‘Hail, Caesar!’ Review

hail_caesar

Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen

Writers: Joel & Ethan Coen

Cast: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill

Synopsis: A Hollywood fixer in the 1950s works to keep the studio’s stars in line.

 

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

 

The Coen Brothers are known for making films they want to do, and don’t try to make franchise films that the studios today try to make. They also have their own unique style and vision that makes their films standout in their own way. Hail, Caesar! is no different. Their new film acts as a love letter to the Golden Age of Hollywood at times, but swings back and forth between that said love letter and showing us the craziness that existed in the time (and probably now too), and the overall absurdity of it all.

Set during the 1950s, Capitol Pictures (a fictional studio) is set to release their biggest picture to date titled Hail, Caesar! with the biggest star in Hollywood in Baird Whitlock (Clooney). However, during the last days of filming, Whitlock gets kidnapped by a group calling themselves “The Future” and it’s up to the studio’s fixer in Eddie Mannix (Brolin) to find him and make all this go away. Of course, Mannix is dealing with everything else like covering up the pregnancy of DeeAnna Moran (Johansson), moving his cowboy star Hobie Doyle (Ehrenreich) to a full fledge prestige drama with big time director Laurence Laurentz (Fiennes), dealing with twin sister columnists Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Swinton) and his own personal problems. During all this, Whitlock gets to known his captors in a different light.

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Hail, Caesar! like a lot of other Coen Brothers films is going to be a film you either like, or don’t, and while the statement can be said about any film it is no more truer than with this film. The trailers for Hail, Caesar! tell a bit of a different story than we see in the actual film, and that isn’t really that bad of a thing. The film is pretty straight forward once things are put into perspective. That’s not to say things get a little weird and are ridiculous at times, but Hail, Caesar! is great at showing us how every relationship is very topsy-turvy.

At the same time, Hail, Caesar! doesn’t have a problem branching off and leaving the Whitlock story. We follow Hobie and his transition from doing cowboy films to doing his first drama, a water dance sequence by Johansson’s Moran, and even a standout dance sequence that involves Channing Tatum’s Burt Gurney. The scenes have nothing to do with Whitlock, but they show the absurdity that Mannix and Capitol Pictures deal with on a regular basis. The scenes are great, but again, have nothing to do with the main conflict of the story which is Whitlock’s kidnapping.

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I don’t want to give away too much, but the film also has some religious overtones, the film Hail, Caesar! is a religious picture as well as it tells the story of a Roman tribune that eventually meets Jesus, and Mannix is a religious man himself as the film beginning of the film sees him in a confessional. Of course, it doesn’t really help as his character is flawed and does something immediately after that well defeat the purpose for some, but it was a different time back then.

So even if Hail, Caesar! isn’t your cup of tea, you have to admit the performances are worthwhile. The film belongs to Josh Brolin, who we see running around the lot to control everything in the studio. George Clooney’s Baird Whitlock isn’t a typical big star that is hard to work with, he’s just an actor who happens to be good at what he does and gets kidnapped, and has a bit of a womanizer side. Alden Ehrenreich’s Hobie is definitely a highlight of the film as he’s just nice guy that is a bit naïve and goofy, who perfectly fits into a Coen Brothers film.

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The supporting cast has surprisingly small and few scenes, with the only real connection being Mannix. Scarlet Johansson puts on a thick accent and fits into the Golden Age with her looks and wardrobe. Tilda Swinton chews up the scenery with her duel role as twin rivals, and Frances McDormand – who only has one scene – is another one of the highlights and one of the funniest scenes of the film. Jonah Hill also only has one scene in the movie, which in entirety is an okay scene. Finally, Ralph Fiennes as Laurence Laurentz is great to watch and arguably has one of the best scenes in the film with Ehrenreich.

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All in all, Hail, Caesar! can be a bit all over the place, but that is exactly what the Coen Brothers were probably trying to do. Their film isn’t afraid to pull any punches against their peers or what Hollywood was back in the day. The film won’t be for everyone, but Hail, Caesar! definitely has something for everyone.

 

Hail, Caesar!

4 out of 5

Favorite/Standout Directors, Lead and Supporting Actors, & Villains

I did this last year and I figured I should keep doing it, because, well, why not? Here I’ll take my favorite and standout individuals from directors, lead actors and actress, supporting actors and actresses and villains. 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 last year, it was a bit too hard so I left the lists as such.

Also, villains are considered Supporting Actors in other lists and some actresses who are considered Supporting Actresses in some might pop up as Lead Actresses if they have the efficient enough screen time and or are the only real female character in the film. Also it helps 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, with the other being “Genre, Action/Fight Sequences and Special Effects”. Enjoy.

 

Directors

Alex Garland – Ex Machina

Alex Garland is a well-known writer in Hollywood with films like 28 Days Later, its sequel, Sunshine and wrote the fan-favorite Dredd remake.  So it was nice to finally see Garland step behind the camera and direct this great sci-fi film about Artificial Intelligence. It also helped that he got great leads in Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, and a standout performance by Alicia Vikander. This film made excited to what he does next, which happens to be Annihilation.

 

Christopher McQuarrie – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

The Mission: Impossible films have always been a steady franchise, with the films somehow outdoing themselves and managing to still have great characters, story and action. McQuarrie adds another great addition of the franchise with some great sequences and solid performances to add to the strength of a franchise that doesn’t look to stop.

 

Colin Trevorrow – Jurassic World

Trevorrow did what very little people want to do in Hollywood: Do another Jurassic Park movie. However, Trevorrow did manage to create something that the other Jurassic Park sequels missed, a sense of wonderment and terror. Trevorrow is also pretty new to the scene so getting young blood to tackle an established and loved franchise was a great move by Universal Pictures and Legendary Pictures.

