‘Atomic Blonde’ Review

Director: David Leitch

Writer: Kurt Johnstad

Cast: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Sofia Boutella, John Goodman, Toby Jones, James Faulkner, Roland Moller, Bill Skarsgard, and Eddie Marsan

Synopsis: An undercover MI6 agent is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents.

 

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

 

I’ve been sitting on this review for a while, as I was lucky enough to see a free advanced screening of the film at the beginning of the month. Loosely based off the graphic novel titled The Coldest City by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart, Atomic Blonde is the first film solo-directed by David Leitch, one of the co-directors of John Wick. So even before the film was released, we knew that the film would at least have great action scenes, right? Well, yes, it does, but Atomic Blonde isn’t without its faults. However, if anything, it once again proves that Charlize Theron – if you didn’t know already – is a total badass.

Atomic Blonde is set within days the Berlin Wall comes down, and follows Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron), who is introduced after getting out of a tub of ice water with bruises covering her whole body and a black eye. Lorraine then goes to MI6 to get debriefed by her boss Eric Gray (Toby Jones) and CIA agent Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman). The film then is told through flashbacks. Lorraine is bought in after the death of fellow agent Gasciogne (Sam Hargave), who Lorraine had a brief relationship with, who was carrying heavy and sensitive information on him when he died. Lorraine’s mission is to go to Berlin, meet her contact David Percival (James McAvoy), find the information and get out of Berlin alive. However, the mission is thrown for a loop when the list actually does go missing, and the only person that knows anything about the list is a defector codenamed Spyglass (Eddie Marsan). Lorraine not only has to get the information, but get out of Berlin alive.

Since the trailers were released, I have been really looking forward to Atomic Blonde. It had a great cast, the style looked cool and more importantly it looked like Charlize Theron was going to kick a lot – a lot – of ass. Thankfully, we get a lot of Charlize Theron kicking ass. The problem with Atomic Blonde is that before we get to the extreme level of ass-kicking, the film trudges along. The film works along the lines of other spy thrillers by being layered and dense with plot and characters that may or may not betray or want to kill Lorraine. However, some of it doesn’t really work too well.

Sofia Boutella’s character Delphine gets introduced, but she doesn’t really do too much in the film other than the promoted sex scene with Theron’s Lorraine. Her character should be more important considering the state of things, but no. Eddie Marsan’s character is introduced early on, but then disappears for the rest of the film until he’s needed again. Although I wish we got a little more of him especially since he’s an important part to everything, but I can see why he’s gone. James McAvoy seemed like he was having fun playing his David Percival. He’s a bit snarky, unpredictable and sometimes straight-out untrustworthy, but he’s still damn fun to watch. It’s also great to see him clash with Theron’s Lorraine, considering their styles are so different.

However, the film belongs to Theron. She’s a force from beginning to end, and never turns it off. Her character is cold and distant, but considering the lifestyle she lives it makes sense. That also makes her a death machine to anyone stupid enough to mess with her, but she also gets hurt like everyone else which is a nice touch. Add that the fact that she did a lot of her own stunts, because you can clearly see her face throughout the fight scenes makes those fight scenes more believable and awesome. Including an amazing ten-minute or so non-stop action scene that feels like its unbroken and probably one of the best action scenes I’ve ever seen on the big screen.

All in all, Atomic Blonde is a worthy action spy thriller worth your time. While the film faces some pacing issues that bring the film down, and loaded a bit too much for its own good, director David Leitch still puts together a great action film with a great lead in Charlize Theron. I wouldn’t personally put Atomic Blonde next to John Wick, but if you’re feeling left out story-wise, the action should hold you over.

Atomic Blonde

4 out of 5

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‘Transformers: The Last Knight’ Review

Director: Michael Bay

Writers: Art Marcum, Matt Holloway and Ken Nolan

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock, Josh Duhamel, Isabela Moner, Jerrod Carmichael, Santiago Cabrera, Tony Hale, John Turturro and Anthony Hopkins

Voice Cast: Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Erik Aadhal, John Goodman, Ken Watanabe, Omar Sy, John DiMaggio and Jim Carter

Synopsis: Humans and Transformers are at war, Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth.

 

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

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a post-credit scene.*

 

Five, count them, five Transformers movie directed by Michael Bay have now cursed us been released, and I still can’t figure out why none of them have been any good. Sure, the first movie was okay, but since then the series has gone downhill. The lack of story, and really any sense of direction, make these movies really hard to follow, root for and really enjoy overall, yet, there are fans out there. The Last Knight, which is Michael Bay “last” movie in the series, is another entry of all style and no real substance.

The movie starts off on a somewhat good note setting it during The Dark Ages as King Arthur and his army in a midst of battle as they wait for Merlin, played by Stanley Tucci, who has already discovered the Transformers and pleads with them to help Arthur and his army. They do and give Merlin a staff, this beings the secret history and long place for the Transformers. We then cut 1600 years later and see Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) floating in space aimlessly only to get sucked into his broken home planet of Cyberton. There he meets Quintessa (Gemma Chan), who says he is the “Prime of Life” and tells Optimus he can have his home world back, but only if Earth is destroyed because of its hidden secret (spoiler territory which I won’t get into).

Then there is, of course, the human characters. We first meet teenager Izabella (Isabela Moner) who has her own Transfomers and is living in the fallen section of Chicago after the events of Dark of the Moon. She gets rescued by Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), now a fugitive from the government and famous for helping the Autbots that are still around, who now operates a junk yard where Autobots Bumblebee, Hound (John Goodman), Drift (Ken Watanabe), Crosshairs (John DiMaggio) and the Dinobots – the only scene we see them in – are hiding from new agency in TRF, who are hunting down Transformers and killing them.

