Sunday, December 31, 2017

Call Me by Your Name

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

As I stated in my review of The Big Sick back in July, most romantic films manage to be very formualic, following the exact same plotline that had grown tiresome 30 years ago. But every once in a while, there manages to be a film that defies those cliches & becomes a treasure.

Call Me by Your Name has been one of my most anticipated films of the year ever since its premiere at Sundance back in January, with the acclaim being near-unanimous. After its premiere, I waited anxiously until August, when the trailer was released, hyping me up for this film even more. And when I heard it was coming to Detroit 2 weeks earlier than originally stated, I was so happy. I saw it on a Thursday night screening, in a packed theater, 3 rows from the screen, & I was waiting to see if it met my expectations. It didn't meet my expectations. It surpassed them, & it ended up being such a beautiful cinematic experience.

Call Me by Your Name has become one of those aforementioned treasures, & is definitely one of the best romantic films of all time. Based on the 2007 novel of the same name by André Aciman & set in 1983 Italy, the film follows Elio Perlman (played by Timothée Chalamet), a 17-year-old American boy spending the summer in the Italian countryside with his parents, Annella (played by Amira Casar) & Samuel (played by Michael Stuhlbarg). They go to their Italian villa for the summer, Hanukkah & Christmas, since his mother is Christian & his father is Jewish. He spends his time reading books, transcribing music, swimming in the river, going out at night, & hanging out with his girlfriend, Marzia (played by Esther Garrel).

Samuel, an archeology professor, invites one of his students, Oliver (played by Armie Hammer), a 24-year-old Jewish-American graduate student, to live with them for 6 weeks & help Samuel with archeology work. As a result, Elio gives up his room for Oliver & now sleeps in the spare room, which he deeply resents. Also, Elio, besides their shared Jewish heritage, finds little in common with Oliver, who is more extroverted & carefree, always ending conversations by saying "Later!" Also, Oliver gains attraction from Chiara (played by Victoire Du Bois), a local woman.

The tension between Elio & Oliver is small, but eventually calms when Elio & Oliver come to a truce, eventually starting a friendship. Eventually, Elio becomes attracted to Oliver, & the courtship begins with swims in the river & walks in the town. Their relationship starts to grow further into something more. Together, they navigate their relationship through the summer & become more intimate, finding in each other a true soulmate.

The cast is phenomenal. Timothée Chalamet is an absolute revelation. With this, Hostiles, & Lady Bird, Chalamet has become a major name in Hollywood this year. His performance is the best lead male performance of the year, & as a result, I hope he wins the Oscar for Best Actor. He has the charm of a young Leonardo DiCaprio & the range of a young Edward Norton. He goes through so many emotions throughout the film, & portrays them all so beautifully. Also, he portrays the conflicting feelings of a person coming to terms with their sexual orientation so realistically.

Armie Hammer is also phenomenal. Hammer, who has already given some great performances, namely in 2010's The Social Network & 2011's J. Edgar, has given the best performance of his career. Like Chalamet, Hammer portrays so many different emotions so beautifully, & portrays the conflicting sexual feelings so realistically. Also, his chemistry with Chalamet is so believable that you would believe that they feel like a real couple. He deserves to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Michael Stuhlbarg is also phenomenal. With this, The Shape of Water, & The Post, Stuhlbarg is starting to get the recognition he deserves after years of being one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood. This is the best performance of his career, even better than his excellent performance in 2009's A Serious Man. He is such an absolute scene-stealer in this film, &, in one scene, will leave you in tears. He also deserves to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

The rest of the cast, especially Casar & Garrel, is also excellent, playing such small but pivotal roles to perfection.

Luca Guadagnino's direction is outstanding. After having directed independent film successes such as 2009's I Am Love & 2015's A Bigger Splash, Guadagnino has directed his best film yet. Guadagnino's direction is subdued, exerting a calmly arresting atmosphere.

James Ivory's screenplay is beautiful. His screenplay has wonderfully adapted Aciman's novel to the big screen. The screenplay feels so beautifully real. Also, I commend Ivory for his screenplay's positive representation of an LGBTQ+ couple. There aren't any fighting or sad backstories. It's just a loving & beautiful portrayal of a relationship that is sure to connect with all audiences, LGBTQ+ or straight.

Sayohmbu Mukdeeprom's cinematography is gorgeous. Shot on 35mm film, Mukdeeprom's cinematography beautifully captures the relationship & the beautiful sun-draped Italian landscape.

Walter Fasano's editing is excellent. The pacing is perfectly slow, letting the story slowly unfold. There is not a single bad cut in the film, & the film knows where it's going at every moment.

And Sufjan Stevens's original songs are hauntingly beautiful. Stevens, one of my favorite artists of all time, an indie folk artist from Detroit, wrote 2 songs for the film: Mystery of Love & Visions of Gideon, along with a remix of his song Futile Devices from his 2010 album The Age of Adz. All these songs are so amazing, with Mystery of Love being a beautiful portrayal of first love, & Visions of Gideon being a haunting reflection on lost love. Since the Futile Devices remix is ineligible, I hope either Mystery of Love or Visions of Gideon gets nominated & wins the Oscar for Best Original Song, as they are both equally deserving of the award.

This is one of the 3 best films of the year, & one of the best films I've ever seen. It features phenomenal performances, a beautiful screenplay, & some amazing music from the one & only Sufjan Stevens.

Call Me by Your Name was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Thursday, December 28, 2017. It is in 1 theater in the Detroit area: the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; it will expand to more theaters this Friday, January 5 & next Friday, January 12, & will be in theaters everywhere Friday, January 19. Its runtime is 132 minutes, & it is rated R for sexual content, nudity & some language.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

★★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I'll just come right out & say it: I've never seen Jumanji. I know, I'm 16 & I should've seen it by now. People are shocked that I haven't seen it, but I've never been interested in it.

So I wasn't interested at first in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. The trailer looked formulaic like most action film trailers. But then I heard some really good reviews about the film, & I decided to see it.

I was definitely surprised; I wasn't expecting to be this fun & great. The film follows 4 high school students: Spencer Gilpin (played by Nat Wolff), Anthony "Fridge" Johnson (played by Ser'Darius Blain), Bethany Walker (played by Madison Iseman), & Martha Kaply (played by Morgan Turner). They are all in detention: Spencer wrote Anthony's English paper for him, Bethany was FaceTiming in class, & Morgan disrespected her P.E. teacher & wondering why P.E. was important to education.

Their task in detention is to clean out an old closet. Spencer finds an old video game system with the video game Jumanji in it. It is a five-player video game, but one player, Jefferson "Seaplane" McDonough (played by Nick Jonas), is already selected. Spencer convinces everyone to play it. Spencer selects Dr. Smolder Bravestone (played by Dwayne Johnson), Fridge selects Franklin "Mouse" Finbar (played by Kevin Hart), Martha selects Ruby Roundhouse (played by Karen Gillan), & Bethany selects Professor Shelly Oberon (played by Jack Black).

They are then transported into the world of the game, with the students becoming their selected characters, with Bethany being dismayed she unknowingly picked a male character. Their task is to return the Jaguar's Eye to a jaguar statue & yell out "Jumanji!" They must get it from big game hunter Van Pelt (played by Bobby Cannavale). Besides finding the jewel & beating the game, they must learn how to better themselves.

The cast is hilarious. Johnson, Hart & Black are both hilarious as always. Gillan finally gets to show off her comedic chops. Jonas actually shows he doesn't suck as a comedic actor. And Cannavale is hilariously over-the-top.

Jake Kasdan's direction is excellent. Kasdan shows he can handle a big-budget film, & shows he actually can direct well again, after the dud that was 2014's Sex Tape.

