Monthly Rewind for February

Hello, everybody!

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

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

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

Alright, let’s get started with 2010!

 

2010

Cop Out

District 13: Ultimatum

The Wolfman

From Paris with Love

Shutter Island

The Crazies

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

2011

I Am Number Four

Unknown

Drive Angry

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

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

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

 

 

2012

Tomorrow, When the War Began

Goon

Act of Valor

The Innkeepers

This Means War

Chronicle

Safe House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

2013

Dark Skies

Snitch

Bullet to the Head

Identity Thief

Side Effects

A Good Day to Die Hard

Warm Bodies

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

2014

Pompeii

Non-Stop

Robocop

The Lego Movie

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

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

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

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

 

 

2015

Jupiter Ascending

Seventh Son

Hot Tub Time Machine 2

The Lazarus Effect

The Salvation

Focus

Kingsman: The Secret Service

What We Do in the Shadows

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

2016

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny

Gods of Egypt

Triple 9

Hail, Caesar!

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Eddie the Eagle

Deadpool

The Witch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

2017

Rings

Collide

The Great Wall

Fist Fight

A Cure for Wellness

The Lego Batman Movie

John Wick: Chapter 2

Get Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

2018

The 15:17 to Paris

Winchester

Annihilation

Operation Red Sea

Black Panther

Game Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Favorite Movie Fights of All Time – Part 1

Hey, look a non-review/podcast post!

No, in all seriousness, I have been wanting to do some sort of series on here for a while now. While ideas ran rampant in my head, fight scenes always stuck out. So that’s what I’m doing here. This won’t be the only series coming – I’ve got some others stored away – but for now, fight scenes are were its at.

Everyone loves a good fight scene, right? I know I do. Hell, I LOVE a good fight scene. There’s something about a fight scene that just gets me going. Not to the extent that I’m going to start picking fights with strangers – at least not anymore – but seeing the hard work of training and filming for months and weeks just for our enjoyment is awesome to watch. So here is where I’m going to shout out some of my favorite fight scenes of all time. Obviously, this is my list and purely my opinion, so if there is a fight that I missed, it’s probably because I simply forgot. This is also, most likely, the first installment of many articles to come.

However, before we get to the list I want to say how I will approach this, at least fight wise. I’m not including battle scenes, which pretty much excludes anything from The Lord of the Rings or the great opening from Saving Private Ryan (another post maybe?). The fights will range from one-on-one or one-on-two, or something along those lines. Also, despite the order, I’m not ranking them. Finally, some of these fights, could be final fights so SPOILER WARNING!

Alright, let’s get cracking…bones…too much? Too much.

 

SPL/Kill Zone – Ma Kwan vs. Jack

You will see Donnie Yen a lot in this series, and I might as well start with one of my favorite fight scenes he’s been in. SPL (Sha po lang) or Killzone as it was re-titled here in America – sometimes even SPL: Kill Zone – we see Yen’s Ma Kwan going one-on-one against newcomer (at the time) Jing Wu’s Jack. The scene itself leads into the final fight between Yen and Sammo Hung, but we’re here to talk about Yen vs. Wu. The fight itself was treated almost like a sparring match between the two martial artists, and was even a “last minute” addition to production once Yen joined the film.

I honestly love this fight ever since I saw it for the first time. The whole movie did a great job of building up the threat that Jing Wu’s Jack is, and to see Ma go toe-to-toe with him with the music and the moves these two make is a sight to see.

 

The Raid 2: Berndal – Rama vs. The Assassin

The Raid, or The Raid: Redemption in some places, was a ground-breaking and breakthrough action film. Sure the story was simple, but it was the action and fight scenes that put the movie over the top with fans. So when the sequel was announced, we immediately knew that we were in for a fun ride, and oh boy, were we. The Raid 2: Berndal upped the ante with the action, and it was the final two fights that really showed director Gareth Evans was not messing around. That said, I’m just going to focus on the last fight between Iko Uwais’ Rama and Cecep Arif Rahman’s The Assassin.

The scene itself took a reported eight days to shoot, and it shows because this thing is brutal, long and completely worth the wait.

