Favorite Directors, Actors, Actress, 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 reflect the individuals like directors, actors, actress, supporting roles, villains and everything in between. So, that said, I’m here to do just that. We all have our favorites, and these are mine. This is of course my opinion. I tried to shorten the list as much as I could, but like every year, it was a bit too hard so I left the lists as such.

 

Also, villains are probably considered Supporting Actors/Actress in other lists, but again, to not only make the lists shorter, I want the villains to have their own category, because everyone loves a good villain, right?

 

Finally, everything and everyone will be in alphabetical order. This is also part one of two different lists. Enjoy.

 

 

Directors

Chris McKay – The LEGO Batman Movie

Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk

Denis Villeneuve – Blade Runner 2049

Edgar Wright – Baby Driver

Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water

J.A. Bayona – A Monster Calls

James Mangold – Logan

Jordan Peele – Get Out

Patty Jenkins – Wonder Woman

Matt Reeves – War for the Planet of the Apes

Taika Waititi – Thor: Ragnarok

 

Honorable Mentions

Andy Muschietti – It

David F. Sandberg – Annabelle: Creation

Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird

James Franco – The Disaster Artist

Kathryn Bigelow – Detroit

M. Night Shyamalan – Split

Martin McDonagh – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Steven Soderbergh – Logan Lucky

 

 

Just Missed the List

Ben Wheatley – Free Fire

Craig Gillespie – I, Tonya

Darren Aronofsky – Mother!

James Gunn – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina – Coco

Nacho Vigalondo – Colossal

Michael Showalter – The Big Sick

Ridley Scott – All the Money in the World

 

 

Actors

Andy Serkis as Caesar – War for the Planet of the Apes

Chris Hemsworth as Thor – Thor: Ragnarok

Chris Pine as Steve Trevor – Wonder Woman

Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington – Get Out

Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill – Darkest Hour

Hugh Jackman as Logan – Logan

Lewis MacDougall as Conor – A Monster Calls

Michael Fassbender as David and Walter – Alien: Covenant

Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc – The Founder

Sam Rockwell as Dixon – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man – Spider-Man: Homecoming

 

Honorable Mentions

James Franco as Tommy – The Disaster Artist

Richard Jenkins as Giles – The Shape of Water

RJ Cyler as Billy/Blue Ranger – Power Rangers

Ryan Gosling as K – Blade Runner 2049

Ryan Reynolds as Michael & Samuel L. Jackson as Darius – The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Sebastian Stan as Jeff Gillooly – I, Tonya

Sharlto Copley as Vernon – Free Fire

Steve Carell as Bobby Riggs – Battle of the Sexes

Will Arnett as Batman/Bruce Wayne – The LEGO Batman Movie

Will Poulter as Krauss – Detroit

 

Just Missed the List

Ansel Elgort as Baby – Baby Driver

Armie Hammer as Ord – Free Fire

Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall & Josh Gad as Sam Friedman – Marshall

Chris Evans as Frank Adler – Gifted

Dave Franco as Greg – The Disaster Artist

Jackie Chan as Quan Ngoc Minh – The Foreigner

James McAvoy as David Percival – Atomic Blonde

Jeremy Renner as Cory Lambert – Wind River

Jason Sudeikis as Oscar – Colossal

Javier Bardem as Him – Mother!

Joel Edgerton as Paul – It Comes At Night

Kumail Nanjiani as Kumail – The Big Sick

Mark Rylance as Mr. Dawson – Dunkirk

 

 

Actress

Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke – Split

Aubrey Plaza as Ingrid Thorburn – Ingrid Goes West

Dafne Keen as Laura – Logan

Frances McDormand as Mildred – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Gal Gadot as Diana – Wonder Woman

Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom – Molly’s Game

Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding – I, Tonya

Mckenna Grace as Mary Adler – Gifted

Noomi Rapace as The Settman Siblings – What Happened to Monday

Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito – The Shape of Water

Saoirse Ronan as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson – Lady Bird

 

Honorable Mentions

Anne Hathaway as Gloria – Colossal

Emma Stone as Billie Jean King – Battle of the Sexes

Rebecca Hall as Elizabeth Marston – Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

Sophia Lillis as Beverly – It

Talitha Bateman as Janice & Lulu Wilson as Linda – Annabelle: Creation

 

Just Missed the List

Charlize Theron as Lorraine Broughton – Atomic Blonde

Jennifer Lawrence as Mother – Mother!

