Sunday, October 23, 2016


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"I've been defending my right to stand up against someone who wants to pervert the truth." That's a powerful quote from Rachel Weisz in Denial, one of the best films of the year. The film is based on the book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier by Deborah E. Lipstadt. Weisz portrays Lipstadt, a historian at Emory University in Atlanta in 1994. During an event where she is speaking, Lipstadt is confronted by noted Holocaust denier David Irving (played by Timothy Spall), who says that the reason Lipstadt doesn't debate with Holocaust deniers is that she can't because she could learn some "facts". Two years later, Lipstadt is sued in London by Irving for libel, claiming that Lipstadt's labeling of Irving as a "falsifier of truth" in her 1993 book Denying the Holocaust is untrue. Irving files the lawsuit in London because unlike the United States, where the libel laws state that the accuser must prove the accused were libelous, the United Kingdom's libel laws state the exact opposite: the accused must prove that the accuser's accusations are untrue. Now, Lipstadt, along with her legal team, including Richard Rampton (played by Tom Wilkinson) & Anthony Julius (played by Andrew Scott) must prove that Irving was falsifying the truth.

The cast was excellent, especially Wilkinson, who is one of my 3 favorite actors of all time, & Spall, who is one of the best British actors of his generation. The direction from Mick Jackson is excellent, along with David Hare's screenplay. And Howard Shore's film score is amazing. This is definitely one of the most important films of the year.

American Pastoral

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"I raised her the way I thought best." That's an emotionally devestating quote from Ewan McGregor in American Pastoral, the greatest & most underrated film of the year so far. The film is based on the 1997 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Philip Roth. McGregor plays Seymour "Swede" Levov, a legendary high school athlete at Weequahic High School in Newark, New Jersey in the 1940's. His nickname, "Swede", came from his Scandinavian looks, an anomaly in his Jewish family. He was a hero in his predominantly Jewish neighborhood, especially to Nathan Zuckerman (played by David Strathairn), who narrates the film. After World War II, he marries Dawn Dwyer (played by Jennifer Connelly), a former Miss New Jersey. They then move to the suburb of Old Rimrock, & have a daughter, Meredith (played by Dakota Fanning), who has an extremely debilitating stutter. Also, Seymour runs a successful glove manufacturing company in Newark, with help from his secretary, Vicky (played by Uzo Aduba). Everything is going great for Seymour, Dawn, & Meredith. They are living the perfect American life.

Eventually, things change. It's the 1960's. The country is in the midst of the Vietnam War, & racial unrest is occurring in Newark's inner-city. But the biggest problem is Meredith, who has become involved with a Weather Underground-esque group, & hates both Seymour & Dawn. Eventually, as she disappears, the post office in Old Rimrock is bombed, killing one person. As the authorities start to investigate her disappearance & her alleged involvement in the bombing, Seymour's life starts to fall apart, making him wonder if everything was perfect in the first place.

The cast was spectacular, especially Fanning, whose role is so different from her previous roles in her childhood, & Strathairn, who has always been an excellent & underrated actor. McGregor's direction is perfectly minimalist, shining in his directorial debut. John Romano's screenplay brings an excellent novel to the screen in an amazing fashion. Alexandre Desplat's score is nothing short of excellent. And Martin Ruhe's cinematography is breathtaking. This is a perfect adaptation of Philip Roth's novel, & also criminally underrated.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Accountant

½★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"I have a pocket protector." That's an absolutely dreadful & cringe-inducing quote from Ben Affleck in The Accountant, the year's biggest disappointment. Affleck plays Christian Wolff, an accountant with autism. Wolff had many problems during his childhood alongside autism, including his mother leaving him, his brother, & his father. Now, Wolff is an accountant for some of the most diabolical men on Earth. This attracts Treasury Department head Ray King (played by J.K. Simmons), who sends new recruit Marybeth Medina (played by Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to find him, threatening to disclose her former criminal history if she doesn't find him. Wolff decides to do accounting for a company called Living Robotics, where he discovers $61 million dollars is missing. He then meets in-house accountant Dana Cummings (played by Anna Kendrick), who then works with him to find who did it. Later, the CFO of the company is murdered, & CEO Lamar Black (played by John Lithgow) lets Wolff go. Now realizing the company is after him, Wolff reveals his dark, violent & murderous side, & must protect Dana.

The cast was terrible, with Kendrick & Simmons giving mediocre, but committed performances, while Affleck was extremely unconvincing in a more "dorky" role. Gavin O'Connor's direction was terrible. The screenplay from Bill Dubuque was dreadful. And the pacing of the film was extremely awful, along with the plot, which was extremely confusing, trying to tie everything together & failing miserably. This is one of the worst films I've ever seen.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Birth of a Nation

★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"Sing to Him, a new song!" That is a dramatically charged quote from Nate Parker in The Birth of a Nation, a great film about one of the darkest moments of American history. The film is based on the true story of Nat Turner, a slave who led a rebellion in 1831, only to last 48 hours, leading to his death. Parker plays Nat Turner, a slave who lived on a plantation in Southampton County, Virginia. His financially-strapped master, Samuel Turner (played by Armie Hammer), orders Nat, who learned to read at a young age, to preach to his fellow slaves as a means of trying to stop them from rebelling. During this time, Nat marries a fellow slave named Cherry (played by Aja Naomi King). While Nat is preaching, Cherry is viciously beaten & raped by a group of slavecatchers led by the vicious Raymond Cobb (played by Jackie Earle Haley). Sickened by this, Nat then believes God has told him to rebel. He then starts a rebellion against the masters, killing anyone who is against him. This eventually leads to an epic battle against Cobb & other masters, with several casualties, eventually leading to Nat's execution by hanging.

