Favorites of 2019: Directors, Actors, Actresses, Supporting Roles & Villains

The end of the year doesn’t just mean putting out your best/favorite movies of year. It can be a time to also 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. Also, if someone is missing, it could be because I didn’t see them (aka missed the movie), or they just missed the list/had to be cut out. This is also part one of two different lists. Enjoy.

 

Directors

Anthony and Joe Russo – Avengers: Endgame

Ari Aster – Midsommar

Bong Joon-Ho – Parasite

Jordan Peele – Us

Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett – Ready or Not

Rian Johnson – Knives Out

 

Honorable Mentions

Craig Brewer – Dolemite Is My Name

Greta Gerwig – Little Women

Olivia Wilde – Booksmart

Martin Scorsese – The Irishman

Melina Matsoukas – Queen & Slim

Quentin Tarantino – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Robert Eggers – The Lighthouse

Taika Waititi – Jojo Rabbit

 

Other Notable Directors

David F. Sandberg – Shazam!

Clint Eastwood – Richard Jewell

James Mangold – Ford v Ferrari

Lulu Wang – The Farewell

Marielle Heller – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Mike Flanagan – Doctor Sleep

Robert Rodriguez – Alita: Battle Angel

Rob Letterman – Pokemon Detective Pikachu

 

 

Actors

Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc – Knives Out

Dwayne Johnson as Hobbs & Jason Statham as Shaw – Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

Eddie Murphy as Rudy – Dolemite Is My Name

James Badge Dale as Gannon – The Standoff at Sparrow Creek

Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck – Joker

Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Paul Walter Hauser as Richard Jewell – Richard Jewell

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man – Avengers: Endgame

 

Honorable Mentions

Christian Bale as Ken Miles – Ford v Ferrari

Daniel Kaluuya as Slim – Queen & Slim

Himesh Patel as Jack Malik – Yesterday

Robert De Niro as Frank Sheeran – The Irishman

Roman Griffin Davis as Jojo – Jojo Rabbit

Willem Dafoe as Thomas Wake – The Lighthouse

Zack Gottsagen as Zak – The Peanut Butter Falcon

 

Other Notable Actors

Brad Pitt as Roy McBride – Ad Astra

Jack Lowden as Zak Knight – Fighting with My Family

Jack Reynor as Christian – Midsommar

Mena Massoud as Aladdin – Aladdin

Pierfrancesco Favino as Tommaso Buscetta – The Traitor

Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man – Spider-Man: Far from Home

Vivelk Kaira as Javed – Blinded by the Light

Winston Duke as Gabe Wilson – Us

 

 

Actress

Awkwafina as Billi – The Farewell

Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly – Bombshell

Emma Thompson as Katherine Newbury – Late Night

Florence Pugh as Dani – Midsommar

Jodie Turner-Smith as Queen – Queen & Slim

Kaitlyn Dever as Amy & Beanie Feldstein as Molly – Booksmart

Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide Wilson/Red – Us

Naomi Scott as Jasmine – Aladdin

Samara Weaving as Grace – Ready or Not

Saoirse Ronan as Jo March – Little Women

 

Honorable Mentions

Ana de Armas as Marta Cabrera – Knives Out

Charlize Theron as Charlotte Field – Long Shot

Elle Fanning as Violet – Teen Spirit

Florence Pugh as Saraya Knight/Paige – Fighting with My Family

Jessica Rothe as Tree – Happy Death Day 2U

Julianne Moore as Gloria – Gloria Bell

Mackenzie Davis as Grace – Terminator: Dark Fate

Rosa Salazar as Alita – Alita: Battle Angel

Thomasin McKenzie as Elsa – Jojo Rabbit

 

Other Notable Actress

Cate Blanchett as Bernadette Fox – Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Jillian Bell as Brittany – Brittany Runs a Marathon

Joanna Kulig as Zula – Cold War

Kyleigh Curran as Abra Stone – Doctor Sleep

Mckenna Grace as Judy Warren & Madison Iseman as Mary Ellen – Annabelle Comes Home

Sarah Paulson as Dr. Ellie Staple – Glass

Sophia Lillis as Nancy Drew – Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase

Vanessa Kirby as Hattie – Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

Zoe Margaret Colletti as Stella Nicholls – Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

 

 

Supporting Actor

Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Chris Evans as Ransom Drysdale – Knives Out

Jack Dylan Grazer as Freddy Freeman – Shazam!

