Wednesday, July 26, 2017


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas & oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence & growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields & in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender. And if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated & starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed & guarded by the British fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power & might, steps forth to the rescue & the liberation of the old."

Those famous words spoken in an amazing speech by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on June 4, 1940 after the 8-day long mass evacuation of 338,226 British soldiers off the beaches of Dunkirk, France, when only 30,000 were expected to be evacuated, showed that while wars aren't won by evacuation, the British would always stand their ground against the Nazi regime in World War II.

The evacuation is so excellently depicted in Dunkirk, the greatest war film ever made. Set over the 8-day period from May 26, 1940 to June 4, 1940, the film follows the evacuation through a tryptich (three perspectives): the people on the land, which takes place over one week; the people on the sea; which takes place over one day; & the people in the air, which takes place over one hour.

On the land, the perspective is shown through the eyes of five people: British Army soldiers Tommy (played by Fionn Whitehead), Alex (played by Harry Styles), & Gibson (played by Aneurin Barnard); Colonel Winnant (played by James D'Arcy), & Commander Bolton (played by Kenneth Branagh). Tommy was the only member of a group of several soldiers to make it to the beach, as the others were killed by unseen German soldiers. On the beach, he finds Gibson. Tommy & Gibson try to get off of the beach by carrying a wounded soldier on a stretcher to a ship, but they are denied passage. They decide to wait on the mole for the next ship. As the next ship arrives, they save Alex from being crushed by the ship. 

While they try to leave, Commander Bolton & Colonel Winnant discuss the matter at hand. Prime Minister Churchill has rejected surrender demands from the Germans, & is adamant that at least 30,000 soldiers be evacuated from the beaches. In order to evacuate as many as possible, he has declared that the British Navy requisition small vessels to help evacuate the men.

On the sea, the perspective is shown through the eyes of four people: mariner Mr. Dawson (played by Mark Rylance); his son Peter (played by Tom Glynn-Carney); Peter's friend George (played by Barry Keoghan); & a Shivering Soldier (played by Cillian Murphy). Although Mr. Dawson does cooperate with the British Navy, he, along with Peter, decide to take the boat themselves to Dunkirk, rather than let the Navy commandeer it. George decides to join impulsively, hoping to do something noteworthy. On their way to Dunkirk, they encounter the Shivering Soldier on the wreckage of his ship, as he was the only survivor of a U-boat attack. The Shivering Soldier is obviously shell-shocked. He, along with many others during the war, will never be the same.

Once the Shivering Soldier is on the boat, he asks where they are headed. Mr. Dawson tells him they are headed to Dunkirk, to which the Shivering Soldier becomes apprehensive towards. He obviously does not want to head back, as there is a good chance they will die. Mr. Dawson tells him that there's no hiding from it & that it is their job to rescue the stranded men.

In the air, the perspective is shown from the eyes of two people: Royal Air Force pilots Farrier (played by Tom Hardy) & Collins (played by Jack Lowden). They are to provide air support to the troops at Dunkirk, with adamant instructions to ration as much fuel as possible. Farrier's fuel gauge has malfunctioned, but he continues on. When a Luftwaffe plane shoots down the squadron leader, Farrier assumes command.

The cast is excellent. Hardy, Rylance, Murphy & Branagh give excellent performances as they always do, & I wouldn't be surprised to see them considered as Oscar contenders. But the best performances come from the two acting newcomers: Harry Styles & Fionn Whitehead. 

Styles, known for being the frontman of the boy band One Direction, surprised me with his stunning performance. I was apprehensive about his casting in the film, as I was not impressed with him during his time in One Direction, which I hate with a burning passion (although he is so much better as a solo artist). But alas, singing ability does not correlate with acting ability, & his performance is one of the best acting debuts in recent memory.

Whitehead, coming from relative obscurity (his only other acting credit being the 2016 British miniseries HIM), gives an excellent debut performance. Compared to a young Tom Courtenay by director Christopher Nolan, Whitehead exhibits an amazing force of tenacity not shown much in acting debuts. His performance is definitely the best of the year so far.

Christopher Nolan's direction is excellent, & this is by far his best film yet. Having directed a masterpiece every time he's been behind the camera, Nolan ditches his usual tactic of screwing with your mind for a different kind of war film. He called the film more of a suspense film, than a war film, & also stating that it doesn't concern itself with the bloody aspects of war. And I commend Nolan for that. Even without showing the graphic details of war, Nolan still makes this film so gripping & intense, & to be perfectly honest, it made me feel more tense than I felt when I watched Saving Private Ryan. Also, I commend Nolan for his idea to not show one single German in the film. Even without them being seen, they still give off an overwhelming sense of dread.

And Nolan's screenplay is also excellent. Even though there is not one single character that is the main focus, & even though all the characters have a limited amount of screen time, Nolan still develops them into characters we care about & that have flaws, making them the most genuinely human characters in a war film. And even with a purposefully limited amount of dialogue, Nolan still gives off a lot of emotion in the script.

