Friday, August 31, 2018

The Meg

★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Since Jaws came out back in 1975, shark films have been an integral piece of film history. Although a lot of them are bad, some are enjoyably bad, & others even good. But no matter their quality, you can't deny that they have made an impact on film as we know it today.

The Meg is definitely not perfect, but it's a good, cheesy throwback to the classic B-movies of the 20th century. Based on the 1997 book Meg: A Novel of Deep Terror by Steve Alten, the film follows Jonas Taylor (played by Jason Statham), a rescue diver haunted by the fact that he couldn't save the lives of 2 men trapped in a nuclear submarine, although he was able to rescue the several other people that were trapped. He says that he couldn't rescue them because he saw some creature attack the submarine; however, some colleagues dispute this, saying it's his excuse for pressure-induced psychosis.

5 years later, Dr. Minway Zhang (played by Winston Chao) & his daughter, Suyin (played by Li Bingbing), are embarking on an expedition to find a supposed deeper area of the Marianas Trench. The expedition is being funded by billionaire Dave Morris (played by Rainn Wilson) on the ship Mana One. Also joining in on the expedition are Jonas' former colleague, James "Mac" Mackreides (played by Cliff Curtis); Suyin's daughter, Meiying (played by Shuya Sophia Cai); tech specialists Jaxx Herd (played by Ruby Rose) & DJ (played by Page Kennedy); & the 3 explorers: The Wall (played by Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), Toshi (played by Masi Oka), & Lori (played by Jessica McNamee), who happens to be Jonas' ex-wife.

When the explorers go down & explore the new floor of the Marianas Trench, they are attacked by a large creature. Mac, believing this to be the same thing that attacked the submarine, tries to find Jonas to help rescue the explorers. Jonas is now a drunk living in Thailand, & although reluctant at first, decides to accept the mission.

After rescuing the explorers, they try & focus on killing the creature, which they have discovered is a megalodon shark, previously thought to have been extinct for millions of years. Now, they must kill it at all costs, before other civilians become in danger.

The cast is excellent. Jason Statham does what he always does: fight & kill, & look great doing it. Rainn Wilson is pure awesomeness. And the rest of the cast turns in some great supporting work as well.

Jon Turtletaub's direction is great. It's tonally inconsistent at times, but Turtletaub makes sure that there's always a schlocky undertone, & that, along with some thrilling moments, more than make up for the flaws.

The screenplay by Dean Georgaris, Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber is very good. Although the plot & the characters are formulaic, the dialogue is just cheesy enough to add on to the B-movie feel.

And the visual effects are amazing. The CGI is extremely well-done, especially the explosions, &, of course, the titular shark.

This is a very good B-movie. Although it is flawed, it's got enough good things going for it to make it worth the price of a ticket. And if you can, please see it in 3D. It's the most awesome way to see it.

The Meg was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Sunday, August 19, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 113 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for action/peril, bloody images & some language.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

The idea of gay conversion therapy, besides being barbaric, is an idea that many of us would consider to be outdated & behind us. However, in many conservative areas of the country, & even in areas some would consider to be moderately liberal, there are many people who still believe in the sickening ideology that you can "pray the gay away." Even our current Vice President (whom I hope never becomes President), Mike Pence, embraces the idea of it.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post centers on this & many other pressing topics involving LGBTQ+ youth, & it is a timely & groundbreaking piece of LGBTQ+ cinema. Based on the 2012 novel The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth, & set in 1993 Montana, the film follows Cameron Post (played by Chloë Grace Moretz), a junior in high school who lives with her aunt, Ruth (played by Kerry Barker), after the death of her parents when she was younger. While she is dating Jamie (played by Dalton Harrod), she is more in love with her friend, Coley Taylor (played by Quinn Shephard).

One night, during the homecoming dance, Jamie catches Cameron & Coley having sex in the backseat of a car. Soon after, Ruth finds out & sends Cameron to God's Promise, a gay conversion therapy center in the wilderness. The director of God's Promise is Dr. Lydia March (played by Jennifer Ehle), a psychiatrist who once "cured" her brother, Rev. Rick Marsh (played by John Gallagher Jr.). Cameron is assigned to a room with a roommate named Erin (played by Emily Skeggs), an avid Minnesota Vikings fan who deeply believes in the program's philosophy. However, Cameron doesn't find anything wrong with herself.

While out jogging, Cameron notices 2 people smoking weed in the basement. These 2 are Adam Red Eagle (played by Forrest Goodluck), a Native American whose father sent him to the program after he became an evangelical Christian with a passion for politics; & Jane Fonda (played by Sasha Lane), a rebellious teen. They mainly coast around what they are taught, giving the people at God's Promise what they want to hear & why they think they're LGBTQ+. Together, they try to navigate through the things that go on at God's Promise & find themselves along the way.

