Monday, March 26, 2018


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I'm just going to be honest right off the bat here: some people just shouldn't be parents. Some people are just so cruel & heartless that if they had children, their children would be so scarred in more ways than one. But sadly, other people who are some of the nicest people in the world can't have children. Why they can't have children when other horrible people can, I won't ever know. But anyway, there are a select group of people who shouldn't be parents.

If there was ever a film that showcased this adage, Loveless would be it. It's so bleak & depressing, but so worth the depression. It's so excellently acted & tensely directed that it's worth walking out feeling cold & empty. Set in 2012, the film follows Zhenya (played by Maryana Spivak) & Boris (played by Aleksey Rozin), a couple in Moscow that is in the midst of a divorce.

They have nothing but hatred towards each other. Zhenya is in a relationship with Anton (played by Andris Keišs), while Boris is in a relationship with Masha (played by Marina Vasilyeva). In the midst of this, their 12-year-old son, Alexey (played by Matvey Novikov), is neglected & mistreated by both of them.

One day, Alexey disappears, but Zhenya didn't realize it until the school called & said he hasn't been to school in 2 days. The police see this as just another runaway child case, & expect him to return within a few days. However, this quickly passes, & he doesn't return. The police fail to search any further, so a volunteer group takes up the effort. But the longer Alexey is missing, the more loveless Zhenya & Boris ultimately become.

The cast is excellent. Spivak & Rozin fire off of each other so excellently that when they fight, it feels so painfully real. But Novikov is the star here. Although he doesn't have a lot of screen time, he does so much with that screen time as Spivak & Rozin do with much more screen time.

Andrey Zvyagintsev's direction is spectacular. Zvyagintsev manages to get so much powerful emotion out of his actors. His approach to the film is very reminiscent of the films of Ingmar Bergman, evident by the cold atmosphere & the bleak tone.

The screenplay by Andrey Zvyagintsev & Oleg Negin is amazing. The dialogue feels so powerful & is so brutally honest. But the plot is the real gem. At the surface, the film seems to be about Alexey's disappearance & Zhenya & Boris's lives. But if you look a bit deeper, some themes start to arise. The themes of human nature, the views of Russian society, the Russian occupation of Ukraine, & the sociopolitical climate are in the background, but are still dealt with excellently.

And Mikhail Krichman's cinematography is stunning. The color palette is very dark, with a beautiful mix of blues & grays, reflecting the bleak tone of the film.

This is one of the best foreign films of the decade. It's excellently acted & directed, & the themes at the whole of it are so well-explored that it's worth the depression this film will likely give you.

Loveless was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, March 16, 2018. It is no longer in theaters in the Detroit area. Its runtime is 127 minutes, & it is rated R for strong sexuality, graphic nudity, language & a brief disturbing image.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Love, Simon

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Representation matters. It matters for every minority &/or marginalized community in the world. We are making big strides in representation. Wonder Woman gave young girls a female superhero role model to look up to. A Fantastic Woman gave trans people the realistic & respectful depiction they so deserve. And Black Panther gave people of African descent a long-awaited superhero.

Love, Simon is a pivotal landmark for representation of LGBTQ+ people, especially LGBTQ+ teenagers. While providing an opportunity for LGBTQ+ teenagers to see themselves faithfully represented on screen, it is also an absolutely perfect film. Based on the 2015 novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, the film follows Simon Spier (played by Nick Robinson), a high school senior in the Atlanta suburbs. He lives with his mother, Emily (played by Jennifer Garner), a therapist; his father, Jack (played by Josh Duhamel); & his younger sister, Nora (played by Talitha Bateman), an aspiring chef.

Simon has three best friends: Leah Burke (played by Katherine Langford); Nick Eisner (played by Jorge Lendeborg Jr.); & Abby Suso (played by Alexandra Shipp). Simon has been friends with Leah & Nick since early childhood, & although he's only been friends with Abby since she moved from Washington D.C., he feels like he's been friends with her as long as Leah & Nick. For the most part, Simon is a pretty normal teenager. Except he has one huge secret: he's gay.

One day, Leah tells Simon that she saw someone anonymously post on the school's rumor blog that they were in the closet, calling themselves "Blue." Simon starts an email correspondence with Blue, giving himself the pseudonym "Jacques," from the French phrase for Simon Says, "Jacques a dit." Simon & Blue soon form a real connection. However, classmate Martin Addison (played by Logan Miller) screenshots the emails after Simon left the library computer without signing out of his Gmail account. Martin uses the emails to blackmail Simon to get him with Abby. Simon must now juggle trying to find out who Blue is, stop Martin from leaking the emails, & coming to terms with his sexuality. And it's also senior year, so that's hard enough.

The cast is fantastic. Nick Robinson is absolutely amazing here. He can show so many emotions with the look of his face, & portrays the life of a gay teenager trying to reveal who he really is so beautifully. Katherine Langford, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., & Alexandra Shipp also provide great support to Nick Robinson. Josh Duhamel gives one of his best performances in years. And Jennifer Garner gives her greatest performance yet. There's one scene between her & Nick Robinson that will definitely be my favorite scene of the year that has earned positive comparisons to Michael Stuhlbarg's amazing monologue to Timothée Chalamet in 2017's Call Me by Your Name. The scene here is just as amazing & beautiful as the one in Call Me by Your Name, & one of the main reasons for that is because of Garner's performance.