Cade gets involved in the bigger scheme of things when he comes across a medallion that attracts the attention of Megatron (Frank Welker) and Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins). Burton brings together Cade – with the help of his own Transformer butler Cogman (Jim Carter) – and an Oxford professor Vivian Wembley (Laura Haddock) who is an important part of not only the medallion’s history, but why Cyberton is coming to Earth. We also have Optimus Prime acting unlike himself.

So, as you can see Transformers: The Last Knight has a lot – A LOT – going on, and that makes it an even bigger mess than it already is. The problem, well at least one of them, is that The Last Knight is adding too much mythology and lore way to late in the game. Also, some of it doesn’t make any sense. We see in the trailers that the Transformers have been on Earth longer than we thought. They also been there for big events like World War II – which of course was never mentioned in the films, especially with Bumblebee, who gets his own little flashback scene attacking a Nazi headquarters. Which when you think about, if the Transformers were helping the Allies during the war, shouldn’t it have ended quicker?

It’s almost like the film is insulting us that they think we can’t remember anything from the previous movies. Because you know, Stanley Tucci was in the last film, but is only seen here are Merlin during the Dark Ages segment in the movie. Even the Dinobots, and even mini-Dinobots introduced here, which were made to be a big deal in the last movie film, are not even a factor here. Also, if the world didn’t completely known about Transformers before the events of the first movie, how come we see paintings of King Arthur with the three-headed Transformer behind him in Oxford? It’s just dumb how these movies just throw something for the sack of story and plot, logic and proper storytelling be damned.

Yeah, I know. You don’t watch a Transformers movie for its story and plot; you watch it for its action scenes. Look, even I’ll admit, the series so far has had some pretty descent and great action sequences, but that only takes you so far, and eventually it just becomes noise and incoherent action. It also says a lot that the best action piece in this movie is the fight that’s been promoted heavy in Bumblebee taking on Optimus Prime, and even with that said, we pretty much see almost most of it in the trailers and TV spots.

The real problem is that Transformers shouldn’t be this bad. It’s actually hurts to even think about how bad these movies are. The human characters aren’t interesting enough, cringe-worthy humor and stupid – and I mean take you out of the movie stupid – puns, and once again, stereotypical/slightly racist robots that serve no purpose other than trying to get a laugh or connect with a young audience. Seriously, there are Decepticons here that get introduced similar to a scene ripped right out of Suicide Squad, which could have been fun but the Decepticons and Megatron do absolutely NOTHING in this movie. Are they in it? Yes, but do they serve a purpose? No. Not even close, but you forget they’re in this because they disappear for half an hour or longer. Also, the introduction of Hot Rod (voiced by Omar Sy) is wasted here as he doesn’t really serve a real purpose other than having another fan favorite Autobot and showing off his power of slowing down time.

But going back to the humans, Wahlberg looks like he’s at least trying in some scenes, but this could be his last movie. Laura Haddock comes off as snobby when she’s teaching her students, and while her family history is important to the film, that fact that she doesn’t know it makes no sense since it’s pretty much her job. Josh Duhamel comes back as Lennox from the first three movies, and honestly, doesn’t do much – so his character remains the same. Isabela Moner as Izabella plays the tough teenager wants to help the Autobots, but while her character plays a big role in the first act, her character just doesn’t matter for the rest of the movie. Finally, Anthony Hopkins – poor, poor Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins at least adds some star power to the film and rambles on for long periods of time giving off five minute exposition’s dumps. His role is suppose to feel important, but sometimes it just sounds like an old man rambling, which is a shame considering its Hopkins. He also has a dumb sub-plot with the returning John Turturro that goes on for far too long.

So let’s get to Optimus Prime, who has been the center of the promotional material since he goes “evil.” He also disappears once he gets saved from space. Optimus spends the first half of the movie – where he has about ten minutes (if that) screen time – with Quintessa and is gone for the whole second half of the film to finally appear in the final act to have that fight – and yes – become good again. Is that a spoiler? Come on, we all know he wasn’t going to stay evil.

All in all, Transformers: The Last Knight is more or less of the same thing from the other movies. If you’re a fan, you may like it, but if you’re like me, The Last Knight may finally be the last straw. Its one thing to make a bad Transformers movie, it’s another thing to continue to make them thinking they’re good. The adding of mythology and lore does not do the movie any favors as it’s already bloated enough with nonsense action. However, you know what the biggest problem is? Despite it being the last Michael Bay movie – maybe – he can’t help himself from adding a post-credit scene to story he won’t – potentially – be involved in anymore. If Bay truly wanted to leave the series, he would have left the new director enough room to do their own story and thing. But no. Finally, let’s face it, I can sit here and write “this movie is a steaming pile of combined shits that you only fuel by buying a ticket,” but The Last Knight will still make a crap ton of money.

Transformers: The Last Knight

2 out of 5

‘Kong: Skull Island’ Review

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Writers: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly

Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, Thomas Mann, Tian Jing, Jason Mitchell, Eugene Cordero, Shea Whingham, John Ortiz, Toby Kebbell and John C. Reilly

Synopsis: A team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden.

 

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

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a post-credit scene*

 

King Kong is one of the most famous movie characters of all time, so it’s no surprise that Hollywood would try to bring him to the big screen as much as possible. Some have been great and some have been disappointing, but Kong: Skull Island thankfully leans more toward the great side. So, what exactly did director Jordan Vogt-Roberts do to make Kong: Skull Island a good King Kong film? Keep reading and find out.

