Tuesday, February 12, 2019

They Shall Not Grow Old


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

World War I was one of the deadliest wars in human history. With 40 million casualties, people considered this to be The War to End All Wars. Sadly, this would not be true, as many wars have occurred in the century since then. Unfortunately, as the years go on, many of us don't remember who we fought against in World War I. As a result, many of the people who fought on either side of the battlefield have been forgotten as well.

They Shall Not Grow Old is a phenomenal documentary on both levels of storytelling & filmmaking. Narrated by dozens of British servicemen, the film follows the British Armed Forces in World War I, from their entry in 1914 to the end of the war in 1918. 6 million servicemen, some as young as 16 years old, fought bravely for their country: some volunteering, others conscripted, but all united in the fight.

Through the entire war, the soldiers experienced various horrors, including trenchfoot, mustard gas, & machine guns, along with so much carnage. These brave men would never be the same for the rest of their lives.

Peter Jackson's direction is phenomenal. When you consider all of the work that Jackson put into this film, you realize that it is just absolutely awe-inspiring. Jackson & his crew had to restore all of the 100-year-old footage, then get all of the footage to the standard 24 frames per second, then colorize the footage, & then finally add the voiceover & sounds to the film. The colorization brings these men & these events to life. These are simply not men & events from a long-ago era. These men were like many of us. Also, in lieu of focusing in on specific battles & looking at specific people, Jackson goes for an immersive approach, letting you feel what it was like to be a soldier in World War I. All of this was a miraculous effort, with miraculous execution.

This is not only one of the best documentaries of 2018, but it is one of the best documentaries of all time, & it is also certainly the best war documentary. It's a completely immersive look into one of the most horrific moments in world history, & it perfectly honors those men who bravely fought in this historic war.

They Shall Not Grow Old was seen by me at the MJR Waterford Digital Cinema 16 in Waterford Township, MI on Saturday, February 2, 2019. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 99 minutes, & it is rated R for disturbing war images.

Cold War


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I'm half-Polish. My entire maternal side of the family is 100% Polish. However, I have never seen a single Polish film. I haven't seen any films by who are considered to be the best Polish filmmakers: Roman Polanski, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Agnieszka Holland, & Andrzej Wajda. In the future, I plan to rectify this.

Cold War is a phenomenal film with such immense beauty. Set between 1949 & 1964 in Poland & France, the film follows Zuzanna "Zula" Lichoń (played by Joanna Kulig), a young singer from a major city in Poland, but pretending to be a girl from the mountains. Haunted by an incident in her past, Zula goes to audition for Mazurek, a Polish folk group focused on bringing the music of the Polish working class to the world, led by Lech Kaczmarek (played by Borys Szyc), who has housed the audition in a welcoming villa.

At the audition, Zula meets Wiktor (played by Tomasz Kot), a jazz musician scouting for Mazurek. Although Wiktor is in a relationship with Irena (played by Agata Kulesza), he is immediately smitten with Zula. They eventually start a relationship, albeit a very rocky one, bound by music, but broken by the eventual transformation of Mazurek into another small cog in the Soviet propagandist machine.

Their love brings them together & tears them apart through Warsaw, Berlin & Paris, through freedom & tyranny. But they always try their hardest to make their love work, even if that decision could be very costly.

The cast is phenomenal. Joanna Kulig is a revelation. Her acting talent is phenomenal, but it is closely matched by her beautiful voice. Tomasz Kot is also phenomenal, always exuding so much charm at every moment. And their chemistry is just so intense.

Paweł Pawlikowski's direction is superb. For what seems to be a quiet romance, Pawlikowski brings so much liveliness to the film & explores so much in such a small runtime.

The screenplay by Paweł Pawlikowski, Janusz Głowacki & Piotr Borkowski is amazing. The plot never loses steam, the narrative is brief yet glorious, & the dialogue is terrific.

And Łukasz Żal's cinematography is gorgeous. Żal beautifully films the scenery with a monochrome Academy-style ratio, & the lighting is wondrous.

This is a true masterpiece. This is one of the best romances in recent memory. It's a vivacious film from start to finish.

Cold War was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, February 1, 2019. It is currently in 4 theaters in the Detroit area: the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township, MI; the Emagine Novi in Novi, MI; & the State Theatre in Ann Arbor, MI. Its runtime is 89 minutes, & it is rated R for some sexual content, nudity & language.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The LAMB Devours the Oscars: Best Supporting Actor


As part of The LAMB's The LAMB Devours the Oscars series, I will be writing on the 5 exemplary nominees for Best Supporting Actor. I will start things off with...

Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley in Green Book


Previous Nominations: 1 (Moonlight)
Previous Wins: 1 (Moonlight)

Mahershala Ali does a great job here, considering the material he was given. He does bring a lot of life & heart to the role, although the weak script does hold him back from his performance being a fantastic one.

Adam Driver as Philip "Flip" Zimmermann in BlacKkKlansman


Previous Nominations: 0
Previous Wins: 0

Although Driver has appeared in both blockbusters & acclaimed indie films, he has not received recognition from any of the major awards until now, & his nomination is very well-deserved. He excellently portrays the struggle of realizing your ethnic identity & what that means for yourself.

Sam Elliott as Bobby Maine in A Star Is Born


Previous Nominations: 0
Previous Wins: 0

For a well-known actor who has been in film for such a long time, it's a surprise that this is only Elliott's first Oscar nomination. But the wait was worth it. Although Elliott doesn't have much screentime, he is able to make such an unforgettable mark on the film & the audience.

Richard E. Grant as Jack Hock in Can You Ever Forgive Me?


Previous Nominations: 0
Previous Wins: 0

Grant is one of the finest character actors in the minds of those who know of him, but to others, he is one of those people who they see in many things but can't remember his name. But after this performance, they'll remember his name. He is nothing short of a powerhouse here. From the first moment he's on screen to the last, Grant has so much firepower, with so much humor, heart, a tremendous scene-stealing ability.

Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush in Vice


Previous Nominations: 1 (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Previous Wins: 1 (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

If anything here, Rockwell shows that he is the best & only person to portray George W. Bush. He nails everything we know & love (or hate) about the 43rd President: his accents, his mannerisms, & especially his Bushisms. All that together makes for Rockwell's finest performance.

Who Will Win? - Mahershala Ali. He's been the frontrunner ever since Green Book premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. However, there is a possibility that he could falter at the Oscars if he loses the BAFTA to Richard E. Grant.

Who Should Win? - Richard E. Grant. I haven't loved & adored a performance in 2018 more than I adored Grant's performance in Can You Ever Forgive Me? Performances like his with that much wit & charisma come around once in a blue moon, & as a result, Grant should be handsomely rewarded.

If there is someone who I think should be nominated in this category, it's Daniel Kaluuya in Widows. His performance was easily the best villainous performance since Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds, & performances like these are so rare.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Stan & Ollie


★★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy were some of the best comedians of all time. Their chemistry & slapstick humor made millions laugh & inspired thousands of people to go into comedy.

Stan & Ollie, while not entirely perfect, is a funny & heartwarming look at the iconic comedy duo. Set between 1937 & 1953, the film follows Stan Laurel (played by Steve Coogan) & Ollie Hardy (played by John C. Reilly), who are riding high & are the kings of comedic cinema. However, all is not dandy, as Stan has been adamant in not renewing his contract with Hal Roach (played by Danny Huston). Oliver remains tied to his contract due to a separate deal, & is not let go, thereby separating Stan & Ollie. Although they would team up, Ollie's absence at a meeting with Twentieth Century Fox causes them to not be signed, & eventually their friendship becomes strained, as Stan feels betrayed by Ollie.

In 1953, Stan & Ollie reunite for a music hall tour of the United Kingdom & Ireland, in order to gain revenue for a comedic reimagining of Robin Hood. They are both married now: Stan to Ida (played by Nina Ariadna) & Ollie to Lucille (played by Shirley Henderson). However, their manager, Bernard Delfont (played by Rufus Jones) has only booked them for very small venues. As a result, Stan & Ollie receive minimal fanfare to start off; however, after doing some publicity, their venues get much bigger & more people come to see them. But long-held animosities threaten to pull the duo apart once again.

The cast is fantastic. Steve Coogan & John C. Reilly showcase a perfect mix of comedic & dramatic acting, disappearing into their characters, & their chemistry is terrific.

Jon S. Baird's direction is great. Although it's a bit visually stale at some points, Baird is able to overcome that with a surfeit of warm-heartedness throughout.

Jeff Pope's screenplay is amazing. The plot feels fresh & inspired, the dialogue is well-written, & the narrative is incredibly sweet & pure.

