Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Magnificent Seven

★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"What we lost in the fire, we found in the ashes." That's a legendary quote from Denzel Washington in The Magnificent Seven, a great action-filled Western that does fall short of being a classic. The film is a remake of the 1960 film of the same name, which was also a remake of the 1954 Japanese film, Seven Samurai. Washington plays Sam Chisolm, a bounty hunter who is hired by Emma Cullen (played by Haley Bennett) & Teddy Q (played by Luke Grimes) to defend the town of Rose Creek from Bartholomew Bogue (played by Peter Sarsgaard), a corrupt industrialist responsible for killing many townsfolk, including Emma's husband, Matthew (played by Matt Bomer). Chisolm then sets out to find others to help with defending the town. He finds 6 men to help him: gambler Josh Faraday (played by Chris Pratt); sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheaux (played by Ethan Hawke); tracker Jack Horne (played by Vincent D'Onofrio); assassin Billy Rocks (played by Byung-Hun Lee); outlaw Vazquez (played by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo); & warrior Red Harvest (played by Martin Sensmeier). Now, the seven must defend Rose Creek from Bogue & his men.

The cast was great, especially Washington, Pratt & Hawke. The direction from Antoine Fuqua was great, along with the screenplay from Nic Pizzolatto & Richard Wenk. The cinematpgraphy from Mauro Fiore was excellent, with beautiful shots of the Western landscape. And the score from the late James Horner & Simon Franglen is amazing. While it does have a few misfires, it is still one of the best Westerns in recent memory.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"Listen, they're going to come for me. And now that we've made contact, they're going to come for all of you, too." That's a sad, but true quote from Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Snowden, the greatest film of the year. The film is based on the books The Snowden Files by Luke Harding, & Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena. Gordon-Levitt plays Edward Snowden, the infamous NSA contract worker who revealed thousands of classified documents in an interview with journalists Laura Poitras (played by Melissa Leo), Ewen MacAskill (played by Tom Wilkinson), & Glenn Greenwald (played by Zachary Quinto). Snowden originally enlisted in the US Army Special Forces, but was discharged after breaking both legs. After this, Snowden meets Lindsay Mills (played by Shailene Woodley), starts a relationship with her, & joins the CIA. While there, he is mentored by two CIA recruiters: Hank Forrester (played by Nicolas Cage) & Corbin O'Brien (played by Rhys Ifans). 

Snowden is then sent to Geneva, where he meets Gabriel Sol (played by Ben Schnetzer), who alerts him about how the NSA is spying on the American people. After resigning from the CIA, joining the NSA, breaking up & reconciling with Lindsay, & having a seizure, Snowden is sent to Hawaii to work for Booz Allen Hamilton, a government contracting firm. Eventually, Snowden becomes disillusioned with the government's use of mass surveillance, & leaves to go to Hong Kong, where he reveals the documents to Poitras, MacAskill & Greenwald, eventually leading to him living in Russia, seeking asylum.

The cast, especially Gordon-Levitt, Woodley, Leo, Ifans & Wilkinson, is excellent, with Gordon-Levitt's performance being one of the best performances of the year so far, perfectly capturing Snowden's voice, appearance, & mannerisms. Oliver Stone's direction is spectacular, with this being his best film since his 1991 masterpiece JFK. The screenplay from Stone & Kieran Fitzgerald is brilliant. The editing from Alex Marquez & Lee Percy is the best of the year so far. And the cinematography from Anthony Dod Mantle is amazing. This is the best & most important film of the year. Whether you like or hate Edward Snowden, you owe it to yourself to see this film & make a decision for yourself on this absolutely important topic.

(Also, this film shouldn't have received an R rating. There were only a few uses of the F-word, & a couple brief, non-graphic & non-explicit sexual references. Why is the MPAA not letting teenagers (without a guardian) see the movies that they need to see? This film is extremely important for our generation, because we are the ones who are growing up in this era of mass surveillance, & it's up to us to change it).