 

George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road

George Miller returned to the Mad Max world nearly thirty years after Beyond Thunderdome. But, Miller didn’t lose his step and created, again, a great world of crazy looking cars, weird-named characters, and awesome car/action sequences. Oh what a lovely day it was. Definitely one of, it not, the best action film of the year.

 

Guillermo del Toro – Crimson Peak

Guillermo del Toro has been one of my favorite directors since I first watched Hellboy (the first movie of his I saw), and since then del Toro has proven himself to everyone that he is one of the best visionary and visual directors in Hollywood. Crimson Peak does bring him back to the form of Pan’s Labyrinth and even some The Devil’s Backbone, but Crimson Peak is a whole other animal and del Toro managed to bring to life a beautiful, dark and twisted gothic love story.

 

James Wan – Furious 7

Wan mostly known as a horror director – with the exception Death Sentence, which had some horror elements – fills in the big shoes of director Justin Lin, who pretty much rejuvenated the franchise. Wan did a great job with the already huge established cast and characters, and managed to keep bringing the intensity and all-out mayhem that the franchise is known for. Of course, it wasn’t all easy. Wan had to deal with the tragic and unfortunate death of star Paul Walker, but made a beautiful tribute to the actor and character at the end of the film. Wan finished directing The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist and will direct Aquaman next.

 

J.J. Abrams – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

If there was ever any doubt that J.J. Abrams would “mess” up Star Wars. He proved everyone wrong with The Force Awakens. Abrams embraced the future of the franchise and didn’t lean too much on the past films, and was able to bring some fresh, exciting and new.

 

Joss Whedon – Avengers: Age of Ultron

Joss Whedon did the impressive feat in bringing one of the most popular and biggest teams in comic book history to the big screen with The Avengers. So it was only fair that Whedon came back and made the film and characters bigger than before. The movie did have a lot going on, but Whedon bought his nerdy and quick-wit to the film that all comic book and Whedon fans can enjoy. Was it the greatest film, no, but it was still great to see.

 

Justin Kurzel – Macbeth

Directing a Shakespearian play film adaptation is a bit hard for a few reasons. Do you go with a straightforward iteration, a “modernize” take, or a blend of both? Kurzel decides to take a straightforward approach, but make is an atmospheric, gritty and visually artistic take on Macbeth filled with great performances by Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.

 

Matthew Vaughn – Kingsman: The Secret Service

Matthew Vaughn pretty much made his own James Bond movie, with some injected humor and self-referencing to the genre. Vaughn really turned this graphic novel adaptation into something special and something I’m sure not many people, including myself, didn’t see coming, but welcomed it. Vaughn will direct I Am Pilgrim next.

 

Peyton Reed – Ant-Man

Peyton Reed had some big shoes to fill when long time writer and director of this adaptation, Edgar Wright, left the project right before the movie was about to start shooting. Many were worried about how the film would turn out and if Wright’s absents would affect the film, but we should know by now that we can always trust Marvel. Reed may have used some of the original script that was co-written by Wright, but he bought his own vision as well and managed to create not only a good comic book movie, but a great action family drama film.

 

Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight

As much as I don’t like how Tarantino acts about himself sometimes, I can never take, nor will take, anything away from his talent as a director. He can clearly handle himself with a big and star-studded cast, and The Hateful Eight is no different. Tarantino takes a much more condense setting and fills it with, well, hateful and untrusting characters before it all blows to hell.

 

Ridley Scott – The Martian

Some, okay many, would argue that Scott has been in a slump recently, and some felt that The Martian could be his way back to the director that many fell in love with. Lucky for us, the film was that indeed. Scott managed to balance the film out and bring some of the great aspects of the novel to the big screen. Let’s hope he keeps the ball rolling.

 

Ryan Coogler – Creed

Ryan Coogler could have really messed this up, but what Coogler did with Creed was nothing short of greatness. Creed pays a lot of respect and homage to the original but Coogler also made his own film that works as a continuation but also a standalone film.

 

Honorable Mentions

Adam McKay – The Big Short

Danny Boyle – Steve Jobs

Denis Villeneuve – Sicario

David Robert Mitchell – It Follows

F. Gary Gray – Straight Outta Compton

Joel Edgerton – The Gift

Sebastian Schipper – Victoria

Todd Strauss-Schulson – The Final Girls

 

 

Actors

Benicio Del Toro as Alejandro – Sicario

Benicio Del Toro is one of those actors that has always given awesome and consistent performances, but also seems to be underappreciated and overlooked, which is a shame. However, Del Toro seems to be enjoying more of limelight recently with roles like The Collector in Guardians of the Galaxy, and this role in Sicario. Del Toro is absolutely great in this and honestly give one of the best performances of the year.

 

Colin Firth as Harry Hart/Galahad – Kingsman: The Secret Service

Let’s face it, Colin Firth is probably one of the last people you’d thought you see play an action hero. Well, surprise, because Firth totally nailed the James Bond-like action badass character and if not then you have to watch the church scene again.

 

Harrison Ford as Han Solo – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Harrison Ford showed up! Ford doesn’t phone it in and looked like he enjoyed himself playing one of his biggest characters. Ford didn’t lose a step playing Han Solo and seeing him around the new cast of characters was awesome to experience.

 

Jacob Tremblay as Jack – Room

Kid characters are always hit-and-miss. Sometimes they come off as annoying or too smart for their own good. Other times they come off as genuine and give a great performance, thankfully Jacob Tremblay as Jack in Room falls in the latter. There was something so naïve and touching about Tremblay playing a kid that essentially grew up in a room and knows nothing about the outside world. It adds even more to the performance that he holds his own and even steals scenes from his co-star Brie Larson. Take note of Jacob Tremblay’s name, because this kid has a future.

