New Podcast – James Dean Controversy, The Invisible Man, The Batman & More

Hello, everybody!

I’ve been forgetting to let you know when the podcast is out, so my bad. That said, this week’s podcast is filled with the James Dean Controversy – oh, you don’t know about that? Oh, you’re in for a treat – the trailers for The Invisible Man, Bad Boys for Life, and Pixar’s newest film Soul. The casting of Andy Serkis and Colin Farrell in The Batman and some good news for Potterheads.

The podcast can be heard in multiple places like Youtube, Apple Podcasts, Podbean, and Stitcher. So, if you have a preferred listening site, take your pick by following the link and clicking on that.

Enjoy your weekend!

https://linktr.ee/chrisrenteria27

Favorite/Standout Actors, Actress, Supporting Roles, and Villains of 2016

The end of the 2016 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 considering Supporting Actors 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

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – The Revenant

Alejandro G. Inarritu has become one of the big name directors in Hollywood, especially around Oscar season, and The Revenant is one of those films. Of course, that doesn’t mean the film is just marketed and targeted toward Oscar viewers, the film is a beautifully shot and put together. What Inarritu was able to bring out of his cast – and put them through – just proves that he’s here to stay and a director everyone should get use to seeing.

 

Anthony and Joe Russo – Captain America: Civil War

The Russo Brothers have now directed, yet again, another great addition to the Captain America series and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The two were able to bring one of the most iconic storylines in the comics to the big screen, and not only create a great film, but one that was personal and emotional at the same time.

 

Billy O’Brien – I Am Not a Serial Killer

Billy O’Brien arguably made a film adaptation that was better than the novel. I Am Not a Serial Killer was a film adaptation I didn’t even know was getting made – having read the book a few years ago – and I’m glad I got to see this on the big screen, because it is so well done and perfectly executed. Highly recommend you watch this.

 

Damien Chazelle – La La Land

Damien Chazelle made waves with Whiplash, and while the two films are vastly different, I think La La Land was his better film. Dripping with homage to old Hollywood, even down to some of the style, the film surpassed any expectations I had. Chazelle is definitely a name you should look out for in the future.

 

Dan Trachtenberg – 10 Cloverfield Lane

Another not yet household name, Dan Trachtenberg really broke out in with his short film Portal: No Escape – based on the video games – but Trachtenberg held his own in his first feature film, and one that had a lot of attention toward it. What he was able to pull off was a great thriller that caught everyone off guard. Even the having to bring in the Cloverfield twist was handled okay, a bit jumbled, but still good.

 

Denis Villeneuve – Arrival

Denis Villeneuve has quickly become one of my favorite directors in the short time he’s been in the limelight, which is why I was looking forward to Arrival. What Villeneuve was able to do by balancing the drama in the story of Amy Adams’ character and the sci-fi element of the aliens – without turning it into a typical aliens coming to Earth film – was great to watch.

 

Fede Alvarez – Don’t Breathe

Fede Alvarez was under a microscope after he made his Evil Dead film, and he didn’t disappointment with his follow-up film Don’t Breathe. While this film doesn’t have as much gore as Evil Dead had, Don’t Breathe made up for it with the production and sound design.

 

Gareth Edwards – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

In a lot of regard, Gareth Edwards finally gave us a good Star Wars prequel. Even with all the criticism and worry that Rogue One was “suffering” because of the reshoots, Edwards proved all the doubters wrong by giving us a great fun-filled ride with a great cast with an amazing third act.

 

Jon Favreau – The Jungle Book

Jon Favreau was able to create, somehow, a vivid world that seemed real from the moment we saw it on screen for the first time. Not only that, he was able to create a great adaptation of The Jungle Book that we’ve never seen before, and arguably, probably never see again. Well, until the sequel anyway.

 

Justin Lin – Star Trek Beyond

At this point, we know that Justin Lin can come in to an already established franchise and bring something new to the table. However, what he was able to do with Star Trek Beyond was highly impressive. Especially after Into Darkness made some fans weary of the future films, but Lin made an awesome addition of the series, and what better way to do it than in the series 50th anniversary.

 

Robert Eggers – The Witch

Eggers isn’t a household name – yet – but the way he handled The Witch is a great start. He, along with his great cast and cinematographer, were able to pull off a creepy, unnerving and sometimes hard to watch horror film.

 

Scott Derrickson – Doctor Strange

Scott Derrickson, mostly known at this point as a horror film director, took the reins of Marvel’s most out there and magical character Doctor Strange, and absolutely nailed it. Doctor Strange was filled with special effects that have never been seen in a Marvel film, and some really trippy ones at that. However, what Derrickson was able in bringing this new side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a huge feat on itself.

 

Tim Miller – Deadpool

Tim Miller is one lucky man. He brought to life the film that many fans have been clamoring for: a true adaptation of the Merc with the Mouth: Deadpool. Miller, who directed the “leaked” proof of concept video managed to create a feature-length version that worked, and was an overall enjoyable film that made many fans, including me obviously, very, very happy.

 

Travis Knight – Kubo and the Two Strings

It’s quite surprising that this is only the fourth Laika Entertainment film, and it’s also the first film directed by CEO Travis Knight, who has also worked in the art department of all their films. I personally loved pretty much everything about Kubo and the Two Strings, and knowing how passionate Knight is with all their films, you can see that once again with this beautiful film.

 

 

Honorable Mentions

Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

Chan-wook Park – The Handmaiden

James Wan – The Conjuring 2

Jeff Nichols – Midnight Special

Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge

Peter Berg – Deepwater Horizon

Ron Clements/John Musker – Moana

Richard Linklater – Everybody Wants Some!!

Taika Waititi – Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Todd Haynes – Carol

 

 

Actors

Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss – Hacksaw Ridge

This year was definitely the year of Andrew Garfield, and while Silence wasn’t released in my area I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. However, his performance in Hacksaw Ridge can’t be forgotten. His portrayal of unknown real-life hero Desmond T. Doss was amazing to watch on screen. Garfield conveyed every emotion in his powerful performance that I couldn’t imagine not putting on my list.

mv5bmtg0odc2ntuyov5bml5banbnxkftztgwodewnjc0mdi-_v1_sx1500_cr001500999_al_

 

Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler – Manchester by the Sea

I sometimes feel that Casey Affleck doesn’t get the recognition he deserves, but that will definitely change after people watch Manchester by the Sea. Affleck’s performance in this was nothing short of magnificent as a man dealing with grief and finding out he has to take care of his nephew. The performance is very layered and becomes more enthralling as the film goes forward.

mv5bntkwzti2ywmtmjkwns00nwnhltgyzwitzdhkmtizzgywmzk0l2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymdc2ntezmw-_v1_sy1000_sx1500_al_

 

Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America & Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man – Captain America: Civil War

We’ve seen Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. plays their respective Marvel characters multiple times now. However, there was something different in their performances in Civil War. We finally had to choose, who’s better and who’s right? The great thing they did was giving us reasons to choose them, but also giving us reasons to see how wrong they are. Evans and Downey already have these characters locked down, but seeing them reach a new peak in their characters was a grand experience to watch.

