Monday, December 31, 2018

Instant Family

★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

The foster care system in America is incredibly flawed. Over 400,000 kids are in the foster care system, with many of them failing to get the support that they sorely need, & they face an incredible amount of problems when trying to get approved for certain things.

Instant Family definitely sin't perfect, but it's an endearing look into adoption. Based on a true story, the film follows Pete (played by Mark Wahlberg) & Ellie (played by Rose Byrne) Wagner, a married couple in California. Although they are happily married, they feel that there is something missing in their lives. They would like to have children, but Pete is pretty old to be a father of a newborn child. Ellie brings up the idea of adoption, but Pete isn't up for it. However, Pete eventually warms up to the idea.

Pete & Ellie then begin an 8-week foster parenting class led by Sharon (played by Tig Notaro), who is more reserved; & Karen (played by Octavia Spencer), who is more outspoken. They eventually get their foster parenting licenses, & go to an adoption fair to see what kids they may be interested in. One of the teenage foster children, Lizzie (played by Isabella Moner), lets them know that they know that foster parents aren't really interested in the teenagers. However, this interests Pete & Ellie, & when they ask about becoming Lizzie's foster parents, they are told that Lizzie has two younger siblings: Juan (played by Gustavo Quiroz) & Lita (played by Julianna Gamiz). Pete & Ellie decide to take in all 3 of the kids, which meets mixed reactions from Pete & Ellie's families: Ellie's mother Jan (played by Julie Hagerty) is more hesitant about their decision, while Pete's mother Sandy (played by Margo Martindale) is more welcoming.

Although the initial few weeks with Lizzie, Juan & Lita in their house are great, it starts to become hectic for Pete & Ellie, as Lizzie is bratty, Juan is overly sensitive, & Lita will only eat potato chips. But although Pete & Ellie are not ready for what will follow, but they think they'll be alright in the end.

The cast is amazing. Mark Wahlberg & Rose Byrne have such great chemistry here. Tig Notaro & Octavia Spencer are hilarious in their small roles. But the standout is Isabella Moner, who truly shines here. And Gustavo Quiroz & Julianna Gamiz also shine.

Sean Anders' direction is great. Although there isn't much that stylistically differentiates Anders from other directors, he is able to overcome that with a warm-hearted sensibility & a personal touch, as the true story is Anders' true story of adopting 3 kids.

And the screenplay by Sean Anders & John Morris is very good. Although the plot is formulaic & the narrative is predictable, the humorous dialogue sticks out, & the screenplay isn't afraid to tackle the racial issues of the adoption.

This is a good comedy-drama. Although it's definitely too sentimental at times, the film is saved by a cast filled with great, warm-hearted performances.

Instant Family was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Sunday, December 30, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 118 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, sexual material, language & some drug references.

If Beale Street Could Talk

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

With his 2016 breakout film Moonlight, Barry Jenkins became one of the best directors in independent cinema. His subdued style of direction focusing on everyday beauty evokes reminders of the films of Wong-Kar Wai, & his affinity for closeup shots of his characters brings flashbacks to the films of Jonathan Demme. And I personally consider Jenkins to be one of my favorite directors of the decade so far.

If Beale Street Could Talk builds off of Moonlight, & is the best film in Jenkins' young career. Based on the 1974 novel If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin, & set in 1970s New York, the film follows Clementine "Tish" Rivers (played by KiKi Layne), a 19-year-old girl living with her mother Sharon (played by Regina King), her father Joseph (played by Colman Domingo), & her sister Ernestine (played by Teyonah Parris) in the Harlem neighborhood in Upper Manhattan. She is in a relationship with Alonzo "Fonny" Hunt (played by Stephan James), a 22-year-old sculptor living with his mother, Alice (played by Aunjanue Ellis), his father Frank (played by Michael Beach), & his sisters Adrienne (played by Ebony Obsidian) & Sheila (played by Dominique Thorne). They also live in Harlem.

In their relationship, Tish & Fonny encounter various people, including Pedrocito (played by Diego Luna), Fonny's friend who is a waiter at a restaurant; Levy (played by Dave Franco), a landlord who owns an apartment block where Tish & Fonny are looking to live in; & Daniel Carty (played by Brian Tyree Henry), a longtime friend of Fonny who has been very negatively affected by his time in prison due to the harsh treatment he received.

One day, Fonny is arrested for the rape of Victoria Rogers (played by Emily Rios). Although the rape did occur, Fonny was not the person that did it, as he was with Tish & Daniel at their apartment. Fonny was likely arrested not because of testimony, but because of the mindset of racist cops, especially Officer Bell (played by Ed Skrein). Victoria was probably misled by Bell & others to believe that Fonny was her rapist through loaded questions. As a result, Fonny is being wrongfully jailed for a crime he did not commit.

Despite help from Hayward (played by Finn Wittrock), Fonny's lawyer, the fight to free Fonny is a tough fight, as Victoria had left New York for her home of Puerto Rico & for her friend Pietro Alvarez (played by Pedro Pascal), due to stress & trauma from the assault, despite some pleas for her to return. But things get tougher, as Tish is now pregnant with her & Fonny's child. Although this news receives happiness from Tish's family & Frank, it receives scorn from Alice & Fonny's sisters, who consider themselves to be superior to Tish & her family, brushing off their child as a product of "sin," as Alice calls it, since Tish & Fonny were not married. The road to free Fonny will only get rougher from this moment on, as Tish must fight to free Fonny before the birth of their child.

The cast is phenomenal. KiKi Layne gives one of the best feature film acting debuts in recent memory. Stephan James is a knockout. Regina King gives the best performance of her career. And the rest of the cast is perfectly cast down to the smallest of roles.

Barry Jenkins' direction is incredible. Jenkins oversees the film with a calm, subdued mentality & a visual style that is so simple yet so luminous.

Barry Jenkins's screenplay is superb. Jenkins does a terrific job of adapting the humor & heart of Baldwin's writing, populating the film with fully 3-dimensional characters that you could encounter any day of your life on the street.

James Laxton's cinematography is gorgeous. Laxton's camerawork is just a marvel to look at, with his bright hues of greens, oranges, yellows, & browns, & his spectacular lighting, especially in the nighttime scenes that gorgeously light up Harlem.

The editing by Joi McMillon & Nat Sanders is excellent. McMillon & Sanders let the events slowly unfold before our eyes, & there is not a single jarring edit throughout the film.

Caroline Eselin's costume design is amazing. The costumes are very simple, but very lovely & very accurate to the 1970s.

Mark Friedberg's production design is fantastic. The attention to detail is impressive here, as the sets transport you into 1970s New York.

And Nicholas Britell's score is beautiful. Led by a piano & violins, Britell's score perfectly underscores the beauty of the film.

This is one of the best films of the year. It's a flat-out masterpiece filled with such stunning beauty. I definitely can't wait to see what Barry Jenkins does next.

If Beale Street Could Talk was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, December 28, 2018. It is currently in 2 theaters in the Detroit area: the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; & the Emagine Riviera in Farmington Hills, MI; it will expand into more theaters on Friday, January 4, 2019 & Friday, January 11, 2019, before going into wide release on Friday, January 18, 2019. Its runtime is 119 minutes, & it is rated R for language & some sexual content.

The Mule

★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Clint Eastwood is 88 years old. He may quite possibly never get the opportunity to act in or direct another film. If this were to occur, then I'd say it would be nothing short of a very exemplary career for him.

