Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Michigan Movie Guy's Top 25 Best Films of 2017

2017, for all of the bad things that happened, including the political turmoil & the Tad Cummins incident, was a great year, especially for film. It was the best year since the epic year for film since 2007. 2017 beats any year for film in recent memory. And now, after many weeks of careful consideration, I now present my list of the Top 25 Best Films of 2017.

(Note: All but one film will have a link to my review of that film).

25. Wind River

A terrific crime thriller with some great performances, a great screenplay, excellent cinematography, & terrific sound design. My review can be found here.

24. Wonderstruck

A wondrous film adapted from a great young adult novel filled with great performances, beautiful cinematography & gorgeous period elements. My review can be found here.

23. I, Tonya

A terrific dark comedy about one of the wildest moments in sports history, filled with great performances, terrific editing, & some excellent makeup & hairstyling. My review can be found here.

22. Columbus

A beautifully quiet film filled with terrific performances, excellent writing, gorgeous cinematography, & a beautiful score.

21. The Disaster Artist

A terrifically funny film about the making of The Room, buoyed by a terrific performance from James Franco & a brilliant screenplay. My review can be found here.

20. Detroit

A disturbing & horrifying thriller about one of the most terrifying moments in not only American history, but local Detroit history. My review can be found here.

19. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

This is one of the best Star Wars films. The performances, direction & screenplay are all great, but the best aspects are the technical elements, especially the visual effects. My review can be found here.

18. Baby Driver

An excellent crime-comedy-thriller with sleek direction, fast-paced editing, killer sound design, & an awesome soundtrack. My review can be found here.

17. Darkest Hour

A terrific political biopic, led by an outstanding performance from Gary Oldman, along with some amazing visuals & gorgeous period elements. My review can be found here.

16. Brigsby Bear

One of the quirkiest films in recent memory, but also one of the most heartwarming, & led by a sweet & good-natured performance from Kyle Mooney. My review can be found here.

15. Logan

One of the best superhero films in recent memory, with an amazing performance from Hugh Jackman in his final appearance as Wolverine. My review can be found here.

14. The Post

One of the most important films of 2017, & some of Steven Spielberg's best work in a while, led by great work from Meryl Streep & Tom Hanks. My review can be found here.

13. Last Flag Flying

An amazing comedy-drama featuring excellent performances across the board, & an excellent screenplay from Richard Linklater & Darryl Ponicsan. My review can be found here.

12. Molly's Game

An excellent directorial debut for Aaron Sorkin, with a brilliant screenplay from Aaron Sorkin & a powerhouse performance from Jessica Chastain. My review can be found here.

11. The Florida Project

An excellent film about people on the fringes of society, led by excellent performances, especially from newcomer Brooklynn Prince & Willem Dafoe. My review can be found here.

10. The Beguiled

A well-crafted drama from Sofia Coppola, with tremendous performances across the board, an amazing screenplay, & some beautiful period elements. My review can be found here.

9. Get Out

One of the most brilliant films in recent memory, led by a powerhouse performance from Daniel Kaluuya, great direction, a brilliant screenplay, & excellent editing. My review can be found here.

8. The Shape of Water

A gorgeous fantasy film, featuring excellent performances, amazing direction, a brilliant screenplay, beautiful visuals, & some gorgeous period elements. My review can be found here.

7. Blade Runner 2049

One of the best sci-fi films ever made. The performances are great, the direction is superb, the screenplay is brilliant, the visuals are perfect, the period elements are fantastic, & the score is amazing. My review can be found here.

6. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

One of the best dark comedies ever. Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson & Sam Rockwell all give career-best performances. The direction is excellent, the screenplay is brilliant, & the score is fantastic. My review can be found here.

5. Dunkirk

Simply the best war film ever made. The performances are great, the direction is fantastic, the cinematography is phenomenal, the editing is excellent, the sound design is impeccable, & the score is amazing. My review can be found here.

4. Call Me by Your Name

One of the most beautiful films I've ever seen. Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer & Michael Stuhlbarg are nothing short of perfect, the direction is amazing, the screenplay is so realistic, & Sufjan Stevens's music is delightful. My review can be found here.

3. The Big Sick

One of the funniest films in recent memory. The cast is amazing, the direction is great, & the screenplay is hilarious. My review can be found here.

2. Phantom Thread

One of the best films ever made. The performances are excellent, the direction is fantastic, the screenplay is brilliant, the visuals are gorgeous, the period elements are perfect, & the score is beautiful. My review can be found here.

1. Lady Bird

My favorite film of all time. Everything about this film is perfect, from the performances to the direction & screenplay. I completely fell in love with this film, & I had such a huge emotional connection to it. This film has got me through a lot of stuff, & this will be my favorite film for a long time. My review can be found here.

Well, that's my list of the Top 25 Best Films of 2017. 2017 was a great year for film, & I can't wait for what will be the best of 2018.


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

The turmoil in Israel has been ongoing for years, with no end in sight. It is mainly of their own creation, due to their vicious, almost genocidal treatment of the Palestinian people. While I do not blame the Israeli people for this, but I do blame their horrific government.

Foxtrot is a well-made film that criticizes the Israeli government, framing it around a small, simple story. The film follows Michael (played by Lior Ashkenazi) & Daphna (played by Sarah Adler) Feldman, a upper-middle class couple in Tel Aviv. The have 2 children: a daughter, Alma (played by Shira Haas); & a son, Jonathan (played by Yonathan Shiray), who is serving his required duty in the Israeli Defense Forces.

One day, members of the IDF knock at their door. Daphna answers it, & what she hears sends her into shock: Jonathan has been killed in the line of duty. While Daphna is sedated due to the shock, Michael is sent into fury, viciously angered by the series of events.