 

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Yu Shun Lien vs. Jiao Long

I doubt there isn’t a list of Favorite Fights Scenes of All Time that doesn’t have the epic sword fight between Michelle Yeoh’s Yu Shu Lien versus Ziyi Zhang’s Jiao Long (or Jen Yu in the Mandarin version). The fight between the experienced veteran fighter against a less experience younger warrior was the perfect mirror in real life with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon being Zhang’s breakout role – and second feature film. Seeing the two different styles, and just a tad bit of humor, definitely makes this one of the best fight scenes in cinema.

 

Hero – Nameless vs. Sky

Like mentioned above, the sword “fight” between Jet Li’s Nameless versus Donnie Yen’s Sky is one of the best fight scenes in cinema – for me at least. I say “fight” because the fight doesn’t really happen, but is instead played out in the minds of Nameless and Sky, while an excellent score plays in the background. The scene itself is only the second on-screen fight scene between Li and Yen – the first being Once Upon a Time in China II – which is odd to think considering how well they work together in the scene itself.

 

The Bourne Ultimatum – Bourne vs. Desh 

The Bourne Ultimatum is, by far, one of my favorite spy action thrillers. What Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon were able to do in the short amount of time they had together – Greengrass didn’t direct the first Bourne movie – was pretty damn great. That said, Ultimatum was the very best of the series on all accounts, and when it came to the action sequences, Ultimatum has them beat by miles. While, the Waterloo Station scene is probably one of my favorite scenes of all time, the fight between Damon’s Jason Bourne and CIA asset Desh, played by Joey Ansah, arguably began the hard-hitting, no score fight scenes in the Americana cinema (that statement could be wrong, but at the time of writing this, the only other movie that pops in my head for fight scenes with no score in them is Haywire. Will correct if I find out, or feel free to tell me). I mean, Bourne beats him with a book, A BOOK!

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service – Harry vs. The Church

No, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this fight is on my list – or any list for that matter. I mean, look at it! Not only does the fight feel like a one take – it wasn’t but that’s fine, one take fight scenes are really hard to make – but it’s got Colin Firth kicking ass to Free Bird. COLIN FIRTH AND FREE BIRD!

 

Banshee – Burton vs. Nola

The last fight in this first installment of Favorites Fight Scenes of All Time comes from a TV series. Cinemax had a great series called Banshee. The show itself didn’t rely on the action its first season, but the characters and the story it was trying to tell – the action was just a nice touch and welcomed. As the series went on the action became more prominent, and awesome to watch. The highlight of that came in the third season of the show – unfortunately the series only last four seasons – where there is an amazing feature film quality fight scene between Burton (Matthew Rauch), the main series villain’s henchman and Nola (Odette Annable), a character who was only in six episodes, including this one, but left an impression.

When I first watched the series, I wasn’t really expecting the fight at all, and fans of the show went crazy when they saw it, because it’s really – from what I can remember – the only fight scene like this. Every other fight is more like a brawl, but this was two fights going toe-to-toe, and man was it great to watch. Warning, not for the squeamish.

 

Like I said, this is only part one of a series, so which one of these are your favorite? What are you looking forward to me possibly talking about? Do you like this new series? What more do you want to see? How many more questions can I ask here??

My Best/Favorite Movies of 2015

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

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

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

 

Movies I Missed That I Wanted to Watch

A Girl Walks Home Along At Night

Amy

Anomalisa

Beasts of No Nation

Black Sea

Carol

Daddy’s Home

Faults

Goodnight Mommy

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Mistress America

REC 4: Apocalypse

Selma

Slow West

Still Alice

The Walk

The Babadook

Trumbo

Turbo Kid

While We’re Young

Z for Zachariah

 

Just Missed The List

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

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

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

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

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

Krampus (Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures)

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

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

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

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

Trainwreck (Universal Pictures/Apatow Productions/Denstu)

The Good Dinosaur (Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios)

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

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

 

 

Honorable Mentions

[Wild (Fox Searchlight/Pacific Standard)]

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Crimson Peak (Universal Pictures/Legendary Pictures)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

Best/Favorite Movies of the Year

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Inside Out (Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

The Hateful Eight (The Weinstein Company)

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

 

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

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

 

So what are some of your favorite films of 2015?

Here’s to another great year in films!