Set during 1973, at the tail end of U.S troops pulling out of Vietnam, struggling government organization Monarch has two employees in William Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) who have a wild theory that an uncharted island could lead to major secrets. They manage to pull together a survey and mapping operation on the island with a military escort lead by Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), a former SAS Captain and expert tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and an antiwar photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson). Once they arrive to the island – and after dropping bombs to map out the island – they meet Kong (motion-captured by Toby Kebbell and Terry Notary), who isn’t happy they’re dropping bombs in his backyard.

After surviving the initial attack, the group gets separated with Packard leading some of his men in Mills (Jason Mitchell), Cole (Shea Whigham), Reles (Eugene Cordero) and Randa, while Conrad, Weaver, and Brooks are with other Monarch members in San (Tian Jing), Slivko (Thomas Mann) and Victor Nieves (John Ortiz) before they run into Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), who has been on the island for quite some time. What follows is both groups trying to make it off the island, avoiding Kong, but also finding out that Kong may not be the most dangerous thing there.

If you follow the news online, or are a fan of 2014’s Godzilla, Monarch is a connective tissue from the movie, and Skull Island was the studio’s way to introducing King Kong for the forthcoming mashup film between Godzilla and King Kong. However, Skull Island – thankfully – stands on its own making Kong a huge highlight and a force of nature. So since we’re talking about Kong, let’s go more into him. Obviously, Kong is someone you don’t want to mess with according the trailers. He’s king on the island as Reilly’s Marlow says, and that statement is proven the moment we meet as he takes over what felt like a dozen helicopters with ease, and going up against some of the Skull Crawlers. And when it comes to the Skull Crawlers, they do make an intimidating villains and great foes to Kong.

When it comes to the cast, they all play their part very, very well. Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson have their characters fleshed out enough, while the highlights could very well go to John C. Reilly and Samuel L. Jackson. Reilly’s Marlow has been stuck on the island for decades with the natives of the land, so his nuances are fun to watch unfold. Jackson’s characters fits into the time. Jackson is fueled by one thing after the first encounter with Kong: Find Kong and kill him. Jackson’s Packard is very much inspired by the time and films like Apocalypse Now. In fact the whole film feels a tinge like Apocalypse Now, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not so bluntly obvious that it takes away from the film. Two others that I want highlight personally is the pair of Shea Whigham and Jason Mitchell, the two have great chemistry together and is actually my favorite pairing in the film. One unfortunate casting misstep is Toby Kebbell, who gets the short end of the stick when it comes to the cast and story.

However, besides the cast and Kong, a huge highlight is the visuals and cinematography by Larry Fong. Kong and the Skull Crawlers are impressive sure, but of course we come across other creatures on the island that are either beautiful or scary as hell. Kong: Skull Island has a nice balance of the two, but it’s not just the creatures that impress, it’s the beautiful landscapes of the island. If Skull Island wasn’t filled with things that can kill you, you’d probably want to visit – maybe.

All in all, Kong: Skull Island is an enjoyable fun adventure film with a great cast, visuals, cinematography and soundtrack. While the film does slow down at times, it doesn’t do so without trying to flesh out the characters. Of course, the highlight of the film is seeing King Kong return to the big screen in all his glory.

Kong: Skull Island

4 out of 5

March Movie Release

Hello there!

Can you believe it’s March already? Anyway, besides it being my birth month(!) there are some great films coming out in March that we can look forward to. Also, a large amount of limited releases to some big films, so let’s start shall we?

 

3rd

Limited Release: Table 19

Ex-maid of honor Eloise (Anna Kendrick) – having been relieved of her duties after being unceremoniously dumped by the best man via text – decides to attend the wedding anyway only to find herself seated with 5 “random” guests at the dreaded Table 19. The rest of the cast includes Wyatt Russell, Amanda Crew, Craig Robinson, Tony Revolori, Stephen Merchant and Lisa Kudrow.

 

Limited Release: Headshot

Iko Uwais returns to his ass-kicking ways in this new action drama that sees him play a man who washes ashore with no memories after a serious head injury. As he tries to move on with the help of the doctor that helped (Chelsea Islan), his past comes back to haunt him and he must not only regain his memories, but fight back. I got the chance to see this last year at the Chicago International Film Festival, and while the film has some tonal shift problems, no one is watching this for the drama parts, they are watching for the highly entertaining and kick-ass fight scenes. Also the film has a little The Raid 2 reunion as Julie Estelle and Very Tri Yulisman appear. Also in the film is Sunny Pang.

 

The Shack (Drama – Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment, Netter Productions)

Based on the novel by William Paul Young, the film follows a grieving man (Sam Worthington) who receives a mysterious, personal invitation to meet with God at a place called “the Shack.” The film continues the trend of religious films getting a limelight, and with a cast like this and a powerful trailer, I don’t see this film falling on the wayside. The film also stars Radha Mitchell, Tim McGraw, Ryan Robbins and Octavia Spencer.

 

Before I Fall (Mystery Drama – Open Road Films, Awesomeness Films, Jon Shestack Productions)

Based on the novel by Lauren Oliver, February 12th is just another day in Sam’s (Zoey Deutch) charmed life until it turns out to be her last. Stuck reliving her last day over one inexplicable week, Sam untangles the mystery around her death and discovers everything she’s in danger of losing. The Groundhog Day with teenagers mystery angle may be enough to get some people in theaters, but I don’t think I’m sold on it. The film also stars Halston Sage, Diego Boneta, Elena Kampouris, Alyssa Lynch, Logan Miller and Jennifer Beals.

