Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

½★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Justice League

★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Lady Bird

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

When we suffer the loss of someone close to us, we usually feel 2 emotions: sadness & anger. I'm perfectly sure that we've all felt either emotion after a loss. But how do we deal with those feelings? Do we express our emotions? Do we hold our feelings in? What do we do in this situation? And how do we pull through?

These questions are expressed so beautifully & also hilariously in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a masterpiece that is both the funniest film of the year & the most emotional film of the year. Set in the small town of Ebbing, Missouri, the film follows Mildred Hayes (played by Frances McDormand), a single divorced mother still reeling from the rape & murder of her daughter, Angela Hayes (played by Kathryn Newton), seven months prior. She is sad about the fact that her daughter is gone, & she is angry over words both said & unsaid, & that no one has been arrested as a suspect in the case. Her son, Robbie Hayes (played by Lucas Hedges) is even more depressed over Angela's death.

Angered with the lack of investigation into the case, Mildred decides to purchase 3 abandoned billboards on a barely-traveled road near where Angela's body was found. The 3 billboards condemn the local police for their lack of progress, sequentially stating: "RAPED WHILE DYING"; "AND STILL NO ARRESTS?"; "HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY?" In a news interview, Mildred criticizes the police for their preoccupation of "torturing African-Americans & eating Krispy Kremes" than solving actual crimes, like the murder of Angela.

The police chief, Sheriff Bill Willoughby (played by Woody Harrelson), while sympathetic to Mildred's plight, is upset over what he perceives to be a personal attack. His deputy, the incompetent, deeply bigoted mama's boy, Officer Jason Dixon (played by Sam Rockwell), is even more angered, but because of the perceived disrespect of the police. Dixon's bigotry is definitely from his mother, Mrs. Dixon (played by Sandy Martin). The townsfolk are also angered, not only because of the respect they have for Willoughby, but because the billboards were put up at a time when Willoughby & his wife, Anne (played by Abbie Cornish) are going through personal issues. Mildred's abusive ex-husband, Charlie (played by John Hawkes) is especially angered at Mildred for the billboards, fearing what will happen to their family. Mildred also criticize him for his relationship with 19-year-old Penelope (played by Samara Weaving).

While Willoughby tries to solve his personal issues, Dixon tries at all costs to get Mildred to back down, going so far as attacking Red Welby (played by Caleb Landry Jones), the ad agency owner who sold the billboards to Mildred. But Mildred will not back down, as she is extremely driven to find who killed her daughter. While this occurs, James (played by Peter Dinklage), a mild-mannered car salesman, sets his eyes on Mildred. But as the days go by, the conflict between Mildred & the police only gets more & more hectic, especially when Officer Abercrombie (played by Clarke Peters) comes to Ebbing to work with the police force.

The cast is one of the best I've seen in years. Frances McDormand... wow. Her performance is absolutely legendary, & by far the best in her career, even better than her legendary performance in Fargo. She manages to make you burst out laughing & make you emotional within seconds, with just one line or the look on her face.

Woody Harrelson also gives the best performance of his career. Just like McDormand, he can make you laugh & cry within seconds.

Sam Rockwell's performance is also the best of his career. You will hate his character at first, but he has a dark past that he starts to want to atone for. And Rockwell portrays that inner turmoil so perfectly.

The rest of the cast, from Hawkes, Dinklage, Cornish & Hedges in the bigger roles, to Jones, Peters, Weaving & Martin in the smaller roles, also do amazing jobs in their smaller parts, each making a huge impression on the film through their performances.

Martin McDonagh's direction is stellar. After his 2 prior darkly comedic masterpieces, 2008's In Bruges & 2012's Seven Psychopaths, McDonagh has created his best film yet. McDonagh knows how to mix dark comedy & heartwrenching drama so perfectly.

Martin McDonagh's screenplay is a sheer work of brilliance. McDonagh is a master at writing interesting characters & interesting dialogue. His plot is extremely intricate, & has some twists & turns that you definitely won't see coming. And the monologues McDonagh wrote in the screenplay are absolutely perfect, & are amazing reminders of his early days as a playwright.

Ben Davis's cinematography is amazing. Davis visually captures the feelings & emotions of the townsfolk with such immense perfection.

Jon Gregory's editing is excellent. Gregory keeps the film flowing along at a tender pace, & he makes sure the film knows where it's going.