MV5BOTVkNzQ2N2EtMGJlNy00Y2I1LWE2YzgtM2ZlMzRkNWM3MTA0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTQxMzIzMDc@._V1__SX1209_SY579_

 

Chris Pine as Toby Howard & Ben Foster as Tanner Howard – Hell or High Water

Chris Pine is always reliable when given great material, but it was also Ben Foster who made Hell or High Water a fantastic film to watch. Ben Foster is also one of those actors you tend to forget – only because he’s not in a lot of stuff – and then he does a film and role like this and you realize how great of an actor he is. Have these two play bank-robbing brothers and you have yourself two great leads.

mv5bmjm1mtkxnjg1nf5bml5banbnxkftztgwmzuznjc3ote-_v1_sy1000_sx1500_al_

 

Jack O’Connell as Kyle Budwell – Money Monster

Jack O’Connell has made a nice name for himself here in the States with his indie performance in ’71 and the Angelina Jolie-directed Unbroken (even a small role in 300: Rise of an Empire), but it was his performance in Money Monster that really got me to notice him. O’Connell was able to make his character feel real, and you almost want to root for him, even though he’s supposed to be the “bad guy,” at least at the start of the film. Although, George Clooney is technically the lead, O’Connell shares the same amount of screen time with Clooney.

mv5bmjaznzixode0n15bml5banbnxkftztgwnje0oda4ode-_v1_sy1000_sx1500_al_

 

Julian Dennison as Ricky – Hunt for the Wilderpeople

It’s a little hard to believe that Julian Dennison only has four credits to his name, and while watching him in Hunt for the Wilderpeople, it was hard to believe that. Dennison’s Ricky is the biggest highlight of the film, and I can’t wait to see what else Dennison does in the future.

mv5bota5oda1nwutmda2ns00yti2lwjiztetmjninzvjmgjhmwmxl2ltywdll2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndaxotexntm-_v1_sx1777_cr001777740_al_

 

Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass – The Revenant

I mean seriously. Look at what Leonardo DiCaprio put himself through in this film. Not only that, for the lack of dialogue his character has, DiCaprio was able to get us invested in the hell he went through just by using body movement and facial expressions. If that’s not the sign of a true actor, I don’t know what it is.

the_revenant_trailer_alexa_leo

 

Max Records as John Wayne Cleaver – I Am Not a Serial Killer

Max Records was apparently the kid from Where the Wild Things Are, well, he’s little anymore! Records played John Wayne Cleaver so well you believed him as this conflicted character, and one that kept driving the film forward.

mv5byjblnjdkztgtnjazmi00mzq4ltk5ntytzjg2mja3ntkxyzcyxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjm2ota5mjm-_v1_sy1000_cr0017641000_al_

 

Russell Crowe as Jackson Healy & Ryan Gosling as Holland March – The Nice Guys

It’s a shame not many people saw The Nice Guys because it was really good, and what made it work was the chemistry between Crowe and Gosling. It sounds like a miss-matched pairing, but believe me it really worked. The two off-set each other in the perfect way and work together so well, that I can’t wait to see if they do anything together again in the future.

MV5BNjM0ODY5NjYxNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTIxODM5ODE@._V1__SX1209_SY535_

 

Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson/Deadpool – Deadpool

If anyone could have bought Deadpool to life, Ryan Reynolds is the man to do it. A fan of the character himself, you know he wasn’t going to mess it up, nor mess it up for the fans who have been waiting for a Deadpool movie for a long time.

MV5BMTYzMzUwMjAyNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDk2Nzc5NzE@._V1__SX1207_SY580_

 

Honorable Mentions

Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Stephen Strange – Doctor Strange

Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Chris Pratt as Jim Preston – Passengers

Dwayne Johnson as Maui – Moana

Jake Gyllenhaal as Davis – Demolition

Jake Gyllenhaal as Tony Hastings/Edward Sheffield – Nocturnal Animals

Jason Bateman as Nick Wilde – Zootopia

Mark Rylance as BFG – The BFG

Taron Egerton as Eddie Edwards – Eddie the Eagle

Will Smith as Deadshot – Suicide Squad

 

 

Actress

Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks – Arrival

Amy Adams has had quite a year, but it was Arrival that sticks out the most. Adams perfectly embodied the drama and multiple conflicts the character faces throughout the film. All of it comes together in those last ten minutes of the film that is an emotional-filled rollercoaster.

thumbnail_24812

 

Angourie Rice as Holly March – The Nice Guys

It’s quite a feat when you can stand toe-to-toe or even steal a scene from Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, but Angourie Rice did just that in The Nice Guys. Playing Gosling’s daughter in the film, she was able to carry herself so well and really drive home the fact that even though she’s younger than the people around, she’s ten times smarter.

mv5bmtawodu2nte0njbeqtjeqwpwz15bbwu4mdkwmtgzotgx-_v1_sx1500_cr001500999_al_

 

Cate Blanchett as Carol Aird & Rooney Mara as Therese Belivet – Carol

After watching Carol, I don’t think it would have worked without the great performances by both these women. They felt like real people and watching those two in a real just talking was enough to keep me attached to them from beginning to end.

mv5bmty4mtiwotq3mv5bml5banbnxkftztgwmzk3mdeznze-_v1_sy1000_cr006651000_al_

 

Emma Stone as Mia – La La Land

There’s always something about Emma Stone when he does a big role like this, where it feels like you can’t tell where Stone comes in as an actress and when she’s doing the actual character. La La Land is no different, but it makes the most sense. Let’s also take a minute to appreciate her singing voice, and the song “Audition.”

mv5bmjm5mtu4odg1mv5bml5banbnxkftztgwntm0mtc5ote-_v1_sy1000_cr0015031000_al_

 

Madison Wolfe as Janet Hodgson – The Conjuring 2

If Madison Wolfe chooses her projects carefully in the future, she will be an actress to be reckoning with, because her performance in The Conjuring 2 was fantastic. She played the horror of being stuck in a haunted house and possessed greatly, and being able to hang with Vera Farmiga is so easy feat either.

