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After getting my list down to ten, some of my ones that just didn't quite make it included: The Judge, The November Man, Maleficent, Birdman, The Theory of Everything and The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies.
These are not in any particular order!! They are not my favorite at #1 and so on. They are randomly my top twenty favorites.
Second of all....I estimate their time in the industry according to their first significant piece of work (nothing uncredited or unsubstantiated) and because I am listing my top ACTORS I am also not making too many comments on their other jobs in the industry ie: Directing, Producing etc.
I also estimate their Successful/Hit Films----I am thinking movies that were #1 at the box office, made significant money, or become cult/media classics. A movie that everyone has seen type of thing. And it's an estimate and I'm not including if they strictly directed the film either. Only their acting appearances.
And finally I chose to list Oscars because many film fanatics believe the Oscars are the ultimate in Acting honors. I don't necessarily agree but it does in some cases prove their clout in Hollywood but not always either. I think sometimes The Golden Globes are a better indication of that. Anyways enjoy my list and let's chat when you're done!!
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Expected a rehash and once again Disney surpasses expectations
Say what you will about Disney but whomever is at the helm nowadays is brilliant. So far their live action renditions have brought in Billions. Beauty and The Beast might be the first of the truly modern day Animated classics they've "rebooted" in a live action way. I thought it looked cool and was excited to see it but cautiously so because wouldn't it just be the same thing seen before in Animation? In short...yes. In long, it didn't matter! The direction, cinematography and seeing the classic fairy tale in live action makes it all the more impressive. It is perfectly cast and wonderfully performed. I found myself excited for the familiarity of some of the musical numbers and really enjoyed the story all over again. I saw a review or two that called the film trash for being liberal and I still can't wrap my head around that. I wish this over-PC world would calm itself and just enjoy something for a change. Disney is brilliant because they found a way to remake their classic films for a new generation but they also don't skimp on sheer quality. These films Beauty and The Beast included are magnificent with huge budgets so it is understandable why they're doing it and I will keep seeing them for sure!
It seemed something of a controversy to cast Emma Watson but I think she does a very good job. I think she is finally breaking the mould that was the Harry Potter franchise. She is really perfect as Belle. It's not exactly a meaty part and she's beautiful and headstrong and makes for a good heroine. Dan Stevens is excellent as The Beast. He is as good as his animated counterpart from years ago. He perfectly captures the personality and torment and still shows some fierce loyalty to Belle. Their chemistry together is perfect for the film. It's not too intense but not understated either. In a film like this where the characters are iconic and so Disney-esque, the supporting cast is as important as ever. Luke Evans and Josh Gad are absolutely perfectly cast as the villainous Gaston and his henchman LeFou. Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson (still would have loved to have seen Angela Landsbury return), Nathan Mack, Audra McDonald and Stanley Tucci all add something truly special to the film in their own way. Some of the more iconic characters (Lumiere and Cogsworth) are more understated I thought this time around but maybe that is okay for a live action film. Gaston is also more evil than he was in the animated version. Things are just turned up more in this version. It's a little darker, a little more vivid and large and a little more magic.
Bill Condon was a very interesting choice for the director of Beauty and The Beast. He has a lot of experience but I wouldn't have expected him to be able to pull this off. He plays things very safely. He makes sure all the things that fans of Beauty and The Beast would expect BUT he also gives it just a little bit more to keep new fans and old fans locked into a whole new remake. It's a beautiful film and stands beside it's animated counterpart. Time will tell if it will be a classic as well. 8/10
As good as the first, I suppose it's just not my cup of tea
The Marvel Universe on the whole has been great for me. I don't quite get the insane popularity of some of those films (AntMan for instance?) and I expected to really like the first Guardians film. I would never say the first film and this one were not "good" because they have incredible special effect, good performances, good laughs and people love it. Good! But for me, for some reason, the film doesn't resonate with me. It has all the things I love about a good popcorn flick but it just ends up being okay with me and this one was the same as the first. I think it was easily as good as the first and expanded the Universe a little bit and the characters. I loved the Howard The Duck cameo, I LOVED my hero and idol Sylvester Stallone showing up, there were some good laughs....but I see reviewers and even friends saying they cried multiple times and how emotional it was....I didn't get any of them. It was a CGI studded event with Science Fiction roots all through it but it didn't break any grand moulds and no one will say it reshaped the Marvel Universe like Doctor Strange did. It was fun and that's about it. It is an easy watch and good music like the first but what about this movie makes it so unique from any other film in it's genre.