James McAvoy as The Horde – Glass

James Ransone as Eddie Kaspbrak & Bill Hader as Richie Tozier – It Chapter Two

Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

 

Honorable Mentions

Alessandro Nivola as Sensei – The Art of Self Defense

Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa – The Irishman

Bokeem Woodbine as Uncle Earl – Queen & Slim

Chris Hemsworth as Thor – Avengers: Endgame

Happy Anderson as Morris – The Standoff at Sparrow Creek

Nick Nolte as Clay Banning – Angel Has Fallen

Navid Mohammadzadeh as Naser Khakzad – Just 6.5

Sam Rockwell as Captain Klenzendorf – Jojo Rabbit

Taika Waititi as Adolf – Jojo Rabbit

Will Smith as Genie/Mariner – Aladdin

 

Other Notable Supporting Actors

Adam Brody as Daniel – Ready or Not

Dean Chaumoo as Bedders & Angus Imrie as Young Merlin – The Kid Who Would Be King

Ken Watanabe as Dr. Ishiro Serizawa – Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Kulvinder Ghir as Malik – Blinded by the Light

Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino – The Irishman

Phi Vu as Ryan – Happy Death Day 2U

Raymond Cruz as Rafael Olvera – The Curse of La Llorona

Wesley Snipes as D’Urville Martin – Dolemite Is My Name

 

 

Supporting Actress

Billie Lourd as Gigi – Booksmart

Florence Pugh as Amy March – Little Women

Julia Butters as Trudi – Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood

Shuzhen Zhao as Nai Nai – The Farewell

Zoey Deutch as Madison – Zombieland: Double Tap

 

Honorable Mentions

Elisabeth Moss as Claire Walsh – The Kitchen

Faithe Herman as Darla Dudley – Shazam!

Kathy Bates as Bobi Jewell – Richard Jewell

Katie Sarife as Daniela – Annabelle Comes Home

Scarlett Johansson as Rosie – Jojo Rabbit

 

Other Notable Supporting Actresses

Eliza Scanlen as Beth March – Little Women

Helen Mirren as Queenie – Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

Nasim Pedrad as Dalia – Aladdin

Margot Robbie as Kayla Pospisil – Bombshell

Melanie Scrofano as Emilie – Ready or Not

 

 

Villains

Baba Yaga – Hellboy

Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise – It Chapter Two

Henry Czerny as Tony & Nicky Guadagni as Aunt Helene – Ready or Not

Jake Gyllenhaal as Quentin Beck/Mysterio – Spider-Man: Far from Home

Lupita Nyong’o as Red – Us

Rebecca Ferguson as Rose the Hat – Doctor Sleep

 

Honorable Mentions

Asia Kate Dillon as The Adjudicator – John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Gabriel Luna as Rev-9 – Terminator: Dark Fate

Jackson A. Dunn as Brandon Breyer – Brightburn

Octavia Spencer as Sue Ann – Ma

Marisol Ramirez as La Llorona – The Curse of La Llorona

Mark Dacascos as Zero – John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

The Seven Deadly Sins – Shazam!

 

Other Notable Villains

Alligators – Crawl

Idris Elba as Brixton – Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

King Ghidorah – Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Josh Brolin as Thanos – Avengers: Endgame

 

Be on the lookout for Part II coming.

‘Alita: Battle Angel’ Review

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Writers: James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis

Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Keean Johnson, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali

Synopsis: A deactivated female cyborg is revived, but cannot remember anything of her past life and goes on a quest to find out who she is.

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

 

Based on the anime and manga series created by Yukito Kishiro, Alita: Battle Angel has been a passion project for James Cameron for decades now, but put if off for Titanic, and because he didn’t think the visual effects were up for the vision he had. Then Avatar happened and Cameron’s focus went to developing those films that he passed along the directorial duties to his friend Robert Rodriguez, who was also a fan of the series. Now, we get the vision that Cameron probably intended with bombastic visual effects, some pretty solid set pieces and a pretty descent cast.