Favorite/Standout Action Sequences, Genres, and Special Effects

This is a continuation of my Favorite/Standouts of the Year, this time focusing more on the genre side of things and my favorite/standout fights and action sequences and special effects.

 

Fight/Action Sequence

Ant-Man: Ant-Man vs. Falcon & Ant-Man vs. Yellowjacket (Cassie’s Bedroom)

A nice early preview of what we could see in Captain America: Civil War, and it was great to watch. It was actually a rather nice to surprise to see the scene play out and it was a ton of fun. Ant-Man was a great movie, but having this scene in there, was pretty damn cool. As for the Cassie bedroom fight, let’s face it: That was one of the funniest, goofy and action-packed scenes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron: Hulkbuster vs. Hulk & Hydra Base Siege

This was teased for a while, and every fan knew it was coming eventually. So when it finally happened, it was like it was ripped out of the comic books. The two literally tried to beat the crap out of each and in true Marvel fashion, there was some inject humor.  As for the base siege which opens the movie, it is arguably, one of the best openings and action scenes that Marvel has done – with the expectation of Captain America: The Winter Soldier – and it involves all of our heroes. The scene has it all; humor, great moments, and in that great shot of all the Avengers leaping into battle.

 

Creed: Adonis Johnson-Creed vs. Leo ‘The Lion’ Sporino

There was something about how the scene was structured and filmed by director Ryan Coogler that made this boxing match in Creed more of a standout than the final match. The way Coogler shot and framed the scene really made you feel that you were part of the match, and you saw the viewpoint of each character which made it even more special.

 

Jupiter Ascending: Chicago Chase

While Jupiter Ascending wasn’t all that great of a movie, it at least gave us one good thing: A great action sequence right here in Chicago.

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service: Harry Hart/Galahad vs. Church Congregation

This may be not just my favorite fight sequence of the year, but may join my favorite fight sequences list ever. Colin Firth may not be on everyone’s list for playing a badass character, but this definitely had to silence doubters. Of course we have to give credits to the stunt team, director Matthew Vaughn and cinematographer George Richmond for putting together the scene.

 

Furious 7: Deckard vs. Hobbs, Ramsey Rescue & Deckard vs. Dom

First, It’s like a dream match come true: Jason Statham vs. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. And holy hell was it brutal and fun to watch. Second, Ramsey’s (Nathalie Emmanuel) rescue happens a little before the mid-point of the movie and was heavily promoted in the ads. But, nothing comes close to the actual scene which plays out a little more than we thought. Overall, the scene is great. Finally, the whole movie builds up to this fight between Deckard (Jason Statham) and Dom (Vin Diesel) and when they finally meet, you can tell it’s going to come down to the last man standing. It’s not as good as Deckard vs. Hobbs, but the intensity is still there.

 

Jurassic World: Indominus Rex vs. T. Rex and Blue

This was like a kid’s dream come true. Hell, it was probably even mine. I don’t even know what else to say because, well, just look at it!

 

Kung Fu Killer: Hahou Mo vs. Fung Yu-Sau

Kung Fu Killer might have not gotten a wide release, but any chance I can see Donnie Yen on the big screen, I’m going to take it! The movie was filled with great fight sequences –no surprise with Yen involved – but it was the final fight in the movie that I picked because the fight had some high stakes to it and the final build up made the fight really great to watch.

 

Macbeth: Macbeth vs. Macduff

This was a short, brutal and visually fascinating scene to watch. Felt like watching a moving picture at times. I loved the aesthetic that director Justin Kurzel chose to go with for the scene.

 

Mad Max: Fury Road: Imperator Furiosa vs. Max Rockatansky & The Rig Escapes The Biker Gang

It’s almost hard to even choose a favorite action sequence in Mad Max: Fury Road, only because all of them have their awesome moments and the whole movie feels like an extended action sequence. But these two are definitely two that stood out to me. The fight between Furiosa and Max was hard hitting, vicious, knockdown drag out that totally fits into the movie and shows how tough Furiosa really is. The escape scene works on a number reasons, it shows the trust that Max and Furiosa finally get and the amazing score by Junkie XL elevates the scene even more.

 

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation: Car and Motorcycle Chase

One of the best parts for me in Rogue Nation was definitely the somewhat promoted action scene that involved a pretty lengthy chase that involved Ethan (Cruise), chasing down Ilsa (Ferguson) and Syndicate henchman. There was also something that McQuarrie didn’t use a real score and instead used the sound of motorcycles and cars instead.

