Posts Tagged ‘actors’

Best of 2021: Top 10 Movies

What a difference twelve months makes.

The year in general may have felt like its own form of tired sequel when all was said and done, but after scrambling to the finish line in 2020 and doing my best to bask in the unexpected, I finished 2021 having seen 31 whole new-release movies. Sure, that’s mostly because we got almost two years of delayed blockbusters crammed into one, but numbers are numbers.

More movies means I can be more confident of a quality list that properly reflects my tastes, but it also makes ordering the movies a tad trickier. I found this year in particular that quite a few of the films I saw came off somewhat uneven, with plenty of individual elements worth praising but almost as many misfires. That, of course, just makes them more fun to discuss, which in turn tends to make me like them more. Some even make this list. Because I will be vaguely gesturing towards such individual elements, you may find slight spoilers here, but it’s unlikely.

Let’s finish this thing.

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VR BEST OF 2021 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. To agree with me 100% is beyond unlikely. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

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10. In the Heights

My most anticipated movie of an uncertain year for movies – mostly cause I knew I’d enjoy at least some of it, and that first trailer was incredible – John M Chu’s adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s stage musical In the Heights is exactly the visual feast fans could’ve hoped for. Though it hacks one of the main characters’ stories to bits in the name of streamlining an already-long runtime – and the musical already lacks the plot momentum of Miranda’s Hamilton – some of the other changes to the source are neat, efficient and well-executed. Some of the stage songs even take on new life with the visual flair added in the film, while the ones that were already highlights take another step up.

9. Raya and the Last Dragon

It’s a bit of a struggle to articulate what I enjoy so much about this movie, but ultimately I think it comes down to a simple claim: Raya and the Last Dragon features the best-looking hand-to-hand combat scenes I’ve ever seen in an animated film. Any criticism that it breezes past its cool wordbuilding is definitely valid, but there are plenty of other things to like about the movie: Awkwafina’s larger-than-life performance style almost works better in animation than live action, the entirety of the team-gathering second act is good fun, and the central message about old wounds preventing current growth is poignant. I stand by what I said back in July: It’s my favourite non-musical Disney animated feature in twenty years.

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Best of 2021: Top 10 Movie Characters

What a line-up of scene-stealers we had at the movies (or, you know, in our homes) in 2021. That probably has a fair amount to do with all the delayed 2020 flicks that crashed on top of this year’s cinematic plans, but you analyse the hand you’re dealt, as it were. This is yet another year without any protagonists on the list, but that’s just the way it shakes out more often than not. The human focus of a film’s story doesn’t tend to capture my attention quite like the good old extended cameo or enjoyably hammy villainous performance – or indeed both at once.

This list is rarely the place to find in-depth plot spoilers, but it’s still worth being careful if you consider yourself behind on major blockbusters this year.

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VR BEST OF 2021 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. To agree with me 100% is beyond unlikely. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

Spoilers may follow.

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10. Luisa – Encanto

Encanto is packed with super-powered characters that get very quick introductions (this is a Lin-Manuel Miranda work, after all, so the words-per-minute can get a real workout) and then have to fight for character arcs while staying under a Disney animated movie runtime. So it makes sense that the character with the most physically apparent power – and the solo song with the most words in it – would present the best opportunity to kick off the movie’s themes of familial expectation. But my word, do her voice actress Jessica Darrow and the entire animation team run with that opportunity. Luisa is consistently entertaining to watch and “Surface Pressure” is a throwback to the golden age of chaotic Disney visual storytelling within a musical number.

9. Cipher – F9: The Fast Saga

That’s right: the main villain from the eighth Fast & Furious movie appears in the ninth one trapped in a giant glass case for most of the runtime, wearing a bowl cut, and is still more memorable than John Cena’s primary antagonist in this one. That might be because Charlize Theron is allowed to have a lot more fun than Cena – whose comedic timing in at least two other 2021 movies proves how wasted he is playing the stoic, burdened younger brother of Dominic Toretto – but also because she commits to looking and sounding even more cartoonishly evil than she did in F8. The degree of ham in her performance is a perfect fit for this franchise, so it’s a shame she won’t be coming back for any more movies.

