Monday, December 28, 2015
★★★★★ | A Review by Cameron Kanachki
"Never speak, on my behalf, about my business, again." This menacing quote is said by Jennifer Lawrence in Joy, one of the best & most underrated films of the year. The film is based on the true story of Joy Mangano, an Italian-American woman from New York who rose from bankruptcy & debt to success as a self-made millionaire, who created such things as the Miracle Mop. Lawrence plays Mangano, a divorced mother of 2 children, & they live in a rickety house on Long Island with her divorced parents: her soap opera addict mother Carrie (played by Virginia Madsen) & her twice divorced father Rudy (played by Robert De Niro); her grandmother Mimi (played by Diane Ladd); & her lounge singer ex-husband Tony Miranne (played by Edgar Ramirez). Also involved are Joy's half-sister Peggy (played by Elisabeth Röhm), & her best friend Jackie (played by Dascha Polanco).
One day, Joy creates a new, state-of-the-art mop with her daughter. She then has her dad's new girlfriend Trudy (played by Isabella Rosselini) give her money to start it up. However, Joy can't sell any mops, until she meets QVC executive Neil Walker (played by Bradley Cooper). He gives Joy a shot on television, & after a QVC salesman fails to sell any mops, Joy decides to sell them herself on QVC, & she becomes an instant success, eventually setting up an assembly line of mops in her father's old shop. Along the way, she encounters bankruptcy, debt, sketchy manufacturers & Trudy's mogul-like demands, along with the fact that her house is falling apart. Eventually, she rises past all of this, & rises up to become a big success, even though Rudy, Trudy, & Peggy unsuccessfully sued her for control of the company to try & get her money, eventually becoming great friends with her ex-husband, & also becoming amazing friends with Neil.
The film was excellent. Jennifer Lawrence, as always, was AMAZINGLY SPECTACULARLY AWESOME, & she is one of the best actresses out there today. The acting from Robert De Niro & Diane Ladd was also spectacular. The direction from David O. Russell was excellent. The screenplay from Annie Mumolo & David O. Russell was also excellent. This is definitely one of the best films of the year.
★★★★★ | A Review by Cameron Kanachki
"Chewie, we're home." That magnificent quote from Harrison Ford is the best quote from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, one of the best films of the year, & one of the best in the Star Wars franchise. The film takes place 30 years after Return of the Jedi. In the past 30 years, Luke Skywalker has disappeared, the First Order has risen & wants Skywalker to vanish, & Leia Organa is searching for Luke. Poe Dameron (played by Oscar Isaac), a Resistance pilot, is trying to find Luke. Stormtroopers under the command of Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver) capture Poe. Poe's droid BB-8 escapes with a map & finds a scavenger named Rey (played by Daisy Ridley). A stormtrooper decides not to kill Poe & helps free him, & they flee in a stolen TIE fighter. Poe names the stormtrooper Finn (played by John Boyega). They crash, & it appears that Finn was the sole survivor. He encounters Rey & BB-8, & they flee on the Millenium Falcon, but the ship is captured by a larger ship piloted by Han Solo (played once again by Harrison Ford) & Chewbacca. They all escape in the Millenium Falcon & eventually arrive at the Resistance base, where they are greeted by Leia (played once again by Carrie Fisher), C3PO & R2-D2, who has not been working since Luke's disappearance. However, Rey has been captured by Kylo Ren, & Poe has survived. They now have to find Rey as well as search for Luke.
The film was excellent, & it may just be my favorite Star Wars movie. The acting was great, especially from Ford & Fisher, but also from Isaac, & newcomers Boyega & Ridley. The direction from JJ Abrams was excellent, along with the screenplay from Abrams & Lawrence Kasdan. The editing, score, & visual effects were all astounding as well. This is definitely one of the best films of the year.
★★★★★ | A Review by Cameron Kanachki
"Tell me the difference between stupid & illegal & I'll have my wife's brother arrested." That funny quote from Ryan Gosling is not the only hilariously quotable line in The Big Short, which is not only the best film of 2015, but also one of the funniest. The film is based on the 2010 book of the same name by Michael Lewis, involving the financial crisis of the late 2000's. Gosling plays Jared Vennett, an investor who hears of actions made by Michael Burry (played by Christian Bale). Burry, a hedge fund manager who suffers from blindness in one eye & also suffers from Asperger's syndrome, discovers that the US housing market is extremely unstable, & decides to "short" (to bet against) the housing market. He talks with many banks about this, & the banks accept his proposal, believing that the housing market will not fail. He predicts the collapse will occur sometime in the second quarter of 2007. Some investors get anxious & try to withdraw their investments, but Burry holds off all withdrawals. However, just as he predicted, the market collapses, & he ends up posting profits of 489%.
While Burry was waiting for the market to collapse, Vennett, realizing Burry's predictions are true, puts his own stake in the plan. An accidental call alerts Mark Baum (played by Steve Carell) of the plan & joins Vennett. After visiting the American Securities Forum in Las Vegas, Baum realizes that the entire economy will collapse. He is eventually convinced to go through with the plan, making a big profit from the situation.