Inbal Weinberg's production design is awe-inspiring. The production design makes that perfect small-town America set that we've seen many times before feel so fresh & realistic.

And Carter Burwell's score is one of his best. The score evokes memories of his previous scores for the films of the Coen brothers, with his use of a piano, guitars, & an orchestra.

This is definitely the best film of the year so far. It features multiple career-best performances & a terrifically funny screenplay, & perfectly mixes black comedy & heartbreaking drama unlike any other film in recent memory.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, November 17, 2017. It is currently in 2 theaters in the Detroit area: the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; & The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township, MI; it will expand into more theaters starting Wednesday, November 22, 2017. Its runtime is 115 minutes, & it is rated R for violence, language throughout, & some sexual references.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Wonderstruck is an effervescent masterpiece of ethereal beauty that will touch every single part of you like you've never imagined.

Based on the 2011 book by Brian Selznick, & set in both 1927 & 1977, the film follows two people: Rose Kincaid (played by Millicent Simmonds) & Ben Wilson (played by Oakes Fegley).

In 1927 Hoboken, New Jersey, Rose Kincaid is a deaf girl being kept at home by her father, being taught by her tutor to lip read & mouth words. Disillusioned with her life, she flees to New York City to find her idol, actress Lillian Mayhew (played by Julianne Moore). Once she gets there, she'll realize more than she could've imagined.

In 1977 Gunflint Lake, Minnesota, Ben Wilson is a boy reeling from the death in a car accident of his librarian mother, Elaine Wilson (played by Michelle Williams). One night, while rummaging through some stuff, Ben finds a bookmark with a number to a bookstore in New York, with a note written to Elaine on the back of it. When he calls that number, lightning strikes the house, sending electricity to the phone cord, electrocuting Ben, rendering him deaf in both ears. At the hospital, he sneaks out & sets out for New York to find his father.

Eventually, these 2 timelines will join together piece by piece.

The cast is spectacular. Simmonds & Fegley give some of the best child performances in a long time. Williams is great in her short runtime. And Moore is amazing as always.

Todd Haynes's direction is excellent. Haynes forms a calm, uncynical atmosphere & it is done so well. Also, I commend Haynes for his use of subtitles throughout the entire film for the deaf community.

Brian Selznick's screenplay is amazing. Selznick has adapted his novel so perfectly, & has shown that he can write screenplays as well as he can write books.

Edward Lachman's cinematography is nothing short of stunning. From the black-&-white world of 1927, to the grainy, gritty world of 1977, every shot is perfect.

Affonso Gonçalves's editing is excellent. It's methodically slow, & both of the timelines flow into one another almost seamlessly.

Sandy Powell's costume design is amazing. The costumes, especially in 1927, are definitely accurate for the times.

Mark Friedberg's production design is absolutely stunning. The sets are so immersive, especially the period-accurate sets in 1927.

The sound design is incredible. The silent dialogue of 1927 & the muffled sounds of Ben's hearing in 1977 are just so incredibly well-done.

And Carter Burwell's score is absolutely beautiful. His quiet & meditative piano drives the film, & enhances the mood of the film.

This is one of the best films of the year. It's awe-inspiring & absolutely beautiful.

Wonderstruck was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, November 10, 2017. It is in 4 theaters in the Detroit area: the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township, MI; the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, MI; & the Goodrich Quality 16 in Ann Arbor, MI. Its runtime is 116 minutes, & it is rated PG for thematic elements & smoking.

Thor: Ragnarok

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

We must all admit this: the Thor films have been the weakest out of all the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (along with The Incredible Hulk).

So it's easy to see that I did meet Thor: Ragnarok with some trepidation at first. But I eventually found out how great of a director the film's director, Taika Waititi, is. Then the trailer came out, & I was sold.

And this film could not have exceeded my already high expectations more than it did. It's fun, hilarious, & becomes the best superhero film of the year so far. The film follows Thor (played by Chris Hemsworth), who has returned to Asgard after searching for the Infinity Stones. When he arrives, he forces his brother Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston) to help him find their father, Odin (played by Anthony Hopkins). With the help of Dr. Stephen Strange, AKA Doctor Strange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch), Thor & Loki find Odin in Norway. Odin tells them that he is about to die, & his death will allow their sister, Hela (played by Cate Blanchett), the goddess of death, to be freed & implement Ragnarok, meaning the deaths of many people, including Thor & Loki, & the vast expansion of Asgard's empire over the Nine Realms.