MV5BMTkwNjgxMzc1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDI1MDkwOTE@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,744_AL_

 

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn – Suicide Squad

Margot Robbie almost seemed like perfect casting for the first big screen appearance of Harley Quinn, and when the film came out, we were all right. Robbie was able to tap into what made all of us fall in love with the quirky character and even bring her own little things to the role. Robbie seems down to keep playing Quinn, and I think all of us are okay with that.

harley-quinn-suicide-squad

 

Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Michelle – 10 Cloverfield Lane

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is always reliable in the small roles or supporting roles she pops in on, 10 Cloverfield Lane was no expectation. Here she was able to stretch her legs a bit more and really show us what she was capable of when given the chance to play the lead.

mv5bmtq4ndgwnzy5of5bml5banbnxkftztgwmjyyntmyode-_v1_sx1500_cr001500999_al_

 

Min-hee Kim as Lady Hideko & Kim Tae-ri as Sook-Hee – The Handmaiden

The Handmaiden is one of those films that that hits you out of nowhere. The erotic drama thriller is held together by the compelling leads in Min-hee Kim and Kim Tae-ri, who bring their characters to life in a way I don’t think anyone could have ever imagined.

mv5bmtyzndiymte2ml5bml5banbnxkftztgwotq4mzkzmdi-_v1_sx1500_cr001500999_al_

 

Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy – Jackie

Natalie Portman’s portrayal as former First Lady Jackie Kennedy was by far one of the best performances of the year. Playing Jackie as a flawed, but grief-driven woman was amazing to watch and seeing what Jackie went through, not just as the First Lady, but as a wife was something worth of praise.

mv5bmtywnjq5nzywof5bml5banbnxkftztgwmdyxmta1nze-_v1_

 

Rebecca Hall as Christine – Christine

Rebecca Hall has been a name that’s always been out there, but she’s struggled to find her place amongst the busy actress crowd. It was finally Christine that made her standout among them. Hall’s performance as real-life Christine Chubbuck in this powerful film about her last days is truly something that Hall carries.

rebecca-hall-christine

 

Taraji P. Henson as Katherine G. Johnson – Hidden Figures

Taraji P. Henson maybe be making a name for herself on the FOX show Empire, but Henson has been around for a while and has always been a constant surprise in everything she in. Hidden Figures however was something she was able to break loose a bit. She has one particular scene that stands out around the midway point of the film that was worthy of getting her on my list.

13f65120-62f8-11e6-ae6d-9f352eb7b10b_screen-shot-2016-08-15-at-10-51-35-am-png-c

 

Honorable Mentions

Auli’I Cravalho as Moana – Moana

Charlize Theron as Monkey (Voice) – Kubo and the Two Strings

Eva Green as Miss Peregrine – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Gillian Jacobs as Samantha – Don’t Think Twice

Ginnifer Goodwin as Judy Hopps – Zootopia

Hailee Steinfeld as Nadine – The Edge of Seveteen

Jane Levy as Rocky – Don’t Breathe

Kika Magalhaes as Francisca – The Eyes of My Mother

Lucy Walters as Ann – Here Alone

Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan & Janelle Monae as Mary Jackson – Hidden Figures

Teresa Palmer as Rebecca – Lights Out

 

 

Supporting Actor

Alan Tudyk as K-2SO & Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Alan Tudyk is always great to see, or hear, on screen. That was no different with his new character in K-2SO aka everyone’s new favorite Star Wars droid. When it comes to Donnie Yen, it was just awesome to see him on the big screen in a big role like this in a big franchise.

f3stxvnnvwgldjpzhz0l k2so-1024x433

 

Alden Ehrenreich as Hobie Doyle – Hail, Caesar!

What a better way to have a breakout role then in a Cohen Brothers movie, with a damn great and funny character. I hadn’t really seen Ehrenreich in anything before, but what he was able to do with his makes me believe that we’ll be seeing him a lot more soon – he is playing young Han Solo. He’s got charm, charisma, likability and knack to tackle anything that comes his way. Don’t believe me, just watch that scene with Ralph Fiennes again.

MV5BMjM4Njg1Nzg4MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDI3MTA2NzE@._V1__SX1207_SY578_

 

Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther & Tom Holland as Peter Parker/Spider-Man

– Captain America: Civil War

Chadwick Boseman had the distinct pleasure of bringing a fan-favorite character in Black Panther to the big screen, and did a great job doing so. Boseman was able to tap into what people loved about the character, but bring his own flavor to it that made the character even better.

When it comes to Tom Holland, he stole the show. His Peter Parker and Spider-Man were what fans have been waiting for and even made sense. Holland played the goofy, awkward and brave Parker/Spider-Man that we all know so well. Although we should wait to see what he does in his own film, but so far so good.

spider-man-black-panther-civil-war-179335

 

Chris Hemsworth as Kevin – Ghostbusters

I don’t think anyone could have imagined Hemsworth playing a dim-wit, but Paul Feig was able to do just that in Ghostbusters. Hemsworth’s Kevin was definitely one of the biggest highlights of the film and surprise performances of the year – at least for me.

MV5BN2I0MmRjNGMtMzgzMC00NjdlLTg3YjktZGI4MTdjODVjNTc5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTI4MDA1MzI@._V1_

 

Christopher Lloyd as Crowley – I Am Not a Serial Killer

Lloyd’s Crowley in I Am Not a Serial Killer is one of those roles that leave a massive impact on the film when you step back and think it over. Lloyd has one particular scene that involves him reading out a poem that is so powerful, moving, and harrowing all at the same time.

