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From ‘Revolutionary Road’ to ‘Skyfall’: Sam Mendes Films Ranked From Worst to Best

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From ‘Revolutionary Road’ to ‘Skyfall’: Sam Mendes Films Ranked From Worst to Best

Director Sam Mendes had one of the quickest rises to prominence of any modern filmmaker. Winning the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director, as Mendes did for American Beauty in 2000, is a pretty seismic achievement for a debut filmmaker – accomplished by a select few others like Jerome Robbins with West Side Story in 1962 and Delbert Mann with Marty in 1956. Prior to heading to the big screen, though, Mendes had extensive experience working at the British West End Theater. He’s continued to return to his home on the stage throughout the course of his directorial career.

On the film side, Mendes has shown an incredible versatility and approached a variety of genres with the same technical brilliance and emotional complexity. While some of his films are more stage like and deceptively simplistic in their formal direction, he’s also created incredible set pieces and overwhelming spectacle. He’s also been an advocate for the support of the theatrical viewing experience since the early days of the pandemic.

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Mendes is currently working on the upcoming Empire of Light, which celebrates movie theaters with a story about a historic movie house off the South Coast of England in the 1980s starring Olivia Colman. It’s already a challenge to rank Mendes’s filmography, as he’s remained remarkably consistent with the high quality of his work. Here is every Sam Mendes film, ranked worst to best.

RELATED: Ralph Fiennes Says Sam Mendes Wanted to Turn M Into a Villain in ‘Spectre’

8. Away We Go (2009)

Mendes deserves a lot of credit for his willingness to tackle all types of genres; there’s no clearly defined template for a “Sam Mendes Movie” because of this diversity. However, it also means that Mendes can tackle genres that he’s not entirely comfortable with, and his attempt at a slice-of-life romantic comedy with 2009’s Away We Go simply doesn’t hold together. Mendes certainly gives the story of first time parents a sense of uncomfortable humor, but the recurring jokes grow tiresome and the story is so observational that it feels dramatically inert.

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The film follows expecting parents, Verona De Tessant (Maya Rudolph) and Burt Farlander (John Krasinski), who search for a new home six months into Verona’s pregnancy when Burt’s parents (Jeff Daniels and Catherine O’Hara) fail to provide them with the home that they promised. Rudolph and Krasinski have believable enough chemistry, but the meandering nature of the narrative lacks any true insights on family or parenthood. It’s ultimately a tiresome and dull attempt at dramatic irony.

7. Spectre (2015)

Spectre came at an interesting turning point in the James Bond franchise. After Skyfall acknowledged the vast history of the 007 franchise, Spectre attempted to meld the gritty realism of the earlier Daniel Craig films with more outlandish elements descended from the Roger Moore era. It’s also a film that spends significant time world building the larger Bond universe through the introduction of the SPECTRE organization and reveal of classic bad guy Blofeld (Christoph Waltz). Waltz is having fun, but the over-explained backstory takes significant time to build up an obvious twist and drags the film’s laborious 148 minute runtime.

The result is a largely middle-of-the-road entry in the series, which still contains moments of pure brilliance. Mendes’s action direction is still spectacular, and the stunning opening Mexico City tracking shot and brutal train fight with the assassin Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista) are highlights. There’s an interesting political commentary as MI6 faces an Orwellian government surveillance force led by C (Andrew Scott) that’s actually more interesting than the excessive SPECTRE references. Spectre also does a great job at building up Bond’s supporting characters M (Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw), and Moneypenny (Naomi Harris) with beefed up roles.

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6. Jarhead (2005)

Jarhead is a fascinating wartime satire that saw Mendes subverting the expectations for what a Gulf War movie could be. It’s certainly an incendiary satire of the U.S. military, but instead of bold dramatic instances, the gradual comedic tone helps identify the uselessness of American troops as they grow bored and desperate for action. The humorous banter between the characters and broad physical humor make the dramatic stakes more shocking when the film makes the tonal shifts.

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as the sniper Anthony “Swoff” Swofford, who joins the conflict out of obligation to his family’s military history. Swofford seeks to achieve heroism, but he finds himself stuck in a conflict where his mission is unclear. Swofford is initially surprised by the laid back attitude of his supervisor Corporal Alan Troy (Peter Saarsgaard), but learns to bond with him and the eccentric group of soldiers in his squad. Despite the satirical edge, the comradery and respect between the brothers-in-arms is something Mendes treats with respect.

5. Revolutionary Road (2008)

At this point Mendes’s films are essentially all masterpieces, and any of the top five could be a worthy choice for #1. Revolutionary Road feels particularly indebted to Mendes’s stage career, as it’s told at a gradual pace and contained to just a few relatively isolated locations. It allows the performances to truly stand out, and Titanic co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet reunite for a romance story that couldn’t be more different than Jack and Rose. Revolutionary Road looks at the cultural shifts of the post-war era and the faded illusion of the American dream.