Hollywood's latest superstar Chris Pratt might be part of the reason the film doesn't floor me. I like Pratt but I'm not sold on him as a superstar. He doesn't have the chemistry yet that (say Stallone had 20 years ago) or Dwayne Johnson nowadays. He plays this role well and this definitely builds more for his character and the Peter Quill story but he gives just a good performance in a good movie. Bradley Cooper as Rocket might be my favourite Guardian character but he is actually underused this time around. He has a few good lines and the banter between he and Pratt is good but I feel like he needs more story. Dave Bautista continues to surprise me as a half decent actor and he really nails the role of Drax. He is definitely the most lively character and also gets a ton of comedic moments and also some great action scenes. Zoe Saldana is decent but much like Rocket Raccoon, got downplayed significantly this time around. The romance between her and Quill is hinted at (which is part of the gag) but I think they should have added a touch more to it. I believe I said this in the first movie but why in the hell Vin Diesel was hired and is credited for being Groot makes no sense. I love Groot. He's adorable and funny but he is a 110% CGI character with an indiscernible voice so why do we need a Hollywood star playing him? Michael Rooker returns to get a huge character development as Yondu. It's a great twist to the story and he and Pratt are good together but I'm not sure the development makes a lot of sense given how quickly he makes a change. Still it definitely adds the emotional depth to the film. Karen Gillan is really amazing as Gamora's sister Nebula. She doesn't get enough screen time but her sub-plot was one of the best and I hope to see more of her in the future. And then we have Kurt Russell who is phenomenal in his role as Peter's long lost father. ***SPOILER ALERT*** he is also the villain, the big bad etc. and he is perfect at that. I'm so glad he's been getting a career boost as of late.
James Gunn is probably the only person who can helm this franchise. He cares about it, he co-writes it, produces, directs and he wants to build the Guardians Universe and keep it cohesive and bravo to him for that. I am quite certain that the continuity and feel of this movie was as good as the first because of him. I think once he steps away from the helm of this franchise it won't be nearly as good especially for me who just thinks it's okay to begin with. I know he is crafting a story here and I will gladly see the third and not just because I see all Marvel films. This isn't one of my favourites but it's not because it isn't good. I am in a very very small minority who think Guardians of The Galaxy and Volume 2 were okay and average in every way. Check out the amazing visuals and stay for the characters and story and chances are you'll be as hooked as everyone else. Considering this an anomaly for me.
La La Land (2016)
Average in every way and maybe a little unique but not worthy of the acclaim
To me, the Oscars nowadays means that the critics all got together and decided to play a popularity contest that quite often the mainstream movie going public doesn't see eye to eye with. I love musicals...like adore them...so I was excited for LaLa Land and so I was disappointed and confused by the fact that it did not come close to fulfilling expectations. I will say there were a couple of scenes that were very well done. The film has a unique vibe that is timeless and some of the dance and music scenes are reminiscent of an era gone by. It is definitely an artistic film. However, the story and the characters and the climax of the film is utterly and completely bland. It's not the type of film I could watch more than once and I don't understand how it is even classified as a musical when it had very few blatant musical numbers and it felt like it was more about jazz or "LaLa Land" itself than the music. The hardest part to accept was the lack of chemistry with the stars and just the overall lack of a solid story to hold onto.
Emma Stone is notable for this film because she is Emma Stone. She has an undeniable chemistry on screen and it always works at least a little bit. Still her struggling character actress is okay at best and she never really goes through any arc at all and you're left feeling very underwhelmed. Ryan Gosling honestly is downright terrible. I don't know if it's the writing or what but his character is vapid and empty and boring. Their "romance" is silly and contrived and it never takes off despite them trying desperately to make you root for these two. Somehow the "music" brings them together and their love of the arts. There is some supporting cast but honestly no one comes even close to being memorable or stepping up to anything. It's overall a very large disappointment.