Flashbacks reveal Jonathan's time in the IDF before he was killed. Jonathan & 3 other men served at an outpost at a border crossing. Their job is to check the border when people cross. They use an old van for their radio transmissions & a sinking storage bin for their sleeping quarters. Their time is very uneventful, telling stories from their childhood & waiting for the occasional camel to cross. But on one night, one mistake could destroy Jonathan's life, along with the rest of his troop.

The cast is fantastic. Lior Ashkenazi, who has been one of Israel's best actors in recent memory, is phenomenal. He's volatile in some parts, subdued in others, reflecting his shock & awe in his grief-stricken state. Sarah Adler is also great, & has some great chemistry with Ashkenazi.

Samuel Maoz's direction is excellent. Maoz mixes many powerful themes, & frames every single scene so perfectly. The best part of his direction is his slight change in the 3-act structure: the first & third acts are very realistic, but the second act is more surreal, & this is where Maoz becomes his most scathing of the Israeli government.

And Samuel Maoz's screenplay is brilliant. There are a number of shocking twists in the film, creating a completely unpredictable narrative. But a big surprise in the screenplay is the biting satirical humor, mainly in the second act.

This is one of the best foreign films of the decade. Also, this film was notable in Israel for its critique of the Israeli government, receiving scorn from higher ups in the government. However, it was named Best Picture at Israel's Ophir Awards, sending the film as the Israeli entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars (it did not receive a nomination, but made the final shortlist). I personally would've nominated this, as I think it was the best foreign language film of 2017.

Foxtrot was seen by me at the State Theater in Ann Arbor, MI on Saturday, April 21, 2018. It is currently in 1 theater in the Detroit area: the State Theater in Ann Arbor, MI. Its runtime is 108 minutes, & it is rated R for some sexual content including graphic images, & brief drug use.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Super Troopers 2

★★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I'm definitely not the biggest fan of stupid humor. I mean, I hate most of Adam Sandler's comedies since 2011, even though I haven't seen the majority of them. They're just tired, PG-13 jokes that are just gross. However, I like stupid humor when it's done well. Kevin Smith's films, including Clerks, Mallrats & Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, are prime examples of stupid humor done well.

Super Troopers 2, while not as great as the first, is still a very hilarious & well-done sequel that is way better than any comedy sequel deserves to be. The film follows our favorite group of Vermont highway patrolmen: Arcot "Thorny" Ramathorn (played by Jay Chandrasekhar); Jeff Foster (played by Paul Soter); McIntyre "Mac" Womack (played by Steve Lemme); Robert "Rabbit" Roto (played by Erik Stolhanske); & Rodney Farva (played by Kevin Heffernan). After an unfortunate incident involving Fred Savage (played by Fred Savage), the 5 have gone separate ways: Farva is a construction supervisor, with Mac & Rabbit working for him; Thorny has become a logger; & Foster spends his time with his girlfriend, Chief Ursula Hanson (played by Marisa Coughlan).

One day, the 5 get a call from their former boss, Captain John O'Hagen (played by Brian Cox), about a fishing trip. When they get up there, they find out it's not a fishing trip: instead, Governor Jessman (played by Lynda Carter) has asked them all to oversee the transfer of the Quebec town of St. Georges du Laurent to Vermont, after a recent land survey discovered that some Canadian land was actually meant for the U.S. They must also set up a police department to take over from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers in the town: Mountie Bellefuille (played by Tyler Labine); Mountie Archambault (played by Will Sasso); & Mountie Podien (played by Hayes MacArthur).

Although the mayor of St. Georges du Laurent, former hockey player Guy LeFranc (played by Rob Lowe) tries to smooth over the transition, the townsfolk are openly hostile to the takeover, fearing that their culture will be taken away. The troopers only infuriate them more with their jingoism. But when they come across some illegal contraband, it's up to the troopers to save the day with their good old-fashioned shenanigans.

The cast is fantastic. The Broken Lizard troupe (Chandrasekhar, Soter, Lemme, Stolhanske & Heffernan) are all hilarious, & their comedic performances are enhanced by their great chemistry. Brian Cox is also excellent. And Rob Lowe with a Quebec accent is one of the funniest things I'll see this entire year.

Jay Chandrasekhar's direction is good. Although he does hit a few rough spots with the timing of the jokes, he does a great job with keeping a great comedic tone throughout.

And the screenplay by Broken Lizard is hilarious. Every single ounce of the screenplay is filled with stupid humor that is written so excellently, & does it better than 95% of comedies in the past 10 years that are filled with stupid humor.

This is one of the funniest films of the past couple years. Although it's not perfect, it's a great enough sequel that was long-awaited & appreciated.

Super Troopers 2 was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Saturday, April 21, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 99 minutes, & it is rated R for crude sexual content & language throughout, drug material & some graphic nudity.

Lean on Pete

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Although the United States is supposedly the greatest country in the world, many people in this country still live in squalor, unable to pull themselves up because we haven't given them the tools they need to do so.

Lean on Pete is a story of such people, & is one of the most beautiful films of the year. Based on the 2010 novel of the same name by Willy Vlautin, the film follows Charley Thompson (played by Charlie Plummer), a 15-year-old boy living with his father, Ray (played by Travis Fimmel) in the Pacific Northwest. His mother walked out when he was young; despite this, Ray tells Charley that deep down, she most likely still loves him.

During the summer, Charley gets a job at a horse racetrack. There, he meets the rough & tough owner, Del Montgomery (played by Steve Buscemi) & a jockey, Bonnie (played by Chloë Sevigny). They both warn Charley not to get attached to the horses, as they're not pets.

