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

I did this last year and I figured I should keep doing it, because, well, why not? Here I’ll take my favorite and standout individuals from directors, lead actors and actress, supporting actors and actresses and villains. We all have our favorites, and these are mine. This is of course my opinion. I tried to shorten the list as much as I could, but like last year, it was a bit too hard so I left the lists as such.

Also, villains are considered Supporting Actors in other lists and some actresses who are considered Supporting Actresses in some might pop up as Lead Actresses if they have the efficient enough screen time and or are the only real female character in the film. Also it helps make the lists shorter, I want the villains to have their own category, because everyone loves a good villain right?

Finally, everything and everyone will be in alphabetical order. This is also part one of two different lists, with the other being “Genre, Action/Fight Sequences and Special Effects”. Enjoy.

 

Directors

Alex Garland – Ex Machina

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

 

Christopher McQuarrie – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

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

 

Colin Trevorrow – Jurassic World

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

 

George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road

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

 

Guillermo del Toro – Crimson Peak

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

 

James Wan – Furious 7

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

 

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

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

 

Joss Whedon – Avengers: Age of Ultron

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

 

Justin Kurzel – Macbeth

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

 

Matthew Vaughn – Kingsman: The Secret Service

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

 

Peyton Reed – Ant-Man

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

 

Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight

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

 

Ridley Scott – The Martian

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

 

Ryan Coogler – Creed

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

 

Honorable Mentions

Adam McKay – The Big Short

Danny Boyle – Steve Jobs

Denis Villeneuve – Sicario

David Robert Mitchell – It Follows

F. Gary Gray – Straight Outta Compton

Joel Edgerton – The Gift

Sebastian Schipper – Victoria

Todd Strauss-Schulson – The Final Girls

 

 

Actors

Benicio Del Toro as Alejandro – Sicario

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Jacob Tremblay as Jack – Room

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

 

Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E – Straight Outta Compton

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

 

Johnny Depp as James ‘Whitey’ Bulger – Black Mass

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

 

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

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

 

Matt Damon as Mark Watney – The Martian

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

 

Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson – Creed

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

 

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

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

 

Shameik Moore as Malcolm – Dope

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

 

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

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

 

Tom Hardy as Ronald Kray/Reggie Kray – Legend

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

 

Steve Carell as Mark Baum – The Big Short

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

 

Honorable Mentions

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

Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle – American Sniper

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

Daniel Craig as James Bond – Spectre

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

Jake Gyllenhaal as Billy Hope – Southpaw

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

John Boyega as Finn – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Mark Ruffalo as Mike Rezendes – Spotlight

Oscar Issac as Nathan – Ex Machina

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

Sharlto Copley as Chappie – Chappie

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

Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky – Mad Max: Fury Road

 

 

Actress

Alicia Vikander as Ava – Ex Machina

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

 

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

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

 

Brie Larson as Ma/Joy – Room

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

 

Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa – Mad Max: Fury Road

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

 

Daisy Ridley as Rey – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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

 

Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue – The Hateful Eight

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

 

Jennifer Lawrence as Joy – Joy

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

 

Jessica Chastain as Anna Morales – A Most Violent Year

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

 

Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman – Steve Jobs

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

 

Marion Cotillard as Lady Macbeth – Macbeth

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

 

Melissa McCarthy as Susan Cooper – Spy

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

(Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl – Wild)

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

 

Saoirse Ronan as Eilis – Brooklyn

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

 

Tessa Thompson as Bianca – Creed

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

 

Yo-Landi Visser as Yolandi – Chappie

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

 

Honorable Mentions

Amy Schumer as Amy – Trainwreck

Emily Browning as Frances Shea – Legend

Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne – Ant-Man

Lea Seydoux as Madeleine Swann – Spectre

Maika Monroe as Jay – It Follows

Margot Robbie as Jess – Focus

Sandra Bullock as Jane – Our Brand is Crisis

Taissa Farmiga as Max – The Final Girls

 

 

Supporting Actor

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

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

 

