Ma (2019) – Movie Review

“Ma” has provided me with an interesting experience. For the first time in a good while, I found a movie that left me short on words. I sat on this viewing for about a week, desperately trying to muscle my way through my writer’s block before I finally rallied up the gall to tell you people my opinions. I only want to deliver a quality product to the adoring masses, so I hope you can understand the struggle and why I chose to delay this review until I could live up to my own standards.

If I could describe “Ma” in one half-assed sound it would be “bleh”. The first 2/3 of this film are so boring, it should almost be a criminal offense. The problem is that the story focuses so heavily on Maggie (Diana Silvers) and her friends, instead of the only compelling aspect of the film, Sue Ann, AKA ‘Ma’ (Octavia Spencer). Bear with me for a second as I try to muster up an appropriate analogy for these kids… Blander than the love child of gluten-free rice cakes and a beige cardigan… Yeah, that feels about right. They all have a combined ONE character trait, which is that they enjoy a splash of the devil’s nectar. But, if the meme accounts I follow on Instagram have taught me anything, it is that drinking and smoking are not actual substitutes for a personality. Sorry to break the news to you kids. They are a collective absent of any redeeming qualities aside from their immaturity, which, if I am to be frank, makes it really difficult to root for them over the supposed villain, Ma.

I have recently been engaging in a rather tedious debate with a close, personal friend of mine (No, it is still not Tom Skerritt) over my totally justified and accurate ranking of Octavia Spencer as the 5th best actress in film right now. He claims that not only is the ranking wrong, it is an egregious though to even consider her there. While this person actively chooses to be a clown with his objectively wrong opinions, Octavia keeps getting work and delivering great performances, even in subpar projects.

Octavia absolutely carries this film, salvaging some watchability out of this potential Ambien replacement. She spreads her wings into the horror genre and proves she has the range to succeed in a variety of different tones and genres. Ma is threatening, sympathetic, sinister, and charismatic. Sue Ann seems to be a nice woman, harboring so much pain and resentment from her childhood, and ‘Ma’ is essentially personality born out her desire to lash out at those who wronged her. It is unfortunate that the filmmakers decided to treat her as a supporting character, rather than the lead because the film would be so much more compelling if the story was about her, rather than some stupid teenagers’ interactions with her. Her backstory is not really complex enough to warrant treating it like a mystery, and instead they should have been more upfront with it, allowing for ‘Ma’ to have more screen time as the monster the previews presented her to be. Once the third act gets underway, ‘Ma’ really shines as a psychotic killer, but it is a sloooooooooow burn to get to that point.

The saddest thing for me is that I was really excited about this movie, even in the oversaturation of film releases going on now. It was certainly one of my most anticipated films of the early summer, but it just failed to amass to any of my expectations. “Ma” would work more as a hyper-absurd after-school-special about underaged drinking, bullying, and talking to strangers. Maybe if it took itself less seriously, it might be believably funny on purpose, and perhaps present an actual message of some sort. As it is, the only parts worth watching are ‘Ma’s’ scenes and there aren’t enough to really justify buying a full-priced movie ticket to see it.

I would give “Ma” a gluten-free 5.0 out of 10

Directed by: Tate Taylor
Starring: Octavia Spencer, Diana Silvers, Juliette Lewis, McKaley Miller, Corey Fogelmanis, Gianni Paolo, Dante Brown, Tanyell Waivers
Rated: R
Runtime: 1 Hour and 39 Minutes

Rocketman (2019) – Movie Review

In the wake of recent successful biographical films about entertainers, the inevitable production of one of the flamboyant performers of the past century has finally arrived. The songs of Elton John are amongst the most prodigious achievements in human history and the artist behind those mystifying compositions has lived a life worthy of being regaled in cinema. Needless to say, the fruitification of “Rocketman” seems long overdue. And as the grandiose showmanship of Elton demands, this film is an extravagant musical, with an indulgence in melodrama and large choreographed dances.

To be upfront, I am notedly critical of the biopic genre, particularly those that center around musicians and performers, primarily because a life’s story does not provide a narrative structure with an actual plot. When the totality of a career is the crowning achievement of a life that is being depicted, the guidelines are often too vague to create an actual cohesive tale about said life. Biopics are the film counterparts to nonfiction biographies you can find at your local publicly funded library, and if you have not read one of those since doing a book report in Elementary School, you can be forgiven. While the material could be fascinating, the medium consists of a recitation of facts and events, as opposed to an actual story. In my opinion, biographies translate better into a documentary-style film, rather than a forced narrative out of a compilation of factually embellished, loosely connected significant moments.

Having said that, it is to a film’s credit when it tries to be creative with the material it is given, even as it is simultaneously handicapped by its ill-defined goals. “Rocketman” attempts to remedy this obstacle by using Elton’s group therapy in rehab as a framing device, where he recounts his life up until that point. It is not the most original technique ever utilized, but it does signify an effort to create an organized story. But ultimately, people do not go to see films like “Rocketman” to identify if there is a narrative structure or not. Chances are that I am amongst the few who suck the fun out of an experience by demanding certain checkmarks that are irrelevant to most. The masses flock to the theaters to see Elton perform his many hit songs and possibly learn a little something along the way, and by that measure, “Rocketman” succeeds beyond a shadow of a doubt. This is a film with exceptional performances and musical displays.

If you are a fan of Elton John, and I believe that is a safe assumption if you are a viewer of the film, you shan’t be disappointed with the renditions of most of his greatest hits in the film. The cast is brilliant with their singing, treating the songs like the true art they are, often incorporating elements of fantasy into the choreography that accompanies the lyrics. And to the film’s merit, the songs are actively used as plot devices to facilitate character development, a technique that can often be difficult to effectively execute. The entirety of the productions of “Saturday Night’s Alright (for Fighting)”, “Your Song”, and “Yellow Brick Road” are personal favorites of mine, as they display the heights of heart and passion within Elton.

Lead actor Taron Egerton deserves an immense amount of praise for his performance in this role. He fully encapsulates every aspect of Elton, including his display of exceptional vocal talents and energetic, rhythmic dance moves. On the more personal angles of Elton’s life, Egerton totally espouses the pain and rage of the loneliness he endured, whether it be due to him coming to grips with his sexuality or the void left by the cold-heartedness of his mother and abandonment by his father, as well as the hedonistic lifestyle Elton embraced as a coping mechanism throughout much of his life. This role was exceptionally demanding and accompanied with sky-high expectations, and Egerton was spectacular.

I believe it needs to be addressed that, whether it is fair or not, “Rocketman” likely cannot outrun the comparisons to last year’s 4-time Oscar-winning (I know, it is an absolute abomination) “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Both are biographical films about musical legends who once lived as closeted homosexuals, struggled with substances, and have over-the-top flamboyant personalities. It is a large shadow to attempt to walk out from under, and “Rocketman” does make a few attempts to differentiate itself, mostly by relying on Elton’s music to help facilitate the story with ethereal musical numbers in conjunction with elaborate large-scale dances, instead of simply documenting specific stage performances. However, the stories bear a remarkable similarity, that despite “Rocketman” being about a wholly different individual, there is an inescapable familiarity that comes across as mildly hackneyed. It is no fault of the filmmakers that two separate real-life figures had journeys akin to another, but seeing as though there are already plenty of artistic liberties taken with the facts, I find it disappointing that they seemed to chose to emphasize the same points of their treks of self-discovery and growth, particularly the aspects of both of them having a heartless, manipulative and abusive agent/manager who is also their lover and brings out the worst in their respective focal character.