However, Charley does get attached to one horse: a horse named Lean on Pete. When he finds out he's destined for slaughter, Charley breaks Lean on Pete out of the stables, & the two of them set out on a journey to Wyoming. But the hardships they face along the way are worse than they could have ever imagined.

The cast is fantastic. Charlie Plummer is an absolute revelation. His performance is so raw & realistic. Steve Buscemi also does a great supporting job. And it's nice to see Chloë Sevigny in a film again, after what felt like a long time. But this is Charlie Plummer's film, & he runs with it. He's going to go far, & I can't wait to see what he does next.

Andrew Haigh's direction is excellent. His direction is subdued & quiet, like his direction for his 2 previous films, 2011's Weekend & 2015's 45 Years, which I have yet to watch but do own & have heard nothing but great things about them.

Andrew Haigh's screenplay is amazing. The dialogue feels so human, & the characters are so well-written, even down to the ones we don't see for more than a few minutes.

And Magnus Joenck's cinematography is stellar. His camerawork quietly captures the serene atmosphere of the adventure Charley goes on, & makes every shot look like a majestic mural.

This is one of the 3 best films of the year. It's a beautifully-made & seldom-told story about some downtrodden people who need help but have never received it. It's a tough & emotional watch, & wasn't what I expected it to be, but I loved where it went & it's worth the onslaught of emotions that will come over you.

Lean on Pete was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, April 20, 2018. It is currently in 1 theater in the Detroit area: the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; it will expand to more theaters starting Friday, April 27, 2018. Its runtime is 121 minutes, & it is rated R for language & brief violence.

Monday, April 23, 2018

You Were Never Really Here

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Lynne Ramsay is one of the most uncompromising voices in cinema today. With her filmography, especially her 2011 psychological horror-thriller We Need to Talk about Kevin, Ramsay has proven her status as a director with the ability to disturb & engage narratively, visually, & through sound design, while telling a story so well with minimal dialogue & exposition.

You Were Never Really Here further shows her power as a director, & ends up making me more tense than any other film I've ever seen. Based on the 2013 novella of the same name by Jonathan Ames, the film follows Joe (played by Joaquin Phoenix), a veteran & ex-FBI agent. Haunted by memories of his past in the military & as an FBI agent, along with his abusive childhood, & becoming suicidal as a result of PTSD, Joe spends his days caring for his mother (played by Judith Roberts), rescuing girls from sex trafficking, or waiting for a new rescue operation from his handler, John McCleary (played by John Doman) or their middleman, Angel (played by Frank Pando).

One day, Joe receives a new job from McCleary. New York State Senator Albert Votto (played by Alex Manette), a friend of & campaigner for Governor Williams (played by Alessandro Nivola), has offered a large amount of money to rescue his daughter, Nina (played by Ekaterina Samsonov), who has been abducted. He received a tip through a text with an address: 235 East 31st Street. Votto has asked Joe to rescue Nina because of his reputation for brutality, using a hammer for his jobs. Joe takes the job. But Joe eventually finds himself in a web of lies & corruption as he goes further into the rescue operation.

The cast is superb. Joaquin Phoenix easily gives the best performance of a career, in one of the best performances of the century, cementing himself as one of the finest actors in the history of cinema. Phoenix brings so much raw emotion, both external & internal, to the performance, & I truly believe that there won't be a better performance this year. He won the Best Actor Award at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival for his performance, & he definitely deserves to win the Oscar for Best Actor, if he gets nominated.

Ekaterina Samsonov is a complete revelation. Samsonov, whose only other role of note was a minor role in 2017's Wonderstruck, also does a tremendous job here. Like Phoenix's character, Samsonov's character is forced to grow up quickly because of her emotional & psychological trauma. And even without much dialogue, Samsonov portrays it so excellently.

Lynne Ramsay's direction is phenomenal. Ramsay is at her best here, shocking us & disturbing us with such sheer brutality at every second, never allowing us to breathe until the credits roll. Furthermore, she's more interested in the psyche of Phoenix's character rather than the acts he commits, unlike most thriller directors, showing his acts from a distance (although when violence is shown in the film, it is shocking). If this doesn't cement Ramsay as one of the best directors in film today in the eyes of cinephiles, then I don't know what will. But it has for me.

Lynne Ramsay's screenplay is brilliant. Like her other adaptations of novels, Ramsay doesn't go for sticking to the script, instead focusing more on telling the story through visuals & sound. But her storytelling is phenomenal, as she is able to tell so much with so little. It's no surprise she won Best Screenplay at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival for this.

Thomas Townend's cinematography is stellar. Townend's camerawork is buoyed by tracking shots, a dark color palette, & some truly excellent lighting.

Joe Bini's editing is some of the best in years. Bini uses so many quick cuts that feel so visceral, like massive gut-punches. Also, the pacing is so amazing, making the film's 89-minute runtime go by so fast, & heightening the tension every second. It would be a crime if he doesn't at least get an Oscar nomination for Best Film Editing.

The sound design is incredible. The loud sounds of Joe's day-to-day life, like the trains rustling by on the tracks, & the hustle & bustle of the New York traffic, mirror Joe's internal struggles. And this is one of the biggest standouts in a film full of standout pieces.

And Jonny Greenwood's score is the best of his career. Greenwood, known for his role as the lead guitarist for Radiohead, & a recent Oscar nominee for his beautiful work on Phantom Thread, has managed to top himself with every score he's ever done. Powered by a mix of ambient synths, powerful violins, & a cacophonous guitar, Greenwood not only adds to the tense atmosphere of the film, but also mirrors Joe's internal struggles, going hand-in-hand with the sound design.