Greg Berlanti's direction is excellent. Berlanti directs the film with a perfect subtlety, allowing for a great amount of heart, & a non-exploitative portrayal of LGBTQ+ teenagers, which is nothing short of groundbreaking.

The screenplay by Elizabeth Berger & Isaac Aptaker is amazing. Berger & Aptaker, known for writing several episodes of the award-winning TV show This Is Us, wrote a faithful adaptation to Becky Albertalli's novel, & realistically depict the comings & goings of a gay teenager. Also, it subverts many of the romantic comedy tropes, & is also wildly funny at many moments.

Rob Simonsen's score is stellar. Simonsen's ambient score is driven by a piano & synths, & has the feel of a Brian Eno album. This will definitely still be one of my favorite scores at the end of the year.

And the soundtrack is spectacular. Led by alternative rock music from the 2010s, this is a soundtrack that has perfectly matched my music taste.

This is the best film of the year, & one of my all-time favorite films. It has some amazing performances, perfectly subdued direction, & a beautiful screenplay, & is a milestone for representation of the LGBTQ+ community.

Love, Simon was seen by me at the MJR Chesterfield Crossing Digital Cinema 16 in Chesterfield Township, MI on Saturday, March 10, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 109 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual references, language & teen partying.


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

For some filmmakers, it takes them a very long time to get to a point where they can be considered a great director. For others, they become great right off the bat. Many famous directors, such as Paul Thomas Anderson, Martin Scorsese, Richard Linklater, the Coen Brothers, Quentin Tarantino & Wes Anderson are some great examples of established directors who have been great right from the minute the film started rolling in their debut film.

Thoroughbreds is a scathingly funny & thoroughly tense film that is one of the best directorial debuts in recent memory. The film follows Lily (played by Anya Taylor-Joy), a rich, smart & popular teenager in suburban Connecticut. She feels every emotion possible, & lives with her mother (played by Francie Swift) & her stepfather, Mark (played by Paul Sparks), whom she despises.

Her former best friend, Amanda (played by Olivia Cooke), who feels absolutely nothing, is at Lily's house to hang out & be tutored by Lily, but finds out her mother paid Lily to hang out with Amanda after an incident Amanda committed. Some time after this revelation, Lily & Amanda become friends again.

One night, after Lily tells her about Mark, Amanda asks her if she has ever thought of killing him. Lily denies this & asks Amanda to leave. However, after seeing Mark viciously berate her mother, Lily decides to plan with Amanda to kill him, proposing that Amanda do it, as she wouldn't feel remorse for it.

However, due to the incident Amanda committed, she feels that the prior incident would make her a prime suspect. As a result, Lily & Amanda hire Tim (played by Anton Yelchin), a drug dealer who is infamous for having sex with a 17-year-old when he was 23. But as the ball gets rolling, all of their plans start to crumble around them.

The cast is spectacular. Taylor-Joy & Cooke are 2 of the best rising stars in Hollywood, & they are both at the top of the game. And Yelchin, an actor who had the potential to be a star but went far too soon, is perfect. He is absolutely insane here. His performance is one of the best final performances I've ever seen.

Cory Finley's direction is excellent. Finley, a 28-year-old who had never even seen a film set before this film, directs this with the talent of a seasoned veteran. The film was originally planned to be a play, & that is evident here with the tense, claustrophobic feel in some parts.

Cory Finley's screenplay is brilliant. The dialogue is witty, dark & overall hilarious, & the characters are so well-written. Finley writes with the bravado of a young Paul Thomas Anderson.

Lyle Vincent's cinematography is amazing. Vincent uses a series of excellent long takes that are some of the best in a while.

Louise Ford's editing is excellent. Ford paces the film deliberately slow, allowing the intricacies of the plot to slowly unfold.

And Erik Friedlander's score is stellar. The cello-driven score adds another layer to the highly tense atmosphere of the film.

This is the best film of the year so far. Filled with amazing performances, a killer screenplay & stunning cinematography, I wouldn't be surprised if this ends up on my end-of-the-year list as one of the 10 best films of the year.

Thoroughbreds was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Friday, March 9, 2018. It is currently in 4 theaters in the Detroit area: the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI; the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; the AMC Forum 30 in Sterling Heights, MI; & the State Theatre in Ann Arbor, MI. Its runtime is 92 minutes, & it is rated R for disturbing behavior, bloody images, language, sexual references, & some drug content.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time

★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

A Wrinkle in Time could've been great. It could've been a visually groundbreaking masterpiece. With the performances & visuals, it's about halfway there.

However, everything else about this film is a complete mess. Based on the 1962 classic novel by Madeleine L'Engle, the film follows Meg Murry (played by Storm Reid), a 13-year-old that is wise beyond her years. After the disappearance of her astrophysicist father, Dr. Alex Murry (played by Chris Pine), Meg has become more withdrawn & arrogant. Her & her mother, Kate (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw) believe that he went missing while looking for other worlds.