Despite its flaws, “Rocketman” is wholly enjoyable and thoroughly entertaining. I have little doubt that this movie will be exceptionally popular amongst general audiences and Elton John fans alike.

I would give “Rocketman” a fanciful 8.0 out of 10

Directed by: Dexter Fletcher
Starring: Taron Egerton, Jaime Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard, Gemma Jones, Steven Mackintosh, Tom Bennett, Matthew Illesley, Kit Connor
Rated: R
Runtime: 2 Hours and 1 Minute

Brightburn (2019) – Movie Review

“Brightburn” has been marketed as a blending of the gruesomeness of the horror genre and the classic, but legally distinct from, Superman origin story, captained by the Gunn’s, who have had incredible success with the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films for Marvel. I had high expectations regarding the film’s concept: What would it be like if Superman was a villain? But unfortunately, the film’s potentially deep and new premise is never explored on a philosophical level and all we are left with is a poorly paced movie with not enough gore to fully embrace its R rating.

Comic books have explored this concept before, but it has yet to truly be examined beyond the antagonistic ramblings of Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor in Zack Snyder’s DC films. And I guess that is why this film feels like an underwhelming letdown. Yes, if Superman were evil, he would be threatening and violent, but just choosing to show that aspect of the hypothetical ignores all of the potential morality questions that make this such a thought-provoking topic in the first place. Every superhero learns that with their power, they yield equal responsibility to use their power wisely. If Superman were to act against his usual moral code, it would be far more compelling if he understood the weight of his actions, or at the very least possess a corrupted view of his own morality, than the simple “Oh, now he is bad because… BECAUSE I SAID SO” that we were given. The idea is brimming with potential but “Brightburn” would rather just remind you that Brandon is a threat with slow walks that lead to an inevitable jump scare than to explain why he is acting the way he is.

Perhaps I am unreasonable to expect a film like this to possess anything more than the gore it promised, but even on that end, I felt disappointed. There are about two scenes where the blood and human innards showed holds up its end of the bargain, but for the remainder of the film, it feels really toned down. So, the film fails as a gore-fest and is nowhere near intuitive enough to be a mystery or a thriller. It almost seems like it is just a simple slasher by default while having the untapped makings of something greater.

Brandon Breyer (Jackson A. Dunn) is the Superman-child in the film and it is a low hanging fruit to criticize such a young actor for not being able to handle all the nuances of his role. He does portray a character that is believably not of this world, but the story relies too heavily on his performance and without his eyes glowing red, he does not sell the type of threatening persona he is trying to wear. The progression of his character is not helped by writing either. Brandon is introduced as an unassuming, friendly, and incredibly intelligent 12-year-old boy, and without any real explanation, he abruptly becomes self-obsessed and totally detached from everything he once cared about. As a viewer, you are just left confused as to how this phenomenon could happen without any warning, provocation, or reason.

The true main characters are Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle (David Denman), who are Brandon’s adoptive parents. Their role is simply to be a victim and slowly realize that their baby who fell from the sky, who has never bled, and who has super strength, might not be normal. They both love Brandon like their own son, but there were so many warning signs that he was going to be trouble that it almost seems criminally negligent that the idea Brandon could be dangerous only just crossed their mind 45 minutes into the film’s runtime.

It has been a while since I felt this let down by a film like this. The concept has such potential and it is regrettable that this film did not capitalize on it. I wish it could at least have been redeemed by excitement, but alas (Yeah, I said “Alas”. Fight me.), I was bored for a majority of the film. There are moments that are frightening, but I just hoped for more than we were given.

I would give “Brightburn” a dimly lit 4.4 out of 10

Directed by: David Yarovesky
Starring: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Meredith Hanger, Matt Jones, Jennifer Holland, Gregory Alan Williams
Rated: R
Runtime: 1 Hour and 30 Minutes

Booksmart (2019) – Movie Review

If any of you are like me, I would like to express my sincere condolences at this moment. But, if you do share any common characteristics with this overly-opinionated amorphous blob named Zach, perhaps you can relate to the awkward nerd who puts up metaphoric walls in high school because they are afraid of others people? (In my defense, people in high school and middle school are very intimidating.) It is because of those traits that “Booksmart” connects on a personal level to my experiences, and likely can connect to all of you as well.

“Booksmart” is a story about being brave, trying new things, keeping an open mind, but not forgetting who you are, all during the most insecure era of your life. Director Olivia Wilde takes a concept that has seen a lot of play in teen comedies before and gives a very modern and intelligent take on the preexisting formula. We follow Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein), two incredibly quirky best friends with a reputation in their school as annoying try-hards, who have spent their entire high school careers studying, at the expense of their social lives, so they could go to elite colleges. When it is revealed to Molly that she attends the single most unrealistically successful high school ever, and all of the “fun” and “popular” kids got into schools of extreme prestige as well, it sets her off on an existential crisis where she insists that she and Amy go to a high school party, and prove that they are fun before they graduate.

Where this film succeeds the most is with its incredibly charismatic and varied gallery of characters and personalities. Aside from the two leads, the other students and teachers that Amy and Molly interact with are all excellent. For example, Gigi (Billie Lourd) is rich druggy who inexplicably can bend the laws of physics to appear at every single party in town seemingly all at once. Having a drug-addicted comic relief character is not new (In fact, I recently got on Seth Rogan’s case for him overplaying this card), however, her timing is fantastic and she seemingly becomes a self-aware cartoon that plays well within the story. There are other characters, like Alan (Austin Crute) and George (Noah Garvin), who are absurdly over-the-top theater students that love to indulge in the melodramatic at every possible situation, and like Theo (Eduardo Franco), who is an aloof hippie who failed the 7th grade twice, somehow scored a job at Google right out of high school, and managed to seduce with his teacher (Jessica Williams) before graduating. It is the totality of the ensemble, which is given ample time to be explored and fleshed out, that really solidifies the quality of the film.

Amy and Molly shoulder the load of this film. To say their relationship is adorable would be a cruel understatement. They have a complementary dynamic, where Amy possesses a dry, sarcastic wit and Molly is loud, charismatic, and controlling. They have phenomenal banter which exhibits exceptional chemistry between the actresses that I can only hope signifies a friendship in real life as well. They are genuinely funny together, while simultaneously balancing problems of typical relationships and the changing constructs within them.

The lessons of growing up are some that hit close to the chest, especially if you are not far removed from the terrors of high school. As Amy and Molly interact with these people they essentially ignored or looked down on for the past four years, they learn a truth that I wish I had grasped when I was their age: Not everyone is an asshole. People have depth and most of the time, they do want to be your friend, given the chance. Both of them also go on their own quests to get the attention of their respective crushes where they both exhibit an all-too-familiar optimistic naivety that everyone has once felt about their first love. Molly pursues her jock of a student body Vice President, Nick (Mason Gooding), and Amy awkwardly interrogates her crush, Ryan (Victoria Ruesga) to see if she is even interested in girls. They both learn to overcome their own expectations and keep an open mind, and it is this sequence that brilliantly explores that lesson.

