As 2015 comes to a close, the Action A Go Go squad have a lot to say about what the year had to offer in the action department. As a matter of fact, more than any other year, 2015 really delivered some diverse content within our favorite genre. And we’re not just talking about Mad Max: Fury Road (which of course MOST of us loved). We really got a full plate this year. Liam Neeson delivered vigilante justice as usual in Run All Night, Daredevil bloodied his fists A LOT, Kung Fury took names while embracing the 80s, Cannon films got their day in the sun, dinosaurs roamed the Earth and took no prisoners, drug lords were killing people on TV and on the big screen, (*GASP*) and, yes…lightsabers made a comeback in a very big way. This year truly ran the gamut of what the world of action can offer in spades. Don’t believe us? Then let the mercenary talents of Action A Go Go tell you what highlighted 2015 for them. Pay attention. You might discover something new for yourself….
CHAPPIE (Release date: March 6, 2015)
Okay, so you’ve seen Hugh Jackman in a robot movie before, but this is not quite the same. Think Ghost in the Shell meets District 9. If you have a soft spot for robots like I do, then my pick of the year is the film Chappie. Released in the earlier part of 2015, to this day when I ask my friends if they’ve seen Chappie, the majority answer is “No”. Some of them don’t have a clue what it’s about or vaguely even remember seeing anything about it. I have concluded that the reason for this is because although Sigourney Weaver and Hugh Jackman were big names in the film, the main stars of the movie are not as universally well known. Those main stars are a hip-hop/rave group called Die Antwoord from South Africa. What makes this movie really unique in the age of mass produced replicas and spin-offs, is that these two aren’t acting as anyone else. They are actually playing who they are in real life. For anyone skeptical about what sort of acting chops that may bring to the table, fear not. This is as authentic as it gets. This is what made the movie feel really special and stand apart from everything else out this year. -Tabatha LeStrange, contributor
MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM: THUNDERBOLT (Release date: December 25, 2015)
With the holiday season upon us and One Punch Man dominating anime at every turn, The anime of 2016 is a talked about gem that was just released in Japan. It is none other than Mobile Suit Gundam: Thunderbolt, an entry in the Mobile Suit Gundam metaseries, but this one is slightly different from the others. Sure, it’s usually a guy piloting a giant robot, but don’t get the wrong idea that it’s all Mazinger Z (Tranzor Z for the older fans in the room) and Pacific Rim (which is cool, but different). Most western fans are familiar with Gundam through Gundam Wing and Mobile Fighter G-Gundam on Toonami, but Thunderbolt has the distinction of being a novel turned anime in the vein of Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn and shares the same canon (Universal Century, for those keeping track). Much similar to 08th MS Team, or such films as The Hurt Locker and Lone Survivor, it’s a story focused on the grunts embroiled in the ongoing conflict of warring factions in a space sector that is the equivalent of a junkyard that emits electrical charges. Despite some hyperbole articles on the internet telling people it’s the sequel to Cowboy Bebop or its spiritual successor, it’s not. It has small amounts in common with Bebop: a great jazz score, one of the two leads has a hairstyle similar to Spike Spiegel’s hairdo, and it’s animated by Sunrise Studios (Cowboy Bebop, Tiger & Bunny, Code Geass). Also, Shinichiro Watanabe is not attached to this project. Instead, heavy-hitters Hajime Katoki (Virtual-On video game series, Super Robot Wars) and Kou Matsuo (Rozen Maiden,Valrave the Liberator, Berserk films I & III) are handling the mecha designs and the directorial duties respectively. The first episode of this 4 episode slated Original Net Animation (ONA) was released early to fans of Gundam via the Gundam Fan Club app on December 11th while the Japanese premiere wass set for pay to watch release on Christmas Day. Although no plans have been announced for a U.S. release as of yet, it is fairly evident to say that Nozomi Entertainment (Rightstuf.com) [the main licensor of the Gundam metaseries in the United States] or Funimation Entertainment (Dragon Ball Z, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans) will work something out to bring this latest Gundam work to the United States through digital distribution via Amazon Prime, PSN, Xbox Live, etc. Meanwhile, everyone can look forward to the iconic Mobile Suit Gundam Zeta or Zeta Gundam returning to U.S. shelves next year via Rightstuf.com as well as series such as ZZ Gundam (pronounced double Zeta, people), Victory Gundam, and After War X getting U.S. releases for the first time. In addition to the older series, Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin, the prequel to the original Mobile Suit Gundam or Gundam 0079, continues its 4 episode romp with the release of episode 3 in Spring 2016. -Chris Campbell, columnist