The screenplay by Jake Kasdan, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg & Jeff Pinker is amazing. The jokes in the script always land, & the dialogue isn't formulaic.

The editing by Mark Helfrich & Steve Edwards is ok. It has way too many cuts than it should, like most action films, but it makes sure the film gets to where it's supposed to go.

And the visual effects are amazing. The CGI looks great, & the effects are so immersive.

This is the biggest surprise of the year. While it isn't perfect, it manages to be way better than it has any right to be.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Wednesday, December 27, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 119 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for adventure action, suggestive content & some language.

All the Money in the World

★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

The 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III was famous for the fact that John Paul Getty III was the grandson of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, & infamous for the fact that J. Paul Getty notoriously negotiated the ransom, & eventually decided to loan out the ransom money.

All the Money in the World, while not a perfect account of the kidnapping, is Ridley Scott's best film in 10 years. Based on the 1995 book Painfully Rich by John Pearson, & set in 1973, the film follows Abigail "Gail" Harris (played by Michelle Williams), the mother of John Paul Getty III (played by Charlie Plummer), & ex-wife of John Paul Getty Jr. (played by Andrew Buchan), the son of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty (played by Christopher Plummer). Gail's divorce from Getty Jr. involved no alimony, which left her less well-off.

On July 10, 1973, Getty III is kidnapped in Rome by Cinquanta (played by Romain Duris), a member of the Italian organized crime syndicate 'Ndrangheta. Gail receives a phone call from Cinquanta, asking for a $17 million ransom in exchange for her son. Although she says she doesn't have money, Cinquanta tells her that her ex-father-in-law has "all the money in the world."

Gail travels to Getty's estate, asking for money for the ransom; however, Getty declines, saying this would only lead to his other grandchildren being kidnapped & asking for $17 million each in ransom. Getty asks Fletcher Chase (played by Mark Wahlberg), an ex-CIA agent, to negotiate the ransom.

Things eventually get tense when winter comes to Italy, prompting the kidnappers to ponder on what to do with Getty III. But things get even worse when Getty becomes greedy about the ransom.

The cast is excellent. Michelle Williams is amazing, & this is easily one of the 5 best performances of her career. Mark Wahlberg is also great, doing some of his best work in a while. But Christopher Plummer's performance is by far the best of this film, & one of the 3 best performances of his career, along with 2009's The Last Station & 2011's Beginners. It's even more phenomenal considering he shot it in 10 days, & was signed on with 6 weeks before the scheduled release date, after Kevin Spacey was replaced after his allegations of sexual assault & sexual harassment. In my opinion, Plummer does a better job than Spacey would've done. Plummer looks more believable without having any old-age makeup like Spacey had. Plummer is absolutely cold, heartless, & purely evil here.

Ridley Scott's direction is amazing. Scott has easily directed his best film since 2007's American Gangster. He keeps us at the edge of our seat for the entire film. And it's more of an accomplishment considering the reshoots with Christopher Plummer. Scott's definitely alive & kicking at 80 years old.

And David Scarpa's screenplay is good. While the plot is so undeniably intriguing, the dialogue isn't the best.

This is a really good film, but not entirely great. It has some great performances (especially from Michelle Williams & Christopher Plummer), & great direction from Ridley Scott.

All the Money in the World was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Monday, December 25, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 132 minutes, & it is rated R for language, some violence, disturbing images & brief drug content.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Greatest Showman

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

As a theater kid, I've always loved musicals. The ways music can be used to tell a story are so inventive & creative, & it's a shame there aren't as many original film musicals anymore.

The Greatest Showman is a welcome addition to cinema, as this is a great throwback to the classic film musical of the 1940s, 1950s & 1960s. Set in the late 1800s, the film follows P.T. Barnum (played by Hugh Jackman), a shipping company clerk who came from humble beginnings. He still lives a humble life with his wife, Charity (played by Michelle Williams), & their two daughters, Caroline (played by Austyn Johnson) & Helen (played by Cameron Seely).

One day, Barnum is let go when the shipping company closes. Wanting to make a better life, he comes up with an idea to build a museum featuring wax figures & other objects. However, this venture goes under. His children then give him the idea to search for interesting people & less attractive people & use them as performers.

Barnum first hires Charles Stratton (played by Sam Humphrey), a little person who is renamed General Tom Thumb. Next, he hires Lettie Lutz (played by Keala Settle), a bearded lady with a powerful singing voice. He hires others before he hires Anna (played by Zendaya) & W.D. (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) Wheeler, a brother-&-sister acrobatic team.

This venture proves to be very successful; however, the venture is slammed by critics & people protest the showcasing of the performers. Barnum, in order to become more credible with the higher class, hires playwright Phillip Carlyle (played by Zac Efron) to run the show alongside him. Carlyle then starts to become attracted to Anna. Also, he hires famed opera singer Jenny Lind (played by Rebecca Ferguson) for the show as well. But success starts to have its price, as Barnum becomes more withdrawn from his family & society starts to become more angry at the show & its performers.

The cast is phenomenal. Hugh Jackman is so magnetic every time he's on the screen, & his charm & singing voice never fail to intrigue me. Zac Efron also does a great job showing his dramatic chops. Michelle Williams is also great, as always, & shows off her amazing singing skills.

Michael Gracey's direction is excellent. Gracey, in his debut film, has the directing skills of a seasoned veteran, with his atmosphere of wonder & amusement exhuming such strong emotions.

The screenplay by Jenny Bicks & Bill Condon is amazing. The plot is extremely intriguing & the script has some great messages.

Seamus McGarvey's cinematography is astounding. McGarvey's camerawork is so colorful & awe-inspiring & filled with so much panache.

The editing by Tom Cross, Robert Duffy, Joe Hutshing, Michael McCusker, Jon Poll & Spencer Susser is excellent. The editing uses a lot of quick cuts popularized by some great directors, & the pacing is great, as the film flows along at a fast pace.

Ellen Mirojnick's costume design is amazing. The costumes are period-accurate & so colorful & full of panache.

Nathan Crowley's production design is awe-inspiring. The sets are so colorful, full of panache, period-accurate & immersive.

The makeup & hairstyling is excellent. It's period-accurate, & in some cases, especially in the case of Keala Settle's character, is transformative.

The sound design is incredible. It's loud & fun, & the amazing music only adds to the great sounds emanating from the film.

And the original songs by Benj Pasek & Justin Paul are amazing. The songs are so catchy & well-written & are a joy to listen to.

This is one of the more surprising films of the year. Don't listen to what some critics are saying. It's a fun throwback to the old-fashioned musicals, led by a great performance from Hugh Jackman.

The Greatest Showman was seen by me at the MJR Chesterfield Crossing Digital Cinema 16 in Chesterfield Township, MI on Saturday, December 23, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 105 minutes, & it is rated PG for thematic elements including a brawl.


★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I'm a sucker for satires. Like satires, I also like poking fun at the shortcomings of the bad things in society & the world.

So when I first heard about Downsizing, the new film from Alexander Payne, who directed my favorite darkly comedic satire, 1999's Election, I was instantly sold. It had such a brilliant concept, & a great cast, & I was excited for it to come out.

And then I saw it, & I was disappointed, although I found it to be an ok film overall. Set in the near-future, the film follows Paul Safranek (played by Matt Damon), an occupational therapist for Omaha Steaks. He & his wife, Audrey (played by Kristen Wiig), have major financial issues.

One day, they go to their high school reunion, where they encounter their old friends, Dave (played by Jason Sudeikis) & Carol (played by Maribeth Monroe) Johnson, but there is something different about them. They have become smaller. Way smaller. WAY, WAY, WAY smaller. They have become this way due to the process of "downsizing," an irreversible procedure invented by Norwegian scientists 15 years earlier to help the environment that shrinks humans down to 5 inches. Although the environmental benefits are huge, Dave says the economical benefits are bigger, as your money goes farther when you're small.