Michelle Williams as Gail Harris – All the Money in the World

Seo-hyun Ahn as Mija – Okja

Zoe Kazan as Emily – The Big Sick

Zoe Lister-Jones as Anna – Band Aid

 

 

Supporting Actor

Christopher Plummer as J. Paul Getty – All the Money in the World

Daniel Craig as Joe Bang – Logan Lucky

Dwayne Johnson as Hobbs & Jason Statham as Deckard – The Fate of the Furious

Harrison Ford as Rick Deckard – Blade Runner 2049

Jacob Batalon as Ned – Spider-Man: Homecoming

Liam Neeson as The Monster (voice) – A Monster Calls

Michael Rooker as Yondu – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Patrick Stewart as Charles – Logan

Samuel L. Jackson as Preston Packard – Kong: Skull Island

 

Honorable Mentions

Cillian Murphy as Shivering Soldier – Dunkirk

Doug Jones as Amphibian Man – The Shape of Water

Demian Bichir as Miguel Alvarez – Lowriders

Domhnall Gleeson as Monty ‘Schafer’ – American Made

LilRel Howery as Rod Williams – Get Out

Nick Offerman as Dick McDonald & John Carroll Lynch as Mac McDonald – The Founder

Paul Walter Hauser as Shawn Eckhardt – I, Tonya

Ralph Fiennes as Alfred Pennyworth – The LEGO Batman Movie

Shea Whigham as Cole & John C. Reilly as Hank Marlow – Kong: Skull Island

Taika Waititi as Korg & Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk & Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster – Thor: Ragnarok

 

Just Missed the List

Bradley Whitford as Dean Armitage – Get Out

Christopher Meloni as Roger, Ike Barinholtz as Jeffrey & Bashir Saladuddin as Morgan Russell – Snatched

Jack Reynor as Harry – Free Fire

Jeremy Ray Taylor as Ben, Finn Wolfhard as Richie & Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie – It

Jon Bernthal as Griff – Baby Driver

Michael Cera as Dick Grayson/Dick – The LEGO Batman Movie

Pedro Pascal as Whiskey – Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Ray Romano as Terry – The Big Sick

Steve Zahn as Bad Apes – War for the Planet of the Apes

Stephen Merchant as Caliban – Logan

 

 

Supporting Actress

Allison Janney as LaVona Golden – I, Tonya

Ana de Armas as Joi – Blade Runner 2049

Felicity Jones as Mum – A Monster Calls

Laurie Metcalf as Marion McPherson – Lady Bird

Pom Klementieff as Mantis – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Robin Wright as Antiope – Wonder Woman

Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie – Thor: Ragnarok

Tiffany Haddish as Dina – Girls Trip

 

Honorable Mentions

Amiah Miller as Nova – War for the Planet of the Apes

Bella Heathcote as Olive Byrne – Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

Holly Hunter as Beth – The Big Sick

Lucy Davis as Etta – Wonder Woman

Michelle Pfeiffer as Woman – Mother!

Riley Keough as Kim – It Comes At Night

 

Just Missed the List

Elle Fanning as Loretta Figgis – Live by Night

Glenn Close as Dr. Caroline Caldwell – The Girl with All the Gifts

Karen Gillan as Nebula – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Linda Cardellini as Joan Smith – The Founder

Salma Hayek as Sonia Kincaid – The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Sigourney Weaver as Grandma – A Monster Calls

 

 

Villain

Allison Williams as Rose Armitage – Get Out

Annabelle – Annabelle: Creation

Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise – It

Cate Blanchett as Hela – Thor: Ragnarok

James McAvoy as Dennis/Patricia/Hedwig/Kevin/Barry/Jade/Orwell/The Beast – Split

Jamie Foxx as Bats & Jon Hamm as Buddy – Baby Driver

Michael Keaton as Adrian Toomes/Vulture – Spider-Man: Homecoming

 