One night, Meg's younger brother, Charles Wallace (played by Deric McCabe), invites a woman named Mrs. Whatsit (played by Reese Witherspoon) into the house. She has information about Alex involving the tesseract, which he was working on for space travel. The next day, Meg, Charles Wallace, Mrs. Whatsit, & Meg's friend, Calvin (played by Levi Miller), travel to the house of Mrs. Who (played by Mindy Kaling), who only speaks in quotes.

Soon after, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, & Mrs. Which (played by Oprah Winfrey) appear in Meg's backyard, & "tesser" Meg, Charles Wallace, & Calvin onto the planet of Uriel, where Alex was seen. In Uriel's atmosphere, they find The IT, a dark entity representing all negative emotions that is set on world domination, guarded by Red (played by Michael Peña). Alex was captured by The IT. A meeting with The Happy Medium (played by Zach Galifianakis) reveals that Alex is trapped on the planet of Camazotz, The IT's homeworld. Now, Meg, Charles Wallace, Calvin, & the Mrs. Ws must save Alex before it's too late.

The cast is good. Reid is the best out of the cast, & I wouldn't be surprised if she becomes a big name someday. Winfrey, Pine, Witherspoon, & Kaling are good. Galifianakis seems out of place here, & McCabe's performance is what a child performance shouldn't be: clingy & annoying.

Ava DuVernay's direction is underwhelming. While DuVernay's ambition is great, & she does bring a great sense of wonder, the tone doesn't feel as powerful as it should be.

The screenplay by Jennifer Lee & Jeff Stockwell is a disaster. Although the novel has long been considered to be unfilmable, it doesn't excuse the fact that there are an absurd amount of plot holes that make the film so utterly confusing. However, it does have a good message.

Tobias A. Schliessler's cinematography is amazing. The color palette is very stunning & the camerawork is extremely grand.

Spencer Averick's editing is terrible. The film is horribly paced, making its 109-minute runtime feel like almost 3 hours. Also, there is some really frenetic editing here that is way overdoing it.

Naomi Shohan's production design is excellent. The places that the characters "tesser" to are so stunning & awe-inspiring.

And the visual effects are a mixed bag. Some of the effects are great, while some aren't so great. Also, the CGI tends to be way overused throughout the film.

This is a real disappointment. Although the performances & visuals are good, the direction, editing & screenplay really bog the film down. From a great director like Ava DuVernay, this feels like even more of a disappointment than it usually would.

A Wrinkle in Time was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, March 9, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 109 minutes, & it is rated PG for thematic elements & some peril.

The Party

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Since I started my love for film, I've had a fascination with dark comedies. Making light of things that wouldn't be considered funny seemed to rise a lot of laughs out of me. There are some limits, but for the most part, dark humor is my type of humor.

The Party is one of the funniest dark comedies of the decade. The film follows Janet (played by Kristin Scott Thomas), a newly-appointed Shadow Minister for Health for the opposition party in the UK. To celebrate, she throws a dinner party. She invites 6 people: her cynical best friend, April (played by Patricia Clarkson); April's estranged German husband, Gottfried (played by Bruno Ganz), a spiritual healer; women's studies professor Martha (played by Cherry Jones); her partner, Jinny (played by Emily Mortimer), a chef; Janet's colleague, Marianne; & Marianne's banker husband, Tom (played by Cillian Murphy).

The guests arrive, except for Marianne, who Tom says will be coming late. In the living room, Janet's husband, Bill (played by Timothy Spall), stares blankly into space, drinking wine, & talking quietly.

As the drinks flow, revelations start to come to the surface. April & Gottfried are divorcing, Martha & Jinny are having triplets, & Bill is leaving Janet for Marianne. But that's only just the start of this eventful evening.

The cast is spectacular. Kristin Scott Thomas's performance is a more-than-welcome return to the silver screen. After a few years playing in very small films, she's starting to make a comeback. Cillian Murphy is perfect as a neurotic cokehead. But Patricia Clarkson is absolutely fantastic. Clarkson hasn't had this big of a role in years. And when she gets a big role, she shows that she is not to be messed with, & that is evident here. She is absolutely brilliant as a cynical, bitter realist.

Sally Potter's direction is excellent. The direction is subdued, maintaining a tense atmosphere while having a humorous undertone.

Sally Potter's screenplay is brilliant. The dialogue is some of the funniest in years, & is perfectly cynical & mean-spirited.

And Aleksei Rodionov's cinematography is amazing. Shot in black-&-white, this gives the film a darker & more bitter effect, matching the tone of the film.

This is one of the best films of the year. Sally Potter's writing is top-notch, & Patricia Clarkson absolutely steals the show.

The Party was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, March 2, 2018. It is no longer in theaters in the Detroit area. Its runtime is 71 minutes, & it is rated R for language & drug use.

A Fantastic Woman

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

For many years, the portrayal of transgender characters in film has been less than satisfactory, to say the least. Some are more respectful, while some are downright offensive, but none of them have hit the mark, as many films do not have actual transgender actors or actresses portraying the roles. Some may say it's all about talent, but there are some talented transgender actors & actresses out there.