Much of the humor stems from the awkward relatability of growing up and the characters pretending like they have any real idea what they are doing. However, there is a lot of referential humor, as well. Amy and Molly are very intelligent young women, and they often site history, current events, and art in their casual conversations. This is essentially anti-Big Bang Theory humor (Finally, someone brave enough to take a swipe at “The Big Bang Theory”). The joke is not the fact that they are referencing something nerdy, but the fact that what they are referencing makes sense despite its obscurity. Credit should be given to the writers here, because there is a precedent for this lazy technique to masquerade about as intelligent humor for nerds, and they avoided the pitfall.

Both Amy and Molly are outspoken feminists. We know that essentially from the moment they are introduced to us when we see Amy’s car with a collage of bumper stickers calling on Elizabeth Warren to be president. It is a major aspect of both of their characters, and while it is presented as a quasi-satirical trait, exemplifying the abrasive extremes of steadfast, uncompromising views, I worry that some viewers will only look at the surface level content and be turned off. There is no question that the film is a progressive one, putting those ideals on a pedestal, however, in my opinion, there is some nuance to the execution if you are willing to examine the film beyond just the dialogue. But even if it wasn’t executed as such, I think it is ok to have a film with two female leads who unapologetically support feminism. Our cup overrunneth with films, especially of this genre, that are all about horny teenage boys getting laid by cheerleaders and mysterious girls next door. It is far from the end of the world to explore the other end of the spectrum.

As I write this, “Booksmart” is reportedly struggling at the box office, and that is a shame. It may seem that audiences are more willing to shell out their hard-earned legal tender to watch big-budget Disney remakes, and “Booksmart” is likely a casualty of that. It is my hope that films that are their own stories, with unique stories and messages continue to be produced, but as long as our wallets decide they would rather see what is familiar, original ideals will become a much rarer occurrence to see on the silver screen. This film is very good and I hope that it ends up having commercial success to match its quality.

I would give “Booksmart” an underappreciated 8.5 out of 10

Directed By: Olivia Wilde
Starring: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Victoria Ruesga, Mason Gooding, Billie Lourd, Molly Gordon, Diana Silvers, Skyler Gisondo, Eduardo Franco, Austin Crute, Noah Garvin
Rated: R
Runtime: 1 Hour and 42 Minutes

Long Shot (2019) – Movie Review

Seth Rogan is the luckiest human being on the face of this god-forsaken planet. He gets to co-star alongside Charlize Theron, one of the single most beautiful and talented human beings to ever grace cinema, in a romantic comedy where SHE is somehow inexplicably attracted TO HIM. I know that is obviously the entire premise of the movie but life is unfairly fortuitous to him for this, and I, a man of equal social awkwardness and curly hair, am a bit salty. My mom likes to say that Seth Rogan “looks like he smells bad” and that I am “not a total disappointment all the time”, so I have to ask, Charlize, what do you see in him?

As I said, the film inexplicably centers around a MUTUAL attraction between Secretary of State and Presidential hopeful, Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) and hairy, profane oaf, Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogan). Fred is an investigative journalist who is absolute and steadfast in his ideals, and after his newspaper is bought out by Andy Serkis’s Roger Ailes stand-in, he goes on a viral tirade. Charlotte, who is now a major prominent political figure in the world and who was Fred’s childhood babysitter and crush, hires Fred to help write some speeches for her to help her appear funnier to potential voters. And so, we join them on a charming journey watching them steadily fall in love with each other while they balance her political aspirations with his political ideals.

The film’s strength is undoubtedly the relationship between the leads. Charlize and Seth seem to have actually grown up together, exhibiting chemistry that I could not even replicate with some of my closest friends, and because of that, you desperately yearn for their happiness together. They are a sort of odd couple, star-crossed lovers, but their interactions with each other, from the moment they are seen on screen together, display a romantic connection that even I, as a very bitter man, definitely appreciate.

Unfortunately for “Long Shot”, 50% of the Romantic Comedy genre is Comedy. Most of the dialogue, in order to secure a cheap and effective laugh, just forces in “F*ck” and “F*cker” to try to take advantage of that R rating and appear edgy. As for Seth Rogan, he has earned his reputation as a mainstay in the comedy genre. He has made many successful films that are rightfully revered, but after seeing it so many times, his roles start to resemble each other and his humor becomes shtick. This is a problem, at least for me, when Charlotte makes Fred get her high on Molly to help her relax. The movie, at that point, was never “wet your pants” funny, but could always get a consistent chuckle. But then it just turned into a “DRUGS MAN! AMIRITE?!?” punchline that is just so lazy. Maybe some people can’t get enough of that type of humor, but it certainly is not for me. And most egregiously, the final, big joke, is a slapstick routine about Fred rubbing one out and making a mess on himself. Yeah, really clever…

There is a lot of political messaging within the film that can be taken either way depending on your affiliation, but there is one message that I truly appreciate and would like to discuss. Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Fred’s obligatory smartass, supportive best friend, reveals that he is a proud member of the GOP and creates a dialogue about how Fred’s uncompromising political views are never meant to work with people who disagree with him, meaning he is just as intolerant as those he claims to hate. It is a very interesting point, that we, as a society, do not have the freedom to freely express ourselves because it could fail to conform to the expectations of others. We need to be more accepting of those who disagree with us and learn to communicate with them instead of silencing them and pushing them away. We could all learn something from this, whether it be about politics or just life in general.

Overall, the film may not be either actor’s finest work, but it is certainly enjoyable. It is a very predictable narrative but it has its charm. As a date night flick, it serves its purpose and everyone will likely be going home feeling some type of way a bit more.

I give “Long Shot” a reasonable 7.0 out of 10

Directed by: Jonathan Levine
Starring: Charlize Theron, Seth Rogan, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Andy Serkis, June Diane Raphael, Ravi Patel, Bob Odenkirk
Rated: R
Runtime: 2 Hours and 5 Minutes

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019) – Movie Review

“John Wick” is the single most pro-dog media franchise since the conception of the WeRateDogs Twitter account, and portrays a mild, toned-down version of what would happen to anyone if you even laid a finger on my precious dog, Molly. In total seriousness, if any of you hurt her, every moment you aren’t running, I will only be getting closer. Chapter 3 of this morally righteous dog-avenging saga depicts our titular character (Keanu Reeves) on the run and facing consequences for breaking the rules in his previous films. “Parabellum” is a type of German automatic firearm and is derived from the Latin phrase para bellum which translates to “prepare for war” (per Dictionary.com). Basically, this is a movie specifically aimed at small children. Nothing traumatizing or difficult to explain to your therapist here.

To use a basketball reference, I describe the franchise of “John Wick” as Tim Duncan with a bunch of tattoos. For those of you who do not understand what that means, Tim Duncan was known as “The Big Fundamental”. He is the greatest Power Forward in NBA history because he was so mechanically sound. He never tried to do too much, and in doing so, was seemingly always successful. And “John Wick” is the movie equivalent of that, albeit with a bit more personality.

