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!

‘Krampus’ Review

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Director: Michael Dougherty

Writers: Michael Dougherty, Todd Casey and Zach Shields

Cast: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Emjay Anthony, Stefania LaVie Owen, Maverick Flack, Lolo Owen, Queenie Samuel, and Krista Stadler

Synopsis: A boy who has a bad Christmas ends up accidentally summoning a Christmas demon to his family home.

 

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

 

I became a fan of Michael Dougherty when I saw his great Halloween film Trick ‘r Treat. The film was funny, suspenseful and had some great moments of horror, but more importantly, it was a hell of a lot of fun. So like many, I was looking forward to him getting back behind the camera and what better way to get back behind the camera with another holiday-themed horror film. While Krampus isn’t as good as Trick ‘r Treat, Dougherty still keeps the same intense but fun holiday horror.

Krampus follows the Engel family: the somewhat down-to-earth dad Tom (Scott), trying to stay sane mom Sarah (Collette), typical teenager daughter Beth (Lavie Owen), youthful and holiday loving Max (Anthony), and Tom’s mother or as she’s called by Max, Omi (Stadler) who only speaks in German. They are joined by Sarah’s sister, Linda (Tolman) and her family of her loud and obnoxious husband Howard (Koechner), their bratty daughters Stevie (Owen) and Jordan (Samuel), son Howie (Flack), baby Chrissy and has no filter, Aunt Dorothy (Ferrell). They all come together a few days before Christmas to be together, and while the first night doesn’t go over to well – including Max’s letter to Santa being read aloud – family bickering is the least of the Engel family’s problems: the evil spirit of Krampus – the opposite of Santa Claus – has been unleashed and has made them his target.

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For those unfamiliar, Krampus is actually based on a legend/folklore. There are many interpretations of Krampus, but most agree on the same thing: he’s a villainous, horned creature that punishes children at Christmastime for being naughty. The Krampus in Krampus like that as well, but instead of just going after the children he also targets the grown-ups, whether it be himself or using his fiendish helpers that include demonic toys.

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Thankfully, Krampus himself – and the film – isn’t completely CGI. With the expectation of a handful of scenes – one of which is a fantastic scene that takes place in the kitchen– Krampus is all practical effects and puppetry. Which is a nice touch because it makes the creatures, visually, feel more real and extra terrifying once everything goes to hell. Again, if you saw Trick ‘r Treat, Dougherty different and unique style is inject here which gives Krampus some much needed fun and humor. It may not be for everyone, but it definitely works here.

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I thing I applaud Dougherty for doing is making the film more than just a horror film. It’s a dysfunctional family film too. Krampus is a slow burn film, that does get a bit sluggish at times, but before all the horror elements start, we get to know the family, and yes, even get to hate a few waiting for them to get picked off. But, what Dougherty and the other writers in Todd Casey and Zach Shields do is give them each a different personality from each other that makes us still, somewhat, root for them. Krampus could have worked as a straightforward horror film, but it’s the extra bit of humanity and the family story that gives the film that extra bit of levity and makes it just a bit better. The other part that makes Krampus works is the comedy.

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Veteran comedic actors Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner and Conchata Ferrell bring their A-game to the sharp and witted script and really deliver on not just their comedic lines, but their more dramatic lines too. The kid actors also fare pretty well with Emjay Anthony’s Max getting most of the screen time and focus. Finally, Krista Stadler’s Omi is definitely a highlight in the film. She doesn’t speak too much, but when she does you know it means something and is also part of one of the coolest part of the film as well, which I won’t spoil or hint at.

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All in all, Krampus is a lot of fun. It’s got humor, suspense, horror, and a good dysfunctional family story that is served well by its great cast. It’s also filled with awesome looking and much needed practical effects and creatures that levitate the film to a much better place. While it’s not on the same level as Dougherty last film Trick ‘r Treat, Krampus is well worth your time and a nice holiday-themed horror film.