A Fantastic Woman treats the film's subject with such care & tenderness, & is one of the most beautiful films of 2017. The film follows Marina Vidal (played by Daniela Vega), a singer & waitress in Santiago, Chile. She has just moved in with her older boyfriend, Orlando (played by Francisco Reyes), a divorcée.

One night, after going out for Marina's birthday, Orlando wakes up in the middle of the night with a brain aneurysm. Marina takes him to the hospital, but he dies from his aneurysm.

After his death, Marina is brutally victimized. She is victimized because she is a trans woman. A police officer purposefully calls her by her old name. An investigator from the sexual assault unit oversees a traumatic inspection of her. And Orlando's family shuts her out, banning her from coming to Orlando's funeral.

But Marina will not be silenced. She will not be deterred. She will stop at nothing to mourn the loss of her boyfriend & to be known for what she is: a fantastic woman.

The cast is fantastic. Daniela Vega's performance is a complete revelation. She can show so much emotion with just the look on her face. This performance shows that transgender actors & actresses are out there, & that they need to be faithfully represented. And Francisco Reyes also has some excellent chemistry with Daniela Vega. But this belongs to Vega's fantastic performance.

Sebastián Lelio's direction is excellent. Lelio's direction is subdued, & treats such a heavy & thought-provoking subject with the care & tenderness that it deserves.

And the screenplay by Sebastián Lelio & Gonzalo Maza is amazing. The dialogue feels natural, & the plot & story are so intriguing, & give the lead transgender character the respect she deserves.

This is one of the best foreign films of the decade. Led by a fantastic performance from Daniela Vega, this beautiful film finally gives trans people the representation they deserve. Hopefully, this film will lead the way for more trans actors & actresses to play roles meant for trans people in film, & lead to wider acceptance of trans people throughout the world.

A Fantastic Woman was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, March 2, 2018. It is currently in 2 theaters in the Detroit area: the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI & the State Theatre in Ann Arbor, MI. Its runtime is 100 minutes, & it is rated R for language, sexual content, nudity & a disturbing assault.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Game Night

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

There hasn't been a great dark comedy made by a major studio since 2011's Horrible Bosses. Many attempts at this have failed in recent years, not devoting enough time to plot development & devoting too much time to jokes, which mostly fall flat.

Game Night is the first great, studio-made dark comedy since Horrible Bosses. There's almost a laugh every 30 seconds, & it's extremely well-made. The film follows Max (played by Jason Bateman), an avid gamer. He meets Annie (played by Rachel McAdams) at a bar trivia night, & they eventually get married. They are trying to conceive, but to no avail, probably due to Max's stress & insecurity because of his more handsome & successful brother, Brooks (played by Kyle Chandler), who is arriving in town for a while. Max & Annie have regular game nights at their house, but try to keep it secret from their creepy neighbor, Gary Kingsbury (played by Jesse Plemons), a police officer & ex-wife of a friend of Max & Annie.

After a game night at Max & Annie's house, Brooks invites Max, Annie, & their friends: Ryan (played by Billy Magnussen); Kevin (played by Lamorne Morris); & Michelle (played by Kylie Bunbury). At the game night, Ryan brings his date, Sarah (played by Sharon Horgan) along. Brooks's game night plan is a murder mystery, & they must all find clues to solve it. Brooks hires an actor playing an FBI Agent (played by Jeffrey Wright) to inform them how the mystery goes, but two goons break in, knock the FBI Agent unconscious, & kidnap Brooks, while everyone else is oblivious, believing this is part of the game.

Eventually, they come to realize that this is not a game, & the group of friends get themselves into some dirty situations, leading to a man known as The Bulgarian (played by Michael C. Hall).

The cast is spectacular. Bateman & McAdams are hilarious, & Chandler shows he can be funny as well as being dramatic. But Plemons is the real star here. He is so creepy, so awkward, & so deadpan. He is the "Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda" of this film. He's a true scene-stealer.

The direction by John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein is excellent. Daley & Goldstein, known for writing Horrible Bosses, bring more of the darkly comedic flair from that film & bring it to new heights here.

Mark Perez's screenplay is brilliant. The plot is intricate, the story is intriguing, & the dialogue is absolutely hilarious. It has more humor that lands than most comedies in the past few years.

Barry Peterson's cinematography is stellar. There are a lot of excellent wide shots (that brilliantly use game pieces to represent the characters & their surroundings), & there is one excellent long-take sequence that is one of the best in recent memory.

The editing by Jamie Gross, Gregory Plotkin & David Egan is amazing. They keep the film fast-paced & tightly controlled.

And Cliff Martinez's score is outstanding. Martinez, known for his scores from Traffic & Drive, once again composes an excellent synth-driven score.

This is one of the best films of the year, & is one of the best comedies of the decade. It's twisty, tense, & gut-bustingly hilarious, like all dark comedies should be.

Game Night was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, February 23, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 100 minutes, & it is rated R for language, sexual references & some violence.

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Gloria Grahame, while not the most well-known of actresses during the Golden Age of Hollywood, was one of the better of them. An Oscar winner for 1952's The Bad & the Beautiful, Grahame was a rising star in Hollywood, before plastic surgery & an alienating persona on set caused her film career to quickly wane.