It follows a simple story and trusts the audience to be able to follow the narrative into another world without dumping a metric ton of exposition on you. Because the story does take place in a sort of alternative version of reality where there is a society of assassins in the world, you would be excused if you were to believe there would be a requirement to be versed in the lore of the franchise. But neigh. The writers did an exceptional job with the script because they reveal information that that is necessary, but they have faith that you can follow what is going on by relying on context. While Chapter 3 is obviously the third installment in the franchise, viewing the previous two is not totally necessary to understand the events that are transpiring.

What makes this film, and the franchise as a whole, so exceptional is the action. Jonathan Eusebio is credited as the stunt coordinator and choreographer on this project, and without knowing his salary, I can assuredly state that he is criminally underpaid. The physical combat portrayed in the movie can be compared to one elongated dance that could appropriately be scored by Electronic Dance Music or classical opera, best exemplified by Anjelica Huston’s character directing a Belarusian ballet during an action set piece. There is a visual beauty of the physicality displayed that calls to the elegance of a graceful waltz meeting the unhinged brutality of a bare-knuckle boxing match.

There is noticeable influence by eastern films, particularly martial-arts films and anime. I will not pretend to be an expert in the subject, but with what little familiarity I do have, I recognized it early and often. Similar to most anime protagonists, John is not threatening because of his physicality, rather based on reputation and willpower, and therefore the coordination of his actions is of the utmost importance to depict his true power. John fights like the character, Spike, from my personal favorite anime, “Cowboy Bebop”, who describes his own style as “fluid like running water” and using his enemies’ force against themselves. John takes down hordes of adversaries as well as physical Leviathan and real-life Philadelphia 76er’s 7’3” Center, Boban Marjanovic, despite not seeming nearly as formidable as those he was opposing. There are even similarities to that show’s finale and much of the combat of the film, whether it be the use of Japanese swords versus handgun or the one man realistically taking on an entire army.

Another aspect that this film, as well as the rest of the franchise, thrives in is world-building. As I previously mentioned, there is not an abundance of exposition so much of the storytelling is done through visuals. New York is portrayed as a city in perpetual rain with an omnipresent neon glow. There is a mix of prominent Eastern European and Japanese culture at every corner, and we as the viewer, are given the respect to understand this world without being patronized and stopping the film every 10 minutes to explain why things are the way they are. This is an area where the film could have strayed into problems, but thanks to the focus of the director, stays on point consistently throughout.

Keanu Reeves is never going to win an Oscar. I am sorry if I just shattered someone’s dreams but it is just a fact that society needs to come to grips with. But that does not mean he cannot act, and in fact, John Wick might be a role that no one else could play as well as he does. The endearing, unassuming awkwardness behind his dialogue only serves to exacerbate the threatening persona he wears. I would venture as far as to say that he is more fitting for the role of John than he is of Neo from “The Matrix”.

The film is perhaps too simple to be a perfect 10 out of 10, but it achieves every single goal it sets out to do. For a movie that is completely driven by its action and choreography, it has a compelling narrative and invites audiences to enjoy the show. If you are not a fan of action and blood, I can understand why you may pass on this film, but to everyone else, I can promise you will enjoy this one.

I give “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” a graceful 8.9 out of 10

Directed by: Chad Stahelski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Ian McShane, Laurence Fishbourne, Mark Dacascos, Asia Kate Dillon, Lance Reddick, Jerome Flynn, Anjelica Huston, Boban Marjanovic
Rated: R
Runtime: 2 Hours and 11 Minutes

Top 10 Film Actors Right Now

When I made the list for Top 10 Film Actresses Right Now, I actually had the idea for a few weeks before finally conjuring up the guts it takes to complete such an undertaking. But now that I have finally reached my Super Saiyan form, I might as well strike while the iron’s hot and do the follow-up list before I get distracted by some new shiny object. I have the attention span of a squirrel with a low-grade concussion.

Whether it be fair or unfair, there are more films in Hollywood that are led by male actors than there are those led by females, and regardless of the social implications or what you may think about that situation, for us right now, that means the pool of actors from which to make my selections is rather vast. I tried to compose this list of those who have a combination of a winning track record, recent success, and overall star power. There is no real quantitative measure to go by so my gut feelings are the best alternative.

I would like to quickly thank Daniel Day-Lewis for retiring before I constructed this list, therefore designating him as inactive, and giving me just a little bit more flexibility. My Honorable Mentions are as follows: Benedict Cumberbatch, Javier Bardem, Michael B Jordan, Mark Ruffalo, Oscar Isaac, Willem Dafoe, Denzel Washington, Christoph Waltz, Timothée Chalamet, Gary Oldman, Ryan Gosling, Sam Rockwell, and Ryan Reynolds. Yeah, I had to make some tough calls, clearly.

10. Idris Elba

Idris Elba as Commandant in “Beasts of No Nation” (2015)

There was a time when Idris Elba was an underrated diamond in the rough. Everyone knew he was a top-quality actor but it took a little bit for him to be considered A-list. Perhaps he was the best-kept secret or maybe I just was not looking as closely as I should have been. Either way, Idris Elba is a hot commodity now and it is well deserved. While he has been a mainstay as the lead on the BBC Detective Drama “Luther” for almost a decade, he has now left a remarkably sizeable footprint on the film industry. He has scored a reoccurring role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Heimdall, major voice acting gigs in major animated features like “Zootopia”, “The Jungle Book”, and “Finding Dory”, as well as major roles in blockbuster franchises “Pacific Rim”, “Star Trek”, and “The Fast and The Furious”. There were even talks for years that he was perhaps the top choice to take up the mantle of James Bond when Daniel Craig finally moved on.

In my humble opinion, Idris’s best performance came in the Netflix produced 2015 African War drama, “Beasts of No Nation”, as the incredibly threatening Commandant. The fact that he was snubbed for an Oscar nomination that year is an egregious crime against humanity, as he was my personal choice to win it all that year. This performance is the greatest showcase of his remarkable acting talents. I am well aware that not many people have seen this film, so I highly recommend you log onto Netflix and watch it. It is not like you’re the one paying for the account anyway.

9. Tom Hardy

Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald in “The Revenant” (2015)

There was a point in his career, after filming the romantic comedy “This Means War” with Chris Pine and Reese Witherspoon, that Tom Hardy publicly stated that he was done with the genre and wanted to be taken more seriously as an actor. I would say that Tom has achieved what he set out to do. He has developed the reputation as an actor with a fierce dedication that produces very creative takes on ideas that could have been much simpler and forgettable in the hands of a lesser actor. It now seems that Tom Hardy is synonymous with both commercial and critical success.

Hardy has made a major impact in the comic book genre, playing the conniving powerhouse Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises” as well as an antihero version the title character in “Venom”, both of which were well received by fans. He was the antagonist to Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Revenant”, where he was screaming about pelts of fur and managed to steal an Oscar nomination. He has made a turn as notorious serial killer and wearer of fabulous mustache, Charles Bronson. Furthermore, he has also grown into the unofficial position as director Christopher Nolan’s go-to talent, which is certainly the most enviable of positions. Perhaps my favorite aspect of his acting is his creativity. He always develops a unique voice for seemingly all of his characters that is far more than just a gimmick. It makes each performance special, gifted with a unique touch that only Hardy can provide.

