The Movie Pit Podcast is live!
This week was pretty big movie news wise, so I tried to condense it as much as I could.
The Movie Pit Podcast is live!
This week was pretty big movie news wise, so I tried to condense it as much as I could.
The end of the year doesn’t just mean putting out your best/favorite movies of year. It can be a time to reflect the individuals like directors, actors, actress, supporting roles, villains and everything in between. So, that said, I’m here to do just that. We all have our favorites, and these are mine. This is of course my opinion. I tried to shorten the list as much as I could, but like every year, it was a bit too hard so I left the lists as such.
Also, villains are probably considered Supporting Actors/Actress in other lists, but again, to not only make the lists shorter, I want the villains to have their own category, because everyone loves a good villain, right?
Finally, everything and everyone will be in alphabetical order. This is also part one of two different lists. Enjoy.
Chris McKay – The LEGO Batman Movie
Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk
Denis Villeneuve – Blade Runner 2049
Edgar Wright – Baby Driver
Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water
J.A. Bayona – A Monster Calls
James Mangold – Logan
Jordan Peele – Get Out
Patty Jenkins – Wonder Woman
Matt Reeves – War for the Planet of the Apes
Taika Waititi – Thor: Ragnarok
Andy Muschietti – It
David F. Sandberg – Annabelle: Creation
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
James Franco – The Disaster Artist
Kathryn Bigelow – Detroit
M. Night Shyamalan – Split
Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Steven Soderbergh – Logan Lucky
Just Missed the List
Ben Wheatley – Free Fire
Craig Gillespie – I, Tonya
Darren Aronofsky – Mother!
James Gunn – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina – Coco
Nacho Vigalondo – Colossal
Michael Showalter – The Big Sick
Ridley Scott – All the Money in the World
Andy Serkis as Caesar – War for the Planet of the Apes
Chris Hemsworth as Thor – Thor: Ragnarok
Chris Pine as Steve Trevor – Wonder Woman
Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington – Get Out
Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill – Darkest Hour
Hugh Jackman as Logan – Logan
Lewis MacDougall as Conor – A Monster Calls
Michael Fassbender as David and Walter – Alien: Covenant
Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc – The Founder
Sam Rockwell as Dixon – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man – Spider-Man: Homecoming
James Franco as Tommy – The Disaster Artist
Richard Jenkins as Giles – The Shape of Water
RJ Cyler as Billy/Blue Ranger – Power Rangers
Ryan Gosling as K – Blade Runner 2049
Ryan Reynolds as Michael & Samuel L. Jackson as Darius – The Hitman’s Bodyguard
Sebastian Stan as Jeff Gillooly – I, Tonya
Sharlto Copley as Vernon – Free Fire
Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs – Battle of the Sexes
Will Arnett as Batman/Bruce Wayne – The LEGO Batman Movie
Will Poulter as Krauss – Detroit
Just Missed the List
Ansel Elgort as Baby – Baby Driver
Armie Hammer as Ord – Free Fire
Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall & Josh Gad as Sam Friedman – Marshall
Chris Evans as Frank Adler – Gifted
Dave Franco as Greg – The Disaster Artist
Jackie Chan as Quan Ngoc Minh – The Foreigner
James McAvoy as David Percival – Atomic Blonde
Jeremy Renner as Cory Lambert – Wind River
Jason Sudeikis as Oscar – Colossal
Javier Bardem as Him – Mother!
Joel Edgerton as Paul – It Comes At Night
Kumail Nanjiani as Kumail – The Big Sick
Mark Rylance as Mr. Dawson – Dunkirk
Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke – Split
Aubrey Plaza as Ingrid Thorburn – Ingrid Goes West
Dafne Keen as Laura – Logan
Frances McDormand as Mildred – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Gal Gadot as Diana – Wonder Woman
Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom – Molly’s Game
Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding – I, Tonya
Mckenna Grace as Mary Adler – Gifted
Noomi Rapace as The Settman Siblings – What Happened to Monday
Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito – The Shape of Water
Saoirse Ronan as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson – Lady Bird
Anne Hathaway as Gloria – Colossal
Emma Stone as Billie Jean King – Battle of the Sexes
Rebecca Hall as Elizabeth Marston – Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Sophia Lillis as Beverly – It
Talitha Bateman as Janice & Lulu Wilson as Linda – Annabelle: Creation
Just Missed the List
Charlize Theron as Lorraine Broughton – Atomic Blonde
Jennifer Lawrence as Mother – Mother!
Michelle Williams as Gail Harris – All the Money in the World
Seo-hyun Ahn as Mija – Okja
Zoe Kazan as Emily – The Big Sick
Zoe Lister-Jones as Anna – Band Aid
Christopher Plummer as J. Paul Getty – All the Money in the World
Daniel Craig as Joe Bang – Logan Lucky
Dwayne Johnson as Hobbs & Jason Statham as Deckard – The Fate of the Furious
Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard – Blade Runner 2049
Jacob Batalon as Ned – Spider-Man: Homecoming
Liam Neeson as The Monster (voice) – A Monster Calls
Michael Rooker as Yondu – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Patrick Stewart as Charles – Logan
Samuel L. Jackson as Preston Packard – Kong: Skull Island
Cillian Murphy as Shivering Soldier – Dunkirk
Doug Jones as Amphibian Man – The Shape of Water
Demian Bichir as Miguel Alvarez – Lowriders
Domhnall Gleeson as Monty ‘Schafer’ – American Made
LilRel Howery as Rod Williams – Get Out
Nick Offerman as Dick McDonald & John Carroll Lynch as Mac McDonald – The Founder
Paul Walter Hauser as Shawn Eckhardt – I, Tonya
Ralph Fiennes as Alfred Pennyworth – The LEGO Batman Movie
Shea Whigham as Cole & John C. Reilly as Hank Marlow – Kong: Skull Island
Taika Waititi as Korg & Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk & Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster – Thor: Ragnarok
Just Missed the List
Bradley Whitford as Dean Armitage – Get Out
Christopher Meloni as Roger, Ike Barinholtz as Jeffrey & Bashir Saladuddin as Morgan Russell – Snatched
Jack Reynor as Harry – Free Fire
Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben, Finn Wolfhard as Richie & Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie – It
Jon Bernthal as Griff – Baby Driver
Michael Cera as Dick Grayson/Dick – The LEGO Batman Movie
Pedro Pascal as Whiskey – Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Ray Romano as Terry – The Big Sick
Steve Zahn as Bad Apes – War for the Planet of the Apes
Stephen Merchant as Caliban – Logan
Allison Janney as LaVona Golden – I, Tonya
Ana de Armas as Joi – Blade Runner 2049
Felicity Jones as Mum – A Monster Calls
Laurie Metcalf as Marion McPherson – Lady Bird
Pom Klementieff as Mantis – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Robin Wright as Antiope – Wonder Woman
Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie – Thor: Ragnarok
Tiffany Haddish as Dina – Girls Trip
Amiah Miller as Nova – War for the Planet of the Apes
Bella Heathcote as Olive Byrne – Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Holly Hunter as Beth – The Big Sick
Lucy Davis as Etta – Wonder Woman
Michelle Pfeiffer as Woman – Mother!
Riley Keough as Kim – It Comes At Night
Just Missed the List
Elle Fanning as Loretta Figgis – Live by Night
Glenn Close as Dr. Caroline Caldwell – The Girl with All the Gifts
Karen Gillan as Nebula – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Linda Cardellini as Joan Smith – The Founder
Salma Hayek as Sonia Kincaid – The Hitman’s Bodyguard
Sigourney Weaver as Grandma – A Monster Calls
Allison Williams as Rose Armitage – Get Out
Annabelle – Annabelle: Creation
Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise – It
Cate Blanchett as Hela – Thor: Ragnarok
James McAvoy as Dennis/Patricia/Hedwig/Kevin/Barry/Jade/Orwell/The Beast – Split
Jamie Foxx as Bats & Jon Hamm as Buddy – Baby Driver
Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture – Spider-Man: Homecoming
Calvin – Life
Common as Cassian – John Wick: Chapter 2
Michael Shannon as Richard Strickland – The Shape of Water
Skull Crawlers – Kong: Skull Island
Sylvia Hoeks as Luv – Blade Runner 2049
Zach Galifinakis as The Joker – The LEGO Batman Movie
Just Missed the List
Charlize Theron as Cipher – The Fate of the Furious
Kurt Russell as Ego – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Tony Goldwyn as Barry Norris – The Belko Experiment
Woody Harrelson as The Colonel – War for the Planet of the Apes
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: John Logan and Dante Harper
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollett, Callie Hernandez, Amy Seimetz, and Guy Pearce
Synopsis: The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
I’m going to start off the review with this, I didn’t mind Prometheus. Was it a perfect film? No, it wasn’t, and even I can see the faults the film had. But the amount of bashing and hate the film received when the film was released was a bit too much. One of the problems that I do wholeheartedly believe was wrong with Prometheus wasn’t in the movie itself, it was the audience. I get it, it’s hard not to get really excited over a film. I do it, and I’m sure you do it too. But I remember the hype level for Prometheus and it was ridiculously over that I shut myself out from reading anything about the film before it came out. And I get it, I do, Alien has a special place in many people’s hearts – as it should – but people got themselves way to hyped up that they were disappointed with Prometheus because it wasn’t what they thought or wanted it to be.
So this brings us to Alien: Covenant. Not only is the film a sequel to Prometheus it’s also more of a step closer to reaching the point we saw in Alien. Not only is the film a continuation of what we saw before, but they go back to the early roots – a sci-fi horror film with the famous Xenomorph we have all learned to fear and love.
Covenant follows the colony ship called The Covenant, which is filled with couples, that is on the way to a new planet to start a new life. The only person awake and not in cryosleep is the android Walter (Michael Fassbender) who, like his predecessor David (also played by Fassbender), watches over the ship. However, an accident occurs that causes Walter to wake the crew members which results in some of them dying, including the captain. While the crew makes repairs they receive a mysterious transmission from a nearby undiscovered planet that is also perfect for them to inhabit. This leaves newly appointed, and untested, captain Oram (Billy Crudup) with a tough decision: go to the unknown planet that sent the transmission or continue the original course – of course, there wouldn’t be a movie if he chose the latter. The decision isn’t met with much agreement from the ship’s second-in-command, and chief terraformer Daniels (Katherine Waterston).