And the makeup & hairstyling is phenomenal. The makeup is incredibly transformative for both of the main characters, as they perfectly resemble their real-life counterparts.

This is a great film. Although there are a couple minor flaws, it's an incredibly sweet tribute to an absolutely incredible comedy duo.

Stan & Ollie was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Friday, January 25, 2019. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 98 minutes, & it is rated PG for language, & for smoking.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Glass


★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

M. Night Shyamalan's career has been a polarizing one. From his quiet start with 1992's Praying with Anger & 1998's Wide Awake, which are vastly different from the films we associate with him, & his most successful period with 1999's The Sixth Sense, 2000's Unbreakable, & 2002's Signs, to his less successful period with 2004's The Village, 2006's Lady in the Water, 2008's The Happening, 2010's The Last Airbender, & 2013's After Earth, & his rebirth with 2015's The Visit & 2017's Split, his career has been received at the extreme opposites of the spectrum. I have only seen Unbreakable & Split, which I both enjoyed.

Glass is the only film by M. Night Shyamalan that I have not liked. The third installment in the Eastrail 177 Trilogy, the film follows David Dunn (played by Bruce Willis), a former security guard in Philadelphia with superhuman abilities & the ability to sense other people's crimes by touching them. Dubbed "The Overseer" by people on social media, & with his son Joseph (played by Spencer Treat Clark) working behind-the-scenes, David fights crime as a vigilante.

One day, David encounters Kevin Wendell Crumb (played by James McAvoy), a former employee at the Philadelphia Zoo who has dissociative identity disorder, with 23 different personalities, which combine to create a 24th personality named "The Beast." 3 weeks earlier, Kevin, under the control of his personalities, kidnapped 3 girls, killing 2 of them, & then letting Casey Cooke (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) go free. Kevin, dubbed as "The Horde", is sensed by David as the person who has kidnapped 4 cheerleaders. David goes & finds them, but soon after, David & Kevin end up getting into a huge fight, & are soon arrested & taken to a mental institution.

At the mental institution, they soon meet someone who was once involved with David: Elijah Price, AKA Mr. Glass (played by Samuel L. Jackson), who has osteogenesis imperfecta & once manipulated many disasters to find David some years prior. Dr. Ellie Staple (played by Sarah Paulson), the head doctor of the institution, has 3 days to convince all 3 of them that they do not have superpowers & only have delusions of power. Joseph, Casey, & Elijah's mother Mrs. Price (played by Charlayne Woodard) try to vouch for them, but to no avail.

While in the mental institution, & through some manipulation, Elijah & Kevin meet, & once assured of the existence of "The Beast," Elijah decides to team up with Kevin to show that superhumans exist. Now it is up to David to stop them.

The cast is excellent. Bruce Willis shows that he still has some acting talent left in him, as he has not shown that since Moonrise Kingdom. James McAvoy shows once again that he can play villains incredibly well. Samuel L. Jackson is great, as always. And the rest of the cast, especially Taylor-Joy & Paulson, is excellent as well.

M. Night Shyamalan's direction is great. Although Shyamalan goes a bit off-course near the end, he does have a lot of ambition, along with a very grounded realization of superheroes.

And M. Night Shyamalan's screenplay is a mess. The dialogue is very well-written, & the first act is intriguing, but the second & third acts are not well-plotted, & the twist is awful.

This is a disappointment. Although certain aspects are very well-done, others are not, making this a very ambivalent end to the trilogy.

Glass was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Saturday, January 19, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 129 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for violence including some bloody images, thematic elements, & language.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Destroyer


★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Many crime dramas have tried to be more subversive lately, with mixed results. While films such as Drive & Good Time have reinvented the crime genre, other films such as Gotti & White Boy Rick have failed in their attempts.

Destroyer, while showing some promise, ultimately fails to do anything fresh or intriguing. The film follows Erin Bell (played by Nicole Kidman), a detective for the Los Angeles Police Department. The years have taken a toll on Erin, as she is an alcoholic that is also overworked, which has led to a rift in the relationships between her, her ex-husband Ethan (played by Scoot & her daughter Shelby (played by Jade Pettyjohn).

