Best Film Performances of the 2010s

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CREDIT: YouTube Screenshots

Back in April, I revealed my lists of the best podcasts, TV shows, TV episodes, albums, songs, and movies of the 2010s. I declared that that was it for my Best of the Decade curating for this particular ten-year cycle. But now I’m back with a few more, baby! I’ve been participating in a series of Best of the 2010s polls with some of my online friends, and I wanted to share my selections with you. We’re including film performances, TV performances, directors, and musical artists, so get ready for all that.

First up is Film Performances. Any individual performance from any movie released between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2019 was eligible, whether it was live-action, voice-only, or whatever other forms on-screen acting take nowadays. For actors who played the same character in multiple movies, each movie was considered separately.

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Movie Review: Laika Puts Its Own Lovely Spin on the Bigfoot Myth with ‘Missing Link’

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CREDIT: Laika Studios/Annapurna Pictures

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Zach Galifianakis, Zoe Saldana, Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Timothy Olyphant, David Walliams, Matt Lucas, Amrita Acharia, Ching Valdez-Aran

Director: Chris Butler

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Rating: PG for Wild West-Style Gunfire and Icy Heights

Release Date: April 12, 2019

The Bigfoot-based Missing Link features enough bullets flying around and enough characters falling to their (presumed) deaths to make me wonder if it is really appropriate for children. Its PG rating is justified in that we do not see the bloodiest ends of these lethal situations, and as a stop-motion animated feature, the whole aesthetic is too charming to ever be gruesome. But I still wonder about how well young kids are equipped to handle such unmistakable peril. Honestly, though, my preference is that we give children some psychological credit and let them be exposed to these frights. So thank you for not holding back, Laika (the production company behind this and other stop-motion flicks like Coraline and Kubo and the Two Strings).

The innovation I love about Missing Link is that its humanoid ape creature is perfectly willing to expose himself to society, or at least to Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman), the bon vivant searching for him. Furthermore, Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis) speaks perfectly fluent English, which could make the gags based on his inability to grasp sarcasm and metaphor illogical except for the fact that there are plenty of real human people who are similarly not so fast on the uptake themselves in such lingual matters.

Anyway, Mr. Link is tired of living by himself in the Pacific Northwest, and he’s heard that his cousins the Yeti are cool up in the mountains of Asia, so he asks Lionel to lead him there. What follows is a buddy road trip movie in which everyone is gratifyingly on the same side as each other and making a deal that benefits them all fairly. We the audience get to witness some genuine, hopefully lifelong friendships blooming over the course of this high-stakes adventure. If a predictable message of “what you’ve been looking for has been right in front of you all along” pops up by the end, it’s safe to say that Missing Link has earned that indulgence.

Missing Link is Recommended If You Like: Previous Laika features, Kid-friendly Wild West adventures, Smallfoot

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Yeti Elders

This Is a Movie Review: The Front Runner

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CREDIT: Frank Masi/Sony Pictures

The Front Runner raises a lot of valid points about the propriety, or lack thereof, of prying into politicians’ personal lives, but it is liable to leave you more confused than ever, even if you have strong opinions about all the issues it raises. As the narrative goes, the coverage of Gary Hart’s supposed indiscretions during the 1988 Democratic primary completely derailed his campaign and led to the overall coarsening of the political media landscape that we have today. That may be an accurate narrative, but is it a bad thing that we know more about the personal lives of those who govern us? The fact that it all remained secret for so long is one reason why powerful people have gotten away with terrible behavior.

But as for how it affected Gary Hart specifically, did he deserve what happened to him? The way the movie presents it, it seems like he had been unfaithful in his marriage, but not necessarily in this case. And the Miami Herald, which originally reported on the story, did not appear to do their duest diligence to verify their implications. At least I can unequivocally say it is a good thing that Donna Rice, Hart’s alleged mistress, gets to have her side of the story presented. But otherwise, The Front Runner is a bit of a mess. Although, it could be a portrait of a mess.

I give The Front Runner 2.5 (Million) Accusations out of 5 (Possible) Indiscretions.

This Is a Movie Review: ‘The Greatest Showman’ Promotes P.T. Barnum’s Brand of Happiness with Enough Surface-Level Charms

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CREDIT: Niko Tavernise/Twentieth Century Fox

This review was originally posted on News Cult in December 2017.

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya

Director: Michael Gracey

Running Time: 105 Minutes

Rating: PG for Unruly Crowds Violently Demanding a Good Show

Release Date: December 20, 2017

PT Barnum, the famed 19th Century circus purveyor, just wanted to make audiences happy. Sure, he trafficked in exploitation and probably a fair bit of flimflam, but his name lives on as one synonymous with showmanship. So why shouldn’t he have a foot-stomping big-screen musical celebrating his life and legacy? Thus, we have The Greatest Showman, with Hugh Jackman donning the top hat and cane, which zips along and finishes up in just over 100 minutes, thus avoiding the exhaustion that musicals are always at risk of. Its delights are mostly surface-level, but not to be dismissed, as it celebrates freaks and tolerance, while pooh-poohing stuffiness and losing sight of what’s important.