The cast is fantastic. Chloë Grace Moretz finally delivers on the promise she's been building her entire career. After a series of films that never really displayed her acting power, she finally gets to display it here. She gives one of the best performances of an LGBTQ+ youth I've ever seen. Jennifer Ehle is phenomenal. She makes our skin crawl with the words she says, saying them in such a nonchalant way that adds to the sickening ideology her character spouts. And the rest of the cast turns in some great supporting work, especially John Gallagher Jr., Forrest Goodluck & Sasha Lane.

Desiree Akhavan's direction is excellent. Akhavan directs with a steady, subdued hand, & gives the film a calm, yet quietly powerful feel throughout.

And the screenplay by Desiree Akhavan & Cecilia Frugiuele is amazing. The screenplay is very faithful to the novel, keeping what made the novel so great: the realism, the wit, & the amazing characters.

This is one of the best &, sadly, one of the more underseen films of the year. It has an amazing cast, a feeling of warmth, & a lot of wit to make it a uniquely affecting coming-of-age film.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, August 17, 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 91 minutes, & it is not rated; however, if it were rated, it would most likely be rated R for language & sexual content throughout.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians

★★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I've said it before & I'll say it again: representation, in any form of media, for any marginalized community, matters so much. For these people to see themselves on the silver screen or on TV, it gives them the opportunity to see people like them doing regular things, instead of being cast as the sidekick or the villain. Lately, we've been getting more & more pieces of media featuring positive representations of these communities, &, hopefully, this is just the start.

Crazy Rich Asians, while having a couple minor flaws, is a landmark for Asian representation, as well as a great romantic comedy-drama. Based on the 2013 novel Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, the film follows Rachel Chu (played by Constance Wu), a Chinese-American economics professor at New York University. She is currently in a relationship with Nick Young (played by Henry Golding), a Chinese-Singaporean history professor at New York University.

One night, Nick asks Rachel to come with him to Singapore for the wedding of his childhood friend, Colin Khoo (played by Chris Pang) & his fiancée, Araminta Lee (played by Sonoya Mizuno). This will also give Rachel the opportunity to meet Nick's family & reunite with her college friend, Peik Lin (played by Awkwafina), as well as an opportunity for Nick to tell his mother, Eleanor (played by Michelle Yeoh), of his relationship with Rachel. However, Eleanor finds out before they even leave New York due to being revealed through texts sent by friends, acquaintances, & even members of Nick's family.

When they get on the plane to Singapore, Rachel is shocked to discover that they are in a first-class suite. This is where Nick reveals to her that his family are very rich real estate developers. Once they arrive in Singapore, Rachel & Nick meet with Colin & Araminta at a street vendor marketplace. The next day, Rachel reunites with Peik Lin, & meets her father, Wye Yun (played by Ken Jeong), who once studied in the United States. There, when they realize that Rachel is dating Nick, Peik Lin & her family tell Rachel that Nick has vastly understated how rich his family is: Peik Lin's family is rich, but Nick's family is crazy rich.

Rachel then meets the majority of the family: Eleanor; Nick's grandmother, Su Yi (played by Lisa Lu); Alistair Cheng (played by Remy Hii), Nick's first cousin; Eddie Chang (played by Ronny Chieng), Nick's first cousin; Astrid Teo (played by Gemma Chan); Nick's first cousin; & Oliver T'sien (played by Nico Santos), Nick's second cousin. While some family & friends are welcoming of Rachel, others, including Eleanor, are not so welcoming, as they are not fond of Chinese-Americans. This will certainly make Rachel's time in Singaporean very stressful.

The cast is spectacular. Constance Wu shows that she can do just as great of an acting job in film as she does on TV. Michelle Yeoh gives a great performance that should thrust her back into the forefront. Awkwafina is showing herself as one of the best up-&-coming comedic actresses in Hollywood. Ken Jeong, in his small screen time, does some of his funniest work in years. And Nico Santos is an absolute scene-stealer.

Jon M. Chu's direction is great. Although there are a couple issues as to tonal shifts, Chu makes up for that with a lot of style & a warm heart throughout.

The screenplay by Peter Chiarelli & Adele Lim is amazing. The plot, especially for a romantic comedy-drama, feels so fresh. The characters feel real. The dialogue is terrific. And the themes are well-touched upon & very focused, unlike many romantic comedy-dramas.

And Nelson Coates' production design is fantastic. The sets are so immersive, & match the lifestyle of the characters, with their vibrant colors & expensive decorations.

This is one of the better romantic comedy-dramas in recent memory. Although it does have a couple small flaws, they're more than made up for by a charming cast, a great screenplay, & dazzling production design.

Crazy Rich Asians was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Wednesday, August 15, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 120 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for some suggestive content & language.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Big Lebowski

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Since their film debut, 1984's Blood Simple, the Coen brothers, Joel & Ethan Coen, have created a path to becoming the greatest directing duo in film history. Populating their films with gorgeous scenery & very idiosyncratic characters, they have jumped through many genres, including comedies, dramas, & thrillers, succeeding in all of those genres.