 

Logan (Action Adventure – 20th Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, Donners’ Company)

In the near future, a weary Wolverine (Hugh Jackman’s last performance) cares for an ailing Professor X (potentially Patrick Stewart’s last performance) in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant in Laura Kinney aka X-23 (Dafne Keen) arrives, being pursued by dark forces. The film has done nothing but impress fans and media outlets – who saw over 40-plus minutes of the film – so now that we get to see the whole film, I can’t wait to see how they close out this big run for Jackman. Logan also stars Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant, Stephen Merchant, Doris Morgado, and Elizabeth Rodriguez.

 

 

10th

Limited Release: Raw (Horror)

When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her. The French film has been making waves at film festivals and those lucky enough to see it, and based off the trailers, I can see why.

 

Kong: Skull Island (Action Adventure – Warner Bros., Legendary Pictures)

King Kong is back! The film follows a team going to uncharted territory, mainly, Skull Island where they encounter a myth – and king of the island: King Kong. The film looks absolutely great, and I can’t wait to see how they handle this new King Kong. Kong: Skull Island has an impressive cast of Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, Toby Kebbell, Corey Hawkins, Thomas Mann, Jason Mitchell, Tian Jing, John C. Reilly, Shea Whigham, John Ortiz, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Goodman.

 

17th

U.S. Release: T2: Trainspotting

Danny Boyle gets the band back together for the sequel to the cult following film Trainspotting. The film see the crew come back for some more misadventures.

 

The Belko Experiment (Action Thriller – High Top Releasing, BH Tilt, Orion Pictures, MGM, The Safran Company)

Written by James Gunn, in a twisted social experiment, a group of 80 Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogata, Colombia and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company’s intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed. The film looks absolutely crazy, and with the Battle Royal and Office Space comparisons floating around, it sounds like we’re in for a fun ride. Josh Brener, Michael Rooker, Tony Goldwyn, John Gallagher Jr., Sean Gunn, John C. McGinley, and David Dastmalchian also star.

 

Beauty and the Beast (Musical Fantasy – Walt Disney Pictures, Mandeville Films)

An adaptation of the classic fairy-tale about a Belle (Emma Watson) who falls in love with a cursed and monstrous prince (Dan Stevens). This film has some major shoes to fill. Major. The animated to a lot of people, including myself, is a classic so hopefully it’s at least half-way descent. The film also stars Luke Evans, Ewan McGregor, Josh Gad, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Sline, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson.

 

 

24th

Limited Release: Wilson (Comedy Drama)

Based on a the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, who also scripts the film, a lonely, neurotic and hilariously honest middle-aged man reunites with his estranged wife and meets his teenage daughter for the first film. The film stars Woody Harrelson, Judy Greer, Cheryl Hines, Laura Dern and Margo Martindale.

 

Life (Sci-Fi Thriller – Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Skydance Media)

An international space crew discovers life on Mars. However, on their way back home the crew is put in danger from said lifeform. It should be interesting to see the film handles the material, but with a cast like this, I can’t imagine this being bad. At least one can hope. Life stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, and Hiroyuki Sanada.

 

CHiPs (Action Comedy – Warner Bros., Primate Pictures)

Directed and written by Dax Shepard, the adventures of two California Highway Patrol motorcycle officers, Jon Baker (Shepard) and Frank ‘Ponch’ Poncherllo (Michael Pena), as they make their rounds on the freeways of Los Angeles. There are already people saying this isn’t the CHiPs they grew up with, but the trailer makes the film look like a lot of fun to be honest. I wasn’t looking really forward to it, and I’m still not completely sold, but at least I’m looking forward to seeing what it could lead to. The film also stars Rosa Salazar, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Bell, Adam Brody, Ryan Hansen, Jessica McNamee, Justin Chatwin and Vincent D’Onofrio.

 

Power Rangers (Action Sci-Fi Fantasy – Lionsgate, Saban Entertainment)

Based on the popular 90s show, a group of high-school kids are chosen to protect the world from an ancient evil with their new found super abilities. Look let’s face it, this has the chance of being cheesy as hell, but that’s kind of the point of Power Rangers, so that complaint won’t work. And honestly, the trailers so far have been pretty great – says the childhood fan in me. The film stars Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Dacre Montgomery, singer Becky G., and Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa.

 

31st

The Boss Baby (Animation – 20th Century Fox, DreamWorks Animation)

Based on the book by Maria Frazee, a suit-wearing, briefcase-carrying baby pairs up with his seven-year old brother to stop the dastardly plot of the CEO of Puppy Co. I’m not too excited about the film, it hasn’t really grabbed me, although I’m sure there will be an audience. The voice cast includes Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin and ViviAnna Yee.

 

Step Sisters (Comedy – Broad Green Pictures, Los Angeles Media Fund)

An African American sorority girl resorts to desperate measures to get into a top law school. The film stars Megalyn Echikunwoke, Eden Sher, Alessandra Torresani, Gage Golightly, and Matt McGorry.

 

The Zookeeper’s Wife (Biography Drama – Focus Features, LD Entertainment, Scion Films)

Based on the book by Diane Ackerman, the film tells the account of keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, Jan (Johan Heldenbergh) and Antonina Zabinski (Jessica Chastain), who helped save hundreds of people and animals during the Nazi invasion. The trailer looks powerful, but I hesitate only because it looks like the trailer gave a bit too much away. The film also stars Daniel Bruhl, Michael McElhatton, Anna Rust, and Iddo Goldberg.

 

Ghost in the Shell (Action Crime – Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks SKG)

Based off the popular anime film, a cyborg policewoman (Scarlett Johansson) attempts to bring down a nefarious computer hacker (Michael Pitt). The trailers have set a pretty good sense of the tone, and since I have no real connection to the anime, I think it looks pretty good. The film also stars Pilou Asbeek, Michael Wincott, and Takeshi Kitano.