Jason Statham as Rick Ford – Spy

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

 

Jeff Daniels as John Sculley – Steve Jobs

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

 

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

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

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

 

Kurt Russell as Mr. Nobody – Furious 7

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

 

Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel – Bridge of Spies

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

 

Mark Strong as Merlin – Kingsman: The Secret Service

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Richard Kind as Bing Bong (voice) – Inside Out

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

 

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

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

 

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa – Creed

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

 

Ryan Gosling as Jared Vennett – The Big Short

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

 

Walton Goggins as Sheriff Chris Mannix – The Hateful Eight

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

 

Honorable Mentions

BD Wong as Liyuan – Focus

Billy Bob Thornton as Pat Candy – Our Brand is Crisis

Chris Hemsworth as Stone Crandall – Vacation

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

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

LeBron James as LeBron James – Trainwreck

Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld – Steve Jobs

Paddy Considine as Banquo – Macbeth

Peter Serafinowicz as Aldo – Spy

Pierce Brosnan as Hammond – No Escape

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

Sean Harris as Macduff – Macbeth

 

 

Supporting Actress

Brie Larson as Kim – Trainwreck

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

 

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

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

 

Jessica Chastain as Lucille Sharpe – Crimson Peak

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

 

Julie Walters as Mrs. Kehoe – Brooklyn

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

 

Malin Akerman as Nancy/Amanda – The Final Girls

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

 

Miranda Hart as Nancy – Spy

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

 

Oona Laurence as Leila Hope – Southpaw

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

 

Raffey Cassidy as Athena – Tomorrowland

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

 

Honorable Mentions

Abby Ryder Fortson as Cassie – Ant-Man

Allison Janney as Elaine Crocker – Spy

Angela Trimbur as Tina – The Final Girls

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

Joan Allen as Nancy/Grandma – Room

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

Krista Stadler as Omi – Krampus

(Laura Dern as Bobbi – Wild)

 

 

Villain

Common as Andrew Price – Run All Night

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

 

Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx – Spectre

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

 

Hugh Jackman as Vincent Moore – Chappie

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

 

Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw – Furious 7

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

 

Krampus and his Creatures – Krampus

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

 

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

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

 

Walton Goggins as Laugher – American Ultra

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

 

Honorable Mentions

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

Christoph Waltz as Oberhauser/Blofield – Spectre

Ed Harris as Shawn Maguire – Run All Night

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

Jack Black as (voice) Slappy – Goosebumps

James Spader as Ultron – Avengers: Age of Ultron

Rose Byrne as Rayna Boyanov – Spy

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

‘Straight Outta Compton’ Review

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Dir: F. Gary Gray

Writer(s): Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff

Cast: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Neil Brown Jr., Aldis Hodge, R. Marcos Taylor, Marlon Yates Jr. and Paul Giamatti

Synopsis: The group NWA emerges from the streets of Compton, California in the mid-1980s and revolutionizes Hip Hop culture with their music and tales about life in the hood.

 

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

 

N.W.A aka Niggaz Wit Attitudes was one of – if not the – most known group and popular rap groups in the late 80s and early 90s. The success you could argue was because of the time and place they formed and got popular, but it doesn’t take away anything they have done or their talent. However, Straight Outta Compton feels like a mix of gritty drama, road movie, and behind-the-music. Moreover, the film touches on the racial tensions back then, but you can’t help but feel the connection to the present with all the racial tensions today as well. But of course the question is, is Straight Outta Compton any good? Or is it a water down biopic on a highly successful and beloved group? It’s a mix of both.

 

I’ll be honest; I’m not the biggest N.W.A fan out there. I do like a few of their songs and knew some of the history coming in to the movie, so for the most part I can in as a clean sponge ready to soak in everything about the group that I didn’t know and how they formed. Of course, you should know that the film does take some liberties with the history of the group. For one, some things don’t line up in history timeline, but that could be because the film was originally three and a half hours and it was cut down an hour for the theater cut. The other is some events in the groups history were completely taken out and not even mentioned, but I’ll leave that for you to find out what. Straight Outta Compton isn’t a complete biopic, but it is a good one that focuses on the group’s three major players: Eric “Eazy-E” Wright (Jason Mitchell), O’Shea “Ice Cube” Jackson (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), and Andre “Dr. Dre” Young (Corey Hawkins).

