Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Ingrid Goes West

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I hate the world I'm growing up in.

Not just because I'm growing up in a world with a horrible political climate, but because I'm growing up in a world where so many people I know live for one thing: social media. They show us what they're doing, what they're eating, what clothes they're buying, & so many other things. They live for the likes & comments & shares & retweets & screenshots. It's so ludicrous.

Ingrid Goes West gives us an amazing satirical look at the age of social media & how it has made us more disconnected from life. The film follows Ingrid Thorburn (played by Aubrey Plaza), an extremely mentally unstable woman from Pennsylvania. Ingrid has been reeling after her mother's death. After macing an ex-friend at her wedding for not inviting her, she is institutionalized. Ingrid is absolutely attached to one thing: Instagram.

Ingrid learns of Instagram icon Taylor Sloane (played by Elizabeth Olsen) while reading a magazine. She then follows her on Instagram, becoming jealous of her seemingly perfect life. She comments on one of her post & receives a reply from Taylor that most would deem inconsequential. Ingrid, however, becomes ecstatic at Taylor's reply. With the $60,000 from her mother's insurance policy, Ingrid decides to move to Los Angeles to become Taylor's friend. She rents a house in the neighborhood of Venice from Dan Pinto (played by O'Shea Jackson Jr.), an aspiring screenwriter & avid fan of Batman. Ingrid gets a makeover & decides to emulate Taylor's lifestyle.

Ingrid follows Taylor to her house & kidnaps her dog when she's not home, & returns her saying she found him during the night & kept him overnight. Taylor & her pop artist husband, Ezra (played by Wyatt Russell), invite Ingrid inside their house for dinner.

And at that moment, Ingrid & Taylor become friends. At last, Ingrid seems happy. But as their friendship grows, Ingrid becomes more unhinged, & as Taylor's narcissistic recovering drug addict brother, Nicky (played by Billy Magnussen) arrives with his friend, fashion blogger Harley Chung (played by Pom Klementieff), Ingrid arrives at a breaking point, wanting Taylor as her friend forever, no matter what the cost.

The cast is spectacular. Aubrey Plaza's performance is a revelation, & she gives the best performance of the year so far. She is extremely crazy in the film, & we are absolutely shocked at the depths her character goes to. Elizabeth Olsen & O'Shea Jackson Jr. also give excellent performances, providing strong supporting roles to Plaza.

Matt Spicer's direction is excellent. In his directorial debut, Spicer has an excellent satirical edge in his work.

And the screenplay by Matt Spicer & David Branson Smith is brilliant. The dialogue is scathingly funny, & we can't help but laugh at the people in the film for being such stuck-up snobs.

This is one of the best films of the year so far. It shows us how we have become basically connected to social media & how we are so obsessed with how people react to our daily lives & activities, & that the people we see on social media whose lives look so well-planned & perfect are actually just as screwed up as we are.

Ingrid Goes West was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Friday, August 25, 2017. It is in 12 theaters in the Detroit area, including the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI, the AMC Forum 30 in Sterling Heights, MI, the AMC Star Great Lakes 25 in Auburn Hills, MI, & the Emagine Canton in Canton, MI. Its runtime is 97 minutes, & it is rated R for language throughout, drug use, some sexual content & disturbing behavior.

Good Time

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I never thought Robert Pattinson could act.

After watching 2 of the Twilight films a long time ago, I was convinced he didn't have a single ounce of acting ability in his body.

I was wrong. I mean, I was REALLY wrong.

Good Time, an excellent crime film, has shown me how great of an actor Robert Pattinson is. The film focuses on Connie Nikas (played by Robert Pattinson), a bank robber in New York. His brother, Nick Nikas (played by Benny Safdie), is extremely mentally handicapped. After robbing a bank for $65,000, Connie & Nick try to get away, but a pack of red dye goes off in the getaway car, forcing them to flee.

Two police officers spot them; Connie remains calm, but Nick freaks out & runs, forcing the cops to chase them. Connie succesfully evades the cops, but Nick is arrested & held at Rikers Island.

Connie tries to bail him out, but he is $10,000 short, & Connie's girlfriend, Corey (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh), is unsuccessful at using her credit cards to cover the $10,000. He later finds out Nick is in a hospital after being beaten unconscious in a fight. All of this leads to a wild & crazy night involving Ray (played by Buddy Duress), a recent parolee; Dash (played by Barkhad Abdi), an amusement park security guard); & Crystal (played by Taliah Webster), a 16-year-old girl.

The cast is excellent. As I mentioned before, Robert Pattinson is nothing short of spectacular in this film. He has proven me dead wrong with this performance. Also, Benny Safdie is excellent in giving a mentally handicapped portrayal without coming off as unintentionally hilarious or heavy-handed.

The direction by Benny & Josh Safdie is amazing. They have brought an extreme amount of wild thrills to this film unlike many other crime films in recent memory.