 

Krampus

4 out of 5

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December Movie Releases

It’s December, ladies and gentlemen!

The year is almost over! How has your year been, because it’s been a great year for films huh? The month is a bit “light” in terms of releases per week, but it’s not like that matters since those releases are pretty damn huge *cough* Star Wars *cough* but it’s still should be great to see unfold. So let’s jump right in the films that will close out the year.

 

Also, Happy Whatever-It-Is-You-Celebrate!

 

4th

Limited Release: Chi-Raq

Spike Lee’s new film, which is riddled with controversy due to the title – especially here in Chicago – is finally coming out. The film is actually a modern day adaptation of the ancient Greek play Lysistrata by Aristophanes, set against the backdrop of gang violence in Chicago. The film has a more impressive cast than I thought in Nick Cannon, Teyonah Parris, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, and Samuel L. Jackson.  In all honestly, I don’t think I’ll watch it, only because it doesn’t look that interesting to me.

 

Limited Release: Macbeth

Based on the Shakespearian play of the same name, Macbeth (played by Michael Fassbender), a duke of Scotland receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife (played by Marion Cotlliard), Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself. However, he becomes suspicious of everyone and does what he can to keep his kingdom and his throne safe. The film looks amazing and way better than I thought it would and is getting great reviews as well. This jumped way up in my must-watch list. The film also stars Elizabeth Debicki, Sean Harris, David Thewlis, Jack Reynor, Paddy Considine and David Hayman.

 

Limited Release: Hitchock/Truffaut

The film has filmmakers like Wes Anderson, David Fincher, Richard Linklater, and Martin Scorsese to name a few, as they discuss how Francois Truffaut’s 1966 book “Cinema According to Hitchcock” influenced their work. The documentary has gotten some good word of mouth at film festivals so hopefully it finds a bigger audience.

 

The Letters

A drama that explores the life of Mother Teresa (played by Juliet Stevenson) through letters she wrote to her longtime friend and spiritual advisor, Father Celeste van Exem (Max von Sydow) over a nearly 50-year period. The film looks like it’s going to be powerful and moving, I’m buzz is pretty high on this so we’ll see what happens. It’s not getting a huge release, but a big enough one. Priya Darshini and Rutger Hauer also star.

 

Krampus

Directed by Michael Dougherty, who directed one of my favorite horror-comedy films Trick ‘r’ Treat, goes back behind-the-camera to direct what looks like another horror comedy in Krampus. The film follows a boy who has a bad Christmas ends up accidentally summoning a Christmas demon, Krampus, to his family home. The movie doesn’t look like it’s going to take itself too seriously, but will have nice moments of horror. I didn’t think I would be looking forward to this, but I am.

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11th

Limited Release: The Big Short (Wide Release December 21st)

This film pretty much came out of nowhere, since some people didn’t even know this was coming out, and it’s rather surprising since the film has a great cast in Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt. The film follows four outsiders in the world of high-finance who predicted the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s decide to take on the big banks for their lack of foresight and greed. The film looks pretty great and is directed by Adam McKay, yes Anchorman Adam McKay. The film also stars Marisa Tomei, Karen Gillan, Max Greenfield, John Magaro, Rafe Spall, Hamish Linklater, Finn Wittrock, and Melissa Leo

 

Legend

Tom Hardy pulls double duty playing real life identical twins gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, two of the most notorious criminals in British history, and their organized crime empire in the East End of London during the 1960s. Some of the early buzz is praising Hardy’s duel performances and saying the film holds up pretty nicely, so that’s a good sign. The film also stars Emily Browning, Paul Bettany, Taron Egerton, Christopher Eccleston, and David Twelis.

 

In the Heart of the Sea

Based on the 1820 event, a whaling ship is preyed upon by a sperm whale, stranding its crew at sea for 90 days, thousands of miles from home. The film is directed Ron Howard and has an impressive cast lead by Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw, Charlotte Riley, Frank Dillane, Benjamin Walke, Jordi Molla and Donald Sumpter. Basing this off the trailers the film looks intense. The story is also what inspired Moby Dick, so there is that added layer.