 

Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E – Straight Outta Compton

Jason Mitchell became a household name after his terrific performances and easily one of the best ones of the year playing famous hip hop and rap star Eazy-E in Straight Outta Compton. Mitchell really embodied Eazy-E and bought every emotion to the forefront and was able to hold his own and steal scenes from Paul Giamatti.

 

Johnny Depp as James ‘Whitey’ Bulger – Black Mass

I’m not the biggest fan of Johnny Depp, the crazy-wacky character actor (although I enjoyed Jack Sparrow in the early films). I like Johnny Depp, the serious character actor. Depp’s performance as famous mobster James “Whitey” Bulger was equally terrifying and fantastic to watch unfold. The film was a bit unbalanced, but Depp made the film completely worthwhile.

 

Kurt Russell as John Ruth & Samuel L. Jackson as Major Marquis Warren – The Hateful Eight

At this point, Samuel L. Jackson and Quentin Tarantino are a pair that could, potentially, not do any wrong. Thankfully, The Hateful Eight continues the string of great Tarantino/Jackson characters. With great, memorable and quotable lines that are said in the almost iconic way that only Samuel L. Jackson can deliver, Major Warren, was one of the best characters in the film. As for Kurt Russell, the mustache alone gets him a spot on the list, but it’s the chemistry he has with Jackson that opens up the film is what really makes John “The Hangman” Ruth really shine.

 

Matt Damon as Mark Watney – The Martian

Matt Damon is always reliable and his performance in The Martian was no different. His Mark Watney was equal parts funny and tragic character that gets stranded on Mars when his team thinks he’s dead. The resolve of his character is extraordinary and Damon was able to bring the character to life in such a way that only Damon could.

 

Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson – Creed

If Michael B. Jordan wasn’t a household name, he is now. Jordan’s portrayal of Adonis Johnson, aka the son of Apollo Creed, is one of those performances we can connect to in our own way and one that probably doesn’t seem like much at first, but eventually you’ll see the nuances in the performance after.

 

Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs – Steve Jobs & as Macbeth – Macbeth

Michael Fassbender tackled one of biggest individuals in history and one that changed the way the world is today. What Fassbender was able to emulate in three different times of Steve Jobs’ life was great to watch. But, if I had to pick, I think his Macbeth was his better characters of the year. He plays Macbeth as the tragic figure I’d always imagined him being and the intensity he was able to bring was so great to watch.

 

Shameik Moore as Malcolm – Dope

In what is easily his breakout performance, Moore is definitely someone to look out for in the future. He’s already signed on to star in the Netflix show The Get Down, and if does anything as close to what he does in Dope, then I’ll be watching.

 

Thomas Mann as Greg – Me and Early and the Dying Girl

Mann surprised me here. I’ve only seen him in one other thing, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, which I forgot he was in until I looked it up and remembered who he played. However, he’s come a long way from that. His character in the book adaptation of a new favorite book of mine is great. The build of his arch to the end is fantastic to watch and I can’t wait to see what he does in the future.

 

Tom Hardy as Ronald Kray/Reggie Kray – Legend

Not everyone can pull off playing duo roles, but Tom Hardy managed to pull it off, and not just any two people either, but real-life gangsters Ronald and Reggie Kray from London. Hardy was able to play the twins rather well and give them their own personality to the point that you knew forgot which one was which.

 

Steve Carell as Mark Baum – The Big Short

Steve Carell has slowly been moving to more dramatic roles it feels like, and they are great. He continues with Mark Baum in The Big Short. His character has his own special and personal arch that leads to a heartbreaking scene that is done so well.

 

Honorable Mentions

Arnold Schwarzenegger as Guardian/Pops/T-800 – Terminator Genisys

Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle – American Sniper

Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre & O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Ice Cube – Straight Outta Compton

Daniel Craig as James Bond – Spectre

Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo & Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin – The Man from U.N.C.L.E

Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope – Southpaw

Joel Edgerton as John Connolly – Black Mass & as Gordo – The Gift

John Boyega as Finn – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Mark Ruffalo as Mike Rezendes – Spotlight

Oscar Issac as Nathan – Ex Machina

Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man – Ant-Man

Sharlto Copley as Chappie – Chappie

Taron Egerton as Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin – Kingsman: The Secret Service*

Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky – Mad Max: Fury Road

 

 

Actress

Alicia Vikander as Ava – Ex Machina

Alicia Vikander, yet again, is someone you should look out for in the future. Her performance as Ava, a robot with Artificial Intelligence, is a standout performance and not just the best female performance of the year, but one of the best performances of the year, period.

 

Amy Poehler as Joy (voice) & Phyllis Smith as Sadness (voice) – Inside Out

Poehler and Smith get one credit because they worked so perfectly off each other it made Inside Out work so much better. Their characters are so different and their adventure was done wonderfully that I couldn’t help but fall in love with them, especially Sadness.

 

Brie Larson as Ma/Joy – Room

Brie Larson has been in Hollywood for a few years, but it seems like her star has rising within the last few years with films like Short Term 12, 21 Jump Street, and Don Jon (also as Envy Adams in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), but it was Trainwreck that probably put her front and center by playing Amy Schumer’s sister in the film. However, if you haven’t seen Larson in anything I’d recommend starting with this. Larson gives a great and heartbreaking performance as Ma and while her co-star Jacob Trembley steals the film, Larson’s performance is equally as great.

 

Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa – Mad Max: Fury Road

To say that Theron’s awesome performance in Mad Max was a standout would be an understatement. The movie may be called Mad Max, but make no mistake, Fury Road belonged to Theron’s Imperator Furiosa. She bought the right level of badass-ness, vulnerability, and leadership. I’d follow Furiosa into battle anytime.