 

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Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, and O’Shea Jackson Jr.

 

The film starts off showing us the lives of the three live before they became the notorious group. Eazy-E is selling drugs, Dr. Dre wants a better life for himself and is confident about his abilities, and Ice Cube is writing lyrics and also wants a better life. Enter in Antoine “DJ Yella” Carraby (Neil Brown Jr.), Lorenzo “MC Ren” Patterson (Aldis Hodge), and The D.O.C (Marlon Yates Jr.) and the group hit it off and make a hit song. Soon they get the attention of manager Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti), who gets more exposure for the group and eventually makes them one of the biggest groups on the planet.

 

Once the group starts touring and becoming more and more popular, the group starts becoming a little splintered, due to contracts. It’s Ice Cube that sees Eazy-E and Jerry are getting the better end of the deal than him and goes off to do his own thing, while Dr. Dre realizes’ it and goes off to produce his own music with Suge Knight (R. Marcos Taylor) to start their own company in Death Row Records. Eventually, everything starts to fall apart and everyone starts to look back at what was and could have been.

 

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Like I mentioned earlier, Straight Outta Compton drives more its focus on the group as people and where they came from to what happened after the success. Of course, not everything in the group history is in the movie, but the performances and tense drama is enough to overlook all that – at least when you’re watching the film – but even some stuff in the film seems biased only because you know they are not going to put everything into the film.

 

The performances are really what make the film pop and worthwhile. Jason Mitchell’s Eazy-E is both tragic and charismatic and is one of the most defined characters in the film. Corey Hawkins’ Dr. Dre is probably the second most defined as we see his struggle with leaving the group and dealing with Suge Knight’s antics at Death Row Records. Finally, O’Shea Jackson Jr. gets to play his own father and it really is like seeing a spitting image of him. Jackson Jr. actually holds his own in his own scenes to the point you can tell he actually put in work and wasn’t just given the role because he looks the most like his father. Finally, there is Paul Giamatti’s Jerry Heller. Giamatti is as reliable as always and his best scenes are arguably with Mitchell’s Eazy-E, especially one of these last scenes together.

 

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The rest of the cast is really just along for the ride, Brown Jr.’s DJ Yella and Hodge’s MC Ren are really just background characters that get only a few moments to shine or do a little more, but get lost in the shuffle. Marlon Yates Jr.’s The D.O.C doesn’t even get a lot of screen time or lines for the matter, he’s easily the most forgettable character of the group until he’s mentioned in one particular scene. R. Marcos Taylor’s portray of Suge Knight hits a little more closer to home considering what is currently going on with him, but believing all the stories is a lot more easier once you see what happens in the film.

 

Director F. Gary Gray put a lot of thought into how the group finally comes together and the performances. Each one has its own vibe to it and nothing ever repeats itself. The big one is of course the famous concert in Detroit. I won’t go too much into it, but it is definitely one of the highlights of the film. Even the way the group supposedly got the inspiration for one of their hit songs, “Fuck Tha Police” was extremely well put together and had every bit of drama and tension that made that scene powerful in every way.

 

If there is one thing I didn’t like about the film, it would be the length. I’m not one to complain or even bring up the length of a film, only because it feels nit-picky. However, Straight Outta Compton could have taken out some scenes to cut the runtime and it wouldn’t have hurt the film in any way. I do get why the scenes were in there, but some of the previous scenes did the job well enough. However, knowing that the film Gray wanted to put out was originally three and a half hours long, and then had to cut down an hour, it makes sense some scenes feel a bit out of place. Moreover, there are “cameos” by artists by Snoop Dogg (Keith Stanfield) and Tupac (Marcc Rose) that feel forced and out of place, but again, knowing that the cut was originally longer, I guess it makes more sense.