 

Pixels: Pac-Man Chase

Despite what many people think about the film – it’s not perfect even I know that – Pixels had its moments and the full chase scene of the main characters and Pac-Man was a ton of fun to watch.

 

Sicario: Border Shootout

Sicario is one of those rare films that is unapologetic and, arguably, brutally honest about its subject matter. It’s also one of the most tense films I’ve seen in a long while and nothing is probably more tense than being stuck on the border between Mexico and the United States during a drug war. The scene bought out those feelings of not only being trapped, but having your options limited and trying to find the best way to get home.

 

Spectre: Bond vs. Mr. Hinx & Mexico City Opening

I love a great intense and hard hitting fight scene, and that’s exactly what we got in this fight between Daniel Craig’s James Bond and Dave Bautista’s Mr. Hinx. The henchman role felt tailor-made for Bautista especially seeing that fight scene. As for the opening scene that takes place in Mexico City during a Day of the Dead celebration, it is one of the best openings I’ve ever seen and one of the best one-continuous-take scenes I’ve ever seen.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Kylo Ren vs. Finn and Rey & Finn

It wouldn’t be a Star Wars movie without a lightsaber duel to end it. The Force Awakens is no different. The separate duels between Finn and Rey have different meanings. Both are done out of survival and revenge, but both of them have different meanings to each character. Finn is doing it because he’s finally fulfilling the hero role, and Rey is reaching her true potential.

 

Tomorrowland: Athena vs. Hugo and Ursula

Tomorrowland may have highlighted the house escape of Clooney and Robertson’s characters, but the highlight action sequence for me was Athena showing off what she can do for the first time. It was also a lot of fun to watch the scene in the surrounding it was in.

 

 

Honorable Mention

American Ultra: Mike vs. Laugher

Avengers: Age of Ultron: Sokovia Battle

Creed: Adonis Johnson-Creed vs. ‘Pretty’ Rick Conlan

Kingsman: The Secret Service: Harry Hart/Galahad vs. Thugs (Bar)

Run All Night: Jimmy vs. Price

Sicario: Alejandro Goes Solo

Ted 2: Comic Con Fight

Terminator Genisys: Guardian vs. T-800

The Man from U.N.C.L.E: Napoleon and Illya Chase Alexander & Napoleon and Gaby Escape Illya

Tomorrowland: Casey and Frank Home Escape

 

 

GENRES

Action

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Even with some of it, arguably most of it, being CGI, some of the action sequences were top notch and the beginning base siege was a ton of fun to watch.

 

Furious 7

The Fast & Furious franchise is priding itself on upping the ante on their action and Furious 7 did just that. Although, it hard to get any bigger than bringing down a big ass plane and then shooting a car out of it, but hey, the next big thing would probably be a car jumping from building to building and cars skydiving out of a jumbo plane.

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Probably one of the biggest surprises of the year, Kingsman: The Secret Service not just delivered on doing a great spy film, but also a action great film. Because let’s face it, that church scene was damn awesome.

 

Mad Max: Fury Road

I’d have to say hands down, Mad Max: Fury Road is the best action film of the year. The whole film is one long chase scene that almost never lets up and when it does it always comes back in full force. If I just wanted to pick one movie to be the best action film of the year, it goes to Fury Road. 

 

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Yet another film that is priding itself on upping the ante with every installment, Rogue Nation literally gives it to us right at the beginning with Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt hanging off a plane as it goes up in the air. You can’t get crazier than that right? RIGHT?

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has the right amount of action, and it’s action that’s a ton of fun to watch. The lightsaber duos had me riled up and the X-Wing flights where just great.

 

 

Honorable Mentions

American Ultra

Kung Fu Killer

The Gunman

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

 

 

Horror

It Follows

It Follows was a nice throwback in terms of story and tone. It doesn’t go for the easy gore and nudity tropes, although there those things in the film, it’s actually tied in to the primary story. The film is a slow burn and plays with your paranoia and makes you uneasy while watching. Also, the “monster” is so simple, along with the film that it is pretty cool to experience.