Don't Think Twice

★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"Anyone from the industry shows up, you turn into a one-man audition tape!" That's a hilarious quote from Mike Birbiglia in Don't Think Twice, one of the year's funniest & best films. Birbiglia plays Miles, a member of an improv comedy group named The Commune. Also in the group are: couple Jack (played by Keegan-Michael Key) & Samantha (played by Gillian Jacobs); graphic novelist Allison (played by Kate Micucci); struggling writer Bill (played by Chris Gethard); & unemployed-yet-wealthy Lindsay (played by Tami Sagher). They perform at a theater in Brooklyn, which is about to close. Miles previously taught most of them in improv classes, yet is upset that many of his students are now extremely successful. They all want to be on or work for Weekend Live, a SNL-type show. Eventually, Jack auditions for Weekend Live, & gets cast on the show, causing the group to unravel & their friendships to deteriorate.

The cast is spectacular. Birbiglia's direction & screenplay are both excellent, creating an honestly real atmosphere. This is definitely one of the year's best films, & the best independent film of the year so far.

(On a side note, I must address the rating this film received. The film was rated R for language & drug use. By language, I mean 9 uses of the F-word, & by drug use, I mean brief instances of adults smoking pot. Those things should definitely not mean an R rating. Those are things that are said & done in real life. There's no violence, no sex or nudity, just language & drug use. Yet, films like Suicide Squad get a PG-13 rating where you see numerous instances of violence. This is outrageous where a film can get an R rating for saying the F-word more than 4 times, yet a film can get a PG-13 for being extremely violent. There's something definitely wrong with the MPAA. And it needs to be stopped).

Sunday, September 11, 2016


★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"Everything is unprecedented until it happens for the first time." That's an excellent quote from Tom Hanks in Sully, a brilliantly constructed masterpiece. The film is based on the book Highest Duty by Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger & Jeffrey Zaslow. Hanks portrays Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, an airline captain, who flew US Airways Flight 1549 on Thursday, January 15, 2009, en route from LaGuardia Airport in New York to Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, with direct service to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. However, about 3 minutes into the flight, the plane hit a flock of Canadian geese, crippling both engines. With no power, & unable to return to LaGuardia, or make an emergency landing at either Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, or at Teterboro Airport in Teterboro, New Jersey, Sullenberger, along with First Officer Jeffrey Skiles (played by Aaron Eckhart), decides to make an emergency landing in the unbearably cold Hudson River. Against all odds, Sullenberger succesfully ditches the plane in the river, with all 155 people on board surviving, with several minor injuries, & only a few serious injuries.

Sullenberger is hailed as a hero by the press & civilians. However, the National Transportation Safety Board's inquiries indicate that the left engine was still usable, giving the plane enough power to land at LaGuardia or Teterboro. Sullenberger & Skiles, both believing that isn't true, must now convince the board to take a second look at the landing.

Hanks & Eckhart's performances were excellent, with Hanks' performance being one of the 10 best of his career, & Eckhart's performance being one of his 3 best performances, along with 1997's In the Company of Men, & 2006's Thank You for Smoking. Clint Eastwood's direction is amazing, with this being one of his best films of the century. Todd Komarnicki's screenplay is great, along with the editing from Blu Murray. The cinematography from Tom Stern is amazing. And the visual effects, especially the visual effects during the flight scene, are absolutely astounding. This is definitely one of the year's best films.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Light Between Oceans

 - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"One day, this will all feel like a dream." That's an inspiring, but also, emotional quote from Michael Fassbender in The Light Between Oceans, an emotionally devestating masterpiece. Fassbender portrays Tom Sherbourne, who has just finished serving in the Australian military on the Western front of WWI. Tom, asking for some time alone to himself, accepts a temporary job as a lighthouse keeper on the secluded island of Janus Rock, a hundred miles off the coast of Western Australia, between the Pacific & Indian Oceans. Eventually, he is called back to the mainland town of Point Partageuse, where he is told that his job is now permanent. On the mainland, he meets Isabel Graysmark (played by Alicia Vikander), the daughter of the town's reverend. Eventually, after months of writing letters, they get married, & both return to Janus Rock.