Honorable Mentions

Calvin – Life

Common as Cassian – John Wick: Chapter 2

Michael Shannon as Richard Strickland – The Shape of Water

Skull Crawlers – Kong: Skull Island

Sylvia Hoeks as Luv – Blade Runner 2049

Zach Galifinakis as The Joker – The LEGO Batman Movie

 

Just Missed the List

Charlize Theron as Cipher – The Fate of the Furious

Kurt Russell as Ego – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Tony Goldwyn as Barry Norris – The Belko Experiment

Woody Harrelson as The Colonel – War for the Planet of the Apes

 

 

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New Podcast – Obi-Wan Kenobi Movie Happening, Daniel Craig Returns for Bond 25 & More

I’ve been forgetting to post the podcast up here, so I’ll get better at that. So here’s a new episode on Youtube. However, if you can listen on iTunes that would be great too. Link for iTunes down below.

 

iTunes link – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-movie-pit-podcast/id1249582608?mt=2

‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’ Review

Director: Patrick Hughes

Writer: Tom O’Connor

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Elodie Yung, Joaquim de Almeida, Yuri Kolokolnikov, Gary Oldman and Salma Hayek

Synopsis: The world’s top bodyguard gets a new client, a hit man who must testify at the International Court of Justice. They must put their differences aside and work together to make it to the trial on time.

 

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

 

When the trailer dropped for The Hitman’s Bodyguard, it instantly put the movie on my must-watch list – already being on my radar anyway. Having two big personalities like Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson is guaranteed to at least be damn fun, right? Thankfully, the movie is just that – a hell of a lot of fun. Also, the movie is the quintessential Samuel L. Jackson movie aka hearing him say motherfucker for two hours straight.

The film follows former AAA-certified bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds), who is down on his luck after a client ends up dead on his watch. Bryce is given a second chance and a way back into the game from his ex-girlfriend Amelia (Elodie Yung), an Interpol agent, is in charge to bring in renowned hitman, Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), to The Hague and the International Court of Justice to testify against Belarusian war criminal Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman). With time against them and a shaky partnership due to their a bad history – Darius trying to kill Michael twenty-eight time – Michael and Darius have to put aside everything, avoid getting killed and killing each other.

It should be noted right away, The Hitman’s Bodyguard isn’t a fully serious action movie. Not that the trailers give that impression anyway, but the movie has fun with itself too. It’s an action comedy movie that fully takes advantage of having Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson. I mentioned above that the movie is the quintessential Samuel L. Jackson movie where he says “motherfucker” in different ways, variations and situations.

More importantly, the chemistry between Jackson and Reynolds is fantastic and keeps the movie from falling apart at the seams. A good majority of the film is the two bickering at each other and even trying to one-up each other. While I think some will find it eventually annoying or off-putting, it really keeps the film together and they are so great at insulting each other that it just makes the film fun. Jackson’s Darius is the more loose, devil-may-care attitude while Reynolds’ Michael is more of the straight-man that thinks “boring is better” when it comes to protecting people.

Another highlight character is Salma Hayek’s Sonia, Darius’ wife, who is prison for Darius’ actions. You can tell Hayek had a lot of fun filming this because she swears up a storm that rivals Jackson’s Darius. She doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but when she’s on screen, she’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Sadly, the rest of the cast are kind of throwaway characters. Elodie Yung’s Amelia doesn’t do too much after she passes Darius to Michael, and Gary Oldman’s villain could have easily been played by anybody else, but Oldman does have a certain feel during the end that makes it worth it, but he is pretty wasted here.

The film’s overall story is pretty thin, and the film is broken up by flashbacks on how Darius met Sonia and how Michael met Amelia. The scenes are pretty funny, especially Sonia’s but they do kind of slow the movie down. This is also why the chemistry between Reynolds and Jackson needed to, and is, great. The story is thin, but seeing these two guys with great sense of timing and being a little self-aware make the film worth it.