So, Paul & Audrey decide to downsize & move to Leisureland, a popular small community. However, while Paul goes through with it, Audrey backs out at the last minute, & files for divorce, not wanting to be away from her parents & friends.

Now single, Paul tries to start anew in Leisureland, regretting his decision. His life is more stressful than he thought it would be. But after he attends a party hosted by his neighbor, Dusan Mirkovic (played by Christopher Waltz), he starts to fit in with his new surroundings.

The next day, still at Dusan's apartment, Paul meets Ngoc Lan Tran (played by Hong Chau), a Vietnamese political activist shrunk against her will by the Vietnamese government, & smuggled into the United States, losing a leg in the process. She is now Dusan's housecleaner. Paul then agrees to help Ngoc Lan help with the people she lives with in the slums of Leisureland. But more problems will arise to the surface.

The cast is great. Damon, Sudeikis & Wiig are good. Waltz is absolutely hilarious, fitting the role of an aging partyboy to a tee. And Chau is nothing short of phenomenal. Looking past her fake Vietnamese accent & fake broken English, there is a lot of emotion in her character.

Alexander Payne's direction is mediocre. His direction starts off great, but takes a bad turn halfway through as he tries to juggle the tonal shifts & new plot directions added on.

The screenplay by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor is ok. The plot is great to start, but eventually, instead of answering our questions that need to be answered, it adds new stuff that didn't need to be there in the first place.

And Stefania Cella's production design is excellent. The sets of the small communities are so immersive & so brilliantly well-done.

This is a ok, although fairly disappointing film. The acting & visuals save the film. But would I ever downsize if I had the chance? Definitely not. There are just too many risks.

Downsizing was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, December 22, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 135 minutes, & it is rated R for language including sexual references, some graphic nudity & drug use.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Shape of Water

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Guillermo del Toro has been one of the most fantastical filmmakers of his generation. He has created many amazing dark fantasies such as The Devil's Backbone & Pan's Labyrinth, which I consider to be his finest work. He perfectly mixes beauty with the macabre.

The Shape of Water, from the first moment I saw the trailer, was one of my most anticipated films of 2017. It looked so intriguing & wondrous. At that point, I was hooked. As more trailers came out, I was even more hooked.

And then I saw it. And I was completely awestruck at the film. Set in 1962 Baltimore, the film follows Elisa Esposito (played by Sally Hawkins), a night shift janitor at the Occam Aerospace Research Center. Elisa was rendered mute by a neck injury she suffered as an infant, & was orphaned, learning to communicate through American Sign Language. She lives a monotonous life, going through the same routine every day. She takes solace in the company of her 2 friends: Giles (played by Richard Jenkins), her middle-aged next-door neighbor who is a closeted gay man & an artist; & Zelda Fuller (played by Octavia Spencer), her African-American co-worker & interpreter at the facility.

One day, the facility receives a tank containing an Amphibian Man (played by Doug Jones) that has been transported from South America by the bigoted & cruel Col. Richard Strickland (played by Michael Shannon). The government is looking into the Amphibian Man for space travel improvements, in order to get a leg up past the Russians. Also joining in with the study is scientist Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (played by Michael Stuhlbarg). While fighting with Strickland, the Amphibian Man bites off 2 of Strickland's fingers, leading Elisa to clean up the bloody mess & encounter the Amphibian Man.

Elisa is fascinated with the Amphibian Man. She begins to spend time with him, feeding him hardboiled eggs, playing music for him & communicating with him through sign language, eventually befriending one another.

Elisa plans to break the Amphibian Man out of the facility, fearing his eventual dissection, vivisection & euthanization. Giles, Zelda & Dr. Hoffstetler, although reluctantly at first, decide to team up with her to break him out. But Strickland will stop at nothing to get the Amphibian Man back, & Dr. Hoffstetler has a secret of his own.

The cast is phenomenal. Sally Hawkins's performance is easily the best of her career & also the best silent performance since Holly Hunter's Oscar-winning performance in 1993's The Piano. Hawkins evokes so much emotion without a single word.

Michael Shannon is also outstanding. Shannon, one of the greatest actors of our age, is absolutely despicable & managed to absolutely terrify me at every moment he's on the screen.

Richard Jenkins is also phenomenal. Jenkins, one of the most underrated actors of all time, gives arguably the most human performance of the film. He has so much conflict inside him & he portrays that so beautifully.

Doug Jones is also a standout. Jones, who has been a go-to guy for del Toro for 20 years now, also evokes so many emotions without a single word & manages to feel human, although he may not look human.

Michael Stuhlbarg is also excellent. Stuhlbarg, who is finally getting some attention after being very underrated for several years, portrays the conflicts inside himself perfectly as well.

And Octavia Spencer is also amazing. Spencer easily gives one of her best performances, serving as an absolute scene-stealer, proving that she needs more lead roles.

Guillermo del Toro's direction is excellent. del Toro has directed his best film yet. His knack for building such intricate fantasy world has never been at a higher caliber as it is here.

The screenplay by Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor is amazing. The plot is so original, definitely more original than most films out there today. The dialogue & characters are also human & just as interesting as the plot.

Dan Laustsen's cinematography is gorgeous. Laustsen uses a green motif throughout the film, & he seems to have found every, if not close to every, shade of green there is. And it looks so beautiful.

Sidney Wolinsky's editing is excellent. Wolinsky considered this to be a "tall order to pull off" when it came to editing. Well, he most certainly pulled it off, as the editing looks nearly seamless, as the film has not a single bad cut & knows where it's going.

The production design by Paul D. Austerberry is amazing. The sets scream early 1960s, & they look so gorgeous, & they're even more enhanced by the fantastical elements of the film.

The costume design by Luis Sequeira is astounding. The costumes are period-accurate, & are also enhanced by the fantastical elements.

The makeup & hairstyling is outstanding. The makeup & hairstyling is period-accurate, & the makeup for the Amphibian Man is just flawless. It's an absolute shame this didn't make the shortlist for the Oscar for Best Makeup & Hairstyling.

The sound design is incredible. The sounds of the Amphibian Man are especially incredible, as are the sounds of the facility.

Alexandre Desplat's original score is beautiful. The score has an underwater feel to it that sounds so beautiful & heartwarming.

And the visual effects are stunning. The effects of the Amphibian Man are done so well that they don't look computer generated. They look astonishingly real.

This is one of the 3 best films of the year. The performances are top notch, the direction is outstanding, the music is beautiful, & the visuals are an absolutely gorgeous sight to see.

The Shape of Water was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Thursday, December 21, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 123 minutes, & it is rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence & language.

Darkest Hour

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Winston Churchill was arguably the greatest Prime Minister in the history of Great Britain. With his grand speeches & extreme tenacity, he unified the people of Britain in the fight against the Nazi regime in World War II, giving hope to the people & the soldiers. While he was despised by most members of the British House of Commons, including members from his own Conservative party, he managed to become respected at the end of it all.

Darkest Hour is an excellent portrayal of Churchill's turbulent first month in office. Set in 1940, the film follows Winston Churchill (played by Gary Oldman), the Conservative Member of Parliament for the constituency of Epping & the First Lord of the Admiralty. Parliament is at a deadlock: the opposing partiesin Parliament demand that the current Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain (played by Ronald Pickup), resign due to his policy of appeasement & due to the belief that he is to weak to protect Britain. Chamberlain announces his resignation in a meeting with the Cabinet, naming Viscount Halifax (played by Stephen Dillane) as his successor; however, Halifax declines, despite the full support of him by the Cabinet. Chamberlain then selects Churchill as his successor, believing him to be the only man who can be supported by all parties in Parliament.