The only word I can use to describe Hoyte van Hoytema's cinematography is "wow." Shot on IMAX 65mm & 65mm large format film stock & projected on 70mm film, Hoytema's camera work is almost a character itself. Every shot is immaculate, & this is definitely some of the best cinematography in years. 70mm is the best way to see this film, & you should try to see it in this format instead of digital projection.

Lee Smith, Nolan's go-to guy for editing his films since Batman Begins, has edited this film masterfully. Nolan compared editing this film, especially the aerial sequences, to a chess game. Well, he definitely must have decisively won that metaphorical chess game, as this film is perfectly paced & assembled.

Jeffrey Kurland, returning to work with Nolan for the first time since Inception, has made the costumes with an almost precise vision. The uniforms of the members of the British Armed Forces in the film look exactly how they did back in 1940.

Nathan Crowley, also Nolan's main guy for production design, modeled this film amazingly. Everything looks a lot like it did back in 1940, & the sets have done their job: they immersed us into the time the film is set in.

The sound design is impeccable. Every single gunshot, explosion, & engine sound is so immersive. And every sound is loud, especially the sounds of the battle sequences, which were so loud & jarring I was very shaken by it & I felt like I was right there with the soldiers.

Hans Zimmer, one of the best film composers of all time, & one of the best composers in general, has composed his best score yet. Having worked with Nolan since The Dark Knight, & having done an excellent job at composing at not only every film with Nolan, but at every film, Zimmer uses percussion & a recording of a ticking watch for his score, building up the already high amount of tension to a breaking point.

And the visual effects are stunning. Every sequence immerses you, & that's in no small part helped by the explosions of the bombs, torpedoes & missiles fired off.

This is by far the best film of the year so far. It's so tense, bombastic & chaotic, & it doesn't let you go from its tight grip through all 106 minutes of the film.

Dunkirk was seen by me at the AMC Forum 30 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, July 21, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere in digital projection, & it is showing in 70mm at the AMC Forum 30 in Sterling Heights, MI & the AMC Livonia 20 in Livonia, MI. Its runtime is 106 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for intense war experience & some language.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I'll admit, I didn't want to see any of the Planet of the Apes films at first. They never managed to interest me.

However, everyone started to praise War for the Planet of the Apes the moment the first preview screening ended. So I decided to look at the first 2 films: Rise of the Planet of the Apes, & Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Both films were absolutely amazing sci-fi epics.

At that point, I was sold on seeing this film. And it definitely did not disappoint one bit.

The film focuses once again on Caesar (played by Andy Serkis), who is leading a clan of intelligent apes in the woods in California. The clan is attacked by a military faction named Alpha-Omega, who has some apes in its service who were against Caesar & supported Koba (played by Toby Kebbell). Some Alpha-Omega members are captured by Caesar. Caesar releases them as a peace offering to the humans, & plans to relicate across the desert to stop the fighting. However, before that can be done, Colonel McCullough (played by Woody Harrelson), attacks the clan by himself. Enraged, Caesar, along with Maurice (played by Karin Konoval), Luca (played by Michael Adamthwaite), & Rocket (played by Terry Notary), leave to exact revenge on Colonel McCullough, who is at "the border."

Along the way, after killing a man who tried to shoot them, the apes encounter a young girl (played by Amiah Miller) who happens to be the man's daughter. The girl is mute, having suffered that fate due to the Simian Flu. Maurice names her Nova. Towards the border, they meet Bad Ape (played by Steve Zahn), a former ape at the Sierra Zoo who has obvious psychological damage due to bad treatment from humans. He has knowledge of "the border", stating that it was a "human zoo", which means a quarantine facility. The facility was originally a weapons depot, & is now a base for Alpha-Omega.

The Colonel reveals his bloodthirsty ways of dealing with people who carry the mutated Simian Flu, much to the horror of the apes, & will stop at nothing to kill the apes. Caesar has to set free the apes at any cost, & must rethink his morals & look at what he's become, fearing he's turned into Koba.

The cast is spectacular. Andy Serkis gives an Oscar-worthy performance, & if the Academy has a brain, they will nominate Serkis, which would be a surprise considering the Academy has gone against nominating actors in motion-capture roles. Woody Harrelson also gives a spectacular performance, making you despise him every moment he's on the screen.

Matt Reeves's direction is excellent. Having previously directed the excellent found-footage sci-fi film Cloverfield, the amazing horror remake Let Me In, along with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Reeves has directed his best film yet, & his excellent direction is especially shown off in the amazing action sequences that are the best of the year.

The screenplay by Matt Reeves & Mark Bomback is amazing. Creating an atmosphere of dread, sacrifice, & survival, Reeves & Bomback make the story extremely engaging, & make you support the apes & go against humans who are so cruel. They also make the characters so interesting & 3-dimensional, & they also put some amazing political, theological, & social allegories in the story as well.

The cinematography by Michael Seresin is excellent, putting you right into the action at every moment.

The editing by William Hoy & Stan Salfas is excellent. It doesn't use a lot of the frenetic cuts seen a lot in action films these days. Hoy & Salfas don't let any scenes go too quickly without us taking the scene in, & there are barely any continuity errors.

The sound editing & sound mixing are both amazing. Like the cinematography, they both make you feel like you're right in the middle of the action.

The visual effects are an absolute treasure. The motion capture used by the actors make the apes look so lifelike it's so startling.