When The Big Lebowski was released in 1998, many were polarized by it: compared to the Coen brothers' previous film, Fargo, which was widely considered to be the best film of that year, it was a major letdown for some, criticizing its meandering storyline & some other aspects. However, others absolutely appreciated it, notably the late Roger Ebert, who gave it a positive review on release & later added it to his Great Movies list. Over time, the reception has become vastly positive, consistently ranking as one of the Coen brothers' best films. The film has gone on to spawn an annual festival called Lebowski Fest, & a religion called The Church of the Latter-Day Dude, or simply Dudeism. It is one of my favorite films of all time, & having the chance to see it in theaters for its 20th anniversary was an absolute spectacle. Set in 1991 Los Angeles, around the time of our conflict with Saddam Hussein, the film follows Jeffrey Lebowski, AKA The Dude (played by Jeff Bridges), a slacker. He spends his days drinking White Russians, occassionally smoking a joint, or bowling with his buddies: hot-headed Vietnam veteran & Jewish convert Walter Sobchak (played by John Goodman), & meek surfer Theodore Donald Kerabatsos, AKA Donny (played by Steve Buscemi), where they face off against some weird personalities, including pervert Jesus Quintana, AKA The Jesus (played by John Turturro), who is a natural at bowling.

One night, The Dude's house is broken into by 2 goons sent by porn producer/entrepreneur Jackie Treehorn (played by Ben Gazzara), looking for money. However, they have mistaken The Dude for another Jeffrey Lebowski, AKA The Big Lebowski (played by David Huddleston), an elderly, disabled millionaire who runs a program sending children to college. The goons leave, but not before one of them urinates on The Dude's rug, which really tied the room together.

At a bowling match, The Dude tells Walter (& Donny, but is told by Walter to "Shut the f*ck up!") of his current situation. Walter suggests he go to meet The Big Lebowski & settle the matter with him. When The Dude meets The Big Lebowski, asking to be compensated for his rug, The Big Lebowski vehemently declines, calling The Dude "a bum." However, he tells The Big Lebowski's butler, Brandt (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), that he can take any rug in the house. Before he leaves, The Dude runs into The Big Lebowski's air-headed trophy wife, Bunny (played by Tara Reid).

A few days later, The Dude is called back to The Big Lebowski's mansion, & is told that Bunny was kidnapped, & is being held for ransom at $1,000,000. However, Walter gets involved (as The Dude was told to go alone), & lets his greedy nature screw up the plan, as he believes that Bunny faked the kidnapping.

Over the next few weeks, The Dude encounters some very strange people, including: The Stranger (played by Sam Elliott), the narrator & kind man at the bowling alley; Knox Harrington (played by David Thewlis), an off-beat video artist; the three German nihilist kidnappers: Uli Kunkel (played by Peter Stormare); Franz (played by Torsten Voges); & Kieffer (played by Flea); & Maude Lebowski (played by Julianne Moore), The Big Lebowski's daughter. The Dude must figure out what is going on & who is doing what, if he ever wants to get back to his lazy way of life.

The cast is marvelous. Jeff Bridges is absolutely iconic in the role he was born to play. John Goodman gives his greatest performance ever. Julianne Moore is perfectly idiosyncratic. Steve Buscemi is at his most Steve Buscemi. And the rest of the cast, especially Turturro, Huddleston & Hoffman, turn in great supporting work.

The Coen brothers' direction is phenomenal. The Coens blend the classic elements of film noir with perfect comedic timing, & it feels so fresh & dynamic.

The Coen brothers' screenplay is brilliant. The plot is perfectly meandering, the characters are the most interestingly idiosyncratic in film history, & the dialogue is gut-bustingly hilarious.

Roger Deakins' cinematography is amazing. Deakins, a longtime collaborator of the Coen brothers' & also the best cinematographer ever, paints the film with a vibrant color palette & a crisp throwback look.

The editing by "Roderick Jaynes" (actually the Coen brothers) & Tricia Cooke is excellent. The film doesn't have a bad cut in sight, & is perfectly paced.

And the soundtrack is fantastic. Led by many classic pop songs from the 1960s, especially Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) by The First Edition, the soundtrack strengthens the 1960s mindset & way of life The Dude embodies.

This is, in my opinion, the funniest film ever made, & also the Coen brothers' best film. It has some knockout performances, stellar direction, one of the best screenplays ever written, & has a look & feel all its own. The Dude abides.

The Big Lebowski was seen by me for a special 20th anniversary screening at the AMC Forum 30 in Sterling Heights, MI on Wednesday, August 8, 2018. It is available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital HD. Its runtime is 118 minutes, & it is rated R for pervasive strong language, drug content, sexuality & brief violence.