This is not only the best film of the year so far, but one of the best films of the past 20 years. Powered by phenomenal performances from Joaquin Phoenix & Ekaterina Samsonov, stellar direction from Lynne Ramsay, brilliant editing, impeccable sound design & one of the best scores ever from Jonny Greenwood, this is a true masterpiece in every sense of the word, ranking with some of the best neo-noir psychological thrillers ever, such as Taxi DriverDrive Zodiac. May this film win all the awards it is sure to receive.

You Were Never Really Here was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, April 20, 2018. It is currently showing in 1 theater in the Detroit area: the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; it will expand to more theaters starting Friday, April 27, 2018. Its runtime is 89 minutes, & it is rated R for strong violence, disturbing & grisly images, language, & brief nudity.

Sunday, April 22, 2018


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Many comedies focus way too much on dumb, scatological humor, with no room for any heart or smart comedy at all.

Thankfully, Blockers is a godsend for the genre; along with an onslaught of hilarity, it has so much heart in it. The film follows Lisa (played by Leslie Mann), the single mother of high-school senior Julie (played by Kathryn Newton). Since Julie started kindergarten, she has been friends with Kayla (played by Geraldine Viswanathan) & Sam (played by Gideon Adlon). As a result of this, Lisa has befriended Kayla's emotional father, Mitchell (played by John Cena) & Sam's absent father, Hunter (played by Ike Barinholtz).

On the day of prom, Julie & Kayla plan to lose their virginity on prom night. Sam, a closeted lesbian, is reluctant at first, but then joins in on the pact. After Julie, Kayla & Sam leave for prom, Lisa notices that Julie left her laptop on the iMessage page. Through that, Lisa sees Julie, Kayla & Sam's groupchat. Mitchell & Hunter also snoop in on the groupchat. They see a barrage of emojis alluding to the sex pact, but the parents, dumbfounded by the emojis, don't understand them. Eventually, after piecing some stuff together, they realize their daughters have created a sex pact. Lisa, Mitchell & Hunter decide to stop their daughters from losing their virginity, & along the way, they must eventually realize some stuff about their daughters & their coming-of-age, & to let them leave the nest.

The cast is amazing. Leslie Mann further proves she is one of the funniest actresses in film today. John Cena shows he's as great at comedy as he is at wrestling. And Ike Barinholtz is quietly cementing himself as a great comedic actor after his time on MADtv.

Kay Cannon's direction is excellent. Cannon, in her directorial debut, brings a lot of heart to the film, which is a rare feat in comedy. She does this without being oversentimental, like some comedies that tried to add heart but failed have done.

And the screenplay by Brian Kehoe, Jim Kehoe, Jon Hurwitz, Hayden Schlossenberg & Eben Russell is stellar. Along with an interesting story, the dialogue is so gut-bustingly hilarious.

This is one of the best comedies in recent memory. Along with some great comedic performances, this film has a lot of heart & a lot of humor.

Blockers was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, April 6, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 102 minutes, & it is rated R for crude & sexual content, & language throughout, drug content, teen partying, & some graphic nudity.


★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Anyone born in or before 1964 remembers the Chappaquiddick incident. For those who don't know, it was a car accident on July 18, 1969 involving U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy & former campaign advisor Mary Jo Kopechne, where Ted Kennedy accidentally drove his car off of Dike Bridge on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts. Kennedy escaped, leaving Kopechne to drown.

Chappaquiddick, although it does have some script problems, & doesn't answer all of our questions about the incident, is a well-crafted drama. Set in July 1969, the film follows Ted Kennedy (played by Jason Clarke), the young, idealistic U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. Everyone, from his father, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. (played by Bruce Dern) & his cousin, Joe Gargan (played by Ed Helms), to his friend, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Paul Markham (played by Jim Gaffigan), are grooming him for a presidential run in 1972, following in the footsteps of his brothers, John & Robert.

On July 18, 1969, a party is held on Chappaquiddick Island, celebrating the reunion of the Boiler Room Girls, who helped with Robert Kennedy's 1968 presidential campaign, which he most likely would've won if it weren't for his assassination on June 5, 1968. The group includes Rachel Schiff (played by Olivia Thirlby) & Mary Jo Kopechne (played by Kate Mara). Gargan & Markham are also at the party. Kopechne leaves the party with Ted in his 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88.

Noticed by a cop, Ted speeds down a road, & turns on to the one-way Dike Bridge. Seconds after he gets on the bridge, Ted drives his car into the water. Ted somehow escapes, & leaves Mary Jo to drown. Ted doesn't report the incident until the next morning; however, the car had been recovered just minutes before hand.

After the incident, Ted is surrounded by the press & the possibility of jail time. With a large group of close confidants, including Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (played by Clancy Brown) coaching him on what to do in the aftermath of the incident, Ted wonders if he should resign from the Senate, & realizes what damage has been done to his legacy.

The cast is excellent. Helms, Mara, Dern & Gaffigan provide some great supporting roles. But this film belongs to Jason Clarke & his perfectly subdued portrayal of Ted Kennedy.

John Curran's direction is stellar. Curran directs with a great amount of flourish reminiscent of many classic political thrillers.

And the screenplay by Taylor Allen & Andrew Logan is good. The story is told very well, & the dialogue is very good, but some characters aren't fleshed out very well.

This is an imperfect but very good film. Although the screenplay isn't the best, the film is enlivened by a terrific performance from Jason Clarke.