If the film was just a few dance scenes with Gosling and Stone I might be inclined to love it but unfortunately they make you sit through a sub-par story first. I guess the choreography and some of the scenes are worth noting. The thing is I adore writer and director Damien Chazelle. Whiplash was literally incredible. Easily one of the best films of the year. I had such high hopes this would be more of the same and I get the art behind it and the neon glow and the story of Los Angeles and struggling artists but there is no meat here. There is nothing that captivates you and a film that won all kinds of awards and (nearly) won Best Picture is barely memorable. Film schools might study it but for me once is enough. 5/10
Their Finest (2016)
A very unique little film worth checking out
If there is one thing we hear constantly it's "Hollywood is out of ideas" and "there is nothing original anymore" but there is! Sometimes you just have to search for it. It has been a long time since I went for a blind movie, meaning I choose a movie and walk into it without knowing anything. So I tried that with Their Finest and once again it worked out very well for me. Their Finest was entertaining, funny, cute, unique and a great look at early Hollywood during World War 2. It has romance and strong characters and a really great female heroine. I love strong female characters and this film really drives that home huge. The biggest issue I thought with the film was the end. Everything is going truly great with the movie, the acting and the dialog and the characters and the pacing and then at a certain point it almost all falls apart. They make a bizarre change at the climax that is simply too fast and the end of the movie falls flat. If not for that this could have been an easy 9 to be honest. Still it isn't like anything else out there and it could be classified as a dark comedy/romance/drama but has something for everyone.
The lovely Gemma Arterton is our hero. She is a writer and wife struggling to support her and her husband and finally gets in on the ground level of a potential writing job in WW2 Hollywood. She is great in this film. Her performance is subtle and moving and emotional and she's funny and real and very vivid and much of the film is all about her and her journey. Adding to the gravitas of the cast is the incomparable Bill Nighy who plays legendary actor Ambrose Hilliard. Nighy is amazing and her chemistry with Arterton is perfect for the film. Nighy does what he does best bringing this character to life and giving him ups and downs and very real faults and challenges but making him someone you root for and care for. Sam Claflin is Arterton's nemesis in the beginning and they forge a working relationship, friendship and eventually romance. Their relationship is a highlight of the film although I felt as though he was a tad underdeveloped making his turn in the film a little underwhelming. Jack Huston is decent in a smaller role as Arterton's husband (of sorts) He's important to her character development but not much else. The supporting cast are all really good and fit their roles well. The movie within the movie is such a huge part of the experience of Their Finest.
Lone Scherfig has a lot of talent as a fairly new director. She has done a handful of things with varying degrees of success but I think her talents lie in storytelling. The film has some great scenes and a good hook but the characters are what draw you in. Arterton's journey as a writer in a "man's world" is the best part about this film. I think a woman directing the movie makes a big difference and impact. If you're looking for something a little offbeat and different and away from the mainstream Hollywood blockbusters, this is great and is sure to be memorable for you. It might not be mind blowing but it is well worth being watched. 8/10
The Circle (2017)
Such incredible potential lost in a mess of editing or lack thereof
Ironically I work for a tech company that if you really bent and twisted could look a little like The Circle only way less evil...I swear... The Circle seems incredibly timely and you know 30 years from now, even as campy as it ended up being, it could be considering a classic ahead of it's time simply because it has such a pertinent message to our world right now. It could be this generations social commentary. Unfortunately for this movie it is completely lost in very poor character development, some really horrid acting and line delivery, a weak and unedited script, a horrible use of star Tom Hanks and forcing Emma Watson to try and hide her British accent meaning she has not enough lines to give her character depth. Even still, for some reason I didn't hate the film. I still found enough about it that I liked. The idea and concept behind The Circle is very believable and the tech they use while it seems a little outlandish is incredibly real. If you stop and think about Facebook/Twitter/Amazon/The Cloud things that connect the entire world, this film is not even remotely far-fetched.