 

Daisy Ridley as Rey – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I don’t know where Disney, Lucasfilm and J.J. Abrams found Daisy Ridley, but thank you. Ridley does fantastic as Rey giving us a great well-rounded female character. I can’t wait to see what Rey brings to the new trilogy and what Ridley brings next in her career.

 

Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue – The Hateful Eight

It’s been a while since I’ve actually seen anything Jennifer Jason Leigh has been in, and now I feel a bit ashamed, because she was great in this. While her character sometimes hides behind and could get lost in the shuffle of the other characters, anytime she stands out is great. More specifically, there is a scene in the middle of the film that involves her singing which is just mesmerizing.

 

Jennifer Lawrence as Joy – Joy

Jennifer Lawrence is pretty much always reliable, and she continues here with her third film with David O. Russell. Although Joy is a mixed bag, Lawrence is what holds the film together as a single mother trying to get her invention – the miracle mop – to become a huge success she knows it can be, but she’s also dealing with the craziness of her family.

 

Jessica Chastain as Anna Morales – A Most Violent Year

Chastain has always been great in anything she does. However, there was something about her character in this that was completely different from what I’ve seen from her. She does whatever it takes to protect her family, even if that pisses off her husband who was played by Oscar Isaac.

 

Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman – Steve Jobs

Kate Winslet is probably one of the best unspoken heroes of Steve Jobs. Her character could be described as nothing more but a background character that has her moments, but what Winslet does with the role makes her, arguably, the heart of the film. She’s a constant in Michael Fassbender’s Steve Jobs, and one that is always there to calm him down.

 

Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth – Macbeth

Lady Macbeth is not an easy character to tackle, but leave it to Marion Cotillard to put on a damn awesome performance. Cotillard played Lady Macbeth like I’ve never seen the character played before and I just can’t get over how awesome her performance was.

 

Melissa McCarthy as Susan Cooper – Spy

McCarthy had a bad string of movies, but thankfully Spy brings her back to the form we all knew she could be: great. Gone are the fat jokes and what have you and welcome the funny, strong and badass female character. If anyone knows how to bring the best in McCarthy its Paul Feig, so give Spy a chance, it will surprise you.

 

Olivia Cooke as Rachel – Me and Early and the Dying Girl

Cooke has a good run in the A&E show Bates Motel, so getting to see her in the big screen was a nice to see. Cooke may not have the strongest performance out of the women here, but there was a few standout moments that I really loved that made me put her on the list.

 

Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

If you’re going to break out onto the scene, what better way to do it then in a Mission: Impossible film and working off Tom Cruise? Well, Rebecca Ferguson did just that and even stole the film from Cruise at times. Ferguson has done small things here and there, but Ferguson should be a household name after this.

 

(Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl – Wild)

Technically, this is a 2014 movie, but I didn’t see it until the first week of January after I had done my list. But, I can’t make a list without talking about Witherspoon’s performance in Wild. This was something really different from what she’s done in the past and you could see she went all in with this. Definitely should check this out if you haven’t.

 

Saoirse Ronan as Eilis – Brooklyn

Saorise Ronan is always giving great performances, but I feel like she goes under the radar a lot of the time. Hopefully, Brooklyn with all its acclaim can put her even more in the forefront. Ronan’s performance in this film could be one of the best of the year and one that is very relatable, which is why I really loved the film and her performance.

 

Tessa Thompson as Bianca – Creed

I’ve never seen Tessa Thompson before, but what a way to make an impression. Her character of Bianca was much more than a typical girlfriend/love interest. She had her own storyline and was a nice counter-balance to Michael B. Jordan’s character.

 

Yo-Landi Visser as Yolandi – Chappie

Known more for being in Die Antwoord with Ninja (who also stars in Chappie), Yo-Landi Visser absolutely nails her first movie performance. I was quite surprise that she was able to perform and hold her own with Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley and Jose Pablo Cantillo. If this is her only performance, then it is a damn good one to go out on.

 

Honorable Mentions

Amy Schumer as Amy – Trainwreck

Emily Browning as Frances Shea – Legend

Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne – Ant-Man

Lea Seydoux as Madeleine Swann – Spectre

Maika Monroe as Jay – It Follows

Margot Robbie as Jess – Focus

Sandra Bullock as Jane – Our Brand is Crisis

Taissa Farmiga as Max – The Final Girls

 

 

Supporting Actor

Ben Whishaw as Herman Melville & Brendan Gleeson as Tom Nickerson – In the Heart of the Sea

I put these two together because the film is elevated to a new level anytime they are onscreen, and it helps that they are always together in the film. Gleeson probably gets more of the credit, but no way they film or Whishaw work without Gleeson’s Tom.

 

Jason Statham as Rick Ford – Spy

Jason Statham is known for being the tough badass that spits out cheesy one-liners, but Spy not only plays with that notion, but shows that he can be funny as hell too. Seriously, this is probably one of the biggest surprises of the year for me.

 

Jeff Daniels as John Sculley – Steve Jobs

Jeff Daniels is always reliable, and his performance in Steve Jobs was a shining example of that. Daniels pops in the at the beginning and then disappears, but when he shows up in the middle of the film with his scene with Michael Fassbender, the whole film gets elevated to a new level. That scene they have is easily one of the best of the year and one of my favorites. It’s great to see Daniels getting more work and I hope it continues.

 

Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye & Paul Bettany as Jarvis/The Vision – Avengers: Age of Ultron

Jeremy Renner got the short end of the stick in the first Avengers movie, but you learn from your mistakes and Joss Whedon along with Marvel gave us a better version of Clint Barton/Hawkeye. The character is given a better arc this time around and, dare I say, some of the best lines in the movie. I hope they keep that up and can’t wait to see what they do.