Chappaquiddick was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, April 6, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 106 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for thematic material, disturbing images, some strong language, & historical smoking.

A Quiet Place

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Most horror films in recent memory (well, mainly over the past 20 years) are the antithesis of what they should be: scary. With the overuse of jump scares for the sake of jump scares, along with terrible plotting & horrendous acting, horror films try to please their target audience, at the expense of what makes horror films truly great.

Last year, we had 3 great horror films that used jump scares & other types of scares really well, along with some excellent plotting & great acting (along with some other great technical achievements): Get Out, It Comes at Night, & It. Each of these films are some of the best horror films of the century so far.

We can now add A Quiet Place to this list. Along with terrifying the hell out of me, it is a well-crafted & excellently acted film. Set in 2020, the film follows Evelyn (played by Emily Blunt) & Lee (played by John Krasinski) Abbott, parents of Regan (played by Millicent Simmonds), who is deaf; Marcus (played by Noah Jupe); & Beau (played by Cade Woodward). Over the past few months, most of the human population had been wiped out by blind creatures with supersensitive hearing. The only way to survive is to stay absolutely silent. In order to communicate, the Abbotts use ASL.

Evelyn is very far along in her pregnancy. Lee spends a lot of time trying to fix Regan's cochlear implant, but to no avail. One night, Evelyn finds herself alone in the house... just as she goes into labor. As a creature gets closer, Evelyn tries to alert everyone to come back & help fend off the creature. But this will be the fight of their lives.

The cast is fantastic. Emily Blunt & John Krasinski (a married couple in real life) have such a terrific amount of chemistry. Blunt is perfect, with every ounce of her performance having an increased amount of realistic maternal instinct. Krasinski is perfect, always determined to fight for his family no matter the cost. But Millicent Simmonds, just like in 2017's Wonderstruck, steals the show. Just like her character, Simmonds is deaf. Simmonds is able to give such a beautiful performance without a single word of spoken dialogue.

John Krasinski's direction is spectacular. Like Jordan Peele last year with Get Out, Krasinski makes the jump from comedy to horror with a directorial debut that, like Peele, is an absolute revelation. Krasinski allows for an overwhelming sense of dread & terror (unlike many horror films, which rely on nothing but half-baked jump scares), & when he does use jump scares, he uses them very well.

The screenplay by Bryan Woods, Scott Beck & John Krasinski is brilliant. There are only about 10-15 minutes worth of spoken dialogue in the film, with the rest being either silent or told through ASL. The story is so intriguing, unlike many horror films, & the film tells the story so excellently without much spoken dialogue, a rare feat in modern cinema.

Christopher Tellefsen's editing is excellent. The film is tightly paced (at a brisk 90-minute runtime), & there isn't an overuse of half-baked flashy editing, unlike many horror films.

And the sound design is phenomenal. The sounds of the creatures are so terrifying, reminiscent of many classic horror creatures. The silence in the film is also very essential, adding to the overwhelming terror.

This is one of the best films of the year, & one of the most terrifying I've ever seen. This is unlike many horror films out there. Along with being excellently acted & well-crafted, the dread is so powerful.

A Quiet Place was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Thursday, April 5, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 90 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for terror & some bloody images.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Isle of Dogs

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Wes Anderson is truly one of the most original voices in the history of cinema. With every film he has made, his trademark quirky storytelling & quintessential visual style have been welcome additions to cinema. He definitely is a modern-day auteur.

So, of course Isle of Dogs would be one of my most anticipated films of 2018. And it definitely surpassed those high expectations for it. It's definitely one of Wes Anderson's best films. Set in Japan 20 years from now, the film follows 5 dogs: Chief (voiced by Bryan Cranston); Rex (voiced by Edward Norton); Duke (voiced by Jeff Goldblum); King (voiced by Bob Balaban); & Boss (voiced by Bill Murray). (Note: all of the dogs speak in English. The Japanese characters speak in unsubtitled Japanese, which is translated through either Interpreter Nelson (voiced by Frances McDormand) or a Simul-Translate Machine (voiced by Frank Wood). There is also a semi-frequent Narrator (voiced by Courtney B. Vance).). They, along with all the other dogs from (fictional) Megasaki City, have been forcefully relocated to Trash Island through a decree issued by Mayor Kobayashi (voiced by Kunichi Nomura) in order to prevent the transfer of dog flu & snout fever to the populace, despite news from Professor Watanabe (voiced by Akira Ito) & Assistant Scientist Yoko Ono (voiced by Yoko Ono) that both a cure for dog flu & a treatment for snout fever are almost ready.

Six months after the decree, Atari Kobayashi (voiced by Koyu Rankin), the 12-year-old orphaned nephew & ward of Mayor Kobayashi, lands on Trash Island in search of his former dog, Spots (voiced by Liev Schreiber), who was the first dog sent to Trash Island. Rex, King, Duke & Boss decide to help Atari find Spots; however, Chief refuses, as he does not like to come in contact with humans, as he was a former stray. However, with some persuading from former show dog Nutmeg (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), Chief agrees to help find Spots. Together, they set off on a journey through Trash Island to find Spots, leading them to sage dogs Jupiter (voiced by F. Murray Abraham) & Oracle (voiced by Tilda Swinton), who tell them of a possible "cannibal" tribe of dogs on the other end of the island led by Gondo (voiced by Harvey Keitel) & Scrap (voiced by Fisher Stevens). And this all attracts the attention of American foreign exchange student Tracy Walker (voiced by Greta Gerwig), who believes something more sinister may be occuring.

The cast is amazing. Bryan Cranston easily gives his best film performance, with such heart & humor. Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban & Bill Murray provide some great support voices to Cranston. Koyu Rankin also does some stellar voice work. And it's always a delight to see (or hear) Greta Gerwig in a film.