As we see in the trailers, a group heads to the planet seeing it as a perfect replacement, but soon they discover the origin of their transmission – the ship from Prometheus. As they try to explore more, two of the crew members get sick and as they try to head back they get stopped by the new creations Neomorphs, which of course, come bursting out of the sick crew members. The remaining members get saved by a mysterious figure who tells them to follow him. Skipping ahead, they discover that it’s David who is the only surviving member of the Prometheus. The crew later find out that the planet isn’t really all that safe.
Alien: Covenant is hard for me to judge. Almost like Prometheus, this movie is good until it isn’t. Ridley Scott knows how to direct sci-fi films, and the visuals here are pretty damn great, along with the combination of the landscapes that are beautiful, but the problem comes to some of the characters. While Prometheus didn’t focus on all the characters, you at least knew what all of them did. Covenant missteps on that a bit, as it only focuses on the bigger characters, making every other character just a prop for the Neomorphs and the Xenomorph to kill.
Fassbender is great once again as the androids David and Walter, and kudos to Fassbender for making the two vastly different in every way. Katherine Waterston joins the Alien franchise of female leading ladies, but her character only gets the time to shine when David or Walter aren’t around. Billy Crudup’s Captain Oram is a mixed bag and doesn’t really get earn his place until one of the bigger moments of the film – and I’ll be interested in seeing how people take and accept that scene. Danny McBride would be the next, and potentially final, big character in the film as one of the Covenant’s pilots named Tennessee. Surprisingly to some maybe, McBride does crack jokes in the film, but is one of the more grounded and down-to-earth characters in the film.
The rest of the cast is pretty much cannon fodder, Demian Bichir plays Lope, one of the head military leaders, who is actually in relationship with Hallet (Nathaniel Dean), but it never pays out as it should. Camen Ejogo plays Oram’s wife and biologist, who believes in Oram that he can lead the crew in a good direction, Amy Seimetz plays Faris, Tennessee’s wife, and the other pilot of the ship that is probably the best of the supporting characters, but she doesn’t get enough screen time.
Covenant does have the feeling of an Alien film, with the suspense, but it’s not as revved up as it should have been. Even the action scenes aren’t all that great and they end pretty quickly, which is a shame considering the previous Alien battles. When it focuses on the themes bought up in Prometheus, it extends them and while I won’t go into them in details – due to spoilers – it all comes down to David.
All in all, Alien Covenant is a frustrating movie. It’s a good movie until it isn’t, and when it becomes a bad movie it’s hard to get out of it. However, the big thing that does make me angry and disappointed, is some of the things bought up in Prometheus are not fleshed out or are completely erased which makes Covenant in some ways another rehash of ideas. I would still recommend Covenant to people, but keep your expectations low.
3 out of 5
Hello Boys and Girls!
It’s the beginning of the Summer Movie Season!
What better way to start off this run of movies than a great month of films. We got a lot of films to get to, so let’s get to it!
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Sci-Fi Action – Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
The Guardians (Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel) must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite character from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel cinematic universe continues to expand. The returning cast includes Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, Nathan Fillion (playing a different character), Sean Gunn, and Glenn Close. The film’s new cast includes Kurt Russell (Quinn’s father, Ego), Sylvester Stallone, Chris Sullivan, Pom Klementieff, and Tommy Flanagan.
Limited Release: The Wall
Directed by Doug Liman, an American sharpshooter is trapped in a standoff with an Iraqi sniper. The film was suppose to come out in March, but got pushed back to May, but either way it looks great. The Wall looks like a tension-filled drama I can’t wait to see. The film stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Laith Nakli and John Cena.
Lowriders (Drama – Universal Pictures/BH Tilt/High Top Releasing/Imagine Entertainment)
A young street artist in East Los Angeles is caught between his father’s obsession with lowrider car culture, his ex-felon brother and his need for self-expression. The film stars Theo Rossi, Tony Revolori, Eva Longoria, Melissa Benoist, and Demian Bichir.
Snatched (Comedy – 20th Century Fox/Cherin Entertainment/Feigo Entertainment)
After being dumped by her boyfriend, Emily (Amy Schumer) decides to take a spontaneous trip with her mother (Goldie Hawn) to Ecuador, where they find themselves kidnapped, escaping and having to go on the run. The film stars Christopher Meloni, Oscar Jaenada, Ike Barinholtz, Tom Bateman, and Wanda Sykes.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (Fantasy Adventure – Warner Bros./Village Roadshow Pictures/Wilgram Productions/Safehouse Pictures/Weed Road Pictures)
Directed by Guy Ritchie, the film takes the very Ritchie tone to bringing a new take to the classical character Arthur played by Charlie Hunnam. The film sees Arthur, a street-smart brawler who finds himself drawn into a battle when he takes possession of the sword Excalibur. The film stars Jude Law, Annabelle Wallis, Katie McGrath, Djimon Hounsou, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Hermione Corfield, Aidan Gillen and Eric Bana.
Diary of Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (Family Comedy – 20th Century Fox/Color Force)
Continuing the series based off the books by Jeff Kinney, Greg (Jason Drucker) convinces his family to take a road trip to attend his great grandmother’s 90th birthday as a cover for what he really wants: to attend a nearby gamer convention. Unsurprisingly, things do not go according to plan and the Heffley family antics ensue. The film also stars Charlie Wright, Tom Everett Scott, Owen Asztalos, Carlos Guerrero, and Alicia Silverstone.
Everything, Everything (Romance Drama – MGM, Alloy Entertainment, Itaca Films)
Based on the novel by Nicola Yoon, a teenager who’s lived a sheltered life because she’s allergic to everything, falls for the boy who moves in next door. The film stars Amandla Stenberg, Nick Robinson, Ana de la Reguera, Taylor Hickson, and Anika Noni Rose.
Alien: Covenant (Sci-Fi Thriller – 20th Century Fox/Scott Free Productions/TSG Entertainment/Brandywine Productions)
The crew of the colony ship Covenant, bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, discover what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world. When they uncover a threat beyond their imagination, they must attempt a harrowing escape. The film looks like it’s finally an Alien prequel, and bloody. Very, very bloody. The cast includes Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Carmen Ejogo, Demian Bichir, Danny McBride, Callie Hernandez, Noomi Rapace, James Franco, and Guy Pearce.
Baywatch (Action Comedy – Paramount Pictures/Seven Bucks Productions/The Montecito Picture Company/Cold Spring Pictures/Contrafilm)
Two unlikely prospective lifeguards vie for jobs alongside the buff bodies who patrol a beach in California. Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario, Ilfenesh Hadera, Jon Bass, Kelly Rohrbach, Priyanka Chopra, Hannibal Buress, Pamela Anderson, and David Hasselhoff.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (Action Adventure – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Jerry Bruckheimer Films/Moving Picture Company)
Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) searches for the trident of Poseidon when an old enemy from his past comes to haunt him. The film also stars the returning Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin McNally, Martin Klebba, Stephen Graham, David Wenham, and Paul McCartney.
What are you looking forward to?
Welcome to another edition of Mini-Reviews. So let’s get to it, shall we?
*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*
Director: Pablo Larrain
Writer: Noah Oppenheim
Cast: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, John Carroll Lynch, Max Casella, Beth Grant, Richard E. Grant, Caspar Phillipson and John Hurt
Synopsis: Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children, and define her husband’s historic legacy.
I’ll admit, I didn’t know too much after Jackie Kennedy before the film, besides of course her being the First Lady, and being the widow of John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated when riding around Dallas. It’s a bit of shame that that’s the only thing most people, probably, know about her. However, here in Jackie, we get to see a glimpse of what she potentially – films based on true stories are already up for interpretation – through after her husband was shot.
The film starts off with a reporter, played by Billy Crudup, coming up to the house in Massachusetts where Jackie (Natalie Portman) is staying. The reporter starts to ask her questions and we flashblack to a couple of different events: her televised tour of the White House in 1961 and the week of the assassination. Through all of it, we see Jackie as she deals with the tour, and after the assassination of her husband, the grief of she is consumed by and how history will remember him.
Jackie is not an easy film to watch, not because it’s not any good, but because the majority of the film is Jackie Kennedy trying to keep herself composed after losing her husband. And I don’t know about most people, but I think some people sometimes forget that Jackie didn’t lose the President of the United States, she lost her husband, and that’s something the film bring up. Jackie lost her husband that just so happens to be the President. It’s a fine line that the film balances pretty well.
Another fine line the film balances is not making Jackie too much of a sympathetic character. The film has no problem making her a flawed person, and if you find her actions odd or even questionable, you’re not alone. The film isn’t there to make Jackie a saint, even though she lost her husband, the things she does make you believable she may be just a bit unstable. But that’s also the beauty of Jackie, Natalie Portman does an impressive job of creating and explore the layers to this public figure that went through it all, and through a very personal tragedy in the public eye. Once you get past the accent, you can really enjoy watching Portman hit every emotion to a tee.
All in all, Jackie rests in the capable hands of Natalie Portman as she brings Jackie Kennedy to life and walks a fine line between sympathetic and flawed that makes the film and character feel real.
4.5 out of 5
Director: Justin Kurzel
Writers: Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Michael Kenneth Williams, Denis Menochet, Ariane Labed, Matias Varela, Callum Turner, Khalid Abdalla, Hovik Keuchkerian, Brendan Gleeson, and Charlotte Rampling
Synopsis: When Callum Lynch explores the memories of his ancestor Aguliar and gains the skills of a Master Assassin, he discovers he is a descendant of the secret Assassin’s society.
Based off the highly popular and successful video game series, Assassin’s Creed was many people’s hopes to finally have a good, or at least descent, video game film. Well, while the film has some really cool and great moments, Assassin’s Creed is not the film that will change people’s perspective of the video game films. Also, for fans of the game, the film doesn’t follow a lead character from the games, but does have some big elements – at least from the games that I have played.