The screenplay by Josh Safdie & Ronald Bronstein is brilliant. The dialogue is excellent, & the story is excellently written.

The cinematography by Sean Price Williams is amazing. Every single shot has a lot of flair to it, especially one shot of a car speeding down a street, reminding us of a helicopter TV camera zooming out on a car chase.

The editing by Ben Safdie & Ronald Bronstein is excellent. The breakneck editing style reminds us of the style used in films by Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, & Edgar Wright.

And the score by Oneohtrix Point Never is absolutely astounding. The synthesizer-led score drives the entire film, & it is what helps keep the film so thrilling.

This is one of the best films of the year so far, & is one of the best crime films in recent memory. It's a brilliant ode to the classic crime films of the 1970's.

Good Time was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Thursday, August 24, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 100 minutes, & it is rated R for language throughout, violence, drug use & sexual content.

Wind River

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Taylor Sheridan has written some of the best films of the decade so far.

In 2015, he wrote the script for Denis Villeneuve's Sicario, one of the best crime films of the decade.

In 2016, he wrote the script for David Mackenzie's Hell or High Water, THE best crime film of the decade.

And now, in 2017, Taylor Sheridan has ended his Frontier Trilogy by not only being the screenwriter, but also making his directorial debut in Wind River, an absolute masterpiece.

The film focuses on Cory Lambert (played by Jeremy Renner), an agent of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in Wyoming. He is separated from his Native American wife, Wilma (played by Julia Jones), with whom he has a son, Casey (played by Teo Briones).

One day, while hunting, Lambert discovers a body on the Wind River Indian Reservation. He discovers it is the body of 18-year old Natalie Hanson (played by Kelsey Asbille), the daughter of Martin Hanson (played by Gil Birmingham), a family friend. Her corpse is frozen, barefoot, without proper winter clothing, & has a blood stain on her groin.

After Tribal Officer Ben (played by Graham Greene) starts to investigate, FBI Agent Jane Banner (played by Elizabeth Olsen) comes in from Las Vegas to take over the investigation. She is the dictionary definition of a fish-out-of-water here, as she comes in wearing an FBI windbreaker, a pantsuit, & heels, eventually borrowing some winter clothing from a local resident.

The autopsy confirms Lambert's belief that Natalie died from a pulmonary hemorrhage after receiving blunt trauma & being raped; however, nothing confirms that she was murdered. Still steadfastly believing Natalie was murdered, Banner decides to stay & keep investigating, eventually asking Lambert to help find who murdered Natalie. But on one of the biggest Native American reservations in the country, nothing is easy to solve.

The cast is excellent. Jeremy Renner & Elizabeth Olsen give their best performances yet, & both deserve Oscar nominations. Gil Birmingham also further cements his status as one of the best (& most underrated) character actors in film.

Taylor Sheridan's direction is spectacular. After writing Sicario & Hell or High Water, Sheridan has gone behind the camera for this film. And what a directorial debut this is. This is the type of film you'd expect from a seasoned veteran director, not a first-timer. I expect Sheridan to keep making excellent films.

His screenplay is also spectacular. Like his screenplays for Sicario & Hell or High Water, it's filled with so many twists & turns that you don't see coming. He is slowly reinventing the thriller genre.

The cinematography by Ben Richardson is absolutely astounding. There are an abundance of breathtakingly beautiful shots of the desolate, mountainous, snowy landscape of the reservation & the areas surrounding it, & they are so perfectly put onto film by Richardson.

The editing by Gary D. Roach is amazing. The film doesn't feel rushed or drags on for too long. It's perfectly paced.

The sound design is incredible. From the sounds of the wilderness to the gunshots in the film, the sounds are absolutely perfect.

And the score by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis is amazing. It's absolutely haunting, & with this score, Cave & Ellis are making a name for themselves as some of the best film composers today.

This is, without a doubt, the best film of the year so far. It shines a light on the sad life of Native Americans on reservations, how many unsolved murders there are on reservations, & how we need to raise awareness of their plight.

Wind River was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Tuesday, August 22, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 107 minutes, & it is rated R for strong violence, a rape, disturbing images, & language.

Monday, August 28, 2017

The Glass Castle

★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I haven't read Jeannette Walls's 2005 autobiography The Glass Castle. I was meaning to read it before seeing The Glass Castle, but I ended up not reading it. However, I did read a very detailed synopsis of the book before seeing the film, so I did go into the film with a lot of knowledge surrounding it, hoping it would stay truthful to the book.

Unfortunately, this was not the case. There were a few major things that were left out of the film, & unlike the book, the film tried to do some things the book didn't do.