 

Krampus

I had a lot of fun watching Krampus and while it was sluggish at time, there was a lot more to it than I originally thought. What made the film work for me was definitely the fact that they went with practical effects and puppetry for the creatures that visually made them more terrifying.

 

The Final Girls

The Final Girls is a nice balance of comedy, drama, and horror, but the meta-horror elements isn’t even the main basis of the film, but are still great to watch the horror elements, especially considering how they handled it.

 

 

Honorable Mention

Insidious: Chapter 3

 

 

Comedy

Dope

Dope worked as both a drama and comedy coming-of-age film, but the film was one of the best comedic films I’ve experienced this year.

 

Inherent Vice

The film could be also labeled as a crime drama, but there was something more about the humor that makes this film special. The comedy was one of the only real things I understood about the film when I was first watched it. Not because the film has a weird or crappy structure, but because it was so weird.

 

Spy

Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy returned to form with Spy, a nice twist on the spy genre and didn’t rely on fat jokes that some films McCarthy has done in the past. Instead the film lets her actually show off her comedic and acting chops. However, the rest of the cast also steal the show, especially Jason Statham.

 

The Night Before

This could have easily been a forgetful comedy that happens to take place on Christmas Eve, but The Night Before was a little more than that. The film was done to bone a story about three friends – that treat themselves as family – and the bond that real friends go through. The comedy really had its moments and this is coming from a guy that is starting to grow on Seth Rogen.

 

 

Honorable Mentions

Goosebumps

Ted 2

The Final Girls

Trainwreck

 

 

 

Animated

Inside Out

Oh Pixar, how is it that you always find a way of making us tear up, cry and warm our hearts? You did it again with Inside Out. The supposed “I guess they ran out of ideas” film sure had a lot of heart and heartwarming and breaking moments that left me wanting more and satisfied at the same time.

 

The Peanuts Movie

I’m not going to lie, this film probably shouldn’t have worked, but it really did. The Peanuts Movie stayed true to its roots and didn’t try to add anything new or ruin what fans loved from the original. Kudos to them for sticking to their guns and keeping what everyone loves about Charlie Brown and the gang.

 

Honorable Mention

The Good Dinosaur

 

 

 

Drama

American Sniper

Clint Eastwood’s biopic drama about Chris Kyle was meant with some mixed reactions over the fact of “is all or any of this true?” Despite all that, American Sniper worked best when it focused on the characters themselves and what they go through, and Bradley Cooper does a tremendous job of doing that.

 

Brooklyn

Brooklyn is one of those films that everyone will connect to in some way. It’s a coming-of-age story, a love story, and a story about being an outsider in a new environment and wanting nothing but to go back home. It’s a touching story that I loved watching and experiencing.

 

Creed

Creed is every bit as good as the original Rocky, but it’s also its own standalone story about someone wanting to break out on their own and not trying to completely live up to someone’s legacy. The film worked even better with the performances of Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone. Any time they are together the film works better.

 

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

I read the book this was based on and when I saw the film, I couldn’t believe they captured the same spirit, heart and humor but was also able to turn the dial and make it even more stronger. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl isn’t the easiest movie to sit through – it does have Dying Girl in the title after all – but it truly is one of the best films of the year and one of the best dramas and indies of the year.

 

Room

Definitely one of the best dramas of the year, and one of the hardest to sit through Room also gives two of the best performances of the year by Brie Larson and newcomer Jacob Tremblay. The film follows the two as they escape the room they were trapped in for years and Jack (Tremblay) sees the outside world for the first time. It’s one of the most touching and heartbreaking films all at once.

 

Sicario

Sicario is one of those rare films that isn’t afraid to go to places that normally other films water down. It is definitely an unapologetic, gritty and raw look on the war on drugs between the U.S and the border of Mexico. The film is only stronger thanks to the performances, especially Benicio Del Toro.

 

Spotlight

This is straightforward filmmaking at its finest, and I say that it the best way possible. Spotlight is filled with great performances and tremendous cast that easily makes it an Oscar favorite and thankfully it’s great even if it wasn’t.

 

Steve Jobs

The story of Steve Jobs – in real life – is definitely a dramatic one. Thankfully, the film brings some of that in, but instead focusing more on the actual man himself. Michael Fassbender brings the right amount of cockiness, ignorance, genius, and humanity to the character that people will love or hate.