The film opens with a crawl of text that sets up the historic storyline and gives us the glimpse of the Assassins and their fight with the Templar. The film then jumps time as we see a young Cal finding his mother killed and his father the prime suspect. We jump again as see Cal (Michael Fassbender) getting executed to only wake up in a mysterious facility owned by Abstergo Industries. It’s there he meets Sofia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard), the daughter of the company’s CEO, played by Jeremy Irons, who runs the Animus project. A device that allows the user to see, feel and experience their ancestor’s life and memoires.
Cal finds out that he’s part of the company’s latest big project to find the Apple of Eden. The idea is the Apple of Eden will eradicate free will. In order to get the artifact they need Cal to get the memories of his 15th Century ancestor in Spain, Aguilar de Nerha, who was the last to have seen the Apple.
The film has a descent set-up, but the problem becomes the film moves too fast for its own good, and doesn’t live any of the characters breath. The first time we meet Cal really is right before he’s executed for a crime of killing someone – we find out later that he may have deserved it, but it felt like a throwaway line – but Cal is just someone walking through the paces. We never really feel connected to Cal in the real-world, which is a bit of a bad sign considering we spend a lot more time in the real-world than the past. Speaking of the past, that’s when we get to see Fassbender shine to the extreme. Aguilar doesn’t need to say much as his presences is enough to tell the story. Next to him is Ariane Labed’s Maria, who unfortunately doesn’t get fleshed out as much as she should, but shines in her small screen time with Aguilar.
The rest of the cast is just okay. Marion Cotillard’s Sofia is there to lead the “science” to the audience and give the feeling that she actually cares about Cal, while Jeremy Irons does the best he can with what he’s given. Brendan Gleeson, Michael Kenneth Williams and Charlotte Rampling are heavily underused in their small roles which is shameful in a lot of ways.
The saving grace in the film is all the past scenes. It also happens to be where most of the action takes place. Combined with the heavy score, the action scenes make the film actually worthwhile, and once they stop, it does take a lot of the air away from you. It could have also helped that all the present/real world scenes fall rather flat and the concept of what they want the Apple of Eden seems rather, to not make it sound harsh, stupid. There’s also the “bleeding effect” concept that is rather cool, but near the end of the film the effect could have used better, especially since it seemed important.
All in all, Assassin’s Creed is a film that has a descent enough set-up, but the overall execution is poorly delivered. The action scenes make up for it, but it would have been better if they spent more time in the past than the present. Things aren’t fleshed out enough and the plan by the villains is rather dumb. Assassin’s Creed won’t change the opinion of video game movie doubters, but it’s serviceable enough.
3.5 out of 5
Director: Theodore Melfi
Writers: Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, and Glen Powell
Synopsis: A team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical data needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions.
Based on the novel by Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures is set in the early days of the space race and is also based on a true story. We focus on three African-American women who work for NASA in Katherine (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy (Octavia Spencer, and Mary (Janelle Monae). Katherine is a brilliant mathematician, Vaughan acts as the supervisor – although she isn’t – over the African-American “Computers” (the African-American women that worked the calculators), and Mary works with the engineers and hangs with the best of them. We follow the three as the space race comes to a head when Russia successfully sent Yuri Gagarin into orbit. Katherine is placed in the special task group to get the math right, Dorothy works to get her girls more important positions and be seen as an equal, while Mary takes the advice and tries to become a certified engineer. Each of them deal with their own hardships and discrimination in a time that was trying to progress.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really that excited for Hidden Figures, but I’m glad I went to watch the film. The film is really well done and has great performances by the whole cast that is lead by Henson, and Kevin Costner’s Al Harrison, the supervisor of the program. While the film follows Katherine, Dorothy and Mary, its Katherine that we mostly follow, which is fair considering we see her story at the very beginning of the film. Dorothy has to deal with Kirsten Dunst’s character Vivian Mitchell, and Janelle Moane’s Mary has a great story, but seems to take a backseat to Katherine’s and Dorothy’s arcs. Overall, their stories are an important part in NASA and the space race’s history, but each of them have their own part to play within the film itself.
The film does of course touch heavily on the race issues during the time. It doesn’t tiptoe around the issue too much, and shows how hard people of color, especially women, had during the time. There is a montage that involves Katherine running from building to building that effects her and her work, and while some will see it as heavy-handed or played out, it pays off in full effect later on in one of the most powerful scenes in the film, and one that is carried by Henson.
All in all, Hidden Figures is a great true story that many people may not know too much about. Carried together by its great cast, the film hardly lets up and if you feel yourself get angry over the treatment our main characters feel, I think the film has done its job.
4 out of 5
Director: Morten Tyldum
Writer: Jon Spaihts
Cast: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne and Andy Garcia
Synopsis: A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early.
When you get two of the biggest and popular stars in Hollywood in Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, you have to think it has to be great, right? Well, that is the case for Passengers, most of the time. The film follows Jim Preston (Pratt) and Aurora Lane (Lawrence), passengers on the spaceship Avalon that is destined to a new planet to start anew called Homestead II. However, the hibernation pods malfunction and they wake up ninety years too soon. With only a bartender android named Arthur (Michael Sheen), the two eventually develop feelings for one another until the ship starts to malfunction putting everyone still asleep and them in danger.
There is a lot more to Passengers than the marketing lets on, so I’ll keep everything to a minimal in this already mini-review. Like noted before, when Passengers works it really works. Everything is compelling, well-acted and Pratt and Lawrence’s chemistry is spot-on, with each getting their individual big moments. Sheen as Arthur the android bartender brings the comedic relief to the film.
I will admit, it’s a bit hard to talk about the big theme and decision a character makes in the film without spoiling something, but that decision is much better to see for yourself, instead of being spoiled. The decision is something that lingers throughout the film and when its bought up it really is the heart of the film. The good thing is the film doesn’t pick a side on it. It lets the characters really be weighed up it and feels like it lets you decide whether it was right.
The film does falter at times, and that’s when the film takes a plunge. The romance story almost gets too heavy handed in the sci-fi elements, but with Pratt and Lawrence leading the charge it makes it pretty okay.
All in all, Passengers has a good setup that works when it’s in full effect, but when the film slows down too much is when the film takes a dive.
3.5 out of 5
Directors: Garth Jennings and Christophe Lourdelet
Writer: Garth Jennings
Voice Cast: Mathew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Jennifer Saunders, Jennifer Hudson, Garth Jennings, Nick Kroll, Nick Offerman, Leslie Jones and Rhea Perlman.
Synopsis: A koala named Buster Moon has one final chance to restore his theater to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.
Illumination Entertainment has been pushing Sing for a while now. The film has been promoted since early this summer, non-stop. This meant that the studio had really high hopes for the film. After seeing the final product, I can somewhat see why, but Sing doesn’t do too much to separate itself from the crowded animated crowd this year.
The film follows Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), a koala bear who runs a failing theaters. Desperate to return the theater to its former glory he decides to put an open casting call for a singing competition. The casting call gets more attention than he thought after an error and the auditions bring a bevy of talent to Moon. The ones we follow are overworked housewife Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), rocker Ash (Scarlett Johansson), smooth talker Mike (Seth MacFarlane), showman Gunter (Nick Kroll) and trying to break free from his father’s life of crime Johnny (Taron Egerton).
The film has other characters like a shy elephant in Meena (Tori Kelly), who actually can sing, but is too shy in front of crowds, John C. Reilly as Buster’s best friend Eddie, Jennifer Saunders as Eddie’s rich Grandmother, and director Garth Jennings as Buster’s secretary Miss Crawly.
Like I mentioned, Sing doesn’t really do anything special to separate itself from the other animated films this year with the expectation of having songs you may recognize. The characters are great when they have their individual moments to shine, but it’s nothing we having really seen before.
All in all, Sing has its moments, but compared to the other animated films released this year, it doesn’t really come that close. Filled with some genuinely funny moments, and standout song sequences, Sing is just an okay animated film.
3 out of 5
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? December is also a tough month to set, because this is the big Oscar month, so a lot of films end up getting limited releases, expansion releases, and then wide releases. So if anything is off, it’s because of that. I’ll do my best to get everything where it’s suppose to go, and if not I’ll come back and update the schedule. So let’s jump right in the films that will close out the year.
Also, Happy Whatever-It-Is-You-Celebrate!
Limited Release: Jackie (Biography Drama – Fox Searchlight Pictures/Why Not Productions/Wild Bunch)
Following the assassination of her husband, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (played by Natalie Portman) fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children and define her husband’s historic legacy. The film has gotten a lot of love at the film festival circuit, and is getting a lot of Oscar buzz. It probably helped that this film has been in the works for a long time too. Jackie also stars Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, John Hurt, Billy Crudip, Max Casella, Richard E. Grant, and Caspar Phillipson.
Limited Release: La La Land (Drama Comedy Musical)
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone reunite for La La Land which follows a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. The film is getting a ton of great reviews from the film festival circuit so this one is one you should keep your eye out for. Also the trailer really gives off the vibe that the film will be a nice tribute to films of old. The film also stars Finn Wittrock, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend, Jason Fuchs, Hemky Madera, and J.K. Simmons.
Incarnate (Horror Thriller – Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/WWE Studios/IM Global/High Top Releasing/Deep Underground Films)
A scientist with the ability to enter the subconscious minds of the possessed must save a young boy from the grips of a demon with powers never seen before, while facing the horrors of his past. The film stars Aaron Eckhart, Carice van Houten, David Mazouz, Emjay Anthony, Matt Nable, and Catalina Sandino Moreno.
Expanded/Wide Release: Nocturnal Animals
Expanded Release: La La Land
Expanded Release: Jackie
Office Christmas Party (Comedy – Paramount Pictures/DreamWorks Pictures/Bluegrass Films)
When his uptight CEO sister (Jennifer Aniston) threatens to shut down his branch, the branch manager thrown an epic Christmas party in order to land a big client and save the day, but the party gets way out of hand. The film also stars T.J. Miller, Kate McKinnon, Jason Bateman, Rob Corddry, Olivia Munn, Jillian Bell, Jamie Chung, Abbey Lee, Randall Park, Matt Walsh and Courtney B. Vance.