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Racism never ended in this country. We may like to think it did when the Civil Rights Act was passed, or when Barack Obama was elected President. But it never ended. It may have become less overt, but it never ended. But in the era of Trump, racism has been more overt, more politicized, & even more deadly.

BlacKkKlansman may have been set in the 1970s, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have any relevance now. It's poignant, timely, & above all, the best film of 2018. Based on the 2006 autobiography Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth, & set in 1970s Colorado Springs, Colorado, the film follows Ron Stallworth (played by John David Washington), who is hired as the first African-American police officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Chief Bridges (played by Robert John Burke) assigns him to the records room, where he is met with racism from fellow officers, especially from Patrolman Andy Landers (played by Frederick Weller).

Stallworth, displeased with the small amount of work he is given, asks to be given an undercover assignment, which Chief Bridges & Sgt. Trapp (played by Ken Garito) initially decline, but eventually accept his request. His first assignment is to infiltrate a meeting of the Colorado College Black Student Union, where Kwame Ture, AKA Stokely Carmichael (played by Corey Hawkins) is scheduled to speak. While at the event, Stallworth meets Patrice Dumas (played by Laura Harrier), the president of the BSU. Almost immediately, there is an attraction between them, although Patrice, who despise the police force, doesn't know of Stallworth's occupation.

After the event, Stallworth is reassigned to the intelligence division. One day, while reading the newspaper, Stallworth comes across an ad for the Ku Klux Klan with a P.O. Box number & a phone number. He dials the number, pretending to be white, but leaves a message. Not too long after, he receives a phone call from Walter Breachway (played by Ryan Eggold), the president of the Colorado Springs KKK. Stallworth then tells him he hates anyone that doesn't have pure white blood, listing every racial slur in the book, & then making up a story of how his (fictional) sister was accosted by an African-American man. Breachway then asks him to come to a local bar on Friday to meet them. The problem is, since Stallworth is African-American, & he used his real name, he would be accosted or worse if he showed up. So, obviously, if there were to be an infiltration, a white police officer would have to go in his place, & that white officer is Det. Flip Zimmerman (played by Adam Driver), who is Jewish, but must obviously hide that. With the help of their colleague, Det. Jimmy Creek (played by Michael Joseph Buscemi), Stallworth & Zimmerman get to getting their story straight, as Stallworth talks to them on the phone, while Zimmerman meets with them in person.

Zimmerman shows up on Friday night, & is introduced to Walter, along with 2 other major members of the local KKK chapter: the menacing Felix Kendrickson (played by Jasper Pääkönen), & the incredibly dumb Ivanhoe (played by Paul Walter Hauser), who implies that there will be an attack coming up soon. Soon after, Zimmerman is introduced to Felix's wife, Connie (played by Ashlie Atkinson), who is just as racist as her husband.

Stallworth & Zimmerman quickly rise through the ranks of the KKK, eventually getting in contact with David Duke (played by Topher Grace), the Grand Wizard of the KKK. But as the attack nears closer, & as David Duke arrives in Colorado Springs, Stallworth & Zimmerman will have to pull off the finishing touches on the investigation & thwart the KKK.

The cast is fantastic. John David Washington is an absolute revelation. He, like his father Denzel, has a lot of range & command on screen, & I think this is just the beginning for him.

Adam Driver is phenomenal. Driver excellently portrays the inner conflict of pretending to hate what he is so excellently.

Topher Grace is spectacular. I'll be honest, I never expected this out of Grace. But in his short screen time, he completely embodies Duke, looking almost exactly like him in the 1970s & portraying how Duke was: someone who seemed like one of the most charming people in the world, but he turned ferocious when race was brought up.

The rest of the cast, especially Harrier, Pääkönen, Hauser, & Atkinson, turn in some great supporting work as well, adding to the strength & depth of the cast.

Spike Lee's direction is excellent. Lee, who hasn't been at his best in a while, returns to his top form here, & is his best film since 2002's 25th Hour. Lee tackles the themes with a lot of ferocity, adds a lot of style, & perfectly balances comedy & drama.

The screenplay by Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott & Spike Lee is brilliant. The plot feels fresh, the characters are interesting & feel real, & the dialogue, as always for a Spike Lee joint, is lyrical & flat-out amazing.

Chayse Irvin's cinematography is astounding. The color palette is vibrant, & the look of the film is gorgeous. And it isn't a Spike Lee joint be without his famous dolly shot, which is absolutely one of the best dolly shots of his career.

Barry Alexander Brown's editing is phenomenal. The cuts are visceral, flashy, & manage to not feel out-of-place. And the film is perfectly paced.

Marci Rodgers's costume design is amazing. The costumes are vibrant, & have that vivacious, loud look that screams 1970s.

Curt Beech's production design is spectacular. The sets also have that look that just screams 1970s, & are perfectly detailed.

The makeup & hairstyling is fantastic. The hairstyling is so period-accurate, from the large afros to the famous but tacky shaggy & clean-cut hairstyles.