Set 300 years after The Fall, Alita: Battle Angel follows a resurrected abandoned cyborg named Alita (Rosa Salazar), by Doctor Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz). When she awakes, she has no recollection of her former life, despite not being hardwired like a normal cyborg that Ido usually deals with. Alita now has to learn how things work in Iron City, while also dealing with Vector (Mahershala Ali) – the man who runs Iron City from above – a group of bounty hunters called Hunter Warriors, taking an interest to Hugo (Keean Johnson), a local in Iron City, and Iron City’s favorite sport – Motorball.

One of the best aspects going for Alita: Battle Angel is the amazing special effects that Cameron and the special effects department were able to pull off. On top of that, the 3D makes everything pretty immersive from Iron City, to the city of Zalem in the sky and Motorball (although, we can probably safely assume that most of that was CG). Plus, when it comes to Alita herself, she was motion-captured by Salazar herself, with some new motion-capture Cameron is going to use in the Avatar sequels. While most big budget movie – this being Robert Rodriguez’s most expensive movie to date –  have great ambition like Alita: Battle Angel, the adaptation actually works for what it’s trying to accomplish.

Which, of course, is an accomplishment in itself since most – if not all – anime adaptations lose a lot of what made the anime so beloved. I haven’t watched original anime, nor read the manga, but from what I was able to read it seems like Alita: Battle Angel is a pretty faithful adaptation, which should make fans happy. But, you don’t need to watch the anime to really enjoy the movie, because overall, Alita: Battle Angel is a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining film.

The cast is also pretty solid considering how bombastic the movie is, with almost the whole movie being put on Rosa Salazar’s shoulders. Thankfully, Salazar is able to carry it as she brings the right amount of naivety, wonderment and badassery the role requires. Christoph Waltz plays the father-figure role well, but I wish he was in it just a tad bit more, while Alita’s other man in her life is Keean Johnson’s Hugo, who is just a bit wooden at times, and even though his character gets an interesting storyline in the movie, his development is just a tad lackluster. The villains are very mixed with Mahershala Ali’s Vector not getting enough screen time to be a real threat, Ed Skrein plays a Hunter Warrior named Zapan who is just the right amount of smug and Jackie Earle Haley plays the dangerous Grewishka, who Alita goes head-to-head a couple of times. I would mention Jennifer Connelly’s Chiren, but she doesn’t have enough screen time to really make an impact. The movie is also filled with some cameos that could surprise people, especially one that I was shocked, like many, that they were able to keep secret.

The movie does have some minor problems, like some pacing issues here and there, but weirdly – and surprisingly – with the two hour runtime the movie moves are a pretty brisk pace. The overall story misses some beats, and one thing most viewers might not like is the ending. Admittedly, I found out it’s essentially how the anime ends too, but seeing how Hollywood is a different beast, and seeing how they set up it, it should be interesting to see how things work out.

All in all, Alita: Battle Angel has some minor flaws, but overall is thoroughly entertaining and ton of fun to watch. Rosa Salazar holds the movie up on her shoulders, and no the big CGI eyes will not bother you, plus, it actually helps with the character’s situation. Hopefully, Alita: Battle Angel starts a resurgence of good anime adaptations, no matter the result at the box office.

Alita: Battle Angel

4 out of 5

Mini-Reviews: CHIPS, The Belko Experiment & Life

Hey everybody!

Welcome to another edition of Mini-Reviews. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

*As always, these will be spoiler free reviews*

 

CHIPS

Director: Dax Shepard

Writer: Dax Shepard

Cast: Dax Shepard, Michael Pena, Vincent D’Onofrio, Rosa Salazar, Jessica McNamee, Kristen Bell, Adam Brody, Richard T. Jones, Jane Kaczmarek, Isiah Whitlock Jr. Justin Chatwin and Maya Rudolph

Synopsis: A rookie officer is teamed with a hardened pro at the California Highway Patrol, though the newbie soon learns his partner is really an undercover Fed investigating a heist that may involve some crooked cops.