And Michael Giacchino's score is absolutely beautiful. This score is definitely the best of his career, with the quiet sounds of the piano & other instruments really tugging at the heartstrings.

This is one of the 5 best films of the year so far. It's an absolutely emotional conclusion to an amazing trilogy, & deserves to be hailed as one of the best conclusions to a trilogy of all time.

War for the Planet of the Apes was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 140 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence & action, thematic elements & some disturbing images.

The House

★★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Will Ferrell is a comedic legend. Amy Poehler is nearing that status. And Jason Mantzoukas could be one. Put them together & you have the basis for a comedic riot.

And that's certainly what The House is: a comedic riot that is the funniest film of the year so far.

The film focuses on Scott (played by Will Ferrell) & Kate (played by Amy Poehler) Johansen, a couple in the idyllic small town of Fox Meadow. Their daughter, Alex (played by Ryan Simpkins), is on her way to college at Bucknell University as the recipient of the annual town scholarship. However, city councilman Bob Schaeffer (played by Nick Kroll) announces that he must revoke the scholarship in order to pay for a new, town superpool. Scott & Kate are absolutely devastated. Not only is their daughter's scholarship revoked, but they don't have any money whatsoever put towards college.

Enter Frank Theodorakis (played by Jason Mantzoukas), a friend of Scott & Kate, whose wife, Raina (played by Michaela Watkins) is about to divorce him due to his gambling problem. Scott, Kate, & Frank decide to go to Las Vegas to win money for Alex to go to college, but they lose their money, & accept that the house will always win.

Frank then has an amazing idea: to start their own underground casino at his house. At first, Scott & Kate are reluctant, but they warm up to it after Frank tells them that Alex will end up being a prostitute if she doesn't go to college. And so they start the casino. They get their friends in on it & it's a big success. But things start to go awry, & all hell breaks loose.

The cast is hilarious. Ferrell gives his best comedic performance since The Other Guys. Poehler gives her best comedic performance yet. And Mantzoukas gives an excellent breakout performance.

Andrew Jay Cohen's direction is solid. There are some faults that are common with a directorial debut, especially a comedy, but it still works out good.

The screenplay by Andrew Jay Cohen & Brendan O'Brien is brilliant. Having previously co-wrote the excellent comedy Neighbors, Cohen & O'Brien build off of an interesting premise into a non-stop laugh riot, filled with some amazing mean-spirited humor.

And this has the best use of the song Woke Up This Morning by Alabama 3 since The Sopranos.

Is it a masterpiece? No. There are definitely a couple rough spots. But did it make me laugh a lot? It certainly did.

The House was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Sunday, July 16, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 88 minutes, & it is rated R for language throughout, sexual references, drug use, some violence & brief nudity.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Big Sick

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I think we can all agree that a vast majority of romance films, especially romantic comedies, in recent memory have been bad. They're all so predictable, using the same plotline over & over again. Those cliches has been overused so much.

However, every once in a while, we get a romance film that defies these cliches, & becomes a truly great romance film, like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before MidnightAll the Real Girls, & (500) Days of Summer.

Thankfully, The Big Sick falls in the latter category. Loosely based on the true story of the film's writers, Kumail Nanjiani & Emily V. Gordon, the film focuses mainly on Kumail (played by Kumail Nanjiani), a struggling Pakistani-American standup comedian in Chicago also working as a part-time Uber driver. His Muslim family, namely his mother, Sharmeen (played by Zenobia Shroff) & his father, Azmat (played by Anupam Kher) have been trying to set Kumail up in an arranged marriage, much to Kumail's chagrin.

At one of his shows, Kumail is "heckled" by Emily (played by Zoe Kazan). After at first agreeing not to date again after having a one-night stand, they end up beginning to date. Kumail fears having to tell his family he is dating a Caucasian woman, knowing they would very much likely disown him. But after Emily finds a cigar box of pictures of women Kumail's parents tried to set him up with, Kumail tells Emily that he doesn't think they'll end up together in the end. Heartbroken by this, Emily breaks up with Kumail.

A few weeks later, Kumail gets a call from a friend of Emily's. Emily was sent to the hospital, & Kumail must go there. When he arrives, Kumail is told that Emily must be placed in a medically induced coma, as she has an extremely serious lung infection. After signing off on it, Kumail contacts Emily's parents, Beth (played by Holly Hunter) & Terry (played by Ray Romano). While Beth is cold towards Kumail, Terry tries to be civil towards him. Eventually, the three begin to bond, as Emily's situation gets worse, & as Kumail reconsiders his outlook on life, love, & religion.

The cast is excellent. Kumail Nanjiani gives an excellent performance. Zoe Kazan lights up the screen every time we see her. Holly Hunter gives her best performance in years, & Ray Romano gives his best performance yet.

Michael Showalter's direction is superb. I'm honestly surprised at his directing abilities, mainly because the only other thing I know Showalter from is from the hilarious comedy Wet Hot American Summer, which is completely different from this on a comedic level. His direction is very subdued, & this film shows his ability of being a great actor's director.