However, after two miscarriages during their marriage, Isabel becomes severely depressed, sitting by the graves they set up for their stillborn children. One day, an astonishing event occurs. A small boat washes up on the beach, with a dead man & an infant girl in it. They look after the baby for a few days, before Isabel wants her & Tom to raise it. Tom wants to report the incident, so they could eventually adopt it, but Isabel, fearing that they wouldn't let them adopt her because they live in seclusion, does not want that to happen. She believes that since no one knew she miscarried again, they could say that she gave birth early & no one would be the wiser. Eventually, Tom agrees, buries the man's body, & they raise the girl, naming her Lucy, & all is well on Janus Rock.

Four years later, they return to the mainland for the first time with Lucy. While there, they meet Hannah Roennfeldt (played by Rachel Weisz), a local woman who encountered a horrible tragedy. Four years prior, her husband & daughter died at sea. They both recognize immediately that Lucy is Hannah's daughter, Grace. Tom wants to tell the truth, but Isabel is adamant that they do not tell her that they have her daughter. This leads to a harrowing series of events that changes everyone's lives forever.

Fassbender, Vikander & Weisz give heartbreakingly excellent performances, making you feel sympathetic for them all. The direction & screenplay from Derek Cianfrance is amazing, with Cianfrance directing another excellent film after 2010's equally emotionally devestating Blue Valentine, & 2013's underrated The Place Beyond the Pines. The film score from Alexander Desplat is beautiful. And the cinematography from Adam Arkapaw is breathtaking, with absolutely stunning shots of the ocean. This is definitely one of the best & underrated films of the year so far.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

War Dogs

 - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"GOD BLESS DICK CHENEY'S AMERICA!" That's an absurdly hilarious quote from Jonah Hill in War Dogs, one of the funniest & best films of the year. The film is based on the book Arms & The Dudes by Guy Lawson. Hill plays Efraim Diveroli, who, in 2005, started a company called AEY Inc., which fills arms orders for the government for the war in Iraq, & gives his best friend, David Packouz (played by Miles Teller), a high-ranking job in the company. Packouz, although he is unsupportive of the war, takes the job on account of the fact that his also-anti-war girlfriend, Iz (played by Ana de Armas) is pregnant, his massage therapy job isn't paying much, & he's not good at selling bedsheets. Efraim tells David to bid for the smaller arms orders that still cost millions of dollars. One of these orders, an order of Berettas, sends them right to Iraq, after an arms embargo from Italy to Iraq deroutes the shipment to Jordan, but instead of waiting of a permit to fly the shipment to Iraq, they instead drive to Iraq & finish the deal, putting them on the map. 

Eventually, Efraim & David secure larger deals for more money, including a multi-million dollar deal to supply Afghanistan with AK-47 ammunition, but it sends them on a downward spiral caused by Efraim's instability & rising ego & a partnership with Henry Girard (played by Bradley Cooper), an arms dealer on the US terrorist watchlist.

Hill & Teller were extraordinary, with Hill playing against type by portraying a person with a growing antagonistic mindset, & Teller showing off more of his acting range. The direction from Todd Phillips was great. The screenplay from Phillips, Stephen Chin & Jason Smilovic was also brilliant. The editing from Jeff Groth was excellent. The cinematography from Lawrence Sher was breathtaking. And the soundtrack was amazing, showing that 2016 is a great year for film soundtracks. This is definitely one of the funniest & best films of the year so far, perfectly depicting the monstrosities of war & arms dealing.