 

Loosely based off the popular show from the late 70s, CHIPS ups the ante on the comedy and raunchiness. Basically taking the Jump Street-like tone and making it fit its overtly over-the-top comedy and a very thin plot. Needless to say, this isn’t your parents’ CHiPs.

The film follows Jon Baker (Dax Shepard), reimagined as an ex-motocross rider who is down on his luck, addicted to pain medication from his injuries and trying to repair his broken marriage with his wife (played by Shepard’s real-life wife Kristen Bell) becomes a California Highway Patrol officer. He is then partnered up with undercover FBI agent Castillo (Michael Pena), renamed Francis Llewellyn Poncherello or “Ponch” who goes undercover when a heist involving potential corrupt cops is pulled off. The two have to find a way to work together as the threat becomes more real for the both of them.

As you can see Shepard not only starred in the film, he also wrote and directed the film. I’ve personally never seen a Shepard-directed film, so this was my first exposure to him as both. The humor is a bit over the top, but exactly what you’d expect in a raunchy R-rated comedy. Some of it works, some of it doesn’t so the humor will be something that you are either on board with or not, and if you’re not then you’re in for a long ride.

However, one of the biggest highlights – and probably the main one – is the chemistry between Shepard and Michael Pena. The two start off bickering at each other non-stop but eventually, of course, find a mutual respect. Although, I’ll admit Shepard’s Baker came off as annoying at the first, while Pena is impatience came out as dick-ish. The rest of the cast don’t really standout too much, but do they best they can do with the material their given.

Vincent D’Onofrio plays the villain, but other than one scene with Pena and Shepard, he’s really just there. Rosa Salazar plays a cop that may or may not be into Shepard’s Baker, Adam Brody plays Ponch/Castillo’s FBI partner who hates him – for a comedic/reasonable reason – while Isiah Whitlock Jr. plays the head of the FBI division Castillo/Ponch belongs to and constantly is yelling at him. Finally, Kirsten Bell doesn’t do too much to make an impact.

All in all, CHIPS is definitely not for everyone. Its best scenes are way too far apart and its humor is all over the place and sometimes outright offensive. While I wasn’t overly impressed, CHIPS is a passable enough comedy that you won’t hate yourself for watching. Maybe.

CHIPS

3 out of 5

 

 

The Belko Experiment

Director: Greg McLean

Writer: James Gunn

Cast: John Gallagher Jr., Adria Arjona, Tony Goldwyn, John C. McGinley, Melonie Diaz, Brent Sexton, Owain Yeoman, James Earl, Rusty Schwimmer, Sean Gunn, David Dastmalchian, Michael Rooker and Gregg Henry

Synopsis: In a twisted social experiment, 80 Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogota, Columbia and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company’s intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed.

 

The Belko Experiment is, you can say, loosely based on the cult classic Battle Royale where it forces innocent people by mysterious forces to kill each other. The difference in this film is it takes it to an office space in a foreign country, and has a script by James Gunn. So, of course the question becomes does it do anything to keep itself separated from the herd? Somewhat.

The film follows employees of Belko Industries in Bogota, Columbia who are literally locked and sealed in their complex and told through the intercom that they need to kill their follow employees and friends or they will be killed themselves. To prove their point, they have installed “trackers” into their heads when they took the job which ends up actually being explosives. Of course, at first they think it’s a prank, but eventually they find out its real – and they need to kill 30 people or the voice will kill 60 at random.

As you see the set-up is rather simple, and the film doesn’t really waste too much time setting everything up, along with some of the characters. Our main leads are Mike (John Gallagher Jr.) and his girlfriend Leandra (Adria Arjona) who are still in the early stages of their relationship. We then have Tony Goldwyn as the COO in that branch, Barry Norris, who eventually becomes our “villain,” and I put villain in quotes, because obviously good and evil are blurred in these kind of situations and that something that Barry comes to terms with, but Mike struggles with even though he’s pushed by Leandra to come to a decision.