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool follows the true story of the last days of Gloria Grahame's life before her death from breast cancer & peritonitis in 1981. Based on the 1986 memoir of the same name by Peter Turner, & set from 1979-1981, the film follows Gloria Grahame (played by Annette Bening), the long-faded actress now renting a room in a boarding house in Liverpool, England. There, she meets Peter Turner (played by Jamie Bell), a 27-year-old struggling actor. They quickly develop a friendship, & eventually a courtship.

Peter eventually introduces Gloria to his parents, Bella (played by Julie Walters) & Joe (played by Kenneth Cranham), who are big fans of Gloria. Gloria also introduces Peter to her family, but there is some tension on that side of the family. As Gloria & Peter become closer, the tension rises between the two.

Two years later, in 1981, Gloria collapses in her dressing room before a performance of The Glass Menagerie. She is quickly dying from a reoccurrence of breast cancer. Gloria decides to recuperate at Peter's home with his parents. Together, Peter & his family try to look after Gloria in her last days.

The cast is spectacular. Annette Bening is absolutely phenomenal. Bening, unlike some actresses, embraces her aging & takes those few-&-far-between great roles for older women. She is way overdue for an Oscar (& she should've been nominated for one & won one for her performance in 2016's 20th Century Women), & this performance here solidified that fact that she needs an Oscar. Bell & Walters also provide great supporting performances, but this film belongs to Bening.

Paul McGuigan's direction is excellent. McGuigan, mostly known for directing mediocre action films such as Push & Victor Frankenstein, has finally struck gold here & shown that he can direct. His direction never misses a beat & keeps the film warm-hearted throughout.

And Matt Greenhalgh's screenplay is amazing. Greenhalgh faithfully adapts Turner's memoir & gives the story a well-intended sentimental feel that doesn't feel tacky.

This is one of the best & most overlooked films of the year. It has some great direction & amazing screenwriting, but this film would not be where it is without Annette Bening's tremendous performance.

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool was seen by me at the AMC Forum 30 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, February 23, 2018. It is no longer in theaters in the Detroit area. Its runtime is 105 minutes, & it is rated R for language, some sexual content & brief nudity.

Every Day

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Film adaptations of young adult novels, for the most part, tend to be terrible. They're always so cliched, never offering anything fresh or redeeming. Two films in the past 5 years: Me & Earl & the Dying Girl The Spectacular Now, are both excellent, but these are exceptions, not the rule. A few others have been good, but not great.

Every Day has joined the two aforementioned films as young adult novel film adaptations that offer something exciting & interesting to the genre. Based on the 2012 novel of the same name by David Levithan, the film follows Rhiannon (played by Angourie Rice), a 16-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Baltimore with her workaholic mother, Lindsey (played by Maria Bello), her unemployed father, Nick (played by Michael Cram), & her sister, Jolene (played by Debby Ryan).

One day, Rhiannon's boyfriend, Justin (played by Justice Smith), is acting different. He seems to be acting more respectful of Rhiannon. Later that day, Rhiannon & him ditch school to go to Baltimore. The next day, he returns to his old ways, with no memory of the day before. Rhiannon is asked by a new girl, Amy (played by Jeni Ross), if she can shadow her for the day. Later that day, Rhiannon feels embarrassed after an argument with Justin.

The next day, Rhiannon meets Nathan (played by Lucas Jade Zumann) at a party. He acts very friendly towards her, while Justin is off hanging out with his friends. A couple days later, Rhiannon is texted by a number that asks her to meet this person. The person tells Rhiannon she is a spirit that moves through a different person every day, is not the same person twice, is not far from the last person, & that the spirit was Justin, Amy & Nathan. The spirit is called A.

Rhiannon is shocked by this at first, but warms up to it, as A takes the form of David (played by Rory McDonald), James (played by Jacob Batalon), Vic (played by Ian Alexander), George (played by Sean Jones), Xavier (played by Colin Ford), Michael (played by Jake Sim), Kelsea (played by Nicole Law), Hannah (played by Karena Evans), & Katie (played by Hannah Richardson). But when A becomes Alexander (played by Owen Teague), a fellow classmate of hers, Rhiannon must face the implications of this ordeal.

The cast is amazing. Angourie Rice is phenomenal. After The Nice Guys, The Beguiled, & now this, Rice is starting to make a name for herself. She exudes so much warmth & realism from her performance. She's definitely going to make it big soon. The supporting cast, especially Owen Teague, Lucas Jade Zumann & Debby Ryan, are also great as well.

Michael Sucsy's direction is excellent. Sucsy maintains a calm, subdued, & warm-hearted atmosphere throughout the entire film.

Jesse Andrews' screenplay is amazing. Andrews, known for writing both the book & film adaptation of Me & Earl & the Dying Girl, continues his streak of excellent storytelling here, writing a faithful adaptation of Levithan's novel.

And Rogier Stoffers' cinematography is stellar. Stoffers, a lesser-known cinematographer for films such as Quills, John Q. & School of Rock, shows that he has some great filming abilities here. The lighting is great, & there are some great wide shots here.

This is one of the most surprising films in a while. What could have easily been extremely formulaic becomes something fresh & tender, something that doesn't come often in film adaptations of young adult novels.