 

All in all, Straight Outta Compton is a great film. The movie is surprisingly more dramatic and tense than you would think, but it’s the performances by the three main leads in O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, and Jason Mitchell that makes the film worthwhile. Paul Giamatti is also a major player in the supporting cast role. The film does lose a lot of steam toward the end of the film, but gains it back a bit before the credits role. The film may not have the group entire history, and could be a bit biased, but there is no question to say the film isn’t good.

 

Straight Outta Compton

4 out of 5

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‘San Andreas’ Review

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Dir: Brad Peyton

Writer(s): Carlton Cuse (Story by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore)

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Alexandra Daddario, Carla Gugino, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson Kylie Minogue, Colton Haynes, Will Yun Lee and Paul Giamatti

Synopsis: In the aftermath of a massive earthquake in California, a rescue-chopper pilot makes a dangerous journey across the state in order to rescue his daughter.

 

 

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

 

 

There is something about disaster movies that we all love. Maybe because disaster movies are almost, and arguably, the ultimate form of escapism we have in movies today. Add in one of the biggest names in Hollywood in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and you are bound to have a damn fine entertaining movie. San Andreas is that movie, of course not without its faults and its unfortunate timing, after the earthquake in Nepal. Thankfully, the studio and crew made sure the movie’s promotional material have links to places where you can help with any natural disaster.

 

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson plays Ray Gaines, a L.A.F.D Search and Rescue pilot who has a great reputation of saves. Even though he’s great at his job, he is currently on the brink of divorce with his Emma (Gugino) after an accident that caused them to break away from each other. Ray however is also ready to go on a trip with his daughter, Blake (Daddario) before a massive earthquake hits and has to go on duty. Blake then heads to San Francisco with her Emma’s new boyfriend Daniel Riddick (Gruffudd), a big time architect. There she meets Ben (Johnstone-Burt) and his little brother Ollie (Parkinson) when another earthquake hits the city. Meanwhile, a Cal Tech seismologist Lawrence (Giamatti), and his team find out what is causing the earthquakes – and even when they can possibly hit – and tries to warn everyone on what is coming.

 

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San Andreas is arguably the most summer popcorn movie you can have. It’s one of those movies where you can just sit down, watch, and not have a care in the world. Does it stand against other big disasters films like The Day After Tomorrow, Volcano, or 2012? Not entirely, but it does have some great moments that will make you invest in the characters and what’s going on. Finally, will it make you an earthquake expert survivor in case the San Andreas Fault actually happens to go off? Sort of.

 

Surprisingly, the best parts of the movie are not the full on destruction of California. In fact the best parts of the movie are the cast members, all lead by Johnson. Johnson doesn’t have to rely on his action chops so much, but more on his dramatic chops which he handles perfectly here. Johnson isn’t a large than life character – of course he is actually larger than life – he is just an ordinary guy. Next to Johnson, Daddario is the next best thing as his resourceful daughter that plays both the role of an strong female character helping Ben and Ollie through the city to get to higher ground so her father can come them, and a bit of a damsel-in-distress with having to really be saved by her father.

 

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Hugo Johnstone-Burt and Art Parkinson brotherly duo work just fine as they have to trek through the city with Daddario’s Blake. Unfortunately there is a forced romance between Ben and Blake, which doesn’t necessarily hurt the movie and it’s in our faces, but it is there. Carla Gugino has her moments to shine, and Ioan Gruffudd’s role could have easily been played by someone else and it wouldn’t have matter that much.

 

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The biggest underused character and actor is Paul Giamatti’s Lawrence. He is basically there to tell us, the audience, what exactly is going on. It doesn’t mean he’s not great in the role, he does the best he can with what he is given. I think what makes it a bit underwhelming is that he has no contact or shares any scenes with Johnson or the rest of the cast. The only connection to Johnson’s character – if you want to call it that – is the reporter, played by Archie Panjabi, who we see in the beginning of the movie with Ray and his team when they rescue a girl from an accident. She also happens to be there with Lawrence and his team as they try to find out what is happening. At the same time however, all of Giamatti’s scenes with his team slow the movie down a bit as they explain how plate tectonics work and what could possibly happen. Only reason I bring it up is because the science in the movie isn’t all that real, just a bit.