The rest of the cast is fine, but they only have small moments and it’s easy to sometimes remember who’s alive and not. John C. McGinley is easily the second villain in the film, and one that you see coming from the beginning, Sean Gunn has a small but somewhat funny comic relief role, Melonie Diaz plays new worker at Belko, Dany Wilkins, who feels like she could play a big role, but doesn’t really. Finally David Dastmalchian and Michael Rooker play technicians who try to find a way out their own way.

A movie like this will always make us, the viewer, decide what we’d do in a situation like this. The film also doesn’t hold back on the violence, because besides the explosives going off that literally blow the back of someone’s head, once the free-for-all starts, it doesn’t let up. It’s a dark, brutal and grizzly outlook of everything. So if gore isn’t your thing, you should probably pass on this.

All in all, The Belko Experiment isn’t anything new to this particular sub-genre. While the cast does fine with what they’re given, we already know that most of these characters are going to die, so we probably hold off on making a strong connection to any of them, which is in some ways a negative aspect for the film. However, if you want to watch a bloodbath in an office, then this is your film.

The Belko Experiment

3 out of 5

 

 

Life

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Writers: Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Hiroyuki Sanada, Olga Dihovichnaya, Ariyon Bakare and Ryan Reynolds

Synopsis: A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth.

 

One of the things I dislike about sci-fi space films with something mysterious onboard a spaceship is that it immediately gets compares to Alien. Which I guess is fair, but also not for whatever the film is because you have that thought in your mind and will not judge whatever film that is fairly. So the moment the first trailer for Life came out, everyone said it was Alien ripoff, or if you wanted to believe the crazy fan theory, a secret Venom prequel (it isn’t by the way). While Life is a genre changer, it is a pretty great tension filled thriller that keeps you engaged from start to finish.

The film follows the astronauts on the International Space Station that have discovered organic life from a sample recovered from Mars. The crew includes a CDC representative Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), doctor and long time inhabitant of the ISS David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal), engineer Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds), scientist Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare), pilot Sho Murakami (Hiroyuki Sanada) and captain Ekaterina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya). Once they get the organism and study it, they discover that its, as Hugh puts it, “all muscle, all brain” they end up nicknaming Calvin, based off a contest on Earth. Of course, Calvin breaks frees and starts causing chaos on the ship.

Life immediately makes it known how tense this movie will be putting us inside the ship as the crew attempt to grab a probe that has Calvin in it. It never really lets up until right before the last attempt to kill Calvin where characters talk about why they came to space. It’s a good scene, but it takes some of the (no pun intended) air out of the film.

But, what makes Life great is the cast. You can clearly see they all had a great time working together, as they all have great chemistry together and their characters are fleshed out enough to make us care of them once Calvin starts moving around the ISS. Speaking of Calvin, the design of Calvin is pretty interesting and one that I would love to see more of. However, when it comes to his – its? – movement it is pretty scary to imagine that thing coming at you, especially considering how smart it really is.

All in all, Life isn’t a game changer to the subgenre, but it is a tension filled ride from start to finish that has a great cast and a formidable and scary villain.

Life

4 out of 5

March Movie Release

Hello there!

Can you believe it’s March already? Anyway, besides it being my birth month(!) there are some great films coming out in March that we can look forward to. Also, a large amount of limited releases to some big films, so let’s start shall we?

 

3rd

Limited Release: Table 19

Ex-maid of honor Eloise (Anna Kendrick) – having been relieved of her duties after being unceremoniously dumped by the best man via text – decides to attend the wedding anyway only to find herself seated with 5 “random” guests at the dreaded Table 19. The rest of the cast includes Wyatt Russell, Amanda Crew, Craig Robinson, Tony Revolori, Stephen Merchant and Lisa Kudrow.

 

Limited Release: Headshot

Iko Uwais returns to his ass-kicking ways in this new action drama that sees him play a man who washes ashore with no memories after a serious head injury. As he tries to move on with the help of the doctor that helped (Chelsea Islan), his past comes back to haunt him and he must not only regain his memories, but fight back. I got the chance to see this last year at the Chicago International Film Festival, and while the film has some tonal shift problems, no one is watching this for the drama parts, they are watching for the highly entertaining and kick-ass fight scenes. Also the film has a little The Raid 2 reunion as Julie Estelle and Very Tri Yulisman appear. Also in the film is Sunny Pang.