While that was going on, Charlie Geller (played by John Magaro) & Jamie Shipley (played by Finn Wittrock) get involved in Vennett's plan; however, since they are too inexperienced to pull off deals necessary to make a profit from the situation, they enlist retired banker Ben Rickert (played by Brad Pitt) to help them out. After the deals are made, Geller & Shipley are initially ecstatic about the profits, but Rickert reminds them that they are profiting from a collapse of the economy in which people will lose their jobs & their homes, much to his chagrin & their sadness. While they do make an immense profit, they no longer have as much faith in the system as they once did.
It is stated in an epilogue that Burry now only invests in water (& he also wanted to talk about how he knew this would happen, but he never did, as he was audited by the FBI 4 times), Baum continues his career, never gloating about his prior knowledge, Rickert goes back to retirement, & Geller & Shipley unsuccessfully sue the ratings companies & eventually split apart. None of the people who caused the collapse are arrested.
The acting was excellent, the direction from Adam McKay was excellent (considering this is a departure from his other films: Anchorman, Step Brothers, & Talladega Nights), & the screenplay by Adam McKay & Charles Randolph was amazing. The editing was also extremely well-done. This is definitely the best film of the year.
Sunday, December 13, 2015
★★★★¹/₂ | A Review by Cameron Kanachki
"In your face, Neil Armstrong." That is one of many hilarious quotes from Matt Damon in the new film The Martian, one of the best sci-fi films of the decade. The film is based on the 2011 novel The Martian by Andy Weir. Damon plays Mark Watney, an astronaut in the middle of the Ares III mission on Mars in 2035. On Sol 18 of their 31-sol mission, a severe dust storm threatens the crew, forcing them to abort the mission; however, in the midst of scrambling back to the vessel, Watney is hit by flying debris & lost in the storm. Presumed dead by his crew, Commander Melissa Lewis (played by Jessica Chastain) orders to leave Mars. However, Watney survives; the debris impaled his stomach, but it bonded with his coagulated blood, creating a life-saving temporary seal. After realizing that it will take 4 years for a new manned mission to come back to Mars, & also realizing that he only has food to last 300 sols, he creates a farm using potatoes & his crewmates' feces (using that as fertilizer). Eventually, with the help of a rover, he creates contact with satellite planner Mindy Park (played by Mackenzie Davis) & mission director Vincent Kapoor (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor). They now try to create a supply probe for Watney, & NASA director Teddy Sanders (played by Jeff Daniels) also alerts the Ares III of Watney's survival. After the supply probe fails, & after Watney's farm is destroyed, the Ares III team decides to return to Mars to retrieve him.
Matt Damon is excellent, along with Jessica Chastain & Jeff Daniels. The direction from Ridley Scott is amazing, & is definitely his best work. The screenplay from Drew Goddard is also great, & it is really true to the book. The visual effects, film editing, sound editing & mixing, production design & film score are also excellent. While it does falter at some points, it's one of the best sci-fi films in years.
Sunday, December 6, 2015
★★★★★ | A Review by Cameron Kanachki
"Time takes everybody out. Time's undefeated." That's a quote from Sylvester Stallone in the new film Creed, which is one of the best films this year. Creed is a continuation of the Rocky film series, but this time, it focuses on Apollo Creed's son, Adonis Johnson (played by Michael B. Jordan). Adonis was the product of an affair between Apollo & another woman. Adonis never met his father, as Apollo died in the ring against Ivan Drago (in Rocky IV) before Adonis was born. When Adonis was young, his mother passed away, & Adonis bounced between foster homes, group homes, & juvenile detention facilities before he is taken in by Apollo's former wife, Mary Anne Creed (played by Phylicia Rashad) in 1998.
17 years later, in 2015, Apollo quits his desk job to become a boxer; he has already participated in bouts in Tijuana. After being turned down at an elite boxing gym in Los Angeles, he travels to Philadelphia & meets Rocky Balboa (played once again by Sylvester Stallone), & asks Rocky to train him. Rocky declines, but eventually agrees. He trains at the Front Street Gym, with Rocky's friends as cornermen, & Adonis finds a love interest in Bianca (played by Tessa Thompson), an up-and-coming singer/songwriter who is slowly losing her hearing. Adonis defeats a local fighter, & because of that, it is revealed that he is the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed. He gets a call from world light heavyweight champion "Pretty" Ricky Conlan (played by British boxer Tony Bellew), who is being forced into retirement due to an upcoming prison term for gun possession. Conlan offers to fight Adonis in his final fight before he goes to prison on one condition: Adonis must change his last name from Johnson to Creed. Adonis is reluctant at first, having wanted to make a name for himself, but eventually agrees, & the fight is on.
The film was excellent. The acting, especially from Michael B. Jordan & Sylvester Stallone, is excellent, & Stallone may win his first Oscar for reprising his role as Rocky Balboa. The direction & screenplay from Ryan Coogler is also excellent. I think that the film may be a nominee for the Oscar for Best Picture. Overall, Creed is an excellent film, & it is the best film in the Rocky series in a long time.