The Mule does have its flaws, but it's easily Eastwood's best film of this decade. Based on the 2014 New York Times article The Sinaloa Cartel's 90-Year-Old Drug Mule by Sam Dolnick, the film follows Earl Stone (played by Clint Eastwood), a horticulturist & Korean War veteran. Earl has become estranged from his wife Mary (played by Dianne Wiest), his daughter Iris (played by Alison Eastwood), & his granddaughter Ginny (played by Taissa Farmiga), as he decided to prioritize his job over his family.

One day, Earl receives a solicitation to deliver packages for some people. He is shocked to discover that he has become a drug mule. However, he decides to continue with this occupation, as his house has been foreclosed, & the drug business is very lucrative.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, DEA Agent Colin Bates (played by Bradley Cooper) has been sent by the DEA Special Agent in Charge (played by Laurence Fishburne) to investigate the cartel deliveries to Chicago that have been led by the boss Laton (played by Andy Garcia). Bates & Agent Trevino (played by Michael Peña) are sent to close in on the deliveries. Eventually, the path of Earl & the path of Bates will cross.

The cast is excellent. Clint Eastwood is still enigmatic at 88, & this is one of his best performances in recent memory. Bradley Cooper also does a great job, especially in one scene with Eastwood. And the rest of the cast provides great support. But this one belongs to Clint Eastwood, as he runs with it the whole way through.

Clint Eastwood's direction is amazing. Eastwood directs the film with a subdued quality unlike any other film of his in a while, & it does wonders here.

And the screenplay by Nick Schenk is great. Although the characterization is a bit thin outside of Eastwood & Cooper's characters, the plot is always intriguing, & the dialogue is very well-written & also very poignant.

This is a very good film. Although it does have some issues, it's nevertheless quietly entertaining, & if this were to be Clint's sendoff, then it would be nothing short of a great sendoff for one of Hollywood's biggest screen legends.

The Mule was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Thursday, December 27, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 116 minutes, & it is rated R for language throughout & brief sexuality/nudity.

Welcome to Marwen

★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Hot take: I hate Forrest Gump. Although the cast & visuals are good, everything else is a complete mess. Lately, Robert Zemeckis, who directed Forrest Gump, has been trying to recreate that magic he discovered 23 years ago.

Welcome to Marwen is the closest Zemeckis has come to doing another Forrest Gump - & not in a good way. It's a disappointment. The film follows Mark Hogancamp (played by Steve Carell), a photographer in Kingston, New York. After being beaten by 5 guys outside a bar for telling them that he was a cross-dresser, Mark lost his memory from before the assault. In order to cope with his PTSD & his memory loss, Mark built a 1/6-scale wartime Belgian town called Marwen, populated by dolls, including Capt. Hogie (voiced by Steve Carell) & 5 women, all of them women based off of those that Mark has encountered in real life: Roberta (played & voiced by Merritt Wever), the owner of a hobby shop in Kingston; Julie (played & voiced by Janelle Monáe), a military veteran who helps Mark in physical therapy; Caralala (played & voiced by Eiza González), a bartender; Anna (played & voiced by Gwendoline Christie), Mark's Russian caretaker; & Suzette (played & voiced by Leslie Zemeckis), Mark's favorite actress. These women are his friends & protectors in Marwen & in life. Some Nazi dolls also come through Marwen every so often, looking for Capt. Hogie, & a witch named Deja Thoris (voiced by Diane Kruger) comes through periodically, trying to keep Mark all to herself.

One day, a new neighbor moves in across the street from Mark. The new neighbor is Nicol (played & voiced by Leslie Mann), who has just got out of a relationship with Kurt (played & voiced by Neil Jackson). Mark becomes smitten with Nicol, & makes a doll for her. But something is looming for Mark: the date where he will have to make an impact statement at the sentencing of the 5 men who assaulted him.

The cast is great. Steve Carell gives a very good performance. The rest of the cast does very good work, but this is Carell's show.

Robert Zemeckis' direction is mediocre. Zemeckis's direction is tonally inconsistent, constantly jumping between the unaffecting drama of the real world & the unfunny comedy of the world of the dolls.

And the screenplay by Robert Zemeckis & Caroline Thompson is a misfire. The plot is incredibly deficient, as the way the story is told ends up hindering it. The characterization is very poor outside of Carell's character, & the dialogue is very clunky.

This is a majorly disappointing film. Although Carell gives it his all, he can't overcome defective direction & a terrible screenplay.

Welcome to Marwen was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Wednesday, December 26, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 116 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence, some disturbing images, brief suggestive content, thematic material & language.

Sunday, December 30, 2018


★★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I only liked the first Transformers film. I saw pieces of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, but I didn't care for what I saw. I haven't seen the other 3 Transformers films, but I think I know how they went: a bunch of big explosive robot fights, with some bad editing, shots of scantily-clad women, & no room for characterization. I think I got it right, & that's what I'd expect from Michael Bay, the worst director ever.

Bumblebee, while just shy of perfect, is a fresh change of pace for the franchise. Set in 1987, the film follows Charlie Watson (played by Hailee Steinfeld), a teenage girl in California. She lives with her mother Sally (played by Pamela Adlon), her stepfather Ron (played by Stephen Schneider), & her brother Otis (played by Jason Drucker). Charlie is angry at her mom for remarrying so soon after her father's death.

One day, Charlie finds a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle in a scrapyard owned by her Uncle Hank (played by Len Cariou), which she is given as a birthday present. It's not long after that Charlie realizes that her car is not just any ordinary Volkswagen Beetle. It is B-127 (voiced by Dylan O'Brien), an Autobot who has fled to Earth from Cybertron to create a base for other Autobots. B-127 is unable to speak, as his voice box has been ripped out by Blitzwing (voiced by David Sobolov), a Decepticon. Charlie nicknames B-127 Bumblebee.

Bumblebee's homing signal has attracted 2 major Decepticons: Shatter (voiced by Angela Bassett), who can turn into a Plymouth Satellite & a Harrier Jump Jet; & Dropkick (voiced by Justin Theroux), who can turn into an AMC Javelin & a Bell AH-1 SuperCobra. It has also attracted Memo (played by Jorge Lendenborg Jr.), a nerdy co-worker of Charlie, who is attracted to her. He promises to keep Bumblebee a secret. But Bumblebee receives attention from two men from Sector 7: Col. Jack Burns (played by John Cena) & Dr. Powell (played by John Ortiz). Now Charlie & Memo must protect Bumblebee from Sector 7 & the Decepticons at all costs.

The cast is superb. Hailee Steinfeld cements herself as one of our finest young actresses. John Cena is delightfully funny. And the rest of the cast provides great support.

Travis Knight's direction is great. Although there are a couple issues involving some early action sequences, Knight overcomes them with a great mix of style & substance, & the ability to let moments set in with the audience.

Christina Hodson's screenplay is amazing. The plot is intriguing, the narrative is more character-driven, the characterization is excellent, & the dialogue is often very funny.

And the visual effects are stunning. The CGI is very well-done & polished, which is surprising, as the film had a much smaller budget than the previous Transformers films. But that shows that sometimes, less is more.

This is a great surprise. Although it does have a couple flaws, it's easily the best film of the Transformers franchise.

Bumblebee was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Wednesday, December 26, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 114 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action violence.


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I barely remember all but a few things about the presidency of George W. Bush as it happened. However, I knew enough to know that he was not good at his job. And I did not like Dick Cheney either, as he seemed smarter than Bush, for better & for worse: although Cheney was actually able to make grammatical sense, he was more likely to use his power to the fullest extent, no matter what the cost.