All in all, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a ton of fun to watch. Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, and even Salma Hayek, make the film worth it with their chemistry. The action isn’t too bad either, but if you’re looking for a serious action movie, this isn’t it, and that’s okay.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard

4 out of 5

New Podcast – Baby Driver Spoiler Review & More

The Movie Pit Podcast is back recapping the slow movie news week that was. Also, I spoil review Baby Driver. Also, if Youtube is inconvenient for you to listen to the podcast, the podcast is now on ITunes. Link down below

 

Podcast Link – https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-movie-pit-podcast/id1249582608?mt=2

 

‘Kong: Skull Island’ Review

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Writers: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein and Derek Connolly

Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, Thomas Mann, Tian Jing, Jason Mitchell, Eugene Cordero, Shea Whingham, John Ortiz, Toby Kebbell and John C. Reilly

Synopsis: A team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden.

 

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

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a post-credit scene*

 

King Kong is one of the most famous movie characters of all time, so it’s no surprise that Hollywood would try to bring him to the big screen as much as possible. Some have been great and some have been disappointing, but Kong: Skull Island thankfully leans more toward the great side. So, what exactly did director Jordan Vogt-Roberts do to make Kong: Skull Island a good King Kong film? Keep reading and find out.

Set during 1973, at the tail end of U.S troops pulling out of Vietnam, struggling government organization Monarch has two employees in William Randa (John Goodman) and Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) who have a wild theory that an uncharted island could lead to major secrets. They manage to pull together a survey and mapping operation on the island with a military escort lead by Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson), a former SAS Captain and expert tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) and an antiwar photojournalist Mason Weaver (Brie Larson). Once they arrive to the island – and after dropping bombs to map out the island – they meet Kong (motion-captured by Toby Kebbell and Terry Notary), who isn’t happy they’re dropping bombs in his backyard.

After surviving the initial attack, the group gets separated with Packard leading some of his men in Mills (Jason Mitchell), Cole (Shea Whigham), Reles (Eugene Cordero) and Randa, while Conrad, Weaver, and Brooks are with other Monarch members in San (Tian Jing), Slivko (Thomas Mann) and Victor Nieves (John Ortiz) before they run into Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly), who has been on the island for quite some time. What follows is both groups trying to make it off the island, avoiding Kong, but also finding out that Kong may not be the most dangerous thing there.

If you follow the news online, or are a fan of 2014’s Godzilla, Monarch is a connective tissue from the movie, and Skull Island was the studio’s way to introducing King Kong for the forthcoming mashup film between Godzilla and King Kong. However, Skull Island – thankfully – stands on its own making Kong a huge highlight and a force of nature. So since we’re talking about Kong, let’s go more into him. Obviously, Kong is someone you don’t want to mess with according the trailers. He’s king on the island as Reilly’s Marlow says, and that statement is proven the moment we meet as he takes over what felt like a dozen helicopters with ease, and going up against some of the Skull Crawlers. And when it comes to the Skull Crawlers, they do make an intimidating villains and great foes to Kong.

When it comes to the cast, they all play their part very, very well. Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson have their characters fleshed out enough, while the highlights could very well go to John C. Reilly and Samuel L. Jackson. Reilly’s Marlow has been stuck on the island for decades with the natives of the land, so his nuances are fun to watch unfold. Jackson’s characters fits into the time. Jackson is fueled by one thing after the first encounter with Kong: Find Kong and kill him. Jackson’s Packard is very much inspired by the time and films like Apocalypse Now. In fact the whole film feels a tinge like Apocalypse Now, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not so bluntly obvious that it takes away from the film. Two others that I want highlight personally is the pair of Shea Whigham and Jason Mitchell, the two have great chemistry together and is actually my favorite pairing in the film. One unfortunate casting misstep is Toby Kebbell, who gets the short end of the stick when it comes to the cast and story.

However, besides the cast and Kong, a huge highlight is the visuals and cinematography by Larry Fong. Kong and the Skull Crawlers are impressive sure, but of course we come across other creatures on the island that are either beautiful or scary as hell. Kong: Skull Island has a nice balance of the two, but it’s not just the creatures that impress, it’s the beautiful landscapes of the island. If Skull Island wasn’t filled with things that can kill you, you’d probably want to visit – maybe.

All in all, Kong: Skull Island is an enjoyable fun adventure film with a great cast, visuals, cinematography and soundtrack. While the film does slow down at times, it doesn’t do so without trying to flesh out the characters. Of course, the highlight of the film is seeing King Kong return to the big screen in all his glory.

