Monday, October 30, 2017
★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki
David Gordon Green, that amazing cinematic poet, has always been one of my favorite filmmakers. From his debut film, George Washington, to his magnum opus, All the Real Girls, Green has managed to create an effortlessly human & poetic atmosphere.
And now, he has brought this human atmosphere to Stronger, a powerful but somewhat cliched film. Based on the memoir of the same name by Jeff Bauman & Bret Witter, & set in 2013, the film follows Jeff Bauman (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), a ne'er-do-well working at a Costco in Boston. He lives with his alcoholic mother, Patty (played by Miranda Richardson) in a small apartment. At the local bar, he runs into his ex-girlfriend, Erin Hurley (played by Tatiana Maslany), whom he still loves, but is unable to commit. He decides to help raise money for Erin, who is running in the Boston Marathon to raise money for her hospital.
On April 15, 2013, the day of the marathon, Jeff struggles to get to the area near the finish line, but he does just before Erin crosses it. Right when she approaches, a bomb goes off, & another one goes off 10 seconds later. After being sent to the hospital, Jeff has his legs amputated below the knee. Once regaining consciousness, he reports that he saw the bombers. After identifying them, & with their capture, Jeff is hailed as a hero.
But no matter how much Jeff is hailed, the aftereffects are astronomical. He struggles with the newfound fame & the interviews Patty sets up, much to Erin's chagrin. Patty eventually starts to enable Jeff's alcoholism, & causes him to miss many physical therapy appointments. But Jeff is afraid & his PTSD is becoming worse, forcing him to rethink his relationships.
The performances are exemplary. Jake Gyllenhaal gives one of the best performances of his career. Tatiana Maslany gives her best performance. And Miranda Richardson is almost unrecognizable, disappearing into her character. Honestly, I was shocked to discover in the credits that she was in the film.
David Gordon Green's direction is perfectly subdued. Another film that dealt with the Boston Marathon bombing, 2016's Patriots Day, was a good film, but my main criticism was that the film didn't feel human enough. Well, this film brought that human element that Patriots Day sorely lacked. And that's all thanks to Green & his knack for an inherently human feel.
And John Pollono's screenplay is good. It's a little cliched, & some scenes drag on, but for the most part, it's definitely more than servicable.
This is one of the better survival biopics in years, probably since 2010's 127 Hours. While it feels cliched & somewhat unbearably slow, the performances & direction elevate the film.
Stronger was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Saturday, September 23, 2017. It is no longer in theaters in the Detroit area. Its runtime is 119 minutes, & it is rated R for language throughout, some graphic injury images, & brief sexuality/nudity.
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki
2015's Kingsman: The Secret Service was a way-overdue, fresh & fun addition to the spy genre. So it was a foregone conclusion that I would be highly expecting its sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle.
And what a sequel it was. It's just as gleefully action-filled, violent, & funny as the first film. Once again, the film focuses on Gary "Eggsy" Unwin, AKA Galahad (played by Taron Egerton), who has been an agent of Kingsman for a year. He is engaged to Crown Princess Tilde of Sweden (played by Hanna Alström), who he helped save in the first film.
While in Sweden, the Kingsman headquarters in London are struck by missiles, leaving Eggsy & Merlin (played by Mark Strong) as the only surviving members of Kingsman. Because of this, they must follow the Doomsday protocol, which leads them to the Statesman Distillery Co. in Kentucky, a secret organization posing as a Bourbon distillery. The head of Statesmen, Champagne (played by Jeff Bridges) briefs Eggsy & Merlin about a drug cartel called The Golden Circle, led by Poppy Adams (played by Julianne Moore), who is hiding in the jungles of Cambodia in a 1950's American-style hideout known as Poppy Land, where she has taken Elton John (played by himself) captive.
Poppy announces that she has put a toxin in every single drug in the world, causing death within days. Eggsy & Merlin must find her, stop her, & release the antidote. Three other Statesmen agents, Ginger Ale (played by Halle Berry), Tequila (played by Channing Tatum), & Whiskey (played by Pedro Pascal) also join into help. But an old friend, Harry Hart, AKA Galahad (played by Colin Firth), was discovered by Statesmen after his presumed death, & Eggsy & Merlin must help him get back to normal as well.
The cast is spectacular. Firth, Egerton & Bridges do great work. Moore is deliciously villainous & brings a side of hers to this performance that we've almost never seen in her career. And Elton John does an excellent job of playing a gleefully profane version of himself.
Matthew Vaughn's direction is excellent. His control over the action sequences is excellent, & he brings a huge jolt of energy to the film, just like he did for the first film.
And the screenplay by Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn is brilliant. Just like the first film, this has a lot of scathingly funny dark humor that works excellently.
This is one of the better action films in recent memory. It's fun, action-packed, & absolutely awesome, & definitely more awesome than most action films out there currently.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, September 22, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 141 minutes, & it is rated R for sequences of strong violence, drug content, language throughout & some sexual material.
Monday, October 16, 2017
★★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki
The Lego Movie franchise has been a welcome addition to the animation genre over the past 3 years. Both 2014's The Lego Movie & this year's The Lego Batman Movie have been some of the best animation films of the century, adding a new style of animation & a new style of humor to a genre that had been going somewhat stale.
The Lego Ninjago Movie, while not the best of the franchise, still stands on its own as a different & brilliantly funny animated film. The film focuses on Lloyd Garmadon (voiced by Dave Franco), a teenager in the city of Ninjago. He lives with his mother, Koko (voiced by Olivia Munn). Since he is the son of the tyrannical Lord Garmadon (voiced by Justin Theroux), Lloyd is seen as a pariah by the townspeople.