Vice is a scathingly funny & deeply horrifying look into the most powerful Vice President in American history. Set from 1963-2012, & narrated by Kurt (played by Jesse Plemons), a quasi-relative of Cheney, the film follows Dick Cheney (played by Christian Bale), a Wyoming alcoholic recently expelled from Yale. After receiving a second DUI, he is told by his wife Lynne (played by Amy Adams) to immediately clean up his act. He agrees to clean himself up, & they eventually have 2 daughters: Liz (played by Lily Rabe) & Mary (played by Alison Pill), who eventually comes out as a lesbian.

In 1969, Cheney ends up working as a White House intern, eventually becoming an assistant to Counselor to the President Donald Rumsfeld (played by Steve Carell). However, both Rumsfeld & Cheney are cast aside by Richard Nixon, but get back into the White House when Gerald Ford (played by Bill Camp) becomes President, as Rumsfeld becomes Secretary of Defense & Cheney becomes Chief of Staff. However, their time there is short-lived, as Ford loses the 1976 election to Jimmy Carter.

Next, Cheney decides to run for the U.S. House seat in Wyoming; however, after giving a very underwhelming campaign speech, he suffers a heart attack. While Cheney recovers, Lynne campaigns for him, bringing a lot of firepower to the campaigning, eventually leading to Cheney's election. He stays in the house until 1989, when he is made Secretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. Although he does consider running for President in 1996, he eventually declines due to the scrutiny that Mary would likely face, as Republicans are still going on an anti-gay marriage platform. He then becomes CEO of Halliburton.

In 2000, he is asked by George W. Bush (played by Sam Rockwell) to be his running mate in the 2000 election. Although Cheney declines at first, he eventually agrees on the condition that he oversee the more mundane responsibilities, cementing himself as the most powerful Vice President in American history.

In his first few years as VP, Cheney continues his work with again-Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, & creates bonds with his counsel David Addington (played by Don McManus) & Chief of Staff to the Vice President Scooter Libby (played by Justin Kirk), but also makes adversaries in Secretary of State Colin Powell (played by Tyler Perry) & National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice (played by LisaGay Hamilton). But as the country goes into Iraq & Afghanistan, Cheney's power only continues to grow.

The cast is spectacular. Christian Bale gives the best performance of his career as Dick Cheney, completely disappearing into the role & into Cheney's Machiavellian mindset. Amy Adams also gives the best performance of her career, phenomenally transforming herself into Lynne Cheney, & putting on a Lady Macbethian sensibility. Steve Carell also gives a terrific performance as Donald Rumsfeld, looking almost exactly like him. Sam Rockwell is magnificent as George W. Bush, as he is probably the perfect person to ever portray him. And the rest of the cast, especially Perry & Pill, is perfectly cast down to the smallest of roles.

Adam McKay's direction is stunning. McKay is firing on all cylinders, as he satirizes & attacks Cheney & the Bush administration at every moment with his rapid-fire style.

Adam McKay's screenplay is brilliant. The plot always keeps us at the edge of our seat, the characterization is incredibly well-thought out, the narrative is awesomely bizarre, & the dialogue is just perfect, always being either bitingly funny or intensely terrifying.

Greig Fraser's cinematography is amazing. Fraser's camerawork is fantastic, as it has a crisp, film-like feel to it.

Hank Corwin's editing is impeccable. Corwin uses the rapid-fire editing style that worked perfectly in The Big Short & it works like a charm, perfectly fitting the chaotic time period in which the film is set.

The makeup & hairstyling is phenomenal. It is astoundingly transformative, especially for Bale, but it is also very transformative for Adams & Carell. This is some of the best makeup work in recent memory.

And Nicholas Britell's score is excellent. Led by a piano & violins, the score perfectly complements both the comedic & dramatic parts of the film.

This is, by far, the best film of 2018. It's a brutally funny, intensely frightening, well-acted, well-made, well-written masterwork of a film.

Vice was seen by me at the MJR Partridge Creek Digital Cinema 14 in Clinton Township, MI on Monday, December 24, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 132 minutes, & it is rated R for language & some violent images.

Mary Queen of Scots

★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Lately, I've become interested in the monarchies of Europe, especially those of the UK & France. I'm fascinated by how these people came to power & eventually fell from power.

Mary Queen of Scots is flawed, but it's a very well-acted & well-designed film. Based on the 2004 biography Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart by John Guy, & set between 1561 & 1587 UK, the film follows Mary, Queen of Scots (played by Saoirse Ronan), who has returned to Scotland after spending many of her formative years in France. She has returned to take her place at the throne as the Catholic Queen of Scotland. This is not an easy task, as her Protestant cousin, Elizabeth I, Queen of England (played by Margot Robbie), is leader of England & Scotland, along with the rest of the UK.

However, Mary is not well-liked in Scotland by some, especially John Knox (played by David Tennant), a Protestant cleric. After refusing to marry for some time, she eventually marries Lord Darnley (played by Jack Lowden), & they eventually have a son, James. Mary also decides to take the throne from Elizabeth, as she would be next in line for the throne if Elizabeth fails to produce an heir.

In England, Elizabeth is guarded by her advisor William Cecil (played by Guy Pearce), & is in love with Robert Dudley (played by Joe Alwyn). However, she is unable to produce an heir due to reasons with Dudley.

With both fighting for power in a masculine world, Mary & Elizabeth try their hardest to remain peaceful. But betrayal & rebellion will soon follow.

The cast is fantastic. Saoirse Ronan is amazing once again. She continues to give amazing performances after amazing performances, & she is the best actress of her generation. Margot Robbie is also fierce in her role.

Josie Rourke's direction is great. Although some moments lag, Rourke is able to sustain the film with her visual style & her stage background, making this a well-made directorial debut for Rourke.

Beau Willimon's screenplay is very good. Although the plot is a bit cumbersome, & the narrative is a bit lagging, the clever dialogue is what definitely sticks out.

Alexandra Byrne's costume design is gorgeous. The costumes are very extravagant, period-accurate, & just absolutely lovely.

James Merifield's production design is superb. The sets are very period-accurate & extravagant, & immerses the audience in the time frame.

And the makeup & hairstyling is phenomenal. The hairstyling is very period-accurate, & the makeup is as well, but it is also very transformative.

This is a solidly made film. It does have some flaws, but it is saved by its two spectacular lead performances & its period elements.

Mary Queen of Scots was seen by me at the Emagine Rochester Hills in Rochester Hills, MI on Sunday, December 23, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 124 minutes, & it is rated R for some violence & sexuality.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Mary Poppins Returns

★★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I barely remember watching Mary Poppins when I was a young kid, but I definitely remember loving it. It's an absolute classic that is one of Disney's finest.

Mary Poppins Returns, while not as great as Mary Poppins, is a very enjoyable sequel. Based on the Mary Poppins book series by P.L. Travers, & set in 1935 London, the film follows Mary Poppins (played by Emily Blunt), the former nanny of the Banks family: banker Michael (played by Ben Whishaw); his sister Jane (played by Emily Mortimer); Michael's children: Annabel (played by Pixie Davies); John (played by Nathanael Saleh); & Georgie (played by Joel Dawson), & their housekeeper, Ellen (played by Julie Walters).

Since his wife Kate died, Michael has been financially stressed, going so far as to taking out a loan from the bank at which he works. However, he is informed by associates sent by bank president William Weatherall Wilkins (played by Colin Firth) that he must repay the loan in full by the coming Friday or his house will be repossessed. Although their father did leave them shares in the bank, Jane & Michael are unable to find the certificate of authenticity, & bank chairman Mr. Dawes Jr. (played by Dick Van Dyke) is considered by Wilkins to be of unsound mind at his old age, so he is unable to help.