Churchill is an interesting man: he's loud, large, & brash. Always at his side is his wife, Clementine (played by Kristin Scott Thomas). Clementime tells Winston that he must warm up in order to win over the population. Also at his side is his new secretary, Elizabeth Layton (played by Lily James), who also types Winston's speeches.

When he is officially named Prime Minister by King George VI (played by Ben Mendelsohn), he is told that he will not be treated with the same respect that he treated Chamberlain, as he considers Churchill to be a bad choice for Prime Minister.

Churchill's first speech in Parliament, calling for a full war against Nazi Germany, without no peace negotiation, is met with disapproval from the Conservatives, forcing Chamberlain & Halifax to consider resigning from the War Cabinet & force Chamberlain out of office. But Operation Dynamo, the operation to evacuate the British soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, may save Churchill after all.

The cast is superb. Gary Oldman is phenomenal, & this is definitely the best performance of his career. His performance is an absolute transformation, & his resemblance to Churchill with the makeup is absolutely uncanny. Oldman also gets a lot of Churchill's mannerisms down correctly.

Mendelsohn also does a great job as King George VI, proving himself to be a great actor that is criminally underrated. I personally consider his portrayal of King George VI to be a better portrayal than Colin Firth's Oscar-winning portrayal in 2010's The King's Speech.

Scott Thomas also delivers one of her best performances in a while, probably since her Golden Globe-nominated performance in 2008's I've Loved You So Long. Scott Thomas manages to be a powerful force in her short screen time.

James, Dillane & Pickup are also great in their roles. But this film belongs to Oldman, who we might as well consider him to be the eventual Oscar winner for Best Actor.

Joe Wright's direction is excellent. Wright brings a lot of great panache to the film, livening up the film's to extreme heights.

Anthony McCarten's screenplay is brilliant. Full of dialogue & sharp wit, the script livens up the already energetic plot.

Bruno Delbonnel's cinematography is phenomenal. Delbonnel uses a series of terrific tracking shots, including one that is one of the best shots I've seen this entire year.

Valerio Bonelli's editing is excellent. Bonelli uses a series of quick cuts, much like the cuts popularized by Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson & Edgar Wright.

Sarah Greenwood's production design is amazing. Although it doesn't draw attention to itself, it manages to immerse the audience in the film's time period.

Jacqueline Durran's costume design is excellent. The costumes are similar to the ones worn by the elites & the politicians of 1940s Britain.

The makeup & hairstyling is nothing short of terrific. The makeup & hairstyling have such immense transformative powers, allowing the actors to disappear into their performances.

And Dario Marinelli's score is amazing. The score has such a tense feeling to it, led by the booming orchestral sounds.

This is one of the best films of the year. It is a deeply involving story of a turbulent time in history, led by a truly astounding performance from Gary Oldman.

Darkest Hour was seen by me at The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Hills, MI on Saturday, December 16, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 125 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for some thematic material.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I'm just going to get something off of my chest here: I've never been an entirely huge Star Wars fan. I've liked the films (except for 2 of the prequels), but I've never delved deep into the whole saga. I'd only watched all of the films for the first time only before 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which I thoroughly enjoyed. 2016's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, while not as great as any of the original Star Wars films or The Force Awakens, was another Star Wars film that I really enjoyed.

But something different happened with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. From the first trailer, I knew that I would really love this film. The second trailer further assured this assumption. And when I walked in the theater to see this film, I felt more anticipation than any other Star Wars film that I've seen.

And it did not disappoint one bit. In fact, it exceeded my expectations. It's fun & extremely well-made. The film once again follows Rey (played by Daisy Ridley), who, along with Chewbacca (played by Joonas Suotamo) & R2-D2 (played by Jimmy Vee) has just found Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamill) on the remote planet of Ahch-To. Rey is trying to recruit him for the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (played by Carrie Fisher). However, Luke declines, still feeling immense guilt over his past involving Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver), whom he says was corrupted by Supreme Leader Snoke (played by Andy Serkis). However, after some thought, he decides to teach Rey to use the Force.

Meanwhile, after Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver) & General Hux (played by Domhnall Gleeson) lead a First Order fleet against the Resistance, leading to several TIE fighters destroying part of the Resistance ship, forcing Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (played by Laura Dern) to become interim leader. Poe Dameron (played by Oscar Isaac), who was recently demoted by Leia after a recent counterattack against the First Order, is against the passive strategy used by Holdo. Poe, Finn (played by John Boyega), BB-8 & mechanic Rose Tico (played by Kelly Marie Tran) leave the ship to destroy a tracking device on the First Order ship that tracks the Resistance through hyperspace, with the help of Maz Kanata (played by Lupita Nyong'o), while C-3PO (played by Anthony Daniels) stays behind to help with Leia.

The four are led to the planet of Canto Bight, where they meet DJ (played by Benicio del Toro), a servicable codebreaker, who joins them to help destroy the tracking device. But they reach some trouble when they run into Captain Phasma (played by Gwendoline Christie) & are betrayed.

Also, Rey discovers more into what happened with Kylo's defection to the First Order, & finds out things are not as they seem.

The cast is superb. Ridley is phenomenal, & has definitely proved she can act as well as she uses the Force. Isaac, Boyega, Driver & Hamill are also great. Fisher is excellent in her final performance. But the standout is Kelly Marie Tran, who lights up the screen every time we see her.

Rian Johnson's direction is excellent. He further expands the world of Star Wars, & takes a lot of risks that I haven't seen in any Star Wars films that pay off really well.

Rian Johnson's screenplay is amazing. He makes sure all the characters are fully developed, & he adds a lot of humor to the film, which livens up the film even more.

Steve Yedlin's cinematography is excellent. Yedlin showcases many great wide shots, especially in space & on Canto Bight & Ahch-To.

Bob Ducsay's editing is excellent. The film's pacing is excellent, making the 152-minute runtime feel like an absolute breeze.

Rick Heinrichs's production design is phenomenal. The sets, especially the sets of the ships & the planets, are so immersive.

Michael Kaplan's costume design is amazing. The costumes fit perfectly with the sci-fi fantasy themes of the film, with the costumes looking very futuristic & awesome.

The makeup & hairstyling is excellent. The makeup & hairstyling, just like the costumes, are so futuristic & awesome.

The sound design is incredible. Every sound is loud & jarring, & complete immerses the audience. Also, one instance of absolute silence works so perfectly.

John Williams's original score is impeccable. Williams, who is definitely one of the best composers in history, has composed a score that ranks among his best, with his orchestra pulsating throughout the film.

And the visual effects, as always for a Star Wars film, are stunning. The explosions & ships & planets are created with such amazing CGI that they become their own character.

This is one of the best films of the year, & also, quite possibly, the best Star Wars film I've ever seen. It's fun & action-packed, with some of the best technical achievements in the Star Wars saga. I think you can consider me to be a full-on Star Wars fan now.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Saturday, December 16, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 152 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action & violence.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Wonder Wheel

★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Annie Hall. Manhattan. Hannah & Her Sisters. Midnight in Paris. These are all some of the greatest films of writer/director Woody Allen. From his earlier slapstick comedies to the later existential dramedies, Woody Allen has always been at the forefront of bringing the neurotic to the big screen. While he has made some bad films in his career (albeit more recently than in the past), Allen has, for the most part, had great success with most of his films.

Sadly, Wonder Wheel, Woody Allen's newest film, is one of his worst films yet. Set in 1950s Brooklyn, the film follows Ginny (played by Kate Winslet), a troubled woman living in a small house near Coney Island. Besides working at the clam house on the boardwalk, she lives an uneventful life at home with her loud & uncouth husband, Humpty (played by Jim Belushi), & her pyromaniac son, Richie (played by Jack Gore).