 

The science isn’t the only thing wrong with the movie. Some of the CGI during the mayhem has some cool looking moments, but other times it looks a bit cheesy and too cartoony. It doesn’t take you out of the movie completely, but knowing that they actually can’t destroy a city to get what they want, it’s bearable. But, what I believe is a missed opportunity or just a mistake on writer Carlton Cuse’s part, is not having Ray’s team throughout the movie. The team members are played by Colton Haynes, Todd Williams and Matt Gerald. With the expectation of Williams, they only have one scene together. The scene even makes it seem like they are going to be together and go save Blake together, but we never see or hear about them again. It’s a bit of shame, but this leads to the other part of the movie that, apparently, has made a lot of people question Ray’s character. He leaves his duty to go save his family.

 

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Yes, people are questioning Ray’s character because once everything starts to go to hell, he decides to stop where he was going to help others and just help his family. I get why people would be upset about that and see why, but I guess they forgot the part of the movie where he does actually save others people’s lives from getting crushed to death near the end of the movie. Again, I can see that, and to be honest I didn’t even notice that until I read people were pointing it out. Is it “selfish?” I guess, but if you were in the same position, wouldn’t you do probably the same thing?

 

All in all, San Andreas has some great moments in the disaster movie sense and if that doesn’t do it for you (why are you really watching the movie?) it’s bearable to watch because of Johnson and Daddario’s performances. It really is one of those movies you can just sit back and enjoy what’s going on. It isn’t with its faults (pun intended), but it is enjoyable.

 

San Andreas

3 out of 5

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‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ Review

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Dir: Marc Webb

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Colm Feore, Sally Field, Felicity Jones, Paul Giamatti and Chris Cooper

Synopsis: Peter Parker runs the gauntlet as the mysterious company Oscorp sends up a slew of supervillains against him, impacting on his life.

 

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review. Although one plot point from the first film (the fate of a character) will be mentioned at the beginning.*

 

*Reviewer Note #2: There is no end credits scene. However, there is a mid-credits scene that has nothing to do with The Amazing Spider-Man 2. The scene is a short and fast-forwarded scene from X-Men: Days of Future Past. And no, there is no plan to put Spider-Man and the X-Men together. The scene is a deal between Sony and Fox.

 

This is because the director Marc Webb has a contract with Fox to make another film for them after the first Amazing Spider-Man movie, but instead of doing so, he signed to do TASM2. This was allowed by Fox, IF Sony would agree to promote their next X-Men movie, for free. So there you go.*

 

 

Marc Webb’s rebooted Spider-Man was a mixed bag. There was a lot to like – Garfield’s take on Spider-Man, for one – but also plenty of things that were unsure and to be skeptical about. The sequel will likely make people feel the same way. There’s great action and performances, but there’s also an obvious feeling to expand the Spider-Man universe that derails the film at points.

 

The movie starts off in an interesting way. It shows us the accident that befalls on Peter’s parents, with Campbell Scott’s Richard Parker being the focal point. It also shows us how far Oscorp will go to keep their secrets as well. Fast forward and we see Peter (Garfield) still haunted by the death of Gwen’s father and the promise he failed to keep (to protect his daughter by leaving her alone). In some ways he’s moved on, graduating high school, enjoying his relationship with Gwen (Stone) and embracing the role of being New York’s protector.

 

There’s a lot going on in Amazing Spider-Man 2, and sadly it doesn’t always come together. There are four arcs going on and all of them come and go which make the movie feel unorganized. There is Peter and Gwen’s strained relationship, Peter still trying to figure our the secret behind his parents leaving him and dying, Harry Osborn (DeHaan) coming back to see his dying father (Chris Cooper), finding out a family secret and restarting his friendship with Peter, who haven’t seen each other since they were kids. Finally, Max Dillon becoming Electro and wanting all the power in New York.