Mary Poppins comes back to help out the Banks family, while taking the Banks children on wild adventures, encountering very whimsical people, such as Mary's cousin Topsy (played by Meryl Streep) & The Balloon Lady (played by Angela Lansbury). However, the plan to keep the Banks home looks very unlikely. But with the help of chimney sweep Jack (played by Lin-Manuel Miranda), Mary & the Banks family might just be able to pull it off with a lot of magic & imagination.

The cast is superb. Emily Blunt brings so much charm & loveliness to the role. Lin-Manuel Miranda is delightfully endearing. And the rest of the cast provides great support.

Rob Marshall's direction is great. Although there are some moments that are a bit derivative, Marshall is able to overcome those flaws with a lot of visual style & a warm-hearted sensibility.

The screenplay by David Magee, Rob Marshall & John DeLuca is amazing. The plot is intriguing, the narrative is entirely warm-hearted, & the dialogue is well-written.

Dion Beebe's cinematography is wondrous. The color palette is incredibly lovely, & the camerawork is visually enticing.

Wyatt Smith's editing is excellent. The film floats along at a brisk pace, & there isn't a single jarring or bad edit throughout the film.

Sandy Powell's costume design is fantastic. The costumes are colorful, period-accurate, & very lovely to look upon.

John Myhre's production design is gorgeous. The sets are so accurate to 1930s London, & immerse you in the time frame.

The makeup & hairstyling is phenomenal. The makeup is very colorful & very transformative, & the hairstyling is very accurate to the time frame.

The sound design is impeccable. The various sounds created by the objects in the whimsical world are so incredibly immersive.

The visual effects are stunning. The CGI feels impressively realistic, not looking like poorly-made green screen at all.

And the music is terrific. The score by Marc Shaiman is very beautiful, perfectly accompanying the film. And the original songs further help tell the story, & are very catchy & well-made.

This is a great sequel. Although it slightly pales in comparison to the original, it is a very charming & well-made sequel that is better than many sequels.

Mary Poppins Returns was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Saturday, December 22, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 130 minutes, & it is rated PG for some mild thematic elements & brief action.

Friday, December 28, 2018


★★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

The DC Extended Universe has been lagging behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe, failing to consistently make good films. Most of the films have ranged from mediocre to bad. There has only been one good film in the DCEU so far: Wonder Woman, & that didn't come without some flaws.

Aquaman is a bit short of perfect, but it's definitely a step in the right direction for the DCEU. The film follows Arthur Curry, AKA Aquaman (played by Jason Momoa), a half-human, half-Atlantean, & 100% swashbuckling superhero with a lot of strength & skill & the ability to communicate with marine life. His mother, Atlanna, Queen of Atlantis (played by Nicole Kidman), was forced to return to Atlantis many years prior, leaving Arthur & her husband, Thomas (played by Temuera Morrison) behind, & entrusting Atlantean advisor Nuidis Vulko (played by Willem Dafoe) to train Arthur to become a warrior.

Arthur defeats a group of pirates hijacking a Russian naval ship; however, David Kane, AKA Black Mamba (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), one of the main pirates, vows revenger against Arthur after his father, Jesse (played by Michael Beach) dies in the confrontation. Soon after, David goes to Atlantis & uses the attack to persuade Orm Marius, King of Atlantis (played by Patrick Wilson) to declare war against the surface world, to which Orm agrees. Nereus, King of Xebel (played by Dolph Lundgren) supports Orm's decision to declare war; however, his daughter, Mera (played by Amber Heard), is against the decision, so she heads to the surface world to persaude Arthur to fight Orm & become the King of Atlantis. Although Arthur declines at first, knowing he is considered a half-breed by the Atlanteans, he eventually agrees to fight.

When Arthur & Mera get to Atlantis, they are met by Vulko, who gives Arthur an important instruction: find the Trident of Atlan, the most powerful trident which once belonged to the first ruler of Atlantis. This will help Arthur take the throne. But Arthur's journey to the throne is more arduous than he may think.

The cast is fantastic. Jason Momoa brings so much charm & enthusiasm to the role. Amber Heard surprises us all with her acting abilities. Willem Dafoe is great, as always Temuera Morrison shines once again in his limited screentime. And Nicole Kidman is a goddess once again.

James Wan's direction is great. Although there are a couple flaws with the action, Wan makes up for it with his visual style & a lot of ambition.

The screenplay by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Will Beall, Geoff Johns & James Wan is amazing. The plot is thoroughly intriguing, the characters are well-fleshed-out, & the dialogue is perfectly cheesy.

And the visual effects are excellent. The CGI has never been better for a DCEU film, as the effects feel more realistic here than in the other films of the DCEU.

This is the best DCEU film yet. Although there are a couple minor flaws, they're overshadowed by great performances, dazzling visuals, & a ton of fun.

Aquaman was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, December 21, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 143 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence & action, & for some language.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Creed II

★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

As a kid, I loved the Rocky franchise. I owned every film on DVD, & would watch them all (especially Rocky III & Rocky Balboa). Eventually, I distanced myself from those films, but came back to them after enjoying Creed, which was one of the best films of 2015.

Creed II, while not as great as the first, is a very good & very admirable sequel. The film follows Adonis Creed (played by Michael B. Jordan), who after defeating Danny "Stuntman" Wheeler (played by Andre Ward), is the newest heavyweight champion of the world. After winning the heavyweight championship, Adonis proposes to his long-time girlfriend, singer-songwriter Bianca Taylor (played by Tessa Thompson), who accepts his proposal. They talk about possibly leaving Philadelphia for a new life in Los Angeles; while Bianca wants to move to Los Angeles, Adonis is less inclined to leave Philadelphia behind, especially his trainer, former heavyweight champion Rocky Balboa (played by Sylvester Stallone).

One night, former Soviet boxer Ivan Drago (played by Dolph Lundgren), shows up in Rocky's restaurant. Ivan, who lost 33 years prior to Rocky on Christmas Day in Moscow, wants Adonis to fight his son, Viktor (played by Florian Munteanu). Although Adonis accepts, Rocky refuses to train him for the fight; Adonis then leaves with Bianca for Los Angeles.

With the knowledge that Ivan killed his father in a match 33 years ago, Adonis is overwhelmed by the fight. Eventually, Adonis & Rocky reconcile, & hire Tony "Little Duke" Evers Jr. (played by Wood Harris) as an assistant trainer. With the help of Rocky, Little Duke, & his adoptive mother, Mary Anne (played by Phylicia Rashād), Adonis trains his hardest for this match. But the match will be a very tough one.

The cast is amazing. Michael B. Jordan continues to cement himself as one of the brightest stars in Hollywood today. Sylvester Stallone gives another great performance. Tessa Thompson gives a great supporting performance. And Dolph Lundgren shows that he does have some acting talent with his performance.

Steven Caple Jr.'s direction is excellent. Caple Jr. is able to keep us at the edge of our seats with his thrilling oversight, especially during the boxing scenes.

And the screenplay by Juel Taylor, Sylvester Stallone, Sascha Penn & Cheo Hodari Coker is great. Although the plot is predictable, the characterization is well-developed, & the dialogue is very well-written.

This is a very good sequel. Although it does have a few flaws, they are overcome by an excellent cast & great direction.

Creed II was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Saturday, December 15, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 130 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for sports action violence, language, & a scene of sensuality.

Vox Lux

★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

The rise to fame is a polarizing rise. It can be a wondrous experience, or a terrifying experience that only looks wondrous. And even if you may have the best intentions, down the road, those intentions will be misconstrued.