The Glass Castle focuses on Jeannette Walls (played as a child by Chandler Head, as a preteen by Ella Anderson, & as an adult by Brie Larson), the second-oldest child in the Wells family from Welch, West Virginia. Her older sister is Lori (played as a child by Olivia Kate Rice, as a preteen by Sadie Sink, & as an adult by Sarah Snook), her younger brother is Brian (played as a child by Iain Armitage, as a preteen by Charlie Stowell, & as an adult by Josh Caras), & her younger sister is Maureen (played as a baby by Charlie & Noemie Guyon, as a child by Eden Grace Redfield, as a preteen by Shree Crooks, & as an adult by Brigette Lundy-Paine). Their parents are Rex (played by Woody Harrelson) & Rose Mary (played by Naomi Watts). Rex is an alcoholic, while Rose Mary is an artist.

The family moves around every so often, from Phoenix to San Francisco to Battle Mountain, Nevada to Welch, West Virginia, where they settle in a three-room house without plumbing or heat. The children try to grow up in a home where alcohol-fueled abuse is common. Rex, when sober, tries to plan to build a glass castle for them to live, but never gets to it.

Years later, the four children live in New York. Jeannette is engaged to David (played by Max Greenfield), a yuppie, the complete opposite of who Jeannette once was. Some time later, Rex & Rose Mary move to New York & squat in an abandoned building on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The children aren't that happy to see them there, namely Jeannette, who still shows anger towards Rex & Rose Mary for raising them the way they did. But they must all come together in the end.

The cast is overall great. Larson, Harrelson, Watts & all of the child actors give excellent performances, with the 3 main actors giving some of their best performances yet. However, Greenfield is extremely miscast here. Greenfield, most known for his role as Schmidt on the sitcom New Girl, does not have the ability to pull off a dramatic performance & ends up being a caricature, who could've been more than that in the hands of a better actor.

Destin Daniel Cretton's direction is underwhelming. His last film, 2013's Short Term 12 (which also starred Brie Larson in her best performance yet), is one of the best films of the decade & one of my 10 favorite films of all time. However, he doesn't do justice to the source material. Some moments are well-directed, but some aren't. If anything, this shows that Cretton should go back to directing films that are original & small, like Short Term 12.

The screenplay by Destin Daniel Cretton & Andrew Lanham is extremely bad. I can safely tell you that had Cretton done the screenplay by himself, this film would be overall good. However, Lanham really brings the film down. The last film that Lanham co-wrote was 2017's The Shack, which was considered to be an awful film. The screenplay is too emotionally manipulative, & for the last 20% of the film, the film tries to make us like Rex & Rose Mary, after showing us for the first 80% of the film how horrible they are as parents. Thankfully, I didn't fall for that. Also, as I previously mentioned, the screenplay removes a few somewhat pivotal elements from the book. I hope to see a film that stays as true as possible to the book. Hopefully, that will come soon.

And the cinematography by Brett Pawlak is great. There are a few long-take shots in the film, as well as some excellent wide shots, & Pawlak shoots them really well.

This is, for me, the most disappointing film of the year. I never would've thought a film starring my favorite actress, Brie Larson, along with 2 excellent actors in Woody Harrelson & Naomi Watts, & directed by the director behind one of my all-time favorite films would have failed to be at least great. I was sadly mistaken.

The Glass Castle was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Sunday, August 20, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 127 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for mature thematic content involving family dysfunction, & for some language & smoking.

Logan Lucky

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I know this is shocking, but I have never seen a single film directed by Steven Soderbergh. Well, at least I hadn't until recently, when I finally saw a film directed by him.

Logan Lucky is one of the more original films of the year, & it's certainly one of the funniest. The film focuses on Jimmy (played by Channing Tatum), Clyde (played by Adam Driver), & Mellie (played by Riley Keough) Logan, three siblings in Boone County, West Virginia. Jimmy is a laborer, Clyde is a bar owner, & Mellie is a hairdresser. Their family has been afflicted by a curse started by his great-grandfather wildly throwing a horseshoe during a game. Their aunt lost a lottery ticket, their uncle was struck by lightning, Jimmy's football career ended after blowing out his knee, & Clyde lost his left arm in Iraq (not in battle, but on the way to the airport after being discharged), forcing him to wear a prosthetic arm below his elbow. However, Mellie has been unafflicted by the curse, & doesn't believe in it at all.

Jimmy is fired as a construction worker at Charlotte Motor Speedway for having a limp which he failed to disclose, & is considered by the insurance company as a pre-existing condition. He then goes to pick up his daughter, Sadie (played by Farrah McKenzie) for a beauty pageant from the home of his ex-wife, Bobbi Jo Logan-Chapman (played by Katie Holmes). Bobbi Jo tells Jimmy that since her new wealthy husband, Moody Chapman (played by David Denman) is opening up a new car dealership in Lynchburg, Virginia, they are moving there, which makes it hard for Jimmy to visit Sadie.

Disgruntled by the news, Jimmy goes to Clyde's bar, where they encounter Max Chilblain (played by Seth MacFarlane), an arrogant British businessman & NASCAR owner & sponsor of NASCAR driver Dayton White (played by Sebastian Stan). After Chilblain insults Clyde, Jimmy & Chilblain get into a fight, which ends when Jimmy sets Chilblain's car on fire with a Molotov cocktail. On the way out, Jimmy yells the word "cauliflower" to Clyde, "cauliflower" being a codeword from when Jimmy & Clyde used to commit small crimes.