The film's brightest spot is the screenplay. Written by Kumail Nanjiani & Emily V. Gordon, & loosely based on the aformentioned true story of their relationship, the screenplay deals with love in a realistic way unlike many films in recent memory. It also deals with many other complex issues, like illness, religion, & culture. And it hits that perfect balance between comedy & drama.

This is definitely one of the best films of the year so far. It has an absolutely astonishing true story behind it that sucks you in & doesn't let you go.

The Big Sick was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Wednesday, July 12, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 120 minutes, & it is rated R for language including some sexual references.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Spider-Man has always been my favorite superhero since childhood, & even through the years where I wasn't big on superheroes. His powers & his identity are what drew me to him.

The Spider-Man film series with Tobey Maguire was excellent, & I loved all 3 films, even Spider-Man 3, which a lot of people haven't liked for its different tone than its predecessors.

The Spider-Man film series with Andrew Garfield was good, but both films could've been better. Both films were too long & their scripts had too many ideas to fit the already long runtime.

And now we have Spider-Man: Homecoming, an excellent beginning of a new Spider-Man film series, now with Tom Holland as Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man. As Holland's Spider-Man was introduced in Captain America: Civil War, the film focuses on Peter after becoming Spider-Man, & thus after being drafted into the Avengers by Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man (played by Robert Downey Jr.). Although he is not ready yet to become an official Avenger, Stark assures Peter that they will contact him when they need him, & Stark has his former bodyguard, Harold "Happy" Hogan (played by Jon Favreau) keep an eye on Peter.

Peter has struggled to keep his private life & his superhero life separate, & he is struggling even more as he tries to keep it secret from everyone, especially his friends, Ned (played by Jacob Batalon) & Michelle (played by Zendaya), & his Aunt May (played by Marisa Tomei). All of these struggles lead to him to drop out of his extracurricular activities to focus on being Spider-Man.

Meanwhile, Adrian Toomes (played by Michael Keaton), a disgruntled salvager who was fired from cleaning up after the Battle of New York (as depicted in The Avengers), has become an arms trafficker known as Vulture, & he has been in possession of a huge amount of extremely powerful weapons. As Peter has been trying to test his limits of being Spider-Man, Vulture commits more crimes, & Peter must stop him, but must also learn the old adage that with great power comes great responsibility.

The cast is excellent. Tom Holland brings a fresh, new, youthful look to Peter Parker/Spider-Man, who has been de-aged to 15 in this film. Michael Keaton, whose career has had a renaissance as of late, is absolutely intimidating as the villain.

Jon Watts, who is most known for directing the 2015 indie drama Cop Car, directs this film with great precision, especially in the action sequences.

The screenplay by Jon Watts, Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers is excellent. The script has a light tone, a stark contrast from recent films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, & a lot of dry wit, which works a lot in the film.

Michael Giacchino's score is a vast improvement over his last score for The Book of Henry. Giacchino shows that it was only a small demerit on his record with his excellent score here.

The sound editing & sound mixing are excellent, as the sounds make you feel like you're right in the midst of the action.

And the visual effects are excellent. The effects of the explosions & the superhero outfits worn are absolute spectacles.

This is arguably the best film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It takes a different approach from previous Spider-Man films, & has a different tone than other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but those aspects make this film work.

Spider-Man: Homecoming was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Monday, July 10, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 133 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, some language & brief suggestive comments.

Despicable Me 3

★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Illumination Entertainment's output of animated films have been mostly good, with some being great (Despicable Me & Despicable Me 2), & some being bad (The Secret Life of Pets). Despicable Me 3, while not being the best of Illumination Entertainment's film library, or even the Despicable Me trilogy, but it holds up enough on its own.

The film focuses on our famous villain-turned good guy, Gru (voiced by Steve Carell), who is now an agent of the Anti-Villain League alongside his wife, Lucy (voiced by Kristen Wiig). After failing to apprehend notorious former 1980's child star-turned villain, Balthazar Bratt (voiced by Trey Parker), Gru & Lucy are fired by new Anti-Villain League director Valerie Da Vinci (voiced by Jenny Slate).

After telling their daughters, Margo (voiced by Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (voiced by Dana Gaier), & Agnes (voiced by Nev Scharrel), about their terminations, the household begins to fall in despair: Gru's assistant, Dr. Nefario, has frozen himself; all but a few of the Minions (voiced by Chris Renaud & Pierre Coffin) leave to find better, more villainous jobs; & Agnes begins to sell some of her possessions to help.

But Gru's life is about to change when he is told that his twin brother, Dru (also voiced by Steve Carell), wants him & his family to come visit him in the very distant, extremely developing country of Freedonia. Gru, stunned by this revelation, asks his mother, Marlena (voiced by Julie Andrews) if it is true, to which she confirms. She & Gru & Dru's father divorced after their births, with Marlena taking Gru, & Gru's father taking Dru (to which she shows disgust about taking Gru).

When they arrive in Freedonia, they are stunned at the sight: Dru's house is extravagantly large, with an exorbitant amount of cars, helicopters, & boats, to which Dru attributes to the pig farming business. Dru tells Gru of their father's success as a villain, & tries to get Gru to be a villain again. Reluctant at first, Gru then sees this as an opportunity to get back the diamond that Balthazar Bratt stole, while deceiving Dru in the process.