The cast, especially Parker, Hammer, King & Haley, is great. The direction from Parker is great as well, along with the screenplay by Parker & Jean McGianni Celestin. The editing from Steven Rosenblum is brilliant. The cinematography from Elliot Davis is astounding. And the film score from Henry Jackman is amazing. While the film doesn't reach the cinematic heights of other films about slavery, such as 2012's Django Unchained, or 2013's 12 Years a Slave, it is still a great film that takes an unflinching look at our country's disturbing history.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"We're what's known in common parlance as peculiar." That quote is from Eva Green in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, an absolutely brilliant film. The film is based on the book of the same name by Ransom Riggs. Green plays Miss Alma LeFay Peregrine, the headmistress of the titular home for peculiars, children who have special powers. The children are: Emma (played by Ella Purnell), who can control air; Enoch (played by Finlay MacMillan), who can resurrect the dead; Olive (played by Lauren McCrostie), who is pyrokinetic; Millard (played by Cameron King), who is invisible); Fiona (played by Georgia Pemberton), who can control plants; Bronwyn (played by Pixie Davies), who has super-strength; Horace (played by Hayden Keeler-Stone), who has prophetic dreams; Hugh (played by Milo Parker), who has bees in his stomach; Claire (played by Raffiella Chapman), who has an extra mouth hidden behind her head; & the Twins (played by Joseph & Thomas Odwell), who are two masked gorgons. The home is located on the Welsh island of Cairnholm, stuck in a time loop on Friday, September 3, 1943, the day the home was bombed by the Nazis; however, they live forever by re-living the past 24 hours. 

In 2016, young Florida teenager Jake Portman (played by Asa Butterfield), witnesses the death of his grandfather, Abe (played by Terence Stamp), who before his death, tells Jake to find the bird, the loop, & September 3, 1943. Determined to find out what this means, & after gaining more clues from his aunt, Jake, along with his father Franklin (played by Chris O'Dowd), travel to Cairnholm. While there, Jake enters the loop & meets the peculiars. Jake becomes attracted to Emma, & learns more about the peculiars. He learns that a group of peculiars, called Hollowgasts, led by Barron (played by Samuel L. Jackson), are after peculiars called Ymbrynes, like Miss Peregrine. They kidnap Ymbrynes & eat the eyes of their children to regain humanity. They must now defend themselves against the Hollowgasts, & also try to stay in the time loop.

The cast, especially Green & Butterfield, were great. Tim Burton's direction is absolutely astounding, proving that he is an absolutely visionary director. The screenplay from Jane Goldman is great. But the best things about this movie are the costume design, editing, production design, & cinematography. The costume design by Colleen Atwood is absolutely amazing. The editing from Chris Lebenzon is excellent. The production design from Gavin Bocquet is absolutely wondrous, as it is with all of Tim Burton's films. And the cinematography from Bruno Delbonnel is astounding. This is one of Tim Burton's best films.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Deepwater Horizon

★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"My wife's name is Felicia, my daughter's Sydney, & I will see them again!" That's a great & determined quote from Mark Wahlberg in Deepwater Horizon, a great action-thriller about one of the worst disasters in recent memory. The film is based on The New York Times article Deepwater Horizon's Final Hours by David Barstow, David Rohde & Stephanie Saul. Wahlberg plays Mike Williams, a chief engineering technician on the Deepwater Horizon. He has a wife, Felicia (played by Kate Hudson) & a daughter, Sydney (played by Stella Allen). He leaves on a helicopter to go to the oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, in the Gulf of Mexico, about 40 miles off the Louisiana coast. While on the rig, he meets with Jimmy "Mr. Jimmy" Harrell (played by Kurt Russell), the boss of the rig, & Donald Vidrine (played by John Malkovich), a BP representative. Williams & Harrell are concerned with the fact that certain stability tests were not performed, but Vidrine tries to reassure them that everything is fine. However, that night, an explosion occurred, eventually causing the rig to be engulfed in flames. Now, Williams, Harrell, Vidrine, & crewmembers Caleb Holloway (played by Dylan O'Brien) & Andrea Fleytas (played by Gina Rodriguez) must try to survive.

The cast, especially Wahlberg, Hudson, Russell & Malkovich were great. Peter Berg's direction is great, along with the screenplay from Matthew Michael Carnahan & Matthew Sand. The editing by Colby Parker Jr. & Gabriel Fleming was excellent, & the cinematography from Enrique Chediak was amazing. Although there were some missteps with the film, it is still a great action-thriller.