Odin dies, & Hela appears in front ot Thor & Loki. They try to fight back, but Hela destroys Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, & sends them into space. Hela then arrives in Asgard, resurrecting her comrades, & making warrior Skurge (played by Karl Urban) her executioner. Thankfully, Heimdall (played by Idris Elba) hides the Asgardian citizens & steals the sword controlling the Bifröst Bridge.

Thor lands on Sakaar, a garbage planet. He is then taken in by Valkyrie (played by Tessa Thompson), a bounty hunter. She takes him to the Grandmaster (played by Jeff Goldblum), the cunning & maniacal ruler of Sakaar, who has already become friends with Loki. The Grandmaster sends Thor into a gladiator contest, where the loser is killed. While waiting for the battle, Thor meets Korg (played by Taika Waititi), an animal made of rocks. When the battle comes, Thor is facing off against... Bruce Banner, AKA Hulk (played by Mark Ruffalo). After the battle, Thor, Hulk & Loki, along with Valkyrie & Korg, team up to defeat Hela & bring peace to the Nine Realms.

The cast is magnificent. Hemsworth, Hiddleston & Ruffalo are excellent. Blanchett is delightfully villainous. Thompson gives an excellent breakout performance. And Jeff Goldblum is as amazing as ever.

Taika Waititi's direction is excellent. Waititi takes a different atmospheric approach from the previous Thor films, & adds his trademark New Zealand humor to the film, & it works so perfectly.

The screenplay by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost is brilliant. The humor lands at every turn, & the characters are so quirky.

Javier Aguirresarobe's cinematography is stunning. It's so colorful & awe-inspiring & it shows in every shot.

Joel Negron & Zene Baker's editing is excellent. It's excellently paced, & it knows where it's going throughout the film.

Dan Hennah & Ra Vincent's production design is awe-inspiring. The colorful sets are so incredibly immersive.

The sound design is incredible. It's loud & fun & immerses your eardrums.

Mark Mothersbaugh's score is excellent. The music is incredibly bombastic, & it's one of the best scores from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

And the visual effects are a true wonder. Just like 2016's Doctor Strange & 2017's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the effects almost become a character themselves.

This is one of the best superhero films in a while, & definitely the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. It's fun & colorful & hilarious at every turn.

Thor: Ragnarok was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, November 3, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 130 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence & action, & brief suggestive material.

Thursday, November 9, 2017


½★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

How does a film that looks so amazing & brilliantly funny in the trailer actually become an unfocused & unfunny mess?

That's the question I asked myself at the end of Suburbicon, the year's most disappointing film. Set in 1959, the film follows Gardner Lodge (played by Matt Damon), a mild-mannered husband to Rose (played by Julianne Moore) & father to Nicky (played by Noah Jupe). They live in Suburbicon, a subdivision based off of the Levittown subdivision.

One night, while Rose's sister Margaret (also played by Julianne Moore) is at the house, two robbers break into the house, tie up the family, & knock them out with chloroform. When they wake up, they realize Rose died after being given a large dose of chloroform.

In order to help, Margaret moves in with Gardner & Nicky to help them out. While this occurs, an African-American family, the Meyers family, moves into Suburbicon (based on the real-life Meyers family who moved into Levittown in the 1950s), causing racial tension to build. The Lodge family is completely oblivious to this. But when insurance agent Bud Cooper (played by Oscar Isaac) becomes involved, everyone is sent into a twisted world they'll never get out of.

The performances are mediocre. Damon & Moore aren't that great, but they did the best they could with the script. However, Oscar Isaac, in his short screentime, is absolutely mesmerizing.

George Clooney's direction is awful. He can't juggle the two plotlines at all, proving that he isn't as good at directing as he is at acting.

The screenplay by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, George Clooney & Grant Heslov is an absolute dumpster fire. Originally written by the Coen brothers in 1986 before being shelved, Clooney & Heslov re-wrote it, adding the racial tension subplot. And this is Suburbicon's fatal flaw: a subplot that doesn't factor into the plot at all, & almost doesn't even exist in the film. Even without the racial tension subplot, the script is a mess, as the darkly funny moments aren't funny at all. As far as the Coen brothers go, this is like most of the films they wrote but didn't direct (except for Bridge of Spies): awful.

And the editing by Stephen Mirrione is horrible. His attempts to weave together the two plotlines fail miserably, as the 105-minute runtime isn't enough time to give due diligence to them.