Wes Anderson's direction is spectacular. All of his trademarks are on full display: whip pans, symmetrical designs, the use of the Futura font, etc. And they are all used excellently. But if you're a Wes Anderson fan, you would already guess that they would.

The screenplay by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman & Kunichi Nomura is brilliant. The story is hilarious & heartwarming, & the terrific deadpan humor never misses a beat.

Alexandre Desplat's score is fantastic. The score is powered by an array of drums, chimes, & a baritone chorus, making for a quirky & haunting listening experience.

And the animation is absolutely wondrous. Stop-motion animation has never been used better than it has here, & it adds to the quirky atmosphere of the film.

This is one of the best animated films I've ever seen. It has some of the best voice work ever, & it's Wes Anderson at his quirkiest. What more could you ask from him?

Isle of Dogs was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Thursday, April 5, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 101 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for thematic elements & some violent images.

Monday, April 16, 2018


★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

The rebellious teenager character has been a tired trope for many years in film. Although some recent films have added a fresh feel to the character (like Lady Bird), most have failed.

Flower could've been a fresh addition, but it definitely wasn't. The film follows Erica Vandross (played by Zoey Deutch), a rebellious 17-year-old in the Los Angeles suburbs. In order to bail her father out of jail, Erica has resorted to prostitution in order to gain $15,000. Along with prostituting the men, her friends, Kala (played by Dylan Gelula) & Claudine (played by Maya Gashet), film these encounters, & use them to blackmail the men that Erica is prostituting herself towards.

Her mother, Laurie (played by Kathryn Hahn), is about to get married to her recent boyfriend, Bob (played by Tim Heidecker). Erica, Laurie & Bob eventually pick up Bob's son, Luke (played by Joey Morgan) from rehab, which he was in due to his pill addiction. After some awkward moments at first, Erica & Joey form a serviceable stepsibling relationship.

At the bowling alley, Erica, Kala & Claudine notice an older guy bowling with his buddies. The man is Will (played by Adam Scott). When Erica goes with Luke, Luke notices Will, & tells her that Will was a former teacher of his who molested him. Shocked by this, Erica, Luke & her friends decide to stalk him & take justice for his molestation. But they end up getting deeper into this than they could've ever imagined.

The cast is decent. Zoey Deutch shows that she is one of the best young actresses at the moment. Joey Morgan also gives a great performance. However, Kathryn Hahn is absolutely annoying, & Adam Scott feels wasted here.

Max Winkler's direction is underwhelming. Winkler decides to play the film's content straight, instead of capitalizing on some of the comedic undertones of the film.

The screenplay by Max Winkler, Alex McAulay & Matt Spicer is a disaster. The dialogue is terrible, & the plot becomes somewhat disgusting towards the end, which may have worked if said content had been played as more darkly comedic than it ended up being portrayed.

And Joseph Stephens' score is excellent. The score is very ambient in tone, powered by synth music, & is absolutely gorgeous & a joy to listen to.

This is one of the more disappointing films of the year. Although Deutch & Morgan are great, & the score is fantastic, everything else is a mess.

Flower was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Saturday, March 31, 2018. It is no longer in theaters in the Detroit area. Its runtime is 90 minutes, & it is rated R for crude sexual content & language throughout, graphic nude drawings, some drug content, & a brief violent image.

The Leisure Seeker

★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Great acting can only go so far in a film. Even if you had some of the greatest actors all in one film, even they might not be able to save the film without some serviceable direction & at least decent screenwriting, 

And that hasn't been more evident in a long time than it is in The Leisure Seeker, a well-acted, but very disappointing comedy-drama. Based on the 2009 novel of the same name by Michael Zadoorian, & set in August 2016, the film follows Ella (played by Helen Mirren) & John (played by Donald Sutherland) Spencer, a Massachusetts couple in their 70s. Both suffer from different illnesses; Ella suffers from an unspecified type of cancer, while John, a former literary scholar & professor, suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

Looking for one last time together before their illnesses ravage them even more, Ella & John take a trip from the suburb of Beverly, Massachusetts to Ernest Hemingway's house in the Florida Keys in their 1978 Winnebago they call The Leisure Seeker. They do this without alerting their adult children, Jane (played by Janel Moloney) & Will (played by Christian McKay), or their neighbor, Lillian (played by Dana Ivey).

On the way, they encounter Clinton rallies, Trump rallies, big families, & some great burgers. But as their road trip gets closer to its destination, & as their illnesses get even worse, secrets start to arise to the surface, along with some delusions about an old friend, Dan Coleman (played by Dick Gregory).

The cast is great. Mirren & Sutherland, some of film's finest actors, are both excellent here. However, the supporting cast, aren't as great, but their characters weren't that well-developed.

Paolo Virzì's direction is mediocre. Virzi tries to juggle some jarring tonal shifts & balance comedy & drama, but fails miserably. He tries his hardest, but it was nowhere near where it should've been.

And the screenplay by Paolo Virzì, Francesca Archibugi, Francesco Piccolo & Stephen Amidon is terrible. The story is very saccharine & very predictable, & doesn't do a good job of adapting from the novel. Also, the film tries to add some political context, which doesn't affect the plot at all.

This is a very disappointing film. Although Mirren & Sutherland are excellent, nothing else about this film is excellent. This film should've been so much better.