 

The Shack (Drama – Lionsgate, Summit Entertainment, Netter Productions)

Based on the novel by William Paul Young, the film follows a grieving man (Sam Worthington) who receives a mysterious, personal invitation to meet with God at a place called “the Shack.” The film continues the trend of religious films getting a limelight, and with a cast like this and a powerful trailer, I don’t see this film falling on the wayside. The film also stars Radha Mitchell, Tim McGraw, Ryan Robbins and Octavia Spencer.

 

Before I Fall (Mystery Drama – Open Road Films, Awesomeness Films, Jon Shestack Productions)

Based on the novel by Lauren Oliver, February 12th is just another day in Sam’s (Zoey Deutch) charmed life until it turns out to be her last. Stuck reliving her last day over one inexplicable week, Sam untangles the mystery around her death and discovers everything she’s in danger of losing. The Groundhog Day with teenagers mystery angle may be enough to get some people in theaters, but I don’t think I’m sold on it. The film also stars Halston Sage, Diego Boneta, Elena Kampouris, Alyssa Lynch, Logan Miller and Jennifer Beals.

 

Logan (Action Adventure – 20th Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment, TSG Entertainment, Donners’ Company)

In the near future, a weary Wolverine (Hugh Jackman’s last performance) cares for an ailing Professor X (potentially Patrick Stewart’s last performance) in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant in Laura Kinney aka X-23 (Dafne Keen) arrives, being pursued by dark forces. The film has done nothing but impress fans and media outlets – who saw over 40-plus minutes of the film – so now that we get to see the whole film, I can’t wait to see how they close out this big run for Jackman. Logan also stars Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant, Stephen Merchant, Doris Morgado, and Elizabeth Rodriguez.

 

 

10th

Limited Release: Raw (Horror)

When a young vegetarian undergoes a carnivorous hazing ritual at vet school, an unbidden taste for meat begins to grow in her. The French film has been making waves at film festivals and those lucky enough to see it, and based off the trailers, I can see why.

 

Kong: Skull Island (Action Adventure – Warner Bros., Legendary Pictures)

King Kong is back! The film follows a team going to uncharted territory, mainly, Skull Island where they encounter a myth – and king of the island: King Kong. The film looks absolutely great, and I can’t wait to see how they handle this new King Kong. Kong: Skull Island has an impressive cast of Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, Toby Kebbell, Corey Hawkins, Thomas Mann, Jason Mitchell, Tian Jing, John C. Reilly, Shea Whigham, John Ortiz, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Goodman.

 

17th

U.S. Release: T2: Trainspotting

Danny Boyle gets the band back together for the sequel to the cult following film Trainspotting. The film see the crew come back for some more misadventures.

 

The Belko Experiment (Action Thriller – High Top Releasing, BH Tilt, Orion Pictures, MGM, The Safran Company)

Written by James Gunn, in a twisted social experiment, a group of 80 Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogata, Colombia and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company’s intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed. The film looks absolutely crazy, and with the Battle Royal and Office Space comparisons floating around, it sounds like we’re in for a fun ride. Josh Brener, Michael Rooker, Tony Goldwyn, John Gallagher Jr., Sean Gunn, John C. McGinley, and David Dastmalchian also star.

 

Beauty and the Beast (Musical Fantasy – Walt Disney Pictures, Mandeville Films)

An adaptation of the classic fairy-tale about a Belle (Emma Watson) who falls in love with a cursed and monstrous prince (Dan Stevens). This film has some major shoes to fill. Major. The animated to a lot of people, including myself, is a classic so hopefully it’s at least half-way descent. The film also stars Luke Evans, Ewan McGregor, Josh Gad, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Sline, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson.