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Frank Wheeler (DiCaprio) is an educated and affluent bachelor who charms April (Winslet) with his promises of far adventure overseas. The two marry and plan an exciting future, and settle down in a suburban community for what they imagine being simply a temporary lifestyle. As the realities of their immobility come to fruition, the Wheelers face their ultimate fear of normalcy as their dreams of extraordinary exploration dissipate. The gradual depletion of their romantic spark is heartbreakingly depicted by DiCaprio and Winslet in some of the best work of their respective careers.

4. Road to Perdition (2002)

Mendes is a filmmaker who is very specific in his depiction of cultural groups, and with his graphic novel adaptation Road to Perdition he challenged the standard notion of what a “mob movie” could be by telling an emotional story of distant fathers and sons. It’s one of the most aesthetically gorgeous films of his career, featuring a beautiful score by his frequent collaborator Thomas Newman and Academy Award-winning cinematography from the late great Conrad L. Hall. Based on the DC graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner, it’s a sensitive and heartbreaking deconstruction of masculinity.

Tom Hanks delivers one of the darkest performances of his career as the Irish mobster Michael Sullivan, who seeks to escape his violent lifestyle and provide a better future for his young son Michael Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin). He eludes the duties assigned to him by his employer John Rooney (Paul Newman), the ruthless mob boss who nonetheless views Sullivan as more of a son to him than his own child Connor (Daniel Craig). It’s an untraditional road movie as Sullivan recounts the horrors of his past while trying to provide for his child.

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3. American Beauty (2000)

It goes without saying that there’s a difficulty in rewatching and reassessing American Beauty given the revelations about Kevin Spacey, and a film that so heavily centers around his pursuit of an underage character is uncomfortable to watch as a result. The Best Picture winner has gone through an interesting cultural cycle in the two decades since its release. Initially released to overwhelming critical praise, its merits have been a subject of serious debate. Is American Beauty profoundly melodramatic or deeply cynical?

If anything, the tragic suburban drama is somewhere in between. American Beauty essentially follows deeply flawed people who cling to the hope that their life has meaning, and each get revelations that there’s no clear-cut path. Does Lester’s death actually mean anything? Is Carolyn (Annette Bening) justified in shooting him? Will Jane (Thora Birch) and Ricky (Wes Bentley) actually have a future together? Does Frank Fitts’ repression stem from self-hatred? Mendes raises these questions and hints at a more complex view of the American Dream by leaving them ambiguous.


2. 1917 (2019)

Inspired by his grandfather’s stories of heroism during World War I, 1917 is one of the most immersive war movies ever made. The “all in one shot” cinematography technique (another technical marvel from the great Roger Deakins) could have easily been a cheap gimmick, but Mendes uses the consistent momentum to keep the story centered on his characters and the beat-by-beat minutia of how they make decisions and persevere. Exploring the macro through the micro, 1917 explores the magnitude of trench warfare while keeping the stakes very personal.

The film follows young British infantrymen Will Schofield (George MacKay) and Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), who are dispatched on a secret mission by General Erinmore (Colin Firth) to command the front line Lieutenant-Colonel Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch) to halt his attack that would risk running into a trap. Mendes and screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns do an excellent job at showing the impact these young men have; they’ve barely gotten the chance to live, yet they carry the weight of the world on their shoulders as they venture off into unforeseen dangers. MacKay delivers a tour de force physical performance completed by powerful revelations about his family bonds towards the film’s conclusion.


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1. Skyfall (2012)

Skyfall is the ultimate James Bond movie, one of the best action movies of the 21st Century, and one of the standout franchise films of recent memory that actually wrestles with the notion of legacy. Skyfall asks is 007 still relevant? The film discovers that there’s a place for classicalism (there are a ton of fun references to the history of the series), but in order to persevere, Bond must change with the times.

Skyfall is one of the most emotional Bond films because the stakes are incredibly personal; rather than focusing on a doomed romantic affair, the film explores the complex relationship Bond has with M (Judi Dench), and in turn MI6’s role in modern British espionage. Javier Bardem’s villain Raoul Silva is one of the best antagonists in the series, as while his plot is ridiculous and his mannerisms are eccentric, Silva’s motivations are grounded in trauma. That’s not to say that Mendes is in any way ignoring the spectacle that makes a great Bond movie. The incredible set pieces in Skyfall, including the gripping opening motorcycle to train chase, Silva’s brilliant prison escape, and the brutal final battle at Bond’s childhood home are among the best of the entire franchise.



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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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