The Leisure Seeker was seen by me at The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township, MI on Friday, March 30, 2018. It is currently in 6 theaters in the Detroit area, including the AMC Forum 30 in Sterling Heights, MI, the AMC Star Great Lakes 25 in Auburn Hills, MI, the Emagine Novi in Novi, MI, & the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, MI. Its runtime is 113 minutes, & it is rated R for some sexual material.

Ready Player One

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

When it comes to blockbusters, Steven Spielberg is the man. He practically invented them. From Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind & Raiders of the Lost Ark to E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Jurassic Park & War of the Worlds, Spielberg is your go-to-guy for a good, old-fashioned blockbuster that will knock your socks off.

Ready Player One is nothing short of a fantastic blockbuster, & ranks up with some of Spielberg's best. Based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Ernest Cline & set in 2045 Columbus, the film follows Wade Watts (played by Tye Sheridan), an 18-year-old orphan living with his aunt, Alice (played by Susan Lynch) & her boyfriend, Rick (played by Ralph Ineson) in a working-class area of Columbus called "The Stacks." Wade spends most of his time in the Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation (OASIS), a virtual reality world where people can work, go to school or entertain themselves. The OASIS was created by James Halliday (played by Mark Rylance) & Ogden Morrow (played by Simon Pegg), who had left the OASIS some years prior.

Recently, Halliday died. In a video made shortly prior to his death, Halliday states that he has left an Easter egg in the OASIS in a game called Anorak's Quest. The first to find the Easter egg will gain control of the OASIS. Many people, called "Gunters" (egg hunters), are going after it, along with video game corporation Innovative Online Industries (IOI), headed by CEO Nolan Sorrento (played by Ben Mendelsohn), going so far as building a large group of Gunters called "Sixers" to go after it. However, no one has even made it past the first task: a large obstacle course race through New York.

Wade, under his avatar name, Parzival, is one of these Gunters, partnering up with Aech (played by Lena Waithe) most of the time. During the first race, he encounters Samantha Cook, AKA Art3mis (played by Olivia Cooke), a very famous Gunter, & saves her from being zeroed (having her progression wiped out). Together, the three of them, along with two other Gunters, team up as the High Five. But mercenary gamer i-R0k (played by T.J. Miller), Sorrento, & the rest of IOI are after them in their quest for control of the OASIS, & will stop at nothing to destroy them.

The cast is amazing. Sheridan is great. Mendelsohn is fantastic, showing he is severely underrated. Pegg is also great, showing a vast improvement on his American accent from his horrendous use of it in 2006's Big Nothing. Waithe also provides some great comic relief. But the 2 greatest performances from the film are from Olivia Cooke, who gives an excellently nuanced performance proving she is one of the best young actresses of her generation, & Mark Rylance, who is also perfectly nuanced, cementing himself as one of my favorite actors. (However, although he was great, I would've replaced T.J. Miller, considering his recent sexual assault allegations & his recent indictment of making a false bomb threat, with another comedic actor).

Steven Spielberg's direction is excellent. Spielberg still knows how to direct a blockbuster. His sense of childlike wonder is still so fresh & exciting.

The screenplay by Ernest Cline & Zak Penn is brilliant. They do a fantastic job of adapting from the source material, while also writing some great characters & also some great, & at times, hilarious dialogue. And their use of cultural references is so awesome.

Janusz Kamiński's cinematography is astounding. Every shot is gorgeous, especially the shots inside the OASIS, which are just absolutely perfect.

The editing by Michael Kahn & Sarah Broshar is excellent. The film is very fast-paced, & is also cut very well, unlike most modern blockbusters.

Adam Stockhausen's production design is phenomenal. The design of the OASIS is absolutely fantastic, & some of the best production design of the decade.

The sound design is incredible. Every action scene has fantastically loud sound design, especially the race scene, that has some of the best sound design of the decade.

Alan Silvestri's original score is amazing. Powered by an array of brass instruments & drums, Silvestri's score matches the fierce pace & tone of the film.

And the visual effects are spectacular. The CGI is some of the best of the decade, & there is not a single false note in these effects.

This is one of Spielberg's best blockbusters. It's visually stunning, feverishly paced, & incredibly well-acted.

Ready Player One was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Thursday, March 29, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 140 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action violence, bloody images, some suggestive material, partial nudity & language.

Monday, April 9, 2018


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

If you look at Steven Soderbergh's career, you will find that it is very diverse. Soderbergh is best known for directing all 3 films of the Ocean's Trilogy, Erin Brockovich, & Traffic, for which he won the Oscar for Best Director. His more obscure films include Schizopolis, which was non-linear; Bubble, an unscripted film with non-professional actors; & Che, a 2-part biopic of Che Guevara.

Unsane definitely falls into the latter category. It's a fantastic psychological thriller that subverts many aspects of the genre. The film follows Sawyer Valentini (played by Claire Foy), a younger businesswoman starting a new job. She has started a new job in order to get away from her stalker, David Strine (played by Joshua Leonard), who has been stalking her for 2 years.

Seeking help, Sawyer joins a support group for harassment victims. When applying to join, she mentions that she had, in the past, contemplated suicide. After the consultation, she signs some documents. This leads to her being involuntarily committed to the Highland Creek Behavioral Center for 24 hours, headed by Ashley Brighterhouse (played by Aimee Mullins).

After an altercation with an aggressive patient, Violet (played by Juno Temple), Sawyer's stay is extended to a week. She finds herself alone at Highland Creek. However, she does find a friend in recovering addict Nate Hoffman (played by Jay Pharoah).

Eventually, Sawyer starts to see David around Highland Creek, believing it's him; however, no one else believes her. As she gets further into her stay, she goes as far as calling her mother, Angela (played by Amy Irving) to get her out. But as she sees more of the person she believes is David, we wonder: is she sane or isn't she?