This is one of the worst films of the year. It's an absolute mess, & because of the people that were involved in the film, I was extremely disappointed, as I expected a lot more from them.

Suburbicon was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Saturday, October 28, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 105 minutes, & is rated R for violence, language & some sexuality.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Since his 2009 breakout film Dogtooth, the Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos has slowly worked his way to the top of absurdist cinema with his truly unique blend of dark comedy & psychological horror. His most recent film, 2016's The Lobster, was one of my favorite films of 2016, & was so deeply idiosyncratic you can't help but laugh at the absurdity of it.

But now, he has taken away most of the biting dark comedy & added more of the disturbing psychological horror with The Killing of a Sacred Deer, an equally hilarious & terrifying film. The film follows Steven Murphy (played by Colin Farrell), a renowned surgeon. He & his wife, Anna (played by Nicole Kidman), have 2 children: 14-year old Kim (played by Raffey Cassidy) & 12-year-old Bob (played by Sunny Suljic).

Recently, Steven has become a mentor to Martin (played by Barry Keoghan), the son of a former patient of Steven's. As Martin becomes closer to Steven, he also becomes closer to Kim. Also, Martin becomes more unhinged, basically coercing Steven into meeting his mother (played by Alicia Silverstone), who is obviously sexually attracted to Steven.

One day, before school, Bob has a bad experience & is sent to the hospital. Martin meets Steven at the hospital, & tells him that for something Steven did in the past, he must pay back & make an ultimate sacrifice. But this is only the tip of the iceberg, as Steven has more secrets, including one that his anesthesiologist, Matthew (played by Bill Camp) has in his hands.

The cast is excellent. Farrell & Kidman are dynamite. Silverstone gives her greatest performance ever. But Barry Keoghan is the true star. He makes you feel equally frightened & creeped out.

Yorgos Lanthimos's direction is amazing. He creates such a tense & disturbing atmopshere that you can't tear yourself away from the screen.

The screenplay by Yorgos Lanthimos & Efthymis Filippou is brilliant. The dark comedy Lanthimos is known for, although there is less of it here, always manages to stand out. And the characters are so idiosyncratic that they're almost impossible to describe.

The cinematography by Thimios Bakatakis is astounding. Every shot feels so cold & distant, reminding us of the cinematography from the films of Stanley Kubrick, especially The Shining.

And the sound design is absolutely stunning. It's so jarring that it will shake you to your very core.

This is one of the best films of the year. It holds you tight & doesn't let go for its entire runtime as it terrifies you, disturbs you, & possibly makes you laugh.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, October 27, 2017. It is currently in 3 theaters in the Detroit area: the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; the AMC Forum 30 in Sterling Heights, MI; & the AMC Livonia 20 in Livonia, MI. Its runtime is 121 minutes, & it is rated R for disturbing violent & sexual content, some graphic nudity & language.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Florida Project

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I've always gravitated towards films that show realistic portrayals of people. It's probably because these stories aren't told that often. They're buried under the pile of blockbusters that come out every weekend. However, I've always managed to find the diamond in the rough with these films.

The Florida Project is no exception. The film follows Moonee (played by Brooklynn Kimberly Prince), a 6-year-old living with her mother, Halley (played by Bria Vinaite) at The Magic Castle, an extended stay motel in Kissimmee, Florida, not too far from Disney World. To Moonee, the world is a magic kingdom. She plans to spend the summer playing with her friends, Scooty (played by Christopher Rivera) & Dicky (played by Aiden Malik), including throwing water balloons at tourists, spitting off the balcony, & sneaking around the motel.

Along the way, Moonee meets a new friend, Jancey (played by Valeria Cotto), who lives at the neighboring extended-stay motel, Futureland. Together, the 4 try to make the best of their summer.

But not everything is well. Halley is physically unfit to be a mother. She does drugs, is neglectful towards Moonee, & has gone to some low depths to make some money. This unhappy reality is inching ever so closer to Moonee, but at the end of the day, Halley truly cares for Moonee, as all the things she does is for her. And always in the background is Bobby (played by Willem Dafoe), the manager of The Magic Castle, who besides dealing with maintenance issues & working with his son, Jack (played by Caleb Landry Jones), would do literally anything to protect the kids that live there.