001

 

Evan Peters as Peter Maximoff/Quicksilver – X-Men: Apocalypse

A lot of people judged Evan Peter’s look in X-Men: Days of Future Past, and then people actually watched the movie (what?) and loved him. So when it was announced that Peters would return in Apocalypse many waited to see what kind of big scene they had in store. Turns out, it was bigger than the last film in every way possible.

mv5bmtuxmzi3ote3ml5bml5banbnxkftztgwmteynzu5nze-_v1_sx1777_cr001777937_al_

 

Jay Hernandez as Diablo – Suicide Squad

Jay Hernandez’s Diablo was one of the biggest question marks in Suicide Squad since he wasn’t in the promotion material too much. However, Diablo turned out to be one of the best and most well-rounded characters in the whole film. His arch is much more tragic than any of the other characters in the film, and makes Hernandez as bigger name in some people’s eyes. Although the scene comes out of nowhere, and felt a bit forced, it still was a great standout scene.

suicide-squad-breakdown-who-is-el-diablo-892764

 

John Gallagher Jr. as Emmett – 10 Cloverfield Lane

John Gallagher Jr. made a name for himself this year with the Netflix home-invasion horror film Hush, and his great supporting role in this as Emmett. Gallagher Jr. didn’t get to do too much in 10 Cloverfield Lane due to Mary Elizabeth Winstead getting the bulk of the work, but Gallagher Jr. took the screen time he had and made it impactful.

mv5bmtcxnjy5ndc1of5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtgyntmyode-_v1_sx1500_cr001500999_al_

 

Karl Urban as Doctor ‘Bones’ McCoy – Star Trek Beyond

Urban has already played Bones twice before, but there was something about his chemistry and performances with Zachary Quinto in Star Trek Beyond that made me love him even more as the character.

mv5bywrmogu1ntgtmtljzi00m2ezlwe1ywmtytlknjhkmzg2yjgzxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjuwnzk3ndc-_v1_

 

Lucas Hedges as Patrick Chandler – Manchester by the Sea

If Lucas Hedges plays his cards right, we could be hearing his name more often soon. His Patrick takes some time to really buy into, but his highlight scene involves him finally breaking down and it felt so raw that made me finally buy into Hedges in the film.

mv5by2u0zgy0n2mtyzm0mc00nty2lweymwqtzjg2owy1mmjmztjml2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymdc2ntezmw-_v1_sy1000_sx1500_al_

Sharlto Copley as Jimmy – Hardcore Henry

Sharlto Copley really had some fun filming Hardcore Henry. Jimmy is a kind of out there character and honestly couldn’t see Copley playing him at all, but low and behold he did and it was one of the best parts of this experimental film.

MV5BMjI5ODI2MzU2NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjI0MTk5NzE@._V1__SX1206_SY583_

 

Honorable Mentions

Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ray Marcus & Michael Shannon as Bobby Andes – Nocturnal Animals

Bill Murray as Baloo – The Jungle Book

Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Glen Powell as Finnegan – Everybody Wants Some!!

Joel Edgerton as Lucas & Adam Driver as Sevier – Midnight Special

Jonah Hill as Efraim Diveroli – War Dogs

Mahershala Ali as Juan – Moonlight

Matthew McConaughey as Beetle – Kubo and the Two Strings

Michael Sheen as Arthur – Passengers

Ralph Fiennes as Laurence Laurentz – Hail, Caesar!

Sam Neill as Hec – Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Ty Burrell as Bailey – Finding Dory

Woody Harrleson as Mr. Bruner & Hayden Szeto as Erwin – The Edge of Seventeen

 

 

Supporting Actress

Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Doubters, SHUT IT! Gal Gadot is our Wonder Woman. Arguably the best part of Dawn of Justice, Gadot was able to show she will be a kickass Wonder Woman in the very limited screen time she had in the much anticipated film.

MV5BNGJkMzNiNmEtNDM0Mi00Mjk3LWI2NDAtY2QxYzI0NTZhMmE2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUwNzk3NDc@._V1__SX1206_SY540_

 

Lulu Wilson as Doris Zander – Ouija: Origin of Evil

Lulu Wilson is the definition of “creepy little girl” in horror films with her role as the youngest daughter in the sequel/prequel for Ouija. Her “description” scene was probably the most stomaching turning and nerve-racking scene I’ve seen all year.

mv5bmtkzmjg4mde0of5bml5banbnxkftztgwotu0otqymdi-_v1_sx1500_cr001500999_al_

 

Kate McKinnon as Jillian Holtzmann – Ghostbusters

Everyone fell in love with Kate McKinnon as the witty and completely out there Jillian Holtzmann, and I can see why. McKinnon did bring a different kind of `humor to the film, and was one of the highlights of the film for sure, even having a cool action moment in the finale.

mv5bnzy3odyyogutztu5zc00mtjiltlmogitmdvingq5zjq1ztuxxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjuwnzk3ndc-_v1_

 

Naomie Harris as Paula – Moonlight

Naomie Harris as the mother to the lead character in Moonlight was equal parts tragic, heartbreaking and emotional to watch. Harris is a damn good actress when given the right material, and Moonlight was just that. Seeing her transform through the life of the character was easily the other best part of the film.

mv5bmzg2oty3mje3of5bml5banbnxkftztgwntkxmdu0mdi-_v1_sx1777_cr001777745_al_

 

Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One – Doctor Strange

A lot of controversy went into the casting of Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, which sure is reasonable, but if you’re going to cast anyone other than someone who isn’t Asian – to play what everyone agrees was a stereotypical character to begin with – than you cast someone who is damn good like Tilda Swinton.  Swinton played the character so well that you always felt the weight of her lines.

mv5body5zjgzmgqtmzcwns00mwfklwjmzdqtnzrmmmeyzmriotljxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndqxnjcxnq-_v1_sx1777_cr001777735_al_

 

Viola Davis as Amanda Waller – Suicide Squad

While Margot Robbie seemed like perfect casting for Harley Quinn, Viola Davis screams out Amanda Waller. She had the no nonsense, cut throat and mission first ideal to her and Davis delivered on all accountants.