8. Joaquin Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix as Larry “Doc” Sportello in “Inherent Vice” (2014)

Early on in his career, Joaquin was oft compared to his late older brother, River. After his unfortunate, early passing, Joaquin was burdened with carrying the legacy and enormous untapped potential of his brother. It was an unfair hill for him to have to climb, but he has reached the summit. Joaquin has been amongst the upper echelon of Hollywood talents since the turn of the century and is still going strong today. He has excelled so much, in fact, that like the Hardy before him, he is tasked with following up behind the legendary Heath Ledger’s performance of the Joker, this time in his own solo Joker origin film. It is a herculean task, and if you come at the king, you best not miss (Just ask Jared Leto).

Obviously, Phoenix’s success is based on more than just the fact that he will be the next Joker, although that is telling of the faith the industry has in his ability. He has been stellar in virtually all of the films he has been in, including “Gladiator”, “Her”, and “Walk the Line”. He has also recently carved out a nice partnership with one of my favorite directors, Paul Thomas Anderson, by starring in thrillers “The Master” and “Inherent Vice”. Phoenix reliably delivers depth with his characters, delivering performances that make you feel, think, and engage with the material beyond just what the narrative provides for on the surface.

7. Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine in “Logan” (2017)

I remember a “Key & Peele” comedy routine where they said women used to convince their boyfriends to see “Les Misérables” by telling them it was a movie starring “ya boy Wolverine”. At the time, it was pretty surprising to see Hugh Jackman star in a musical, but how unassuming we were. What I, and I am guessing the rest of you losers also, didn’t realize at the time was that Jackman was an accomplished stage actor in Australia before coming to America and he was more than comfortable flexing that skillset on the silver screen. And since then, Jackman has blossomed into such an accomplished leading man in Hollywood, proving that not only can he be the perfect Wolverine in the “X-Men” franchise, but he also has the angelic pipes to carry multiple high profile musicals whose soundtracks are constantly playing on repeat on my mom’s bathroom speakers (Which is objectively the most important accomplishment).

The Australian actor is now one of the surest bets in the industry for a fan of pretty much any genre. Like I mentioned before, he thrives in musicals, provided one of the top 2 all-time runs as a superhero (Will we see the other on this list?), and has worked with accomplished directors Christopher Nolan and James Mangold. He has exhibited comedic range with his public frenemy, Ryan Reynolds, and I really do hope they do a project together soon because they are adorable. Can I be your friend, guys? Please…

6. Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper as Jack in “A Star Is Born” (2018)

Does everyone remember when Bradley Cooper played the douchey boyfriend to Rachel McAdams’s Claire in “Wedding Crashers” and we all foolishly thought he would be pigeonholed into roles like that forever? Well, Cooper has developed himself and his career into one of the most versatile actors around, all while still playing those cocky comedic roles in films like “The Hangover” or one of its totally unnecessary sequels.  Now he just has the freedom to choose whatever he wants to do.

From 2012 to 2014, Cooper delivered an Oscar-nominated performance each year for “Silver Lining’s Playbook” (2012), “American Hustle” (2013), and “American Sniper” (2014). All of those roles task Cooper with different types of characters, from a realistic portrayal of mental illnesses like bipolar disorder to a sleazy FBI agent, to a veteran sniper coping with PTSD. He has also added his vocal works to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Rocket in “The Guardians of the Galaxy” Franchise. Just last year, he flexed on us by co-starring with Lady Gaga in a remake of “A Star is Born” where he once again proved how talented he was by exhibiting an ability to sing. And since I am piling it all up, you should see how gifted of an impressionist he is too. He does the best Christopher Walken I have ever heard. He is absurdly talented and I think a part of me resents him for it.

5. Josh Brolin

Josh Brolin as Llewelyn Moss in “No Country for Old Men” (2007)

It seems like a sort of sacrilege that goddamn Thanos is only 5th on this list, but thus is the yield of my mighty brain. Do not question me! Josh Brolin is on one of the cleanest hot streaks of uninterrupted gold I have ever witnessed. The streak, which is so hot it is nearing incandescence, goes “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”, “Inherent Vice”, “Sicario”, “Hail Ceasar”, “Avengers: Infinity War”, “Deadpool 2”, “Sicario: Day of the Soldado”, and finally “Avengers: Endgame” … I mean seriously! Save some for everybody else.

If his aforementioned streak didn’t tip you off, Brolin is an amazing actor and a bankable presence in the movie industry. Outrageously, that streak doesn’t even include some of his finest performances. Working closely with the Coen Brothers, he plays the hero Llewelyn Moss in the truly spectacular “No Country for Old Men” and Tom Cheney in “True Grit”, as well as prominent political figures George W. “Dubya” Bush in Oliver Stone’s “W.” and Dan White in the acclaimed biopic “Milk”. If you don’t get it by now, I really can’t help you. The man is an acting force-to-be-reckoned-with. He also sometimes broadcasts on social media from his toilet and I respect the Hell out of him for it.

4. Mahershala Ali

Mahershala Ali as Juan in “Moonlight” (2016)

After getting his big break on the Netflix political drama “House of Cards”, Mahershala Ali has spring-boarded himself into the conversation of being one of the best actors right now. He owns the unique distinction of being the only actor to accumulate multiple Academy Awards in the past 3 years, and it now seems as though everything he touches will prosper. And even though I refused to see “Alita: Battle Angel” out of principle (I am a confusing, stubborn anomaly of a person), I have read that it may have been the only successful live-action adaptation of an anime ever. I imagine him starring in it may have had something to do with it.

Ali’s best turn is undoubtedly as Juan in Barry Jenkins’s Oscar-winning “Moonlight”. In the film, he plays a paternal drug dealer with a heart of gold. He is a layered character that is a positive, guiding force to young Chiron, a neglected Miami boy who struggles with his identity, bullying, and whose mother is addicted to the junk Juan sells. Juan struggles with the consequences of his actions and how it affects the boy he is trying to help. This is Ali’s best character to date but there is more assuredly to come. And even though I have roasted “Green Book”, Ali did a great job in the film as well. It is no coincidence that Mahershala has been a star in 2 of the last 3 Oscar Winners for Best Picture.

3. Robert Downey Jr.

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man in “Iron Man” (2008)

Robert Downey Jr. is synonymous with Tony Stark. He is Iron Man. In my most humble of opinions, RDJ has produced the greatest run as a superhero in film history, and in doing so, has created something beyond the character itself. When he took up the role of Iron Man in 2008, Downey launched the single most successful movie franchise we have ever seen, to which he has been dubbed the godfather for the essential role he has played. Our culture itself has single-handedly been altered due to the work of this man. I cannot understate how momentous his acting has been on the world.

But he is not just a one trick pony! Downey is a master of dialects, even starring as legendary British detective Sherlock Holmes. Considering RDJ is American and there are literally thousands of actual British actors who could have fit the part too, that is telling. In “Natural Born Killers”, he shows off by doing a flawless Australian accent. And perhaps the strangest thing, he was nominated for an Oscar in 2008 for a role in the comedy, “Tropic Thunder”. No, the weird part is not that a Ben Stiller movie was nominated for an Oscar (although that boggles the mind to think about), but the fact that he was in blackface for the entire movie. I guess it is ok because he did it to parody method actors taking their jobs too far and so there was a point to it… Maybe? You know what, defending blackface is not the hill I want to die on. Either way, he is an extraordinarily talented actor who has already accomplished so much and now has more freedom to do more varied projects, and that can only be a good thing for movie-goers.

2. Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio (left) as Danny Archer with Dijmon Hounsou (right) as Solomon Vandy in “Blood Diamond” (2006)

When I started putting together this list, I was positive Leo would be in my top spot. It is not that he isn’t deserving, it is just that the frequency of his projects has lessened in recent years, and you cannot win the MVP if you do not play every game. But Leo has earned the right to be overly selective about which roles he takes. He has already solidified himself as one of the best to ever grace the silver screen, and reasonably, he views his time and effort as a valuable commodity that shouldn’t be wasted on just anything. Thankfully, he will be starring in the upcoming Quentin Tarantino film “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood” later this year, which will be his first film in four years.

Leo finally won his first Oscar in 2015 for “The Revenant” when director Alejandro Iñárritu essentially just dumped him into the Arctic and filmed him surviving for his life. It is an intense film that is just brutal (I mean that in a good way). But he has played so many iconic characters throughout his career, including a disabled child, Arnie Grape, back in 1993, for which he was nominated for his first Oscar as a teenager. He has also played the lead in “Titanic”, “The Aviator”, “Blood Diamond”, “The Departed”, Shutter Island”, “Gangs of New York”, “Inception”, “The Great Gatsby”, and “The Wolf of Wall Street” among others. But who could forget his despicable turn as the charismatic slave owner, Calvin Candie, in “Django Unchained”, where Leo actually sliced his hand open during filming and rubbed his actual blood on an unassuming Kerry Washington’s face? I live for creepy stories like that. It is hard to pick a favorite role of his, but as long as he is still making films, Leo has to be considered in the conversation for best actor right now.

1. Christian Bale

Christian Bale as Trevor Reznik in “The Machinist” (2004)

Christian Bale is a bonafide lunatic (That must be read in Stephen A. Smith’s voice). There is method acting and then there is whatever Bale does. I am not an expert in psychology but I assume the height of mental illness is when the brain sheds itself of the instinct for self-preservation, and if Bale isn’t trying to kill himself, he certainly doesn’t fear the prospect of death. Anyone who sheds all that weight to play Trevor Reznik in “The Machinist”, just to bulk up to play Batman a few months later, maybe is flying too close to the Sun. It’s crazy enough to think he also played Dick “Oh, it’s just a small cardiac arrest this time” Cheney just this past year in “Vice”. His organs must hate him or he hates his organs. Either way, he is not a well man.

But his acting prowess is second to none. He is a master at using dialects, often confusing fans when he speaks in his rarely used native Welch inflection in interviews. At this point, he is widely regarded as the best live-action Batman incarnation we have ever seen. He has played a drug-addicted boxing coach, a mentally unstable competitive illusionist, an overweight con man, a socially awkward financial genius, an insomniac who is on the verge of death, a Wall Street executive with a fetish for murder, and the most controversial Vice President in modern history. Along the way, he has accumulated 4 Oscar nominations in this decade and a win. Whatever the role, you can be sure Bale is going to commit one hundred percent. The man is dedicated to his craft, at great cost to his own well-being, but he consistently puts out phenomenal performances and is undoubtedly deserving of the title of the Best Film Actor Right Now.

Top 10 Film Actresses Right Now

After about a month of intense, hardcore procrastination, I have finally worked up the strength and determination to create this list! Hazzahs are in order, I should say. I am actually rather excited about this list because there are a plethora of outstanding, versatile actresses gracing us with their talents in Hollywood nowadays, and this list gives me, someone of obvious acclaim and respect in the field, a chance to rate them as if they are simple jesters put on this Earth for my amusement. To be in my good graces is not a privilege one should take lightly, as my approval is currently more valuable than the Canadian dollar.

To be clear, these actresses have more talent, charisma, likability, and any other remotely positive traits than I could ever realistically hope to have. But the world is damn chaotic and I am mentally ill, so only quantitative rankings can help me make sense of the bedlam that enshrouds my insignificant existence.

I also plan on making this a sort of series, where I rank the best in the game right now. So, if you’re smart, assume “Top 10 Film Actors Right Now” is on the periphery lurking somewhere, menacingly, just waiting for an opportunity to pounce.

For this list, I tried to base my rankings off of star power, versatility, sheer ability, and recent track record. All of those are obviously objective qualities so I am sure everyone will agree with my rankings 100%. Before I begin, let me give honorable mentions to Jennifer Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Kate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, and Melissa McCarthy. If those are the actresses that just missed the cut, just imagine the talent of the actresses that placed.

10. Emma Stone

Emma Stone as Sam in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)” (2014)

We begin with Emma Stone. Stone began her career primarily in teen comedies, such as “Superbad”, “Zombieland”, and “Easy A” but has since evolved into one of the most accomplished and layered actresses of this generation. Possessing a natural charisma about her, she is able to seamlessly join any production and seemingly steal the show. She has the ability to keep eyes on her throughout her performances, due to her wit and beauty, not to mention the fact that she has iconic piercing eyes that can only be matched by Amanda Seyfried and Gollum.

While she has been in a few flops and misfires over the past decade or so, such as the notoriously whitewashed “Aloha” and the subpar “The Amazing Spider-Man” movies, one would be a fool to think she is on anything less than an absurd hot streak in Hollywood. She has garnered 3 Academy Award Nominations since 2015, including a win for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for 2017’s “La La Land”, where she was, in my humble opinion, the only character with personality and the only one who could sing in the musical, outside of John Legend. Stone has the range to play comedic roles, musical roles, and dramatic roles, doing so with a great deal of success throughout her career. If there is a project tied to her name, you would be safe in betting that at the very least, she will deliver a quality performance.

9. Viola Davis

Viola Davis as Rose in “Fence” (2016)

Viola Davis, who has conjured a legacy as an absolute powerhouse, is perhaps one of films most commanding presences ever. In just the past few years, she has starred in dramas, such as “Doubt”, “The Help” and “Fences”, comic book films like “Suicide Squad” (Which didn’t suck because of her. She was a perfect Amanda Waller), and thrillers like “Widows”. Along the way, she has accumulated 3 Oscar nominations and 1 win to go along with near-universal praise for her performances on the critically acclaimed TV show “How to Get Away with Murder”. For an actress that has owns a filmography around 80 total professional projects, it is truly astounding to think that she is only just now hitting her Hollywood stride.

Davis thrives in roles of authority or integrity, where she can really express herself with her natural gift for powerful inflections and leadership. When she has something to say, you have no choice but to listen. She can tug at your heartstrings as she breaks down in front of you or she could make you fear for your own well being as she flexes her power and bends you to her will. She simply has that sort of gravity and versatility about her. There are very few actresses ever who can fill the roles that Viola has with anywhere close to an equal impact.

