Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Nocturnal Animals

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"You know me. I never sleep." That's a dark quote from Amy Adams in Nocturnal Animals, one of the best thrillers of the century. The film is based on the 1993 novel Tony & Susan by Austin Wright. Adams plays Susan Morrow, an art gallery owner in Los Angeles. Her life seems perfect with her husband, Hutton (played by Armie Hammer), but things are not what they seem. Susan's life is troubled, Hutton is cheating on her, & Susan's first husband, Edward Sheffield (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) has sent her a manuscript of his new book, Nocturnal Animals, the title being very familiar to Susan, as Edward used to call her a "nocturnal animal."

The book tells the story of Tony Hastings (also played by Jake Gyllenhaal), whose family is disturbingly harassed & attacked by three troublemakers during a night road trip in West Texas: Ray Marcus (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson); Lou (played by Karl Glusman); & Turk (played by Robert Aramayo). Tony's wife, Laura (played by Isla Fisher), & his daughter, India (played by Ellie Bamber) are viciously raped & killed by the three troublemakers. Tony becomes guilt-ridden after this, & seeks help from Det. Bobby Andes (played by Michael Shannon) to get vicious revenge against the killers.

Susan, disturbed by the content of the novel, has flashbacks about her relationship with Edward, falling in love with him at first sight, despite her mother, Anne Sutton (played by Laura Linney) asking Susan not to marry her, warning that the things she loves about him now are what she will hate later. Susan goes on with the marriage anyway. But Susan does something that will change everything.

The cast is spectacular, especially Michael Shannon, who is the best actor out there today. Tom Ford's direction & screenplay is brilliant, building off of his brilliant filmmaking debut, 2009's A Single Man. Joan Sole's editing is excellent. Seamus McGarvey's cinematography is amazing, with a series of excellent shots of the wide-open Texas landscape & the Los Angeles skyline. The costume design, production design, & makeup & hairstyling are all excellent. And Abel Korzeniowski's dark & disturbing film score is nothing short of excellent. This is one of the best films of the year.

Monday, November 28, 2016


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"Tell the judge I love my wife." That's a heartbreakingly beautiful quote from Joel Edgerton in Loving, one of the year's best & most powerful films. The film is based on the true story of Richard & Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who were involved in the 1967 court case Loving v. Virginia, which declared interracial marriage bans to be unconstitutional. Set in 1958 Caroline County, Virginia, Edgerton plays Richard Loving, a white man, who when his girlfriend, Mildred Jeter (played by Ruth Negga), a black woman gets pregnant, they decide to get married in Washington, D.C., because Virginia is one of 24 states in the country at the time that has banned interracial marriage. After their marriage in Washington, D.C., they return to Virginia, where Richard builds a house for him, Mildred, & their child just a few blocks from Mildred's family home.

One night, in their sleep, the police raids the Lovings' home & arrest them both. Richard points to their marriage license, but it is not valid in Virginia. They plead guilty & are sentenced to one year in prison, but their sentence is suspended provided that they cannot return to Virginia for 25 years. Because of this, they move to Washington, D.C. to live with an old friend of Mildred's. However, they return to have Richard's mother, a midwife, deliver Mildred's child; once again, they are arrested, but are freed again after their lawyer reveals he told them they could go back.

After returning to Washington, D.C. with their three children, Mildred becomes disillusioned with living in the city & longs for returning to the countryside, so she writes a letter to then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who refers her to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who then asks lawyer Bernie Cohen (played by Nick Kroll) to take the case. Cohen quickly concludes that the case could go to the Supreme Court, & it could overturn all interracial marriage bans across the country. On Cohen's advice, Richard, Mildred, & their three children quietly return to Virginia in a rural area of King & Queen County.

The case gains wide attention, namely from Life magazine, who sends photographer Grey Villet (played by Michael Shannon) who comes to take pictures of the Lovings for the magazine. This gives more attention to the case, & in 1967, the Supreme Court, in a unanimous landmark decision, decided in favor of the Lovings, declaring interracial marriage bans to be unconstitutional.