The voice cast is pretty good, but the standout is Trey Parker. Having done voice work on the hilarious South Park for 20 years, this marks Parker's first foray into children's animation & voice work. With his over-the-top villainous performance, he makes what could've been a caricature into the best villain of the franchise.

The direction by Pierre Coffin & Kyle Balda is overall fair, but somewhat poor. Without Chris Renaud co-directing the film, it seems to falter as a result, as Coffin & Renaud had co-directed the first 2 Despicable Me films to great success. Balda is a lesser director in comparison, as the other 2 films he co-directed (The Lorax & Minions) have been mediocre (The Lorax) or generally good (Minions).

The screenplay by Cinco Paul & Ken Daurio is good, but could've used some tinkering. Although some jokes fall flat, most manage to hit.

While Despicable Me 3 isn't the best of the trilogy, Trey Parker's villainous performance is more than enough to save the film from mediocrity.

Despicable Me 3 was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Monday, July 3, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 90 minutes, & it is rated PG for action & rude humor.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Beguiled

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Betrayal is one of the most savage things in the world. And it hasn't been portrayed as beautifully as it has in The Beguiled, Sofia Coppola's masterpiece based on the 1966 novel The Beguiled (originally published as A Painted Devil) by Thomas P. Cullinan & the 1971 film The Beguiled.

Set in 1864, the film focuses on the people who live at the Miss Martha Farnsworth School in Virginia. The Civil War has been raging on for 3 years now, & the Confederate Army is less than a year from surrender. Everyone knows the war is ending soon, especially Miss Martha Farnsworth (played by Nicole Kidman), the headmistress of the school. Only the French teacher, Miss Edwina Morrow (played by Kirsten Dunst), & 5 students: the teenaged Alicia (played by Elle Fanning); & the preteenagers Amy (played by Oona Laurence); Jane (played by Angourie Rice); Emily (played by Emma Howard); & Marie (played by Addison Riecke), remain at the school, as the other teachers, students, & slaves have left.

One day, while searching for mushrooms, Amy finds a wounded Union soldier on the property. The soldier is Cpl. John McBurney (played by Colin Farrell), an Irish immigrant who had deserted the battlefield after his leg was wounded. Miss Farnsworth wonders whether or not to nurse him back to health, for he is a Union soldier in a Confederate state, but eventually decides to nurse him back to health, believing it is the Christian thing to do.

After McBurney is nursed back to health, the teachers & students debate whether or not to deliver him as a prisoner of war to the Confederate Army, but decide against it. McBurney develops a good companionship with the teachers & students, & all seems to be well.

But all is not well, as sexual tension has ravaged the school, especially Miss Morrow & Alicia, while the other students become attracted to him. And as things get intense, something occurs that can never be reversed.

The entire cast is superb, especially Nicole Kidman & Colin Farrell, who both deserve Oscar nominations for their performances.

Sofia Coppola's direction is absolutely spectacular, & it's no surprise that she won the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Director for this film, becoming only the second woman to win the award. She takes a different approach from the book & the original 1971 film by showing the film from the female perspective. Also, she sets an extremely tense mood that doesn't let up, except for the excellent moments of dark humor littered throughout the film, which only lightens the tense mood briefly & slightly.

Her screenplay is also excellent. Not only does she humanize all the characters, she also makes us love to hate them all, as they all have some dark ulterior motives directed towards everyone.

The production design is one of the shining elements of the film. Beautifully designed by Anne Ross in a Louisiana mansion famously used as the mansion in Beyoncé's visual album Lemonade, the decor of the era is made to perfection here.

The editing by Sarah Flack is excellent. She doesn't let anything linger on for too long or make a moment too short for us to fully experience it.

The cinematography is another shining element. Astoundingly shot by Philippe Le Sourd on 35mm film & in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio, the camera makes every shot look absolutely beautiful, while the claustrophobic aspect ratio heightens the already tense mood.

The costume design by Stacey Battat is also another shining element. Looking at the style of dresses worn at the time & the uniforms of the Union Army, Battat has made them to perfection.

And the film score by French alternative rock band Phoenix is quiet & meditative, beautifully underscoring every moment of the film.

This is one of the best films of the year, & may just be Sofia Coppola's best film yet. This deserves every amount of praise it's receiving & even more. I hope to see this film mentioned frequently as we get closer to Oscar season, though I'm afraid it was released too early. We'll just have to wait & see.

The Beguiled was screened by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Thursday, June 29, 2017. It is currently in 10 theaters in the Detroit area, including the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI, The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Hills, MI, the AMC Birchwood 10 in Fort Gratiot, MI & the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, MI. Its runtime is 94 minutes, & the film is rated R for some sexuality.

Baby Driver

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Baby Driver is everything Edgar Wright's career has been building up to & even more. It perfectly mixes action, comedy, drama, & romance into something that you don't see that much in cinema anymore: pure originality.