Speaking of great lines and can’t wait to see what they do with the character is Paul Bettany. Finally – at least physically – Bettany joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe as fan-favorite character, The Vision. Bettany has been in the MCU since day one as the voice of Jarvis, but now he’ll have to do much more and Bettany is the perfect choice to do it.

 

Kurt Russell as Mr. Nobody – Furious 7

Although he didn’t have a huge role in Furious 7, there was something about Kurt Russell’s mysterious government agent, Mr. Nobody that stuck out. He brought his charm to it and it was nice to see Russell have some fun again on the big screen. We can look forward to Russell coming back in Furious 8 – at least we can assume that he will.

 

Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel – Bridge of Spies

Mark Rylance is one of the actors that has been in Hollywood for a while, but I’ve never heard of him before. But of the things I’ve seen of him recently, he’s been great. It’s also not easy for someone to steal the spotlight from Tom Hanks, but Ryalnce did that in Bridge of Spies, in fact the film worked better with the two of them working off each other. Also, what Rylance was able to do with that cold opening was tremendous.

 

Mark Strong as Merlin – Kingsman: The Secret Service

I’ve been a huge fan of Mark Strong for years and I pretty much love anything he does. Kingsman is no different. The mentor/teacher role of Merlin was yet another fantastic role that shows off Strong’s comedic/sarcastic chops, but also – in particular one scene – dramatic chops.

 

Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym & Michael Pena as Luis – Ant-Man

I don’t think any of us ever thought we’d see Michael Douglas in a Marvel film, let alone an Ant-Man movie. But, here we are and what a role and performance he gave.

Like I said about Benicio Del Toro, Michael Pena is one of those actors that is always great in everything he does, but it feels like it wasn’t until recently that his star is more on the rise and people are finally starting to see that he has tremendous talent. Pena as Luis in Ant-Man was hilarious and had me cracking up every time he was onscreen, to the point that I wish they bring him back for the sequels.

 

Paul Giamatti as Jerry Heller & R. Marcos Taylor as Suge Knight – Straight Outta Compton

I’ll put these two together only because they are two different sides of the same spectrum. Heller was greedy, manipulative, and saw an opportunity to take advantage of N.W.A. Suge Knight on the other hand used intimidation and brute force to get what he wanted. Giamatti is great in anything he does really and his portrayal of Heller was nothing short of great and even heartbreaking. Taylor’s Knight was damn scary and worked for the scenes he was involved in.

 

Richard Kind as Bing Bong (voice) – Inside Out

Never have I felt so connected to a character that I was okay with tearing up in a theater and not caring. Bing Bong was definitely the standout in Inside Out and Richard Kind was the perfect person to give the character life.

 

Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Simon Pegg has been a nice addition to the Mission: Impossible series since he was first introduced in part three. Pegg’s Benji has been a great comic relief, but has been showing real signs between the last two films that he can play the badass spy too.

 

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa – Creed

Sylvester Stallone has never been better. Seriously, Stallone shows up and gives us one of the best supporting roles the year and potentially his career. Stallone’s Rocky Balboa this time around is much more real and we get a much bigger sense of how he’s become this we last saw the character. His chemistry with Michael B. Jordan is tremendous and one of the only reasons the film works.

 

Ryan Gosling as Jared Vennett – The Big Short

Ryan Gosling is pretty much always reliable and it’s not different here. Gosling is always pretty damn funny in this too. Anytime he’s on screen it’s hilarious and when he’s missing you sense it.

 

Walton Goggins as Sheriff Chris Mannix – The Hateful Eight

Walton Goggins is always a great supporting actor and this is no different. It feels like Goggins can play anything any director throws at him. Goggins always bring a certain charisma, swagger and charm and his Chris Mannix is pretty much the perfect role for Goggins.

 

Honorable Mentions

BD Wong as Liyuan – Focus

Billy Bob Thornton as Pat Candy – Our Brand is Crisis

Chris Hemsworth as Stone Crandall – Vacation

Jon Bernthal as Mr. McCarthy – Me and Early and the Dying Girl

Justice Smith as Radar and Austin Abrams as Ben – Paper Towns

LeBron James as LeBron James – Trainwreck

Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld – Steve Jobs

Paddy Considine as Banquo – Macbeth

Peter Serafinowicz as Aldo – Spy

Pierce Brosnan as Hammond – No Escape

Stanley Tucci as Mitchell Garabedian & Brian d’Arcy James as Matt Carroll – Spotlight

Sean Harris as Macduff – Macbeth

 

 

Supporting Actress

Brie Larson as Kim – Trainwreck

Brie Larson didn’t have a lot of screen time in Trainwreck, but the time she did she left her impact. One particular scene was one that involved her Colin Quinn, playing her father, and Amy Schumer playing her sister. It was a rather powerful and short scene that really showed the kind of character Larson was playing and one that I wished was pushed out more in the film.

 

Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch – Avengers: Age of Ultron

Elizabeth Olsen is a fantastic actress that probably doesn’t get as much credit as she should. So I was pretty happy that she would get extreme exposure in not just a Marvel movie, but playing one of the most powerful comic book characters ever, and a fan favorite at that in Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch. The accent wasn’t perfect, but she still bought the feel of the character to life.

 

Jessica Chastain as Lucille Sharpe – Crimson Peak

All hail Jessica Chastain! Seriously, Chastain is one of the best actresses working on Hollywood today, and her performance in Crimson Peak was one of the best roles I’ve seen this year. What Chastain was able to do in being so cold and in limited dialogue was a sight to see. Jessica Chastain has always been one of my favorites, and with Lucille Sharpe under her belt now, I’m a fan for life.