One day, Erin comes across a John Doe murder, & tells the responding officers that she knows who the victim is, but doesn't tell them. When she returns to the police station, Erin finds an envelope with a $100 bill stained from a dye pack. After tracing it back, she realizes that the $100 bill is from a bank robbery committed when she was undercover infiltrating a gang. Erin believes that this is proof that the leader of the gang, Silas (played by Toby Kebbell) has returned.

Flashbacks reveal that Erin & her former partner Chris (played by Sebastian Stan) were both infiltrating the gang, eventually starting a romantic relationship & planning to take some of the robbery money for themselves.

In the present, Erin is led to DiFranco (played by Bradley Whitford), a lawyer laundering money from the original robbery. After dealing with him, she finds Silas' girlfriend, Petra (played by Tatiana Maslany). Nothing will stop Erin in her mission to find Silas.

The cast is amazing. Nicole Kidman is unrecognizable, & has so much intense command in her performance. Sebastian Stan & Tatiana Maslany are the most notable of the supporting performances, but this is definitely Kidman's film.

Karyn Kusama's direction is mediocre. Kusama knows how to build tension, but she rarely delivers on actually reaching a powerful climactic moment.

And the screenplay by Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi is a mess. The plot is way too confusing, the characters aren't fully realized, & some of the dialogue is badly written.

This is a major disappointment. Although the cast is excellent, especially Kidman, that's just about the only positive thing in this film.

Destroyer was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Friday, January 18, 2019. It is currently in 2 theaters in the Detroit area: the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI; & the Emagine Royal Oak in Royal Oak, MI. Its runtime is 121 minutes, & it is rated R for language throughout, violence, some sexual content & brief drug use.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Ben Is Back


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

The opioid crisis has only continued to get worse in America. From the inner-city to the suburbs to the rural farmlands, it has impacted us all.

Ben Is Back is one of the most gripping & emotional films in recent memory to tackle the opioid crisis. The film follows Holly Burns (played by Julia Roberts), a well-to-do mother in New York. She is lovingly married to her second husband Neal Beeby (played by Courtney B. Vance), & they have two young kids together: Lacey (played by Mia Fowler) & Liam (played by Jakari Fraser), along with two kids from Holly's first marriage: Ivy (played by Kathryn Newton) & Ben (played by Lucas Hedges).

On Christmas Eve, Holly & the kids drive home to discover Ben in the driveway. Ben has been in rehab for a few months for his drug addiction, & he is not supposed to be home yet. However, Ben's sponsor suggested that he go home for Christmas. Due to his rehab stint, Ben has been clean for 77 days. Although Holly, Liam & Lacey are happy to see him home, Ivy & Neal are more wary about his reappearance. Holly tells him that he can stay for 24 hours while not leaving her sight, then he must go back to rehab, to which Ben agrees.

While shopping for clothes for the Christmas Eve church service, Ben sees someone from his past who looks at him in a manner that shows that he is coming for Ben. This sets the stage for a 24 hours the family will never forget.

The cast is phenomenal. Julia Roberts gives one of her best performances in recent memory. She has so much maternal instinct & tenacity in her performance that it's unlike any other performance of a mother in recent memory. Lucas Hedges gives the best performance of his career, portraying a young drug addict so realistically. And the rest of the cast, especially Newton & Vance, provide great supporting performances.

Peter Hedges' direction is excellent. Hedges directs the film with a quiet, subdued touch for the first half, then slowly builds the tension in the second half, all while never making the material feel preachy or didactic.

Peter Hedges' screenplay is amazing. The plot feels incredibly fresh, the characters feel like regular people, & the dialogue is astoundingly human.

Stuart Dryburgh's cinematography is terrific. The camerawork is very subdued, letting the events unfold before our eyes, & the color palette is dominated by blues & grays, adding to the bleak tone of the film.

And Dickon Hinchcliffe's score is impeccable. The score is driven by mournful violins, adding to the somber tone of the film.

This is one of the best films of 2018. It's a hard watch, but its talented cast, subdued direction & realistic writing is well worth the emotional rollercoaster.

Ben Is Back was seen by me at the Emagine Novi in Novi, MI on Saturday, January 12, 2019. It is currently in 10 theaters in the Detroit area, including the AMC Forum 30 in Sterling Heights, MI; the AMC Fairlane 21 in Dearborn, MI; the MJR Brighton Towne Square Cinema 20 in Brighton, MI; & the AMC Star Great Lakes 25 in Auburn Hills, MI. Its runtime is 103 minutes, & it is rated R for language throughout & some drug use.