Limited Release: The Founder (Biography Drama)
Michael Keaton stars in this film that tells the story of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. I don’t think I’ve ever actually thought about the story of McDonald’s and since I’ve seen the trailer, it’s peaked my interest and I’m sure to many others as well. The rest of the cast includes Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson, Linda Cardellini, Nick Offerman, B.J. Novak, and John Carroll Lynch.
Collateral Beauty (Drama – New Line Cinema/Village Roadshow Pictures/Overbrook Entertainment/Anonymous Content/Likely Star/PalmStar Media)
An advertising executive encounters three mysterious figures who encourage him to move on from the past. The film looks like it’s going to be a powerhouse with the cast, but the idea does seem odd, and one that you can probably figure out from the trailers. Hopefully the execution works. Will Smith, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Edward Norton, Naomie Harris, Michael Pena, and Helen Mirren star.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Sci-Fi Adventure –Walt Disney Pictures/Lucasfilm)
Gareth Edwards directs the first spinoff/standalone film of the new set of Star Wars films, which actually takes us back in time as it follows Rebels on a mission to steal plans for the Death Star. Listen, it’s Star Wars, people are going to go watch it. However, the film’s last two trailers were freaking awesome, of course the film however, will have some closer eyes as the “dirty” word in Hollywood has hit the film: reshoots. Nonetheless, the film looks great and more importantly it looks different. The film stars Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Jonathan Aris, and Forest Whittaker.
Sing (Animation – Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment)
A koala named Buster (Matthew McConaughey) recruits his best friend to help him drum up business for his theater by hosting a singing competition. I don’t know if I’m over talking animal animated film this year, but I’m not getting behind the Sing train. The voice cast also includes Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, John C. Reilly, Seth MacFarlane, Taron Egerton, Nick Offerman, Peter Serafinowicz, and Jennifer Saunders.
Patriots Day (Lionsgate/CBS Films/Closest to the Hole Productions)
Directed by Peter Berg, the film is an account of Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis’s (played by John Goodman) actions in the events leading up to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorists behind it. Berg has already made a splash this year with Deepwater Horizon with Mark Wahlberg, so I can only think that this will be either as good or just as good. Patriots Day also stars J.K. Simmons, Kevin Bacon, Melissa Benoist, Michelle Monaghan, Alex Wolff, and Rachel Brosnahan.
Passengers (Sci-Fi Adventure – Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Village Roadshow Pictures/LStar Capital/Original Film/Start Motion Pictures/Company Films)
A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence) are awakened 90 years early. Two of the most liked and extremely talented actors in Hollywood are getting together for a film, and one that looks not too bad, I think we looking at a big hit here, don’t you think? Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, and Andy Garcia also star.
Assassin’s Creed (Action – 20th Century Fox)
Based on the popular video game franchise, Michael Fassbender stars as Callum Lynch, who with the help of revolutionary technology that unlocks his genetic memories, experiences the adventures of his ancestor, Aguilar, in 15th Century Spain. Callum discovers he is descended from a mysterious secret society, The Assassins, and amasses incredible knowledge and skills to take on the oppressive and powerful Templar organization in the present day. Justin Kurzel, who directed the well-received and great film Macbeth, directs and reunites not only with Fassbender but Marion Cotillard as well. The film also stars Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Ariane Labed, Mathias Varela, Brian Gleeson, and Michael Kenneth Williams.
Limited Release: A Monster Calls (Fantasy Drama – Focus Features/Participant Media/River Road Entertainment/Apaches Entertainment/La Trini)
Based on a script and book by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls follows a boy as he seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom terminal illness. The film stars Liam Neeson as The Monster, Felicity Jones as the Mother, Sigourney Weaver as the Grandmother, Toby Kebbell as Dad, and Lewis MacDougall as the boy and Lily-Rose Aslandogdu as Lily. The film looks fantastic and I can’t wait to see how it does. The limited release is due to Focus Features trying to get the film an Oscar run. The film will come out early next year.
Limited Release: Silence (Drama)
Directed by Martin Scorsese and based off the novel by Shusaku Endo, the film is set in the seventeenth century, where we follow two Jesuit priests that face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and propagate Christianity. The film has been looking for a release date and what better date to come out in than in December around Oscar season right? The film stars Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Shin’ya Tsukamoto and Tadanobu Asano.
Why Him? (Comedy – 20th Century Fox/Red Hour Films/21 Laps Entertainment)
A dad (Bryan Cranston) forms a bitter rivalry with his daughter’s young rich boyfriend (James Franco). The film looks decently funny, at least we can hope, and seeing Cranston on the big screen is always nice – even if it’s a film like this. The film stars Zoey Deutch, and Megan Mullally.
Limited Release: 20th Century Women (Comedy Drama)
The story of three women who explore love and freedom in Southern California during the late 1970s. The film stars Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Alia Shawkat, Laura Wiggins, and Billy Crudup.
Limited Release: Paterson (Drama Comedy)
Set in the present in Paterson, New Jersey, this is a tale about a bus driver and poet, who also happens to be named Paterson (Adam Driver). I saw the trailer for the first time recently, and it looks like a great little indie film that will showcase Adam Driver.
Limited Release: Hidden Figures (Drama)
Based on a true story, a team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical date needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kristen Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, Glen Powell, and Kevin Costner.
Limited Release: Live By Night
Based off the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, Ben Affleck writes, directs and stars in this great looking film that is set during the Prohibition and follows Joe Coughlin, the son of a prominent Boston police captain, as he rises through the ranks of the criminal underworld and the trouble he falls into along the way. Besides the film looking great, it has a great cast in Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Sullivan, Anthony Michael Hall, Titus Welliver, Max Casella, Chris Messina, and Chris Cooper.
Fences (Drama – Paramount Pictures/Scott Rudin Productions/Bron Studios/MACRO)
Based on the play by August Wilson, and directed by Denzel Washington, Fences follows an African American father who struggles with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s and coming to terms with the events of his life. The film stars Washington, Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby and Stephen Henderson.
So, what are you looking forward to?
Director: Bryan Singer
Writers: Simon Kinberg
Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Olivia Munn, Alexandra Shipp, Ben Hardy, Lucas Till, Josh Helman, and Lana Condor
Synopsis: With the emergence of the world’s first mutant, Apocalypse, the X-Men must unite to defeat his extinction level plan.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
*Reviewer Note 2: There is a post-credits scene.*
This year has been a great year for comic book/superhero films. All of them different in their own way, and all of them will have their fans and detractors, but the mistake that everyone should avoid making is trying to compare the films in how each handled their subject matter, characters and plot. Is it completely wrong to do so? Probably not. But like I said, all the comic book/superhero films are done in their own way. Saying that, I hate that I’m making the comparison, but for the sake of making a point I guess, X-Men: Apocalypse, like Captain America: Civil War is a culmination of the last two X-Men films (First Class and Days of Future Past). What does that all mean? Well let’s find out.
The film starts with what could be called the origin of Apocalypse (Isaac), set in the Nile Valley in 3600 BCE. However, something happens that seals him inside a pyramid until, of course, 1983, when he is set free. Seeing what the world has become, he sets out to find his followers, The Horsemen. Meanwhile, Charles Xavier (McAvoy) has opened his school with Hank (Hoult) as one of the professors. He also deals with new students like Jean Grey (Turner), who is afraid of her powers, and new student Scott Summers (Sheridan), who has just discovered his powers at the expense of a bully and bathroom stall. Raven/Mystique (Lawrence) is now seen as a public figure amongst humans and mutants, thanks to the events of Days of Future Past.
Finally, Magneto has moved on with this life and has a family, but with Apocalypse now awakened and finding his new Horsemen, Magneto gets dragged back into the world he thought he left behind. What follows is this new group of X-Men trying to stop Apocalypse from building a “better” world.
Like I, begrudgingly, mentioned earlier, one of the things X-Men: Apocalypse shares with Captain America: Civil War is that it is a culmination of the films before it. A good chunk of the film is built up from the events of First Class and Days of Future Past, so Apocalypse does feel like a true sequel to both films and a film you will appreciate more if you’ve seen both films, and know you’re previous X-Men movies history. There are some nice callbacks to the previous films and several subtle nods that fans can appreciate sprinkled throughout.
The film itself is held together by the cast. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender continue to prove that they are worthy successors to Patrick Stewart’s beloved Professor X and Ian McKellan’s Magneto. Fassbender has the better arc of the two at the beginning of the film, but gets a bit lost in the shuffle by the third act. Nicholas Hoult’s Hank/Beast is more of a background character this time around and Jennifer Lawrence does the best she can with what she’s given, but does take more a leader role by the end of the film that makes sense and isn’t shoehorned in. Evan Peters’ Quicksilver has, once again, a standout sequence and his own arc, that gives him more to do this time around, but it doesn’t go anywhere – at least in this movie, maybe?
The new cast holds their own against the veteran cast, and gives us a great hope for future X-Men films with this cast – at least for me. Tye Sheridan gives off a good vibe as Cyclops, while Sophie Turner gets some of the meatier material as Jean Grey. However, one of the big highlights is Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Nightcrawler, which we are introduced to in a mutant fight club along with pre-Horseman Angel (Hardy). Lana Condor has a brief appearance as Jubliee, but doesn’t go anywhere really.
As for the rest of the Horsemen, Alexandra Shipp’s Storm is the first one introduced and the most interesting out of the three since she has her own story before she becomes a Horseman. Olivia Munn’s Psylocke is just a bit disappointing, only in that she doesn’t have too much going on before hand and it feels like she joins just for the hell of it. One of the good things is that he’s actually in the movie, and she’s one of the few that actually wears her comic book outfit.
When it comes to Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse, Isaac owns it. Obviously, when images of him came out, Ivan Ooze was getting thrown around – which I hated – but seeing the costume in action and Isaac actually playing the character is great. One of the different between Apocalypse and other villains we’ve seen in the films is that Apocalypse doesn’t see himself as a mutant. He comes from a different time and sees himself as a God. That’s why he doesn’t care about anything or anyone that stands in his way, which is what makes him, arguably, the dangerous person the X-Men have dealt with to this point. And since the film is called Apocalypse, he does cause a lot of destruction.