MV5BMjA4OTczODM5NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDk3NDY1OTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1503,1000_AL_

 

Honorable Mentions

Abbey Lee as Sarah – The Neon Demon

Ariane Labed as Maria – Assassin’s Creed

Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead – Deadpool

Emily Blunt as Queen Freya – The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Greta Gerwig as Nancy Tuckerman – Jackie

Kathryn Hahn as Carla – Bad Moms

Sarah Paulson as Abby Gerhard – Carol

 

 

Villain

Bonnie Aarons as Demon Nun & Javier Botet as The Crooked Man – The Conjuring 2

Damn you, James Wan! His demonic creations in The Conjuring 2 were definitely some of the creepiest he’s created, especially the Demon Nun, which was created during reshoots for the film, I am seriously getting freaked out just writing about it. As for The Crooked Man (played by Javier Boet), I haven’t looked at shadows the same way since.

the-conjuring-2-2maxresdefault

 

Idris Elba as Shere Khan – The Jungle Book

There is just something about Idris Elba’s voice that makes you frighten, but also makes you respect him. Add all that to a tiger, and you have a formidable and scary villain.

mv5bmzhlnjlhmmmtyzq2ni00mtazlthiztitn2q0zdhiogy5yzzmxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynduzotq5mjy-_v1_sy1000_cr0015081000_al_

 

John Goodman as Howard – 10 Cloverfield Lane

I was hesitant to put John Goodman’s Howard here, but for all intent and purposes, he is pretty much the villain in 10 Cloverfield Lane. He doesn’t let Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) leave the bunker and the way he acts toward her and Emmet (John Gallagher Jr.) throughout the movie essentially makes him the villain. There’s especially one moment that makes him very villainous. On top of that, Goodman is phenomenal in this.

mv5bmjawnzk2nzkyn15bml5banbnxkftztgwnjqyntmyode-_v1_sx1500_cr001500999_al_

 

Stephen Lang as The Blind Man – Don’t Breathe

Stephen Lang has been around for a while, but it wasn’t until Avatar that people started to actually remember his name. Something tells me that his character of The Blind Man in this will definitely make people never forget about Stephen Lang.

MV5BMjI0ODA1NjA3NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTA1NTc3OTE@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_

 

Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald – The Revenant

Tom Hardy is well known for playing complex characters and while John Fitzgerald isn’t overly complex, it doesn’t mean his character isn’t damn good. Hardy always brings his A-game and there is something about him playing a villain that always sticks out. His character is driven by greed and simply not seeing the reason for Leonardo DiCaprio’s character to live anymore. It’s the little things he does in between that makes his character work so well.

MV5BMjQxMTE3ODkxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjU3OTI0NzE@._V1__SX1216_SY537_

 

Honorable Mentions

Alicia Vela-Bailey as Diana – Lights Out

Charlize Theron as Ravenna – The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Daniel Bruhl as Zemo – Captain America: Civil War

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Sam – Desierto

Patrick Stewart as Darcy – Green Room

Rooney Mara as The Sisters – Kubo and the Two Strings

 

So, who were some of your favorites this year?

Be on the lookout for Part 2 of the list where we look at the other sections in Hollywood.

December Movie Releases

It’s December, ladies and gentlemen!

The year is almost over! How has your year been, because it’s been a great year for films, huh? December is also a tough month to set, because this is the big Oscar month, so a lot of films end up getting limited releases, expansion releases, and then wide releases. So if anything is off, it’s because of that. I’ll do my best to get everything where it’s suppose to go, and if not I’ll come back and update the schedule.  So let’s jump right in the films that will close out the year.

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

 

2nd

Limited Release: Jackie (Biography Drama – Fox Searchlight Pictures/Why Not Productions/Wild Bunch)

Following the assassination of her husband, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (played by Natalie Portman) fights through grief and trauma to regain her faith, console her children and define her husband’s historic legacy. The film has gotten a lot of love at the film festival circuit, and is getting a lot of Oscar buzz. It probably helped that this film has been in the works for a long time too. Jackie also stars Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, John Hurt, Billy Crudip, Max Casella, Richard E. Grant, and Caspar Phillipson.

jackie

 

Limited Release: La La Land (Drama Comedy Musical)

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone reunite for La La Land which follows a jazz pianist who falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. The film is getting a ton of great reviews from the film festival circuit so this one is one you should keep your eye out for. Also the trailer really gives off the vibe that the film will be a nice tribute to films of old. The film also stars Finn Wittrock, Rosemarie DeWitt, John Legend, Jason Fuchs, Hemky Madera, and J.K. Simmons.

la_la_land_ver3

 

Incarnate (Horror Thriller – Universal Pictures/Blumhouse Productions/WWE Studios/IM Global/High Top Releasing/Deep Underground Films)

A scientist with the ability to enter the subconscious minds of the possessed must save a young boy from the grips of a demon with powers never seen before, while facing the horrors of his past. The film stars Aaron Eckhart, Carice van Houten, David Mazouz, Emjay Anthony, Matt Nable, and Catalina Sandino Moreno.

incarnate

 

 

9th

Expanded/Wide Release: Nocturnal Animals

Expanded Release: La La Land

Expanded Release: Jackie

 

 

Office Christmas Party (Comedy – Paramount Pictures/DreamWorks Pictures/Bluegrass Films)

When his uptight CEO sister (Jennifer Aniston) threatens to shut down his branch, the branch manager thrown an epic Christmas party in order to land a big client and save the day, but the party gets way out of hand. The film also stars T.J. Miller, Kate McKinnon, Jason Bateman, Rob Corddry, Olivia Munn, Jillian Bell, Jamie Chung, Abbey Lee, Randall Park, Matt Walsh and Courtney B. Vance.

office_christmas_party

 

16th

Limited Release: The Founder (Biography Drama)

Michael Keaton stars in this film that tells the story of McDonald’s founder, Ray Kroc. I don’t think I’ve ever actually thought about the story of McDonald’s and since I’ve seen the trailer, it’s peaked my interest and I’m sure to many others as well. The rest of the cast includes Laura Dern, Patrick Wilson, Linda Cardellini, Nick Offerman, B.J. Novak, and John Carroll Lynch.

 

 

Collateral Beauty (Drama – New Line Cinema/Village Roadshow Pictures/Overbrook Entertainment/Anonymous Content/Likely Star/PalmStar Media)

An advertising executive encounters three mysterious figures who encourage him to move on from the past. The film looks like it’s going to be a powerhouse with the cast, but the idea does seem odd, and one that you can probably figure out from the trailers. Hopefully the execution works. Will Smith, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Edward Norton, Naomie Harris, Michael Pena, and Helen Mirren star.

collateral_beauty_ver2

 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Sci-Fi Adventure –Walt Disney Pictures/Lucasfilm)

Gareth Edwards directs the first spinoff/standalone film of the new set of Star Wars films, which actually takes us back in time as it follows Rebels on a mission to steal plans for the Death Star. Listen, it’s Star Wars, people are going to go watch it. However, the film’s last two trailers were freaking awesome, of course the film however, will have some closer eyes as the “dirty” word in Hollywood has hit the film: reshoots. Nonetheless, the film looks great and more importantly it looks different. The film stars Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Jonathan Aris, and Forest Whittaker.