 

What are you looking forward to?

Mini-Review – Underworld: Blood Wars, Sleepless, Patriots Day, Live By Night & The Bye Bye Man

Hey everybody!

Welcome to another edition of Mini-Reviews. This is a longer one than usual, due to me falling behind. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

Underworld: Blood Wars

Director: Anna Foerster

Writer: Cory Goodman

Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, James Faulkner, Peter Andersson, Clementine Nicholson, Bradley James, Daisy Head and Charles Dance.

Synopsis: Vampire death dealer, Selene fights to end the eternal war between the Lycan clan and the Vampire faction that betrayed her.

 

The Underworld series started off as an interesting franchise that had some cool mythology and made Kate Beckinsale a big name to those not familiar with her. The sequel came along and was just okay which lead to a prequel for the third film. Then the fourth film came out and things took a turn for the worse. The series had lost its footing and became lost in its attempt to make itself relevant. This now leads us to Underworld: Blood Wars, which is more of the same, but thankfully better than Underworld: Awakening, which isn’t saying much really.

Blood Wars starts off by giving us a bit of a refresher on the series so far – leaving some things out – but also shows that Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is now a fugitive from the remaining vampires and new Lycan leader, Marius (Tobias Menzies), who wants the location of Selene’s daughter. The problem is that even Selene doesn’t know where her daughter is, and with the help of David (Theo James), his father Thomas (Charles Dance), and a vampire council member Semira (Lara Pulver), Selene is brought back into the fold to help deal with Marius.

Like I mentioned, Blood Wars is more of the same from the previous films – stylized action set-pieces, new mythology and characters being introduced and Kate Beckinsale in tight leather kicking-ass. Other than that, the film doesn’t really do anything that feels substantial. Things are brought up that would be considered twists or could have landed bigger if written better or anything the film did actually mattered.

The film is too rushed for its own good. Everything lands too quickly, and the final act of the film just happens. One particular part in the final act does mean something since it’s connected to the beginning of the film, but other than that the final act is structurally not sound.

When it comes to the cast, they all do the best they can with what they are given. Kate Beckinsale is the only real saving grace of the cast since she’s played the part so many times now. Theo James is just as bland as he was in the last film, while Tobias Menzies’ Marius is supposed to be this great Lycan leader, but doesn’t really do anything that frightening – also his cheap two dollar CGI wolf character doesn’t do him any favors. Lara Pulver as Semira could have been a great character if she had more screen time as could have Clementine Nicholson’s Lena, who is part of a new vampire clan, Finally, Charles Dance’s Thomas should have had more time, because you know, its Charles freaking Dance.

All in all, Underworld: Blood Wars is a passable sequel, and a better one than Awakening, but again, that’s not saying much. Things feel like they just happen, and the structure of the film is just off that you can never really feel any sort of enjoyment. One thing that really bothered me is the ending. I obviously don’t want to spoil it, but considering how it ends, it just felt like the whole film was for nothing.

Underworld: Blood Wars

2.5 out of 5

underworld_blood_wars_ver8

 

 

Sleepless

Director: Baran bo Odar

Writer: Andrea Berloff

Cast: Jamie Foxx, Michelle Monaghan, Scoot McNairy, Gabrielle Union, Octavius J. Johnson, T.I., Dermot Mulroney, and David Harbour

Synopsis: A cope with a connection to the criminal underworld scours a nightclub in search of his kidnapped son.

 

A remake of the French film Nuit Blanche, Sleepless takes place mostly in one location and is surprising a little better than I thought it would be, even though I had watched the original film years before.

Sleepless follows Las Vegas officer Vincent Downs (Jaime Foxx), who along with his partner Sean (T.I.) steal a bag of cocaine at the beginning of the film. Little do they know, the cocaine belongs to a crooked casino boss Stanley Rubino (Dermot Mulroney) who is going to sell the drugs to the dangerous Rob Novak (Scott McNairy), the son of a local mob boss. In order to get the drugs back, they kidnap Vincent’s son Thomas (Octavius J. Johnson) and demand he return their product. Of course, things don’t go over smoothly as Internal Affairs agents Jennifer Bryant (Michelle Monaghan) and Doug Dennison (David Harbour) become involved.

Like I mentioned, the film is a little better than I thought it was going to be, but Sleepless does run into some issues throughout. The film doesn’t do Jamie Foxx any favors besides making him look like an action hero. Foxx’s usual charisma is put on the backburner so he can be almost stoic at times, which is a bit of a shame. Although, the result does lead to impressive fight scenes, including a kitchen scene and a highly impressive hotel room fight.

The rest of the cast do their best with what they are given. Scoot McNairy is one of the best underrated and unknown actors around, and while he plays a villain well, they could have done just a little more with him. Michelle Monaghan plays the straight-laced IA agent who has her moments, and after watching this, I hope we see more roles like this from her, and her chemistry with the always reliable David Harbour is spot on. Dermot Mulroney looked like he enjoy playing a slimy villain, Gabrielle Union only has a handful of scenes, so her casting feels wasted and T.I. also has only a few scenes but all of his scenes feel the same when you look back afterwards.

All in all, Sleepless feels a bit hallow at times, but it does have its moments that make the price of admission worth it.

Sleepless

3.5 out of 5

sleepless

 

 

Patriots Day

Director: Peter Berg

Writers: Peter Berg, Matt Cook and Joshua Zetumer

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, John Goodman, Michelle Monaghan, Kevin Bacon, Alex Wolff, Themo Melikidze, Jimmy O. Yang, Rachel Brosnahan, Christopher O’Shea, James Colby, Michael Beach, Vincent Curatola, Jake Picking, Melissa Benoist, and J.K. Simmons

Synopsis: An account of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorist responsible.