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18th

Limited Release: Son of Saul

The foreign film follows the horror of 1944 Auschwitz, a prisoner forced to burn the corpses of his own people finds moral survival upon trying to salvage from the flames the body of a boy he takes for his son. The film has gotten some rave reviews already, so with a “bigger” release, Son of Saul could find a bigger audience. The film stars Geza Rohrig, Levente Molnar, Urs Rechn, and Todd Charmont.

 

Alvin and the Chipmunks The Road Chip

Yes, they are making another Alvin and the Chipmunks movie (sigh). Through a series of misunderstandings, Alvin, Simon and Theodore comes to believe that Dave is going to propose to his new girlfriend in New York City – and dump them. They have three days to get to him and stop the proposal. The films aren’t really targeted toward me, but from everything I heard about the series the films aren’t that good, so I’ll be staying away from this. The voice cast includes Justin Long, Jesse McCartney, Matthew Gray Gubler, Christian Applegate, Anna Faris, and Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting. The human cast includes Jason Lee, Bella Thorne, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, and Tony Hale.

 

Sisters

Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are two of the most beloved people in Hollywood, and every time they are together, they are great. So this should go to many people’s must-watch list as the two will play sister who decide to throw one last house party before their parents sell their family home. The film looks okay, and with Poehler and Fey, we should get a funny film, but I’m not completely sold on it just yet. Sisters also stars John Leguizamo, Maya Rudolph, Madison Davenport, Dan Byrd, Ike Barinholtz, Heather Matarazzo, John Cena, Dianne West and James Brolin.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Do I really need to put anything here? Like really? Do I? Alright. The Force Awakens takes place thirty years after Episode VI – Return of the Jedi and follows the new adventures of characters like Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac), Finn (John Boyega), and Rey (Daisy Ridley) and their fight with new villains like Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson). Overall, everyone is excited for this, so let’s just hope that it’s good (please be good). The film also stars Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, and Max von Sydow. The film also brings back original stars in Peter Mayhew, Warwick Davis, Anthony Davis, Kenny Baker, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill.

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25th

Limited Release: The Revenant

The film will get it limited release, with a wide release in the coming week and while I don’t write up a tidbit, I figured I should here because this film looks damn fantastic. Directed by Alejandro G Inarritu, the film is set in the 1820s following Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), a frontiersman, who sets out on a path of vengeance against those who left him for dead after a bear mauling. The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki looks equally fantastic as the rest of the cast of Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Paul Anderson, and Lukas Haas.

 

Limited Release: The Hateful Eight

Again, the film will get a limited release this week and a wider release in the coming week, but this limited release has something more special than others. The film this week will be released in a special 70mm film aka how they filmed the Westerns back in the day. Of course, Quentin Tarantino would be crazy enough to film in the actual film used to shot Westerns back in the day. The film is set in post-Civil War Wynoming as a bounty hunter tries to find shelter during a blizzard but gets involved in a plot of betrayal and deception. The film also has a crazy impressive cast of Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Demian Bichir, Zoe Bell, Michal Madsen, and Bruce Dern.

 

Daddy’s Home

A step dad’s life is turned upside down, when his step-kids father comes back into their life. The comedy reunited Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell and it looks okay, but I’m not completely sold on it just yet. Maybe when it gets closer to the release I’ll think differently. The film also stars Linda Cardellini, Alessandra Ambrosio, Paul Scheer, Hannibal Buress, and Thomas Haden Church.

 

Point Break

A remake of the classic 1991 film, follows the film’s basic story of FBI agent Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) infiltrating a group of thieves lead by Bodhi (Edgar Ramirez) to take them down, but starts to fall for Bodhi’s charisma. Thankfully, the remake is changing some things around by adding an extreme sports touch, and a nature-theme inspired heists. I like that it is doing its own thing, which all remakes should try to do and that’s what Point Break is doing. Also starrin is Teresa Palmer, Ray Winstone, and Delroy Lindo.