The film focuses on Baby (played by Ansel Elgort), a getaway driver for notorious criminal Doc (played by Kevin Spacey). When Baby was a kid, his parents (played by Sky Ferriera & Lance Palmer) died in a car crash that also gave Baby tinnitus, ringing in the ears. During the drives, he uses music to drown out the ringing. And he uses an absolutely vast variety of music: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion; The Damned; Martha & the Vandellas; Golden Earring; etc. He lives with his deaf caretaker, Joseph (played by C.J. Jones). After pulling off a heist with husband-&-wife team Buddy (played by Jon Hamm) & Darling (played by Eiza González), along with Griff (played by Jon Bernthal), he only has one last heist to perform before he has paid his debts to Doc.

After meeting with Doc, he goes to a diner, where he meets an absolutely beautiful waitress named Debora (played by Lily James), whom he meets when he hears her singing B-A-B-Y by Carla Thomas. As they talk over songs involving her name, including Debra by Beck & Debora by T. Rex, a mutual attraction forms between them.

He finishes his last heist with Eddie No-Nose (played by Flea), J.D. (played by Lanny Joon), & Bats (played by Jamie Foxx), but not before Bats, an absolute madman, starts some trouble. Baby, now free from his debt to Doc, gets a job as a pizza delivery man & is now free to start a relationship with Debora. But Doc comes calling again, reuniting Baby with Buddy, Darling & Bats on a heist that could potentially get everyone in trouble.

The performances are absolutely incredible. Ansel Elgort, Lily James, & Eiza González give excellent breakout performances, while Kevin Spacey gives another amazing & commanding performance, & Jon Hamm & Jamie Foxx absolutely kill it here. I wouldn't be surprised at all to hear any of their names mentioned as Oscar contenders.

Edgar Wright's direction is arguably his best. After directing masterpiece after masterpiece (2004's Shaun of the Dead, 2007's Hot Fuzz, 2010's Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, & 2013's The World's End), his directorial vision has risen to new heights. He directs the many car chases in the film unlike many other directors have, & he does it amazingly. Also, he directed the beats of the music to the actions of the characters, & that is something that has to be seen to be believed because he also does that so excellently.

His screenplay is also brilliant. He has a knack for writing excellent characters, & that happens here, as he makes characters that could've easily been caricatures into full-blooded, 3-dimensional people.

Bill Pope's cinematography is a huge bright spot in the film, from the multiple long takes to the frequent elevator shots that perfectly frame everyone in it.

The editing from Paul Machliss & Jonathan Amos really shines. Many films lately have received some bad marks for their frenetic editing, but Machliss & Amos make it work here. The breakneck style of editing reminds many of the styles of editing perfected in films by Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, & Paul Thomas Anderson, among others.

But the film's biggest & greatest aspect is the sound design. The sound is perfectly edited & mixed, from the soundtrack, to the sounds of the car chases. The sound editors & sound mixers all deserve Oscars for their pitch-perfect work here.

And the soundtrack is also excellent, & deserves every single amount of praise it has received. Featuring music from a wide range of genres & years, it perfectly underscores the scenes.

I honestly smiled throughout the entire film because I loved it so much. I was hyped for this film from the moment I saw the trailer, & the film surpassed my extremely high expectations. This is definitely the best film of the year so far, & is one of the best of the decade so far. It's one of those films that both critics (96% on Rotten Tomatoes, 86% on Metacritic) & audiences ($76 million so far, 8.3 on IMDb) both love. And if you haven't seen this masterpiece yet, see it (& see it on the biggest screen possible) & you won't be disappointed. It's everything you could possibly ever want in a film.

Baby Driver was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Tuesday, June 27, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 113 minutes, & it is rated R for violence & language throughout.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Cars 3

★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Cars was excellent. It's one of the most underrated Pixar films, along with A Bug's Life.

Cars 2 was bad. It's the only Pixar film I haven't liked. It focused too much on an absurd spy plot & not enough on what I loved about Cars: racing.

And now we reach Cars 3, which is not as great as Cars, but a great deal better than Cars 2.

Like Cars & unlike Cars 2, Cars 3 focuses on Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson), the famous race car. Now the winner of seven Piston Cup, he has become a legend in the sport. But his age has began to show as many of his veteran racing friends are replaced by younger, high-tech racers, especially Jackson Storm (voiced by Armie Hammer), the arrogant face of the young generation of racers, with speeds over 200 mph. As Storm wins more & more races, Lightning tries his hardest to show he still has some life left in him, but an absolutely awful crash, maybe even the most destructive in the Cars franchise, leaves him absolutely incapacitated.

Four months pass. As Lightning recovers back in Radiator Springs, he tells his best friend, Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) & his girlfriend, Sally (voiced by Bonnie Hunt) that he doesn't want to end up like his mentor, Doc Hudson (posthumously voiced by Paul Newman, using archived recordings), who was forced to retire after his horrific crash in 1954. He wants to go out on his own terms.

He tries to get back to training, but the owners of Lightning's racing team have sold the team to Sterling (voiced by Nathan Fillion), an avid fan of Lightning. After many failed attemps to train using new state-of-the-art technology, Sterling takes Lightning off of the team, & is asked to sell his brand through product endorsements. Lightning adamantly refuses, & makes a deal stating that if Lightning doesn't win the first race of the year, he'll retire, to which Sterling agrees.