rogue_one_a_star_wars_story_ver5

 

21st

Sing (Animation – Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment)

A koala named Buster (Matthew McConaughey) recruits his best friend to help him drum up business for his theater by hosting a singing competition. I don’t know if I’m over talking animal animated film this year, but I’m not getting behind the Sing train. The voice cast also includes Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon, John C. Reilly, Seth MacFarlane, Taron Egerton, Nick Offerman, Peter Serafinowicz,  and Jennifer Saunders.

sing

 

Patriots Day (Lionsgate/CBS Films/Closest to the Hole Productions)

Directed by Peter Berg, the film is an account of Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis’s (played by John Goodman) actions in the events leading up to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the aftermath, which includes the city-wide manhunt to find the terrorists behind it. Berg has already made a splash this year with Deepwater Horizon with Mark Wahlberg, so I can only think that this will be either as good or just as good. Patriots Day also stars J.K. Simmons, Kevin Bacon, Melissa Benoist, Michelle Monaghan, Alex Wolff, and Rachel Brosnahan.

patriots_day

 

Passengers (Sci-Fi Adventure – Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures/Village Roadshow Pictures/LStar Capital/Original Film/Start Motion Pictures/Company Films)

A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence) are awakened 90 years early. Two of the most liked and extremely talented actors in Hollywood are getting together for a film, and one that looks not too bad, I think we looking at a big hit here, don’t you think? Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, and Andy Garcia also star.

passengers

 

Assassin’s Creed (Action – 20th Century Fox)

Based on the popular video game franchise, Michael Fassbender stars as Callum Lynch, who with the help of revolutionary technology that unlocks his genetic memories, experiences the adventures of his ancestor, Aguilar, in 15th Century Spain. Callum discovers he is descended from a mysterious secret society, The Assassins, and amasses incredible knowledge and skills to take on the oppressive and powerful Templar organization in the present day. Justin Kurzel, who directed the well-received and great film Macbeth, directs and reunites not only with Fassbender but Marion Cotillard as well. The film also stars Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Ariane Labed, Mathias Varela, Brian Gleeson, and Michael Kenneth Williams.

assassins_creed_ver2

 

 

23rd

Limited Release: A Monster Calls (Fantasy Drama – Focus Features/Participant Media/River Road Entertainment/Apaches Entertainment/La Trini)

Based on a script and book by Patrick Ness, A Monster Calls follows a boy as he seeks the help of a tree monster to cope with his single mom terminal illness. The film stars Liam Neeson as The Monster, Felicity Jones as the Mother, Sigourney Weaver as the Grandmother, Toby Kebbell as Dad, and Lewis MacDougall as the boy and Lily-Rose Aslandogdu as Lily. The film looks fantastic and I can’t wait to see how it does. The limited release is due to Focus Features trying to get the film an Oscar run. The film will come out early next year.

monster_calls_ver2

 

Limited Release: Silence (Drama)

Directed by Martin Scorsese and based off the novel by Shusaku Endo, the film is set in the seventeenth century, where we follow two Jesuit priests that face violence and persecution when they travel to Japan to locate their mentor and propagate Christianity. The film has been looking for a release date and what better date to come out in than in December around Oscar season right? The film stars Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Shin’ya Tsukamoto and Tadanobu Asano.

silence

 

Why Him? (Comedy – 20th Century Fox/Red Hour Films/21 Laps Entertainment)

A dad (Bryan Cranston) forms a bitter rivalry with his daughter’s young rich boyfriend (James Franco). The film looks decently funny, at least we can hope, and seeing Cranston on the big screen is always nice – even if it’s a film like this. The film stars Zoey Deutch, and Megan Mullally.

why_him

 

25th

Limited Release: 20th Century Women (Comedy Drama)

The story of three women who explore love and freedom in Southern California during the late 1970s. The film stars Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Alia Shawkat, Laura Wiggins, and Billy Crudup.

 

Limited Release: Paterson (Drama Comedy) 

Set in the present in Paterson, New Jersey, this is a tale about a bus driver and poet, who also happens to be named Paterson (Adam Driver). I saw the trailer for the first time recently, and it looks like a great little indie film that will showcase Adam Driver.

 

Limited Release: Hidden Figures (Drama)

Based on a true story, a team of African-American women provide NASA with important mathematical date needed to launch the program’s first successful space missions. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kristen Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, Glen Powell, and Kevin Costner.

hidden_figures

 

Limited Release: Live By Night

Based off the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, Ben Affleck writes, directs and stars in this great looking film that is set during the Prohibition and follows Joe Coughlin, the son of a prominent Boston police captain, as he rises through the ranks of the criminal underworld and the trouble he falls into along the way. Besides the film looking great, it has a great cast in Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Sullivan, Anthony Michael Hall, Titus Welliver, Max Casella, Chris Messina, and Chris Cooper.

live_by_night

 

Fences (Drama – Paramount Pictures/Scott Rudin Productions/Bron Studios/MACRO)

Based on the play by August Wilson, and directed by Denzel Washington, Fences follows an African American father who struggles with race relations in the United States while trying to raise his family in the 1950s and coming to terms with the events of his life. The film stars Washington, Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby and Stephen Henderson.

fences

 

So, what are you looking forward to?

‘Suicide Squad’ Review

suicide_squad_ver24

Director: David Ayer

Writer: David Ayer

Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Cara Delevingne, Jared Leto, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Karen Fukuhara, Adam Beach, Scott Eastwood, Common, Jim Parrack, Ike Barinholtz, David Harbour, Viola Davis, and Ben Affleck

Synopsis: A secret government agency recruits imprisoned supervillains to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for clemency.

 

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

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a mid-credit scene.*

 

Here we go again. Warner Bros. released their newest film set within their DC Extended Universe, but this time it follows villains instead of heroes, and it has been making fans and critics butt heads. I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say some of it is just crazy. However, Suicide Squad isn’t just free and clear since some of the negativity is warranted, but not all of it. The film itself isn’t all that great, but isn’t terrible either. So let’s get to reviewing the worst heroes ever.

Suicide Squad is set after the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and sees government agent Amanda Waller (Davis) who has an idea to bring together the, as she puts it, “worst of the worst.” The plan is to make a task force called Task Force X, filled with villains like The Man that Never Misses, Deadshot (Smith), Joker’s girlfriend Harley Quinn (Robbie), the monstrous Killer Croc (Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Australian diamond thief Captain Boomerang (Courtney), pyro-kinetic Diablo (Hernandez), master rope man Slipknot (Beach) and June Moone (Delevingne) who is possessed by the witch Enchantress. The idea is that Waller wants a task force to fight off any other meta-humans – a term many comic books fans will know – threat that come their way.