All this changes with a chance meeting with Mickey Rubin (played by Justin Timberlake), an aspiring writer (also the narrator of the film & this film's Woody Allen-esque character). They start an affair, giving Ginny a much-needed break from the doom & gloom of her everyday life.

This also changes with the return of Humpty's daughter (& Ginny's stepdaughter), Carolina (played by Juno Temple). She's on the run from her gangster husband, & she knows where the bodies are buried. Mickey also takes a liking to her, stating that "the heart has its own hieroglyphics" (an eerily close statement to what Woody Allen stated about his marriage to his ex-partner, Mia Farrow's adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn). But this is only just the tip of the iceberg of the problems about to hit their lives.

The cast is great. Winslet is excellent, as always, turning what could've been a lifeless caricature into a living, thriving human character. Temple, Timberlake & Belushi are great as well.

Woody Allen's direction is mediocre. It's a far cry from the direction of his glory days, as the film doesn't know whether it wants to be a neurotic comedy or a melodrama.

Woody Allen's screenplay is terrible. The plot is awful & cliched, & the dialogue is nowhere near what Woody Allen's dialogue used to be. It's trite & way too melodramatic, to the point where the film seems like an unintentional parody of a 1950's melodrama. Also, the subplot of Timberlake's character being attracted to Temple's character is disturbing, considering Allen's aforementioned marriage to Soon-Yi Previn & the allegations of molestation brought on by his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow.

The cinematography by Vittorio Storaro is excellent. The color palette switches between strong hues of red & blue that shine on the characters.

Alisa Lepstetter's editing is awful. There were several bad cuts throughout the film, & unlike Woody Allen's other films, this film dragged along, even though it had a relatively short 101-minute runtime.

Suzy Benzinger's costume design is amazing. The costumes are very similar to the clothing of working-class Brooklynites in the 1950s.

Santo Loquasto's production design is excellent. Loquasto accurately captures the look & feel of the architecture of 1950s Brooklyn.

And the makeup & hairstyling is great. The makeup & hairstyling match the makeup & hairstyle of the 1950s.

This is a real disappointment. Although it features some great performances & awe-inspiring visuals & design, the direction, screenplay & editing bog the film down a lot. It's time we asked the question: has Woody Allen lost his mojo? And also, what happens when the artist's notably indecent acts in real life start to blur with his work?

Wonder Wheel was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, December 15, 2017. It is showing in 1 theater in the Detroit area: the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, MI. Its runtime is 101 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for thematic content including some sexuality, language & smoking.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Disaster Artist

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

The 2003 film The Room has been noted as "the Citizen Kane of bad movies." It is infamous for its horrible acting, terrible direction, awful screenplay, & cheap production values. However, these huge shortcomings have made it into a cult classic that's so bad it's good. It's spawned sold-out midnight screenings around the world every month, where people dress up as their favorite characters, yell at the film, & throw plastic spoons at the screen. In this case, it is this generation's The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

But what if I told you that the craziest film ever made isn't as crazy as the people behind it or the making of the film itself?

The Disaster Artist brilliantly shows the story of the making of The Room, showcasing a successful failure behind the scenes. Based on the 2013 book of the same name by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell, & set from 1998-2003, the film follows Tommy Wiseau (played by James Franco), a man of unknown heritage (he says he's from New Orleans, which we can definitely tell is false due to his obviously Eastern European accent), undeterminable age (he says he's 19, but we can definitely tell he's at least in his late 40's), & untraceable wealth (he's rich, but we definitely can't tell how he got his wealth). He is unapologetically brash, secretive, & just overall incredibly odd. He lives in San Francisco, but wants to make it big in Hollywood as an actor & director. He is fearless & wants to show everyone what he can do.

One day after an acting class run by Jean Shelton (played by Melanie Griffith), Tommy meets Greg Sestero (played by Dave Franco), a 19-year-old aspiring actor suffering from stage fright. Eventually, they begin a bizarre but strong friendship, & move to Los Angeles to pursue their careers.

In Los Angeles, Greg signs with noted talent agent Iris Burton (played by Sharon Stone), while Tommy is rejected again & again. Greg also starts a relationship with Amber (played by Alison Brie), a bartender. Tommy wants to move back to San Francisco after countless rejections, & Greg's career has stagnated after many failed auditions. Frustrated with their lack of success, Tommy & Greg decide to make their own film.

Out of this situation comes The Room. Over the course of 3 years, Tommy writes the film, which he will also direct. The plot of the film is simple: Johnny, a "true American hero" with good looks & many friends (who Tommy will be playing), lives with his fiancée, Lisa, who is secretly disillusioned with Johnny & is having an affair with his best friend, Mark (who Greg will be playing). Greg, although realizing the script is horrible, tells Tommy it's great & accepts the offer to do the film.

Tommy's approach to film production is awkward to say the least. Instead of renting cameras from Birns & Sawyer, he buys them, & instead of filming on either 35mm film or HD Digital, he films with both cameras simultaneously. Due to this, Bill Meurer (played by Hannibal Burress) & Peter Anway (played by Jason Mantzoukas), the owners of Birns & Sawyer, offer to have them film The Room at their studios. The cast & crew are eventually set: Juliette Danielle (played by Ari Graynor) will play Lisa; Philip Haldiman (played by Josh Hutcherson) will play Denny, the surrogate son of Johnny & Lisa; Carolyn Minnott (played by Jacki Weaver) will play Claudette, Lisa's mother; Dan Janjigian (played by Zac Efron) will play Chris-R, a drug dealer; Robyn Paris (played by June Diane Raphael) will play Michelle, Lisa's best friend; Scott Holmes (played by Andrew Santino) will play Mike, Michelle's boyfriend; & Kyle Vogt (played by Nathan Fielder) will play Peter, Johnny's psychologist friend. The crew includes Sandy Schklair (played by Seth Rogen), who will be the script supervisor (but ends up taking over most of the directorial responsibilities); Raphael Smadja (played by Paul Scheer), who will be the director of photography; & Safowa Bright (played by Charlyne Yi), who will be the costume designer.

The filming goes smooth at first, but manages to get really bad. The film goes past the original shooting schedule, Tommy's narcissism bubbles to the surface, the work environment is extremely toxic, & Tommy forgets his lines from the script that he himself wrote. All of these problems just get bigger & bigger, & when the film finally sees the light of day, no one will be the same.

The cast is excellent. James Franco is nothing short of spectacular. His performance is one of the best of the century, & he should definitely win the Oscar for Best Actor. He completely disappears into Tommy Wiseau, & nails down his mannerisms & the accent.

Dave Franco is also amazing as Greg Sestero. He nails his look, & a great amount of his great performance here comes from his amazing chemistry with his brother, James.

Seth Rogen is also great in his role. At first, his character acts like he's seen & done everything, but realizes that's false later on as he watches the trainwreck unfold.

The rest of the cast, especially Hutcherson, Efron, Graynor & Weaver, nail their small roles & are uncannily similar to the actors they portray & the characters their actors portray.

James Franco's direction is excellent. Franco has directed many duds in his career. But here, he has managed to break out of that bad spell & direct what is by far his best film yet. He seems to have been influenced by Paul Thomas Anderson, as noted when Franco compared the film to a mixture of Boogie Nights & The Master, both films directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. But Franco uses that directorial style extremely well.

The screenplay by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber is brilliant. The film stays very true to the book, & the dialogue is both hilarious & heartfelt. The script could've easily portrayed the cast & crew's efforts as foolish, but instead portrays the efforts in a respectful manner, knowing that at the forefront of The Room, it was made by a man following his dreams.

And the makeup & hairstyling is amazing. The makeup & hairstyling helps allow James Franco to disappear into the role, as Tommy Wiseau's infamous long black hair is enough to make James Franco look unrecognizable.