Jimmy has come up with an idea to rob Charlotte Motor Speedway. Since he helped construct it, Jimmy knows that the money is moved using a pneumatic tube transport system. Although Clyde is adamant that his days of crime are over, he agrees to partner with Jimmy. Mellie also joins in on the robbery.

Jimmy & Clyde then recruit Joe Bang (played by Daniel Craig), an infamous explosives expert currently "in-car-ce-ra-ted" at a prison led by the notorious Warden Burns (played by Dwight Yoakam). After planning to break him out (& eventually put Clyde in prison as well), Jimmy & Clyde are then sent to recruit Joe's extremely unintelligent brothers, Sam (played by Brian Gleeson) & Fish (played by Jack Quaid).

Before the robbery, Jimmy becomes smitten with Sylvia Harrison (played by Katherine Waterston), a physician's assistant who went to high school with Jimmy. But with FBI Agent Sarah Grayson (played by Hilary Swank) on their tail, the Logans & the Bangs all try to cover the tracks while trying to break the family curse that has plagued the Logans for years.

The cast is spectacular. Tatum, Driver, MacFarlane & Keough are excellent, but the greatest performance here is given by Daniel Craig. Craig, most well known for his portrayal of James Bond in the James Bond films, is cast way against type here as a delightfully crazy explosives expert. HE deserves at least an Oscar nomination for this.

Steven Soderbergh's direction is excellent. Having been out of the game since 2013's Behind the Candelabra, has returned with a vengeance.

Rebecca Blunt's screenplay is brilliant. Rebecca Blunt is a pseudonym, believed to be either Steven Soderbergh or his wife, Jules Asner. Whoever Blunt really is, their screenplay is brilliant. The dialogue is amazing, & the characters are delightfully idiosyncratic.

The cinematography by Steven Soderbergh (under the name of Peter Andrews) is excellent. There are a lot of excellent shots in the film, & Soderbergh has proved he can shoot a film just as good as he can direct a film.

The editing by Steven Soderbergh (under the name of Mary Ann Bernard) is amazing. There are a lot of montages in the film, & those are edited to perfection.

And the soundtrack is excellent. As Channing Tatum's character is a huge John Denver fan, the film uses two John Denver songs excellently. And the opening scene uses John Denver's 1981 song Some Days Are Diamonds (Some Days Are Stone) so perfectly.

This is one of the best films of the year so far. It's an absolutely welcome return to filmmaking for Steven Soderbergh. I sincerely hope he doesn't go back into retirement after this.

Logan Lucky was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Saturday, August 19, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 119 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for language & some crude comments.

Brigsby Bear

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Pop culture is arguably stronger today than it has ever been.

Everyone loves Star Wars. Everyone loves the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Everyone loves the X-Men. Everyone loves the DC Extended Universe. Don't get me wrong, I love all of those things. Basically, if it goes to different planets or fights interplanetary villains, the vast majority of people can't get enough of it.

But what if a piece of pop culture is the only thing you know?

Brigsby Bear, one of the most creative films in recent memory, takes this interesting idea & forms it into a one-of-a-kind film. The film focuses on James (played by Kyle Mooney), a sheltered homeschooled kid who lives in an underground home with his parents, Ted (played by Mark Hamill) & April (played by Jane Adams) Mitchum. He's been forced to stay underground due to the supposedly poisonous air. James has been raised on one show: Brigsby Bear Adventures, a children's sci-fi show reminiscent of low-budget sci-fi shows from the 1980's. He owns all the episodes on VHS, & he has so much memorabilia.

One night, a group of police cars come to the house. They barge in, arresting Ted & April, & taking James to a police station. At the police station, Detective Vogel (played by Greg Kinnear) tells James the truth: James was kidnapped from the hospital by Ted & April shortly after he was born; Brigsby Bear Adventures was created specifically for James, so no one else knows of its existence; the air isn't poisonous; & his real parents are Greg (played by Matt Walsh) & Louise (played by Michaela Watkins) Pope, & he has a sister named Aubrey (played by Ryan Simpkins). James struggles to fit in, even with regular family therapy sessions with Emily (played by Claire Danes), as he cannot stop thinking about Brigsby Bear Adventures.

One night, Aubrey takes James to a party at her friend's house. At the party, James meets Spencer (played by Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), an aspiring filmmaker. James tells Spencer about Brigsby Bear Adventures, & Spencer is extremely interested about it. James, Spencer, Spencer's friends Logan (played by Chance Crimin) & Meredith (played by Alexa Demie), Aubrey, & Detective Vogel, who was once an actor in high school, decide to make a Brigsby Bear film to end the series.