 

Joy

David O. Russell is reteaming with his Silver Linings Playbook actors Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro for this biography. The film follows a family across four generations centered on the girl, Joy, who becomes the woman who founds a business dynasty and becomes a matriarch in her own right. The film looks like it could be good and we know the team O. Russell puts together can lead to something great, but maybe I’m not sold on it just yet. Joy also stars Dascha Polanco, Elisabeth Rohm, Drena De Niro, Edgar Ramirez, Virginia Madsen and Isabella Rossellini.

 

Concussion

Based on the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu (Will Smith), the forensic neuropathologist, who made the first discovery of CTE, a football-related brain trauma, in pro players. The film looks like it’s going to be a great drama and the fact that it is a very touchy nowadays, it’s going to put this subject in a better forefront to get the message out there. The impressive casts includes Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alec Baldwin, Eddie Marsan, Stephen Moyer, Luke Wilson, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Dave Morse, Richard T. Jones, and Albert Brooks.

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So, what are you looking forward to?

November Movie Releases

It’s Turkey Month, ladies and gentlemen!

Happy Early Thanksgiving! It’s now at the point that we have a great film or films coming out every week and some that will for sure divide films fans. Now let’s jump right into the fray and see what’s coming out!

 

4th

Limited Release: Brooklyn

The film is set in the 1950s in Ireland and New York as young Eilis Lacey has to choose between two men and two countries. Saoirse Ronan plays Eilis Lacey while Domhnall Gleeson plays the Ireland man and Emory Cohen plays the New York Italian man. The film looks like a nice period romance drama story. I’ve heard some good rumblings from the festival circuit, so hopefully this finds its audience.

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6th

Limited Release: Trumbo

The film tells the story of Hollywood screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo, who was blacklisted by Hollywood and government in the 1940s for being a Communist. Of course, this was all going on during the Cold War and a lot of people in Hollywood were blacklisted and had to work under a fake name. Trumbo, in real life, actually won an Academy Award for Roman Holiday. The film looks pretty good and is getting some good reviews out of TIFF. The cast stars Bryan Cranston, who plays Trumbo, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, Alan Tudyk, Louis C.K., Michael Stuhlbarg, John Goodman, and Helen Mirren.

 

Limited Release: Spotlight

Based on the true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core. The film looks really good and looks like it’s going to be a powerful drama, that just so happens to be about a real event that was huge – and arguably still is. The film premiered with great buzz from TIFF and has an all-star cast in Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Stanley Tucci, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Jamey Sheridan and Billy Crudup.

 

 

The Peanuts Movie

Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the “Peanuts” gang are on the big screen! The trailer have Charlie Brown and the gang dealing with a new kid in school, but the synopsis says that Snoopy is on a mission to deal with his arch nemesis, the Red Baron – which was hinted a bit on the trailer. I don’t think that it really matters at this point, because people will go watch it because they want to see The Peanuts gang on the big screen.

 

Spectre

James Bond is back and has some big shoes to the fill since Skyfall was such a huge hit and considered by fans to be the best Bond film in a long time. However, director Sam Mendes and star Daniel Craig seem to be up for it. The film follows Bond as he gets a cryptic message that sends him on the trail of a sinister organization, SPECTRE that is lead by a mysterious figure (Christoph Waltz) that may be connected to his past. The film looks great and everyone involved says the film is bigger and better, so let’s hope so. Spectre also stars Naomie Harris, Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci, Rory Kinnear, and Stephanie Sigman.

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13th

Limited Release: By the Sea

Angelina Jolie pulls double duty as she stars and returns back behind the camera with story about a married couple, herself and her real-life husband Brad Pitt, as they travel to France in the mid-1970s. The couple seem to be growing apart, but then they linger in one quiet, seaside town they being to draw close to some of its most vibrant inhabitants, such as a local bar/café-keeper and a hotel owner. The film looks like it could be a great dramatic film and with Pitt and Jolie working together, we could be in for a great film too.