SICARIO (Release date: October 2, 2015)
My favorite action film of the year was Sicario. Focusing on a joint-government agency’s anti-narcotics operation, it’s seen through the eyes of an idealistic FBI agent (Emily Blunt). Her CIA colleagues (played by Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro) are morally gray and strike at the Mexican drug cartels with such ferocity that it provokes the question of how far over the line the U.S. Government will go to fight crime. Blunt’s Kate Macer provides the moral center of the film, but her two co-stars are the real stand-outs, especially del Toro’s lawyer-turned-hitman. Brolin’s character is cool, self-assured and hilariously smug while del Toro has a quiet simmering menace to him. The action was great and pulled no punches when it came to gore and violence. There’s one such scene that made me and the entire audience gasp when I saw it in the theater. What you saw in “Traffic” was taken ten steps further in “Sicario” with its unflinching exploration of our government’s enforcement of its drug policy. -Sy Shackleford, columnist
WOLF WARRIORS (April 6, 2015)
When I’m in need of balls to the walls action I head east, and one of many great action movies I’ve seen this year is Wolf Warriors. Seargant Leng Feng (Wu Jing) is a marksman with the Chinese special forces. During an operation to take down a drug lord, Leng Feng disobeys an order to cease fire. While he saved the day, he endangered the lives of his comrades and is facing a possible court-martial. Colonel Long Xiaoyun recognizes Leng Feng gets results even if he doesn’t play by the rules, so she recruits him to join the Wolf Warriors – the elite of the elite in the PLA. During this time, kingpin Ming Deng learns that his brother has been killed by Leng Feng and so he hires Tomcat (Scott Adkins) – a brutal mercernary with an appetite for destruction and a 100% success rate to help him seek revenge. Hunted by Tomcat, Leng Feng’s first mission with the Wolf Warriors may be his last. I enjoyed “Wolf Warriors” for a number of reasons. First and foremost it stars two of the world’s best action stars Wu Jing (Invisible Target, Fatal Contract, SPL-2) and Scott Adkins (Undisputed 2, Undisputed 3, Expendables 2). Not only are both really badass martial artists, but they have some acting chops to boot. The film is China’s love letter to 1980’s action films and everything from the really bad CG to impressive practical effects and big explosions drives that home. The film has a great score and there are a number of manly moments such as Leng Feng carrying a fallen comrade over his shoulders while dodging a hail of gunfire. This is the most ‘MERICA Chinese movie I’ve ever seen and while it has its flaws it’s certainly a must-see. -Matthew Whetstone, contributor
JURASSIC WORLD (June 12, 2015)
Same place. Similar attraction. New nightmare. Jurassic World is the realization of a billionaire’s dream to create a fully functional theme park, displaying history’s greatest legacy… Dinosaurs. With the disaster of the first attempt , Jurassic Park, 22 years before, owners and visitors have almost forgotten the past and now bask in the glory of this wonderous new park. But when numbers start falling, the people behind Jurassic World tempt nature even further by splicing together the DNA of several reptiles, including their existing attractions. However, what happened once can always happen again. But this time… bigger… meaner… and far more unstoppable than anything that came before. With an island of potential victims and no way to escape, it’s now up to the woman who controls the park and the man who controls the beasts to save the day. Jurassic Park has long since been my favorite movie of all time. As someone with a great love of dinosaurs, someone who loves a rip-roaring action movie and someone who does appreciate fine film making, that film always appealed to me on every level. Having seen Jurassic World finally come to life, I loved it almost as much. It’s got that same magic, that same pace, the same rush of fear and fun from the original JP. The action scenes are spectacular, the dinosaurs are incredible, especially the new Indominous Rex, and the special effects are some of the greatest I’ve ever seen. While it doesn’t have the character roster of JP, or Spielberg’s elegant touches, Jurassic World still moves me the same way. Forget the negativity that surrounded it, the ridiculous nit picking from people who just want to hate a hugely popular movie, just sit back and enjoy the movie with a massive bag of popcorn and a frosty drink — the reason any of the Jurassic Park movies were made. Not only my favorite movie of 2015, but my favorite movie since the original Jurassic Park. -Paul Berney, contributor
NO ESCAPE (August 26, 2015)