X-Men: Apocalypse does have some flaws. Some emotional beats could, and at one point should, have been stretched out. Like I previously stated, some characters aren’t completely developed, which is one of the missteps that every ensemble film does, so you really can’t hold that against the film. Even some return characters like Lucas Till’s Alex Summers/Havok, Rose Byrne’s Moira Mactaggert and Josh Helman’s William Stryker which have their moments but are put on the backburner to develop the newer characters. Not a knock on the film, and something that is completely understandable, but still a bummer.
I wouldn’t consider this a spoiler, but if you haven’t seen the last trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse, then maybe avoid this part. Wolverine does make an appearance in the film, and while it was awesome to watch him literally claw-up Stryker’s men. It did feel a little forced. I had no problem seeing Jackman in this especially knowing that this is one of his last performances as the character, but the scene felt like a way to lead into potentially Wolverine 3, and make us the audience know that Wolverine is a lot more dangerous, potentially, in this new timeline that was created thanks to Days of Future Past. It also adds a little more depth to the end-credits scene. Also, the scene pushes the boundary of PG-13 rating that could get fans excited for Wolverine 3, if they go the rumored R-rating.
All in all, X-Men: Apocalypse is another good edition to the X-Men franchise. It’s fun, has great humor, and entertaining. Is it the best one? Well, that’s up to you, but the cast is once again solid. There are some real highlights and standout sequences, but the film does have some missteps that don’t hurt it, but are noticeable. If you’re an X-Men fan, you’ll get a kick out of the callbacks and nods.
4 out of 5
I did this last year and I figured I should keep doing it, because, well, why not? Here I’ll take my favorite and standout individuals from directors, lead actors and actress, supporting actors and actresses and villains. We all have our favorites, and these are mine. This is of course my opinion. I tried to shorten the list as much as I could, but like last year, it was a bit too hard so I left the lists as such.
Also, villains are considered Supporting Actors in other lists and some actresses who are considered Supporting Actresses in some might pop up as Lead Actresses if they have the efficient enough screen time and or are the only real female character in the film. Also it helps make the lists shorter, I want the villains to have their own category, because everyone loves a good villain right?
Finally, everything and everyone will be in alphabetical order. This is also part one of two different lists, with the other being “Genre, Action/Fight Sequences and Special Effects”. Enjoy.
Alex Garland – Ex Machina
Alex Garland is a well-known writer in Hollywood with films like 28 Days Later, its sequel, Sunshine and wrote the fan-favorite Dredd remake. So it was nice to finally see Garland step behind the camera and direct this great sci-fi film about Artificial Intelligence. It also helped that he got great leads in Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, and a standout performance by Alicia Vikander. This film made excited to what he does next, which happens to be Annihilation.
Christopher McQuarrie – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
The Mission: Impossible films have always been a steady franchise, with the films somehow outdoing themselves and managing to still have great characters, story and action. McQuarrie adds another great addition of the franchise with some great sequences and solid performances to add to the strength of a franchise that doesn’t look to stop.
Colin Trevorrow – Jurassic World
Trevorrow did what very little people want to do in Hollywood: Do another Jurassic Park movie. However, Trevorrow did manage to create something that the other Jurassic Park sequels missed, a sense of wonderment and terror. Trevorrow is also pretty new to the scene so getting young blood to tackle an established and loved franchise was a great move by Universal Pictures and Legendary Pictures.
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
George Miller returned to the Mad Max world nearly thirty years after Beyond Thunderdome. But, Miller didn’t lose his step and created, again, a great world of crazy looking cars, weird-named characters, and awesome car/action sequences. Oh what a lovely day it was. Definitely one of, it not, the best action film of the year.
Guillermo del Toro – Crimson Peak
Guillermo del Toro has been one of my favorite directors since I first watched Hellboy (the first movie of his I saw), and since then del Toro has proven himself to everyone that he is one of the best visionary and visual directors in Hollywood. Crimson Peak does bring him back to the form of Pan’s Labyrinth and even some The Devil’s Backbone, but Crimson Peak is a whole other animal and del Toro managed to bring to life a beautiful, dark and twisted gothic love story.
James Wan – Furious 7
Wan mostly known as a horror director – with the exception Death Sentence, which had some horror elements – fills in the big shoes of director Justin Lin, who pretty much rejuvenated the franchise. Wan did a great job with the already huge established cast and characters, and managed to keep bringing the intensity and all-out mayhem that the franchise is known for. Of course, it wasn’t all easy. Wan had to deal with the tragic and unfortunate death of star Paul Walker, but made a beautiful tribute to the actor and character at the end of the film. Wan finished directing The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist and will direct Aquaman next.
J.J. Abrams – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
If there was ever any doubt that J.J. Abrams would “mess” up Star Wars. He proved everyone wrong with The Force Awakens. Abrams embraced the future of the franchise and didn’t lean too much on the past films, and was able to bring some fresh, exciting and new.
Joss Whedon – Avengers: Age of Ultron
Joss Whedon did the impressive feat in bringing one of the most popular and biggest teams in comic book history to the big screen with The Avengers. So it was only fair that Whedon came back and made the film and characters bigger than before. The movie did have a lot going on, but Whedon bought his nerdy and quick-wit to the film that all comic book and Whedon fans can enjoy. Was it the greatest film, no, but it was still great to see.
Justin Kurzel – Macbeth
Directing a Shakespearian play film adaptation is a bit hard for a few reasons. Do you go with a straightforward iteration, a “modernize” take, or a blend of both? Kurzel decides to take a straightforward approach, but make is an atmospheric, gritty and visually artistic take on Macbeth filled with great performances by Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.
Matthew Vaughn – Kingsman: The Secret Service
Matthew Vaughn pretty much made his own James Bond movie, with some injected humor and self-referencing to the genre. Vaughn really turned this graphic novel adaptation into something special and something I’m sure not many people, including myself, didn’t see coming, but welcomed it. Vaughn will direct I Am Pilgrim next.
Peyton Reed – Ant-Man
Peyton Reed had some big shoes to fill when long time writer and director of this adaptation, Edgar Wright, left the project right before the movie was about to start shooting. Many were worried about how the film would turn out and if Wright’s absents would affect the film, but we should know by now that we can always trust Marvel. Reed may have used some of the original script that was co-written by Wright, but he bought his own vision as well and managed to create not only a good comic book movie, but a great action family drama film.
Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight
As much as I don’t like how Tarantino acts about himself sometimes, I can never take, nor will take, anything away from his talent as a director. He can clearly handle himself with a big and star-studded cast, and The Hateful Eight is no different. Tarantino takes a much more condense setting and fills it with, well, hateful and untrusting characters before it all blows to hell.
Ridley Scott – The Martian
Some, okay many, would argue that Scott has been in a slump recently, and some felt that The Martian could be his way back to the director that many fell in love with. Lucky for us, the film was that indeed. Scott managed to balance the film out and bring some of the great aspects of the novel to the big screen. Let’s hope he keeps the ball rolling.
Ryan Coogler – Creed
Ryan Coogler could have really messed this up, but what Coogler did with Creed was nothing short of greatness. Creed pays a lot of respect and homage to the original but Coogler also made his own film that works as a continuation but also a standalone film.
Adam McKay – The Big Short
Danny Boyle – Steve Jobs
Denis Villeneuve – Sicario
David Robert Mitchell – It Follows
F. Gary Gray – Straight Outta Compton
Joel Edgerton – The Gift
Sebastian Schipper – Victoria
Todd Strauss-Schulson – The Final Girls
Benicio Del Toro as Alejandro – Sicario
Benicio Del Toro is one of those actors that has always given awesome and consistent performances, but also seems to be underappreciated and overlooked, which is a shame. However, Del Toro seems to be enjoying more of limelight recently with roles like The Collector in Guardians of the Galaxy, and this role in Sicario. Del Toro is absolutely great in this and honestly give one of the best performances of the year.
Colin Firth as Harry Hart/Galahad – Kingsman: The Secret Service
Let’s face it, Colin Firth is probably one of the last people you’d thought you see play an action hero. Well, surprise, because Firth totally nailed the James Bond-like action badass character and if not then you have to watch the church scene again.
Harrison Ford as Han Solo – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Harrison Ford showed up! Ford doesn’t phone it in and looked like he enjoyed himself playing one of his biggest characters. Ford didn’t lose a step playing Han Solo and seeing him around the new cast of characters was awesome to experience.
Jacob Tremblay as Jack – Room
Kid characters are always hit-and-miss. Sometimes they come off as annoying or too smart for their own good. Other times they come off as genuine and give a great performance, thankfully Jacob Tremblay as Jack in Room falls in the latter. There was something so naïve and touching about Tremblay playing a kid that essentially grew up in a room and knows nothing about the outside world. It adds even more to the performance that he holds his own and even steals scenes from his co-star Brie Larson. Take note of Jacob Tremblay’s name, because this kid has a future.
Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E – Straight Outta Compton
Jason Mitchell became a household name after his terrific performances and easily one of the best ones of the year playing famous hip hop and rap star Eazy-E in Straight Outta Compton. Mitchell really embodied Eazy-E and bought every emotion to the forefront and was able to hold his own and steal scenes from Paul Giamatti.
Johnny Depp as James ‘Whitey’ Bulger – Black Mass
I’m not the biggest fan of Johnny Depp, the crazy-wacky character actor (although I enjoyed Jack Sparrow in the early films). I like Johnny Depp, the serious character actor. Depp’s performance as famous mobster James “Whitey” Bulger was equally terrifying and fantastic to watch unfold. The film was a bit unbalanced, but Depp made the film completely worthwhile.