The cast is wonderful. It's hard to pick out the best performances. But there are 3 truly excellent performances in this cast. Kyle Mooney's performance is so irresistibly sweet. Greg Kinnear's performance is the funniest of the film. And Ryan Simpkins nails it as the sister who's cold & anxious at first, but eventually warms up.

Dave McCary's direction is excellent. The vision that he has created for this film is unparalleled by any other film this year.

The screenplay by Kyle Mooney & Kevin Costello is amazing. It's endearingly optimistic & sweet at every single moment, & you can't help but be entranced by it.

Brandon Tonner-Connolly's production design is fantastic. From the intricate layout of the bunker, to the sets of the film within the film, the design is just so immersive.

And the original score by David Wingo is amazing. The score is calm & peaceful, driven by Wingo's excellent use of synthesizers.

This is truly the best film of the year so far. It's an endearing tribute to pop culture & its impact on people, & it shows that creativity can come from some surprising places, even tragedy.

Brigsby Bear was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 on Friday, August 18, 2017 in Troy, MI. It is in 3 theaters in the Detroit area: the Phoenix Theaters - Laurel Park Place in Livonia, MI; the Emagine Canton in Canton, MI; & the Emagine Novi in Novi, MI. Its runtime is 100 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, brief sexuality, drug material & teen partying.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Black day in July,
Motor City madness has gripped the countryside,
And through the smoke & cinders,
You can hear it far & wide,
The doors are quickly bolted,
And the children locked inside.

- Black Day in July by Gordon Lightfoot, 1968

My grandfather told me many times about how Detroit was once the 5th-largest city in the United States, with a peak population of almost 2 million in 1950. He said Detroit was once an extremely prosperous city, with a vast amount of automobile plants for all the major car companies: Ford, Chrysler, General Motors, Packard, Hudson, & others. Detroit was once called "the Arsenal of Democracy."

Years later, the city began its notorious downfall, with years of crime, plant closings, & corruption in the city government, most notably the corruption during Kwame Kilpatrick's tenure as mayor, & all of that culminated in Detroit's eventual declaration of bankruptcy in 2013. The city is just beginning to turn around, but it will take years to get back to prominence, if it ever does.

The downfall began on Sunday, July 23, 1967, the first day of the Detroit riots. The riots began when police raided an unlicensed bar full of African-American patrons celebrating the return of 2 soldiers returning from Vietnam, eventually arresting everyone there.

By the end of the riots on Friday, July 28, 1967, 17,000 members of the armed forces & law enforcement had been deployed, 7,231 people had been arrested, 1,189 people had been injured, & 43 people had been killed, including 3 African-American men killed in cold blood by Caucasian police officers at the Algiers Motel on Tuesday, July 25, 1967.

Detroit is an absolutely gripping & incredibly heart-stopping look at one of the darkest moments in modern American history. The film solely focuses on the Algiers Motel incident & on the people who were involved in the incident. Melvin Dismukes (played by John Boyega) is an African-American security guard protecing a grocery store. Along with this job, he also works at a factory in Detroit. Meanwhile, Larry Reed (played by Algee Smith), the lead singer of R&B group The Dramatics, & his best friend, Fred Temple (played by Jacob Latimore) decide to stay at the Algiers until the riots blow over. While there, they meet two Caucasian women, Julie Ann (played by Hannah Murray) & Karen (played by Kaitlyn Dever), who inroduce them to their friends, Carl Cooper (played by Jason Mitchell), & Aubrey Pollard (played by Nathan Davis Jr.). When Carl & Aubrey pull a prank involving a starter pistol, Julie Ann & Karen become upset & move to the room of Robert Greene (played by Anthony Mackie), a Vietnam War veteran who has recently returned to Detroit.

Soon after, Carl fires several blanks at National Guardsmen, who return fire at the hotel. Dismukes, along with three Caucasian Detroit police officers: Philip Krauss (played by Will Poulter); Demens (played by Jack Reynor); & Flynn (played by Ben O'Toole), arrive at the scene. While Dismukes is calm & tries to protect everyone who wasn't involved, the three police officers line everyone at the hotel up, & brutally interrogate them.

Krauss is especially brutal. He is unapologetically racist & sexist, & he likes to play a sick game where he fires bullets from a rifle near the witnesses's heads, & threatens to kill them if they don't tell them who fired the gun. After the incident, three men at the motel were murdered, & the sleazy Attorney Auerbach (played by John Krasinski) tries to defend the police officers in the criminal trial.

The lives of the survivors are forever changed, & what they thought they would do in life before then is totally different after the incident.

The cast is the best of the year. John Boyega, most known for portraying Finn in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, gives his best performance yet. While Star Wars: The Force Awakens made him a star, this film has showcased his excellent range as an actor.

Will Poulter's performance is surprisingly one of the best of the year. I say surprisingly since besides giving a brief dramatic performance in The Revenant, I am most familiar with his performance as the nerdy, anxiety-filled Kenny in the hilarious comedy We're the Millers. Here, Poulter really showcases his dramatic chops, & what he does with his performance is amazing. His character is one of the most evil characters in film history, & Poulter really makes us hate him so freaking much.