A post-credit reveals that only eight years after the case was decided, in 1975, Richard Loving was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver. Mildred never remarried, & continued to live in the house that Richard built for her until her death in 2008. In an interview shortly before her death, Mildred said this about her husband: "I miss him. He took care of me."

The cast is spectacular, with Edgerton & Negga possibly receiving Oscar nominations for their performances, & Kroll excelling in a dramatic performance, in a huge departure from his comedic roles on TV series such as The League & Kroll Show. Jeff Nichols' direction & screenplay is amazing, solidifying his place as one of the best directors of the 21st century after directing films such as 2007's Shotgun Stories, 2011's Take Shelter, 2012's Mud, & 2016's Midnight Special. This is the most important film of the year.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Rules Don't Apply

★★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"You're an exception. The rules don't apply to you." That's a great quote from Alden Ehrenreich in Rules Don't Apply, one of the best comedies of the year. Set in 1958 Los Angeles, Ehrenreich portrays Frank Forbes, a religious conservative driver for Marla Mabrey (played by Lily Collins), a devout Baptist beauty queen from Virginia. After many failed screen tests, & after Marla's mother, Lucy (played by Annette Bening) goes back to Virginia, Frank & Marla fall in love, but since Frank works for Howard Hughes (played by Warren Beatty), he cannot date Marla because anyone who works for Hughes who dates an actress under contract will be fired, & also, Frank has a fiancée, Sarah (played by Taissa Farmiga). However, Frank & Marla frequently see each other in secret.

Meanwhile, Hughes has had some financial trouble. He's in debt, he's being told to sell his airline company, & he's said some odd things & forgotten some stuff, & is in danger of being sent to a mental hospital. In order to not be sent to the mental hospital, he must get married. And after an incident with Marla, things begin to unravel for everyone.

The ensemble cast is great. Warren Beatty's direction & screenplay is great, marking his first film that he's directed since 1998's Bulworth. The cinematography by Caleb Deschanel is excellent. And the costume design, production design & makeup & hairstyling are all amazing. While it does hit a few bumps in the middle of the film, it is still a great return to form for Warren Beatty.

Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"Merlin's beard!" That brilliant quote that's been told time & time again is now said by Eddie Redmayne in Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them, an excellent spinoff of the Harry Potter franchise. Set in 1926, Redmayne plays Newt Scamander, a Hogwarts alumnus interested in magical beasts traveling to New York on his way to Arizona. While in New York, he hears a woman named Mary Lou Barebone (played by Samantha Morton), a No-Maj (American Muggle) speak about how dangerous witches & wizards are. Distracted by this, a beast called a Niffler sneaks out of his magical suitcase, & in the confusion of trying to find it, a No-Maj named Jacob Kowalski (played by Dan Fogler) mistakenly walks away with Newt's suitcase. Because Newt is an unregistered wizard, he is arrested by former Auror Tina Goldstein (played by Katherine Waterston), hoping to get her former position back. However, Seraphina Picquery (played by Carmen Ejogo), President of the Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA), & Auror Percival Graves (played by Colin Farrell) dismiss the case.

After Jacob discovers the beasts in Newt's suitcase, Newt & Tina find them & take him to the house of Tina's sister, Queenie (played by Alison Sudol), who is a Legilimens (she can read minds). Queenie & Jacob become instantly attracted to one another; however wizards & No-Majs cannot get married or interact with each other.

Meanwhile, strange incidents occur around New York, believed to be caused by an Obscurus, a dark force created by children forced to conceal their magical powers. Graves visits Creedence Barebone (played by Ezra Miller), Mary Lou's adopted son, & offers to free him from Mary Lou in exchange for helping find the Obscurus. After a Senator is killed, Newt is believed to be the Obscurus, & both him & Tina are sentenced to death by MACUSA; however, they escape, & it's now up to them, along with Jacob & Queenie to stop these events.