Kong: Skull Island

4 out of 5

‘xXx: Return of Xander Cage’ Review

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Director: D.J. Caruso

Writer: F. Scott Frazier

Cast: Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, Kris Wu, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Rory McCann, Michael Bisping, Hermione Corfield, Tony Gonzalez, Al Sapienza, Toni Colette and Samuel L. Jackson

Synopsis: Xander Cage if left for dead after an incident, though he secretly returns to action for a new, tough assignment with his handler Augustus Gibbons.

 

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

 

After sitting out the sequel of xXx, Vin Diesel returns to the series he helped create with the appropriately titled Return of Xander Cage. It also has Diesel’s fingerprints all over it, as it now involves Xander Cage having to work with a group of people like him to bring down a dangerous weapon and people that cause mayhem on Earth. Sound familiar? That’s not necessarily a bash at the film, but knowing that you’ll see some of the comparison. Also, if you’re looking forward to a smart action film, no, just no. This, like the other xXx films are dumb fun action films that is filled with cheesy and ridiculous moments.

After a crashed satellite seemingly kills Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson), NSA agent Jane Marke (Toni Collette) finds Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) is alive and well, and decides to bring him in after she finds out that the satellite was brought down by a device called Pandora’s Box. Cage then finds out that Pandora’s Box is being held by a mysterious figure named Xiang (Donnie Yen) and his own dangerous group – Serena (Deepika Padukone), Talon (Tony Jaa) and Hawk (Michael Bisping). Cage knowing that they can’t stop him the “traditional” way gets his own team in sniper Adee Wolff (Ruby Rose), stunt man Tennyson Torch (Rory McCann) and “fun guy” Nicks (Kris Wu) to bring them down.

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While there are some descent actions scenes, thanks to the always reliable Donnie Yen, the film fails to make us really connect any sort of connection to the characters. While most of the names may be familiar to some all of them have mostly one quality that you can remember. Although, all of them are better characters than Diesel’s Xander Cage. Xander still feels like he’s stuck in the first film, and comes off just a bit smug and thinks he’s better than anyone else. We probably shouldn’t suspect different, but you would think that he would change a bit since then. Also, if you looking for an elaborate reason to why he’s still alive, won’t happen.

The film of course tries to add the big extreme scene like the avalanche scene from the first film. Here the film has the heavily promoted riding on the ocean scene that has a more ridiculous scene that if you roll your eyes or laugh, it will be okay. That being said, the film is cheesy and fun in a good way. While it feels like Diesel, who is a producer on the film, is trying to recreate the Fast & Furious formula, it could help if fans go out to see it.

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All in all, xXx: Return of Xander Cage does have some problems with its tone, and while the cast works together nicely, a majority of them are not developed enough. Is the film fun and enjoyable? Yes, for the most part it is. But Return of Xander Cage hits the mark for enjoyable dumb fun action films, but misses when it comes to almost everything else.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage

3.5 out of 5

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Mini-Reviews: Keeping Up with the Joneses, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Desierto, Ouija: Origin of Evil, & Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Hey everybody!

Welcome to the sixth edition of Mini-Reviews. This time, there are more movie reviews than usual. I’ve been a bit behind so this is me making up for lost time. So let’s get to it, shall we?

 

 

Keeping Up with the Joneses

Director: Greg Mottola

Writer: Michael LeSieur

Cast: Zach Galifianakis, Isla Fisher, Jon Hamm, Gal Gadot, Matt Walsh, Maribeth Monroe, Kevin Dunn and Patton Oswalt

Synopsis: A suburban couple becomes embroiled in an international espionage plot when they discover that their seemingly perfect new neighbors are government spies.

 

I didn’t think much about the film other than the fact it had a good cast. Ironically, I had that same feeling about Masterminds, which also had Zach Galifianakis, and while Keeping Up with the Joneses was a better movie than Masterminds, the film doesn’t do enough to warrant being a standout action comedy.