The cast is excellent. Claire Foy gives an absolutely frightful performance, & shows that she is definitely a force to be reckoned with. Joshua Leonard is absolutely creepy as well.

Steven Soderbergh's direction is amazing. Soderbergh makes every single moment of the film intense, & adds a fresh feel to the psychological thriller genre.

The screenplay by Jonathan Bernstein & James Greer is brilliant. The plot has so many twists & turns, & is so disturbing & uncomfortable at times.

Steven Soderbergh's cinematography (under the name Peter Andrews) is fantastic. Shot on an iPhone 7 Plus, the film has better visual style than any video ever shot on any phone, let alone an iPhone. The camerawork from the iPhone 7 Plus also adds a claustrophobic feel, heightening the tension, & some of the shots are very reminiscent of The Shining.

And Steven Soderbergh's editing (under the name Mary Ann Bernard) is phenomenal. The film is tightly paced, & heightens the tension.

This is one of the best films of the year. Claire Foy is outstanding, & Steven Soderbergh makes us feel tense & disturbed at every turn.

Unsane was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Saturday, March 24, 2018. It is currently in 6 theaters in the Detroit area, including the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI; the MJR Westland Grand Cinema 16 in Westland, MI; the MJR Southgate Digital Cinema 20 in Southgate, MI; & the MJR Brighton Towne Square Digital Cinema 20 in Brighton, MI. Its runtime is 98 minutes, & it is rated R for disturbing behavior, violence, language & sex references.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Death of Stalin

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

When it comes to satire these days, Armando Iannucci is the master. From TV shows like The Thick of It & Veep to the film In the Loop, the Scottish satirist has always been at the top of his form, only getting funnier & funnier as he creates more & more satires of past & present governments around the world.

The Death of Stalin is easily Iannucci's best work. It's Iannucci at his most biting, at his most detailed, &, most importantly, his most hilarious. Based on the 2010 graphic novel La mort du Staline by Fabien Nury & Theirry Robin, & set in 1953 Russia, the film follows various members of the Soviet government under Joseph Stalin (played by Adrian McLoughlin). One night, Stalin, calling from his home, orders a recording of a Mozart recital, which was not recorded. Comrade Andreyev (played by Paddy Considine) quickly tries to get the crowd back into the arena to replicate a large crowd, even going as far as getting people walking outside to come in, & replacing the passed-out conductor with a merely adequate conductor. The pianist, Maria Yudina (played by Olga Kurylenko), leaves a message for Stalin in the sleeve of the recording.

After Stalin puts on the recording, he notices the message on the floor. While reading the message, Stalin bursts out laughing... then collapses from a cerebral hemorrhage. The next morning, the first to arrive is NKVD Head Lavrentiy Beria (played by Simon Russell Beale), who discovers the message. Next to arrive is the meek Deputy General Secretary Georgy Malenkov (played by Jeffrey Tambor). Beria tries to guide Malenkov into taking Stalin's place, trying to use him as a puppet.

Next to arrive is Moscow Party Head Nikita Khruschev (played by Steve Buscemi), along with the remainder of the Central Committee, except for Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov (played by Michael Palin), who was put on a list of Stalin's enemies just the previous night. Beria decides to have the NKVD replace the Soviet Army at their posts, close Moscow's borders, & to replace Stalin's enemy lists with his own, effectively removing Molotov from the list.

Eventually, Stalin dies. Around that time, Stalin's daughter, Svetlana (played by Andrea Riseborough), & Stalin's belligerent son, Vitaly (played by Rupert Friend), arrive. As the state funeral grows closer, & more & more dignitaries arrive, including war hero Field Marshal Georgy Zhukov (played by Jason Isaacs), the infighting between the various politicians reaches a boiling point, where everyone wants a seat at the top.

The cast is fantastic. Steve Buscemi is completely spectacular here. Simon Russell Beale is both hilarious & dangerous. Jeffrey Tambor is hilariously awkward. Jason Isaacs is brilliantly funnyAnd it's great to see Michael Palin in something again.

Armando Iannucci's direction is excellent. Iannucci's decision to have his actors keep their regular accents only adds to the excellent humor here. Also, he doesn't shy away from the countless atrocities committed by Stalin during his reign of terror in the Soviet Union.

The screenplay by Armando Iannucci, David Schneider, Ian Martin & Peter Fellows is brilliant. Alongside their faithful adaptation of Nury & Robin's graphic novel, the dialogue is some of the funniest ever. The lines always pack more than several humongous laughs.

Suzie Harman's costume design is amazing. The costumes are period-accurate, from the elegant clothing of the Soviet autocracy to the ragged clothing of the Soviet citizens.

Cristina Casali's production design is excellent. The sets are also period-accurate, especially the elegant sets of the huge Soviet government buildings.

The makeup & hairstyling is phenomenal. It is not only period-accurate, but also, in some cases, hysterically funny, especially with Jeffrey Tambor's hilarious wig.

And Christopher Willis's score is amazing. Buoyed by sections of low-brass instruments & sections of string instruments, the score compliments the tense feeling of the Soviet government after Stalin's death.

This is one of the funniest films in recent memory. Along with being Iannucci's best work, this is a biting reminder of a hectic political era, something that seems all too familiar in America today.

The Death of Stalin was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Friday, March 23, 2018. It is currently in 7 theaters in the Detroit area, including the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; the Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township, MI; the AMC Livonia 20 in Livonia, MI; & the Rave Cinemas Ann Arbor 20 in Ypsilanti, MI. Its runtime is 107 minutes, & it is rated R for language throughout, violence & some sexual references.