2018 Summer Movie Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

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Scott (Paul Rudd) and Hope (Evangeline Lilly) suit up in Ant-Man and the Wasp. (Source: IMDb)

Ant-Man was one of the funniest films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, despite the ordeal with filmmaker Edgar Wright. It features one of the funniest actors in Paul Rudd as an awkward criminal fighting crime wearing a suit that makes him become the size of an ant. While the narrative brings little to nothing new to the table, its fast-paced humor, wonderful action, and funny characters makes it such a sleeper hit.

Rudd and co-stars Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale, and Michael Peña reunite with director Peyton Reed to give another hilarious, fun ride in Ant-Man and the Wasp.

After the events of Civil War, former criminal Scott Lang (Rudd) struggles to be a good father to his fearless daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). One day, he reunites with Hope van Dyne (Lilly) and Dr. Hank Pym (Douglas). They learn about how Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) disappeared in the quantum realm in 1987. They help together to create a quantum tunnel to save her. With the help of Luis (Peña) and his security crew, the tiny heroes suit up while the “Ghost” (Hannah John-Kamen) and black market tech dealer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) are on their tails.

I cannot picture a better duo than Ant-Man and the Wasp (the first MCU film to feature a female character’s name in a title). Rudd and Lilly play off each other’s roles almost to perfection. Their interactions are almost impossible to hold in your laughter. Not to mention when Luis tells his stories with the funny narration (some of the best parts of the first film). It’s definitely not without its heart and wall-to-wall action. The chase through San Francisco showcases the breathtaking and funny special effects. Since 2008, these movies have gotten better with its visuals. Ant-Man and the Wasp is a great follow-up to Infinity War. It will be a quick eight months once Captain Marvel arrives.

3.5/4

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Top 15 Best Movies of 2015

Despite the many flops the year had to offer, 2015 was the year of strong, independent female characters, wonderful dramas, hilarious comedies, breathtaking action, and some notable directors finding redemption (M. Night Shyamalan coming back with The Visit is among many examples). I was surprised by a lot of films this year, even ones I became too skeptical on. Since there was a lot of great movies in 2015, here is my list of the top 15 best movies of the year. Keep in mind, I haven’t seen every great movie. Don’t expect movies like The Hateful Eight, Spotlight, Carol, or The Danish Girl on this list.

Honorable Mentions: Ant-Man, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Cinderella, Far from the Madding Crowd, Furious 7, It Follows, Mr. Holmes, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, The Peanuts Movie, Straight Outta Compton

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15. Ex Machina – Talk about an original sci-fi picture that is provocative, unexpected, and chilling to the core! With three terrific performances by Domnhall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, and a scene-stealing Oscar Isaac, Ex Machina brings the issues of artificial intelligence and how advanced technology has control in everyday life. The beautiful, haunting visuals through Alex Garland’s direction makes it such a treat. Ava (played wonderfully by Vikander) is one of the best special effects creations in recent years.

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14. Steve Jobs – I don’t know why this movie didn’t get the audience it deserved. Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin create an emotionally intense portrait of one of the most influential people in technology. Told in a three-act structure, the movie follows Jobs as he is about to appear for his product launches of the Macintosh, the NeXT, and the iMac. Even though he looks absolutely nothing like Steve Jobs, Michael Fassbender gives one hell of a performance as the Apple CEO. With a gifted supporting cast and miraculous dialogue, Steve Jobs is The Social Network of 2015.

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13. Amy – The best documentary of the year chronicles Amy Winehouse’s fame and personal struggles. I knew very little about Winehouse, but I remember the day she died of alcohol poisoning. Seeing this documentary made me knew more about the life of one of the most original singers of the early 21st century. She brought a different style to the contemporary music world. A lot of people were used to hearing pop and hip-hop, Winehouse was more about blues, soul, and jazz. She became huge success worldwide. Then, she became addicted to drugs and alcohol. When she died at the age of 27, she left behind a great legacy.

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12. The End of the Tour – I love movies involving two people having a fascinating conversation. The End of the Tour is no exception. It features Jason Segel in his best performance as the late author David Foster Wallace, whose 1,000+ page book Infinite Jest made him become a big name. Jesse Eisenberg plays David Lipsky, a Rolling Stone who decides to have a five-day interview with him. They live up on junk food, binge-watching (before “binge-watching” became a thing), and spending time around the Mall of America. The chemistry between these two actors is so compelling I never wanted their conversation to end. Poignant, funny, and all-around excellent.