This is one of the 3 best films of the year. Along with being a hilarious documentation of the making of the best worst film ever made, it's a shining testament to never giving up on your dreams.

The Disaster Artist was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Friday, December 8, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 104 minutes, & it is rated R for language throughout & some sexuality/nudity.

Saturday, December 9, 2017


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Most of the Pixar films in the 2010s have ranged from great (Inside Out) to bad (Cars 2). As many great films they've had, they're starting to put out some duds.

Thankfully, Coco is not a dud. It's a spectacular piece of animated perfection. The film follows Miguel Rivera (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), a 12-year-old boy in a small Mexican village. He lives with his mother, Luisa (voiced by Sofia Espinosa), his father, Enrique (voiced by Jaime Camil), his grandmother, Elena (voiced by Renée Victor), & his great-grandmother, Coco (voiced by Ana Ofelia Murguía). The family has been making shoes for decades. However, Elena follows the strict tradition set by her grandmother, Imelda (voiced by Alanna Ubach), that no music can be played by any family member. This proves problematic for Miguel, as he wants to become a famous musician like Ernesto de la Cruz (voiced by Benjamin Bratt), who was around during Imelda's generation.

During the Day of the Dead, Miguel discovers a picture on the ofrenda with a person with their face cut out holding a guitar like Ernesto de la Cruz's guitar. Deducing that this is the husband that left Imelda, starting the family ban on music, Miguel enters Ernesto's tomb & takes his guitar to use in a talent show. When he strums the guitar, he discovers he is invisible to everyone in the plaza except for his dog, Dante, & his dead relatives, including Imelda. However, since Miguel accidentally broke the picture when he discovered it, Imelda can't cross over to the Land of the Living. Also, Miguel must return to the Land of the Living before sunrise or he will stay in the Land of the Dead forever. In order to return, he must receive a blessing from a dead relative. Imelda blesses him on the condition that Miguel stops playing music; however, he refuses.

On his way to find Ernesto, Miguel meets Héctor (voiced by Gael García Bernal), a skeleton who once played with Ernesto. In return for helping Miguel find Ernesto, Miguel must help Héctor cross over to the Land of the Living & see his daughter, as she is the only person alive who remembers him. But secrets start to rise to the surface, & the familial bonds will be tested.

The voice cast is excellent. Gonzalez & Bratt are great. But Bernal & Ubach are the standouts, with both providing humor & heartache to their character.

Lee Unkrich's direction is excellent. The world he has created & the vision for the world are both so extremely wondrous beyond belief.

The screenplay by Lee Unkrich, Jason Kats, Matthew Aldrich & Adrian Molina is amazing. The characters are so excellently written, & the script has so much respect for Mexican culture.

Michael Giacchino's score is spectacular. The Mexican-style guitar-driven score is so fun to listen to, & is one of Giacchino's best.

And the animation is miraculous. It's so colorful & pays so much attention to detail that even people who have noticed Pixar's attention to detail will be shocked by the detail here.

This is the best animated film of the year, & one of the best Pixar films of the decade. It's a heartfelt & respectful insight to Mexican culture & the familial ties that bind.

Coco was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, December 1, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 105 minutes, & it is rated PG for thematic elements.

Thursday, December 7, 2017


★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

In the early 1960's, the Roman Catholic Church, facing a changing world landscape, instituted a series of changes through the Second Vatican Council, commonly referred to as Vatican II. These changes included the ending of speaking in Latin during Mass, the acceptance of other religions, & the ability for the priest to directly face the congregation. However, not all of the changes were positive. The main negative was the downgrading of nuns in the Catholic Church to that of the congregation, a far cry below their previous status in the Catholic Church. These issues are still very controversial in the Catholic Church to this day, 50 years after Vatican II closed.

Novitiate, while not always great, provides a good & realistic snapshot into a Vatican II-era novitiate. Set in 1964, the film follows Cathleen Harris (played by Margaret Qualley), a 17-year-old girl at a Catholic school in Tennessee. Her father, Chuck (played by Chris Zylka), left when she was 7. She has decided to become a nun, much to the chagrin of her mother, Nora (played by Julianne Nicholson), a chain-smoking agnostic.

Cathleen enters a convent where she meets fellow postulates Evelyn (played by Morgan Saylor), Sissy (played by Maddie Hasson), Emily (played by Liana Liberato), Candace (played by Eline Powell), Charlotte (played by Chelsea Lopez), & Margaret (played by Ashley Bell). The postulates are helped in their endeavors by Sister Mary Grace (played by Dianna Agron), & led by the Reverend Mother Marie St. Clair (played by Melissa Leo). The Reverend Mother is strict, cruel, & extremely devoted to God.

The Reverend Mother is alarmed by the reforms of Vatican II, wanting the ways of the Church to stay the same, unlike Archbishop McCarthy (played by Denis O'Hare), who is open to the reforms. Meanwhile, the postulates, mainly Cathleen, start to release their repressed sexual urges towards one another, which Cathleen's are amplified when Sister Emanuel (played by Rebecca Dayan) arrives as a transfer nun. The sexual urges, combined with the Reverend Mother's cruel ways & Vatican II's reforms, will change the women forever.

The cast is superb. Qualley & Nicholson are excellent. But this film definitely belongs to Melissa Leo. Leo is absolutely horrifying & disturbing as the Reverend Mother. Her character has been considered by some as a female counterpart to J.K. Simmons's Terence Fletcher in Whiplash. I agree with this comparison, as Leo is just as terrifying as Simmons.

Maggie Betts's direction is good. Although her flaws as a debut feature film director are noticable, moreso in some of the scenes involving the sexual tension, her direction is overall good, & is a formidable start to her career as a feature film director.

Maggie Betts's screenplay is excellent. The characters, who could've been caricatures (especially Melissa Leo's character, who could've easily been just a loud but unterrifying character), are fully fleshed out here.

Kat Westergaard's cinematography is excellent. The dim lighting & the cool color tone match the cold & unforgiving atmosphere of the film, its characters, & its setting.

And Susan E. Morse's editing is good. The flaws in her editing are noticeable, especially in the pacing, but she keeps the film headed in a straight & unmeandering direction.

This is an overall good film. Although the direction & editing aren't the best, the performances, especially Melissa Leo's performance, are more than enough to elevate the film past those flaws.

Novitiate was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, November 24, 2017. It is in 2 theaters in the Detroit area: the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI & the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, MI. Its runtime is 123 minutes, & it is rated R for language, some sexuality & nudity.

Last Flag Flying

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

The Vietnam War. The Iraq War. What do these 2 wars have in common? The majority of American people believe that the United States shouldn't have been involved in either of those wars, & because of our involvement, hundreds of thousands died that shouldn't have died, & millions more have suffered irreperable mental & physical damage that they shouldn't have suffered.

While I was not alive during the Vietnam War, I was alive during the Iraq War. I remember, even when I was 4, the news reports coming out of the war. And I honestly do believe our involvement there should've never happened.

Last Flag Flying, while being a perfect mix of comedy & drama, also raises questions of our involvement in both of those wars, how do we help the veterans of the wars, & how we deal with the grief of losing a loved one in war. Based on the 2005 novel of the same name by Darryl Ponicsan, & set in December 2003, the film follows Larry "Doc" Shepherd (played by Steve Carell), a former Navy corpsman & Vietnam veteran living in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He leaves his home & travels to Norfolk, Virginia to the bar of a Marine whom he served with in Vietnam, the foul-mouthed & cantankerous Sal Nealon (played by Bryan Cranston). Doc asks Sal to accompany him on the trip, to which Sal agrees, leaving the keys to his bar to the drunk guy asleep at the bar. They drive to a church, where thery discover another Marine they served with in Vietnam, Richard Mueller (played by Laurence Fishburne), now a pastor using a cane.