The acting is great, especially Dan Fogler's performance. David Yates's direction is great, along with J.K. Rowling's screenplay. The cinematography by Philippe Rousselot is wonderful. The film score by James Newton Howard is excellent. And the costume design, production design & makeup & hairstyling are all amazing. This is an excellent rebirth of the Harry Potter franchise.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Edge of Seventeen

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"There are two types of people in the world: the people who radiate confidence & naturally excel at life, & the people who hope all those people die in a big explosion." That's a hilariously true quote from Hailee Steinfeld in The Edge of Seventeen, one of the best coming-of-age films of the century. Steinfeld plays Nadine, a teenager who is a complete outcast at her high school. However, her older brother Darian (played by Blake Jenner) is one of the most popular students at her high school. Nadine has had a rough life: her father died of a heart attack right in front of her at the age of 13, & her mother, Mona (played by Kyra Sedgwick) has always favored Darian over Nadine. But through all of this, Nadine has always had her best friend, Krista (played by Haley Lu Richardson) by her side, at least until Nadine catches Darian & Krista having sex. Nadine is upset at Krista for this, & as their friendship starts to fall apart, Nadine's life also starts to fall apart as well. But when she strikes up a friendship with a socially awkward teen named Erwin (played by Hayden Szeto), along with being guided by her brutally honest history teacher (played by Woody Harrelson), Nadine starts to realize that things may not be so bad after all.

The cast is absolutely stunning, with Steinfeld building on the promise of a great film career that started with her amazing Oscar-nominated performance in 2010's True Grit, & Harrelson giving one of his greatest performances ever. The direction & screenplay from first-time director Kelly Fremon Craig is nothing short of wonderful. This film perfectly captures teenage life in the 21st century, & I can really relate to this, & many of my friends can relate to this as well. It is both a hilarious comedy & a heartfelt drama. This is a coming-of-age classic, along with The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Heathers, Say Anything..., American Pie, Ghost World, Juno, & The Spectacular Now.

(One last note: Why did the MPAA give an R rating to a film that's perfect for teenagers? This film is so relatable to teenagers in high school. There's next to nothing in it that should make it R-rated. This film should be required viewing for teenagers).

Sunday, November 13, 2016


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?" That's a brilliant quote from Amy Adams in Arrival, an awe-inspiring sci-fi masterpiece. The film is based on the 1998 short story Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang. Adams portrays Dr. Louise Banks, a renowned linguist. Banks is haunted by the past memories of her daughter, who recently passed away from cancer. Due to her translation skills, she is selected by Col. Weber (played by Forest Whitaker) to go to Montana to help communicate with an extraterrestrial spacecraft (nicknamed "Shell"), one of 12 that have landed on Earth. Also selected to help is Ian Donnelly (played by Jeremy Renner), a theoretical physicist. 

After first contact with the aliens (nicknamed Heptapods for their seven arms) come to the realization that communicating with the Heptapods through spoken language is impossible, so they then try to communicate through written language. The aliens' written language is composed of circular symbols, which proves complex when the aliens create a message that sends many of the countries into a panic.

The cast, especially Adams, was amazing. Denis Villeneuve's direction is absolutely amazing, with this being his best film yet, even better than 2013's Prisoners & 2015's Sicario. Eric Heisserer's screenplay is excellent. The film editing by Joe Walker is astonishing. The film score by Jóhann Jóhannson is excellent. The cinematography by Bradford Young is breathtaking. The sound mixing & sound editing is brilliant. And the visual effects are eye-opening. This is the year's best film so far, & years from now, this will be considered to be one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time, along with 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Alien, Blade Runner, & The Terminator.


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"I'm me, man. I ain't trying to be nothing else." That's a brilliant quote from Trevante Rhodes in Moonlight, the best independent film of the year so far. The film is based on the play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney. Rhodes portrays adult Chiron, AKA "Black" (also portrayed as a child by Alex Hibbert & as a teen by Ashton Sanders), whose life is chronicled from childhood to adulthood in Miami. As a child, Chiron is nicknamed "Little" due to his meek personality & small size. As a child, he meets Juan (played by Mahershala Ali), who takes Chiron in for a night at his house with his girlfriend, Teresa (played by Janelle Monáe). Juan advises Chiron to make a plan for himself for the future. After staying with them for the night, Chiron is taken back to his house, where he is greeted by his crack-addicted emotionally abusive mother, Paula (played by Naomie Harris). The only real friend Chiron has is Kevin (played as a child by Jaden Piner, as a teen by Jharrel Jerome, & as an adult by André Holland), who he becomes attracted to as a teen. Chiron must learn to put everything in perspective & figure out his life.