Every Day was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Thursday, February 22, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 95 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for thematic content, language, teen drinking, & suggestive material.

Monday, March 12, 2018


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

We've had some truly great brainy sci-fi films as of late. Interstellar, Ex Machina, Arrival & Blade Runner 2049 are prime examples of those sci-fi films that have so much thinking in them then have something that leaves you with your jaw wide open.

Annihilation is another example of those films. This is a film that took me a lot of time to wrap my head around, but I definitely know I loved it. Based on the 2014 novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer, the film follows Lena Byers (played by Natalie Portman), a former soldier in the U.S. Army & current cellular biology professor at a university. She is still grief-stricken over the disappearance of her husband, Kane (played by Oscar Isaac), a soldier in the Army Special Forces.

One day, Kane returns, but his memory is very foggy & he is very ill. Not long after, Lena & Kane are taken to Area X, a secret government facility in an unknown location in the South (from the maps shown in the movie, it seems to be Louisiana). At the facility, Lena meets Dr. Ventress (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh), who tells her that Kane went into the shimmer with a team & was the only one who survived. The shimmer was formed by an outer-space object collision & is slowly expanding. Ventress recruits her for the next mission, along with physicist Josie Radeck (played by Tessa Thompson), geomorphologist Cass Shepherd (played by Tuva Novotny), & paramedic Anya Thorensen (played by Gina Rodriguez).

The 5 enter the shimmer, with any type of communication & navigation technology failing. They make many discoveries involving what goes on inside the shimmer. But as they get further into the shimmer, the more startling their discoveries get.

The cast is excellent. Portman kills it once again. The supporting cast of women, namely Thompson & Rodriguez, are also excellent.

Alex Garland's direction is amazing. Garland keeps the atmosphere so viciously tense, blending sci-fi & horror perfectly.

Alex Garland's screenplay is brilliant. Garland faithfully adapts VanderMeer's novel, & makes the story just as thought-provoking on screen as on print.

Rob Hardy's cinematography is stunning. The visuals are colorful, especially in the shimmer, & there is an abundance of amazing shots in the shimmer.

Barney Pilling's editing is excellent. Pilling allows the story to slowly unfold, & this is reflected in the methodically slow pacing.

Mark Digby's production design is stellar. The shimmer is so immersive, & the various plants & architecture of the shimmer are stunning.

The sound design is incredible. Some events that occur in the shimmer allow for some absolutely mind-blowing sounds that really stick with you.

The visual effects are impeccable. The wall of the shimmer & the events inside the shimmer allow for some excellent effects.

And the score by Geoff Barrow & Ben Salisbury is excellent. Led by ambient noises, the score really enhances the tense & sometimes scary atmosphere.

This is one of the best films of the year, & one of the best sci-fi films of the decade. The performances are great, the direction is excellent, & the visuals are simply awe-inspiring. This one deserves to be thoroughly delved into.

Annihilation was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Thursday, February 22, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 115 minutes, & it is rated R for violence, bloody images, language & some sexuality.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Happy End

½★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I've never seen a film by Michael Haneke in my lifetime. I know two things about his films: his films have been acclaimed by many as masterpieces, & you must never expect a happy ending from any of his films.

Happy End, despite the title, doesn't have a happy ending, but that's the best thing to come out of this film: the ending, which was long-awaited after a long, meandering, unfocused mess. The film follows Anne Laurent (played by Isabelle Huppert), the center of a powerful French family in Calais. Her father, Georges (played by Jean-Louis Trintignant), is slowly becoming more ravaged by dementia & has lost his will to live. She finds solace in her fiancé, Lawrence Bradshaw (played by Toby Jones).

Her son, Pierre (played by Franz Rogowski), is the black sheep of the family. He was at the forefront of an accident at a construction site, & he is also an alcoholic.

Her brother, Thomas (played by Mathieu Kassovitz), is a divorcée, currently married to Anaïs (played by Laura Verlinden). His daughter, Eve (played by Fantine Harduin), who lives with his selfish ex-wife, is precocious, to say the least.

All of this family drama will continue to build & build, but a happy end is certainly nowhere in the future of the Laurents.

The cast is unsatisfactory. Isabelle Huppert is really wasted here, & it's a shame because she is one of the greatest actresses of all time. Jean-Louis Trintignant & Toby Jones are also somewhat wasted. Fantine Harduin & Mathieu Kassovitz do a good job with what they're given.

Michael Haneke's direction is underwhelming. Haneke is totally unfocused behind the camera. He has no idea what he is doing with the film. It's tonally inconsistent, & has no idea what it wants to be: Is it a satire? Is it a family drama? What is it? We don't know.

Michael Haneke's screenplay is terrible. The plot & story are so boring, & the dialogue is completely nonsensical & pseudo-intellectual.

And Monika Willi's editing is awful. There are barely any cuts in the film. Even though I'm a fan of long takes, something has to happen in them. Would it have harmed anyone if Willi actually made a cut more than once every 5 minutes? Probably not. Also, the film drags on, making the film's runtime feel unbearable.

This was one of the worst films of 2017. It's nonsensical, boring, & a bad start for my venture into the filmography of Michael Haneke. Let's hope his previous films are better.