Kurt Russell as John Ruth & Samuel L. Jackson as Major Marquis Warren – The Hateful Eight
At this point, Samuel L. Jackson and Quentin Tarantino are a pair that could, potentially, not do any wrong. Thankfully, The Hateful Eight continues the string of great Tarantino/Jackson characters. With great, memorable and quotable lines that are said in the almost iconic way that only Samuel L. Jackson can deliver, Major Warren, was one of the best characters in the film. As for Kurt Russell, the mustache alone gets him a spot on the list, but it’s the chemistry he has with Jackson that opens up the film is what really makes John “The Hangman” Ruth really shine.
Matt Damon as Mark Watney – The Martian
Matt Damon is always reliable and his performance in The Martian was no different. His Mark Watney was equal parts funny and tragic character that gets stranded on Mars when his team thinks he’s dead. The resolve of his character is extraordinary and Damon was able to bring the character to life in such a way that only Damon could.
Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson – Creed
If Michael B. Jordan wasn’t a household name, he is now. Jordan’s portrayal of Adonis Johnson, aka the son of Apollo Creed, is one of those performances we can connect to in our own way and one that probably doesn’t seem like much at first, but eventually you’ll see the nuances in the performance after.
Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs – Steve Jobs & as Macbeth – Macbeth
Michael Fassbender tackled one of biggest individuals in history and one that changed the way the world is today. What Fassbender was able to emulate in three different times of Steve Jobs’ life was great to watch. But, if I had to pick, I think his Macbeth was his better characters of the year. He plays Macbeth as the tragic figure I’d always imagined him being and the intensity he was able to bring was so great to watch.
Shameik Moore as Malcolm – Dope
In what is easily his breakout performance, Moore is definitely someone to look out for in the future. He’s already signed on to star in the Netflix show The Get Down, and if does anything as close to what he does in Dope, then I’ll be watching.
Thomas Mann as Greg – Me and Early and the Dying Girl
Mann surprised me here. I’ve only seen him in one other thing, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, which I forgot he was in until I looked it up and remembered who he played. However, he’s come a long way from that. His character in the book adaptation of a new favorite book of mine is great. The build of his arch to the end is fantastic to watch and I can’t wait to see what he does in the future.
Tom Hardy as Ronald Kray/Reggie Kray – Legend
Not everyone can pull off playing duo roles, but Tom Hardy managed to pull it off, and not just any two people either, but real-life gangsters Ronald and Reggie Kray from London. Hardy was able to play the twins rather well and give them their own personality to the point that you knew forgot which one was which.
Steve Carell as Mark Baum – The Big Short
Steve Carell has slowly been moving to more dramatic roles it feels like, and they are great. He continues with Mark Baum in The Big Short. His character has his own special and personal arch that leads to a heartbreaking scene that is done so well.
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Guardian/Pops/T-800 – Terminator Genisys
Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle – American Sniper
Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre & O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Ice Cube – Straight Outta Compton
Daniel Craig as James Bond – Spectre
Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo & Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin – The Man from U.N.C.L.E
Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope – Southpaw
Joel Edgerton as John Connolly – Black Mass & as Gordo – The Gift
John Boyega as Finn – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Mark Ruffalo as Mike Rezendes – Spotlight
Oscar Issac as Nathan – Ex Machina
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang/Ant-Man – Ant-Man
Sharlto Copley as Chappie – Chappie
Taron Egerton as Gary ‘Eggsy’ Unwin – Kingsman: The Secret Service*
Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky – Mad Max: Fury Road
Alicia Vikander as Ava – Ex Machina
Alicia Vikander, yet again, is someone you should look out for in the future. Her performance as Ava, a robot with Artificial Intelligence, is a standout performance and not just the best female performance of the year, but one of the best performances of the year, period.
Amy Poehler as Joy (voice) & Phyllis Smith as Sadness (voice) – Inside Out
Poehler and Smith get one credit because they worked so perfectly off each other it made Inside Out work so much better. Their characters are so different and their adventure was done wonderfully that I couldn’t help but fall in love with them, especially Sadness.
Brie Larson as Ma/Joy – Room
Brie Larson has been in Hollywood for a few years, but it seems like her star has rising within the last few years with films like Short Term 12, 21 Jump Street, and Don Jon (also as Envy Adams in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), but it was Trainwreck that probably put her front and center by playing Amy Schumer’s sister in the film. However, if you haven’t seen Larson in anything I’d recommend starting with this. Larson gives a great and heartbreaking performance as Ma and while her co-star Jacob Trembley steals the film, Larson’s performance is equally as great.
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa – Mad Max: Fury Road
To say that Theron’s awesome performance in Mad Max was a standout would be an understatement. The movie may be called Mad Max, but make no mistake, Fury Road belonged to Theron’s Imperator Furiosa. She bought the right level of badass-ness, vulnerability, and leadership. I’d follow Furiosa into battle anytime.
Daisy Ridley as Rey – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I don’t know where Disney, Lucasfilm and J.J. Abrams found Daisy Ridley, but thank you. Ridley does fantastic as Rey giving us a great well-rounded female character. I can’t wait to see what Rey brings to the new trilogy and what Ridley brings next in her career.
Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue – The Hateful Eight
It’s been a while since I’ve actually seen anything Jennifer Jason Leigh has been in, and now I feel a bit ashamed, because she was great in this. While her character sometimes hides behind and could get lost in the shuffle of the other characters, anytime she stands out is great. More specifically, there is a scene in the middle of the film that involves her singing which is just mesmerizing.
Jennifer Lawrence as Joy – Joy
Jennifer Lawrence is pretty much always reliable, and she continues here with her third film with David O. Russell. Although Joy is a mixed bag, Lawrence is what holds the film together as a single mother trying to get her invention – the miracle mop – to become a huge success she knows it can be, but she’s also dealing with the craziness of her family.
Jessica Chastain as Anna Morales – A Most Violent Year
Chastain has always been great in anything she does. However, there was something about her character in this that was completely different from what I’ve seen from her. She does whatever it takes to protect her family, even if that pisses off her husband who was played by Oscar Isaac.
Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman – Steve Jobs
Kate Winslet is probably one of the best unspoken heroes of Steve Jobs. Her character could be described as nothing more but a background character that has her moments, but what Winslet does with the role makes her, arguably, the heart of the film. She’s a constant in Michael Fassbender’s Steve Jobs, and one that is always there to calm him down.
Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth – Macbeth
Lady Macbeth is not an easy character to tackle, but leave it to Marion Cotillard to put on a damn awesome performance. Cotillard played Lady Macbeth like I’ve never seen the character played before and I just can’t get over how awesome her performance was.
Melissa McCarthy as Susan Cooper – Spy
McCarthy had a bad string of movies, but thankfully Spy brings her back to the form we all knew she could be: great. Gone are the fat jokes and what have you and welcome the funny, strong and badass female character. If anyone knows how to bring the best in McCarthy its Paul Feig, so give Spy a chance, it will surprise you.
Olivia Cooke as Rachel – Me and Early and the Dying Girl
Cooke has a good run in the A&E show Bates Motel, so getting to see her in the big screen was a nice to see. Cooke may not have the strongest performance out of the women here, but there was a few standout moments that I really loved that made me put her on the list.
Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
If you’re going to break out onto the scene, what better way to do it then in a Mission: Impossible film and working off Tom Cruise? Well, Rebecca Ferguson did just that and even stole the film from Cruise at times. Ferguson has done small things here and there, but Ferguson should be a household name after this.
(Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl – Wild)
Technically, this is a 2014 movie, but I didn’t see it until the first week of January after I had done my list. But, I can’t make a list without talking about Witherspoon’s performance in Wild. This was something really different from what she’s done in the past and you could see she went all in with this. Definitely should check this out if you haven’t.
Saoirse Ronan as Eilis – Brooklyn
Saorise Ronan is always giving great performances, but I feel like she goes under the radar a lot of the time. Hopefully, Brooklyn with all its acclaim can put her even more in the forefront. Ronan’s performance in this film could be one of the best of the year and one that is very relatable, which is why I really loved the film and her performance.
Tessa Thompson as Bianca – Creed
I’ve never seen Tessa Thompson before, but what a way to make an impression. Her character of Bianca was much more than a typical girlfriend/love interest. She had her own storyline and was a nice counter-balance to Michael B. Jordan’s character.
Yo-Landi Visser as Yolandi – Chappie
Known more for being in Die Antwoord with Ninja (who also stars in Chappie), Yo-Landi Visser absolutely nails her first movie performance. I was quite surprise that she was able to perform and hold her own with Dev Patel, Sharlto Copley and Jose Pablo Cantillo. If this is her only performance, then it is a damn good one to go out on.
Amy Schumer as Amy – Trainwreck
Emily Browning as Frances Shea – Legend
Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne – Ant-Man
Lea Seydoux as Madeleine Swann – Spectre
Maika Monroe as Jay – It Follows
Margot Robbie as Jess – Focus
Sandra Bullock as Jane – Our Brand is Crisis
Taissa Farmiga as Max – The Final Girls
Ben Whishaw as Herman Melville & Brendan Gleeson as Tom Nickerson – In the Heart of the Sea
I put these two together because the film is elevated to a new level anytime they are onscreen, and it helps that they are always together in the film. Gleeson probably gets more of the credit, but no way they film or Whishaw work without Gleeson’s Tom.
Jason Statham as Rick Ford – Spy
Jason Statham is known for being the tough badass that spits out cheesy one-liners, but Spy not only plays with that notion, but shows that he can be funny as hell too. Seriously, this is probably one of the biggest surprises of the year for me.
Jeff Daniels as John Sculley – Steve Jobs
Jeff Daniels is always reliable, and his performance in Steve Jobs was a shining example of that. Daniels pops in the at the beginning and then disappears, but when he shows up in the middle of the film with his scene with Michael Fassbender, the whole film gets elevated to a new level. That scene they have is easily one of the best of the year and one of my favorites. It’s great to see Daniels getting more work and I hope it continues.
Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye & Paul Bettany as Jarvis/The Vision – Avengers: Age of Ultron
Jeremy Renner got the short end of the stick in the first Avengers movie, but you learn from your mistakes and Joss Whedon along with Marvel gave us a better version of Clint Barton/Hawkeye. The character is given a better arc this time around and, dare I say, some of the best lines in the movie. I hope they keep that up and can’t wait to see what they do.