 

Julie Walters as Mrs. Kehoe – Brooklyn

I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as hard as I did in a drama than with Julie Walter’s Mrs. Kehoe character. Her character didn’t hold back and she’s really the only character that stays the same from beginning to end.

 

Malin Akerman as Nancy/Amanda – The Final Girls

Malin Akerman is one of those actresses that I think no one really takes seriously, but every once in a while she’ll do something that really does show her talent, and The Final Girls was one of those roles. Her duel role as Nancy the mother and Amanda the movie character was equally funny, tragic and great to see unfold on screen. The Final Girls could have been an even more cheesier meta horror-comedy, but it came out being a more heartwarming story than I thought.

 

Miranda Hart as Nancy – Spy

Miranda Hart is a British comedian that I believe got first time exposure thanks to Spy (if I’m wrong about that forgive me), but what a way to get it. Playing Melissa McCarthy’s friend, Hart was hilarious is this and got some big laughs.

 

Oona Laurence as Leila Hope – Southpaw

What’s in the water this year, man? Child actors made their statement this year and Oona Laurence was one of those with her short, but sweet and powerful performance as Jake Gyllenhaal’s Billy Hope’s daughter. There was something about her performance that really hit me that stood out more than the other child actors this year.

 

Raffey Cassidy as Athena – Tomorrowland

Raffey Cassidy is new to the scene, and make no mistake, she was a scene stealer in movie that stars A-lister George Clooney and another up-and-comer, Britt Robertson. However, it was Cassidy that shined and was the breakout star of the film, maybe even the year. This young lady has a huge career ahead of her.

 

Honorable Mentions

Abby Ryder Fortson as Cassie – Ant-Man

Allison Janney as Elaine Crocker – Spy

Angela Trimbur as Tina – The Final Girls

Lupita Nynog’o as Maz Kanata – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Joan Allen as Nancy/Grandma – Room

Katherine Waterston as Shasta Fay Hepworth – Inherent Vice & as Chrisann Brennan – Steve Jobs

Krista Stadler as Omi – Krampus

(Laura Dern as Bobbi – Wild)

 

 

Villain

Common as Andrew Price – Run All Night

As much I liked Ed Harris’ villain character, it was Common who took the real villain spotlight. Common has a great presence onscreen in any role he takes, but his hitman character in Run All Night, was one of the best characters I’ve seen him play.

 

Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx – Spectre

Dave Bautista may be known for his work in the WWE, but has been able to break out of that mold by showing the man can act! And what better way to breakout even more onto the scene and with different crowd than by playing a James Bond villain. The role seemed to be tailor-made for Bautista and that train fight sequence was worth a place on the list.

 

Hugh Jackman as Vincent Moore – Chappie

It’s not every day that we see Hugh Jackman play a villain, but when we do it is a sight to see. Not only does Jackman use his natural accent, he sports a sweet looking mullet while trying to take down the lovable robot Chappie.

 

Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw – Furious 7

Jason Statham has played a bad guy before, but this villain is pretty different from the others. One, he’s driven (pun intended) by a different desire and is willing to do anything to do his worst. Second, he’s damn good at being bad.

 

Krampus and his Creatures – Krampus

One of the things that makes Krampus and his creatures memorable is that they are done practically, and not done the easy way with CGI. Although, one of them and Krampus for one particular scene is done with CGI, it doesn’t really hurt the creatures and Krampus’ look. I love that director Michael Dougherty went with practical effects instead of the easy route of CGI.

 

Samuel L. Jackson as Valentine & Sofia Boutella as Gazelle – Kingsman: The Secret Service

Although Boutella’s Gazelle is the standout between the two villains, the two worked great as a pair. At the same time, Jackson isn’t playing his typical type of villain. Jackson gives Valentine a bit of a lisp and cockiness to offset Gazelle’s tough, killer instinct, and cool swords for legs.

 

Walton Goggins as Laugher – American Ultra

Walton Goggins is one of my favorite underrated actors working today. Any time he pops in a movie I’m drawn more to his character and what’s going on. While his character doesn’t get a ton of screen time until the last act of the movie, it was still memorable enough for me to put him on the list.

 

Honorable Mentions

Adam Driver as Kylo Ren – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Christoph Waltz as Oberhauser/Blofield – Spectre

Ed Harris as Shawn Maguire – Run All Night

Hugh Keays-Byrne as Immortan Joe – Mad Max: Fury Road

Jack Black as (voice) Slappy – Goosebumps

James Spader as Ultron – Avengers: Age of Ultron

Rose Byrne as Rayna Boyanov – Spy

Sean Harris as Solomon Lane – Mission: Impossible – Rouge Nation

‘Sicario’ Review

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Director: Denis Villeneuve

Writer: Taylor Sheridan

Cast: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya, Jeffrey Donovan, Raoul Trujillo, Julio Cedillo, Hank Rogerson, Bernardo P. Saracino, Maximillano Hernandez, and Edgar Arreola.

Synopsis: An idealistic FBI agent is enlisted by an elected government task force to aid in the escalating war against drugs at the border area between the U.S. and Mexico.

 

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

 

The War on Drugs is something that has been done on film before and some have been done with great success, but director Denis Villeneuve and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan have done something special with Sicario. The film gives an unapologetic, rare and bleak look on the subject and one of the most intense and effective thrillers I’ve seen in a while.

 

Sicario opens with FBI agent Kate Macer, the leader of a kidnap and response team in Arizona, who with her team that includes her partner Reggie Wayne (Kaluuya) raid a house that has dead bodies inside the walls. The raid and discovery puts her on the radar of government agent Matt Graver (Brolin), who decides to bring her in to his operation of taking down a head of one of the Mexican cartels. When she bought she also meets Alejandro (Del Toro) who, according to Matt, is a “liaison” but never tells her from or what to. As the operation goes on, Kate soon realizes that everything around her may not be as clear cut as it seems. More importantly, can she trust the people around her?