The film follows Jeff (Galifianakis) and Karen (Fisher) Gaffney, who quietly live in the suburbs. Karen is an interior designer while Jeff works Human Resources for a big company called MBI. However, the lives get turned upside when their new, and seemingly perfect, new neighbors Tim (Hamm) and Natalie (Gadot) Jones turn out to be spies. When the Joneses come clean, the Gaffney’s ended up being sucked into their mission to stop a deadly plot.

Keeping Up with the Joneses isn’t the best action comedy out, but it certainly isn’t the worst. The cast isn’t that bad and the mismatched casting of Galifianakis and Fisher with Hamm and Gadot actually works, although the bonding scenes and overall chemistry of Galifianakis and Hamm plays out better than Fisher and Gadot. There are some genuine laughs in the film, but overall the film does shoehorn in some jokes that fall completely flat. The film also does rely more on the comedy side of things rather than the action. Although the standout action sequence is a car chase that does feel a bit out of place within the movie, but one that actually works in terms of action.

All in all, the film does have a lot of issues, and while many will probably end up forgetting they watched Keeping Up with the Joneses in a few years, it isn’t completely a waste of time like some will have you believe it is.

Keeping Up with the Joneses

3 out of 5

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Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Director: Edward Zwick

Writers: Edward Zwick, Richard Wenk, and Marshall Herskovitz

Cast: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh, Aldis Hodge, Patrick Heusinger, Holt McCallany, Madalyn Horcher, and Robert Knepper

Synopsis: Jack Reacher must uncover the truth behind a major government conspiracy in order to clear his name. On the run as a fugitive from the law, Reacher uncovers a potential secret from his past that could change his life forever.

 

The first Jack Reacher was a pleasant surprise when it came 2012, but when the sequel was announced without director Christopher McQuarrie, fans were, respectfully, disappointed. That being said, the sequel went forward to new director Edward Zwick (Glory, Blood Diamond), who worked with Tom Cruise on The Last Samurai. However, the result this time around was not that great.

Never Go Back finds Jack Reacher (Cruise) traveling to Washington D.C. to meet up with Major Susan Turner (Smulders), who he has been talking to recently, and someone who has taken over his old unit. However, when Reacher finally reaches D.C. he finds out that Turner has been arrested for espionage, but something doesn’t feel right to Reacher and he decides to get to the bottom of it. To make things worse, Reacher finds out that there is a paternity suit against him and that he has a 15-year-old daughter named Samantha (Yarosh).

Tom Cruise really wants another franchise, and Jack Reacher could have been it if Never Go Back wasn’t such a mess. Cruise nails the no nonsense, tough guy one-liners, but having Reacher become a potential father doesn’t really fit the character, and at times, slows the movie down trying to make awkward situations where Reacher has to act like a father to Sam – and in some cases have Turner act as a mother. Some of the scenes are funny, but feel out of place next to the Reacher breaking nameless thugs’ bones, and a hitman named The Hunter (Heusinger) killing people that stand in his way.

I’m all for shaking a character up, but we’ve only had one movie with Reacher, and the first one had him as this unstoppable hitting machine that gets the job done. He’s like that here too, but it seems like he’s more tamed down this time around. There is a little more action this time around, although there’s nothing that compares to the chase scene in the first film.

The new cast is a nice addition. Cobie Smulders does the best she can with what they give her, but I kind of wished she was more important to the overall plot. Danika Yarosh as Sam, Reacher’s possible daughter, holds her own with Cruise and Smulders, but she’s sometimes left with being the person that it told to stay back or having to be saved. Patrick Heusinger’s The Hunter is an okay villain, when he’s actually being a villain, and Robert Knepper is severely underused.

All in all, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is an okay movie that happens to be a sequel. Not saying the potential franchise can’t come back, but Never Go Back was a step backwards for the character.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

3 out of 5

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Desierto

Director: Jonas Cuaron

Writer: Jonas Cuaron and Mateo Garcia

Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Alondra Hidalgo, Diego Catano, Marco Perez, Oscar Flores and David Lorenzo

Synopsis: A group of people trying to cross the border from Mexico into the United States encounter a man who has taken border patrol duties into his own racist hands.