The cast, mostly composed of unknown actors, save for Harris, Ali & Monáe, is amazing. Barry Jenkins' direction is absolutely spectacular. The screenplay by Jenkins & McCraney is amazing. The cinematography by James Laxton is absolutely astounding, with the camerawork perfectly showing the urban landscape of Miami. The editing by Nat Sanders & Joi McMillon is excellent. And the film score by Nicholas Britell is amazing. This is one of the year's best films.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Hacksaw Ridge

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"Help me get one more. Help me get one more." That's an amazing & emotional quote from Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge, one of the best war films in recent memory. The film is based on the true story of Pvt. Desmond Doss, who saved 75 lives during the Battle of Okinawa in World War II without holding a gun. Garfield portrays Doss, who grew up in Lynchburg, Virginia, with his brother, Hal (played by Nathaniel Buzolic) & his parents, Bertha (played by Rachel Griffiths) & Tom (played by Hugo Weaving), who is an abusive alcoholic, never getting over the deaths of his childhood friends in World War I. After almost hitting his brother in a play fight with a brick as a kid, Desmond's religious beliefs are reinforced, especially in the Sixth Commandment: "Thou shalt not kill." Years later, Doss is now in his late-teens, & becomes smitten with a nurse, Dorothy Schutte (played by Teresa Palmer). 

After Hal enlists in the Army, Desmond enlists as well. Since he is a conscientious objector due to his Seventh-Day Adventist beliefs, Desmond enlists as a medic. At basic training in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, under the command of Sgt. Howell (played by Vince Vaughn), Desmond becomes an outcast because of his refusal to carry a gun nor train on Saturdays, as that is the Sabbath for Seventh-Day Adventists. After several setbacks, including an arrest for insubordination due to his refusal to carry a gun, Desmond is eventually allowed to go into battle without a firearm. He is then sent to Okinawa, where he saves 75 lives, some who were close to death.

The cast was superb. Mel Gibson's direction was spectacular, along with the screenplay by Andrew Knight & Robert Schenkkan. The editing by John Gilbert is excellent. The cinematography by Simon Duggan is amazing. The film score by Rupert Gregson-Williams is excellent. And the battle scenes are some of the best ever in film. This is definitely one of the year's best films.

Doctor Strange

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"I don't know what my future holds. But I can't go back." That's an awesome quote from Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange, one of Marvel's best & most visually-stunning films. Cumberbatch plays Dr. Stephen Strange, a New York neurosurgeon with a pristine track record & an inflated ego. One night, he gets in a car accident, causing him to lose the use of his hands. Although his friend/ex-lover Christine Palmer (played by Rachel McAdams) tries to help him move on, Strange tries to pursue experimental surgeries, all to no avail. 

After learning of Jonathan Pangborn (played by Benjamin Bratt), a paraplegic who was suddenly healed, Strange visits Pangborn, & is sent to Kamar-Taj, a place in Kathmandu, Nepal. When Strange arrives there, he is taken in by a sorcerer, Mordo (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor), & is introduced to The Ancient One (played by Tilda Swinton), who teaches Strange of other dimensions. Strange begs her to teach him, to which The Ancient One agrees, despite his arrogance, reminding her of a failed former student of hers, Kaecilius (played by Mads Mikkelsen). After learning, & eventually perfecting his sorcery, along with the help of master Wong (played by Benedict Wong), Kaecilius & his zealots summon the evil & powerful Dormammu, Strange must defeat them all & send them back into the Dark Dimension.

The cast is excellent. The direction from Scott Derrickson is superb, along with the screenplay from Derrickson, Jon Spaihts & C. Robert Cargill. The visual effects are mind-blowing, with the effects similar to those of The Matrix & Inception, creating effects that are, for the lack of a better term, "trippy." And the soundtrack is amazing, especially the use of Chuck Mangione's 1977 jazz classic, Feels So Good. This is one of the best films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.