Lightning is then sent to train with Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo), a trainer who aspires to be a racer, but felt insecure. Although they don't get along at first, they develop a good companionship. Even more help is given by Smokey (voiced by Chris Cooper), Doc's former mechanic & crew chief. Together, everyone tries to help Lightning make his way back onto the track & onto the road to victory.

The voice acting, as always in a Pixar film, is top-notch, especially from Chris Cooper, whose voice gives off such a powerful & commanding vibe.

The direction from Brian Fee, however, is underwhelming, & the fact that this is his first time directing a film definitely shows in some of the flaws here.

The screenplay by Kiel Murray, Bob Peterson, Mike Rich, Brian Fee, Ben Queen, Eyal Podell & Jonathan E. Stewart is good; although the plot & narrative aren't the best, considering Lightning becomes somewhat arrogant again, the script is pretty good.

The animation, as it always is in a Pixar film, is excellent, & it is what saves the film.

Randy Newman's score is amazing as well, & although it isn't his best (that honor goes to his score for the 1998 classic Pleasantville, which is one of the best film scores of all time), it's definitely great.

Although Cars 3 could've been done better in the hands of a better Pixar director, it's definitely an improvement over its predecessor, & shows that it still has some gas left in the tank.

Cars 3 was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Monday, June 26, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 109 minutes, & it is rated G.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Beatriz at Dinner

★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Beatriz at Dinner is a film that is certain to have people who like it, people who hate it, & most importantly, a film that is certain to make people think long & hard about it.

The film focuses on Beatriz (played by Salma Hayek), a holistic practitioner in Los Angeles. Beatriz emigrated from Mexico a long time back. She has recently lost her pet goat, as her goat was murdered by a neighbor. She breaks down about this while giving a client, Kathy (played by Connie Britton), a massage before Kathy's dinner party involving a business venture. As Beatriz leaves, her car breaks down, so she must spend the night. Kathy's husband, Grant (played by David Warshofsky), initially objects, but reluctantly agrees.

The first group of guests arrive: Shannon (played by Chlöe Sevigny) & Alex (played by Jay Duplass).  Soon after, Doug Strutt (played by John Lithgow) & Jeana (played by Amy Landecker) arrive. It is revealed how Beatriz met Kathy & Grant: Beatriz helped Kathy & Grant's daughter, Tara, recover her strength after treatment for cancer.

Beatriz says that she knows Doug from somewhere, but she doesn't know where. The dinner is moderately peaceful, aside from a moment where Beatriz became agitated over his assumed involvement in a hotel construction in Mexico that ruined Beatriz's hometown.

But after dinner is where everything begins to unravel. As Doug mentions hunting in Africa, Beatriz becomes very angry. It is clear that their worlds will collide in a very huge way.

Salma Hayek & John Lithgow's powerful performances lead the way. They are the bedrock of this film, & ultimately, its saving grace.

Miguel Arteta's direction is solid, but underdeveloped. At some points, his intention feels unfocused.

Mike White's screenplay is solid as well. The script is great, but the narrative is a little short, & the pacing isn't good, as the film manages to make its 82-minute runtime feel almost 2 hours long.

This is certainly a film I've thought about a lot since I've seen it. It has a lot of great social commentary about casual racism, & even though the film falls short of its ultimate goal, it still provides enough ideas to make into an overall good satire.

Beatriz at Dinner was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, June 23, 2017. It is currently showing at 4 theaters in the Detroit area, including The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township, MI & the United Artists Commerce Township Stadium 14 in Commerce Township, MI. Its runtime is 82 minutes, & it is rated R for language & a scene of violence.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Book of Henry

½★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I must ask people who are currently reading this review: Have any of you ever seen a film at one time or another that had, for any amount of time, made you lose your faith in cinema? A film that made you feel that no matter how good a film could be, your faith in cinema could never be regained?

This is the film that made me lose my faith in cinema.

The Book of Henry doesn't look like a film that could do that. I will admit, the trailer did look promising. It had an excellent cast, & a good director behind the camera. But when I actually went & saw the film (& read some reviews), I saw what could honestly be described as a cinematic trainwreck.

The film focuses on 11-year-old Henry Carpenter (played by Jaeden Lieberher), a child genius in the Hudson Valley area of New York. He is, only because he's a child genius, the main financial caretaker of his family, having kept track of the taxes & bills, & having invested successfully in the stock market. He lives with his younger brother, Peter (played by Jacob Tremblay), & his mother, Susan (played by Naomi Watts), who besides being a waitress at a diner, aggressively plays the video game Gears of War while Henry takes care of the taxes & bills.

Henry becomes smitten with Christina Sickleman (played by Maddie Ziegler), his classmate & neighbor, stepdaughter of Glenn Sickleman (played by Dean Norris), the town's police commissioner. After careful consideration, Henry has come to the realization that Christina is being molested by Glenn. (Also, look deeply into Glenn's last name, Sickleman. Sick-le-man. That sounds like sick little (lil) man, doesn't it? This was confirmed by the film's director, Colin Trevorrow. It's literally the stupidest thing I've heard in a film this year).