Happy End was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Monday, February 19, 2018. It is no longer in theaters in the Detroit area. Its runtime is 107 minutes, & it is rated R for some sexual material & language.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Early Man

★★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

When I was a kid, one of my favorite films was the animated film Chicken Run. The excellent humor, coupled with the fantastic animation by the team at Aardman, made it a favorite of mine.

After a few years, I have returned to the films of Aardman with Early Man, a slightly flawed but overall great animated film. Set in the Stone Age, the film follows Dug (voiced by Eddie Redmayne), a young caveman living in a valley created by the meteor that hit years before. He is more ambitious than the other people in his tribe, wanting to go hunt something bigger than rabbits, namely woolly mammoths. However, the chief of the tribe, Bobnar (voiced by Timothy Spall), is against it.

One day, an army led by Lord Nooth (voiced by Tom Hiddleston) barges into the valley, driving the tribe into the volcanic lands outside of the valley. Lord Nooth announces the death of the Stone Age & the birth of the Bronze Age. Dug, in an attempt to attack them, ends up falling into their cart & is led to the city. In the city, in an attempt to escape, Dug is mistaken for a soccer player & is sent on to the field for a match.

After being discovered, Dug challenges Nooth's team to a match for the valley. Nooth brushes him off at first, but agrees to the match when he realizes how much he can profit off of the supposed win.

In order to this, Dug needs a lot of help, which comes in the form of Goona (voiced by Maisie Williams), a young Bronze Age girl who loves soccer, but is upset at Nooth's team's exclusion of women. With the help of Goona & the tribe, they might just pull off an upset for the ages, both Stone & Bronze.

The voice cast is excellent. Eddie Redmayne actually makes me like him for once, with his voice talents paying off more than some of his live-action performances. Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams & Timothy Spall are great as well.

Nick Park's direction is good. His work isn't as steady as it was on Chicken Run, as it doesn't have as much panache as his older films, but it's still good enough to outweigh the flaws.

The screenplay by Mark Burton, James Higginson & Nick Park is amazing. Just like all of the other Aardman films, there is a lot of offbeat humor that fires out a lot of laughs.

And the animation is stellar. The stop-motion animation that Aardman is known for is still top-notch, & has been since their inception.

This is a great animated film. Although it isn't elite, it still gets a lot right for it to be better than most non-Disney & non-Pixar animated films.

Early Man was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Saturday, February 17, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 89 minutes, & it is rated PG for rude humor & some action.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Michigan Movie Guy's 2018 Oscar Predictions

The night we have all waited for has arrived. Tonight, the Oscars will be on. This is the most uncertain Oscars in years. I am pretty sure I'll only get half of the winners right. Here are my predictions for all the categories, but this year, I will go in reverse order from the past 2 years, starting with the shorts & ending with Best Picture. Let's get it!

Best Documentary Short

I haven't seen any of the shorts, as the screenings for the documentary shorts were few & far between. However, I am biased towards Edith+Eddie, as I have heard there is a Detroit area connection to the short.

Will Win/Could Win/Should Win: Edith+Eddie

Best Animated Short

For the first time, I was able to see all 5 of the Oscar-nominated animated shorts. I loved all of them.

Will Win: Dear Basketball
Could Win: Garden Party
Should Win: Revolting Rhymes

Best Live-Action Short

Also for the first time, I was able to see all 5 of the Oscar-nominated live-action shorts. I thought all of them were great.

Will Win: DeKalb Elementary
Could Win/Should Win: The Silent Child

Best Documentary Short

Sadly, I've been unable to see any of the documentary nominees, as only one was in theaters near me, but it was almost an hour away, & I haven't had time to watch the other nominees, which were either on Netflix or on demand. But one of them has piqued my interest, & I hope to watch it soon, & that one will be the winner.

Will Win/Could Win/Should Win: Faces Places

Best Animated Feature

I've seen 3 of the 5 nominees (Coco, Loving Vincent & The Boss Baby). I'll never understand why The Boss Baby was nominated. That was one of the worst films of 2017. The Lego Batman Movie should have been nominated instead.

Will Win/Could Win/Should Win: Coco

Best Foreign Language Film

I've seen 2 of the 5 nominees (A Fantastic Woman & The Insult), which is the most I've seen ever before the Oscars. I haven't watched On Body & Soul on Netflix yet, I didn't see The Square when it was in theaters, as the closest theater showing it was almost an hour away (but I do own it on DVD now), & Loveless will not be in the Detroit area until March 23.

Will Win/Should Win: A Fantastic Woman
Could Win: The Square

Best Original Song

All of the songs here are great. But one stands out to me: Sufjan Stevens' Mystery of Love from Call Me by Your Name. It is just so beautiful.

Will Win: This is Me from The Greatest Showman
Could Win: Remember Me from Coco
Should Win: Mystery of Love from Call Me by Your Name

Best Original Score

All of the scores here are excellent. Dunkirk's score is pulse-pounding, Phantom Thread's score is classically-inspired, The Shape of Water's score has an underwater feel to it, Star Wars: The Last Jedi's score is one of John Williams's best, & Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri's score is reminiscent of Carter Burwell's past scores for films by the Coen Brothers.

