Wednesday, December 30, 2015

"Best" Of 2015

I didn't get to see all the movies I wanted to this year. And I missed some pretty high profile releases like BRIDGE OF SPIES, JOY, and STEVE JOBS. One that I really wanted to see this year but can't because it is in limited release is THE REVENANT. Oh well, you can't see them all I guess! Anyway here is my Top 10 of 2015. These are my favorite films of the year that I saw. If a movie isn't on the list it's because I didn't see it or I didn't like it.

Before we get started, here are some honorable mentions.




Okay, here we go!


I was worried at first about this one. A man alone on Mars, and sad-face Matt Damon. I can't wait! Thankfully that wasn't the case! THE MARTIAN turned out to be lighthearted with some serious moments. And, it was funny. It was nice to see director Ridley Scott back in top form. And this was one of my favorite Matt Damon performances in a long time.


This year I started watching the films of Mario Bava. I love the directors use of color and penchant for Gothic horror. So in a weird way, I was ready for this film. Audiences did not take to this one due to false advertising. But I think over time it'll will get the respect it deserves thanks to home video.

There is an atmosphere to CRIMSON PEAK, and the best way to watch the film is let visuals wash over you. The plot is secondary. One of the most beautiful films of the year!


Probably the most intense film I saw this year. There were moments were I could not breathe, or move for that matter! I cannot wait to watch this again!


The best James Bond 007 movie this year wasn't SPECTRE, it was KINGSMAN.


Screenwriter of great films such as 28 DAYS LATER and DREDD, come Alex Garland's directorial debut EX MACHINA. And what a debut it is! Now, I am not an expert when in comes to hard science fiction. I like it, but I'm also more of a Star Wars kid. All in all, EX MACHINA is the best science fiction film I've seen in a long time.


I can't remember the last time I loved a horror movie this much. More importantly, a horror movie with layers. IT FOLLOWS is about so much more than a sex monster. And the soundtrack is killer!


I've always been a big Sylvester Stallone fan, and I love the Rocky franchise. So It came as no surprise that I was going to see the seventh installment, CREED. What I did not realize however, was how much I like the film. I love this movie! It's the second best in the series and Stallone delivers my favorite Rocky Balboa performance!


My favorite director has done it again! THE HATEFUL EIGHT is a superb film. The 167 min runtime flew by in the blink of an eye. I just got done seeing this tonight. I wanna give it the number 1 spot, but that would be kinda premature and bias. Expect a review real soon!


This film is Rock n' Roll, plain and simple!


Yep, you saw this coming a mile away. But I don't care. I've waited 32 years for a sequel to RETURN OF THE JEDI and THE FORCE AWAKENS delivered the goods! It's all in my review. Star Wars is back! Forever...

Well, there you have it! 2015 was such a great year for movies. Thanks for reading and expect more posts and reviews in 2016!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"Close But No Cigar" of 2015

These films are not movies that I hated this year. In fact I liked them but thought that they could be better. This year I may get an eye roll or two, especially for one film in particular. My picks for “Close But No Cigar” are not ranked in anyway. Here we go!


This is the one I may get the most flack for because it is a good film and you're going to see it on a lot of “Best Of” lists, but the movie just fell short for me. It lacked a certain cinematic edge to it. The buzz surrounding SPOTLIGHT had my expectations at a ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN level. And it reached at those heights a few times, but too often it felt like I was watching television.


What a great and fun movie! This film had me all the way up to the end which was weak. This may appear on some “Worst Of” lists which maybe is right? But I totally dug the imagination behind the film.


I might be blamed for being too picky on this one. When I fist saw THE FINAL GIRLS I loved it so much that I watched it twice! Yep, twice. Immediately destined to be my favorite film of 2015. But I slept on the idea. Then I slept on it some more, a lot more. Something was bugging me about the film. And that was, how can you have a movie set inside a 80's slasher film and not have it be a boob and blood fest?