 

Straight Outta Compton

While Straight Outta Compton loses a lot of its great steam by the end, the film was a great experience to watch. Seeing the lives and rise of one of the most popular groups in music, especially with the cast they put together makes Straight Outta Compton a huge surprising hit.

 

The Big Short 

Nothing says drama like a true story about the housing and financial crisis in 2005 to 2007. It’s one of those movies that if you really paid attention to everything that happened back then, you appreciate it more. If not, then you’ll feel a little lost, but that’s find of the point.

 

The Martian

The Martian is undoubtedly a drama in terms that it’s about a man stuck on Mars…by himself.  You can’t really get more dramatic than that right?

 

Honorable Mentions

A Most Violent Year

Black Mass

Everest

In the Heart of the Sea

Southpaw

The Gift

The Hateful Eight

(Wild)

 

 

Special Effects

Ant-Man

Marvel’s Ant-Man has had a long road, but it finally got made and damn was it great to watch. The special effects are what really made this special too. The shrinking effect and the swarm of ants was really cool watch onscreen. There was one particular scene that involved Ant-Man running in model of the building that I think was a combination of special effects and physical (I’m not sure), but it sure as hell looked awesome.

 

Chappie

Director Neill Blomkamp has always been known for his visual work and Chappie is no different. The film harkens back to his District 9 effects given the fact the main character is a robot – with the motion capture done by Sharlto Copley – but there was something about Chappie that made him feel real and part of the story.

 

Crimson Peak

Leave it to Guillermo del Toro to show off some creepy special effects. Although Crimson Peak was more a gothic romance rather than a horror film – it was advertised as a horror film – the film still had strong visuals that only del Toro would ever think of pulling off, not only that he actually built the set they were working on.

 

Ex Machina

Chappie wasn’t the only robot of the big screen this year, Alex Garland’s directorial debut featured one of the best performances of the year by Alicia Vikander, and one of the most tension-filled  final acts I’ve seen. It’s also one of those films about A.I that will make you think “yeah, maybe we shouldn’t do that.”

 

Jurassic World

It’s been a while since we’ve seen some great looking dinosaurs on the big screen, and what better way to bring them back than a Jurassic Park movie. While the film decided to go more CGI than the original, there were moments of some good old fashion practical effects that bought the specialness of what made the original film so great.

 

Pixels

Pixels was a surprise for me in a lot of ways. No, it wasn’t the best movie out there, but I sure had a ton of fun watching it and was better than I thought it would be. One of the things I was really surprised at was the special effects and how well they really looked. The Pac-Man chase down New York was amazing to watch on the big screen and the finale was a grand showing of all these old-school video gaming.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I feel like The Force Awakens can also get credit for having the best practical effects as well because it has a great balance of the two type of effects and makes them work for the film instead of against it.

 

 

Honorable Mentions

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Goosebumps

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails

Tomorrowland

(The Good Dinosaur)

Kingsman: The Secret Service Review

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Dir: Matthew Vaughn

Writer(s): Matthew Vaughn & Jane Goldman

Cast: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Samuel L. Jackson, Sofia Boutella, Mark Strong, Sophie Cookson, and Michael Caine

Synopsis: A spy organization recruits an unrefined, but promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius

 

 

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

 

 

Director Matthew Vaughn once again adapts a Mark Millar graphic novel (previously adapting Kick-Ass) with Kingsman: The Secret Service. The movie brings a lot of the well-established tropes we have seen in other spy films form the past, but brings them in modern times and adds a highly stylized Millar and Vaughn-esque violence, cleverness, humor and cheekiness.

 

The films follows Gary Unwin aka ‘Eggsy’ (Egerton) who is good-hearted but a bit reckless, as he steals a car from a friend of his mother’s abusive new boyfriend and ends up in jail. He ends up getting out of it from Harry Hart aka Galahad (Firth) who turns out to be part of an elite group of operatives/modern-day knights known as The Kingsman. Harry sees the value and potential in Eggsy and sets him up to enter the training program to see if he is Kingsman material. Problem is, a wealthy tech magnate with a speech-impediment, Valentine (Jackson) and his razor-footed henchwoman Gazelle (Boutella) are ready to unleash a powerful weapon to start a new world order.