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Kate acts as our surrogate into the drug war and specific situation they are trying to pull off in the film. Thankfully, Emily Blunt gives another reliable performance and makes us believe her as she is thrown into a world she doesn’t completely understand and well trying to get answers, she is pushed to the side and kept in the dark. Blunt truly is one of the best actresses in Hollywood today and being the lead in the film like this is refreshing to see. They could have easily put a man in the lead role – and they almost did, but Villeneuve and Sheridan protested – but it probably wouldn’t have worked.

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However, despite Blunt’s great performance, Sicario belongs to Benicio Del Toro’s Alejandro. It takes a while to finally figure his character out, but Del Toro gives us enough to be interested in him until that point. Hell, his character doesn’t say too much at the beginning of the film and even other people see him they stiffen up a little bit. Del Toro has always been on people’s radar, but it feels like recently he is getting a lot more attention, and he deserves it. Alejandro is definitely one of Benicio Del Toro’s best characters and maybe one of the best characters of the year.

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The rest of the cast fare well in the roles they are given, although the film really does belong to the main actors. Josh Brolin looks to be having fun chewing up scenery as his cocky, brash and laid-back government agent that is always keeping Kate in the dark right up until the end. Daniel Kaluuya’s Reggie is loyal to Kate through-and-through and has a nice scene that breaks all the tension from the rest of the film that shows you how close the two characters are. Victor Garber pops in as Kate and Reggie’s boss, Jeffery Donovan also pops in as another government agent that Matt works with and is equally mysterious and cocky. Finally Maximiliano Hernandez, who fans will know as Agent Sitwell from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, plays a Mexican police officer, Silvio serves a great purpose to the overall theme of the film than you would think.

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Speaking of the theme, Sicario has a lot going on and thankfully it doesn’t get lost too much in them. I don’t really want to give any of them away, but as you can assume with the film being about going after one of the bosses in one of the cartels in Mexico, things are going to get a bit murky. Yes, Taylor Sheridan is saying something about the war on drugs, and quite honestly it could be what many think, but there is something about how Sheridan and director Denis Villeneuve are saying about it that makes the film, like I pointed out earlier, unapologetic

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Finally, the last bits that make Sicario all that more effective and great is the chilling and atmospheric score by Johann Johannsson that really elevates a lot of the tension filled scenes. Seriously, Sicario is jam packed with tension from beginning to end, and some nice twists that believe me, the trailers really don’t give away. The other great thing about the film is some of the cinematography by one of the best in the business, Roger Deakins. Some of Deakins shots that are mixed with Johnnsson’s score are just so great by themselves, but mixed with the themes and what leads to them makes the film more worthwhile at the end.

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All in all, Sicario is lead by great performances by Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and more importantly Benicio Del Toro. The film is unapologetic, raw, and bleak, along with being an effective tension filled thriller that I have experienced in years. Will it be for everyone? No, the film is tough and heavy to watch, but layered underneath all that, is a great film.

Sicario

5 out of 5

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‘Everest’ Review

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Director: Baltasar Kormakur

Writer(s): William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy

Cast: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Michael Kelly, Keira Knightley, Emily Watson, Elizabeth Debicki, Naoko Mori, Martin Henderson, Ingvar Eggert Sigurosson, Thomas M. Wright, Robin Wright, Sam Worthington, and Jake Gyllenhaal

Synopsis: A climbing expedition on Mt. Everest is devastated by a severe snow storm.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review (despite it being based on a true story)*

 

 

Based on a real life event in the late 90s and several books, including one by someone that has climbed Mt. Everest and was at the event that the film is depicting, Everest is not your typical disaster movie. In fact, this is more a freak of nature film. I don’t remember the event happening when it did – I was young at the time and didn’t pay too much attention to the news anyway – but I found out about it later on. It really is one of those stories that is primed for a big screen treatment.

 

Everest follows famed Mt. Everest climber and now guide, Rob Hall (Clarke) as he and his company Adventure Consultants is ready to take another group of climbers up to the peak of Everest. The group consists of John Krakauer (Kelly), a journalist writing a feature about the expedition, Beck Weathers (Brolin), a Texan pathologist who is eager to climb Everest, Yasuko Namba (Mori), an experience climber who has already reached six of the seven highest peaks in the world, and Doug Hansen (Hawkes) a mail man who has failed to make the summit a year before and is eager to finally reach his goal and make the peak. The thing is, at the same time, there are other groups including Mountain Madness, which is lead by a free-spirited Scott Fischer (Gyllenhaal).

 

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Hall and Fischer eventually agree to have their groups climb the mountain together despite their clash of cultures. Once they climb the mountain Hall’s base camp leader Helen Wilton (Watson), a doctor, Caroline Mackenzie (Debicki), and another expert climber and Hall’s friend Guy Cotter (Worthington) notice a storm brewing that is moving in quickly and will hit them hard.

 

I’m not going to lie, Everest is hard to watch. Not in the sense that it’s a bad film, but in the sense that it’s a heavy film to take in and experience. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s a freak of nature kind of film in where anything that could go wrong, seemed to go wrong or at least be in the way of going wrong. And then the storm hits. The storm looks terrifying and the way that director Baltasar Kormakur films the storm and the mountain, it does look a bit like you’re with the climbers as they go higher and higher and as they try to make their way down the mountain.

 

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While it feels like Kormakur is trying to make the mountain feel like its own character, since the mountain is so massive and everything is pretty much covered in the storm, the geography is hard to figure out. Characters will name off parts of the mountain and while we may have seen those parts previously, everything almost feels like the same location.