Speaking of great lines and can’t wait to see what they do with the character is Paul Bettany. Finally – at least physically – Bettany joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe as fan-favorite character, The Vision. Bettany has been in the MCU since day one as the voice of Jarvis, but now he’ll have to do much more and Bettany is the perfect choice to do it.
Kurt Russell as Mr. Nobody – Furious 7
Although he didn’t have a huge role in Furious 7, there was something about Kurt Russell’s mysterious government agent, Mr. Nobody that stuck out. He brought his charm to it and it was nice to see Russell have some fun again on the big screen. We can look forward to Russell coming back in Furious 8 – at least we can assume that he will.
Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel – Bridge of Spies
Mark Rylance is one of the actors that has been in Hollywood for a while, but I’ve never heard of him before. But of the things I’ve seen of him recently, he’s been great. It’s also not easy for someone to steal the spotlight from Tom Hanks, but Ryalnce did that in Bridge of Spies, in fact the film worked better with the two of them working off each other. Also, what Rylance was able to do with that cold opening was tremendous.
Mark Strong as Merlin – Kingsman: The Secret Service
I’ve been a huge fan of Mark Strong for years and I pretty much love anything he does. Kingsman is no different. The mentor/teacher role of Merlin was yet another fantastic role that shows off Strong’s comedic/sarcastic chops, but also – in particular one scene – dramatic chops.
Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym & Michael Pena as Luis – Ant-Man
I don’t think any of us ever thought we’d see Michael Douglas in a Marvel film, let alone an Ant-Man movie. But, here we are and what a role and performance he gave.
Like I said about Benicio Del Toro, Michael Pena is one of those actors that is always great in everything he does, but it feels like it wasn’t until recently that his star is more on the rise and people are finally starting to see that he has tremendous talent. Pena as Luis in Ant-Man was hilarious and had me cracking up every time he was onscreen, to the point that I wish they bring him back for the sequels.
Paul Giamatti as Jerry Heller & R. Marcos Taylor as Suge Knight – Straight Outta Compton
I’ll put these two together only because they are two different sides of the same spectrum. Heller was greedy, manipulative, and saw an opportunity to take advantage of N.W.A. Suge Knight on the other hand used intimidation and brute force to get what he wanted. Giamatti is great in anything he does really and his portrayal of Heller was nothing short of great and even heartbreaking. Taylor’s Knight was damn scary and worked for the scenes he was involved in.
Richard Kind as Bing Bong (voice) – Inside Out
Never have I felt so connected to a character that I was okay with tearing up in a theater and not caring. Bing Bong was definitely the standout in Inside Out and Richard Kind was the perfect person to give the character life.
Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Simon Pegg has been a nice addition to the Mission: Impossible series since he was first introduced in part three. Pegg’s Benji has been a great comic relief, but has been showing real signs between the last two films that he can play the badass spy too.
Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa – Creed
Sylvester Stallone has never been better. Seriously, Stallone shows up and gives us one of the best supporting roles the year and potentially his career. Stallone’s Rocky Balboa this time around is much more real and we get a much bigger sense of how he’s become this we last saw the character. His chemistry with Michael B. Jordan is tremendous and one of the only reasons the film works.
Ryan Gosling as Jared Vennett – The Big Short
Ryan Gosling is pretty much always reliable and it’s not different here. Gosling is always pretty damn funny in this too. Anytime he’s on screen it’s hilarious and when he’s missing you sense it.
Walton Goggins as Sheriff Chris Mannix – The Hateful Eight
Walton Goggins is always a great supporting actor and this is no different. It feels like Goggins can play anything any director throws at him. Goggins always bring a certain charisma, swagger and charm and his Chris Mannix is pretty much the perfect role for Goggins.
BD Wong as Liyuan – Focus
Billy Bob Thornton as Pat Candy – Our Brand is Crisis
Chris Hemsworth as Stone Crandall – Vacation
Jon Bernthal as Mr. McCarthy – Me and Early and the Dying Girl
Justice Smith as Radar and Austin Abrams as Ben – Paper Towns
LeBron James as LeBron James – Trainwreck
Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld – Steve Jobs
Paddy Considine as Banquo – Macbeth
Peter Serafinowicz as Aldo – Spy
Pierce Brosnan as Hammond – No Escape
Stanley Tucci as Mitchell Garabedian & Brian d’Arcy James as Matt Carroll – Spotlight
Sean Harris as Macduff – Macbeth
Brie Larson as Kim – Trainwreck
Brie Larson didn’t have a lot of screen time in Trainwreck, but the time she did she left her impact. One particular scene was one that involved her Colin Quinn, playing her father, and Amy Schumer playing her sister. It was a rather powerful and short scene that really showed the kind of character Larson was playing and one that I wished was pushed out more in the film.
Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch – Avengers: Age of Ultron
Elizabeth Olsen is a fantastic actress that probably doesn’t get as much credit as she should. So I was pretty happy that she would get extreme exposure in not just a Marvel movie, but playing one of the most powerful comic book characters ever, and a fan favorite at that in Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch. The accent wasn’t perfect, but she still bought the feel of the character to life.
Jessica Chastain as Lucille Sharpe – Crimson Peak
All hail Jessica Chastain! Seriously, Chastain is one of the best actresses working on Hollywood today, and her performance in Crimson Peak was one of the best roles I’ve seen this year. What Chastain was able to do in being so cold and in limited dialogue was a sight to see. Jessica Chastain has always been one of my favorites, and with Lucille Sharpe under her belt now, I’m a fan for life.
Julie Walters as Mrs. Kehoe – Brooklyn
I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as hard as I did in a drama than with Julie Walter’s Mrs. Kehoe character. Her character didn’t hold back and she’s really the only character that stays the same from beginning to end.
Malin Akerman as Nancy/Amanda – The Final Girls
Malin Akerman is one of those actresses that I think no one really takes seriously, but every once in a while she’ll do something that really does show her talent, and The Final Girls was one of those roles. Her duel role as Nancy the mother and Amanda the movie character was equally funny, tragic and great to see unfold on screen. The Final Girls could have been an even more cheesier meta horror-comedy, but it came out being a more heartwarming story than I thought.
Miranda Hart as Nancy – Spy
Miranda Hart is a British comedian that I believe got first time exposure thanks to Spy (if I’m wrong about that forgive me), but what a way to get it. Playing Melissa McCarthy’s friend, Hart was hilarious is this and got some big laughs.
Oona Laurence as Leila Hope – Southpaw
What’s in the water this year, man? Child actors made their statement this year and Oona Laurence was one of those with her short, but sweet and powerful performance as Jake Gyllenhaal’s Billy Hope’s daughter. There was something about her performance that really hit me that stood out more than the other child actors this year.
Raffey Cassidy as Athena – Tomorrowland
Raffey Cassidy is new to the scene, and make no mistake, she was a scene stealer in movie that stars A-lister George Clooney and another up-and-comer, Britt Robertson. However, it was Cassidy that shined and was the breakout star of the film, maybe even the year. This young lady has a huge career ahead of her.
Abby Ryder Fortson as Cassie – Ant-Man
Allison Janney as Elaine Crocker – Spy
Angela Trimbur as Tina – The Final Girls
Lupita Nynog’o as Maz Kanata – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Joan Allen as Nancy/Grandma – Room
Katherine Waterston as Shasta Fay Hepworth – Inherent Vice & as Chrisann Brennan – Steve Jobs
Krista Stadler as Omi – Krampus
(Laura Dern as Bobbi – Wild)
Common as Andrew Price – Run All Night
As much I liked Ed Harris’ villain character, it was Common who took the real villain spotlight. Common has a great presence onscreen in any role he takes, but his hitman character in Run All Night, was one of the best characters I’ve seen him play.
Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx – Spectre
Dave Bautista may be known for his work in the WWE, but has been able to break out of that mold by showing the man can act! And what better way to breakout even more onto the scene and with different crowd than by playing a James Bond villain. The role seemed to be tailor-made for Bautista and that train fight sequence was worth a place on the list.
Hugh Jackman as Vincent Moore – Chappie
It’s not every day that we see Hugh Jackman play a villain, but when we do it is a sight to see. Not only does Jackman use his natural accent, he sports a sweet looking mullet while trying to take down the lovable robot Chappie.
Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw – Furious 7
Jason Statham has played a bad guy before, but this villain is pretty different from the others. One, he’s driven (pun intended) by a different desire and is willing to do anything to do his worst. Second, he’s damn good at being bad.
Krampus and his Creatures – Krampus
One of the things that makes Krampus and his creatures memorable is that they are done practically, and not done the easy way with CGI. Although, one of them and Krampus for one particular scene is done with CGI, it doesn’t really hurt the creatures and Krampus’ look. I love that director Michael Dougherty went with practical effects instead of the easy route of CGI.
Samuel L. Jackson as Valentine & Sofia Boutella as Gazelle – Kingsman: The Secret Service
Although Boutella’s Gazelle is the standout between the two villains, the two worked great as a pair. At the same time, Jackson isn’t playing his typical type of villain. Jackson gives Valentine a bit of a lisp and cockiness to offset Gazelle’s tough, killer instinct, and cool swords for legs.
Walton Goggins as Laugher – American Ultra
Walton Goggins is one of my favorite underrated actors working today. Any time he pops in a movie I’m drawn more to his character and what’s going on. While his character doesn’t get a ton of screen time until the last act of the movie, it was still memorable enough for me to put him on the list.
Adam Driver as Kylo Ren – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Christoph Waltz as Oberhauser/Blofield – Spectre
Ed Harris as Shawn Maguire – Run All Night
Hugh Keays-Byrne as Immortan Joe – Mad Max: Fury Road
Jack Black as (voice) Slappy – Goosebumps
James Spader as Ultron – Avengers: Age of Ultron
Rose Byrne as Rayna Boyanov – Spy
Sean Harris as Solomon Lane – Mission: Impossible – Rouge Nation
Director: Justin Kurzel
Writers: Jacob Koskoff, Michael Lesslie, and Todd Louiso
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Paddy Considine, Sean Harris, Jack Reynor, David Hayman, James Harkness, Ross Anderson, and David Thewlis.