I do believe Emma Watson has it in her to be a star. Fortunately for her Beauty and The Beast and it's 1B+ take will solidify her in Hollywood because it seems everything else she has tried falls flat. I don't think film makers are casting her correctly. She looks through this entire film like she is struggling with hiding her British accent. The dialog is really bad so it hurts her performance even worse. Still I like what they did with it, even if there wasn't enough time to really dig into her. Tom Hanks is the driving star power and is sorrowfully underused. Even still he comes onto screen and makes every scene he's in worthwhile. He's perfect as a low level villain of sorts who is more than close to real life. Ellar Coltrane might be one of the worst performances I've ever seen. Is this guy even an actor? As Watson's childhood best friend and sort of a focal point for Watson's development, he delivers his lines like a terrible Grade School actor. He is absolutely terrible and that is in addition to how bad the dialog is. His chemistry with Watson is literally non-existent. Glenne Headly, the late (amazing) Bill Paxton and Karen Gillan give the three best performances in the film. Paxton who plays Watson's father riddled with MS is fantastic! Similar to Hanks, Patton Oswalt is very underused as Hanks' partner in The Circle. He seems almost to have had his lines removed. And then you have John Boyega (you know the latest star of Star Wars) in an utterly pointless bizarre role where he stands in the back of rooms and looks broody. You would literally think they edited out huge portions of his character making it seem weird and disjointed.
I'm not sure who is responsible for ruining a film with such amazing potential. I know that director and co-writer James Ponsoldt does not have enough experience to handle something of this potential calibre. I would presume that Dave Eggers original novel is much better and I feel like it's probably a lot of editing and cooks in the kitchen that killed this adaptation. I still liked a few performances, I loved the message and working in the tech world for me it really was a little on the scary side. It's worth seeing but probably forgettable but the message behind it will likely cause it to stand the test of time. 6.5/10
Topical and fun with boisterous personalities
2016 wasn't a great year for movies but animated films on the other hand... Sing looked great from the trailers and I'm amazed it took them so long to capture the "singing contest" idea considering television is full of them. But this is so much not about the competition. It's about music, and varied personalities and pulling together and working together despite differences. In the first half of the film I wasn't blown away. In fact, I mostly felt it was okay. The film actually hits it's high points in the latter part. You really get to some strong feelings and see the stories develop of all the various characters. The music is fun and fluffy pulled from some of the most popular pop songs right now. They drive the story and make sense to the scenes. Like any great animated feature nowadays, it has this amazing moral to the story about friendship and overcoming hardships to fulfill dreams. It is fun, silly, decently animated, and wonderfully voiced.
The cast includes some very big stars. Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, and Taron Egerton (as one of my favourite characters Johnny.) Nick Kroll is also fantastic as Gunter. I don't know how many of them did their own singing or not but regardless they bring personality and style to their characters and the voices just work together so well regardless of where they recorded them from. Everyone is recognizable and yet you lose them in the character which is exactly what you would hope from an animated film like this.
My daughter has had me watch this a few times now and I distinctly didn't care for it and then by the second and third viewings I liked it a lot more. It uses the typical songs but they work so well for the story and each main character has it's own little sub-story and then you have the focus on Moon and his theatre and the end just demonstrates the emphasis on friends and family and working together. It has laughs, it has emotion, it has silly moments, and there is nothing adult about it ultimately which I think is good because sometimes animated films can try to do adult undertone and it falls flat. Neither co-director Christophe Lourdelet, Garth Jennings have a ton of experience especially in this vein other than animation department but they clearly know how to strike a chord so to speak. It's fun, it's breezy and it hits the right notes (enough with the puns!) Best of all it grows on you meaning it will have a lasting effect. 8/10
Adorable, fun and great moral message! A unique gem
The idea of a little girl or boy wanting to do ballet is not new. Making an animated film around the passion of Ballet is new as far as I know. I hadn't even seen a single trailer for this but took my daughter to see it. Simply put, it was fantastic. Other reviews mention that it's stereotypical with shallow characters but it IS a children's film and it has such a terrific message behind it. The unique background of France and early 19th Century Paris makes this an adventure that is outside of the normal run of the mill children's film. Yes I suppose it is predictable and as far as characters or moral it's not new but you know sometimes it's nice just to see something nice! Ballerina (now renamed Leap) is not this year's runaway hit but it was a sweet, cute, fun time at the movies.