 

Again, Kingsman has a great sense of knowing what it is, but doesn’t get too tongue-in-cheek about it. It makes references to other spy films and non-spy-films but never beats you over the head with it or looks at the screen to let you in on the joke. Vaughn knows what he is doing and adds the combination of well known tropes and brings them into modern times with new technology. But, at the same time Vaughn knows how to have fun with the subject material and knows when to go over the top. Of course, it is based on a graphic novel so the hyper stylized violence is there – like it was in Kick-Ass and the sequel – so don’t be surprised when the violence or anything is a bit over the top.

 

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When it comes to the cast, well, they are what makes the film shine. Newcomer Taron Egerton brings equal parts of charisma, toughness, and vulnerability to ‘Eggsy.’ Whether it’s ‘Eggsy’ going though the crazy tests to becoming a Kingsman or dealing with bullies and his mother’s boyfriend, Egerton holds his own and arguably be a big star one day. He even holds his own with on-screen veterans like Colin Firth, Mark Strong and Michael Caine. Another newcomer to the scene is Sophie Cookson, who plays Roxy – another Kingsman recruit – also hold her own being the only female during the recruitment process and has her moments to shine.

 

Colin Firth plays Harry Hart aka Galahand (his codename), who, yes, has his moments to kick some major ass in the film. We know that it has become a trend in Hollywood now to give older actors a “restart” in their career to become action heroes after Liam Neeson did it so well in Taken. Firth plays Harry as the proper English gentleman that carries himself with the outmost prestige, but when it comes down to fight, he goes all out. Which comes into play in one of the biggest action sequences in a church (more on that later) and a standout one at that. I, and many others, would never have seen Firth as an action star, but he does pull it off here in Kingsman.

 

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Samuel L. Jackson is really having fun playing Valentine. He gives him a lisp – which Jackson apparently actually had – and is a blend of recent villain and old school Bond villains. His main weapon is a technology-based one but he uses mountain-based secret lairs and has a lovely but equally lethal henchwoman that does all his dirty work, since he can’t stand the sight of blood, by cutting off people bodies parts with her razor-sharp prosthetic legs. Sofia Boutella plays said henchwoman named Gazelle (yes, her name is Gazelle) and beside the fight scenes holds her own with Jackson.

 

The other supporting cast is rounded out by Mark Strong and very small role by Michael Caine. Caine plays the head of the Kingsman and pops in and out of the film to fill us in and drive home some of the more important scenes. Strong plays Merlin, the man overseeing the Kingsman recruits and eventually helps out with the final act. It’s a shame there isn’t more of Merlin in the film because he definitely is a great character. Also, for comic book and nerd fans alike, Mark Hamill pops in for a small role too.

 

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Now, I haven’t read the original source material so I don’t know if this particular scene is in the graphic novel or not, but Millar is known to push the boundaries in this work. The scene I’m talking about is the church scene that you can see in the trailers which involves Harry going at it with the churchgoers. Without going too much into spoilers, it is the first time Valentine uses his weapon and we see the full effect of it. Harry happens to also be effected and goes into full blown berserk mode, which shows how dangerous the weapon can be and how effective a killer Harry is. The basis of the scene is in question and could have some people talking. I don’t know really what to think about the scene. On one hand, the scene is a highlight action sequence (and in one take no less) and in the other, is the scene justified? Is Valentine just picking one random spot or is trying to prove something? Again, up for debate, but you argue that the scene is freaking great to watch.

 

All in all, Kingsman: The Secret Service is a ton of fun. It brings aspects of old spy films but brings them into modern times and flips them on their head. The cast and action to great to watch and overall it’s funny too. It won’t be for everybody and besides the church scene, there is another scene near the end that will make people laugh (I know my theater with me did) but it shows how far Valentine’s plan went. If you walk into Kingsman anticipating a good time, chances are you are going to get it. Also, there is a mid-credits scene which is a nice way to end the film.

 

Kingsman: The Secret Service

4.5 out of 5

February Movie Releases

So how are those New Years Resolutions coming along?

 

Just kidding!

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

 

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

 

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6th

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

 

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

 

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

 

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13th

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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20th

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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27th

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

 

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

 

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

 

What movie are you looking forward to more this month?