No Escape isn’t a great film. But it has a quality that’s increasingly scarce in films today. The plot sees a businessman and his family travel to an unnamed Asian country to start a new life. Within hours of arrival, an armed militia stage a coup d’etat. With violent mobs roaming the streets, the family’s only hope to stay alive is to sneak across the border. It’s a simple set-up – an ordinary man in an extraordinary situation. The film creates consistent tension by crafting plausible scenes which play out in believable ways. Having established that the stakes are life or death, just watching our heroes hide in a wrecked office building, fearing discovery, becomes thoroughly gripping. Hollywood used to do this really well (see anything by Alfred Hitchcock) but it seems it is a trick they’ve forgotten, distracted by dreaming up ever more incredulous action sequences. For all the thrill of watching Tom Cruise cling to the side of aircraft (MI: Rogue Nation), or Vin Diesel leap from one skyscraper in a car (Furious 7), the scenes are so unbelievable they have all the drama of a melting ice cube. So when No Escape hits the DVD shelves and streaming services next year, give it a watch. And remind yourself of the lost art of telling a simple and exciting story. -Will of The Exploding Helicopter Podcast
ARKHAM KNIGHT (June 23, 2015)
My pick for the best video game of 2015 is Batman: Arkham Knight. Highly anticipated since it’s unveiling back in 2014, development was put back in the hands of Rocksteady Studios who created Batman: Arkham Asylum and its sequel Batman: Arkham City before the follow-up game, Batman: Arkham Origins was developed by Warner Bros. Games Montreal, and the result was a Batman experience unlike any other that had been seen in the entire Franchise’s history; be that through comics, films, TV series’ or video games. With Gotham City under lockdown by Dr. Jonathan Crane, AKA The Scarecrow, with the assistance of the mysterious Arkham Knight and his deadly militia, its up to Batman, as well as Commissioner Gordon and his daughter Barbara Gordon, to find out what Scarecrow’s plan is and bring him to justice, along with the many other villains running free within the streets of Gotham, including Two-Face, Harley Quinn, The Penguin, Deathstroke and The Riddler. Batman, after having been exposed to the latest strain of Scarecrows infamous fear gas, is also forced to content with apparitions and nightmarish hallucinations of his old adversary, The Joker. Arkham Asylum and Arkham City intricately portrayed Batman’s relationship with the clown prince of crime, but Arkham Knight did it on a subconscious level, exploring the idea the Batman misses his arch nemesis to an extent, and how he feels partly responsible for his death, whilst killing inherently goes against his nature, as well as the idea of how one would inevitably struggle to cope without the other. But aside from there being significant improvement from the perspective of the story, there was also most definitely massive improvements in the way of gameplay, incorporating new features such as enhanced combat, more intricate puzzles, more collectibles, and most notably, the inclusion of the Batmobile and vehicular combat, giving the game more of an edge than any of the other Arkham games had before it. Arkham Asylum, Arkham City and Arkham Origins established new standards for licensed games, and built upon the designated gameplay formula to varying degrees of success, but Arkham Knight most definitely perfected it. -Steven Tench, contributor
ZERO, VOL. 4: WHO BY FIRE (July 29, 2015)
Ales Kot has had a strange year. The last issue of 4-issue miniseries The Surface had him completely abandoning the story to write himself into the comic. Kot used this opportunity to explain he didn’t quite know how to finish the psychedelic sci-fi love story about him working through issues with his father. Even stranger, the futuristic spy serial, Zero, has its last arc shifting the narrative to William S. Burroughs tripping on mushrooms and jumping through metafictional space within the story. Despite taking a dramatic left turn from the awesomely cinematic espionage elements, this final arc feels essential into unpacking the deeper themes Kot slowly revealed in the previous issues (each one with a different artist no less). Zero is a lot to process from its first issue in 2013 to its final and eighteenth issue in 2015. As far as this year, the comic traverses two major story points. The aforementioned arc about Burroughs which is a fundamental exploration of man’s capacity for violence using mind-bending narrative techniques… and issue #14. Issue #14 is the conclusion of the battle begun in the brutally violent Issue #13. In the previous issue a man is punched repeatedly in the mouth until the puncher is elbow deep in a mangled, lifeless face. Issue #14 manages to outdo this. While Zero takes no pleasure in violence, Marek Oleksicki’s bloody panels are fascinatingly disgusting. In the issue, Edward Zero finally takes on the Agency that we’ve seen him fall out of favor with over the past several issues. The wordless and viscerally moving showdown that acts as the centerpiece of #14 is the main reason Kot’s odd series stands out in 2015… however the ability to juxtapose a pure action scene with the heady mediation on both individual and state-sponsored bloodshed in the following arc puts the series on a level all its own. I have truly loved nearly everything Jason Aaron, Rick Remender, Robert Kirkman, Brian K. Vaughan, and others have put out this year. But the last five issues of Zero really show the expansive vision that Kot has for his 18-part series. The diverse, yet singularly compelling artistic collaborations Kot has had with the five different artists (as well as consistently surprising colorist Jordie Bellaire and creative letterer Clayton Cowles) are surprisingly appropriate and elevate the tale a way that a single artist may be unable to accomplish. Even if you’re a reader of trades, the final two (and best) paperback collections of the last 8 issues also came out in 2015… so this is my vote for best comic series of the year. -Zak Attack, contributor