The cast is very good. The characters aren't unique but that doesn't mean they are relatable and fun and easy to connect with. Elle Fanning perfectly voices the hard headed dreamer Felicie. She is a wonderful hero for young girls and boys alike. Her passion for dance is really endearing. Dane DeHaan is adorable and perfect as her best friend (carrying a flame for her) the inventor Victor. The two characters together are perfection and their very light romance adds to the story. Carly Rae Jepsen is fantastic as the former dancer turned mentor Odette, Julie Khaner, Terrence Scammell and Tamir Kapelian round out some of the best of this case. They all fit their roles very well.
Perhaps the film is finding some trouble finding it's demographic. I think it might appear to be aimed at older children when in fact I think very young children might enjoy it even more. The backdrop of Paris and the excitement of the ballet and some of the animated dancing scenes are really fantastic. The "Rocky" type montage of Felicie honing her dance skills was fantastic. Co-Directors Eric Summer (also wrote the film) and Eric Warin are not full of animated experience so that makes this outing all the more impressive to me. I think someone with more experience in the genre might have really been able to tweak and edit this to perfection BUT that's not to say the Erics did a bad job. I think they did a great job and I will add this to my daughter's film collection the moment it comes out. I enjoyed it very much. 8/10
Kong: Skull Island (2017)
The monster films of the new Millennium continue on the same path
Set in the same Universe as 2014's Godzilla, it's really interesting to compare the two because they have almost the exact same faults as they do successes. I really wanted Kong: Skull Island to be a near perfectly crafted disaster/Monster film where they gave you characters with backstory that you cared about, a terrific story of survival and incredible special effects. I wanted this to be at least close to what Jurassic Park was. Kong: Skull Island is entertaining enough but it doesn't even deserve to call Jurassic Park a near relative. The concept is great, the special effects are good but the characters are downright drab. You have these fantastic actors with little to no backstory at all and such incredibly low personality. It leaves you feeling definitely empty.
Tom Hiddleston takes the lead and I was skeptical of that but he actually looks great and breaks the Loki mould and even his character had potential but again was written with such little pizazz. He's trying to be broody but without any back story, it comes across as very empty. Brie Larson is an Academy Award winning actress and this has to be one of the worst performances I've ever seen. The romance between her Hiddleston is ludicrous with no build up. She constantly looked confused and stares longingly at Hiddleston. It's really a bad performance for a poorly written character. John Goodman, an incredible actor, is given virtually nothing to work with. His character and performance reminded me so much of Bryan Cranston in Godzilla. He is underused and could have carried the film. The single saving grace is John C Reilly who at least gets a back story and has some personality. He might literally be the reason to watch this. He makes a bad script only slightly less bad. The chemistry with the cast isn't terrible but you never to experience any of it. Even Samuel L Jackson seems subdued by the low quality characters.
Are they really aiming for nothing more than CGI effects and the monster? Kong looks amazing although Peter Jackson's King Kong was astonishing. Jordan Vogt-Roberts has been plucked from virtual obscurity with only a handful of very indie type projects and now is handed this massive budget. All things considered, the direction and the cinematography isn't the problem here. The film could have been amazing. Instead it is entertaining enough and a decent popcorn flick but there is such little depth to anything. Gareth Edwards who directed Godzilla was fairly fresh faced too. I expect this monster fad will continue and look pretty but never meet the likes of similar epics in days gone by. 7/10
Get Out (2017)
Fantastically unique but needed some fine tuning
Now one thing is for certain this film deserves a lot of recognition. For one, it's the best horror film to come along in a very long time and it's a bit of departure from the new style of horror like Sinister, Insidious, The Conjuring etc. It hearkens more to the indie/international thrillers that I absolutely love. Isolated location, strange people, villagers of sorts...but the film has an obvious not so subtle political tone/message. It's really a creative story. It's even more impressive that this was written and directed by comedian Jordan Peele. This is a really cool extension for him. I also loved that he cast a lot of people who primarily are known for comedic type roles. It was really interesting watching a group of "comedians" take this so deadly serious. My only issue with the film because it was so good and so well shot and so captivating that the social message is lost when the answer to it all is sort of "well...just because." I wanted like a super sick reason as to why this involved African Americans and it felt like Peele really copped out on the message they built. Still brilliant performances, a great build up and some solid scares make this a must see for horror fans.