The songwriting, courtesy of La La Land and Dear Evan Hansen duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, is unrelentingly bombastic. It both fits the subject matter and forces the audience to surrender to the spectacle. The effect is initially chaotic. The opening number drops us right into the lavishness, starting off not so much in media res, but rather in finis res. Eventually it settles into a bearable rhythm, but do prepared for some dizzying and overstuffed cinematography.

There are a few classic conflicts to this story that have me a little distressed for how long they remain inadequately unaddressed. For example – and this is the crux – what really drives Barnum? Is he more concerned about putting on a great show or paying off a lifelong grudge by showing up his rich, pompous father-in-law? Do his loyalties lie more with the freaks who made his name or the opera singer (Rebecca Ferguson) who can win over high society for him? I mean, the answers he seeks should be super obvious, as all he has to do is look at and listen to his wife (Michelle Williams) and daughters and know that he has already won at life. And what of his business partner (Zac Efron) – when he will be willing to publicly display his love for the black trapeze artist (Zendaya) who has won his heart?

These issues are all eventually resolved to sufficient satisfaction, though they do skimp a bit on the hard work of rectification and forgiveness. But that speed works according to the logic of musicals. Emotions are so outsize that genuine reunions can be forged over the few minutes of a reprise. Ultimately, it works out well enough that it leaves me with a smile, and if it has you feeling the same, then The Greatest Showman has fulfilled P.T. Barnum’s hope for happiness.

The Greatest Showman is Recommended If You Like: Hugh Jackman singing more often than Zac Efron, Musicals at their most achingly earnest

Grade: 3 out of 5 Trapezes

This Is a Movie Review: Mother of Mercy, Is This the End of ‘Logan’?

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This review was originally published on News Cult in February 2017.

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant

Director: James Mangold

Running Time: 135 Minutes

Rating: R for Relentless, Vengeful Bodily Harm and a DGAF Attitude to Language

Release Date: March 3, 2017

Logan marks the ninth time that Hugh Jackamn is donning the muttonchops and adamantium claws to play indestructible X-Man Wolverine. At this point, for general audiences and fanboys alike to care, there simply MUST be something new to offer this go-round. Both of Wolverine’s previous solo films kind of fulfilled that dictum, but 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine otherwise totally missed the mark, while 2013’s The Wolverine felt too inconsequential. Logan ain’t having any of that. Set in a semi-apocalyptic near future, the film streamlines the muddled continuity down of the X-universe to its essence and gets right down to business.

Logan and an unstable, nonagenarian Professor X (Patrick Stewart, relevant as ever) are tasked with transferring the preteen Laura (Dafne Keen) to safety. In this future, mutants have mostly died out and no new ones have been born for two decades (the reason for this is revealed in a quick bit of exposition, so keep your ears peeled), but Laura displays abilities very reminiscent of our title character, suggesting that the mutant gene may not have died out completely. What we have here is a classic Western story structure about transporting human cargo. This makeshift family treks along dusty Oklahoma highways in search of a supposed Eden, avoiding the evil scientist forces that constantly plague this world’s heroes.

In a first for the franchise, Logan is rated R, and it does not shy away from earning that rating. With Wolverine’s penchant for slicing his enemies to smithereens, this potential was always there. And this is not just bloodlust for the sake of it. Logan does not have any new powers in this iteration, but he does deploy them in unprecedented fashion. Rendered sick by the same culprit that killed off the rest of mutantkind, there is greater vulnerability to his carnage. His earlier appearances have not lacked for thrillingly hardcore action, but with his healing power, the stakes have never been as high as they are in Logan. Every thrash of his claw becomes profoundly cathartic.

Logan works primarily as an acting showcase for Jackman, Stewart, and Keen. This entry just solidifies the Aussie’s performance as one of the most iconic bits of casting in cinema history. Stewart plays the telepathic leader in a key that I would have never anticipated. I am not entirely sure it all works, but it is undoubtedly riveting, and I admire Stewart for venturing into such dangerous territory. Keen is a spitfire and a revelation. It takes a special breed of 11-year-old to go toe-to-toe with a hairy beast, and she’s got what it takes. All signs point to Jackman hanging up the claws for good after this entry, and if this means that Keen can inherit the mantle, we are in good hands.

Logan is Recommended If You Like: The berserker scene from X2The Hateful EightThe Nice GuysLooper

Grade: 4 out of 5 Decapitations