Vox Lux, while a messy film, is a solid look at the rise of a pop star. Set in 1999 & 2017, & narrated by The Narrator (played by Willem Dafoe), the film follows Celeste Montgomery (played as a young adult by Raffey Cassidy & as an adult by Natalie Portman), a 13-year-old girl at a private school in New York. Celeste lives a pretty normal life for a 13-year-old girl. She always sticks with her older sister, Eleanor, AKA Ellie (played by Stacy Martin).

One day, a student comes into the school armed with an assault rifle & kills multiple students & faculty. Celeste is one of the wounded, & Ellie was not at school that day. After going through hospital care & physical therapy, Celeste & Ellie perform a song they wrote together at a candlelight vigil. The song is titled Wrapped Up. Although it was performed at a vigil, the song shoots its way to the top of the charts. Eventually, Celeste gets a record deal, & hires The Manager (played by Jude Law), a passionate but arrogant man, while also being surrounded by her publicist Josie (played by Jennifer Ehle). In the midst of a short while, Celeste has gone from an ordinary young adult to a extraordinary pop star.

In 2017, Celeste is now 31, & although she is still a successful pop star, she is now very contentious, & the past few years have been marred by scandal. She is now at odds with Ellie, & she is far away most of the time from her 14-year-old daughter, Albertine (played by Raffey Cassidy). However, The Manager & Josie are still by her side. Celeste is about to release her sixth album, Vox Lux, which she says is an album about rebirth populated by sci-fi anthems. But when a terrorist attack in Europe indirectly involves her, Celeste must push to bring herself back into the spotlight with a massive concert in New York.

The cast is fantastic. Natalie Portman gives one of her best performances. Jude Law is terrific. Raffey Cassidy is a revelation. Stacy Martin is amazing. Jennifer Ehle is excellent. And Willem Dafoe provides superb narration.

Brady Corbet's direction is great. Although Corbet tries to juggle a bit too much, I admire his ambitious nature & his sense of visual style.

The screenplay by Brady Corbet & Mona Fastvold is very good. Although the plot starts to crack further on in the film, & the characterization outside of Celeste, The Manager & Ellie is a bit thin, the sharp dialogue is tremendous.

Lol Crawley's cinematography is glorious. Crawley's camerawork is picturesque, led by several wondrous long-takes.

And the soundtrack is phenomenal. Featuring songs by Sia, the pop songs sound authentic, & are also extremely catchy.

This is a good film about the rise to fame. It's definitely flawed, but it has enough gas in the tank to make it worthwhile.

Vox Lux was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Saturday, December 15, 2018. It is currently in 5 theaters in the Detroit area: the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI; the AMC Livonia 20 in Livonia, MI; the MJR Southgate Digital Cinema 20 in Southgate, MI; the Rave Cinemas Ann Arbor 20 in Ypsilanti, MI; & the State Theatre in Ann Arbor, MI. Its runtime is 114 minutes, & it is rated R for language, some strong violence, & drug content.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Alfonso Cuarón is nothing short of a visionary genius. Noted for his affinity for long takes & immersive direction, Cuarón has managed to make great film after great film after great film.

But Roma is his masterpiece. It's a visually stunning, emotionally affecting work of art. Set in 1970 & 1971 Mexico City, the film follows Cleodegaria "Cleo" Gutiérrez (played by Yalitza Aparicio), a domestic worker for a wealthy family. Another domestic worker, Adela (played by Nancy García), works for the family as well. The family consists of Sofia (played by Marina de Tavira), Antonio (played by Fernando Grediaga), & their children: Pepe (played by Marco Graf); Sofi (played by Daniela Demesa); Toño (played by Diego Cortina Autrey); & Paco (played by Carlos Peralta).

One day, Antonio leaves for a medical conference in Québec. However, he doesn't plan on returning back to his family. In their time off, Cleo & Adela enjoy time with their respective significant others: martial arts enthusiast Fermín (played by Jorge Antonio Guerrero) & Ramón (played by José Manuel Guerrero Mendoza). While at the theater, Cleo tells Fermin that she believes that she is pregnant & that he is the potential father. Fermín leaves to use the bathroom, but does not return. A test eventually confirms her pregnancy.

As the family's lives go on, Cleo sees all the events unfolding in their lives, as she gets closer & closer to her due date. Together, their lives slowly unfold over the course of a year in a rebellious Mexico City.

The cast is fantastic. Yalitza Aparicio gives one of the best debut performances of the century. She fully embodies her character to the point where she seems just like a regular person. Marina de Tavira also gives a powerful performance, & she gets to showcase her tremendous acting talent in one amazing scene in the second act. And the rest of the supporting cast leaves indelible marks in their small but pivotal roles.

Alfonso Cuarón's direction is excellent. Cuarón oversees the film with a very up-close & personal eye, & that works especially excellent here for this slice-of-life film.

Alfonso Cuarón's screenplay is amazing. The plot is always intriguing, the characterization is superb down to the smallest of roles, & the dialogue is incredibly human.

Alfonso Cuaron's cinematography is breathtaking. Shot in black-&-white & on 70mm film, the camerawork is just lovely, using several long-takes to absolute perfection.

The editing by Alfonso Cuarón & Adam Gough is spectacular. The pacing is perfect, & there is not one single bad edit throughout the entire film.

Anna Terrazas' costume design is beautiful. The costumes are very simple, but very lovely & very period-accurate.

Eugenio Cabollero's production design is gorgeous. The sets are so incredibly immersive & very period-accurate, transporting you into the world of 1970s Mexico City.

And the sound editing is impeccable. The sounds are so incredibly immersive, from the sounds of every-day Mexico City to the sounds of protests & gunshots in the streets.

This is the best film of the year so far, & the best foreign language film of all time. It's a wonderfully made film that is emotionally empowering & visually wondrous.

Roma was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, December 14, 2018. It is currently in 3 theaters in the Detroit area: the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; Cinema Detroit in Detroit, MI; & the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, MI. Its runtime is 135 minutes, & it is rated R for graphic nudity, some disturbing images, & language.

The Favourite

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Eclectic. Dark. Whimsical. Humorous. These are just several of the words that can be used to describe Yorgos Lanthimos. With his 2 most recent films, 2016's The Lobster & 2017's The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Lanthimos has made a name for himself as a director of very weird & darkly comedic films that are far outside of the mainstream.

The Favourite is Lanthimos' most commercial film, but he doesn't sacrifice any of his wit in what is definitely his best film yet. Set in 1708 England, the film follows Anne (played by Olivia Colman), the Queen of Great Britain. Suffering from many ailments, Anne is less preoccupied with governing the country & helping oversee a war than she is with duck racing & spending time with her seventeen rabbits, each one representing her dead children. Her confidant & lover, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough (played by Rachel Weisz), rules the country in Anne's stead; however, prominent landowner & Member of Parliament Robert Harley (played by Nicholas Hoult), tries to limit how much Sarah can control Anne.

One day, Sarah's less fortunate cousin, Abigail Hill (played by Emma Stone), arrives to seek employment. Abigail, once prosperous, has fallen on hard times since her father sold her to a German man to settle a debt. She is hired to perform a menial job as a maid at first, but after applying an ointment to Anne's gout-ridden feet & legs that eases her pain, she is promoted to Sarah's lady-in-waiting.

Eventually, Abigail realizes that she can rise further to the top of Anne's good graces & possibly become her new favorite. As this occurs, Member of Parliament Samuel Masham (played by Joe Alwyn) takes a liking to Abigail, & the relationship between Anne & Sarah starts to deteriorate. This soon turns into a all-out war between Sarah & Abigail to see who will be Anne's favorite. And this will be a war that will leave absolute no one standing in their way, whether it be man, woman, rabbit, or duck.