Terence Blanchard's score is phenomenal. Blanchard, a longtime collaborator with Lee, leads the score with a bass guitar that gives the score a jazzy, 1970's feel.

And the soundtrack is terrific. The soundtrack is filled to the brim with classic 1970s songs, such as Too Late to Turn Back Now by Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose, Ball of Confusion by The Temptations, & Lucky Man by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, which all help formulate the setting.

But it's the final moments where BlacKkKlansman shows its urgency. It shows us that we are not done with racism in this country. It shows us, up-close & personal, the tragic effects of racism that occurred just last summer in Charlottesville, Virginia, where the alt-right & Neo-Nazis, feeling outraged by social progress in America, marched upon the town, viciously attacked counterprotestors, & eventually murdered Heather Heyer & injured many others in a senseless car attack. It's very tough seeing this footage, but in a country where racism is becoming more overt & accepted once again, & where our President fails to condemn Neo-Nazis & the alt-right, instead putting blame on "many sides," it's something that we need to see.

This is the best film of the year, & certainly one of the best films I've ever seen. It's a masterclass in fimmaking & acting, & is something that must be seen by all.

BlacKkKlansman was seen by me at an advance screening (with a Q&A with Spike Lee & John David Washington) at the Detroit Film Theatre in Detroit, MI on Saturday, August 4, 2018. It is now in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 135 minutes, & it is rated R for language throughout, including racial epithets, & for disturbing/violent material & some sexual references.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Christopher Robin

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

When we get older, into our 20s & 30s, we start pushing away childish things in order to maintain an adult life, especially with work being overbearing. Eventually, we start becoming distant from our families as well. But the things from our childhoods start coming back into our lives, helping us focus more on family.

Christopher Robin may be marketed as a children's film, but it's not really that. It's a film for those people that I mentioned in the first paragraph. And it's one of the most endearing surprises of the year. Based on characters from the 1926 book Winnie-The-Pooh by A.A. Milne & E.H. Shepard, & set in 1950s London, the film follows Christopher Robin (played by Ewan McGregor), who is now settling into his work-heavy life as an efficiency expert at Winslow Luggages. As a result, he neglects his wife, Evelyn (played by Hayley Atwell), & his daughter, Madeline (played by Bronte Carmichael), whom Christopher is planning to send to boarding school to her dismay.

Furthermore, he has all but forgotten his childhood friends from the Hundred Acre Wood: Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings); Tigger (voiced by Jim Cummings); Eeyore (voiced by Brad Garrett); Piglet (voiced by Nick Mohammed); Rabbit (voiced by Peter Capaldi); Kanga (voiced by Sophie Okonedo); Roo (voiced by Sara Sheen); & Owl (voiced by Toby Jones).

With the company not doing well, Christopher is asked to decrease expenditures by 20% & plan it out by Monday. However, he is supposed to go with Evelyn & Madeline to their cottage in Sussex for the weekend. Unfortunately, Christopher reluctantly decides to stay home & create the plan while Evelyn & Madeline go to Sussex.

Pooh awakes, unable to find his friends, & finds his way to Christopher's door. He ends up finding himself in London, & encounters Christopher, who is surprised to see him. Together, they set off on an adventure to find Pooh's friends, while trying to solve the work situation & helping Christopher become closer with his family along the way.

The cast is spectacular. Ewan McGregor further demonstrates his vastly underrated acting power, with a performance that is easily one of the best of his career. The voice cast also does an excellent job, especially Cummings & Garrett.

Marc Forster's direction is excellent. Forster keeps the film on a positive note the whole way through, never reaching any form of negativity or mean-spiritedness.

The screenplay by Alex Ross Perry, Tom McCarthy, Allison Schroeder, Greg Brooker & Mark Steven Johnson is amazing. The characters & dialogue are great, & the plot is warm-hearted, emotional & uplifting.

Matthias Koenigsweiser's cinematography is astounding. The camerawork is very reminiscent of the camerawork of the films of Terrence Malick: many shots of nature & hands grazing the tops of grass, & it doesn't feel derivative. It feels fresh & looks amazing.

And the visual effects are stunning. The effects make all of the animals from the Hundred Acre Wood look like realistic stuffed animals.

This is one of the best & most heartwarming films of the year. It's well-acted & well-made, & has some touching messages. We need more films like this in this era we're in.

Christopher Robin was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, August 3, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 104 minutes, & it is rated PG for some action.

Sunday, August 12, 2018


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Gentrification is becoming more & more of an issue in the world of today. Although it may look all nice & pleasant on the outside, & it does clean up some discarded areas, its effect is very negative on the people of those community, diluting & eventually destroying the culture that once made the community stand out.