After going to Richard's house, Doc reveals his reason for the trip: earlier in the year, his wife died of breast cancer, & 2 days earlier, his son, Larry Jr., was killed in Iraq fighting heroically. His body will be transferred to Dover Air Force Base, where he will then be sent to Arlington National Cemetery to be buried. Richard is reluctant to join them at first, but he eventually agrees.

They head out to Dover, where they meet the strict Lt. Col. Willits (played by Yul Vazquez) & the young Lance Cpl. Charlie Washington (played by J. Quinton Johnson), who was with Larry when he died. Charlie reveals to Doc, Sal & Richard the truth about Larry Jr.'s death. Extremely disheartened & upset by the news, & also much to the chagrin of Lt. Col. Willits, Doc decides to not bury Larry Jr. at Arlington & decides to bury him next to his mother in Portsmouth, as he is sickened after being lied to by the military.

The 3 men, along with Charlie, leave by train to Portsmouth for Larry Jr.'s funeral & burial. But a haunting memory from their past leads Doc, Sal & Richard to take a detour & meet with the mother of a fellow Marine in Vietnam, Mrs. Hightower (played by Cicely Tyson). All of this raises questions about American values, the never-ending war machine, & above all, grief.

The cast is phenomenal. Steve Carell's performance is the finest of his career. Much like Casey Affleck's amazing performance last year in Manchester by the Sea, Carell is withdrawn at first, but begins to become more warm & even humorous as the film goes on. It is the best male performance of the year so far.

Cranston's performance is the finest of his film career so far. Cranston is a source of a lot of the amazing comic relief, & he uses his cantankerous attitude to amplify the humor. But he does reach back into drama, & he also does that extremely well here.

Fishburne's performance is one of the 3 best of his career, along with his performances in Boyz n the Hood & What's Love Got to Do with It. He is reserved at first, but as his long-controlled cantankerousness comes to the surface, his performance gets even better.

Richard Linklater's direction is excellent. Linklater, who is one of my favorite directors, has directed one of his best films yet, along with Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight, & Boyhood. Like those films, his direction is subdued & steady, exhuming a calm & cool atmosphere.

And the screenplay by Richard Linklater & Darryl Ponicsan is perfect. Linklater, known for his humanistic dialogue & characters, has excellently adapted Ponicsan's novel & made the characters even more human & deals with heavy topics while focusing on the humorous side of life for the characters. And when the script brings the humor, it really brings the humor, as it made me laugh like only a few other films have made me laugh in a while.

This is one of the 5 best films of the year so far. It has 3 amazing actors at the top of their game, & a director & screenwriter still at the top of his game.

Last Flag Flying was seen by me at the Maple Theater in Bloomfield Hills, MI on Friday, November 24, 2017. It is no longer in theaters in the Detroit area. Its runtime is 125 minutes, & it is rated R for language including some sexual references.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

½★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

One of the more offensive tropes in film is the commonly-used stereotype that autistic people have extreme savant-like abilities, with little to no emotion. In fact, only one in 10 autistic people have savant-like abilities, & some autistic people have more emotion than others.

Roman J. Israel, Esq., besides its offensive portrayal of an autistic character (albeit not specifically stated to be on the autism spectrum, but obviously meant to be on the autism spectrum), is a horribly directed, terribly written, & bizarrely edited mess. The film follows Roman J. Israel, Esq. (played by Denzel Washington), a Los Angeles lawyer who has been working behind-the-scenes while his partner has been winning cases. What Roman lacks in social skills, he makes up for with his wealth of legal knowledge. Also, Roman has been working for years on a 1,000 page class-action lawsuit that he says will change the legal system forever.

One day, his partner has a fatal heart attack, thrusting Roman into the front of the firm. Having basically worked for free his whole career, Roman discovers secrets the firm held from him, namely going against Roman's values of helping the marginalized. Also, the firm will be run & then closed down by George Pierce (played by Colin Farrell), a more successful hot-shot lawyer.

Roman also gets himself involved with Maya (played by Carmen Ejogo), a social justice advocate. As Roman starts to work for George, Roman finds himself going against his values. But one decision could ruin everything.

The cast is mediocre. Denzel Washington, who I'm surprised is actually being praised for this role, is terribly one-note & offensive towards people on the autism spectrum. However, Colin Farrell & Carmen Ejogo are both good in their smaller roles.

Dan Gilroy's direction is pitiful. Gilroy can't juggle any of the film's tonal shifts & his atmosphere is extremely muddled. This is very disappointing, as his previous film, Nightcrawler, was excellent.

Dan Gilroy's screenplay is also horrible. The characters are almost caricatures, & the script is terrible, as it tries to make a statement but fails miserably.

And the editing by John Gilroy is awful. The film is poorly paced, it doesn't know where it's going, & some scenes don't fit into the film at all. This is also disappointing, as his editing for Nightcrawler was excellent.

This is one of the 3 worst films of the year. It features a career-worst performance from Denzel Washington, poor direction, bad writing, & horrible editing. One reviewer called this "an unfunny episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm." I completely agree with that person.

Roman J. Israel, Esq. was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Thursday, November 23, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 129 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for language & some violence.

Justice League

★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

The DC Extended Universe has been very mediocre so far. Man of Steel was uninspiring, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was too long & overindulgent, & Suicide Squad was a complete & under mess. However, Wonder Woman was absolutely fantastic, & proved that the DC Extended Universe may have some life in it.

Now, they have finally brought some of our favorite DC heroes together for Justice League, a disappointing superhero film. The film follows Bruce Wayne, AKA Batman (played by Ben Affleck), who is trying to form a group of metahumans to protect the world after the death of Clark Kent, AKA Kal-El, AKA Superman (played by Henry Cavill). When Steppenwolf (played by Ciarán Hinds) & his army of Parademons come to steal the Mother Boxes, including the one from Themyscira, Queen Hippolyta (played by Connie Nielsen) warns her daughter, Diana, AKA Wonder Woman (played by Gal Gadot) of Steppenwolf's return. Diana then joins forces with Bruce to create a team.

Bruce goes to recruit Barry Allen, AKA Flash (played by Ezra Miller), who has superspeed, & Arthur Curry, AKA Aquaman (played by Jason Momoa), whose Atlantean makeup gives him unique aquatic abilities. Diana goes to recruit Victor Stone, AKA Cyborg (played by Ray Fisher), who has unique cybernetic abilities after being reconstructed through a Mother Box.

With the help of Commissioner James Gordon (played by J.K. Simmons) & Alfred Pennyworth (played by Jeremy Irons), the team gets closer & closer to finding Steppenwolf. But something big occurs, forcing Lois Lane (played by Amy Adams) & Martha Kent (played by Diane Lane) to get involved.

The cast is good. Affleck does a good job as Batman, & so does Henry Cavill as Superman. But Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, & especially Jason Momoa, are the real standouts here.

Zack Snyder's direction is bad. Although the lighter tone is a nice change of pace, it still doesn't work most of the time.

Chris Terrio & Joss Whedon's screenplay is mediocre. The dialogue is awful, & the characters (especially Steppenwolf) are so badly written.

Danny Elfman's score is great. Elfman, who is one of my favorite film composers, has done a great job here, especially his re-working of the original Batman theme.

And the visual effects are a mixed bag. Some parts of the effects really shine, while others, especially Henry Cavill's mustache removal, are really bad.

This is a unpleasant surprise. While it does have a few shining moments, the bad does sadly outweigh the good. It may be the second-best film in the DC Extended Universe, but that isn't saying much.