MV5BMjAxOTUzMTg1NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjQxNzA0OTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1111,1000_AL_

The government, not so sure about Waller’s plan, is suddenly left to go through with it when a supernatural event occurs in Midway City. Considering the task force is filled with villains, Waller and the government have their easy out if things go wrong. To make sure things go smoothly, Waller makes solider Rick Flag (Kinnaman) her man on the ground, with his bodyguard and right-hand woman Katana (Fukuhara) to protect him in case the team gets any ideas – there’s also an explosive implant in the neck. However, when the team finally arrives to Midway City, they soon realize things are way worse than they thought.

Suicide Squad has been highly anticipated since the first teaser that came out last year after Comic Con. But again, with all the craziness that came out before the film’s release like competing cuts and all the early negative reviews, the film went even more under the microscope. I personally wasn’t sold on Suicide Squad for awhile, but as it got closer to the release, I was looking forward to it and hoping it was good. Then I saw the film, and I have to say, it isn’t what I thought it would be. Even with the early negative reception from critics, Suicide Squad was always going to be a risk for the DC Extended Universe. It’s following villains that maybe some casual fans don’t know, it’s expecting you to root for them from the get-go, and it’s following Batman v Superman. Also, no matter what you thought the film was about, we had no idea what to expect.

MV5BMTA4NzQ1MDA0NzleQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDc0MTcwNDkx._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1498,1000_AL_

I did want to like Suicide Squad, and for the most part I liked it more than I thought I would. However, there is no denying the film does have a good chunk of issues. One of them is, unfortunately, an issue that Dawn of Justice had in editing. Thankfully, the film’s editing is better, but not by a lot. Deadshot and Harley Quinn are introduced at the beginning of the film, and then are reintroduced when Waller is making the rundown of who she wants on Task Force X. The introductions to the characters are a bit wonky, as it quickly rundowns what makes them so bad and then either jumps to how they were captured, or gives each other them – expect Slipknot, but come on, that’s not a spoiler – a vignette. I don’t mind the way they did it, but there were probably better ways of introducing the characters.

The pacing for the film is fine as it drives forward with action, expect there’s a random flashback that Harley has that derails the pacing the film had going. The other thing that pretty much kills the thin story, is Waller’s plan for the Suicide Squad, makes no sense. I won’t obviously spoil what her plan is, but once you see the whole scheme of things, you are left wondering what the hell was the point? Combine that with some of the other issues the film has, you start to see that there was some behind-the-scenes juggling going on. It also doesn’t help that film moves from set-piece to set-piece.

Once the Suicide Squad makes it to Midway City, the action kicks in. The action is great to watch, and besides the cast, is one of the best parts of the film. Seeing all these villains comes together and essentially be the good guys, or at least anti-heroes, to take down literally faceless monsters is a sight to watch. I would have liked to see the group go at it themselves, but they just kind of agree to be grouped together. The only ones that really go at it is Deadshot and Flag. Also, it would have been nice to see some of the action scenes that were cut, well any of the scenes really, from the film.

MV5BNzM5MjczODA1NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODUxNzA0OTE@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_

Speaking of the cast, the majority of the cast really works. I’ll admit, I had my doubts about Will Smith playing Deadshot. Not because I don’t like Smith, but because I don’t see Deadshot as a Will Smith character, but boy did he prove me wrong. Of course, Deadshot is played by Will Smith, so you just see Smith, but he’s still great in the role. Margot Robbie is one of the highlights of the film. Although it really is hard to judge considering this is Harley Quinn’s first time on the big screen, but Robbie is really great at Quinn. There were moments where I thought they took it just a notch over, but overall Robbie has set the bare high for any future Harley Quinn actresses.

Viola Davis as Amanda Waller is, arguably, one of the most frightening characters in the whole film. That’s saying something considering what the film is filled with, but you believe Davis as Waller as this cut-throat, no nonsense agent who wants things done her way. The other highlight of the film for me is Jay Hernandez as Diablo. The character doesn’t do too much, but when you find out why it makes sense and makes him probably one of the most well-rounded characters in the film. The problem is that it takes time see what makes him tick and why he is the way he is, and it’s really disappointing.

MV5BMjA4OTczODM5NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDk3NDY1OTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1503,1000_AL_

The other characters really don’t do much. Joel Kinnaman’s Rick Flag is okay, but it’s hard to see him taking command of a bunch of supervillains. Killer Croc, although looks great in the practical make-up, all he does is grunt and snarl at his team. He does speak in the film and it’s pretty humorous when he does, but still. Captain Boomerang is essentially the comedic relief of the film, and while I’m not a fan of Jai Courtney he does a pretty decent job here. Kudos does go to Karen Fukuhara as Katana, because this is Fukuhara’s first film and her Katana has some cool scenes in the film, but her character doesn’t do much in the film either. Cara Delevingne as June Moone/Enchantress is meh We don’t spend any time with June Moone, so we don’t really have any sort of connection to her. When it comes to Enchantress, the best scene is her first scene when she is formally introduced in a room full of government officials. That is saying a lot since she plays a very vital role in the film.

MV5BMTUxNDMzNTQ3MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTUxNzA0OTE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1471,1000_AL_

Finally, Jared Leto’s The Joker. I know a lot of people were looking forward to Leto’s Joker from the first photo that was revealed. It also goes without saying that Leto’s Joker was always – no matter what anyone says – going to be judged against other Joker’s that came before him. It’s also unfair that he’s the first Joker after Heath Ledger’s great performance as The Clown Prince. I had my doubts about Leto’s Joker, and I hoped that he’d pull it off, but sadly he didn’t for me. Leto tried to do his own thing, while looking to pay some little homage to the Joker’s before, but it didn’t click for me. His little ticks and nuances came off as a little over-the-top, and ultimately doesn’t really do anything worthwhile in the film. We know now that Leto filmed more scenes as The Joker for the film that were cut – some even appear in the trailers, but not the film – but that isn’t a justification for shoehorning him into the film.