Blindspotting deals with this theme, along with many other hot-button themes in today's society, in some very original ways, & is one of the best films of the year. The film follows Collin Hoskins (played by Daveed Diggs), a 20-something African-American convicted felon in Oakland. He is currently 3 days away from the end of his probation period. He works at a moving company with his white-but-acting-black best friend, Miles (played by Rafael Casal). Miles lives with his wife, Ashley (played by Jasmine Cephas Jones), & their son, Sean (played by Ziggy Baitinger). Although Collin & Miles have been best friends since childhood, Miles has always had a penchant for getting into trouble, with Collin facing the consequences of it. However, they always stick with each other through thick & thin, as they encounter various people in their day-to-day life, including Mama Liz (played by Tisha Campbell-Martin), a local hairdresser; Rin (played by Utkarsh Ambudkar), a friend of a friend; & Patrick (played by Wayne Knight), a local artist & photographer who wants to remind people of the old, ungentrified Oakland. Also circling around their day-to-day life is Val (played by Javina Gavankar), Collin's ex-girlfriend & the desk worker at the moving company.

On his third-to-last night of probation, while trying to get back to the halfway house before his 11pm curfew, Collin is stopped at a red light. When the light turns green, he starts driving, but a young African-American man stops in front of him. Collin is upset about it, as the man starts running along the left side of the moving truck. He then notices a white police officer chase after the man, & as the man yells "Don't shoot! Don't shoot!", with his hands in the air, the officer shoots him multiple times, killing him. Collin & the officer, Sgt. Molina (played by Ethan Embry), briefly look at each other, both with horrified expressions on their faces, as Collin is then told to drive away by other officers.

Inevitably, the experience haunts Collin for the next few days, as he tries to stay out of trouble for the rest of his probation & plans to stay out of trouble in the future. But his path to freedom will be much harder than he would ever want it to be, as he re-evaluates his relationships, his future, & his identity.

The cast is fantastic. Daveed Diggs is an absolute revelation. Fresh off his role on Broadway as Thomas Jefferson & Marquis de Lafayette in Hamilton, Diggs shows that he can be just as good on the screen as he is on the stage. Rafael Casal is also spectacular. He's volatile, vulnerable, & can make us feel sympathetic one second & make our skin crawl the next.

Carlos López Estrada's direction is excellent. In his directorial debut, López Estrada shows so much promise. He showcases some style, but always backs it up with substance. I have a feeling he's going to be someone to watch in independent cinema over the next few years.

The screenplay by Rafael Casal & Daveed Diggs is brilliant. Casal & Diggs, real-life friends since childhood, really put a lot of heart & love for their hometown into the script, & it really shows. The narrative feels so original & so timely. The characters feel realistic & 3-dimensional. The themes are well-touched upon, including gentrification, police brutality, racism, & mass incarceration in the African-American community. And the dialogue is perfect, led by multiple freestyle raps, & is also, at many times, downright hilarious.

Robby Baumgartner's cinematography is amazing. The color palette & look of the film are so astounding, & there's one shot in the film that not only looks breathtaking, but packs a huge emotional punch.

And Gabriel Fleming's editing is superb. The film is perfectly paced & assembled, as it is able to fit so much into its short runtime & give all its moving parts ample time to display themselves.

This is definitely a once-in-a-blue-moon film, & one that will open the eyes of those who see it. It's a hard watch, but it's one that should be seen by many.

Blindspotting was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Sunday, July 29, 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 95 minutes, & it is rated R for language throughout, some brutal violence, sexual references & drug use.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

★★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Many of the recent films in the DC Extended Universe have felt incredibly dark. Sure, The Dark Knight trilogy was dark & brooding, but it had a purpose & it fit the film. The films in the DC Extended Universe are just dark & brooding to be dark & brooding, trying to copy the atmosphere of The Dark Knight trilogy, but forgetting how to make the atmosphere feel tense as well.

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, although not part of the DC Extended Universe, is a light-hearted escapist romp that will give DC fans some well-needed relief. The film follows the Teen Titans: Robin (voiced by Scott Menville); Beast Boy (voiced by Greg Cipes); Cyborg (voiced by Khary Payton); Raven (voiced by Tara Strong); & Starfire (voiced by Hynden Walch). They fight crime, but on a much smaller scale, & when they try to fight bigger battles, they become easily distracted, eventually allowing the Justice League to finish the job. The Justice League consists of Bruce Wayne, AKA Batman (voiced by Jimmy Kimmel); Clark Kent, AKA Kal-El, AKA Superman (voiced by Nicolas Cage); Diana Prince, AKA Wonder Woman (voiced by Halsey); John Stewart, AKA Green Lantern (voiced by Lil Yachty); Barry Allen, AKA Flash (voiced by Wil Wheaton); Ray Palmer, AKA Atom (voiced by Patton Oswalt); & Arthur Curry, AKA Aquaman (voiced by Eric Bauza). They tell the Teen Titans that they're too childish, & they don't even have a movie of their own yet.