 

 

24th

Limited Release: Wilson (Comedy Drama)

Based on a the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, who also scripts the film, a lonely, neurotic and hilariously honest middle-aged man reunites with his estranged wife and meets his teenage daughter for the first film. The film stars Woody Harrelson, Judy Greer, Cheryl Hines, Laura Dern and Margo Martindale.

 

Life (Sci-Fi Thriller – Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures, Skydance Media)

An international space crew discovers life on Mars. However, on their way back home the crew is put in danger from said lifeform. It should be interesting to see the film handles the material, but with a cast like this, I can’t imagine this being bad. At least one can hope. Life stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, Rebecca Ferguson, and Hiroyuki Sanada.

 

CHiPs (Action Comedy – Warner Bros., Primate Pictures)

Directed and written by Dax Shepard, the adventures of two California Highway Patrol motorcycle officers, Jon Baker (Shepard) and Frank ‘Ponch’ Poncherllo (Michael Pena), as they make their rounds on the freeways of Los Angeles. There are already people saying this isn’t the CHiPs they grew up with, but the trailer makes the film look like a lot of fun to be honest. I wasn’t looking really forward to it, and I’m still not completely sold, but at least I’m looking forward to seeing what it could lead to. The film also stars Rosa Salazar, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Bell, Adam Brody, Ryan Hansen, Jessica McNamee, Justin Chatwin and Vincent D’Onofrio.

 

Power Rangers (Action Sci-Fi Fantasy – Lionsgate, Saban Entertainment)

Based on the popular 90s show, a group of high-school kids are chosen to protect the world from an ancient evil with their new found super abilities. Look let’s face it, this has the chance of being cheesy as hell, but that’s kind of the point of Power Rangers, so that complaint won’t work. And honestly, the trailers so far have been pretty great – says the childhood fan in me. The film stars Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Ludi Lin, Dacre Montgomery, singer Becky G., and Elizabeth Banks as Rita Repulsa.

 

31st

The Boss Baby (Animation – 20th Century Fox, DreamWorks Animation)

Based on the book by Maria Frazee, a suit-wearing, briefcase-carrying baby pairs up with his seven-year old brother to stop the dastardly plot of the CEO of Puppy Co. I’m not too excited about the film, it hasn’t really grabbed me, although I’m sure there will be an audience. The voice cast includes Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin and ViviAnna Yee.

 

Step Sisters (Comedy – Broad Green Pictures, Los Angeles Media Fund)

An African American sorority girl resorts to desperate measures to get into a top law school. The film stars Megalyn Echikunwoke, Eden Sher, Alessandra Torresani, Gage Golightly, and Matt McGorry.

 

The Zookeeper’s Wife (Biography Drama – Focus Features, LD Entertainment, Scion Films)

Based on the book by Diane Ackerman, the film tells the account of keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, Jan (Johan Heldenbergh) and Antonina Zabinski (Jessica Chastain), who helped save hundreds of people and animals during the Nazi invasion. The trailer looks powerful, but I hesitate only because it looks like the trailer gave a bit too much away. The film also stars Daniel Bruhl, Michael McElhatton, Anna Rust, and Iddo Goldberg.

 

Ghost in the Shell (Action Crime – Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks SKG)

Based off the popular anime film, a cyborg policewoman (Scarlett Johansson) attempts to bring down a nefarious computer hacker (Michael Pitt). The trailers have set a pretty good sense of the tone, and since I have no real connection to the anime, I think it looks pretty good. The film also stars Pilou Asbeek, Michael Wincott, and Takeshi Kitano.

 

What are you looking forward to?

‘Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails’ Review

maze_runner_the_scorch_trials_ver2

Director: Wes Ball

Writer(s): T.S. Nowlin

Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Dexter Darden, Alexander Flores, Jacob Lofland, Rosa Salazar, Giancarlo Esposito, Aidan Gillen, Barry Pepper, Alan Tudyk, Katherine McNamara, Nathalie Emmanuel, Lili Taylor, and Patricia Clarkson

Synopsis: After having escaped the Maze, the Gladers now face a new set of challenges on the open roads of a desolate landscape filled with unimaginable obstacles.