The cast is spectacular. Olivia Colman gives one of the finest female performances of the year. Colman is finally able to get a lead role, & she does wonders with it. She is cunning, heart-wrenching, scathingly funny, & menacing all at once.

Rachel Weisz gives her best performance in years. Weisz is both cunning & devilish, throwing herself into her character, & she is just wicked here.

Emma Stone gives her best performance. Stone is more than able to master a RP British accent, & is just as cunning & devilish as Weisz.

The rest of the cast, especially Hoult & Alwyn, is absolutely superb, with all of the supporting cast making indelible marks on the film.

Yorgos Lanthimos' direction is terrific. Lanthimos directs this film unlike any other historical film, with his eclectic visual style & his pitch-black sense of humor.

The screenplay by Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara is brilliant. The plot is incredibly intriguing, the characterization is nothing short of perfect, & the dialogue is truly something to behold.

Robbie Ryan's cinematography is fantastic. The camerawork is gorgeously off-beat, with the use of whip pans & the use of fish-eye lenses, all looking so beautiful.

Yorgos Mavropsaridis' editing is excellent. The film is deliberately slowly-paced, letting the plot slowly unfold, & the assembling of shots is marvelous, with every shot lasting perfectly.

Sandy Powell's costume design is gorgeous. The costumes are very period-accurate & so incredibly lovely to look at for hours.

Fiona Crombie's production design is wondrous. The sets are so immersive, transporting you into 1700s England, & so lovely to look at.

And the makeup & hairstyling is phenomenal. The makeup is very transformative, & the hairstyling is so period-accurate.

This is one of the best films of the year. It's a well-made, well-acted, scathingly funny historical comedy. There has definitely been nothing like this before.

The Favourite was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Friday, December 14, 2018. It is currently in 4 theaters in the Detroit area: the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI; the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township, MI; & the State Theatre in Ann Arbor, MI; it will expand to more theaters starting Friday, December 21, 2018. Its runtime is 119 minutes, & it is rated R for strong sexual content, nudity & language.

Ralph Breaks the Internet

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

As someone with an affinity for classic video games, I adored Wreck-It Ralph. It was a glorious throwback to the 1980s arcade gaming heyday.

I was a bit skeptical about Ralph Breaks the Internet, especially after the disaster that was The Emoji Movie, mainly because of its focus around the Internet, apps, & games. But my skepticism was for nothing, as this is a very entertaining & very well-made sequel. The film follows Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly), the famous villain of the classic arcade game Fix-It Felix Jr. When he isn't doing his wrecking, he spends most of his time hanging out with his best friend Vanellope von Schweetz (voiced by Sarah Silverman), a racer in Sugar Rush. While Ralph is content with his life, Vanellope is looking for something more. In order to make Vanellope happy, Ralph decides to create a new track in Sugar Rush; however, this fails, as this causes the player's control to be overridden, & in the process, causes the player to accidentally break off the wheel. As the company that made Sugar Rush has gone out of business, & the only version of that item on eBay is going for $200, Mr. Litwak (voiced by Ed O'Neill) decides to unplug Sugar Rush, leaving Vanellope & the other 15 racers gameless.

Later that night, Ralph talks with Fix-It Felix Jr. (voiced by Jack McBrayer), who himself is reeling from the Sugar Rush shutdown, as he & his wife, Sgt. Tamora Jean Calhoun (voiced by Jane Lynch) from Hero's Duty, have adopted the other 15 racers from Sugar Rush. Here, Ralph remembers that Mr. Litwak has installed a Wi-Fi router in the arcade, & he decides to take Vanellope with him to the router to get to the Internet to find the wheel.

Once they get to the Internet, they find themselves in the eBay section, & although they get the wheel, Ralph & Vanellope don't understand bidding, so instead of paying $200, they have to pay $27,001, which they do not have, so they must get the money within 24 hours. The two then set off to find ways to get money, which they do, in an attempt to steal a car from the game Slaughter Race. However, they are thwarted by Shank (voiced by Gal Gadot), the main character of Slaughter Race. In order to help Ralph & Vanellope with the money, Shank sends them to her friend Yesss (voiced by Taraji P. Henson), the algorithm of BuzzTube. Along the way, Ralph & Vanellope encounter search engine KnowsMore (voiced by Alan Tudyk) & virus creator Double Dan (voiced by Alfred Molina). But they both start to have differing dreams, as Ralph wants everything to be the same, but Vanellope wants to stay in Slaughter Race, starting an awakening for them both.

The voice cast is fantastic. John C. Reilly, as always, is goofy & warm-hearted. Sarah Silverman is also a burst of humor. And the rest of the cast gives great supporting voice performances.

The direction by Rich Moore & Phil Johnston is excellent. Moore & Johnston are able to improve on the original through the world-building & keeping the interest at a high level.

The screenplay by Phil Johnston, Pamela Ribon, Rich Moore, Jim Reardon & Josie Trinidad is amazing. The plot is warm-hearted, the characterization is fully fleshed out, & the dialogue is often humorous.

And the animation is spectacular. Every set piece is visually stunning, & the attention to detail is nothing short of incredible.

This is one of the best animated films of the year. It's one of the few sequels that is better than the original, & is so funny & warm-hearted.

Ralph Breaks the Internet was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Saturday, December 8, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 112 minutes, & it is rated PG for some action & rude humor.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Ever since I was a little one, Spider-Man has always been my favorite superhero. His amazing abilities, coupled with his charm & him being a teenager, made me enjoy him so much.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a wondrous blast of animated fun. The film follows Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore), a young adult living in Brooklyn with his mom, Rio Morales (voiced by Luna Lauren Velez), & his dad, Jefferson Davis (voiced by Brian Tyree Henry). Miles has just been admitted into an elite boarding school, which he is not excited about. However, Miles is a huge fan of Spider-Man, AKA Peter Parker (voiced by Chris Pine), but Jefferson thinks he is a menace.

One day, while with his uncle Aaron (voiced by Mahershala Ali), Miles is bitten by a spider, & not long after, he develops the powers of Spider-Man. He goes to a subway station & finds himself in a laboratory run by Wilson Fisk, AKA Kingpin (voiced by Liev Schreiber), & Olivia Octavious, AKA Doctor Octopus (voiced by Kathryn Hahn). Fisk has built this laboratory to open up an alternate universe to see his wife & son again. Here, Spider-Man has arrived to disable the accelerator, but he fails to do it, disappearing from the world, but not before passing on the task to Miles, who now tries to be a new Spider-Man.

Not long after, Miles encounters Peter B. Parker, AKA Spider-Man (voiced by Jake Johnson), an older, chubbier Peter Parker from another dimension. Wanting to get back home, he decides to train Miles on how to use his powers in exchange for stealing data from the laboratory. Eventually, Miles & Peter encounter other Spider-People: Gwen Stacy, AKA Spider-Woman (voiced by Hailee Steinfeld); Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man Noir (voiced by Nicolas Cage), a dark universe Spider-Man; Peter Porker, AKA Spider-Ham (voiced by John Mulaney), a pig Spider-Man; & Peni Parker (voiced by Kumiko Glenn), a young girl controlling a robot named SP//dr, all of whom are hiding out at the home of May Parker (voiced by Lily Tomlin), Peter's aunt. They must all come together to send themselves back to their own dimension & stop Fisk once & for all.

The voice cast is fantastic. Shameik Moore brings a lot of command to the role, & I expect great things from him in the future. Jake Johnson is superb in his role. Hailee Steinfeld does a great job. And John Mulaney is so hilarious here, as he always is the funniest person wherever he goes.