8. Brie Larson

Brie Larson, as Ma, with Jacob Trembley, as Jack, in “Room” (2015)

If the last two actresses I mentioned were in the midst of a hot streak, then Brie Larson has just ignited her own fuse. Larson is quickly becoming one of the biggest players in the movie industry, thanks in no small part to being the first female to lead her own film in the ever popular and profitable Marvel Cinematic Universe. Her turn as Captain Marvel, in the film of the same name, solidified her star power in the mainstream, because despite a concerted effort to foil her and pump in artificial negative reactions to her film, it still grossed well over $1 billion to go along with critical success. She took trolls head-on and still won. With the future of the MCU shrouded in mystery, one of the only reliable predictions is that Larson will play a major role in the franchise going forward.

Larson started as a child actor on TV and integrated into film with many comedic roles. Her ability to perform within a great deal of genres, ranging from science fiction to teen comedies to comic book films to indie dramas, is without equal. In 2015, she basically swept all of the major awards for her performance in “Room” where she plays a kidnap victim and mother who doesn’t leave her prison. It is an intimate and powerful performance truly worthy of all the praise it has earned her. One of the surest bets around is that Brie is not going away anytime soon.

7. Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron as Furiosa in “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015)

Charlize is definitely a personal favorite of mine (And I hear she is single and looking for someone special… All I am saying is I am here if you’re interested, Charlize). The South African actress can literally do anything and I would be there to support her. As far as versatility goes, she is without question in the elite discussion. She has provided the voice of Mother in 2016’s animated fantasy adventure “Kubo and the Two Strings”, while also being the villain, Cipher, in “The Fate of the Furious”. And those are not even her most well-recognized roles! Let’s talk about “Atomic Blonde” and “Mad Max: Fury Road”, shall we? Furiosa is undoubtedly one of the most badass characters ever conceived and is really the star of the show over Tom Hardy’s Max. And as Lorraine in “Atomic Blonde”, she is a modern female James Bond-type. And now, she is diving into the world of romantic comedies by starring in “Long Shot” alongside the incredibly lucky Seth Rogan.

All of those performances are noteworthy, but as I have mentioned in my Top 10 Acting Performances of All-Time list, Charlize puts together a legendary performance in 2003’s “Monster” as serial killer/street prostitute, Aileen. Although that performance took place in the early part of the century, the fact that she is still going strong at the moment keeps it relevant. Theron is a juggernaut in the industry, and seemingly will always be.

6. Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman as Nina in “Black Swan” (2010)

It is no secret that I love Natalie Portman and everything that she stands for. She is currently my most frequently reviewed star and that is because she has been consistently putting out thoroughly enjoyable films since the very genesis of her career. I consider her a very cerebral actress, often thriving in roles that are aimed towards the thinking fan. She has shown an invaluable ability to carry entire films on her acting alone, while simultaneously being able to thrive in a complementary role. Simply adding Portman to your cast automatically makes it a film worth seeing.

The only time you could argue she is not at the very top of her game is when she is forced into a role that is given subpar writing for her to work with, such as her roles in “Thor: The Dark World” and the Star Wars Prequel trilogy. I think we could all agree she did the best with what she was given there. But her low points are few and far between. She won the Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in 2011, along with seemingly every other award under the sun, for her dark and twisted turn as Nina in “Black Swan”, and has since continued to show why she is an absolute force to be reckoned with. She also has starred in personal favorites “V for Vendetta” and “Léon: The Professional” in the decades before, proving that not only does she have staying power, but she is already an actress with a living legacy.

5. Octavia Spencer

Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughn in “Hidden Figures” (2016)

I am just going to start this one off by saying “HAVE YOU SEEN THE TRAILER FOR ‘MA’?” Octavia Spencer is undoubtedly one of the most accomplished actresses in the game today, but she really is mostly known for roles that are Oscar-bait dramas where she plays a supporting role as a woman of integrity with a sharp wit of some sort. She fills a niche with extraordinary reliability, but now, based on the trailer alone, we can see that Spencer has the range to take on roles no one would have ever dreamed to associate her with before. It is not that I doubted her ability to do different roles, I just never thought I would see it from her. But now I eagerly anticipate her turn as a horror antagonist when “Ma” releases at the end of May!

But even without considering her upcoming films, her recent filmography is full of absolute bangers! “The Shape of Water”, “Hidden Figures”, “Zootopia”, and “The Help” headline the extensive list of movies that have taken home Oscar gold in just the past decade that she has starred in, even winning the Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role award in 2011. There was a stretch for a few years that seemingly any film that had her in the cast was all but guaranteed to win big at award season, and I honestly do not see that trend coming to an end anytime soon.

4. Amy Adams

Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks in “Arrival” (2016)

With one obvious exception, and trust me, we will be getting to that, Amy Adams is perhaps the best actress of this generation. She might be only number 4 on my list, but do not think that means she is only average (You’d have absurdly high standards if that were the case). Amy Adams, in her career, has been nominated for SIX GODDAMN OSCARS. I really shouldn’t have to say more but you people are so needy. It is a very unattractive quality.

She has flourished in supporting roles in ensemble casts, taken control in lead roles of science fiction and fantasy movies, and thrived as a pseudo-lead in the dark comedy biopic “Vice” as Former Second Lady, Lynne Cheney. Adams has worked exceptionally well with directors David O. Russell and Adam McKay and had the difficult task of sharing the screen with perennial powerhouses Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper in those films. Her performances in those films just prove her to be their equal, if not them her equal. She has a transformative quality about her that allows her to handle movies of a variety of tones and genres and produce consistent polished results. Amy Adams is the epitome of “A sure thing” in Hollywood.

3. Lupita Nyong’o

Lupita Nyong’o as Red in “Us” (2019)

Lupita Nyong’o’s entire film career has been elite. Undoubtedly the most underappreciated aspect of Lupita’s rise to superstardom is the fact that she only began acting in films in 2011. Oh yeah, and she won an Academy Award in her debut film, too. No big deal. And, as it currently stands, she has delivered my personal choice for best performance by an actress in 2019 for “Us”. There are no peaks-and-valleys when you quite literally only produce gold.

Besides her glorious turn in the horror genre this year and her Oscar-winning performance in “12 Years a Slave”, Lupita has starring roles in the new Star Wars trilogy and in the Black Panther series within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as a voiceover role in the highly successful “Jungle Book” remake for Disney. Her meteoric rise seemingly came out of nowhere and now she is tied to virtually all of the most successful projects that Hollywood is procuring. Considering she is still a relative newcomer to Hollywood; I can only imagine what she will accomplish when her filmography exceeds the just 24 total projects she has acted in as of now.

2. Margot Robbie

Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya” (2017)

I will be honest with you guys, before I created this list and did some research into the actresses that I would be writing about, I really had no idea Margot Robbie was Australian. That might seem like nothing more than a fun-fact you would see on a Snapple cap, but to me, that just proves how effective on an actor she is. I have seen Margot in many motion pictures and never once had even the slightest inkling that she was not speaking in a native accent. In fact, she has been known to incorporate a plethora of different dialects in her performances, proving that she has mastered the incredibly challenging art of modulating her voice, thus being able to succeed in all sorts of roles. I challenge you to find an actress working today who can match her skill in this art.