The Teen Titans sneak into the premiere of Batman Again, directed by noted superhero film director Jade Wilson (voiced by Kristen Bell), Robin embarrasses himself in front of the audience, believing there was a movie going to be made about him. After this, the rest of the Teen Titans suggest that in order to get their movie made, they need an arch-nemesis.

And that arch-nemesis comes in the form of Slade Wilson, AKA Slade (voiced by Will Arnett). Now, the Teen Titans must stop Slade in order to reach the success they've always wanted.

The voice cast is amazing. The main 5 voice actors do fantastic jobs. But the real scene-stealers are Arnett (who is always funny) & Cage (who is a golden god).

The direction by Peter Rida Michail & Aaron Horvath is great. Although it does falter in the middle, they always have a steady hand & keep the film light-hearted.

The screenplay by Michael Jelenic & Aaron Horvath is brilliant. The plot is intriguing, the characters are well-developed, & the humor is spectacular, poking fun at many of the standard superhero tropes you see a lot nowadays.

And the animation is wonderful. The animation is very simple: classic 2D animation. But that doesn't detract from the film: it doesn't look cheap, & it adds a timeless feel to the film.

This is a great animated film. Although it has a couple minor flaws, it's still better than any film in the DC Extended Universe so far.

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Saturday, July 28, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 92 minutes, & it is rated PG for action & rude humor.

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Outside of his more dramatic performances, the Hotel Transylvania franchise is the only thing I can stand Adam Sandler in. If any film can do that nowadays, that's a huge feat in its own. But other than that, the franchise is a colorful, albeit slightly flawed, animation saga that does just enough to be considered good.

And Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation does just that. While it does have its fair share of flaws, it does exceed the expectations of a threequel, & becomes the best film in the franchise. The film follows Count Dracula (voiced by Adam Sandler), who is still feverishly running the Hotel Transylvania, with the help of his daughter, Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez), & his son-in-law, Jonathan (voiced by Andy Samberg). However, Dracula's personal life is a mess, as he is forlorn over the fact that he is lonely since his wife died many years ago.

Mavis, mistakenly interpreting his sadness as stress from work, books a cruise for herself; Dracula; Jonathan; their son, Dennis (voiced by Asher Blinkoff); her grandfather, Vlad (voiced by Mel Brooks); & the hotel guests, including Frank (voiced by Kevin James) & his wife, Eunice (voiced by Fran Drescher); Wayne (voiced by Steve Buscemi) & his wife, Wanda (voiced by Fran Drescher); Griffin (voiced by David Spade) & his girlfriend, Crystal (voiced by Chrissy Teigen); Murray (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key); & Blobby (voiced by Genndy Tartakovsky).

When they get on the cruise, Dracula is very upset about being surprised with the cruise. However, he is immediately lovestruck when he meets the captain of the cruise, Ericka (voiced by Kathryn Hahn). Dracula is surprised by this, as he didn't believe he could fall for someone again. Eventually, Ericka begins to reciprocate Dracula's affection. But there is something sinister with Ericka: her great-grandfather is the infamous monster hunter, Abraham Van Helsing (voiced by Jim Gaffigan). Now Ericka must decide to follow her heart or her mind, as Dracula must decide whether to stay in love a second time.

The voice cast is excellent. Adam Sandler gives a good voice performance, managing to not be irritable for the vast majority of the film. Andy Samberg is great, as always. And Steve Buscemi is perfect once again.

Genndy Tartakovsky's direction is great. Although it does falter a bit towards the end, he makes sure the film maintains its wonderfully zany tone throughout.

The screenplay by Genndy Tartakovsky & Michael McCullers is very good. Although the plot is a bit formulaic & some of the humor falls flat, most of the humor succeeds & the characters are wildly idiosyncratic.

And the animation is wondrous. It's very colorful & zany, & like many films from Sony Pictures Animation, is very attentive to detail.

This is a solid addition to the Hotel Transylvania franchise. Although it does have some flaws, it's a good crowdpleaser with some great voice performances & colorful animation.

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation was seen by me at the MJR Partridge Creek Digital Cinema 14 in Clinton Township, MI on Friday, July 27, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 97 minutes, & it is rated PG for some action & rude humor.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Mission: Impossible - Fallout

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

The Mission: Impossible franchise has been churning on for 22 years now, & seems to age like fine wine. Almost every installment has been better than the last, & the franchise sets a new pinnacle whenever the newest installment releases in theaters.

But Mission: Impossible - Fallout isn't just the best film of the franchise. It's not just the best action film of the year. Mission: Impossible - Fallout is one of the best action films of all time. Set two years after the events of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, the film follows IMF Agent Ethan Hunt (played by Tom Cruise), who after capturing Solomon Lane (played by Sean Curtis), & after becoming estranged from his wife, Julia (played by Michelle Monaghan), is now after a splinter sect of The Syndicate called The Apostles. Ethan tries to intercept the sale of 3 plutonium cores to The Apostles in Berlin, where he encounters colleagues Benji Dunn (played by Simon Pegg) & Luther Stickell (played by Ving Rhames). However, the planned interception of the sale eventually goes awry, & the plutonium is sold.