Will Win: The Shape of Water
Could Win/Should Win: Phantom Thread

Best Visual Effects

All of these films had great visual effects. But 2 stand out: Blade Runner 2049 & War for the Planet of the Apes. Blade Runner 2049 had seamless CGI & practical effects, while War for the Planet of the Apes had excellent motion-capture effects.

Will Win/Should Win: Blade Runner 2049
Could Win: War for the Planet of the Apes

Best Sound Mixing

Sound mixing is the process of mixing the sounds with the film, & leveling them out to sound crisp & clear. All 5 films had great sound mixing, & equally deserve to win. But one deserves it the most.

Will Win/Should Win: Dunkirk
Could Win: Baby Driver

Best Sound Editing

Sound editing is the creation of sounds for a film. All 5 films here had great sound editing, & equally deserve to win. But one deserves it the most.

Will Win/Should Win: Dunkirk
Could Win: Baby Driver

Best Makeup & Hairstyling

Darkest Hour & Wonder both had excellent makeup & hairstyling, but Victoria & Abdul's makeup & hairstyling was not Oscar-nominee-worthy. I, Tonya really should've been nominated, & The Shape of Water should've made the shortlist. Also, there should be 5 nominees in this category instead of 3.

Will Win/Could Win/Should Win: Darkest Hour

Best Production Design

The 5 nominees had great production design, but Blade Runner 2049 & The Shape of Water had some excellent production design.

Will Win/Could Win/Should Win: The Shape of Water

Best Costume Design

4 of the 5 nominees had excellent costume design, but Phantom Thread had some of the best costume design I've ever seen. Every costume in the film was a work of art.

Will Win/Could Win/Should Win: Phantom Thread

Best Film Editing

Film editing is the process of making the film into a finished product in post-production. While Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was well-edited, it doesn't really fit here. I would have nominated Get Out in its place. The Shape of Water was excellently edited. But Baby Driver, Dunkirk, & I, Tonya had some amazing editing.

Will Win/Should Win: Dunkirk
Could Win: Baby Driver

Best Cinematography

With Mudbound's well-deserved nomination in this category, Rachel Morrison became the first woman to ever be nominated for Best Cinematography. Darkest Hour's cinematography was well-done, I personally wouldn't have nominated it. I would've nominated Get Out instead. Dunkirk's cinematography was a welcome return for 70mm film. The Shape of Water's cinematography was beautiful, with such an abundance of green, giving the film an underwater tone. But Blade Runner 2049's cinematography is some of the best ever. Every shot is immaculate. And if it does win, Roger Deakins will win his first Oscar for Best Cinematography, after 13 Oscar nominations without a win.

Will Win/Should Win: Blade Runner 2049
Could Win: The Shape of Water

Best Adapted Screenplay

Every film here had an amazing screenplay & stayed true to their source material. But Call Me by Your Name's screenplay was a once-in-a-generation screenplay. It was so beautiful & realistic & full of heart.

Will Win/Could Win/Should Win: Call Me by Your Name

Best Original Screenplay

All of these films had some great screenplays. Get Out & The Shape of Water had some of the most original screenplays I've ever seen. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was full of some brilliant dialogue. And The Big Sick & Lady Bird felt so real & had so much heart.

Will Win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Could Win: Get Out or Lady Bird
Should Win: Lady Bird

Best Supporting Actress

These 5 nominees all gave great performances. But 3 stand out: Allison Janney, Lesley Manville, & Laurie Metcalf.

Will Win: Allison Janney
Could Win/Should Win: Laurie Metcalf

Best Supporting Actor

This is the first time since 1991 where 2 nominees in this category were from the same film. The 5 nominees all gave great performances. But 2 stand out: Willem Dafoe & Sam Rockwell.

Will Win/Could Win/Should Win: Sam Rockwell

Best Actress

All 5 nominees were amazing (although I wouldn't have nominated Meryl Streep & instead would've nominated Vicky Krieps for Phantom Thread). But this category is just about locked.

Will Win/Could Win: Frances McDormand
Should Win: Saoirse Ronan

Best Actor

All 5 nominees were amazing. I've warmed up to Denzel Washington's performance in Roman J. Israel, Esq. (along with the film), & I'm not as upset about the nomination as I once was. But this category has been locked for a long time.

Will Win/Could Win: Gary Oldman
Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Director

When you look at how well a film is directed, you should look at how scenes fit with the film & how the characters react to events in the film. All 5 nominees are more than worthy of a nomination here.

Will Win: Guillermo del Toro
Could Win: Christopher Nolan
Should Win: Greta Gerwig

Best Picture

This is one of the best lists of Best Picture nominees in a long time. All of these films are in my top 25 of 2017. It is also the most uncertain list of Best Picture nominees in a long time. 3 of these films could easily win Best Picture. I would be happy with a lot of these winning. There is a big chance my prediction will be wrong. But I'm going with my gut here.

Will Win: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Could Win: The Shape of Water or Get Out
Should Win: Lady Bird

Well, these are my Oscar predictions. Check back throughout the night to look if I was right or wrong on my predictions, & don't forget to watch the Oscars tonight at 8pm on ABC!