She was nominated for an Oscar for her turn as a sympathetic and abused Tonya Harding, in “I, Tonya” while also having provided one of the few bright spots in “Suicide Squad” for her violent and unexpectedly layered Harley Quinn. She has shown the world that she can salvage something out of the direst of productions as well as carry a film to the heights of Hollywood success. And with her upcoming starring role in “Once Upon A Time in Hollywood” compounded with her performance in “The Wolf of Wall Street”, she is now seemingly the go-to female lead for big-time directors Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese. We are merely at the dawn of Margot Robbie’s acting career.

1. Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006)

“The Deer Hunter”; “Kramer vs. Kramer”; “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”; “Sophie’s Choice”; “Silkwood”; “Out of Africa”; “Ironweed”; “Evil Angels”; “Postcards from the Edge”; “The Bridges of Madison County”; “One True Thing”; “Music of the Heart”; “Adaptation.”; “The Devil Wears Prada”; “Doubt”; “Julie and Julia”; “ The Iron Lady”; “August: Osage County”; “Into the Woods”; “Florence Foster Jenkins”; “The Post”. For those of you that lost count, that is 21. 21 Oscar nominations in her career. There is actually so much I could say about her that none of it is necessary. She is the best, most versatile and committed actress of all time.

Some of you might be saying “She might be the best ever but is she still at the top of her game?”. You pure, innocent, naïve people. Let me tell you that she has been nominated for 6 Oscars in just this decade alone, which is not so surprisingly, more than anyone else. As long as she is still making movies, she is the undisputed Queen. The Iron Lady on the Iron Throne.

Detective Pikachu (2019) – Movie Review

Movies based on videogames have a dubious track record. In fact, if you do not count movies that are of such poor quality, they are unintendedly comical geniuses, like “Super Mario Bros.” or “Mortal Kombat”, the genre is essentially a waste of everyone’s time and money. Needless to say, that despite recruiting the star power of Ryan Reynolds, who can seemingly do no wrong in the past decade or so, simply attempting a “Detective Pikachu” movie was spitting into the wind.

Having said all of that, I am delighted to say that we finally have a competent movie in the genre. And perhaps more stunningly than anything is that it was Pokémon, a franchise that thrives on turn-based strategy gameplay over storytelling, that actually was the first to break through. What a time to be alive, I say.

The movie is about Tim Goodman (Justice Smith), a publicly known 21-year-old loser that works a stable job in insurance and doesn’t play with Pokémon. After getting a call from the Ryme City Police Department that his father has died in a car crash while working an investigation, Tim goes to his estranged father’s apartment to get closure, only to find a Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds), who Tim can actually communicate with, rummaging through Tim’s father’s belongings. For those of you who do not know, Pokémon can only communicate by either saying their own names or via primal growls, so having a Pikachu that speaks perfect English is essentially an abomination unto the Lord. Pikachu is suffering from a nasty case of plot convenience, I mean amnesia, and he convinces Tim that they need to team up to solve the mystery of what happened to his father and why Pikachu doesn’t remember anything.

For fans of the Pokémon franchise, you will absolutely love this film for nothing more than the fact that the world is overflowing with beautifully rendered, realistic versions of all of your favorite pocket monsters. There are so many references and callbacks to other media in the franchise in creative ways that you truly see how much care and respect the filmmakers had for the source material the film was based off. The most impactful reference being a recognition of “Pokémon The First Movie”, the animated origin film of Mewtwo, actually taking place in the same continuity as “Detective Pikachu”. If you are not a long-time fan of Pokémon, the film may be a little difficult to latch onto. However, considering the sheer magnitude of content and jargon that could be outlandish to the unacquainted, there is enough charm and simplicity that it could be understood without an encyclopedic knowledge of Pokémon. “Detective Pikachu” could have been the mess that “Hellboy” was, but instead creates a much more approachable world that I believe anyone with an imagination would be eager to return to.

As far as storytelling goes, we are not exactly dealing with the next “Citizen Kane” here. But it is a movie targeted towards children so I hope no one was expecting the 2020 winner for the Academy Award for Best Picture. The mystery is not as big of a point as it should be. No one really ever solves anything, rather they just go from place to place, click a “Show Exposition” button, and have a high-quality detailed hologram show them everything they are looking for. The idea of the mystery is simply a plot device to get the main characters to go one place to the next and show off more Pokémon, not that you will hear anyone complain about that. The plot is serviceable, just not exceptional.

A truly surprising aspect of the film was Justice Smith’s performance. I am not very familiar with his previous filmography and I had the idea in my head from the trailers that he would simply be playing the typical reluctant protagonist who is swept up in an adventure that he has zero aptitude for, despite being called needlessly special. But I was pleasantly caught off guard by his character. He began by dragging his feet, but really came around to embrace the role, all while portraying a considerable amount of emotional depth. One scene in particular stands out: when he talks to Pikachu about how he never gave his father a fair chance to reconnect and he is holding back his tears until he can no longer do so. I was genuinely impressed with his performance and I look forward to seeing more from Smith in the future.

Ryan Reynolds is as good as ever. The movie could be completely devoid of plot and everyone in the audience would just be having an absolute pisser laughing at him as an adorable electric mouse with a tiny hat doing his usual Ryan Reynolds schtick. It is a working formula with a proven track record that holds up, once again.

As for the rest of the human cast… Nothing to write home about. You almost feel like the actors were told it was a Pokémon movie and decided they needed to be cartoonish caricatures. It is a shame because Tim seems like an actual person and the most realistic characters he appears next to are computer generated superpowered monsters. I am sure younger viewers may not be as critical of the rest of the characters I am, because hopefully they are not as cynical and jaded as a 23-year-old with depression.

Where this film succeeds most is world building and comedy. Ryme City is a location brimming with culture and vivid creatures that just beg viewers to explore every corner. The chemistry between Ryan Reynolds and Justice Smith is fantastic, with enough subtle adult humor thrown in for everyone to enjoy. It is not a flawless movie but it is certainly an objective success, which treads on uncharted territory for the genre, and I would certainly be interested in a sequel.

I would give “Detective Pikachu” a fair 7.9 out of 10

Directed by: Rob Letterman
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe, Bill Nighy
Rated: PG
Runtime: 1 Hour and 44 Minutes

Matthew McConaughey is beyond your plebian cognition

A god amongst mere mortals

I have been personally asked many a time to explain those Matthew McConaughey Lincoln commercials, and even though they’ve been parodied beyond belief for a few years now, apparently you simpletons still don’t get what they are all about. And so, you come crawling to me, desperately seeking what you can’t find on your own.

McConaughey is an artist. No, actually, screw that! McConaughey is ART! We should be counting ourselves amongst the blessed that a smooth southern bastard like him would even fancy an American automobile. Do you want to know the reason you don’t understand those commercials? It is because you are COWARDS! Afraid to acknowledge that there is a being above humanity, and he walks amongst us. We have been transcended and you can not reconcile your purpose on this blue rock.

Oh, you don’t know what he is talking about when he has a stare down with a bull in the middle of a prairie dirt road? Or what he is thinking when he hits a pool shot at his house party and drives away, leaving his invited guests unattended? Well you need to GROW UP. McConaughey is giving us gold and you go and sully it by not comprehending the prophetic edicts of the almighty!

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