 

Like, I said, a lot going on. But even with a running time of 142 minutes it’s strange that some small stuff –that is mention– is left our. Peter might be in college even though we never see him in class. He’s starting to submit pictures to the Daily Bugle, but he never steps through the doors of that publication. There are even mentions of Jameson. It might be nit-picky but it is one of the problems of the movie. I know they are setting up for future sequels and spin-offs, but it would have been nice to see just little bits of this. Also, something I won’t spoil but there is a moment near the end that is utterly jarring that I can’t even imagine why they made that decision.

 

Webb has no problem tapping into the superhero’s humor and warmth.  But, when you strip away all of the problems, you have the Spider-Man we want to see.  He’s the people’s hero, and he relishes being the good guy.  Spider-Man is incredibly funny, although sometimes the reliance on humor has weird and maybe bad timing. One of them is his banter with Aleksei Sytsevich (Giamatti) rather than just stopping him he play around with him. But this is at least forgivable because the scene is kind of funny and there is some sense of excitement to the scene.
 

Speaking of Giamatti, his Aleskei character is a bit too hammy for the movie. His Russian mobster character isn’t really nothing more than a glorified cameo and leaves little to be desired, which is a same since Giamatti is such a great actor.

 

The film’s main villain is Max Dillon (Foxx) who later becomes Electro. Max is a lonely, nerdy and completely unappreciated Oscorp engineer who wants to be noticed. He then becomes a Spidey fanatic after being rescued by him early in the movie. The movie does try to make feel sympathy for Max, and a part of us does. However, his arc isn’t that interesting either. Foxx’ performance is a bit to cheesy, even for the movie. And I know some people are comparing him to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin. I think that’s a bit much but I guess I can’t blame people for thinking that.

 

Although the promotional materials have shown Electro to be the main villain, he’s never established as that. His motivations seem sound at first. He wants to be noticed and when idol Spider-Man comes in to save the day, he feels betrayed. Although his fight with Spider-Man in Time Square (I’ll get to that in a bit) is a great action sequence that’s as far as the character will go. Later on he just becomes Harry’s lackey. Also, adding to the cheesiness of the character, during the Times Square scene, dubstep plays and at first it sounds like it’s voices in his head but you find out it’s a song, which would have been better if they went with the voices.

 

DeHaan is creepy yet appealing as Harry Osborn. The friendship between Peter and Harry feels pushed but when the two are together they do feel like old friends. The arc with Harry is interesting and different from Raimi version but I don’t see why they didn’t decide to just make Harry the villain. DeHaan’s scene with Chris Cooper who plays Norman is eerie, emotional and cold and it’s a shame that they didn’t share more scenes together. Harry’s Green Goblin – which they never call him, in case you’re wondering – is (again) different from Raimi’s and it will most likely divide the fans. I didn’t mind this version but it did feel a bit rushed, and knowing that Sony is trying to expand the universe, including the Sinister Six spinoff, it does kind of die down the excitement of seeing him.

 

Leads Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone continue to be the highlight of the rebooted universe. Their chemistry is fantastic and probably the saving grace for the movie that is already crowded. If people weren’t convinced that Garfield is a good Peter Parker/Spider-Man they hopefully will with this outing. Stone does have more to do this time around and even gets in on some of the action which is nice to see.

 

As for the action, the standout sequence does have to be Times Square scene. Despite the Electro dustep soundtrack, it showcases Spider-Man’s set of powers and his spider-sense, which I don’t recall being in the first movie. The final fight is okay, it does show Electro’s powers but it comes a little too late in the movie to care.

 

All in all, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a bit too crowded for its own good. Garfield and Stone are the best things about the movie, which is weird thing to say considering we are watching a Spider-Man movie. The movie is horrible and thankfully it doesn’t feel like another Spider-Man 3. But it is kind of a let down considering that all the movie is a set up for future movies.

 

 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

3.5 out of 5