British actor Daniel Kaluuya leads the cast and does so expertly. He has a great back story and brings real depth to the role and his passion and his curiosity shines through. I don't think we felt like we got to know him well enough but he made for a great hero. Up and comer Allison Williams is fantastic as his girlfriend. She is so believable and has such an amazing opportunity to impress towards the end and she does that. Her and Kaluuya have great chemistry too which helps immensely. This cast really is fantastic and the supporting cast are as important as the main. Bradley Whitford is amazing as Williams' father, Catherine Keener is equally as impressive. The two of them together are absolutely phenomenal and their chemistry and performances could make this film a cult classic. Caleb Landry Jones, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel (a haunting and terrifying portrayal), Lakeith Stanfield, Stephen Root and comic relief LilRel Howery are all literally great in their respective roles. It's not easy to get any comedy into such a dark story and Peele's script along with Howery's performance brings some perfectly dark comedy to a bleak script.
The setting for the film is equally as important. The isolation of this lavish compound and the stark white of the landscape both people and the makeup of the home. The odd tone of the people and then the party unravelling, it's so great in every sense. This will truly put Peele on a whole new level of entertainment value and I hope he actually explores his newfound territory with horror/thriller because honestly to me this was better than any of his comedy but I know people are big fans. 8/10
The big picture comes to a close in a bit of a small way
The Resident Evil franchise is very interesting for me. It started out good, got REEEEALLY good, and then started to falter. It isn't fair to even compare this to video game films because ideally outside of the same proper nouns from the game (person, places and things) it has literally zero connection to the video game franchise. And that was probably a wise move. Director and creator Paul W.S. Anderson definitely forged his own world using those characters and did very well at it. He also gave us one of thee best female heroes in film history. He choreographed and created some of the best cinematography and action scenes in an action film let alone action horror. Now here is my issue with "The Final Chapter" I don't think Anderson had a "big picture" in mind. So instead of puzzle pieces sensically falling into place over the course of 15 years and six films, this film felt like it mashed together things to try and make sense of an "ending." In concept it was a cool idea but they should have been establishing this all alone with Alicia and Umbrella and the execs etc. Instead the film scrambles to put together pretend pieces that have been there but not all along.
Milla Jovovich hasn't had a lot of luck outside of the Resident Evil Franchise but as Alice she has coined an action hero that won't soon be forgotten. And she still looks incredible and carries off this role as well as she ever has. Alice is a tormented and bad ass chick and while her character doesn't have a lot of depth she's remained consistent in her quest to destroy Umbrella. Jovovich gives the role a lot of umph. It was nice to have Iain Glen back as a villain and he does very well in that role and is a great addition and foe for Alice. He should have been more of a staple throughout the series but he has shown up at key moments so there is that. Shawn Roberts has also been a villain staple in the series taking over from the original Wesker and he's important especially from the Video Game perspective. I did love his finale and how that worked and how the red Queen played into that. I also loved the addition of Ever Anderson (Jovovich and Anderson's real life daughter) as the Red Queen. She was fantastic and they used her resemblance to play into the story though that was all new made up information that would have been better served all along rather than suddenly. It was also nice to have Ali Larter return briefly but she felt like she was forced into the story and some of the other cast members were sadly lacking.
As a mindless horror/action flick, The Final Chapter works. Anderson doesn't slouch on his usual barrage of amazing special effects and kick ass imagery. The story is okay but feels like one of those shows that just finds out it's final season is here so it scrambles to tie things up. So it's time to bid farewell unless Anderson figures out a way to breathe new life into the franchise. Even though it has gone downhill I would come back for more at the great memories I've had throughout this series and it's 15 years. 7/10