The lack of gore puzzles me but I've come to the conclusion that the film was made for the SCREAM generation, not for the FRIDAY THE 13TH kids. But still, overall THE FINAL GIRLS is one heck of an entertaining movie! The killers mask; however, has got to go. Super lame.


Probably one of the most overrated films of the year. Again, like JURASSIC WORLD , STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON suffers from nostalgia goggles. The film also suffers from typical Biography Drama troupes. And like me if you only know about N.W.A. through MTV and VH1, then you already know the story? Yes, STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON feels like a Cliff Notes version of the groups story. But remember it's awesome, because “I remember that”!

With that being said; the actor who played Eazy-E, Jason Mitchell did an outstanding job and his performance is worth the price of admission alone!


This is technically a 2014 release but opened to wide release on New Year's Day. This film could have been the next GODFATHER, but it was missing one tiny element. It wasn't violent enough! Everything about the movie is good but the story drags a little bit. What an opportune time for some mafia action to jolt the audience. And by no means does it have to be exploitation, just a little something? Please!


More times than I'd like to admit, hype gets the best of me. If you read my review of AVENGERS AGE OF ULTRON it doesn't make sense why the movie is on this list? I need to correct something. This sequel is not better than MARVEL'S THE AVENGERS. It's still a good movie but I hyped my review way too much. Upon my fourth viewing the cool "comic book movie" moments don't feel earned like they did in the first Avengers movie. And I'm afraid it's no where near GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY coolness. Which was my favorite film of last year.

Friday, December 25, 2015

"Worst" Of 2015

For the past couple of years I haven't put out a “Worst Of” list because quite frankly I felt like I didn't see enough bad versus good to justify a list. But this year I saw some really really disappointing movies. So here is a list of what I consider the worst of what I saw in 2015.

I am not going to rank these in numerical order but rather list them best to worst. So here we go!


What happened here? Hot off the heals of SKYFALL I expected SPECTRE to fall short, but nothing prepared me for how disappointing the 4th Daniel Craig Bond film would be. Don't get me wrong, there are far worse 007 movies, but this was definitely a turd.

The action did not disappoint. But everything else felt wrong. The end of SKYFALL wrapped up everything since casino CASINO ROYALE nicely. But the plot of SPECTRE ruined that and made everything convoluted and dumb.


Boring, boring, boring, and more boring. I almost put AMERICAN ULTRA in the “Close But No Cigar” category but it's on this list because I just didn't care about what was happening. If the movie hits Netflix I might give it another chance but I doubt it. Too many annoying and unbelievable characters.


JUPITER ASCENDING is not a good movie. But I like watching it, the film has elements that I like about it. It's the performance by Mila Kunis that puts the movie on this list.


Everything that's dangerous about liking a movie purely based on nostalgia is JURASSIC WORLD. I thought the film was just okay with a few horrendous aspects. Like the terrible CGI, constant self- referencing JURASSIC PARK, and parent shaming. What I mean about that last one is throughout the movie they continuously shame a main character for not having kids/wanting to be a parent. Like, your life is missing something if you don't want to be a mommy or daddy. What a load of crap!


By now Adam Sandler films have become an easy target for harsh criticism. For the past 10 years his Happy Madison movie have just gotten worse and worse. His latest two films, PIXELS and THE RIDICULOUS 6 are steps in the right direction. But there is just one problem, it's too late.


But talk about your remake/sequel that makes you wish you were watching the original TERMINATOR and TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY!


Not the worst comic book movie ever made, but knowing what could have been of 2015's FANTASTIC FOUR, is all more the reason it's on the list.


If UNFRIENDED is the worst film I saw in 2015, then I'm doing pretty good. But this movie annoyed the heck out of me!

There you have it! Now I know this list isn't no where near close to the worst films of 2015. Hence no MORTDECAI, which I'm sure is terrible. Probably worse than anything on my list. So next year I promise to do better!