Algee Smith gives the best performance of the film. Before the incident, he's all about trying to make it big in the music industry, but afterwards, his decision to do that is forever changed. And Smith makes us feel nothing but sad for his character, because we knew what potential he had, & it is sad that he didn't go far because of how scarred he was over the incident. Smith definitely deserves an Oscar for his performance.

The rest of the cast, especially Latimore, Mitchell, Krasinski, Murray, Dever & Reynor, also give great performances.

Kathryn Bigelow, who is one of the best directors of her generation, & most well-known for directing The Hurt Locker & Zero Dark Thirty, has directed her best film yet. I commend her for bringing this story to light, as even I, who has grown up in the Detroit area & known a lot about the riots, never knew about this incident.

Mark Boal's screenplay is excellent. Boal, who has previosuly worked with Bigelow on The Hurt Locker & Zero Dark Thirty, has wrote his best script yet. The dialogue is amazing, & the real-life characters he has brought to the story are amazing as well, & feel so human. And the connections to race relations today are so scarily prevalent.

Barry Ackroyd's cinematography is chaotically excellent. Ackroyd, who tends to have a shaking camera, perfectly captures the chaos of the incident.

The editing by William Goldenberg & Harry Yoon is excellent. The film is perfectly paced & assembled, & it's some of the best editing of the entire year.

Jeremy Hindle's production design is amazing. The set of the film looks exactly like 1967 Detroit, & sadly, it looks like some parts of Detroit today.

And the sound design is incredible. For the entire second act of the film, the film is intensely loud, with gunshots riddling around & throughout the motel. The sounds heard during those moments are so jarring.

This is the best & most important film of the year so far. It certainly isn't an easy watch, but it is certainly an important one. This is a film that needs to be seen.

Detroit was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI, on Saturday, August 5, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 143 minutes, & it is rated R for strong violence & pervasive language.

The Little Hours

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Never have the Middle Ages been so gutbustingly hilarious.

The Little Hours has broken through boundaries that many comedies haven't broken recently, primarily religion. And those boundaries aren't just broken. Those boundaries are shattered again & again into millions of pieces by a 40-foot wrecking ball. And every single broken boundary is more hilarious than the last.

Loosely, & I really mean loosely, based on the 14th century novella collection The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, the film takes place at an Italian convent in the 14th century. The film mainly focuses on three nuns at the convent: Sister Alessandra (played by Alison Brie); Sister Fernanda (played by Aubrey Plaza); & Sister Ginerva (played by Kate Micucci). The three of them mainly spend their time gossiping about people, yearning to be with men, & verbally & physically accosting the gardener. And the three of them couldn't be more different: Alessandra is rich, preppy, & yearns to be taken away by her father, Ilario (played by Paul Reiser); Fernanda is vile & crazy; & Ginerva is somewhat childlike. However, they are all extremely emotionally unstable

Meanwhile, Masseto (played by Dave Franco), lives at a castle where he is a servant to Lord Buono (played by Nick Offerman) & his wife, Francesca (played by Lauren Weedman). Lord Buono primarily rants on & on about how the Guelphs are ruining everything, & when he doesn't do that, he verbally abuses his wife. In secret, Masseto has been having an affair with Francesca; however, when he is caught, Masseto flees, knowing that if Lord Buono finds him, he will be tortured in many vile yet humorous ways.

Thankfully, Masseto runs into Father Tommasso (played by John C. Reilly), the chronically drunk pastor of the convent, who is also involved in an affair with Sister Marea (played by Molly Shannon). Tommasso offers to have him stay at the convent as a handyman, but on one condition: Masseto must pretend to be deaf & mute, so as to not attract the nuns.

And so, Masseto begins to work as a handyman. But the women all begin to fall for him in their own way: Alessandra is infatuated with him; Fernanda wants to have sex with him while holding a knife to his throat; & Ginerva just likes him. But when Fernanda's friend Marta (played by Jemima Kirke) arrives, things become even crazier, just in time for Bishop Bartolomeo (played by Fred Armisen) to come to the convent & see how emotionally unstable the convent has become.

The cast is one of the best ever in a comedy. Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza & Kate Micucci are hilarious as the three nuns, while Dave Franco is building up his status as an excellent comedic actor. And John C. Reilly, Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon & Fred Armisen, who are some of the funniest actors alive, do some of their best work here. This may just be the best cast of the year.

Jeff Baena's direction is excellent. In a lesser director's hands, this wouldn't have been as funny. But with Baena at the helm, he takes what could've felt like a stretched-out sketch & makes it fit perfectly as a feature-length film.

His screenplay is also brilliant. The dialogue is some of the funniest in a long time, & the characters he has created are so crazily hilarious.

Quyen Tran's cinematography is amazing. For a comedy, this film is excellently shot, & the film is filled with amazing shots of the Italian landscape.