 

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

 

I have to admit, when I went to go watch The Maze Runner, I wasn’t expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable it was and how much I liked it. So when the sequel was coming out, I was looking forward to watching it. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails keeps up the action set-pieces, but takes a tumble that it takes a while to come back from. Besides that, it should go without saying, but Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails doesn’t play pick-up, so you should brush up on your history or remind yourself what happened in the last one before watching this.

 

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails starts off pretty much where The Maze Runner left off. The Gladers, Thomas (O’Brien), Minho (Hong Lee), Newt (Brodie-Sangster), Frypan (Darden), Winston (Flores), and Teresa (Scodelario) are bought to a new facility by an unnamed group that is lead by Janson (Gillen). Janson promises them they are safe from W.C.K.D – the company that put them in the Maze – and tells them he can get them to a safe place, along with other survivors. However, Thomas doesn’t fully trust Janson and his suspicion is heighten even more by Aris (Lofland), who has had his own suspicion since he arrived at the facility too. Thomas eventually uncovers the truth and leads his friends and Aris out of the facility and into barren landscape that Janson and others call “The Scorch.”

 

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Once out, Thomas, Aris and the Gladers run into different obstacles along the way to their destination, meeting a resistance group. They run into “Cranks,” people that have been infected by a virus that turns them into mindless killing monsters, they run into Jorge (Esposito) and Brenda (Salazar) who have their own group and share a common interest with Thomas and the Gladers in finding the resistance, but for a different reason, and finally the group is being chased by Janson and W.C.K.D.

 

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One of the big things with the sequel is that it takes us out of the Maze, so now director Wes Ball has time to build up the world that we are now a part of and that was written by author the novel’s being adapted, James Dashner. The world outside the Maze is pretty big. There isn’t much signs of life and everything has been taken over by sand. There are zones that seem to have people there to try to live some sort of their old life. Thomas and Brenda eventually end up at one that is run by Alan Tudyk’s character. That particular scene is one of the biggest missteps of the movie though, and actually crashes the film to a stand-still. It took me a while to get back into the movie after the scene because it felt a bit out of place and, dare I say, unnecessary.

 

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The cast is hit-and-miss. Dylan O’Brien’s Thomas takes on more a leader role here and you can clearly see he’s struggling with that, but embraces it because we find out a little more about Thomas’ past. Kaya Scodelario’s Teresa, who was the only female character in the last film, has a big plot point, but it takes a while for it to really flourish. Ki Hong Lee’s Minho has a bigger supporting role here, but gets lost in the shuffle along with returning characters Newt and Frypan – although they have their moments too – because of the new characters. Jacob Lofland’s Aris starts off as a strong character, but once the movie starts moving forward, he gets pushed to the wayside. However, his character could have a bigger role in the final installment along with other characters that I’ll get to in a second.

 

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Leading the charge for new characters is definitely Giancarlo Esposito’s Jorge and Rosa Salazar’s Brenda. They bring some freshness into the film and they will do whatever they have to survive, and are a welcomed addition to the series. Aidan Gillen’s Janson does a serviceable job of playing a deceitful character as only he can. Lili Taylor and Barry Pepper pop in as Mary and Vince, leaders of the resistance group, but their character aren’t introduced until the last act of the film, so their characters don’t feel as big as they should be or intended to be. Nathalie Emmanuel and Katherine McNamara also appear as resistance fighters Harriet and Sonya, but like Aris, their characters could have bigger roles in the sequel. Finally Patricia Clarkson has a “bigger” role here than she did in the first film.

 

Another problem that I had with The Scorch Trails is like the first film, it suffers a bit from leaving things a bit too open for a sequel. It’s not as bad as the first film, but it is clearly there and bothered me just a tad. Thankfully, The Scorch Trails is a bigger and ambitious film that has great moments of action and drama scattered throughout and avoids most clichés and tropes of the genre (well, for the most part).

 

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All in all, Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails is more ambitious, fun, and slightly better than the first film, but still suffers from being the middle film in a trilogy (they thankfully won’t be splitting the third book into two movies) and leaves more things open than it should.

 

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails

3.5 out of 5

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