Saturday, December 19, 2015


When I first saw RETURN OF THE JEDI in 1983 I really didn't care that there was never going to be anymore Star Wars movies. I was 6 years old at the time and had many other distractions. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe being one of them. That Christmas I remember it being He-Man toys or Star Wars toys. I got the essential JEDI action figures, but that year Masters of the Universe ruled all.

I don't think it was until I got the original trilogy on VHS that I truly wondered about Episode VII? George Lucas said it would never happen. But as years went by, never happen changed to maybe in the future? And we all know what became of that don't we. Before the prequels, fans did actually get a sequel to RETURN OF THE JEDI, but it was in the form of a book and not a movie.

These new Star Wars books were cool, but something was missing? They weren't movies, and the experience just wasn't the same. And I completely wrote off Expanded Universe stuff once I heard about a dumb novel about Boba Fett surviving the Scarlac Pit.

Well, the wait is finally over! 32 years I've waited, and tonight Star Wars fans got something I thought we'd never see, a sequel to RETURN OF THE JEDI. And the wait was worth it! Gosh, I'm so happy that Disney listened to J.J and kept the marketing for STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS spoiler free. Which this review isn't going to be, so you've been warned.

Seriously, if you do not want to know what happens in STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS stop reading now.

When the second teaser trailer for the movie hit, I was on board 110%! But something bugged me, I kept wondering where is Luke Skywalker? Oh, okay. He'll be in the next and probably final trailer, that is understandable. I started to get nervous because there was slight rumor talk that Luke would appear at the end of STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS, as a cliffhanger? What! Man, I really hope not!

The last trailer hit the same night as advanced tickets went on sale and lo and behold, still no Luke Skywalker? Fine, whatever. I'm sure there is a good reason to why Luke Skywalker is not in any of the trailers.* Turns out there is a reason, a pretty big reason. And if you're still reading this and haven't seen the movie, your loss.

The major plot point in STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS is that Luke Skywalker is missing! This information is the literal first sentence in the films opening crawl. When I saw this I had to refrain from laughing, because I was thinking “no shit he's been missing”!

Now that that's out of the way, it's time to fall in love and delight in Star Wars again, like the filmmakers had promised. And they did. The Star Wars I grew up with and loved is back!

Like I said earlier, Luke Skywalker is missing. But come to find out it's more of a self exile. He tried to train a new group of Jedi but one of them became seduced by the dark side of the Force and murdered some of the others. Because of this Luke decided to leave because he was doing more harm than good.

There is a new threat. Out of the ashes of The Empire rises The First Order. They want Luke Skywalker dead and the Jedi destroyed forever. His sister, General Organa Solo learns of this and sends Poe Dameron, her best pilot on a mission to the planet Jakku to recover the map. The First Order know of this map as well, so the race is on! Think opening of Episode IV and you get the gist of it. Poe even hides the secret map data in a droid before going off to help villagers fight off Stormtroopers.

The First Order is hot on the trail as well. And instead of Darth Vader we have Kylo Ren, leader of The Knights of Ren. Like the First Order he is a Empire sympathizer and hell bent on the destruction of the New Republic. He is also a Darth Vader wannabe. Ren is well versed in the ways of the Dark Side, but he is no Vader, yet.

The droid BB-8 comes across the aid of Jakku scavenger Rey. And thus begins the delight that is STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS!

I think that is enough of the plot. I mean if you read my blog then chances are you've seen the movie. Or are going to the first chance you get. So from here on out without too many spoilers I wanna talk about the things I loved and a few nitpicks I have.

Let me say this one last time. I love that Star Wars is back! So what's the thing I love most about this new film? Right now it's the practical effects. Everything is back to looking lived-in again. No telling what kind of creature it was, maybe a Dewback? But whatever, there was this creature that had AT-ST armor as a helmet. How freaking cool is that! There is CGI of course, but unlike the prequels it isn't the whole damn movie.