Don't Breathe

 - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"Now you see what I see." That's a distrubingly terrifying quote from Stephen Lang in Don't Breathe, an absolutely tense, brutal, & unforgiving thriller. Lang portrays Norman Nordstrom, a blind war veteran from Detroit, who is still grieving from the death of his daughter after being hit by a car, with the driver being set free after her rich family from Grosse Pointe paid a large sum of money to him. Meanwhile, three delinquent teens: Rocky (played by Jane Levy); Alex (played by Dylan Minnette); & Money (played by Daniel Zovatto) decide to rob Nordstrom's house for the money. The three have robbed countless houses in order to fund Rocky's move to California with her younger sister in order to get away from her abusive & neglectful mother & her alcoholic boyfriend. After some reluctance from Alex, they agree to rob the house. However, when they go to rob the house, it completely goes awry; Nordstrom kills Money, & now, Rocky & Alex must find a way out & try to avoid Nordstrom.

Lang, Levy & Minnette were excellent. The direction from Fede Alvarez is excellent, along with the screenplay from Alvarez & Rodo Sagayues. The editing from Eric L. Beason, Louise Ford & Gardner Gould is great. The cinematography from Pedro Luque is brilliant. And the plot twist is one of the greatest in film history. This is a brilliant thriller, & is one of the best films of the year so far.

Hell or High Water

 - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"I may have one hunt left in me." That's a great quote from Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water, one of the 3 best films of the year so far. Bridges plays Marcus Hamilton, a Texas Ranger just days away from mandatory retirement. Hamilton, along with his partner Alberto Parker (played by Gil Birmingham), who is repeatedly teased by Hamilton for his mixed Native American/Mexican heritage, are sent to find two bank robbers in economically downtrodden Northwest Texas. The bank robbers are brothers: Toby (played by Chris Pine) & Tanner Howard (played by Ben Foster), who have robbed multiple banks in order to save their family's farm, which has been recently discovered to have oil on it. Toby wants to pay off the debt so he can leave the farm for his estranged sons. However, due to Tanner's wild nature, the bank robberies start to go awry, eventually culminating in a shootout in a desert mountain.

Bridges, Pine & Foster were excellent. Bridges's performance is his best performance behind his performances in 2009's Crazy Heart & 1998's The Big Lebowski (which is my favorite film of all time). Pine's performance is his best yet, & Foster's performance is his best since his short stint on the classic HBO series Six Feet Under. The direction from David Mackenzie is excellent, along with the screenplay from Taylor Sheridan. And the cinematography from Giles Nuttgens is amazing, with absolutely breathtaking shots of the desolate Texas landscape. This is definitely one of the best films of the year so far, & I expect it to rank highly on my list of the 10 best films at the end of the year.

Lights Out

 - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"If she's not a ghost, then what is she?" That's a disturbingly inquisitive quote from Teresa Palmer in Lights Out, a great horror film that falls just shy of being a horror classic. Palmer plays Rebecca, a woman living alone in an apartment who is estranged from her mother, Sophie (played by Maria Bello), who is mentally ill & suffers from depression. Rebecca left home after her father abandoned them. Sophie talks to an imaginary "friend" named Diana (played by Alicia Vela-Bailey). Rebecca's younger brother, Martin (played by Gabriel Bateman), has suffered from insomnia after seeing Diana. Rebecca, fearing for her brother's safety, takes Martin with her to live with her & her lover, Paul (played by Alexander DiPersia). However, social services takes him back to Sophie, where she tells Martin that Diana was a childhood friend of hers when she was at a mental institution for her depression. Diana was extremely sensitive to light, & she died after being exposed to it for too long. Diana is trying to kill anyone who gets between her & Sophie, so now, Rebecca, Martin & Paul must stop Diana at any price.

Palmer, Bello & Bateman were great. The direction from David F. Sandberg is great, along with Eric Heisserer's screenplay. And the editing from Michel Aller is really good. Although it does have a few rough spots, it does provide legitimate scares.