All in all, Suicide Squad isn’t a bad film like some critics are saying, but it isn’t a great film either, and you can see that Warner Bros. did have a hard time deciding what this film was going to be. Smith, Robbie, Hernandez and Davis are the highlights of the huge cast that could have gone wrong. There are some nice surprises in the film as well, but overall, Suicide Squad is really going to be one of those movies you either like or dislike. Personally, I’m indifferent to the film. I liked most of the film, but the issues of the film make the film bit disappointing as a whole because there was potential.

MV5BMTUyNDAwMjM0NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzYxNzA0OTE@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,934_AL_

Suicide Squad

3 out of 5

‘Focus’ Review

focus_ver4

Dir: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa

Writer(s): Glenn Ficarra & John Requa

Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Adrian Martinez, Rodrigo Santoro, BD Wong, Brennan Brown, and Gerald McRaney

Synopsis: In the midst of veteran con man Nicky’s latest scheme, a woman from his past – now an accomplished femme fatale – shows up and throws his plans for a loop.

 

 

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

 

 

Con Artist films are always tough. The cast and crew have try their best to not give too much away, but gives us enough that they don’t lose the audience. But, if they do lose the audience, they have to get them back right away. Basically, con artist films have to play a con on the audience, but do it in a great way or the audience will turn on them. Focus, surprisingly, keeps us engaged enough that we don’t turn on the film, but it struggles from time-to-time to keep us engaged.

 

Focus follows Nicky (Smith), a lifelong conman who hires an eager protégé Jess (Robbie), after a failed attempt to scam him. However, he sees the potential in her and decides to take her under his wing. He doesn’t hold back and the two go down to New Orleans for Super Bowl to show how big Nicky’s operation, and eventually they start falling for each other, which goes against Nicky’s rule of “there’s no room for heart in this game.”

 

I’ll be the first to admit that I was not really suspecting much from Focus, but I was mildly surprised how much of the film actually worked. The film even works as two parts, I don’t know if directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa divided the work, but the first half of the film focuses on Nicky teaching Jess everything he knows and setting the ground work for their relationship especially for things later on. The second half of the film takes place in Buenos Aires where Nicky reunites with Jess after a fall out in New Orleans and where he is doing a job.

 

Ficarra and Requa create some great tension when need be and that is when the film is at its best. When the film starts to slow down it does take away from film and leaves little to be desired. Nothing against Smith or Robbie, because they do have some great chemistry but after great tense filled scenes, the slowing down scenes are just that: slow. There is also some technical things, like the Super Bowl game, isn’t really the Super Bowl even though they are playing it at the Mercedes Benz Stadium and it’s a championship game. Small stuff I know, but still.

 

The supporting cast is also great, sometimes stealing the spotlight from Smith and Robbie. Adrian Martinez plays Farhad, an old friend of Nicky’s and the comic relief, and while his character is a bit thin but whenever he shows up it does add some air to the scenes. BD Wong appears as a Chinese high stakes gambler, in one of the better scenes of film and really does steal the show a bit from Smith. Rodrigo Santoro is a racing millionaire who hires Nicky for a job and is the weakest of the supporting roles, probably only because he doesn’t have much to do. Finally Gerald McRaney is Santoro’s character security agent, and McRaney is always reliable and is the same here.

 

However, Focus belongs to Will Smith and Margot Robbie. Will Smith brings back the usual charisma that we all loved about him and proves that he could still lead a film, if the doubt was in anyone’s eyes. Margot Robbie holds her own against Smith and continues to prove she is a star on the rise and is here to stay.

 

All in all, Focus might stumble from time to time, but with a great cast and standout scenes, it becomes more than an average con artist film.

 

 

Focus

3.5 out of 5

‘After Earth’ Review

after_earth

Dir: M. Night Shyamalan

Cast: Jaden Smith, Will Smith, Sophie Okonedo, and Zoe Kravitz

Synopsis: A crash landing leaves Kitai Raige and his father Cypher stranded on Earth, 1,000 years after events forced humanity’s escape. With Cypher injured, Kitai must embark on a perilous journey to signal for help.

 

*Review Note: This is a non-spoiler review as always.*

 

On the surface After Earth is a sci-fi movie that stars the Smith family powerhouse of Will and his son Jaden. Along with that, the movie is also a coming of age story of sorts with the added effect of a strained father and son relationship.

The story is set 1,000 years after humans have left a now uninhabitable Earth behind and relocated to another planet named Nova Prime. Nova Prime has its own dangers: monstrous aliens that hunt humans. So of course we learn to adapt and get a very brief scene that shows the humans fighting back and pretty much the only scene we get to see Will’s Cypher Rage do anything (more on that in a bit).

Anyway, we follow his son, an aspiring Ranger named Kitai Raige (Jaden) as he tries to impress his father. Kitai however doesn’t exactly have all the qualities it takes to be a Ranger and it disappoints him and knows that it will disappoint his father. However, the two get a chance to have some bonding time as Cypher after coming home briefly has to leave again and takes his son. While traveling something, obliviously, goes wrong the ship is forced and crash lands on the now quarantined planet of Earth.

The only survivors are Kitai and his badly injured father who has to stay on the ship and help guide his son to retrieve a distress beacon from part of their wrecked ship that’s many miles away. Sounds simple right? Well add Earth’s wildlife that has evolved drastically as well as the animals that Kitai has to go through. Still sound simple? Well aboard the ship was a captured alien monster known as an Ursa that has escaped its cage and is know roaming around.

After Earth may have the stigma of being directed by M. Night Shyamalan but Shyamalan actually has been able to craft a movie that, wait for it, is passable. The movie has some pretty good effects going for it but nothing we haven’t really seen before. Probably the best special effect is of the monster Ursa that looks pretty scary once we get a good look at it and maybe the shifting blade.

Although there are some brief roles by Zoe Kravitz and Sophie Okonedo as the female members of the Raige family, this is basically a two-person show, with Jaden Smith really being front and center. Will Smith on the other hand really just sits down for the whole movie and leaves his son to do all the running, jumping and fighting. The dynamic between the two was a bit rough at times. We know Will Smith for being charismatic but his character here restrains his emotions to the point that his performance comes across as wooden or bland, although it makes some sense for this character. Jaden on the other hand has his moments to shine but his facial expression all kind of looked the same. Also, the accents the have in the movie kind of took me out of it. I don’t want to be that person that hates the entire movie because of a small thing and I’m not in this case, I’m just wondering why they made that decision.

All in all, After Earth isn’t the best movie but it surely is passable and hopefully Shyamalan can ride off this and get back to some of his former stride.

After Earth

3 out of 5