 

Considering Patriots Day is based off a real event, and one that I’m sure most of us remembering watching on TV as the events unfolded, I’m going to play with the “no spoilers” rule here a bit. The film follows the events at the Boston Marathon and what the first responders and FBI did to find and capture the Tsarnaev brothers.

The film has a lot of players on the board, we mostly follow Boston Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg), a made up character based on several people, who is at the finish line of the marathon when the first bomb went off. The events bring everyone is like Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), Governor Deval Patrick (Michael Beach) and FBI Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon) to find Tamerlan Tsarnaev (Themo Melikidze) and his brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Alex Wolff) which involved shutting down all of Boston and lead to a dangerous shootout in Watertown.

Peter Berg really does have a knack for true-story films, Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon were great films, and all star Mark Wahlberg, but the thing that makes these films, along with Patriots Day is how he handles the material. Berg treats the events with tremendous respect and never tries to feed the audience a political agenda or lean the audience a certain way. He lets the story tell itself and lets the characters come to life in their own way, even though most of the characters are based on real people. It’s also a credit to the great cast that they are able to do so.

However, with a big cast like this, the film does have a lot of characters to follow that a lot of them don’t get real time to breathe and don’t get the justice they deserve. J.K. Simmons has a small, but good, role as the Watertown sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese, Rachel Brosnahan and Christopher O’Shea play couple Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes who were close to the first blast sight, Jake Picking plays Officer Sean Collier, who was shot by the brothers, and Jimmy O. Yang plays Dun Meng, who has a dangerous encounter with brothers halfway through the film. Another thing Patriots Day falls into is some pacing issues before the final act of the film, but again, it’s the cast the keep the film together.

Two of the highlights of the film, if that’s what you want to call it considering the nature of the real life events, is the aftermath of the bombing. How Berg moves the camera through the destruction and through the eyes of Tommy is both horrifying and telling on how the first responders probably felt when they helped so many that day. The other is the shootout before Dzhokhar runs and hides in the boat he was later recovered from.

All in all, Patriots Day isn’t an easy film to watch due to the nature of the events and how Berg was able to recreate it. The cast, despite being one person too many, does a tremendous job paying respect to people they were playing and to those affected by the actions that happened that horrible day and what happened afterwards.

Patriots Day

4 out of 5

patriots_day

 

 

Live by Night

Director: Ben Affleck

Writer: Ben Affleck

Cast: Ben Affleck, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Elle Fanning, Zoe Saldana, Robert Glenister, Remo Girone, Chris Cooper and Brendan Gleeson

Synopsis: A group of Boston-bred gangsters set up shop in balmy Florida during the Prohibition era, facing off against the competition and the Ku Klux Klan.

 

Based off the novel by Dennis Lehane, Ben Affleck writes and directs what has become a bit of a passion project for him, so it’s a bit odd to see what became of the film. Affleck has shown he’s a great to solid director with films like Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo, but Live by Night will be – hopefully – the only blemish on his resume.

Ben Affleck plays Joe Coughlin, a former World War I soldier and son of a police officer (Brendan Gleeson), who returns home and starts to see himself as an outlaw and runs heists throughout Boston. He eventually falls in love with Emma Gould (Sienna Miller), who happens to be the mistress of Irish mob boss Albert White (Robert Glenister). This puts him on the sights on White’s rival, Italian mob boss Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone) who wants Joe to work for him. Joe eventually does and Maso sends him down to Tampa to run his bootlegging operation. Once there, and reunited with his old partner Dion Bartolo (Chris Messina) and they make a nice empire for themselves. That all changes when Joe starts falling in love with Graciela (Zoe Saldana), and struggles to keep his moral code in place.

Live by Night is unfortunately a bit of a mess, which is odd considering Affleck was passionate about getting the film made, and took so long to make. That’s not to say there is some great stuff within the mess, but it is the scattered material that keeps the film from being great. Not only that, the film has a bit too much going on that by the end, it feels like the film is forcing itself to tie-up the loose ends that were introduced beforehand. It’s a bit of a shame too, considering Affleck has shown he can handle himself with great material.

The cast itself is great, but it’s a shame that some characters don’t have time to expand and get developed more. Chris Messina, who is always great with the right material, playing Joe’s right-hand man Dion Bartolo could have used more time onscreen as could Elle Fanning’s character Loretta, the daughter of Tampa sheriff Figgis played by Chris Cooper. Especially considering Fanning is involved in a big subplot. Zoe Saldana also pops in but doesn’t really do much after her initial introduction, and reminding Joe that he doesn’t need to be cruel to do the life he’s involved in. Brendan Gleeson’s glorified cameo suffers just a bit due to him using his natural Scottish accent that makes it a little hard to understand. Sienna Miller’s character could have been an interesting character, but her arc gets cut too soon.

Affleck does okay as the Joe, and even though we follow him throughout the film his moments of doubt and morality being tested are usually rushed to the point that it just feels like Affleck is trying to get to the next scene, which is odd considering the film is over two hours. When it comes to working with his production designer and cinematographer, he works well. Every scenic shot is beautiful to look at, and the sets look amazing.

All in all, Live by Night has some issues that could have been avoided, but sadly they aren’t which hurts the film in the long run. The cast is great, but none of their characters are developed fully or pushed to the wayside to tell Ben Affleck’s Joe story. While the action scenes are top-notch, Live by Night is just a tad underwhelming in the long run, but in no way should change your view on Affleck’s directing ability.