My second favorite thing was the acting and characters. Yes, characters have returned to the franchise! You find yourself caring about each and every character in this film. Rey is my favorite! And she'll be yours as well once you see the end of the film. The last scene of STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS is my second favorite shot in the film. It would be my favorite but that belongs to Rey using a lightsaber for the first time! Holy cow, that music cue!

Next up is Poe Dameron, the new Han Solo of this trilogy. I could be wrong? But I don't think so! Cannot wait to see what's in store for this character.

I have others, but time to move on and talk about the return of Han Solo! A risky move but Harrison Ford pulled it off! I've missed this character since THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, so I'm glad he's back.

The last and final thing I loved about STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS is the tone of the film. The entire movie is one huge love letter to the original trilogy. A remix of Episode IV with I'd say 20% of V tossed in there. All the while being something different. Paving the way for Episode VIII being something entirely new! How exciting!

I did not mind the call backs to STAR WARS one bit, with the exception of the Starkiller base. But it was still cool and I wouldn't change a thing!

Overall the reactions to STAR WARS THE FORCE AWAKENS have been positive. There are a few movie news site bloggers saying the film is good but not great. I say half of them are lying, just so they don't come across as fanboys. Which that's all they are, just a bunch of glorified fanboys. Enjoy your TANGERINE and THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY fellas! Hey, all in good jest people. What ever floats your boat!

Final thoughts, I thought the film was great. I've seen the movie twice now and the entire film works for me. The only thing that I think is tiresome is the Starkiller base. It's a third Death Star! Time for something new guys.

I got more to say, a lot more to say! So maybe when the movie hits home video I will discuss more!

May the Force be with you, always.

* I realize that is Luke's hand in the trailer.

Saturday, December 5, 2015


Earnest Hemingway's THE KILLERS is a 1964 film based on the authors short story of the same name. It was directed by Don Siegel and stars a talented cast of actors including Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, John Cassavetes, and Ronald Reagan. This would be Reagan's final film before entering a carer in politics.

Originally intended to be a television movie, THE KILLERS was deemed too violent for network broadcast. So the studio went ahead and gave the film a theatrical release. I don't have a clue if the movie had any success at the box office. With it's start studded cast I bet it did alright for 1964. And probably had longevity in the drive-in and grindhouse circuit.

By today's standards the film would be considered not very violent. However, the opening is still pretty dark and brutal in terms of tone. Two hitmen burst into a school for the blind and kill their mark. They get rough with the receptionist (who is blind) to get information. And they kill the target in broad daylight. For the rest of the picture the violence is pretty tame, but THE KILLERS holds up nicely as a tough guy movie .

Murder usually ain't no thing to a hitman, but Charlie (Lee Marvin) can't seem to shake the thought that the target just stood there and died willingly? So Charlie and his partner decide to backtrack and find out why they were hired to kill the man.

It turns out that the contract was once a professional race car driver who got wrapped up with a crime boss because of a woman. The driver Johnny North (John Cassavetes) falls in love with Sheila (Angie Dickinson) but gets double crossed by her fella Jack (Ronald Reagan), the crime boss.

Charlie and his partner Lee put the pieces together by talking/interrogating several friends and business partners of Johnny and Jack respectively. All their information and clues lead to a dramatic conclusion leading them to Sheila and Jack.

I won't spoil the ending but the movies final shot is one of the best death scenes in cinema! It's for sure now one of my favorites anyways!

So the set-up and story in THE KILLERS is nothing new, even for 1964. The original film from 1946 was also mostly told in flashbacks. Both movies play like a detective story. But in that film the main character solving the mystery was a insurance claims investigator.

What I think is so cool about the 64' version is that the hitmen are playing detectives. Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager play these two so cool that there has to be a little inspiration for PULP FICTION hidden somewhere!

If you are a Lee Marvin fan, I highly recommend the movie. It's some of his best work! Other than that, you could probably take a pass on this one.

The film that I ended up liking more was the original from 1946, staring Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, and directed by Richard Siodmak. Both versions are available as a double feature on the Criterion Collection. Which if you are a fan of film is the way to go!