The cast is spectacular. Brooklynn Kimberly Prince & Bria Vinaite are some of the greatest discoveries in cinema in a long time. Prince is an absolute star in the making. Vinaite, who was discovered on Instagram, is absolutely stellar. The rest of the child cast, namely Cotto, is excellent as well. But the best performance comes from Willem Dafoe. Dafoe, one of the most underrated actors of our time, is nothing short of astounding here. His performance, like many others in the film, is so heartwarming & heartbreaking all at once.

Sean Baker's direction is amazing. He mixes an atmosphere of childlike wonder with an atmosphere of adult despair so perfectly.

The screenplay by Sean Baker & Chris Bergoch is perfect. The plot, characters, & dialogue feel so amazingly raw & real that it hurts.

And Alexis Zabe's cinematography is stellar. Shot on 35mm, Zabe captures the children's vision so perfectly, with every shot looking like a bright & colorful painting. And the last sequence of the film, shot on an iPhone (like Baker's previous film, 2015's Tangerine) is nothing short of perfect.

This is one of the best films of the year. It's an amazing portrayal of childhood. It may not be a great life for everyone, but it's raw & real. And shouldn't we see more realistic depictions of life like this? I sure think we should.

The Florida Project was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, October 20, 2017. It is currently in 3 theaters in the Detroit area: the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township, MI; & the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, MI. Its runtime is 111 minutes, & it is rated R for language throughout, disturbing behavior, sexual references & some drug material.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Blade Runner 2049

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've seen C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die."

Those immortal words uttered by Rutger Hauer in the 1982 sci-fi masterpiece Blade Runner have stuck with pop culture through 35 years & 7 different cuts of the film (2007's The Final Cut being the definitive version). Those words have made us wonder what it truly means to be human.

And now, 35 years later, the sequel, Blade Runner 2049, has arrived. This was one of my most highly anticipated films of the year, because of the expectations set by the first film, aling with the people involved in the film.

And it destroyed those expectations, & ends up as the best film of the year so far. Set in 2049 Los Angeles, the film focuses on Officer K (played by Ryan Gosling), an officer sent to retire (kill) replicants. The name for his occupation is still "blade runner." K lives with his female companion, Joi (played by Ana de Armas).

After an encounter with Nexus-8 replicant Sapper Morton (played by Dave Bautista), K returns to the police headquarters & meets with Lt. Joshi (played by Robin Wright) over a box found at Sapper's farm. Lt. Joshi tells K to destroy the box, fearful that if the contents of the box are revealed, a war will occur.

K eventually encounters ruthless Wallace Corporation CEO Niander Wallace (played by Jared Leto) & his assistant, Luv (played by Sylvia Hoeks), who find out about the contents of the box. Eventually, K is led on a journey to protect the remains of the box, encountering replicant designer Dr. Ana Stelline (played by Carla Juri), orphanage leader Mr. Cotton (played by Lennie James), & prostitute Mariette (played by Mackenzie Davis), but his journey will lead him to an even more important person, former blade runner Rick Deckard (played by Harrison Ford).

The cast is amazing. Gosling gives one of his best performances. Ford gives his best performance yet. Leto does an excellent job. But the best performances come from Sylvia Hoeks, Ana de Armas, & Mackenzie Davis. They manage to steal every single scene they're in.

Denis Villeneuve's direction is spectacular. Villeneuve, who in my opinion is the greatest director in film at the moment, has taken on a world that was already great to begin with & made it better, permeating the film with such a tense atmopshere.

The screenplay by Hampton Fancher & Michael Green is excellent. The plot is so intricately created, like a puzzle where even 1 missing piece will not show any part of the big picture.

No words can describe Roger Deakins's cinematography. Every shot is like a majestic mural just waiting for people to willingly gaze at it for ages. This is some of the best cinematography in film history.

Joe Walker's editing is excellent. It's definitely slow, but that's a great thing about this film. It's unconventionally paced. It makes you wait for the revelations of the plot.

Renée April's costume design is amazing. The futuristic costumes are beautiful to look at & are definitely immersive.

Dennis Gassner's production design is nothing short of breathtaking. The futuristic buildings with the big neon lights are just a part of what makes the set so immersive.

The makeup & hairstyling is amazing. Many of the amazing characters are enhanced even more by the futuristic makeup & hairstyling.

The sound design is absolutely impeccable. It ranges from loud & bombastic to quiet & calm, & it's such a pleasant thing to hear.

The score by Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch is absolutely fantastic. This is arguably their best score yet. The music provokes so many emotions through its excellent use of synthesizers.