 

My All American

A biography sports drama about Freddie Steinmark (played by Finn Wittrock), an underdog quarterback on the football field, faces the toughest challenge of his life leading his team to a championship season. The film looks like a nice underdog story and coming out in mid-November probably makes it a prime spot for those that want to check it out. The film also stars Aaron Eckhart, Robin Tunney, and Sarah Bolger.

 

Love the Coopers

When four generations of the Cooper clan come together for their annual Christmas Eve celebration, a series of unexpected visitors and unlikely events turn the night upside down, leading them all toward a surprising rediscovery of family bonds and the spirit of the holiday. The film looks like we’ve seen it before, but these always have some fun to it, so hopefully this turns out better than expected. The film stars Olivia Wilde, Ed Helms, Amanda Seyfried, Marisa Tomei, John Goodman, Anthony Mackie, Jack Lacy, Alex Borstein, Jon Tenney, Diane Keaton and Alan Arkin.

 

The 33

A film based on the incredible true story of the Chilean miners that were trapped when a mine collapsed on them, leaving with them stuck with no way out. It’s no doubt that the incredible story could lend itself to a great film. The film does look great and will have a pretty big and impressive cast that includes: Antonio Banderas, Juan Pablo Raba, Cote de Pablo, Rodrigo Santoro, Lou Diamond Phillips, Gabriel Byrne, Naomi Scott, Jacob Vargas, James Brolin and Juliette Binoche.

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20th

*Legend gets a limited release only opening in L.A. and New York, and gets two different expansion releases. The first one is next week, so I’ll write my thoughts and info there*

 

Secret in their Eyes

A remake of the highly-acclaimed and Award winning Spanish film of the same name follows a tight-knit team of rising investigators (Julia Roberts and Chiwetel Ejiofro), along with their supervisor (Nicole Kidman), is suddenly torn apart when they discover that one of their own teenage daughters has been brutally murdered. I don’t know what to think about the film. On one hand, the film looks like a tenseful drama thriller with a great cast that also includes, Dean Norris and Michael Kelly. On the other hand, the original was a great film and I don’t know it will be able to hold its own against it.

 

The Night Before

Nothing says the end of November and Thanksgiving like a Christmas movie. However, this won’t be a typical Christmas movie. No, this is a comedy with Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie leading the charge. The film is set in New York City and follows three lifelong best friends (Rogen, Gordon-Levitt, and Mackie) who get together one last time on Christmas Eve to hang out and find the greatest Christmas party. The film looks like a ton of fun and funny, so I can’t wait to watch it. The film also stars Jillian Bell, Lizzy Caplan, Mindy Kaling and Michael Shannon.

 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

The final installment to the hugely popular and financially successful franchise The Hunger Games is finally here. The film is promising the epic conclusion and final battle between Katniss’ army of rebels and The Capitol’s defensives. The film does look pretty epic, so let’s hope it doesn’t let us down.

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25th

The Good Dinosaur

Disney and Pixar are back at it and what better time to do it than on Thanksgiving. The film follows the journey into the world of dinosaurs where an Apatosaurus named Arlo (voiced by Raymond Ochoa) makes an unlikely human friend. The film looks like it is going to be another great hit for Pixar and Disney, and if the trailers are anything like the movie, it looks like we are in for another tear-jerking film. The voice cast also includes Jeffery Wright, Steve Zahn, A.J. Buckley, Anna Paquin, Frances McDormand, and Sam Elliott.