The direction by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey & Rodney Rothman is excellent. Persichetti, Ramsey & Rothman are able to create so much wonder & keep the film so incredibly interesting.

The screenplay by Phil Lord & Rodney Rothman is amazing. The plot is incredibly intriguing, the characters are well-fleshed-out, & the dialogue is supremely funny.

And the animation is wonderful. The animation is reminiscent of a comic book, & every frame of animation is just so incredibly captivating.

This is the best animated film this year. It's hilarious, heartwarming, & above all, a unique chapter for Spider-Man.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was seen by me at an advance screening at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, December 7, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 117 minutes, & it is rated PG for frenetic sequences of animated action violence, thematic elements, & mild language.

The Front Runner

★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

It was only 30 years ago when people of voting age in this country made a fuss about a presidential candidate's private affairs, specifically their adultery. I personally don't believe it should matter if a presidential candidate committed adultery, but I would like people to have the same opinions on it whatever political party the candidate is from.

The Front Runner, while flawed, does a good job at taking us back into a time when things like this were actually cared about by the American people. Based on the 2014 book All the Truth is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid, & set in 1987, the film follows Gary Hart (played by Hugh Jackman), a Democratic Senator from Colorado. After a second-place finish to Walter Mondale in the 1984 primaries, Hart is running once again for the Democratic nomination for the 1988 election. Every single political pundit is saying that Hart will easily get the nomination & easily win the presidential election, with some polls saying he will win by as high as 12 points. He is definitely the frontrunner for President of the United States.

On the outside, Hart seems like a genuine all-American man. His relationship with his wife Oletha (played by Vera Farmiga) & two kids, Andrea (played by Kaitlyn Dever) & John (played by Evan Castelloe), is extremely rock-solid. He is held in very high regard by both the news media & his campaign team, especially his campaign manager, Bill Dixon (played by J.K. Simmons). Although there are some rumblings about a separation in 1981, there is absolutely no dirt that anyone get on Hart.

One day, while at a restaurant, after being asked some questions by Washington Post reporter A.J. Parker (played by Mamoudou Athie), Hart tells him & other reporters to follow him around, saying they would be very bored & wouldn't find anything. But find they do. Miami Herald reporters Pete Murphy (played by Bill Burr) & Tom Fielder (played by Steve Zissis) hear of a wild party on a yacht that Hart was on. At that party, a photograph was taken of Hart & Donna Rice (played by Sara Paxton) together. They eventually stalk Hart & Rice out in Washington D.C., & eventually Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee (played by Alfred Molina) hears of this & decides to go in on the story. What happened next would change the course of American politics forever.

The cast is fantastic. Hugh Jackman gives a terrifically commanding performance as Gary Hart, embodying all of his mannerisms & his voice. Vera Farmiga & J.K. Simmons provide good supporting performances, & Bill Burr is even better. But this is Jackman's film & he runs with it to the finish line.

Jason Reitman's direction is great. Although Reitman loses his grip somewhat towards the finale, he is able to keep us hooked with his directorial style that is reminiscent of the late, great Robert Altman.

And the screenplay by Matt Bai, Jay Carson & Jason Reitman is very good. The plot loses some steam in the second half, & the characterization is a bit thin outside of Hart, but the dialogue is sharp & full of wit.

This is a good political drama. Although it is flawed (more so in the second half than the first half), it's incredibly well-acted.

The Front Runner was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Saturday, November 24, 2018. It is no longer in theaters in the Detroit area. Its runtime is 113 minutes, & it is rated R for language including some sexual references.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Green Book

★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

It's 2018. I for one think it's time we decided to not make films that are just oozing white guilt anymore. And for those of you who don't know what white guilt is, it's making white people feel bad about racism, but not too bad as to alienate them.

Green Book, despite a few good aspects, is a blandly-made film that just screams white guilt. Set in 1962, the film follows Frank "Tony Lip" Vallelonga (played by Viggo Mortensen), a bouncer at a nightclub in New York. He lives with his long-suffering wife Dolores (played by Linda Cardellini) & his two sons: Nick (played by Hudson Galloway) & Frankie (played by Gavin Lyle Foley) in a small apartment.

Once the nightclub is closed for renevations, Tony must look for work, as his family is very poor. One day, he gets an interview with Don Shirley (played by Mahershala Ali), an African-American pianist looking for a driver for his upcoming eight-week tour, most of which will occur in the Deep South. As it is still very segregated, Don needs someone who will keep him out of trouble. After initially being declined, Tony is hired by Don to be his driver. Before leaving, Tony is given a copy of the Green Book, a book detailing places where African-Americans are welcome in the Deep South. They plan to be back on Christmas Eve.

After starting in the Midwest, they find their way in the Deep South. While they travel, Tony & Don bicker, with Tony being racist & refusing to act properly, & Don being disgusted by Tony's gross habits. Eventually, as Don helps Tony with writing letters to Dolores, the two become friends in a roundabout way.

As they get deeper into the South, racial tensions frequently arise, as Don cannot go to places Tony can go to, & Tony & Don are treated very differently by the populace, as it was in the 1960s American South. Tony begins to change his ways as the trip goes on, but they will both face a hard road ahead.

The cast is good. Viggo Mortensen is good. Mahershala Ali does a very good job, & is one of the few truly great things about the film. And their chemistry is solid.

Peter Farrelly's direction is bad. Farrelly's style is incredibly bland, failing to make something of note that differentiates himself from other directors. He's better off teaming up with his brother Bobby & doing another raunchy comedy again.

And the screenplay by Peter Farrelly, Brian Hayes Currie & Nick Vallelonga (Tony's son) is awful. The plot is incredibly contrived, & many of the events of the film were false & did not occur as they did. The family of Don Shirley has come out & said that Tony & Don were not really friends. Also, the plot portrays racism incredibly safely, which is not what we need now. The characterization is very thin. And the dialogue is cringe-worthy.

This is a very disappointing film. If this film manages to get an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture (which it probably will), it would easily be the worst Best Picture nominee since Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

Green Book was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Wednesday, November 21, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 130 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for thematic content, language including racial epithets, smoking, some violence & suggestive material.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

50% of all marriages in the United States now end in divorce. 60 years ago was it less than half that. But what does happen when the love that was once there or thought to be there disappears?

Wildlife is a devastating look at the breakdown of an American marriage. Based on the 1990 novel Wildlife by Richard Ford, & set in 1960 Great Falls, Montana, the film follows Jeanette Brinson (played by Carey Mulligan), a housewife. Jeanette, her husband Jerry (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), & their teenage son Joe (played by Ed Oxenbould), have recently moved to Great Falls. Jerry has recently got a job at a golf course. Joe is doing well in school. And Jeanette is settling in nicely as a housewife. From the outside, they seem to be a normal American family, which for the most part, they are.

But things start to unravel a bit once Jerry is fired from his job at the golf course. He is eventually offered back his old job, but Jerry, a prideful man, declines, saying he would never work for people like them again. Instead, he takes a lower-paying job as a firefighter, putting out a huge wildfire in the nearby mountains.

Frustrated with Jerry's decision to become a firefighter, & trying to support herself & Joe, Jeanette takes a job as a swimming instructor. There, she takes a liking to one of her students, Warren Miller (played by Bill Camp), a prosperous car dealer. Their attraction starts to grow, & Jeanette doesn't hide it, either. Now Joe can only watch as the marriage of his beloved parents starts to collapse around him.

The cast is fantastic. Carey Mulligan gives one of the best female performances of the year. Jake Gyllenhaal does wonders in his limited screen time, especially towards the end. Ed Oxenbould is a complete revelation. And Bill Camp is slowly starting to reveal himself as one of our finest character actors.