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11. The Gift – This movie surprised the hell out of me! Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut is so Hitchcockian in its style and narrative. Starring along with Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall, Edgerton makes one hell of a creepy stalker. It’s unnerving, unpredictable, and engaging in every way. Seeing his face sends shivers down my spine.

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10. Creed – Michael B. Jordan and Ryan Coogler return two years after collaborating in Fruitvale Station. In Creed, they bring the beloved Rocky series back to life. Sylvester Stallone returns as our favorite boxer from Philadelphia: Rocky Balboa. This time, he has retired from boxing. And starts training the son of Apollo Creed. Coogler perfectly blends old-fashioned drama with the excellent boxing scenes; especially the first fight consists of a five-minute long take. The chemistry between Michael B. Jordan and Stallone is one-of-a-kind.

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9. Bridge of Spies – Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg are two of my favorite people working today. Bridge of Spies proves it. Their latest masterpiece is one of the most fascinating projects: an old-fashioned, dialogue-driven Cold War thriller. With a screenplay written by Joel and Ethan Coen, Spielberg and Hanks take us back to a time where America was living in a state of fear. The biggest fear is no other than Communism. The tension is brought through with the astounding dialogue and Thomas Newman’s breathtaking score. Hanks delivers yet another wonderful performance as insurance lawyer Jim Donavon, who brought “justice for all”.

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8. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – This Sundance winner would make Wes Anderson proud. Alfonso Gomez-Rejon creates an offbeat comedy with a big heart. Thomas Mann, R.J. Cyler, and Olivia Cooke have long careers ahead of them. Their compelling chemistry brings enough laughs and tears to the story about two high school seniors creating spoofs of art films while befriending a girl with leukemia. It’s hard not to relate to the main character Greg. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is more than just a high school film, it’s a love letter to the art of filmmaking. Watching Nick Offerman as Greg’s dad convincing his son and Greg’s friend Earl to try these weird foods is priceless.

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7. Mad Max: Fury Road – Easily the best action film of the year featuring some of the best action of this decade. George Miller reboots the Mad Max franchise thirty years after Beyond Thunderdome. With a basic narrative about finding hope and redemption, Mad Max: Fury Road is an engine that never runs out of steam. It’s refreshing to see mostly practical effects to give a sense on how insane Miller’s apocalyptic wasteland is where people are in desperate need of food, water, and gas. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron make a terrific duo. Take notes from the master, Michael Bay.

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6. Love & Mercy – The music of the Beach Boys truly define the feeling of summer. The band started to record songs for Pet Sounds. Instead of doing songs about summer, Brian Wilson decided to make the songs for listening. Then, he begins having panic attacks. Told in two timelines–1960s and the 1980s–we follow Brian Wilson, played wonderfully by Paul Dano and John Cusack, as he begins to lose grip on reality. Bill Pohlad gives a devastating biopic on one of the best musicians of the 20th century inside and outside of the studio through his brilliant direction. Love & Mercy is an experience I’ll never forget.

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5. Inside Out – After the disappointments of Cars 2, Brave and Monsters University, PIXAR is back with Inside Out. It gives something original, ambitious, creative, imaginative, relatable, funny, and downright heartbreaking. The metaphors and the breathtaking animation make it a feast for the ears and the eyes. The voice acting is superb, the characters are as lovable as ever, and the emotion is raw. Seeing this three times in the theaters made me love it more each viewing. It makes everyone wonder what is going on inside our heads.

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4. The Martian – Ridley Scott’s directing career has been in the gutter for years. In The Martian, he gives a survival tale that is as funny as it is suspenseful. With Drew Goddard’s witty screenplay, Matt Damon’s Watney the most optimistic survivalist ever (or as I like to describe him as a classier Bear Grylls). “In your face, Neil Armstrong,” he wisecracks as he colonizes Mars. During his time on Mars, he listens to disco music from Michael Lewis’ (excellent performance by Jessica Chastain) playlist. With an all-star cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, and Kate Mara, hilarious pop culture references, and breathtaking cinematography, The Martian is Ridley Scott’s new masterpiece. This movie has the best Lord of the Rings reference (I was in stitches).

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3. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – I know I haven’t posted a review for the latest chapter in the Star Wars saga. Because I didn’t want to spoil for anyone who has yet to see it. To keep it as brief as I possibly can, The Force Awakens is everything I want in a Star Wars movie: funny, breathtaking, exciting, and touching. It introduces new characters (Daisy Ridley’s Rey is one of the best characters of the year) as well as some familiar faces. Thanks J.J. Abrams for bringing the saga back to the silver screen!