And the visual effects are nothing short of spectacular. This is some of the best CGI in film history, & the effects become a character themselves because of their immersive scale.

This is not only the best film of the year so far, but it's the best sci-fi film I've ever seen, & the best sequel I've ever seen, managing to improve on the original, which is a masterpiece in its own right. This was definitely a theatrical experience I don't witness that much, & I'm glad I did.

Blade Runner 2049 was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, October 6, 2017. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 164 minutes, & it is rated R for violence, some sexuality, nudity & language.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Battle of the Sexes

★★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

In the past month, many exemplary women have come out & bravely announced that they had been sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, or raped by their male co-workers & men in positions of power. The main story has focused around Harvey Weinstein, the founder & former president of Miramax & The Weinstein Company. Since then, more women have come out against their abusers, both in & out of the film industry. These women have shown that they will no longer be silenced. They will no longer be forced to suffer alone through their trauma of past abuse. They have shown through many ways that they will end this despicable era of harassment towards women at all costs, becoming excellent feminist role models to women everywhere.

Because of this, Battle of the Sexes couldn't have been more timely. Set in 1973 & based on the true story, the film follows Billie Jean King (played by Emma Stone), the famous tennis player/feminist. Feeling disillusioned by the sexist policies of the Lawn Tennis Association set by tour promoter Jack Kramer (played by Bill Pullman), King, along with eight other tennis players, including Rosie Casals (played by Natalie Morales) & Jane Bartkowicz (played by Martha MacIsaac) & the founder of World Tennis magazine, Gladys Heldman (played by Sarah Silverman), form a women's professional tennis tour. King's friend, fashion designer Ted Tinling (played by Alan Cumming), also joins in to help with the organization. Although it is unsanctioned by Kramer, the struggling tour gets more attention when the cigarette company Virginia Slims becomes a sponsor of the tournament, along with the arrival of Australian tennis star Margaret Court (played by Jessica McNamee).

Meanwhile, the famous tennis star/hustler/unapologetical chauvinist pig Bobby Riggs (played by Steve Carell) is going through some personal troubles. His wife, Priscilla (played by Elisabeth Shue) is about to leave him due to his extreme gambling addiction, & at the age of 55, is way past his prime. Having just been thrown out of his house, Riggs comes up with a bet that he can beat any female tennis player, even at the age of 55, boasting that female tennis is not as strong as male tennis.

King declines the offer; however, Court takes him on, & is soundly defeated. At that moment, King decides to take him on, but wanting a major say in the arrangements. King trains a lot more than Riggs, who barely trains, believing that he will destroy King like he destroyed Court. But King has a lot of perseverance & strength to her, so the match will not be as easy as Riggs thinks it will.

Off the court, King is also going through personal issues as well. Although she is married to Larry King (played by Austin Stowell), King develops a relationship with her hairdresser, Marilyn Barnett (played by Andrea Riseborough). With this & her devotion to feminist causes, the match becomes more than that for her.

The cast is superb. Emma Stone gives one of the 3 best performances of her career. Steve Carell also gives one of the 3 best performances of his career, & is making a name for himself as a dramatic actor as well as a comedic actor, showing a pitch-perfect balance between comedy & drama in his performance here. Sarah Silverman also shows her noted feistiness in her short screentime, & it is excellent.

The direction by Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris is great. Although their direction isn't as great as their direction for their masterpiece, 2006's Little Miss Sunshine (but then again, what will? That film is one of my top 10 favorite films of all time), it hits a lot more of the notes than it misses.

The screenplay by Simon Beaufoy is amazing. It walks on that fine line between comedy & drama excellently.

And Linus Sandgren's cinematography is stunning. Shot on 16mm film, Sandgren's camerawork is almost near perfect, & that image on the sadly-going-out-of-style 16mm film is clear & crisp. It's definitely some of the best cinematography this year.

This is a truly great dramedy. While some parts are a little unfocused, it's overall an excellent account of a truly groundbreaking moment in sports history. And it's also a great film for women, showcasing Billie Jean King for what she was: an amazing tennis player who was an amazing role model for women everywhere.

Battle of the Sexes was seen by me on Friday, September 29, 2017 at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI. It is currently in 3 theaters in the Detroit area: the AMC Forum 30 in Sterling Heights, MI; the Farmington Civic Theater in Farmington, MI; & the United Artists Commerce Township Stadium 14 in Walled Lake, MI. Its runtime is 121 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for some sexual content & partial nudity.