Synopsis: Macbeth, a Thane 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, Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
Based on the William Shakespeare play of the same name, Macbeth may be one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, because I love the complicated characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. It also lends itself to be interpreted in many different ways – like all Shakespeare’s plays – Hollywood has made many different versions of the character from Orson Wells directing and starring as the character himself, Roman Polanski’s take starring Jon Finch, and even a modern-day gangland iteration from Australia which starred Sam Worthington. However, director Justin Kurzel and the cast take a more visually impactful, grim, gritty and artistic film that would probably make Shakespeare himself proud (too much?).
Michael Fassbender plays Macbeth, the Thane of Scotland, who at the beginning of the film leads King Duncan’s (Thewlis) army to victory in a bloody battle that gets him a better place amongst Duncan’s court. After the battle however, Macbeth along with his friend and battle partner Banquo (Considine) encounter four witches – three adults and one child – that tell him Macbeth he will one day become King of Scotland. Macbeth curious of their prophecy goes back home and tells his wife Lady Macbeth, played by Marion Cotillard, of what he was told and she convinces him to fulfill his destiny and kill the king himself, rather than wait to let the crown be passed on to Duncan’s heir, Malcolm (Reynor).
If you know the play – or watch the trailers – Macbeth eventually convinces himself, of course with much convincing from his wife, and kills Duncan in his sleep. Macbeth becomes king, takes the throne and slowly grows paranoid of everyone around him, including his own friend Banquo and Macduff (Harris). What follows is his and Lady Macbeth’s own descent to madness and paranoia that lead them deeper into darkness with no way of coming back.
I’ll be honest, it’s hard to review a film based on a play that maybe most of us, if not all of us, read in high school or maybe even college. But, like I mentioned, the play happens to be one of my favorites and when I found out that this was being done with Fassbender and Cotillard, I got really giddy and excited. Thankfully, the movie didn’t disappoint. Sure they changed some things around, like the fact that there are four witches instead of three, even though the youngest witch which happens to be a child never speaks, or even that some events are tweaked, omitted or even added, but truth be told, the changes they made really make the film work.
I’d dare say that of all the Macbeth films I’ve seen this is the most moody and grimiest take I’ve seen. That could be thanks to cinematographer Adam Arkapaw who does a fantastic job of making every scene feel different from the next and giving the film it real dark, gritty and down to the bone artistic type of the film that sometimes make you wonder if what you are seeing is all in Macbeth’s head or if it’s really there. Hell, some of the scenes and shots look like a moving painting and are stylized in such a way that brings you into the gloomy atmosphere of the film. One of the big highlights is the last act of the film that involves the “Birnam forest” and the final battle which has a fantastic atmosphere that I loved being a part of. Add that with the amazing production design and wardrobe, Macbeth is probably one of the best looking films of the year. It truly is probably the best looking Shakespeare adaptation ever made.
But, when it comes down to it, Macbeth works because of two people: Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. Taking on these two characters isn’t the easiest task – especially in the Shakespearian verse – but both Fassbender and Cotillard are and were highly capable to bringing these two twisted and complex characters to life in their own way. Fassbender’s portrayal slowly unravels as the film goes on. You can see him become paranoid of everyone around him and the grand diner scene is something that was truly great to witness. Even the famous “O, full of scorpions is my mind” speech is something that Kurzel and Fassbender bring to life so well that Macbeth is literally saying the lines as he’s clenching his teeth and is about to crack.
When it comes to Cotillard, some of her scenes are just amazing to sit through. For most her scenes, including the “to bed” scene, Kurzel simply just lets the camera linger and slowly move in on Cotillard as she delivers her lines. Her take on the character, for me, proves that Lady Macbeth is much more of a tragic character than Macbeth himself. She can see that monster that she created and the monster than she allowed herself to be. She wanted the power and pushed and manipulated her husband to kill the king so they can take it all, but the cost is something she didn’t think of. Dare I say, Cotillard steals the film from Fassbender, which is not an easy task nowadays.
The supporting cast aren’t too bad themselves, but with Fassbender and Cotillard having most of the screen time it’s reasonable why they’d be overlooked. Sean Harris, who plays Macduff, plays Macduff as a more silent type at first, but when pushed to his own breaking point he becomes a mad and rage-filled man himself. Paddy Considine is almost unrecognizable as Banquo and delivers a great, short and sweet performance. The same can be said for Elizabeth Debicki, who plays, Lady Macduff. She only in about three scenes total, but one of those scenes completely delivers and changes everything for one of the characters.
All in all, Macbeth is a great atmospheric, gloomy, artistic iteration and approach to the famous characters. Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard bring their A-game with director Justin Kurzel to deliver a great film that like all Shakespeare material will probably have to be watched multiple times absorb everything.
5 out of 5
Director: Danny Boyle
Writer: Aaron Sorkin
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston, Sarah Snook, John Ortiz, Ripley Sobo, Makenzie Moss, and Perla Haney-Jardine
Synopsis: Set backstage at three iconic product launches and ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac, Steven Jobs takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
Former Apple CEO and, arguably, the face of the company, Steve Jobs is a polarizing figure. Whether you believe the stories or not, or you like him or not, Jobs has done wonders in the industry of technology. There has also been two films on Jobs’ life, but this one takes a different approach to the other films and is based on the biography novel by Walter Isaacson titled “Steve Jobs.” Director Danny Boyle brings some interesting ideas and filmmaking to Steve Jobs, and while some will find it repetitive, the film is filled with great performances all around.
Steve Jobs is broken down into three different parts. Each part takes place during the launch of three different products that Steve Jobs (Fassbender) was a part: 1984 with the launch of Macintosh computer, 1988’s NeXT, and finally 1998’s iMac. Each where filmed differently, the first on 16mm, the second in 35mm, and the last part is filmed digitally. Does that matter? Probably not, but I’m just saying since it is noticeably, well, for me anyway. Also, it was a nice move by Boyle to do that since it also shows the advancements in technology in our own right.
Anyway, Steve Jobs starts in 1984 before the launch of the Macintosh computer. The film wastes no time getting into the thick of everything. The film is about two hours long, and every segment, for the lack of a better word, is roughly thirty minutes or more. And they are very heavy handed. The film is very Aaron Sorkin as the dialogue is very brisk, breathless, and witty. At the beginning of the film we get a good feel to how Jobs would be portrayed as Jobs is ticked off at Andy Hertzfeld (Stuhlbarg) that the Macintosh isn’t saying “hello.” We are not just introduced to Hertzfeld, but to pretty the whole cast in Jobs’ marketing expert and right-hand woman Joanna Hoffman (Winslet), Jobs’ oldest friend and engineer Steve Wozinak (Rogen), Andrea “Andy” Cunningham (Snook), reporter Joel Pforzheimer (Ortiz), and former President of Apple and father figure-like John Sculley (Daniels).
The film doesn’t really show any of the actual launch presentations, as it decides to focus on the craziness going on before. Jobs even says at one point “it seems like five minutes before every launch, everyone gets drunk and decides to air their grievances,” which is true. The biggest dramatic moments happen right before Jobs is getting ready to go out on stage. The first is one is the heavily featured story with his daughter Lisa played by Makenzie Moss, or as Jobs proclaims multiple times during that part is not his daughter, and the mother of his daughter Chrisann (Waterston). The second is Jobs moving on from Apple with the NeXT and “clearing the air” with Hertzfeld, Wozinak, and Sculley, but it’s Sculley that takes the biggest chuck and is, for me, the best part and most dramatic part of the film. Jeff Daniels’ performance as Sculley, especially in this scene that also involves flashbacks, is just phenomenal. The back-and-forth between Daniels and Michael Fassbender is amazing to watch and it did, honestly, leave me breathless and as soon as the scene was over I took a deep breath and thought “wow.” The final big dramatic scenes are between Jobs and Wozinak going at it again and having an argument they had at the beginning of the film, and between Jobs, Joanna, and his teen daughter Lisa (Haney-Jardine).
I’m going to be honest, this one is hard for me to review. One, because the scenes have so much in them, although it’s never overbearing and handled in a good way, and two, some of the actions, especially, Jobs’ actions are subjective and should be seen for yourself. This is where many will be split on the film. Do they believe that Jobs was mean to everyone around him and was a pain in the ass to work with or was he truly a genius that no one saw? The film also struggles with answering this question. Jobs is both a pain in the ass to almost everyone around him, but has moments of true genuine compassion toward his daughter sometimes – albeit sometimes reluctant – and has moments of great charisma. However, do his good moments outweigh his negative moments? That’s up to you to decide. And remember, this isn’t a documentary and things are probably and obviously dramatize.
Even if you don’t like Steve Jobs, let’s just say the character for the sake of argument, the cast and performances make this film all the worthwhile. Fassbender is great as Jobs and brings everything he can possibly bring to the role. But, despite the other great performances by the rest of the cast, Steve Jobs is Fassbender’s show. I already mentioned Daniels is great, and the rest of the cast have their fair share of highlights. Kate Winslet is nearly unrecognizable with her black-haired wig and small accent. Seth Rogen proves he can do a scene without cracking a joke and come off as a great actor, although he doesn’t get a ton of screen time, but just enough for us to get a good feel for him. Katherine Waterston holds her own with Fassbender especially when they are shouting at each other. Michael Stuhlbarg surprised me with this turn of Hertzfeld, he takes most of the word beatings from Jobs and keeps going. The three actresses that play Lisa over the years are pretty great too, although there was something about the older Lisa that didn’t quite click with me. Sarah Snook and John Ortiz are kind of left out of everything, but when they appear it is rather welcoming.
All in all, Steve Jobs will definitely be one of those films that will have you talking. Whether you like Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle’s vision of Steve Jobs or not, you can’t say that Jobs didn’t know what he was doing and rolled with the punches. The cast give amazing performances all around, but Michael Fassbender is the star of the show and his Steve Jobs is equal parts tragic figure, hardheaded, standoffish, charismatic, and visionary.
4.5 out of 5