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2. Brooklyn – What a charming love story. John Crowley pays tribute to his native Ireland as well as the films of the 1950s (in which Brooklyn is set). The movie doesn’t come close to becoming a soap opera. Brooklyn is as human of a movie as it gets, kudos to Crowley’s direction and Nick Hornby’s screenplay. Saoirse Ronan gives the performance of a lifetime as an Irish immigrant trying to settle in Brooklyn. When she falls in love with an Italian-American plumber, she must choose to live in America or Ireland. Brooklyn is a wonderful study in homesickness with enough wit, charm and emotion.

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1. Room – Going into this movie with barely any expectations at all made the experience so much better; I knew I wanted to see it again. Now I have seen it twice, Lenny Abrahamson and Emma Donaghue give  a raw, intense film about taking the big step into the big world. Seen through the eyes of 5-year-old Jack (Jacob Tremblay, in an award-worthy performance), he has been living in a small garden shed with no windows (except for a skylight) with Ma (another wonderful performance by Brie Larson). During the first act, we see Ma (Joy) and Jack living in Room. As Jack begins to understand more about the situation they are in, he slowly begins to make that huge transition in life. His memories and imaginations are in Room. As the second act comes into play, he becomes more comfortable living in the real world. Ma, however, is struggling to find what is best for her son. What a movie!

I hope you enjoyed my list of the best movies of 2015. I’m looking forward to see what 2016 has to offer. Please feel free to leave a comment on what some of your favorite movies of the year are. Stay tuned for my top 20 most anticipated movies of the new year. Take care.

2015 Summer Movie Review: Ant-Man

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) grabbing the suit in "Ant-Man"

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) grabbing the suit in “Ant-Man”

Ant-Man is the final film in the second phase of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. I gotta admit, this is a fun send-off. It centers on Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a criminal who has just escaped from prison. With the help from scientist Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), he puts on a suit with a power to shrink in size but increase in strength. As Ant-Man, Lang, with the help of his teammates–Luis (a scene-stealing Michael Peña), Dave (T.I.), and Kurt (Dave Dastmalchian)–tries to pull off a heist involving Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) who creates the Yellowjacket suit, similar to the Ant-Man suit. This movie has Edgar Wright’s name written all over it. Despite only being attached as the screenwriter and with Peyton Reed sitting in the director’s chair, Ant-Man provides more laughs than most mainstream comedies, as well as the action, the emotion, and the fun of any superhero movie. Not to mention the effects during the sequences where Lang has shrunk into ant-size are reminiscent to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Cannot wait to see how phase three will turn out to be.

3.5/4

2015 Summer Movie Preview: July

Two months down. Two to go. This summer had a variety of great movies, especially Inside Out. I’ve seen it three times already and I can’t wait to see it again and again until it heads out of the theater and hit the DVD shelves. But, it’s time to talk about what has yet to come in July.

I apologize for being late doing this. I recently spent a week in Illinois mainly to see my brother graduate from NAVY boot camp (I’m very happy for him). Now I am back in Maine to give you my thoughts on several upcoming movies for the month of July. Let’s do this!

July 3

terminator-genisysTerminator: Genisys (came out July 1) – It’s awesome to see Arnold Schwarzenegger [literally] back in the spotlight. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it would hold up for how bland it looks. I’ve yet to see any of the original Terminator films – particularly Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day – but I prefer watching those movies over this one. Nothing is creepier than seeing a CGI Arnold. James Cameron tells us that we’ll love this movie. In my opinion, it would be the exact opposite.

magic_mike_xxlMagic Mike XXL (came out July 1) – I would not be surprised if the sequel to the sleeper hit Magic Mike would make a lot of money this weekend. I’m pretty sure a lot of women will have as big of a ball as last time watching male strippers do what they do. Channing Tatum has come a long way after his horrendous performance in the G.I. Joe movies (I’m glad he got killed off early in G.I. Joe: Retaliation). This looks like it would be fun.

July 10

minionsMinions – I’m one of the few people who is not a big fan of the first Despicable Me. Other than the gorgeous animation, I found the jokes lacking and the characters dull (Steve Carell’s Hungarian accent didn’t do it for me), it didn’t make me laugh that much. And I skipped the sequel. I have to admit, the minions easily stole the show. Everyone wished for a spin-off featuring these delightful characters. Guess what? Their wishes came true! I don’t think this highly anticipated spin-off/prequel to Despicable Me looks any great, but it looks pretty damn funny. Not to mention the three main characters remind me so much of Moe, Larry and Curly (“The Three Stooges”). It’s interesting to see Sandra Bullock portraying a villainess.