Using his superior intellect, Henry devises a plan for Susan to kill Glenn with a sniper rifle so she can adopt Christina, thereby ending the series of molestations by her father. (Questions: doesn't she have any immediate family members? And why would they immediately decide to look into her next-door neighbor for her to adopt Christina?) But before this disaster-in-waiting can begin to be thought out, something that I can only describe as the WORST PLOT TWIST IN FILM HISTORY occurs, sending this film into a deep, deep hole it can't even try to dig itself out of.

The performances are awful, but that can't be blamed on the actors. Instead, it must be blamed on the historically awful script by generally unknown crime novelist Gregg Hurwitz, who has wrote a script filled with such melodramatic clichés, & so many tonal shifts that the film itself does not know whether it wants to be an indie comedy, a heartfelt drama, or a gritty thriller. 

And this isn't helped at all by director Colin Trevorrow, who after having directed 2012's Safety Not Guaranteed & 2015's Jurassic World, has fallen back to Earth in a dramatic fashion, & his awful direction here makes me worried for 2019's Star Wars: Episode IX, which he will be directing.

And Kevin Stitt's editing doesn't help either, as the film is poorly edited, with a series of bad cuts throughout the film, & I wondered how the film ended up in certain places, which is never a good sign.

I never thought that I would see a worse film this year than Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul or The Circle. Turns out I was wrong. Deeply wrong.

The Book of Henry was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Friday, June 16, 2017. It is currently in 6 theaters in the Detroit area, including the AMC Forum 30 in Sterling Heights, MI, the AMC Star Great Lakes 25 in Auburn Hills, MI & the AMC Classic Fairlane 21 in Dearborn, MI. Its runtime is 105 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for thematic elements & brief strong language.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

½★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I don't understand how films like this can be made anymore. Films like this have terrible plots, narratives, & screenplays, awful direction, bad acting, & no technical ambiance whatsoever. 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul certainly has all of the aforementioned qualities. Based on the ninth book of Jeff Kinney's long-running book series that has long overstayed its welcome, & is the fourth film of the series that has now rebooted with an all-new cast, this film once again focuses on Greg Heffley (now played by Jason Drucker), who is trying to have the perfect summer: hanging out indoors playing video games, mainly with his friend Rowley Jefferson (now played by Owen Asztalos). However, at a Chuck E. Cheese-esque place, Greg is reminded by his parents, Susan (now played by Alicia Silverstone) & Frank (now played by Tom Everett Scott) of a family road trip to his Meemaw's house for her 90th birthday, which is absolutely met with a negative response (just like this film!) by Greg & his older brother, Rodrick (now played by Charlie Wright). But before then, Greg becomes a meme named Diaper Hands after trying to get his younger brother, Manny (now played by Wyatt & Dylan Walters) out of a playscape & ending up in a ball pit with a diaper on his hands, with a number of people taking videos & pictures of him.

Honestly, this is when I realized the film would be absolutely awful. Not only would it resort to such juvenile humor like this, but also, it doesn't get how a meme is created. This would be too awful to be a popular meme.

On the way to Meemaw's house, Susan takes away everybody's phones & tablets, stating that she wants an electronic-free road trip, a wish that is repeated at least 20 times during the film's 90-minute runtime, 5 of which are devoted to the beginning & end credits (so 85 minutes for the actual film), for an unbearable average of one instance every 4 minutes & 15 seconds. Along the way, Greg becomes happy that he's going on the trip, mainly because his idol, Mac Digby (played by Joshua Hoover), a PewDiePie-esque person, whom Susan thinks is a bad influence, will be at a gaming expo in Indianapolis, not far from Meemaw's house. Greg decides to go there & get in a video with Mac Digby so he can be rid of Diaper Hands.

Along the way, the Heffleys become involved in absolutely stupid encounters, including a family that is absolutely gross & creepy, a pig won by Manny at a fair in a town that is filled with people that would have easily fit in the 1972 film Deliverance, & an absolutely predictable incident involving seagulls, an open sunroof, & a snack food.

This film is just absolutely awful. The film was criticized before the film came out for its casting of Charlie Wright as Rodrick Heffley, as he didn't look like he could be biologically related to the Heffleys at all. It even spawned the social media hashtag, #NotMyRodrick (which he isn't). And that's not the only thing he should be criticized for. His performance manages to be the worst performance in a film literally showered with awful performances throughout.

David Bowers, who directed the second & third films in the Wimpy Kid film series, shows that he has no business being behind the camera, as he basically has no cinematic vision beyond juvenile humor & absurd situations.

Bowers also has no business writing a script as well, as he co-wrote the script with Jeff Kinney, the aforementioned author of the Wimpy Kid novels. The script does not want to make us root for the protagonist & his family, & the script does not develop them into realistic, 3-dimensional characters. They are basically shells of a character who go through no arc whatsoever.

This isn't the worst film of all time, or even the worst film of the year, but it's definitely close to it. If you have to choose between this & another film, always choose the other film. Most likely, if you're a parent, even your kids will end up hating this film as much as you will end up hating it. Avoid this at all costs.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul was seen by me at the MJR Universal Grand Cinema 16 in Warren, MI on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. It is no longer in theaters in the Detroit area. Its runtime is 90 minutes, & it is rated PG for some rude humor.