But Lloyd has a secret. He is a ninja, along with Kai (voiced by Michael Peña), Jay (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani), Nya (voiced by Abbi Jacobson), Zane (voiced by Zach Woods), & Cole (voiced by Fred Armisen), who are all under the tutelage of Master Wu (voiced by Jackie Chan).
On Lloyd's birthday, Lord Garmadon happens to attack Ninjago again, & fails, thanks to the work of the ninjas. Lord Garmadon promises to return with a weapons-immune mech. However, when the ninjas return, Master Wu tells them they are not real ninjas, & that they must use powers from within. However, Master Wu mentions an Ultimate Weapon, but the Ultimate Weapon is forbidden to be used.
The next day, Lord Garmadon succesfully attacks Ninjago with a cat named Meowthra, & discovers Lloyd is a ninja. Lloyd denounces his father, confusing Lord Garmadon.
Now, with the city under attack, Master Wu urges the ninjas to use the Ultimate Ultimate Weapon & stop Lord Garmadon & Meowthra from destroying Ninjago, & Lloyd might actually end up bonding with his father, starting a relationship they never had.
The voice cast is excellent. Franco, Chan, Nanjiani & Woods are excellent, but the real standout of the voice cast is Theroux, who is so deliciously over the top.
The direction by Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher & Bob Logan is good. Although there are a few rough spots (which I expected since they are all first-time directors), the direction is good enough to overcome those rough spots.
The screenplay by Bob Logan, Paul Fisher, William Wheeler, Tom Wheeler, Jared Stern, John Whittington, Hilary Winston, Dan Hageman & Kevin Hageman is brilliant. It has the quirky & always-hilarious humor that has been part of the first 2 films of the franchise.
And the animation is amazing. Like the other films of the franchise, the animation captures the Legos so amazingly.
This is one of the better animated films of the year. While it isn't the best of the franchise or the best of the year, it certainly makes up for its shortcomings with its excellent humor.
The Lego Ninjago Movie was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, September 22, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 101 minutes, & it is rated PG for some mild action & rude humor.
Friday, October 6, 2017
½★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki
"I'm sorry, but not even drugs could result in this film."
That quote from my friend, after I told her the entire plot of Mother!, perfectly encapsulates how I felt about this film. It's such a crazily put-together film that is an absolute cinematic abomination.
The film focuses on Mother (played by Jennifer Lawrence) & Him (played by Javier Bardem), a couple living in an isolated & recently renovated house. Mother is a housewife, while Him is a famous poet suffering from writer's block.
One day, Man (played by Ed Harris) shows up at the house, asking for a room, mistaking it for a bed & breakfast. Him is more than happy to let Man stay; however, Mother is reluctant to let a stranger stay in their house. Eventually, she agrees to let Man stay. Man coughs a lot while he is in their house, & Mother sees a fresh wound near his rib. It is made clear that he is dying, & that he wanted to meet Him before he died.
The next day, Man's wife, Woman (played by Michelle Pfeiffer), arrives at the house. Woman is very upfront with Mother on certain topics, including the fact that Mother & Him have not had children. Not too long after that, Man & Woman's children, Older Son (played by Domhnall Gleeson) & Younger Brother (played by Brian Gleeson) arrive, fighting over who gets more from their parents' will.
Eventually, more & more guests come to the house, all wanting to see Him. But Mother has had enough. She demands everyone leave, & when they don't listen, Mother becomes enraged.
The cast is acceptable. Lawrence & Pfeiffer give the best performances of the film, while Bardem & Harris are good as well. However, due to the material they were given, they don't really come out as great performances.
Darren Aronofsky's direction is unfocused. Aronofsky is a great director, but here, he focuses way too much on style over substance (namely violence for the sake of violence to the point where it becomes extreme overkill), especially in the third act. The film is intended to be a parable on how we're destroying Mother Earth, & I agree with Aronofsky's idea to critique our actions, but the way he did it ends up looking like a complete mess.
Aronofsky's screenplay is absolutely awful. His narrative ranges from confusing & boring over the first two acts of the film, to disgusting & absolutely sick in the final act. The last 30 minutes of the film are the worst I've seen in the history of cinema. It treats its characters terribly, especially Lawrence's character. Also, the way he executed it with the religious metaphors that are dumped like a blizzard onto the script are complete & utter overkill.
Matthew Libatique's cinematography is good. It's great in the first two acts of the film, but by the third act, it becomes so shaky & chaotic that it makes you feel like you're on a bad drug trip.
Andrew Weisblum's editing is horrendous. Weisblum is a great editor (especially for Black Swan), but his editing here is just purely terrible. The film is horribly paced, making the film's 121-minute runtime feel like 4 hours, & because of that, I felt like I was trapped in the theater against my will. Also, the editing tends to be too frenetic, especially in the third act.
And the sound design is a mess. It's too jarring that it completely takes you away from the film, especially in the third act.
I understand why people like this film. I really do. And I like films that are really outside of the mainstream, like this film. However, the way this film was made was just so frenetic & mediocre that I could not like this film one bit. It is the worst film I've ever seen. It has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, & no qualities that make it so bad it's good.
To quote the late, great film critic Roger Ebert, in his review for the 1994 film North, "I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every stupid simpering vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to its audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it."
I can't speak for everyone about liking & being entertained by it, but I certainly didn't. I never want to experience this film again.
Mother! was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, September 15, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 121 minutes, & it is rated R for strong disturbing violent content, some sexuality, nudity & language.