Live by Night

3.5 out of 5

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The Bye Bye Man

Director: Stacy Title

Writer: Jonathan Penner

Cast: Douglas Smith, Lucien Laviscount, Cressida Bonas, Jenna Kanell, Michael Trucco, Cleo King, Leigh Whannel, Doug Jones, Carrie-Anne Moss and Faye Dunaway

Synopsis: Three friends stumble upon the horrific origins of the Bye Bye Man, a mysterious figure they discover is the root cause of the evil behind man’s most unspeakable acts.

 

It’s a bit of a shame that after the great year horror had last year – finally – a film like this comes along and washes all that away. Apparently based off a story called “The Bridge to Body Island” by Robert Damon Schneck, The Bye Bye Man has an interesting concept that falls apart once the film gets going. That’s only the beginning of this film’s issues.

The film follows three college friends in Elliot (Douglas Smith), his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas) and their friend John (Lucien Laviscount) who buy and move into an old house off campus. Everyone seems okay at first until Elliot finds an old coin on his nightstand left by the previous owner. He then discovers writing underneath the drawer that says “Don’t Think it, Don’t Say it” and under that are craved words “The Bye Bye Man.” At first he laughs it off, but when the three start experiencing strange things in and out of the house, they soon learn The Bye Bye Man (played by the awesome character actor Doug Jones) is indeed real, and after them.

One of the problems with The Bye Bye Man – one of many – is we don’t get a sense of the characters, and hardly care for them. Elliot is the closet one to actually having a backstory, while Sasha is just the girlfriend who, at the beginning, tries to convince Elliot that what is happening is real, but after Elliot goes along with it, she becomes a bit annoying, and John somewhat disappears for a bit and we really don’t miss him. Jenna Kanell pops in as Sasha’s friend Kim, who is a psychic of sorts and, based off the trailers, is the one that gets killed by the train, which is the highlight of her character.

However, the saving graces of the film – cast wise – is the small roles by Carrie-Anne Moss, Faye Dunaway and Leigh Whannell. Faye Dunaway appears near the end of the film and adds to some backstory of The Bye Bye Man, Carrie-Anne Moss plays a local detective that could have been played by really anyone else, but Moss adds some gravitas to the role. Leigh Whannell plays Larry Redmond a writer that “discovers” The Bye Bye Man and is involved in the best scenes in the film: flashbacks. Finally, Doug Jones does this best he can with what he’s given as the titular character.

All in all, the concept of the film sounds good at first, but once we start seeing what he does and really think about it afterwards, The Bye Bye Man fails to execute on its promise. The characters are bland and are never developed and a muddled story doesn’t help. The Bye Bye Man is almost passable film while watching, but nothing you’ll remember.

The Bye Bye Man

2 out of 5

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Let me know what you think.

January Movie Releases

Happy New Year!!

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, we have a new year in front of us which means one thing: new movies! Now, January is usually referred to as Hollywood’s “Dump” Month. Meaning they will release movies that they don’t think will perform well or are not confident in. Sometimes that is the case, but sometimes a movie will shine through. January is also filled with expanded releases of movies that came out in December so there is also that to look forward to.

You’ll notice that I will put the companies attached and responsible for releasing the film as well. Just trying something new to expand the page a bit and instead of posters, now you’ll be seeing trailers. I’ll try to update whenever new trailers come out.

 

 

6th

 

Wide Release: Hidden Figures

Based on the book my Margot Lee Shetterly, a team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions. I had the opportunity to watch the film on its limited release late last year, and I have to say it is a fantastic film. Do yourself a favor and go watch this. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge and Glen Powell.

 

Wide Release: A Monster Calls (Fantasy Drama – Focus Features/Participant Media/River Road Entertainment/Apaches Entertainment/La Trini)

Based on a script and book by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls follows a boy as he seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom terminal illness. The film stars Liam Neeson as The Monster, Felicity Jones as the Mother, Sigourney Weaver as the Grandmother, Toby Kebbell as Dad, and Lewis MacDougall as the boy and Lily-Rose Aslandogdu as Lily.

 

Underworld: Blood Wars (Action – Screen Gems/Lakeshore Entertainment/Sketch Films)

Selene (Kate Beckinsale) returns to once again try and end the war between the Lycan clan and the Vampire fraction that betrayed her. Blood Wars does look like a step-up from the last film, but I don’t know how the film will actually turn out. The film also stars Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, and Charles Dance.

 

 

13th

Wide/Expansion Release: Patriots Day

 

Limited Release: The Comedian

A look at the life of an aging insult comic played by Robert De Niro. The film also stars Leslie Mann, Danny DeVito, Cloris Leachman, Harvey Keitel, Eddie Falco and Billy Crystal.

 

Wide Release: Live By Night

Based off the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, Ben Affleck writes, directs and stars in this great looking film that is set during the Prohibition and follows Joe Coughlin, the son of a prominent Boston police captain, as he rises through the ranks of the criminal underworld and the trouble he falls into along the way. Besides the film looking great, it has a great cast in Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Sullivan, Anthony Michael Hall, Titus Welliver, Max Casella, Chris Messina, and Chris Cooper.

 

Wide Release: Silence 

Based on the book by Shusaku Endo, Martin Scorsese directs this historic drama set in the seventh century when two Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor (Liam Neeson) and propagate Catholicism. Based off the trailer the film looks very powerful, and the early word from its limited release has made that statement true. Now tith its wide release, hopefully we’ll get a chance to experience that. Silence also stars Tadanobu Asano, and Ciaran Hinds.