 

As for the real cast, they fare better for the most part. Jason Clarke’s Rob Hall is equal parts control freak and motivator, which is the exact man you want leading and putting your trust in him to the highest and most dangerous peak on the planet. Josh Brolin handles himself as Beck as he appears to be the least experienced climber of the group, while John Hawkes’ Doug, or Dougie, is there to prove himself to everyone including himself as his drive is what makes his character one of the most sympathetic characters of the film. Jake Gyllenhaal doesn’t get a ton of screen time, but it looks like he’s having fun playing the role.

 

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Emily Watson and Keira Knightley are the only real actress, of the four in the film, that get to do anything substantial. Although most of their moments come from talking on the phone or walkie-talkies, but the scenes are powerful enough to overlook that issue. This goes into another problem in that when everyone has their masks on, you can’t really tell who anyone really is, until they start to talk, and even then it is still pretty hard to tell with the high wind and snow blowing around everywhere.

 

All in all, Everest has its problems, but at the end of the day the cast, performances and gut-wrenching scenes make the film worthwhile.

 

Everest

4 out of 5

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‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ Review

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Dir: Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez

Cast: Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis, Eva Green, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, Christopher Meloni, Jeremy Piven, Ray Liotta, Jaime King, Juno Temple, and Christopher Lloyd

Synopsis: Some of Sin City’s most hard-boiled citizens cross paths with a few of its more reviled inhabitants

 

 

 

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

 

 

It’s been almost ten years since Sin City came out, and at the time the movie made some bold statements. The film followed the graphic novels so close that it felt like we were watching the novel coming to life. It also took a huge leap, technology wise, in using green screen for just about the majority of making the film. The first Sin City was almost beloved by everyone, and everyone asked, where’s our sequel? Well, flash forward to now and we have Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, a prequel and sequel with the same set up as the first. A noir, over-the-top violent, narration and sexy story with four intertwined stories based in a city that will eat you up and spit you back out. But the question is if it’s any good. Well, sadly A Dame to Kill For hits all the same beats from the first, but it’s a little late for a sequel.

 

Like the first film, A Dame to Kill For features three stories that take place in Basin City – I mean Sin City. One features Johnny (Gordon-Levitt), a gambler who looks like he doesn’t think things through. Nancy (Alba) who is still stripping but is aiming for revenge for the death of Hartigan (Willis), and then the “Dame to Kill For” story that follows the “Dame” Ava Lord (Green) and Dwight (Brolin) trying to kill each other. While all the stories have their elements, they pretty much share two things in common, Senator Roark (Boothe) and Marv (Rourke).

 

Like I stated before, the movie is intertwined with these three stories and some of the transitions are a bit clucky and murky but the story that obviously takes up most of the screen time (and the middle) is the Ava and Dwight story. The story sometimes feels like a soap opera, but it feels deliberately and connects a bit to the noir theme but lucky Green, Rourke, and Dennis Haysbert as Manute (taking over after Michael Clarke Duncan’s passing) performances save, the otherwise, slightly more than average story. Which is a shame, since the story is probably one of the most famous and favorite stories from the graphic novels (next to Hell and Back).

 

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Brolin is okay as the pre-surgical Dwight. He brings his usual gruffness to the role and has a couple of standout moments but the segment belongs to Eva Green (which I’ll get to). Christopher Meloni and Jeremy Piven play cops Mort and Bob respectively but Meloni gets the better role of the two, in what turns out to be a weird and maybe unnecessary arc that really goes nowhere and is only there to show how powerful Ava Lord is. Mickey Rourke, who pops up as Marv throughout the movie, has his strongest outing during this part, as does Haysbert as Manute who comes off as a powerhouse, and seeing the two fight each other was pretty cool.

 

But like I said, this story and maybe the movie, belongs to Eva Green. I’m a fan of Green and not because she’s nice to look at, but because she brings something different to every role and although her character is a typical femme fatale, Green does her best to make Ava her own. However, if guys need another reason to watch the movie, you’d probably like to know that Green has the least amount of wardrobe than any character, maybe ever.

 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Johnny story is rather interesting. Gordon-Levitt brings his usual charm and makes Johnny a pretty likeable character. Although, it’s not that hard considering he’s surrounded by crooked cops and dirty senators playing poker in the back of a strip joint. But, Johnny’s story is really here for two reasons; to show how Sin City works, who runs it, and brutal it can be, and to show how viscous Senator Roark is. Other than that and a cameo by Christopher Lloyd as a “doctor” the story really serves no other purpose that prove Sin City is not a city you want to live in.

 

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The final segment is Nancy’s story. Alba’s Nancy is more matured in a sense; she’s still a stripper but now heavily drinks before, during, and after performing. All she wants is to kill Boothe’s Roark for driving Hartigan to kill himself so she can live. Bruce Willis pops in as a spirit for the lack of a better word, following Nancy and sees how hard it has been for her since he’s left. Alba is okay as the tortured soul but Powers Boothe as the villainous Senator Roark is great, but Boothe is always great as villain, but at least he has more to do than the first Sin City.

 

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While it might sound like I didn’t like the movie, A Dame to Kill For does have some cool moments. The whole movie is filled with essentially cool screensavers and some great performances by Green, Boothe, Gordon-Levitt, and Rourke. The fight between Marv and Manute was cool to see and could have been bland if it wasn’t for one particular instance. Then there is Miho, played by Jaime Chung who replaces Devon Aoki (because she was pregnant), who basically glides around with samurai swords and a bow-and-arrow and kills anybody that she looks at because, why not.

 

All in all, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is more or less of the same as Sin City. Whether that is a good thing is completely up to you when you watch it. I for one, didn’t mind the sequel, but considering we waited soo long for it, it lost some of its charm and effect on me, and it was kind of boring sometimes.

 

 

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

3.5 out of 5