Justice League was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Tuesday, November 21, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 120 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence & action.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Lady Bird

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

High school is the roughest 4 years you will ever go through in your life. From the first loves & other great moments, to the heartbreaks, fights, & mood swings, high school is an emotional rollercoaster. Besides this, outside of school, this is the time where you yearn to finally go away & get away from your hometown, & the time where you have so many fights with your parents about your life & your decisions. From 14-18, it's rough, especially as you get closer to college.

Lady Bird has captured this time in your life so perfectly. It has portrayed adolescence so honestly unlike any other film has in history. Set during the 2002-2003 school year, the film follows Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (played by Saoirse Ronan), a senior at a Catholic high school in Sacramento, California, AKA "The Midwest of California." She's brutally honest, & wants nothing more than to get out of her hometown & go to college on the East Coast, where culture is.

Lady Bird spends her days either confiding in her best friend, Julie Steffans (played by Beanie Feldstein), or quarreling with her mother, Marion (played by Laurie Metcalf), who is struggling to pay the bills after her husband, Larry (played by Tracy Letts), was fired from his job. She also fights with her older, adopted brother, Miguel (played by Jordan Rodrigues), who still lives with Lady Bird & their parents, along with his girlfriend, Shelly (played by Marielle Scott).

At school, Lady Bird & Julie end up getting parts in the school's production of Merrily We Roll Along, directed by the clinically depressed Father Leviatch (played by Stephen McKinley Henderson). This is where Lady Bird meets Danny O'Neill (played by Lucas Hedges), an absolutely too-perfect thespian. She becomes attracted to him, & also becomes attracted to Kyle Scheible (played by Timothée Chalamet), an anarchistic dirtbag who is the perfect representation of that one kid in your economics class who likes reading Kurt Vonnegut & hates economics in any way. Lady Bird also becomes friends with Jenna Walton (played by Odeya Rush), a preppy rich girl.

Still, Lady Bird wants nothing more to get out of Sacramento, as she applies to colleges on the East Coast behind her mother's back. But one meeting with Sister Sarah Joan (played by Lois Smith), the principal of the school, may just change Lady Bird's idea of Sacramento, & by extension, her relationships with her friends & family.

The cast is nothing short of spectacular. Saoirse (pronounced SER-sha) Ronan, my favorite actress, has never been better than she has been here. With that dark red-dyed hair & the acne, Ronan looks exactly like a normal teenager. And she brings so much energy & heart to the role that it's impossible to not be amazed by her performance.

Laurie Metcalf is also spectacular. She also brings a lot of emotion to the role, especially in one scene where your heart will absolutely break into a million pieces. And she has so much chemistry with Saoirse Ronan that it feels like you're watching an actual mother & daughter interacting with each other.

Tracy Letts is also spectacular. Letts, most known for his playwriting, has given his best performance yet. Letts portrays a non-confrontational attitude so perfectly.

Beanie Feldstein is an absolute scene-stealer. She manages to light up the screen every scene she's in & becomes a hilarious counterpart to Ronan. This is the breakout female role of the year, proving that she will definitely make a name for herself & not just be referred to as "Jonah Hill's little sister."

The rest of the cast, especially Lucas Hedges & Timothée Chalamet, is also spectacular, making such indelible impressions on the audience.

Greta Gerwig's direction is phenomenal. Gerwig, who has already made a name for herself as an amazing actress (& definitely one of my favorites, in films like Frances Ha, Mistress America & 20th Century Women), has gone behind the camera here for her solo directorial debut (she co-directed 2008's Nights & Weekends with Joe Swanberg). And it definitely doesn't feel like a debut. She directs the film with so much heart & tenacity that it feels like it's come from a seasoned veteran, not a debuting director.

Greta Gerwig's screenplay is a sheer work of art. Gerwig, who has also co-wrote Frances Ha & Mistress America with Noah Baumbach, has taken the atmosphere & style of those scripts & brought them here, & has elevated them to even greater heights. The dialogue feels so real, & the characters feel so relatable & real.

Sam Levy's cinematography is wondrous. From the many wide shots to the lighting to the color palette, Levy makes this film into a visual work of art as well.

Nick Houy's editing is excellent. It is perfectly paced, flowing flawlessly at a fast pace, & it knows where it's going for all 94 minutes.

And Jon Brion's score is amazing. The score is driven by guitars & pianos & clarinets, perfectly supplementing the emotions of the film.

This is, without a doubt, the best film I've ever seen. Every inch of it feels so true & honest & real, & I can't imagine a better film. Also, to the moms reading this, if you have a daughter in high school, take her to see this. Also, after you do see this, call your mom & tell her you love her. You probably will anyway after seeing this, but I'm just reminding you.

Lady Bird was seen by me at The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Hills, MI on Saturday, November 18, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 94 minutes, & it is rated R for language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity, & teen partying.


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Lately, most films based on young adult books have been, for the most part, absolute drivel, with not a single amount of good acting, direction, or screenwriting to be found anywhere.

So, obviously, because of this, I was very skeptical of Wonder, the film based of R.J. Palacio's 2012 novel of the same name. Even though it did have Stephen Chbosky, the writer & director of 2012's coming-of-age masterpiece The Perks of Being a Wallflower, co-writing & directing the film, I was still skeptical because of the possibility that it may be too emotionally manipulative.

But, after the surprising amount of critical praise, & the even-more-surprising amount of money made at the box office, I saw the film & was extremely surprised, as it extremely exceeded my expectations.

The film focuses on August "Auggie" Pullman (played by Jacob Tremblay), a 10-year-old boy. Auggie is like most 10-year-old boys, except for one thing: Auggie has mandibulofacial dystosis, an extremely rare facial deformity. Due to this, Auggie has been homeschooled for his school life. After careful consideration, his parents, Isabel (played by Julia Roberts) & Nate (played by Owen Wilson) have decided to enroll him at Beecher Prep in Manhattan for middle school, citing the fact that everyone will be new there. His older sister, Via (played by Izabela Vidovic), also assures Auggie of this.

Befoe the school year starts, the principal of Beecher Prep, Mr. Tushman (played by Mandy Patinkin), has 3 students show Auggie around the school. These 3 students are: Jack Will (played by Noah Jupe), who will become Auggie's best friend; Julian Albans (played by Bryce Gheisar), a stuck-up bully; & Charlotte Cody (played by Elle McKinnon), a self-absorbed kid bragging about her appearances in commercials.

As the school year goes on, Auggie makes more friends, including Summer (played by Millie Davis), & finds that people are just cruel for no reason, & Auggie tries to get through his first school year, with the help of his friends, family, & teachers, including his inspiring homeroom teacher, Mr. Browne (played by Daveed Diggs).

The cast is excellent. Jacob Tremblay continues to surprise me with every performance he does. He's given some great performances already, & he's only 11 years old. I expect him to only get better & better as he gets older. Julia Roberts & Owen Wilson are also amazing as Auggie's parents, which proves that Julia Roberts still has it, & that Owen Wilson can actually give great performances outside of Pixar films & films directed by Wes Anderson. Izabela Vidovic's performance is one of the best breakout performances of the year. And the rest of the child cast is amazing.

Stephen Chbosky's direction is superb. It's perfectly subdued, just like his direction for The Perks of Being a Wallflower, & that subdued approach is a great fit for this film.

The screenplay by Stephen Chbosky, Steve Conrad & Jack Thorne is amazing. They have adapted an excellent novel so faithfully, probably more faithfully than any novel in the past few years that I've read.

And the makeup & hairstyling is phenomenal. It makes Jacob Tremblay look completely unrecognizable as Auggie.

This is one of the best young adult novel film adaptations of the past decade. It remains completely faithful to the book, & it has some amazing performances.

Wonder was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Saturday, November 18, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 113 minutes, & it is rated PG for thematic elements including bullying, & some mild language.