And Dan Romer's score is sublime. The acoustic guitar-driven score exhibits a calm mood, juxtaposing the craziness exhibited by the characters.

This is one of the best films of the year so far, & it's one of the funniest films I've ever seen. It goes to hilariously offensive comedic depths that many films haven't gone to recently.

The Little Hours was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, August 4, 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 90 minutes, & it is rated R for graphic nudity, sexual content & language.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Atomic Blonde

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Action films have had somewhat of a renaissance lately. From John Wick to Mad Max: Fury Road, action films have become increasingly great.

And Atomic Blonde is definitely one of those films. Following along the lines of those aforementioned action films, this film has perfectly mixed style & substance unlike most other action films, which prioritize the former rather than the latter.

Based off of the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City by Antony Johnson & Sam Hart & set in 1989 Berlin, the film focuses on Lorraine Broughton (played by Charlize Theron), a top MI6 agent. After fellow MI6 agent James Gascoigne (played by Sam Hargrave) is murdered by KGB agent Yuri Bakhtin (played by Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannsson), MI6 superior Eric Gray (played by Toby Jones) sends Lorraine into Berlin to retrieve The List, a list of all active field agents in the Soviet Union, which Bakhtin is in possession of, & she must also assassinate "Satchel," a double agent who betrayed Gascoigne & sold secrets to the Soviet Union.

Once she arrives in Berlin, she is met by David Percival (played by James McAvoy), a fellow MI6 agent & Lorraine's main contact. Lorraine finds out that the List is now in possession of Spyglass (played by Eddie Marsan), a Stasi agent who has also memorized the entire List.

Lorraine also meets Delphine Lasalle (played by Sofia Boutella), a naive French agent, & they eventually begin an affair. Also, she meets Emmett Kurtzfeld (played by John Goodman), a CIA agent. As this happens, Lorraine begins to become suspicious of Percival, believing he may be Satchel. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

The cast is excellent. Charlize Theron is excellent again. At first, I noticed her American accent kept lapsing into her fake British accent (which she does an excellent job of perfecting it), but I eventually forgave it. James McAvoy, John Goodman, Sofia Boutella & Toby Jones also give great performances. Eddie Marsan's performance is the best of the film. Marsan, who I consider to be one of the most underrated British actors, perfects an East German accent & shows so much emotion just with his body language, especially as his character tries to defect from East Germany.

David Leitch's direction is excellent. As I mentioned before, the film perfectly mixes style & substance. And his control of the action sequences is masterful.

Kurt Johnstad's screenplay is brilliant. It's filled with so many twists & turns that I was practically glued to my seat. And the characters he has adapted are so bad-ass. He has perfectly adapted this film from the graphic novel.

Jonathan Sela's cinematography is absolutely stunning. Like many action films lately, the film has a few long-take sequences. And one particular long-take scene, clocking in at 10 minutes long, is probably one of the best action sequences of all time. And that scene, like many others in the film, is perfectly photographed by Sela.

The editing by Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir is amazing. Unlike many action films lately, which poorly use a frenetic & quick style of editing, this film doesn't do that, instead letting the shots go on for long enough, especially the 10-minute long take. The film is perfectly paced & assembled by Ronaldsdóttir.

Tyler Bates's score is excellent. The usage of a synthesizer in the score is put to absolute perfection & it amplifies the cinematic experience.

And the soundtrack is killer. The soundtrack uses a lot of excellent new wave music from the 1980's, including Blue Monday by New Order & 99 Luftballons by Nena. This is probably one of the 3 best soundtracks of the year.

This is one of the best action films of the decade so far. The action sequences are some of the best in recent memory, & having an excellent actress like Charlize Theron at the center of the film helps astronomically.

Atomic Blonde was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 on Saturday, July 29, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 115 minutes, & it is rated R for sequences of strong violence, language throughout, & some sexuality/nudity.

Monday, August 7, 2017

A Ghost Story

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Love. Time. Death.

We will encounter all three of those things in our lives, whether we want it or not.

Love is the thing we yearn for. Time is what we wish we had more of. And Death is what some of us fear most.

And all three of things are at the center of A Ghost Story, a beautifully-made masterpiece. The film focuses on a married couple: C (played by Casey Affleck) & M (played by Rooney Mara). C is a struggling musician, while M stays at home. They live in an old & small house in the suburbs. One night, they are disturbed by a noise near their piano, but they can't find the source of it.

Not long after, C is killed in a car accident outside their home. And after that, something out-of-the-ordinary occurs: C awakens & becomes a ghost, wearing a bed sheet with two holes for eyes, much like a Halloween costume.

He watches M grieve for days, weeks, months, & so on. Eventually, M moves out. C, devastated & stuck in the house, tries to find her again. And so, he embarks on a journey through time, looking through the past & future occupants of the house, all in search of finding M again.