SPY (June 5, 2015)
Great Action…check. Over the top deaths…double check. Side-splitting laughs…check, check, check. Frequently, I find myself perusing the plethora of options at Redbox, hoping to find something enjoyable to watch. Something, I wouldn’t have paid to see in a theatre. Perhaps the best couple of dollars I spent in that flick dispenser this year was on Spy, starring Mellisa McCarthy. It’s an over the top romp, that takes a bunch of classic tropes of the genre, throws them in the cocktail mixer, and somehow shakes out a refreshing movie. Finally, almost as if responding to criticisms of its lead actress, the ensemble cast doesn’t take a backseat to McCarthy once during this crazy adventure. Any movie that makes me regret not seeing it at my local AMC is worth a rent. I give it 4 out of 5 Dr. Evil pinkies up. -Nick Allen, contributor
SASHA BANKS VS. BAYLEY (August 22, 2015)
It’s amazing that the end of 2015 is finally here. What an amazing year it has been for professional wrestling. As a wrestling fan and host of a The DomiNate Wrestling Fancast podcast show, I have indulged myself and have been sort of a connoisseur of more wrestling than at any point in the 25 years that I have been a fan. I’ve watched it all from WWE, ROH, New Japan Pro Wrestling, TNA, Evolve and the list goes on. To come up with a clear cut Match of the Year for 2015 was tough because there have been so many phenomenal matches that I can name off of the top of my head from a variety of wrestling feds whether it be mainstream or from independent promotions. When I think about Match of the Year, I don’t think specifically about matches that exuded intense physicality even though those types of matches are a guilty pleasure of mine. When I think about the Match of the Year, I think about a match that, from bell to bell, has all the ingredients necessary to keep you engaged, take you on an emotional roller coaster, gets you high on an adrenaline rush, and by the end of the damn thing, you have expelled all of your energy because the match captivated you through its magic. Out of all of the amazing matches that I’ve seen this year, I can say without hesitation that Sasha Banks vs. Bayley for the NXT Women’s Championship at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn on August 22, 2015 is my Match of the Year and the one match that I recommend any wrestling fan should go out of their way to see if they haven’t already. If I would have known at the beginning of this year that a women’s match would be my Match of the Year, I would have predicted myself to have hit a very low point in my mental psyche. This match had everything! You anticipated it through the story of Bayley’s journey to winning the NXT Women’s Title and the history between her and Sasha Banks not only as rivals but as women who were changing the perception of mainstream women’s wrestling as a whole. From bell to bell, this match had everything that most Match of the Year contender’s were missing. Not only did this match have that aforementioned intense physicality, but it told a story. The energy and the atmosphere was contagious. Bayley and Sasha played their roles FLAWLESSLY and they had the live fans in Brooklyn eating out of the palm of their hands. This match was not about kicking out of finishers and dramatic nearfalls, this match went back to the basics. What these two women did is exemplary in defining what professional wrestling is all about from an in-ring perspective and why what these athletes do in the ring should be looked at as a form of art being painted on a totally different canvas. -Nate Sherman of The DomiNate Fancast
DJANGO/ZORRO (November 25, 2015)
I bet you didn’t know that Quentin Tarantino dropped two gems this year. Yes, of course his Hateful Eight is currently collecting accolades, but the Django/Zorro crossover from Dynamite continued the director’s current fascination with post-Civil War America in comic form. Written by Matt Wagner with Tarantino, Django/Zorro is the Django sequel too ambitious for the big screen. The 6-part comic series brings the legendary Don Diego de la Vega face-to-face with Jamie Foxx’s gunslinging free man. At first, both men seem to be seeking to settle up with one another, but by the time Django discovers he is working with the masked vigilante Zorro it is too late for him to pack it up and go home. Next thing you know, both men are striking out into the night on a dangerous quest to free the indigenous people of Arizona from an Archduke claiming rights to the land. Co-writer Matt Wagner and artist Esteve Polls set Django on a path to become a mythological figure by pairing him with such a classic character. Zorro informs Django that he can become the scourge that strikes down outlaws everywhere. Already quick on the draw, the man with the silent “D” turns out to be more than ready for vigilante life. Part history lesson, part Old West yarn, and 100% cooler than cool, Django/Zorro is the closest you’ll come to seeing the 9th film by Quentin Tarantino without going to the theater. If you’re itching for more QT-esque action after Hateful Eight then look no further than your local comic shop. -Troy-Jeffrey Allen, managing editor