 

Directed by Jonas Cuaron, the son of Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men, Gravity), Desierto is a timely film about the border of Mexico and the U.S., and while Cuaron does understand the material and issue, he rather follow the dangerous cat-and-mouse game between our leads. It’s not so much a bad thing, but Cuaron is still learning his footing in the directing game. It should also be noted that the names of the characters are never said in the film – only in the credits.

Desierto follows a Mexican man, named Moises in the credits, played by Gael Garcia Bernal, who along with a group of Mexican immigrants are coming to cross the border illegally. When the truck they’re in breaks down, they are left to walk the rest of the way in the desert. However, they aren’t alone as a man, named Sam in the credits, played by Jeffrey Dead Morgan finds them and kills most of the group. Moises, along with a few others, are left to survive in the desert against Sam and his dog Tracker.

The film is one of the ultimate cat-and-mouse game films. The majority of the film is Sam chasing down Moises through the desert, which of course, adds a lot of tension since there is not a lot of places to hide there. It’s a hell of a lot harder when you also have a tracking dog and a madman with a rifle chasing you down. The film works best when it’s a thriller of the characters on the run, but it’s once it slows down is when the film starts to show its faults.

It’s not hard to see the political themes, especially this late in the political season. Sam’s truck even has a small confederate flag and once he kills the first group of people he sarcastically says “welcome to the land of the free.” It’s not a bad thing, but Cuaron never fully develops that idea, and chooses to focus on the chase instead.

When it comes the cast, Gael Garcia Bernal and Jeffrey Dead Morgan fully invest in their characters. Jeffrey Dean Morgan doesn’t go over-the-top like he could have, but he also doesn’t see what he’s doing as wrong. In fact he barely flinches when killing the characters from far away. Gael Garcia Bernal, on the other hand, plays his character pretty straight. He’s trying to survive to make it to his kids, and does something in the film that I didn’t think the film would do. The only other character that gets some more depth is Alondra Hidalgo’s Adela.

The film does lose some steam near the end during the final confrontation between Moises and Sam because Cuaron wanted to keep the camera rolling. I’m not saying it wasn’t bad, but this is what separates him and his father in the director’s category. Although, not many directors are Alfonso Cuaron.

All in all, Desierto isn’t a bad film, but it works better when it’s a cat-and-mouse thriller rather than being a cat-and-mouse political undertone thriller. While Gael Garcia Bernal and Jeffrey Dean Morgan are on point with their roles, the overall film lacks a certain punch to put it over the top.

Desierto

3 out of 5

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Director: Tim Burton

Writers: Jane Goldman

Cast: Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Ella Purnell, Samuel L. Jackson, Finlay MacMillan, Lauren McCrostie, Chris O’Dowd, Rupert Eveertt, Allison Janney, Judi Dench, and Terence Stamp

Synopsis: When Jake discovers clues to a mystery that stretches across time, he finds Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. But the danger deepens after he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.

 

Based on the novel written by Ransom Riggs – which I haven’t read yet – and directed by Tim Burton, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was a movie I was actually looking forward to despite it being directed by Tim Burton. I haven’t been a fan of Burton’s for a while, but it looks like he was returning to form with his X-Men-esque fantasy tale. Also, having never read the book, I’m judging the movie for the movie itself, and not how loyal the film is to the book.

The film follows Jake (Butterfield), who is living in Florida, and wants to do something more in his life. That just happens when his grandfather, Abe (Stamp), passes away supernaturally. Remembering some stories as a child, Jake convinces his reluctant father (O’Dowd) to go to Wales so Jake can get closure on his grandfather’s passing, and maybe find out what really happening, all the while remembering the stories of his grandfather about a woman he once knew called Miss Peregrine (Green). Eventually Jake finds out the stories of his grandfather are not stories at all, and finds Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children that has children with powers of invisibly, floatation, pryokinesis, and other peculiarities. However, Jake finds out that all of them are stuck in September 3rd, 1943. Worse of all, dangerous monsters – known as Hallows – are after them lead by Mr. Barron (Jackson).