The cast is spectacular. Affleck & Mara, who have previously worked together in 2013's Ain't Them Bodies Saints, build on that already excellent chemistry to the point where we feel like we're seeing a real couple on screen, & not actors.

Even with a ghost costume on for most of the film, you can still see the sadness in Casey Affleck in every frame after his death. His performance gives off a cold, but emotional aura, much like his performance for the ages last year in Manchester by the Sea.

Rooney Mara has steadfastly positioned herself as one of the best actresses at the moment. She exhibits grief in a way that we don't see a lot in cinema, especially in an 8 1/2-minute long scene where she consumes an entire chocolate cream pie in order to deal with her grief.

David Lowery's direction is phenomenal. Lowery has proven himself here as one of the best directors in independent cinema at the moment, & he directs the film with an aura reminiscent of the early films of Terrence Malick.

His screenplay is also excellent. The script feels so real & you can definitely understand the characters' feelings of love & loss.

And the cinematography by Andrew Droz Palermo is brilliantly crafted. Shot in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio like old TV sets, the aspect ratio makes us feel claustrophobic.

This is one of the best films of the year so far. To people who don't like slow films or 8 1/2 minute-long scenes of Rooney Mara eating pie, this is not for you. But if you like realistic portrayals of love & grief, this is a film for you. It's a perfect portrayal of love & loss.

A Ghost Story was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, July 28, 2017. It is currently showing at 4 theaters in the Detroit area, including the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI & the AMC Livonia 20 in Livonia, MI. Its runtime is 92 minutes, & it is rated R for brief language & a disturbing image.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Valerian & the City of a Thousand Planets

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Until recently, I had never seen a film by the French director Luc Besson. All I knew about Besson is that his 1994 film The Professional was excellent, his 1997 film The Fifth Element & his 2014 film Lucy are both films you'll either love or hate, & most of his other films are not that good.

I will admit, I went into Valerian & the City of a Thousand Planets with mixed expectations: Peter Sobczynski of called it "a weirdo sci-fi epic for the ages", while Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter called it "your Razzie frontrunner." However, I wholeheartedly agree with Sobczynski; it's a delightfully quirky sci-fi masterpiece.

Based on the comic book series Valérian & Laureline by Pierre Christin & Jean-Claude Mézières, & set in the 28th century, the film focuses on Major Valerian (played by Dane DeHaan) & Sergeant Laureline (played by Cara Delevingne), special agents of the human police forces on Alpha, a space station where millions of creatures from different planets live in peace. Valerian wants to marry Laureline, but Laureline is wary of Valerian's womanizing ways.

One day, Valerian has a dream of an idyllic planet home to a humanoid race being destroyed by space debris. After the dream, him & Laureline are sent to save an animal from the dream called a converter.

Once they retrieve the converter & return to Alpha, the leader of the police force, Commander Filitt (played by Clive Owen), Valerian & Laureline are told of an unknown force infecting the ship, & that they must protect him.

Eventually, Valerian is kidnapped by the humanoids, & Laureline must set off to find him. As they eventually find each other, they team up with Bubble (played by Rihanna), a shapeshifting alien controlled by Jolly the Pimp (played by Ethan Hawke). But Valerian & Laureline eventually find a very sinister conspiracy involving the destruction of the humanoid planet.

The cast is spectacular. DeHaan & Delevingne have a lot of chemistry together, & they make a great duo. Rihanna also gives a great performance. Owen is commanding & fierce. But Ethan Hawke gives the best performance of the film. Hawke, who is one of the best actors of his generation, namely because of his performances in Before SunriseBefore SunsetBefore MidnightBoyhood, & Training Day, is cast dramatically against type here. His performance as the aforementioned intergalactic cowboy pimp is so delightfully over-the-top that you can't help but be entranced by it.

Luc Besson's direction is spectacular. You can see his brilliant directorial vision in every single frame of the film, & he adds a fun atmosphere to the film.

His screenplay is excellent as well. The world he has created from his screenplay is filled with such idiosyncratic characters that don't feel like caricatures.

Thierry Arbogast's cinematography is nothing short of wondrous. His camerawork is filled with so many wide shots with so many bright colors, & it's the best aspect of the film.

Julien Rey's editing is great. The film is perfectly paced, & nothing goes on for too long or not long enough.

The costume design by Olivier Bérot is amazing. The futuristic clothing worn by the characters are so impressively done.

The production design by Hugues Tissandier is spectacular. The sets are so immersive that you could just look at them for hours.

The sound design is also wonderful, with the sounds of the spaceships & explosions & battles being absolutely immersive.

And the visual effects are an absolute treasure. The CGI world created by the effects team is so effortlessly put to screen that they become another character themselves.

This is a film that most people will either love or hate. And as you can see from the two reviews I mentioned above, that definitely is the case. I definitely liked it though. It's a different type of sci-fi film that isn't really seen that often in cinema anymore.

Valerian & the City of a Thousand Planets was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Friday, July 28, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 137 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence & action, suggestive material & brief language.