 

Victor Frankenstein

Written by Max Landis (Chronicle), the film is told from Igor’s perspective (Daniel Radcliffe) as we follow him in the early days of being an assistant and friend to young medical student Viktor Von Frankenstein (James McAvoy), and sees him become the man and legend that we know today. The film looks better than I thought it would to be honest. It looks like a fun mixture of comedy and action and almost Sherlock Holmes-esque. The film also stars Jessica Brown Findlay, Andrew Scott and Charles Dance.

 

Creed

Fruitvale Station director Ryan Coogler and star Michael B. Jordan reunite to bring us back to the world of Rocky. The film follows Adonis Johnson (Jordan), the son of the late and former World Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed, as he enters into the world of boxing for himself. Eventually he seeks the guidance and a trainer in his father’s old rival and friend, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). The film looks great and it looks they aren’t just doing this for a cash grab, there looks to be a good story here. The film also stars Tessa Thompson, Graham McTavish, Ritchie Coster, and Phylicia Rashad.

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27th

The Danish Girl

Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Miserables) may be vying for another Oscar with this biography drama film that tells the remarkable love story inspired by the lives of artists Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander). Their marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili’s groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer. The film looks interesting and, again, true stories are Oscar bait. Also, they make a great story to tell on the big screen – if told right. The film also stars Amber Heard, Matthias Schoenaerts and Ben Whishaw.

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What are you looking forward to?

‘Hercules’ Review

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Dir: Brett Ratner

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell, Aksel Hennie, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Reece Ritchie, Rebecca Ferguson, Peter Mullan, and John Hurt

Synopsis: Having endured his legendary twelve labors, Hercules, the Greek demigod, has his life as a sword-for-hire tested when the King of Thrace and his daughter seek his aid in defeating a tyrannical warlord

 

 

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

 

 

We are all pretty much familiar with the character of Hercules. Whether it be the animated Disney film or the Kevin Sorbo TV series from the 90s, Hercules is one of those characters we know. This is the second Hercules film this year and while I didn’t see The Legend of Hercules early this year, his adaptation of Hercules take both the legend of the hero and takes its basis from the Steve Moore comic book called Hercules: The Thracian Wars and adds a little more.

 

Director Brett Ratner explores a different view of the legend known as Hercules. Dwayne Johnson’s Hercules doesn’t work alone. He has five loyal to the core followers that have helped him finish his infamous 12 labors. But the main thing Ratner does here is he walks the line between the legend and the actual man. The question he offers is if Hercules really is the son of Zeus. Can one man do all this amazing things or are they all exaggerations?

 

In Hercules, Hercules and his group of mercenaries; Amphiaraus (McShane), Autolycus (Sewell), Tydeus (Hennie), Atalanta (Berdal) and Iolaus (Ritchie) are asked by Lord Cotys (Hurt) daughter, Ergenia (Ferguson) to help them save Thrace from a civil war started by a war lord. It’s a rather simple story, Hercules and his group go and help Cortys farmers becomes actual soldiers to go to war.

 

Johnson obviously looks the part and add some of his charisma, and you have a likeable Hercules. But he isn’t just dealing with saving Thrace, Hercules is also dealing with tragic past, making sure he keeps composure to his men and Cortys’s army, and keep up his legacy.

 

But Johnson wouldn’t be able to do that without his group of warriors. They all serve their purpose and have moments to shine on their own or together. Ritchie’s Iolaus is Hercules’s nephew and is the mouth piece of the group, his job is to talk up Hercules and his stories to make his seem larger than life. Although not a warrior he wants to prove himself to his uncle and the group. Hennie’s Tydeus doesn’t talk through the movie and is a bit unstable but is a skilled fighter. Berdal is the only female fighter but is excellent with a bow. Sewell’s Autolycus is Hercules’s oldest friend and skilled with small knives. Finally there is McShane’s Amphiaraus who is a mystic but still kicks a lot of ass his very cool weapon.

 

We get some back stories on them but it doesn’t really seem like enough. I’ll admit I think I would watch a side story or prequel with those characters just so I can get to see more of them. They are a cool group so it’s a shame to not really get to know them. McShane and Sewell get most of the screen time and share nice quips and add in most of the humor in the movie.