the-gallowsThe Gallows – The found-footage horror genre enters an empty high school at night. An evil has lurked after a freak accident occurred during a play. A group of students go around to investigate. The previews look like it’s pretty atmospheric (given that it’s R-rated because of it, which is super rare). I have a bad feeling this would turn out to be garbage. We’ll play it by ear.

selflessSelf/Less – This looks like a massive step-up for Tarsem Singh after his visually stunning but narratively lackluster Mirror Mirror (that movie can suck it): a futuristic sci-fi thriller. It involves a wealthy businessman who has cancer and decides to go under a procedure that changes his appearance to make him look younger. But this procedure is not what it appears to be. I like a good sci-fi. Let’s hope this delivers.

boulevardBoulevard – After his death last year, it’s hard not to choke up watching a movie starring Robin Williams. He has been under the spotlight for more than 40 years improvising, doing stand-up routines, making people laugh, and delivering serious performances. He even won an Oscar for his astounding role in Good Will Hunting. Being his last acting role, Boulevard seems to be a great send-off for Williams. People have been praising his performance! I cannot wait!

July 17

ant-manAnt-Man – Marvel is in its third phase in their cinematic universe. Funnyman Paul Rudd stars in a more serious role as the titular role who wears a suit that has the power to make him shrink into ant-size. I like the looks of this movie, but I’m curious how Edgar Wright would have played it out before Peyton Reed entered the director’s chair. The effects look reminiscent to Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. It might be as entertaining as the other superhero movies.TrainwreckTrainwreck – A comedy that has been getting unanimous praise prior to its release. And I could definitely see why. Directed by Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Funny People, This is 40), starring two funny people (Amy Schumer and Bill Hader), and countless celebrity cameos. Also, the jokes – from the preview ­­­­– made me laugh quite a bit.mr_holmesMr. Holmes – Played by countless actors including Robert Downey Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, Sherlock Holmes is one of the most popular detectives of all-time. This year, director Bill Condon makes a version of Holmes unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. He’s played by Sir Ian McKellen. At the age of 93, he goes around England to investigate one final mystery. I would be a fool missing this one out.irrational-manIrrational Man – We all know how much we hate Woody Allen as a person. But more than half of the movies he makes – including Annie Hall and Blue Jasmine – are some of the best movies ever made. His new movie follows a professor who goes through an existential crisis who bonds with one of his fellow students. I like Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone (star of last year’s decent but charming Magic in the Moonlight), but this looks like a standard entry in Woody Allen’s repertoire.

July 24paper-townsPaper Towns – Based on the book by John Green (author of The Fault in our Stars, which became a massively successful adaptation last year), Paper Towns follows a love story turned into a mystery. This is mainly a mystery for teens and young adults. Nat Wolff (star of The Fault in our Stars) and Cara Develegne look like they had great chemistry in what seems to be a funny and mysterious film. Hell, this looks better than The Fault in our Stars. Cannot wait for this and Looking for Alaska (I’ll have plenty of time to read that).pixelsPixels – It’s rare for anyone to look forward to a movie starring Adam Sandler. I personally liked his stuff on Saturday Night Live and some of his movies (Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, Funny People). Other than that, I hate Adam Sandler with a passion. I’m glad he worked with a better director this time; Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) alongside Kevin James, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, among others. How can a movie involving aliens in the form of retro video game characters taking over the world not get you stoked? This is one of the most ridiculously entertaining concepts I’ve ever heard for a movie!southpawSouthpaw – As I like to call it: “Raging Bull for the new generation”. Jake Gyllenhaal got huge for the role of a heavyweight boxer fighting for his life to get custody of his child. It looks like Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus Has Fallen, The Equalizer) has made an emotionally tense character study.the-vatican-tapesThe Vatican Tapes – This sounds so much like a direct-to-DVD crap-fest. Mark Neveldine, who directed Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, cannot direct to save a life. I can’t imagine anyone watching his movies and not get a headache. The camera would not even stand still! Here’s some advice: MOUNT THE CAMERA ON A TRIPOD, FOR GOD’S SAKE!

July 31vacationVacation (in theaters July 29) – I rather watch the original 1983 Vacation starring Chevy Chase over this pile of tripe. Even Chris Hemsworth’s awkwardness doesn’t make it any funnier.mission-impossible-rogue-nation

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – Ethan Hunt is one of the best action movie heroes and Mission: Impossible is one of my favorite movie franchises. Even Mission: Impossible 2 is a guilty pleasure of mine. He and his short hair are back to go on another globe-trotting mission. It amazes how no other actor can pull off perilous stunts like Tom Cruise. Yes, he was actually hanging on that cargo airplane door. Looking for a good time. Let’s hope Christopher McQuarrie steps up after directing Jack Reacher.the-end-of-the-tourThe End of the Tour – A hit at this year’s Sundance, this movie follows a journalist interviewing a writer for the Rolling Stone. This showcases Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segel in what seems to be the performances of their careers. I love movies like these where they only involve people talking rather than mindless explosions.