Back in the States, IMF Secretary Alan Hunley berates Ethan for letting the plutonium go. The new CIA Director, Erica Sloane (played by Angela Bassett), assigns operative August Walker (played by Henry Cavill) to shadow Ethan's mission to retrieve the plutonium in Paris.

While in the midst of trying to recover the plutonium, Ethan runs into Ilsa Faust (played by Rebecca Ferguson), who will not disclose why she is in Paris. Although Ethan is concerned about why she is there, he is also concerned with Walker, as he does not seem to be as he appears.

The cast is excellent. Tom Cruise still has so much command & such a huge presence on the screen after all these years. And the absolute conviction he has to doing all those stunts is awe-inspiring. Henry Cavill shows not only that he can act, but that he can really act, with his subtle cunningness standing out at all times. And Simon Pegg is great as the comic relief.

Christopher McQuarrie's direction is phenomenal. He shows such intense command over the many action sequences, & keeps us at the edge of our seat at all times.

Christopher McQuarrie's screenplay is amazing. The plot feels more interesting than the other films in the franchise, as it's connected to the previous film. The characters are well-developed. And the dialogue is well-written, & very witty at times.

Rob Hardy's cinematography is fantastic. The color palette is gorgeous, & the wide shots are just so amazing to look at. And there's one sequence that is just perfectly shot.

Eddie Hamilton's editing is incredible. The film is extremely well-paced, & there isn't a single bad or jarring cut in the film.

The sound design is impeccable. Every noise is loud & in-your-face, yet it sounds so clear, crisp & not too overbearing.

The visual effects are terrific. Many of the effects are entirely realistic, a fresh change of pace from the CGI bonanzas that have become commonplace in blockbuster films these days.

And Lorne Balfe's score is astounding. Balfe's score is much like a Hans Zimmer score, with the uses of drums & punctuating staccatos, yet it doesn't feel like it's a ripoff. It feels fresh & in tune with the film.

This is one of the best films of the year. It's a bonafide action masterpiece, & certainly demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Thursday, July 26, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 147 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for violence & intense sequences of action, & for brief strong language.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot

★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Many films involving disabled people follow many of the same clichés: able-bodied person is "struck in their prime" & becomes disabled, feels sorry for himself, meets an able-bodied person who gives them meaning to their life, & happy ever after. These films are made with an ableist idea of disability, which is very far off from what disability actually is.

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot does use some of these clichés & is seen through an able-bodied eye, but it manages to get past many of the clichés & becomes a well-acted comedy-drama. Based on the 1989 autobiography Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot by John Callahan, & set in the 1970s & 1980s, the film follows John Callahan (played by Joaquin Phoenix), a young alcoholic from Oregon. He lives in Los Angeles, & parties a lot & way too hard.

After a day & night of drinking, John & his new friend, Dexter (played by Jack Black), go bar-hopping. Dexter, who is also drunk, drives the car & crashes into a lightpole. While Dexter is unscathed, John is now a quadriplegic. At the hospital recovering from the accident, John meets Annu (played by Rooney Mara), who is his physical therapist, who eventually falls in love with John.

John decides to try to overcome his alcoholism, & starts to going to AA meetings led by Donnie Green (played by Jonah Hill), an openly-gay, trust-fund Christian, who eventually sponsors John.

Frustrated with his disability, John fuels his frustration into cartoons. These cartoons are very politically incorrect, managing to offend many, but others admire his cartoons. But the road to overcoming his alcoholism will be one of his hardest battles.

The cast is amazing. Joaquin Phoenix shows once again that he is one of the best actors right now. He has such emotional range: funny one moment, sad the next. And Jonah Hill gives one of his best performances. His presence is one that sticks long after the film ends.

Gus Van Sant's direction is great. Although Van Sant's vision is an ableist one, & that does bring the film down a bit, he does manage to balance the tonal shifts very well. After a few clunkers, this is a step in the right direction for Van Sant.

The screenplay by Gus Van Sant, John Callahan, Jack Gibson & William Andrew Eatman is very good. Although the plot & structure is a bit clichéd, & it doesn't give much thought on his disability as it should, the dialogue & characters are what keep the screenplay from being overly formulaic.

And Christopher Blauvelt's cinematography is excellent. Featuring constant slow pans & slow zooms, Blauvelt's camerawork adds a great documentary feel to the film.

This is a good biopic. Although it is a bit ableist & formulaic, the great performances & stunning cinematography save the film.

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Sunday, July 22, 2018. It is currently in 5 theaters in the Detroit area: the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township, MI; the Emagine Novi in Novi, MI; the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, MI; & the Historic Howell Theater in Howell, MI. Its runtime is 114 minutes, & it is rated R for language throughout, sexual content, some nudity & alcohol abuse.