Thursday, April 27, 2017

Kong: Skull Island

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"Who's winning the war?" "Which one?" "That makes sense, I guess." That's a hilarious excerpt of a conversation between John C. Reilly & Tom Hiddleston in Kong: Skull Island, an absolutely crazy film. Set in 1973, Hiddleston plays Capt. James Conrad, a former British Special Air Service tracker. He has been hired by U.S. government agent Bill Randa (played by John Goodman) to map out an uncharted territory in the Pacific Ocean known as Skull Island. They are escorted by a Vietnam War helicopter squad led by Lt. Col. Preston Packard (played by Samuel L. Jackson) & his subordinates, Major Jack Chapman (played by Toby Kebbell), Capt. Earl Cole (played by Shea Whigham), Gunner Reles (played by Eugene Cordero), & Warrant Officers Glenn Mills (played by Jason Mitchell) & Reg Slivko (played by Thomas Mann). Also joining them are: anti-war photojournalist Mason Weaver (played by Brie Larson); Harvard seismologist Houston Brooks (played by Corey Hawkins); biologist San Lin (played by Jing Tian); & Landsat employees Victor Nieves (played by John Ortiz) & Steve Woodward (played by Marc Evan Jackson). Upon arriving, bombs are dropped to map out the island, but the helicopters are attacked by Kong (motion-capture played by Terry Notary), a huge gorilla. 

After crashing, Randa's plan for coming to the island is discovered: he wanted to prove creatures like Kong exist. Conrad, Weaver, Brooks, Lin, Slivko & Nieves try to get to the north end of the island, while the others try to find Kong & kill him. Conrad's group meets with Hank Marlow (played by John C. Reilly), an American soldier who has been stranded on the island for 30 years. Marlow tells them that Kong is God to the natives on the island, & that Kong is not the evil one on the island; those are the Skullcrawlers, who killed Kong's ancestors. Now, Conrad's group must find Packard's group & stop them from going after Kong.

The cast is amazing. Jordan Vogt-Roberts's direction is excellent. The screenplay by John Gatins, Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein & Derek Connelly is brilliant. The cinematography by Larry Fong is amazing. The editing by Richard Pearson is excellent. The production design by Stefan Dechant is amazing. The film score by Henry Jackman is excellent. And the visual effects are astounding. This is an insanely amazing film.

The Zookeeper's Wife

★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"Maybe that's why I love animals so much. You look in their eyes & you know exactly what's in their hearts." That's an excellent quote from Jessica Chastain in The Zookeeper's Wife, a great but somewhat flawed film. The film is based on the 2007 book The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman, which was based on the true story of Antonina & Jan Żabiński. Set in 1939, Chastain plays Antonina Żabiński, a zookeeper at the Warsaw Zoo, along with her husband, Jan Żabiński (played by Johan Heldenbergh). Berlin Zoo director Lutz Heck (played by Daniel Brühl), known for being Hitler's zoologist & for performing infamous experiments, tries to make advances towards the zoo & Antonina.

On September 1, 1939, Poland is invaded by the Nazis, beginning World War II. Soon after, the Nazis begin to take the Jews out of the city & into the Ghetto. Eventually, Antonina & Jan decide to hide some Jews in the zoo, as many of the animals have been killed or slaughtered, although they know what the consequences of defying the Nazis could be. As they hide more & more Jews, the stakes get higher, & the danger of being discovered becomes more & more imminent.

The acting is excellent. Niki Caro's direction is excellent. Angela Workman's screenplay is great. The cinematography by Andrij Parekh is stunning. The film score by Harry Gregson-Williams is amazing. The costume design by Bina Daigeler is amazing. And the production design by Suzie Davies is stunning. Although the narrative is flawed, it's still a deeply moving film about an amazing people who saved many people from imminent death.

Sunday, April 23, 2017


★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"Goodnight, nobody." That's a sad & scary quote from Jake Gyllenhaal in Life, a pretty good but flawed sci-fi horror film. Gyllenhaal plays David Jordan, an American senior medical officer on the International Space Station. Also on the ISS are: British quarantine officer Miranda North (played by Rebecca Ferguson); American system engineer Rory Adams (played by Ryan Reynolds); Japanese pilot Sho Murakami (played by Hiroyuki Sanada); British biologist Hugh Derry (played by Ariyon Bakare); & Russian commander Ekaterina Golovkina (played by Olga Dihovichnaya). They have just completed a mission to capture a probe from Mars featuring a soil sample possibly proving life beyond Earth. A dormant cell from the sample grows into a single-cell organism named Calvin. After it is revived using electrical shocks, it becomes hostile & attacks Hugh. As Calvin begins to grow in size & become more dangerous, the crew realizes the lack of oxygen on Mars kept it dormant, & that if it comes back to Earth with them, the consequences will be disastrous. The crew must try to kill Calvin before they return to Earth.

The cast is amazing. Daniel Espinosa's direction is great. The screenplay by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick is good. The cinematography by Seamus McGarvey is excellent. The editing by Frances Parker & Mary Jo Markey is excellent. The production design by Nigel Phelps is amazing. And the visual effects are stunning. Although the direction is a bit underwhelming & the screenplay is somewhat unfocused, the cast & technical elements save the film from being a disaster & make it an overall good film.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Room

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"You're tearing me apart, Lisa!" That's an absolutely AWFUL quote from Tommy Wiseau in The Room, the worst film of all time. Tommy Wiseau plays Johnny, a successful banker in San Francisco. He lives with his future wife, Lisa (played by Juliette Danielle). Lately, Lisa has not been faithful to him, as she has fallen in love with Johnny's best friend, Mark (played by Greg Sestero). Her mother, Claudette (played by Carolyn Minnott), & her best friend Michelle (played by Robyn Paris), are both upset at Lisa for this, stating that since Johnny provides for her, she should stay with him. Also involved are: Denny (played by Philip Haldiman), a neighbor who Johnny loves like a son; Mike (played by Scott Holmes), Michelle's girlfriend; Peter (played by Kyle Vogt), a psychologist friend of Johnny & Mark; Steven (played by Greg Ellery), a mutual friend of Johnny & Mark; & Chris-R (played by Dan Janjigian), a drug dealer to who Denny owes money. As all these subplots become unresolved, tensions between Johnny, Lisa, & Mark boil up, & they all come to a head at Johnny's birthday party.

The cast is awful. Tommy Wiseau's direction & screenplay is terrible. The cinematography by Todd Barron is atrocious. The editing by Eric Yalkut Chase is dreadful. The score by Mladen Milicevic is appaling. And the soundtrack is horrible. The reason I gave this film 5 stars is because it becomes so downright awful that it becomes a masterpiece. It's so poorly made that it's absolutely hilarious.

The story behind the film is even more bizarre. The entire story of the making of The Room was documented in the book The Disaster Artist, which was written by Greg Sestero, who played Mark in The Room. It's an absolutely fascinating book. The Disaster Artist was recently adapted into a film that will be released later this year, with James Franco directing & starring as Tommy Wiseau, & his brother Dave Franco playing Greg Sestero.

I saw The Room at an art house theater near me, which was showing it as a midnight movie. At the screening was none other than Tommy Wiseau. I met him, & it was certainly an amazing experience. At the midnight screenings, people yell at the screen & throw plastic spoons at the screen.

All in all, this is an absolutely awful movie. It's not only the worst film of 2003 (the year it was released), or the worst film of the 2000's, or the century, but of all time. But it's so bad that it defies what we consider to be bad & becomes a masterpiece in the process. It's certainly a film that needs to be seen to be believed.