 

Speaking of the humor, there is a great deal of it. Not saying that it’s a bad thing, it’s actually welcomed. The movie has a fair amount of violence and a couple of darker moments, so seeing Sewell and McShane delivering some hilarious one-liners was nice to see.

 

The action scenes are pretty impressive. The sets are real so it gives the scenes some more levity and makes you feel immersed in the movie. The scenes are cool to look at and I almost feel sorry for everyone involved because there is so much going on that it makes you feel like it was a pain to shoot.

 

The movie of course does have some drawbacks. Besides the supporting characters not really being fleshed out, John Hurt is almost completely wasted but does leave an impression because he does his best with the character that he can. Rebecca Ferguson’s Ergenia has her moments but otherwise isn’t really a main player. The other problem, and it might seem nitpicky, but some of the CGI is a bit wonky and kind of took me away considering how much work they put into the set-pieces, clothing, and armor. But, it’s the question of is Hercules really a demigod or not, that kind sort of makes it stand out but also hurts it in some way.

 

All in all, Hercules was a little better than I thought it would be but by no means is it a great one (no pun intended). Dwayne Johnson is Hercules and some of the supporting cast is great. Even with some drawbacks, the movie has it’s fun and funny moments but overall is nothing more than an average action movie.

 

 

Hercules

3.5 out of 5

’47 Ronin’ Review

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Dir:  Carl Rinsch

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano and Rinko Kikuchi

Synopsis: A band of samurai set out to avenge the death and dishonor of their master at the hands of a ruthless shogun

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a non-spoiler as always.*

 

The movie tells the legend, based on real events (most likely with some liberties), about 47 loyal samuri who become ronins –masterless – when their leader is forced to commit ritual suicide after he’s accused of attacking a Lord named Kira.  It’s one of the most well known legends in Japan and is one of the most beloved stories about vengeance and showing the virtues of the Bushido code.  Needless to say, the ronin go to avenge their lord.

The ad campaign stresses two things: Keanu Reeves and fantasy.  But don’t be fooled, despite Keanu being one of the main characters, this movie also belongs to Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine) who plays Oishi.  Oishi is second-in-command to Lord Asano and Sanada gives a great performance ranging from honorable soldier to a lost and broken man to a man that will do anything for his men.

Reeves plays Kia, a “half-breed” and as a child was found by Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) in the forest.  Despite claims that taking him in was a bad idea he took him in.  As Kia grew up he then started to develop a relationship with Asano’s daughter Mika.  But their love can never happen because of Kia’s social status. Reeves does his usual thing acting wise so there’s nothing really to say about him.

The other notable face is Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim) who doesn’t have a name and is only referred to as The Witch.  She helps our other villain Lord Kira played by Tadanobu Asano (Thor, Ichi the Killer) who is trying to take over the land and then takes Mika (Ko Shibasaki) as his bride.

Kira taking Mika really pushes the story and she serves (next to the revenge aspect) as the damsel in distress, although she isn’t entirely helpless. She also serves as the romantic arc for her character and Kia, which is the only real reason Kia decides to go along on the mission despite knowing the now-ronins never accepted him in the first place.

Getting past the cast, 47 Ronin is beautiful to look at.  The costumes and practical sets are very detailed and every time something new is shown your eye goes right to it.  The other great part of the movie is the action.  Being a samurai movie you know there is bound to be great swordplay and in truth there is.  The final attack on Kira’s palace is one of the better set-pieces and sequences.  Everything that was built from the moment our samurais become ronins pays off.

The ending I know will have some people questioning but personally I found it bold. And bold in the sense that I’m glad they didn’t try to change anything.

All in all, 47 Ronin is a movie off a tale of vengeance, love and honor.  Although not perfect the movie is a lot of fun and has great action sequence to please anyone that watches it.

 

47 Ronin

4 out of 5