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Best of 2019: Top 10 Movie Characters

And so it is on this joyous Christmas Day that we raise our glasses to the cinematic characters that jumped off the big screen and our streaming devices in 2019; holding up parts of a story that were otherwise flagging, stealing scenes on the regular, or simply sticking with us after the credits rolled on their stories. I saw a lot of movies this year so I had a pretty great pool from which to draw.

Whether due to an acting performance, visual design, writing or a combination of all three, these are my ten favourite movie characters of 2019. As is usually the case on these lists, you tend to be more interesting to me if you’re a supporting character or a villain; but there were a few kinda-exceptions to that de facto rule this year.

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VR BEST OF 2019 DISCLAIMER

This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. To agree with me 100% is rarer than an EA game without microtransactions. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

THERE ARE SPOILERS ON THIS PAGE!

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10. Jack – Mary Poppins Returns

Step right up and see the majesty that is Lin Manuel Miranda in full flight, snacking on scenery like only a man with musical theatre in his blood can. Taking on the surrogate role of the working-class sage / super Poppins fanboy made famous by the great Dick Van Dyke’s chimney sweep Bert, Miranda’s clear glee at being on the screen in such a huge Disney production helps sell Jack the lamplighter’s contagious energy like nothing else. When you choose to make a sequel that by design repeats the musical beats and character archetypes of its iconic predecessor, direct comparisons were always going to be made; but the Hamilton man holds his own in Van Dyke’s shadow. At the very least, his cockney accent is better.

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Best of 2016: Top 10 Movie Characters

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Time to talk movies.

Characters remain the heart and soul of any decent film, and there were plenty of magnetic ones on the big screen in 2016, even if we’re just talking big blockbusters (which unsurprisingly made up most of what I saw this year). A few new takes on big-name characters make it on to my list this year, but as usual it’s dominated by the surprises – major and supporting characters that add laughs, narrative depth and/or reasons to get excited about every new scene in which they appear. Also, not a single villain on the list this year. Yep, it’s true.

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VR BEST OF 2016 DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s strange. Fun, but strange. Respectful disagreement is very welcome.

Some movie spoilers follow.
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10. Wonder Woman – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Ben Affleck’s brutal take on Batman was one of the only positive aspects of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice that people seem to agree on, but he’s a character we’ve seen on screen a million times, so I’m putting Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman on this list instead. Slinking around the fringes of the action for most of the movie, Gadot nails the supreme self-assurance of Diana Prince, and she remains an intriguing figure you want to see more of – even if one of her major narrative functions is to be an audience surrogate for an incredibly forced Justice League introduction sequence. When Prince returns in the final act as Wonder Woman, she lights up the final battle, bringing with her one of the most immediately memorable musical motifs of the year.

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Best of 2015: Top 10 Movie Characters

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I entered this year’s run of countdowns resigned to the somewhat depressing knowledge that my schedule would prevent me from watching any Boxing Day films, but at the very least that allows for one positive: I no longer have anything stopping me from spreading out my movie-themed countdowns throughout the ten day period, rather than bunching them up towards the post-December 26th half. So I’m going to cling to that positive, and show you my favourite movie characters from 2015.

This isn’t a lengthy or particularly competitive list – Out of what I watched this year I could only come up with one honorable mention – but I do think it’s a strong list nonetheless. Hollywood put some pretty magnetic characters onto the big screen in 2015, and it’s good to see that for once, it wasn’t just the villains that got all the good moments and lines. There are more “good guys” and morally ambiguous folk on my character list this year than any previous edition, so take that how you will.

Also, give that I’m talking about what makes characters memorable, mild spoilers will come up.

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VR BEST OF 2015 DISCLAIMER
This list represents my opinion only. I am not asserting any kind of superiority or self-importance by presenting it as I have. My opinion is not fact. If you actually agree with me 100%, that’s weird. Cool, but definitely weird. Respectful disagreement is most welcome.

SPOILERS FOLLOW.
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10. M – Spectre

Ralph Fiennes is one of those actors who tends to improve the quality of most movies he’s in, which made him a fine choice to replace Dame Judi Dench in a role that she had well and truly made her own for almost two decades. Fiennes’ M is just as visibly affected by outside pressures in Spectre as Dench’s ever was, but his penchant for keeping up appearances is more prominent, making his seething rage at both his political situation and the cocky young upstart at its head tremendous fun to watch. He bares his troubles through gritted teeth and then, when he finally gets to take action, the catharsis is palpable.

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