CRIMSON PEAK (October 16, 2015)
This year’s gothic horror masterpiece Crimson Peak is a frustratingly under recognized gem of great big-budget genre craft. A story of love and horror in equal measures, Peak is filled to the brim with little twists and turns which, while never entirely shocking given the film’s appropriate tendency for overt melodrama, are still bound to give most audience members a good chill up their spine. Crafted by legendary filmmaker and VFX master Guillermo del Toro, Crimson Peak is the most lovingly conceived and meticulously built genre film you’ll see this year. It’s world is so tangible and rich in quality that it’s virtually impossible not to feel sucked into it from the opening moments. There’s something very special about this film and it’s incredible transportive power, a depth to it’s universe that I, for one, seldom have the joy of experiencing in the cinema. Between the mind-bogglingly beautiful sets, the intricate costumes and creepy digital effects work, Crimson Peak deserves to be one of the most celebrated and studied movies of 2015. -Andrew Allen, contributor
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (August 14, 2015)
Out of the horde of spy- and espionage-related movies released in 2015, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. most earnestly attempted to maintain (while successfully updating) the spirit of its original source material. It was not serious, highbrow entertainment. Nor was the original U.N.C.L.E. series. It was also not an original premise dotted with creative brilliance. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was merely the product of a broadcast network attempting to cash in on the Bond phenomenon (with input from Ian Fleming himself). The television show placed two mismatched Cold War frenemies in absurd situations for the purpose of staging zingers and minor thrills with panache. And that’s exactly what we got in Guy Ritchie’s update… but, alas, few actually went to see this excellent slice of entertainment. Nobody went to see it because Warner Bros. couldn’t figure out how to market a moldy spy-show from the 1960’s that cares more about fashion and looking groovy than it does about blowing things up. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. deserves a sequel. And that will only happen if the film finds a second life through DVD/Blu-ray sales. It’s true that Ritchie expended too much effort on the set-up, but now the characters (excellent turns from Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer and Alicia Vikander) have emerged from their getting-to-know-yous, primed for a traditional U.N.C.L.E. narrative without the burden of exposition. The film left us hanging, the three agents standing, awaiting their next orders. Buy, rent, watch The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Maybe we can convince some suits that Napoleon, Ilya and Gaby deserve the chance to receive a second mission. -James David Patrick, contributor
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (May 15, 2015)
2015 was a year of surprises in movies. Jurassic World, out of nowhere, became a monstrous hit that ruled the summer and broke records. Then Star Wars: The Force Awakens happened, gobbling up even more mindshare and more money. It’s still setting records. But out of all the movies that came out this year MAD MAX: Fury Road was the biggest surprise. It was supposed to be some reboot, but turned into so much more. And it’s not because of the controversies or other stuff that gets bandied about these days. No, it’s because the movie was so damn good! Amazing editing, tight storytelling, along with incredible world building simply added up to one amazing experience. Never mind the searing beauty and style it brings to the screen along with intense action. It was a different type of good that was so next level people forgot how to react to it. It defied the corporate cartoons we get fed left and right so much that people were legitimately stunned. And for that it is the Top Movie of 2015. May there be many imitators in it’s wake. -Derek Scarzella, editor in chief
Action A Go Go would like to thank everyone who participated in the our year-end suggestion box here. You guys rock and obviously have good taste!
If for whatever reason you found this list lacking or want more movie fun then speak up and do your whining in the comments section below. Who knows…maybe you’ll put us on to something we’ve never heard of. Hopefully we did exactly that for you.
See you in 2016!