Paul Dano's direction is excellent. For a debut film, Dano's direction is especially excellent. His direction is very subdued, & his work reminds me a lot of Ingmar Bergman & John Cassavetes, as Dano oversees the film with a realistic & raw eye.

The screenplay by Paul Dano & Zoe Kazan is amazing. The plot is slowly intriguing, the characters feel entirely human, & the dialogue is incredibly authentic.

Diego Garcia's cinematography is wondrous. The camerawork is just gorgeous, & every frame looks like a gigantic portrait.

Amanda Ford's costume design is terrific. The costumes are like how they really were in the 1960s for middle-class families: formal, yet casual, & lovely all the same.

And Akin McKenzie's production design is astounding. The sets are so immersive & so accurate to the time frame that you become a part of classic 1960s America.

This is one of the best films of the year. It's a well-acted film that is also a spectacular directorial debut from Paul Dano.

Wildlife was seen by me at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, MI on Tuesday, November 20, 2018. It is currently in 1 theater in the Detroit area: the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI. Its runtime is 105 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for thematic material including a sexual situation, brief strong language, & smoking.

Friday, December 7, 2018


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

When it comes to war movies, there's one thing I thoroughly enjoy happening in them: killing them damn Nazis. And what do I love more than that? Killing Nazi zombies.

And that's what Overlord gives us, & it's so much fun. Set in 1944, the film follows Pvt. Ed Boyce (played by Jovan Adepo), a paratrooper. He, along with several other soldiers & Sgt. Eldson (played by Bokeem Woodbine), are on a plane heading to Germany on the eve of D-Day. However, their plane is shot down before they are able to reach their target: a German radio tower in an old church. There are believed to only be 5 survivors: Boyce; Cpl. Ford (played by Wyatt Russell); Tibbet (played by John Magaro); Chase (played by Iain De Caestecker); & Dawson (played by Jacob Anderson).

As the team marches onward, they are seen by a French woman, Chloe (played by Mathilde Ollivier), who takes the paratroopers to her house in the village where the radio tower is located. Chloe lives with her 8-year-old brother, Paul (played by Gianny Taufer), & her aunt, who is gravely ill.

Not long after, a Nazi patrol arrives at the house, led by Capt. Wafner (played by Pilou Asbæk). He is performing a routine inspection. While the soldiers hide in the attic, Capt. Wafner comes in & tries to assault Chloe. Pvt. Boyce then comes out & stops him.

Pvt. Boyce then leaves for the rendezvous point, but finds something very disturbing when he arrives there. He finds that the Nazis have been experimenting on village residents & dead Nazi soldiers with a serum. Now that they know this, they must stop the Nazi experiments & destroy the tower at all costs.

The cast is fantastic. Jovan Adepo is showing that he can shine in a lead role. Pilou Asbæk is menacing. And the rest of the cast provides great supporting roles.

Julius Avery's direction is excellent. Avery brings a lot of tension to the film, & also provides a lot of perfectly timed scares.

The screenplay by Billy Ray & Mark L. Smith is amazing. The plot is always intriguing, the characters are fully realized, & the dialogue is terrific.

The sound design is incredible. The sound is loud & in your face, with every gunshot & every explosion sounding like you're only feet away from them.

And the visual effects are stunning. The CGI is very well-made, especially for the zombies, & the more practical effects are very well-done.

This is an absolutely fun film. While being well-acted & well-made, it provides so many thrills & scares that I couldn't help but love it.

Overlord was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Saturday, November 17, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 110 minutes, & it is rated R for strong bloody violence, disturbing images, language, & brief sexual content.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Heist films have been an integral part of cinema for many decades. From 1960's Ocean's 11 & 1968's The Thomas Crown Affair to 1995's Heat & 1998's Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels, the heist subgenre has been a thrilling venue for escapism in cinema.

But regular escapism Widows is not. It is escapism, yes, but it is more than that. It is one of the best films of the year so far. Based on the 1983 miniseries Widows by Lydia LaPlante, the film follows Veronica Rawlings (played by Viola Davis), a lobbyist for a teachers' union in Chicago. Her husband, Harry (played by Liam Neeson), along with gambler Carlos Perelli (played by Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), abuser Florek Gunner (played by Jon Bernthal), & Jimmy Nunn (played by Coburn Goss), execute various heists.

One night, Harry, Carlos, Florek & Jimmy are killed in a botched robbery. Soon after, crime boss Jamal Manning (played by Brian Tyree Henry), who the four men stole $2 million from in the botched robbery, comes for Veronica to get the $2 million back. The $2 million was meant to fund his campaign for alderman of the 18th ward against Jack Mulligan (played by Colin Farrell), son of current alderman Tom Mulligan (played by Robert Duvall), & the next man up in the Mulligan family line of politicians. Manning gives Veronica one month to give back the money.

Veronica comes across Harry's notebook where he kept records of his heists to come. She discovers one heist that is worth $5 million. Seeing this as the only way out, Veronica recruits the widows of Harry's partners to get involved in the heist. Two of the widows, Linda Perelli (played by Michelle Rodriguez) & Alice Gunner (played by Elizabeth Debicki), show up to the initial meeting; the fourth widow, Amanda Nunn (played by Carrie Coon), declines to participate. Besides the possibility of being discovered by Jamal & his mob enforcer brother Jatemme (played by Daniel Kaluuya), Linda & Alice both have their own reasons for participating: Linda's store has been repossessed, & Alice has been coerced by her abusive mother, Agnieska (played by Jacki Weaver), into transactional sex work.

When Veronica's chauffeur Bash (played by Garret Dillahunt) is put out of commission, the three soon-to-be robbers are now in desperate need of a driver. Fortunately, they soon find one in Belle (played by Cynthia Erivo), a hairdresser & babysitter of Linda's kids.

As things start to fall in place, the 4 women become more confident that the operation will succeed. But many surprises await for them.

The cast is fantastic. Viola Davis shows nothing but immense power on screen. Her presence is commanding & demands the utmost attention. Davis further cements herself as one of the best actresses in film today.

Elizabeth Debicki is a revelation. Debicki has mainly coasted along in the background in her career, but she finally gets her big break here. She plays her character as timid & submissive, then breaks out of that shell as the film goes on, showing that she is not to be messed with.

Daniel Kaluuya is phenomenal. Kaluuya is menacing at every moment he is on the screen. He is quite possibly the best film villain since Christoph Waltz's Col. Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds.

The rest of the cast, especially Rodriguez, Erivo, Henry & Duvall, turn in great performances, adding to an already stellar cast.

Steve McQueen's direction is excellent. Besides filling the film to the brim with intensity, McQueen is able to tackle so many different themes, such as police brutality, racism, & corruption, with such precision.

The screenplay by Steve McQueen & Gillian Flynn is brilliant. The plot is intricate & always intriguing, the characters are fully realized, & the dialogue is pitch-perfect.

Sean Bobbitt's cinematography is amazing. Bobbitt's camerawork further heightens the tension, & there are 2 amazing long-takes that are incredibly shot & full of tension.

Joe Walker's editing is terrific. The film is tightly paced, perfectly assembled, & filled to the brim with some amazing cuts.

The sound design is astonishing. From the blazing gunshots to the bombastic explosions, the sounds are precisely created & perfectly mixed.

And Hans Zimmer's score is superb. Driven by pulse-pounding percussion, Zimmer's score further adds to the incredible amount of tension.

This is the best heist film ever made. Aside from its amazing cast, it juggles so many themes perfectly while still giving us the thrills we want.

Widows was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, November 16, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 129 minutes, & it is rated R for violence, language throughout, & some sexual content/nudity.