The film works best when the fanatical elements are in full swing. When Jake direst arrives at the home and meets everyone, the film is fun. We get to see everyone uses their abilities. Ella Purnell’s Emma is the one we get to know the most as she and Jake spend the most time together, her peculiarity is air and being able to float off the ground. We also meet Olive (McCrostie), who can turn into anything she touches into fire, Hugh (Parker) who is always invisible, Enoch (MacMillan) who has an interesting ability that leads to a surprising and cool sequence near the end of the film. There are twins, Claire (Raffiella Chapman) has a mouth on the back of her head, Horace (Hayden Keeler-Stone) can project his dreams, Fiona (Georgia Pemberton) can manipulate nature, and Bronwyn (Pixie Davies) is super strong.

It did seem like Miss Peregrine was tailor-made for Burton, and Burton does his usual thing and makes sure that the whimsy never fully gets put in the background. When the film does go off the fantasy element is when the film slows down a bit, but that rarely happens in the film. However, the film does get lost in itself for a bit, which is prone to happen when you have a lot going on. There’s even one plot point bought up that gets completely forgotten about once it’s introduced.

The cast does a great job with everything they were asked to do. Butterfield’s Jake does have a peculiarity that makes sense for the film, and one that makes the film rather suspenseful at one point. Eva Green as Miss Peregrine is great to watch. Green brings a levity and grand approach to the children’s guardian. Samuel L. Jackson’s Barron character is, well, Samuel L. Jackson playing a bad guy – minus the swearing. His character is a bit too cheesy at times and just a smidge over-the-top. Judi Dench, Rupert Everett, Chris O’Dowd, and Allison Janney pop in for small roles that don’t really do too much in the film. One casting I couldn’t get over is Kim Dickens, who appears in literally two very short scenes as Jake’s mother.

All in all, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is one of the better Tim Burton films in the recent years. While the film does have some things wrong with it, the cast and whimsy of it all will keep you invested until the end.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

3.5 out of 5

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Ouija: Origin of Evil

Director: Mike Flanagan

Writers: Mike Flanagan and Jeff Howard

Cast: Elizabeth Reaser, Annalise Basso, Lulu Wilson, Henry Thomas and Parker Mack

Synopsis: In 1965 Los Angeles, a widowed mother and her two daughters add a new stunt to bolster their séance scam business and unwittingly invite authentic evil into their home. When the youngest daughter is overtaken by a merciless spirit, the family confronts unthinkable fears to save her and send her possessor back to the other side.

 

A sequel/prequel to the 2014 film, Ouija – which I never saw by the way, and kind of have no intention on seeing to be honest – Origin of Evil, is just that, an origin of the evil Ouija board that causes mayhem to the people that used it.

Ouija: Origin of Evil, set in Los Angeles in 1965, it follows the Zander family in mother Alice (Reaser), eldest daughter Lina (Basso) and youngest daughter Doris (Wilson), who run séance scam, but Alice does think she’s doing good by helping people, even if it’s not really true. Desperate for money, the family adds an Ouija board to shake things up. However, when Doris starts using the board more, strange things start to happen around the family, and eventually the family finds out that Doris has made contact with actual spirits – and they aren’t happy.

Never seeing the first film (although I read what the connection was afterwards), I can only judge the film for what it was, and in part I really enjoyed the film. Origin of Evil keeps a great deal of the focus on the family, making us really care for these characters, and when everything goes to hell at the end, you do feel worried for them. It also helps that the actresses are great, but the highlight and real star of the film is Lulu Wilson, who plays Doris. One scene in particular stands out where the focus is on her and talks about a certain subject that really sticks with you, and despite the subject, I couldn’t help but laugh because it was so uneasy to hear her talk about it.

The film does have some missteps, like a subplot with Henry Thomas’ character Father Tom. The subplot doesn’t really lead anywhere, and while it gives Elizabeth Reaser’s Alice more screen time, it felt shoehorned in. The other thing is the Ouija board. The board, while a huge and really only reason the events of the film takes place, is just hanging out in the background. The film could have probably done without the Ouija board and found a way to introduce the spirits another way.

All in all, Ouija: Origin of Evil handles itself pretty well, as a horror film that also has a solid family story holding it together. While I may not have understood some of the little things that may connect it to the first film, I still really enjoyed it for what it was.

Ouija: Origin of Evil

3.5 out of 5

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