Recap:
Most Anticipated: Boulevard, The End of the Tour, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Mr. Holmes, Paper Towns, Pixels
Least Anticipated: Terminator: Genisys, Vacation, The Vatican Tapes

I hope you all enjoyed what my thoughts on upcoming movies for July are. Please feel free to leave comments on what you are looking forward to this July. Stay tuned at the end of this month as I give my thoughts on what has yet to come in the month of August. Take care.

My Most Anticipated Movies for 2015

Happy New Year, everybody. I hope you made your resolutions. Last year has been a strong year for movies. There were many great surprises and some great disappointments. I hope 2015 will have movies that will meet and exceed audience’s expectations like last year. With that said, here is my list of the ten most anticipated movies for this year.

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order): Child 44 (April 17), Crimson Peak (October 16), Far From the Madding Crowd (May 1), The Good Dinosaur (November 25), The Hateful Eight (December 25), In the Heart of the Sea (December 11), Inside Out (June 19), Jupiter Ascending (February 6), The Last Five Years (February 13), Pan (July 24), Paper Towns (June 5), True Story (April 10)

10. Ant-Man (in theaters July 17; directed by Peyton Reed; starring Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Hayley Atwell, and Corey Stoll) – Before seeing footage for this, I haven’t heard a lot about Ant-Man. Paul Rudd is one of the funniest comedians working today. It’s interesting to see him in something unlike his other work. I have a feeling this would be pretty good. The effects reminded me Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

9. The Fantastic Four (in theaters August 7; directed by Josh Trank; starring Miles Teller, Kate Mara, Michael B. Jordan, and Jamie Bell) – Even though a trailer has yet to be released, it’s about time for a reboot after that awful 2005 version starring Chris Evans and Jessica Alba. Gotta love that cast.

8. The Walk (in theaters October 2; directed by Robert Zemeckis; starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon) – I’m glad Zemeckis returned to live-action in 2012 with Flight. This movie tells the true story of Philippe Petit attempting to cross the World Trade Center on a high wire. I think the movie would look quite something in 3D. With Gordon-Levitt becoming one of my favorite actors, I have high hopes for this.

7. The Untitled Cold War Film (a.k.a. St. James Place) (in theaters October 16; directed by Steven Spielberg; starring Tom Hanks) – Following  American lawyer James Donovan recruited by the CIA to help rescue a pilot from being detained in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Steven Spielberg is my favorite filmmaker, and Tom Hanks is my favorite actor. I smell Oscar bait.

6. Tomorrowland (in theaters May 22; directed by Brad Bird; starring George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, and Britt Robertson) – Given that Brad Bird directed the best film in the Mission: Impossible series – Ghost Protocol – I think the movie looks amazing. Again, the cast is great!

5. Mad Max: Fury Road (in theaters May 15; directed by George Miller; starring Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, and Rosie Huntington-Whitely) – I haven’t seen any of the Mad Max films. This movie looks absolutely insane and over-the-top fun. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron can do no wrong. The action looks breathtaking!

4. Jurassic World (in theaters June 12; directed by Colin Treverrow; starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Judy Greer, and Vincent D’Onofrio) – Jurassic Park is one of my all-time favorite films. It made me feel like a kid seeing something unlike anything I’ve seen before. This movie looks as tense as the first film was. I cannot wait to see Chris Pratt capture his charm and dinosaurs chasing him while riding his motorcycle.

3. Spectre (in theaters November 7; directed by Sam Mendes; starring Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Lea Seydoux, and Dave Bautista) – I love James Bond. I love the cast. I loved the last film. I CANNOT WAIT!

2. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (in theaters December 18; directed by J.J. Abrams; starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Andy Serkis, and Max von Sydow) – Why am I looking forward to this? Because It’s STAR WARS!!!!!

1. The Avengers: Age of Ultron (directed by Joss Whedon; starring Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, and Scarlett Johansson) – Do I need to explain?? I loved the first Avengers, and I hope this will have the humor, the phenomenal action, and the awesomeness that made the first film a hit. I want May 1st to come quicker!

I hope you enjoyed my picks. Leave comments on what movie you are looking forward to see this year. Stay tuned for my lists of the best and worst movies of 2014 in the middle of January. Take care!