 

The Bye Bye Man (Horror Thriller – STX Entertainment/Intrepid Pictures/Los Angles Media Fund)

An adaptation of the short story “The Bridge to Body Island,” by Robert Damon Schneck, the story centers on three Wisconsin college students in the 1990s, who move into an old house off campus. They unwittingly unleash a supernatural entity known as The Bye Bye Man, who comes to pretty upon them once they discover his name. The friends must try to save each other, all the while keeping The Bye Bye Man’s existence a secret to save others from the same deadly fate. The film looks okay, and a bit cheesy based on the first trailer – at least for me. This is actually the third move for the film as it was set for an October release, then a June release, then a early December release, and now this date.

 

Monster Trucks (Sci-Fi Adventure – Paramount Pictures/Paramount Animation/Nickeldeon Movies)

Another film that was moved three times now, although this one was done to complete post-production, Monster Trucks takes the idea of the popular derby and flips it on its head by making it literal. There are alien monsters that take over trucks and are on the run. Of course humans help them and what follows is some insane looking over-the-top action. Stars Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Rob Lowe, Amy Ryan, Barry Pepper, Samara Weaving, Holt McCallany, Frank Whaley, Thomas Lennon, and Danny Glover.

 

Sleepless (Action Thriller – Open Road Films/FilmNation Entertainment/Vertigo Entertainment/Riverstone Pictures)

A remake of French film Nuit Blanche (which I highly recommend you watch), a cop with a connection to the criminal underworld scours a nightclub in search of his kidnapped son. The film look okay, I was a huge fan of the original film, and this one does look like they’re upping the action, which is fine if the movie turns out good. The film stars Jamie Foxx, Gabrielle Union, Michelle Monaghan, David Harbour, T.I., and Scoot McNairy.

 

20th

Limited Release: The Red Turtle

Produced by the famous Studio Ghibli, the dialogue-less film follows the major life stages of a castaway on a deserted tropical island populated by turtles, crabs and birds.

 

Wide Release: 20th Century Women

 

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (Family Romance Comedy – High Top Releasing/WWE Studios)

Gavin Stone (Brett Dalton), a washed up former child star, is forced to do community service at a local megachurch and pretends to be Christian so he can land the part of Jesus in their annual Passion Play, only to discover that the most important role of life is far from Hollywood. The film also stars Neil Flynn, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, Liam Matthews, D.B. Sweeney, and WWE Legend Shawn Michaels.

 

The Founder (Biography Drama – The Weinstein Company/FilmNation Entertainment/The Combine)

Michael Keaton stars in this film that tells the story of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. I don’t think I’ve ever actually thought about the story of McDonald’s and since I’ve seen the trailer, it’s peaked my interest and I’m sure to many others as well. Also, the studio has high hopes as they moved the film from its release date last year in August to prime Oscar contention time. The rest of the cast includes Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson, Linda Cardellini, Nick Offerman, B.J. Novak, and John Carroll Lynch.

 

 

Split (Thriller – Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/Blinding Edge Pictures)

M. Night Shyamalan is back at it. The film stars James McAvoy as Kevin, a man with at least 23 different personalities, is compelled to abduct three teenage girls. As they are held captive, a final personality – “The Beast” – begins to materialize. The film also stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson, Sterling K. Brown and Betty Buckley. Honestly, this doesn’t look that bad. McAvoy looks like he’d nailing the role and it actually looks like a cool and effective thriller.

 

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (Action Thriller – Paramount Pictures)

Directed by D.J. Caruso (Disturbia, Eagle Eye, I Am Number Four), Xander Cage (Vin Diesel), thought to be dead, is bought back by his handler Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) to lead a team to stop a massive attack. The film also stars Nina Dobrev, Donnie Yen, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Toni Collette, Rory McCann, and Deepika Padukone.

 

27th

A Dog’s Purpose (Dramedy – Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment/Walden Media/DreamWorks SKG)

Based on the novel by W. Bruce Cameron and directed by Lasse Hallstrom (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Dear John, The Hundred-Foot Journey), the film follows a dog (voiced by Bradley Cooper), who looks to discover his purpose in life over the course of several lifetimes and owners. The film also stars Britt Robertson, Peggy Lipton, John Ortiz, and Dennis Quaid.

 

Bastards (Comedy – Warner Bros./Alcon Entertainment/The Montecito Picture Company/DMG Entertainment)

Upon learning that their mother has been lying to them for years about their allegedly deceased father, two fraternal twin brothers hit the road in order to find him. The film stars Owen Wilson, Ed Helms, Glenn Close, Ving Rhames, Terry Bradshaw, and J.K. Simmons.

 

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (Screen Gems/Constantin Film International/Capcom Entertainment)

The last installment of the Milla Jovovich and Paul W.S. Anderson Resident Evil series, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on how you feel about the series. The Final Chapter picks ups immediately after the events from the last film and follows Alice (Jovovich) returning to Raccoon City where the Umbrella Corporation is gathering forces for a final strike against the only remaining survivors. The film will bring back Ali Larter as Claire Redfield, Iain Glen as Dr. Alexander Isaacs and Shawn Roberts as Albert Wesker with new cast members Ruby Rose, William Levy, Eoin Macken, and international star Rola.

 

Gold (Drama Thriller – TWC-Dimension/Black Bear Pictures/Living Films/Hwy61)

An unlikely pair venture to the Indonesian jungle in search of gold. The film is giving off a semi-American Hustle vibe and seeing Matthew McConaughey lose himself in the character should be interesting to watch. The film also stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Edgar Ramirez, Toby Kebbell, Rachael Taylor, Corey Stoll, Bruce Greenwood, Bill Camp, and Stacy Keach

 

What are you looking forward to?

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.