with the fact that Thor hasn’t been around to see her since the events of the first movie.  She and Darcy (Dennings) find some weird going-ons and eventually leads to Malekith being awaken.  Of course while all that is going on, Loki (Hiddleston) is being held prisoner in the dungeons of Asgard for his crimes in Thor and The Avengers by Odin (Hopkins).

Bringing in Alan Taylor as the new director does give the movie a whole new look.  Not to knock on Kenneth Branagh but Taylor brings in that Game of Thrones style that works since the movie does go into the city life of Asgard, something the first movie didn’t do.  The movie’s battle scenes also have a different feel that really work for this movie.

The first half of Thor: The Dark World, is really all about the production design.  It’s an interesting blend of medieval style and futuristic space weapons that surprisingly works.  It also gives us the focal point of the movie about the Convergence, an event that has all the nine realms aligning and where the Aether is the strongest for Malekith to use.

The second half is where all the stakes are raised and where most of the pay offs are.  Thor has no choice but to free Loki and work with him to stop Malekith from using the Aether.  Of course seeing Thor and Loki together are the best scenes in the movie.  We’ve already seen their relationship develop in two movies now and when they come together it instantly clicks and makes sense.  However, we see some of the strains and some acceptances in their relationship that kind of make you wish they put them together sooner.

The movie does have its flaws. Some scenes probably over stay their welcomes just a tad long and there seemed to be a set up for a love triangle that doesn’t really play out in the end that well (if you’re a fan of the comics you’ll know it when you see it).  I’m pretty sure people will be a bit disappointed that there isn’t enough Loki in the movie but lets remember, this is a Thor movie and not a Loki movie.  Don’t get me wrong I love what Hiddleston has done with Loki and I love how he plays the character he’s not the focal point in the movie.

As for Hemsworth, he has truly made Thor his own.  Hemsworth gives Thor the perfect balance of arrogance – without being cocky – humility and maturely.  He knows what he wants and who he loves and will do anything to protect them even if it means he has to sacrifice himself.  Thor is a man of action and here he proves it.

In connection with that some of the supporting characters don’t really get to do much.  The Warriors Three become the Warriors Two with Fandral and Volstagg getting more screen time.  Sif shows off more her badassery this time but other than that she almost does nothing else as does Idris Elba as Heimdall, he actually gets to do some action this time around.  Stellan Skarsgard takes an interesting turn with his Dr. Erik Selvig character.  Rene Russo as Thor and Loki’s mother Frigga gets some cool moments that I would have loved to see more of and Hopkins as Odin this time around really just walks and sits around and doesn’t capture the powerful ruler he was in the first movie.

On the villain side, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje who plays Algrim/Kurse is intense and a bit terrifying at times and is the right hand man of Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith.  Eccleston is under some heavy makeup and at times can come off as terrifying and a real threat but other times he’s just an obstacle in the way.

One of the things that really took me by surprise is the humor in the movie.  Don’t let this surprise you since Marvel has been injecting more humor in their movies as of late.  However, the humor doesn’t take away from the seriousness of the movie.  There are many big dramatic moments in the movie that make this movie really work along side the humor.

All in all, Thor: The Dark World is a fun, humor, and action filled sequel that, although its small flaws, does make me want to see more Thor adventures in the future.

 

Thor: The Dark World

4 out of 5