Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Cold Pursuit

★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

"Revenge is a dish best served with cold cuts." - Tony Soprano

Ok, maybe that isn't the correct quote, but you get the gist of it: revenge is best when it's cold-blooded. Although I'm not the type of person who would actively go out seeking vengeance, I know that's the best way to go about it.

Cold Pursuit, while flawed, is a good & quirky revenge thriller. Based on the 2014 film In Order of Disappearance, the film follows Nelson "Nels" Coxman (played by Liam Neeson), a snowplow driver in the small resort town of Kehoe, Colorado, about a few hours away from Denver. He lives a quiet life with his wife Grace (played by Laura Dern) & son Kyle (played by Micheál Richardson).

One night Nels receives an award for Citizen of the Year from the Kehoe town council. That same night, Kyle is kidnapped while working at the Kehoe airport & killed by a forced heroin overdose. Grace ends up leaving Nels due to her grief, leaving Nels despondent in his grief & on the brink of suicide.

Before Nels could act on his thoughts, he discovers that Kyle wasn't murdered in any random way: he was murdered by a Denver drug cartel. After learning more about the cartel from his brother Brock, AKA Wingman (played by William Forsythe), Nels goes from a quiet man to a cold-blooded killer out for revenge. He kills 3 men from the drug cartel in a short time span. The drug cartel boss, Trevor "Viking" Calcote (played by Tom Bateman), who is in a custody battle with his ex-wife Aya (played by Julia Jones), believes this to be a retaliation from a Native American drug cartel led by White Bull (played by Tom Jackson).

Meanwhile, new detective Kim Dash (played by Emmy Rossum) is thoroughly intrigued by the drug cartel murders, while her partner Gip (played by John Doman) is less enthused. Also, Viking's enforcer Mustang (played by Domenick Lombardozzi) is in a relationship with White Bull's enforcer Dexter (played by Benjamin Hollingsworth). As Nels finds himself entangled in all of this, he realizes his path of revenge might be more convoluted than he once thought.

The cast is fantastic. Liam Neeson does some of his best work in years. Tom Bateman is terrific. Tom Jackson is menacing. And Emmy Rossum is superb.

Hans Petter Moland's direction is great. Although Moland has some issues with tonal shifts, he is able to overcome that by successfully adapting his style (for a remake of his own film) for American audiences.

And Frank Baldwin's screenplay is very good. Although the plot is fairly predictable & the characters outside of the main few are not fleshed out well (especially Laura Dern's character), the dialogue is spectacular, as it always filled with excellently bleak dark humor.

This is a good dark comedy. Although it does have its fair share of issues, the performances & dark humor are there to pick the film up.

Cold Pursuit was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, February 15, 2019. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 119 minutes, & it is rated R for strong violence, drug material, & some language including sexual references.

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

The Lego Movie was not only the best animated film of 2014, but one of the best films of 2014. It was fresh, lively, well-made, & funny. Although I was saddened that it wasn't even nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, I knew that it held a special place in the hearts of many who saw the film.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part is just as great as the first. The film continues with the story of Emmet Brickowski (voiced by Chris Pratt), a Master Builder who still believes everything is awesome in Bricksburg, formed by the human child Finn (played by Jadon Sand). But unfortunately, everything is not awesome: 5 years ago, Duplo invaders formed by the human child & sister of Finn, Bianca (played by Brooklynn Prince) came to Bricksburg, changing it into Apocalypseburg, a Mad Max-type city, turning everyone into hardened individuals. Emmet remains upbeat, but is plagued by vivid nightmares of "Armamageddon."

One day, Duplo Army General Sweet Mayhem (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz) comes to Apocalypseburg, stating that Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi (voiced by Tiffany Haddish) of the Systar System wants to marry their leader. After debating over who the leader is, Mayhem kidnaps Lucy (voiced by Elizabeth Banks), Bruce Wayne, AKA Batman (voiced by Will Arnett), Benny (voiced by Charlie Day), Princess Unikitty (voiced by Alison Brie), & Metalbeard (voiced by Nick Offerman). Batman becomes smitten with Wa'Nabi, while the others are placed in environments they love, which all but Lucy enjoy.

Emmet sets after them, & on the way to the Systar System, is saved from an asteroid by Rex Dangervest (voiced by Chris Pratt), who resembles Emmet but is more strong & cool than Emmet. Together, they try to save Emmet's friends, but this may prove to be very difficult, as the human person Mom (played by Maya Rudolph) may stop her human children, Finn & Bianca.

The voice cast is fantastic. Chris Pratt is so fun & likeable here. Will Arnett is awesome. Stephanie Beatriz is terrific. Tiffany Haddish is superb. And the rest of the voice cast is amazing.

Mike Mitchell's direction is excellent. Mitchell always keeps the tone light & warm-hearted, & allows the film to be completely zany.

The screenplay by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller & Matthew Fogel is brilliant. The plot is intriguing, the characters are lovingly weird, & the dialogue is very funny.

And the animation is wondrous. The work it takes to make Lego characters so lively & animate is a monumental effort & to see it done perfectly is just awe-inspiring.

This is a spectacular sequel. It has everything we loved about the first & doubles down on it, making this a wonderful experience.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part was seen by me at the Emagine Novi in Novi, MI on Saturday, February 9, 2019. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 107 minutes, & it is rated PG for some rude humor.

Friday, February 22, 2019

What Men Want

★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Lately, there has been a large number of reboots of previously successful films with women replacing men as the lead characters. This has received scorn from many who consider this to be an "SJW attack" on their favorite films. I disagree. While I would like to see more original films made with female leads, I am glad to see more diversity in lead roles.

What Men Want isn't perfect, but it's a solidly-made (& very outrageous) comedy. Based on the 2000 film What Women Want, the film follows Alison "Ali" Davis (played by Taraji P. Henson), a successful sports agent in Atlanta. Raised by her single father/boxer, Skip (played by Richard Roundtree), Ali has been very determined for years. However, Ali is overshadowed by the men at the agency.

When Ali is passed over for a major position at the agency, she ends up being with her friends: Olivia (played by Wendi McLendon-Covey); Mari (played by Tamala Jones); & Ciarra (played by Phoebe Robinson). They end up meeting with Sister (played by Erykah Badu), a psychic who gives her jasmine tea laced with marijuana, peyote & crack. After this, the friends go out to the club, & Ali ends up hitting her head.

The next day is when things start to change: Ali can now hear men's thoughts. After being shocked by this revelation, Ali's assistant Brandon (played by Josh Brener) tells her that she can use this to her advantage. She does this by pushing to get potential #1 NBA draft pick Jamal Barry (played by Shane Paul McGhie) to sign with her. However, this proves to be complicated, mainly due to his money-obsessed father Joe "Dolla" Barry (played by Tracy Morgan), who insists on hiring someone who is a family person. This causes Ali to get Will (played by Aldis Hodge) sucked into the charade. But Ali ends up falling in love with Will, & this could throw everything for a tailspin.

The cast is amazing. Taraji P. Henson has never been more hilarious. Tracy Morgan is perfect as a fictionalized Lavar Ball. And Erykah Badu is an absolute scene-stealer.

Adam Shankman's direction is great. Although he does drag some stuff out a bit, Shankman always keeps the tone light but raunchy.

And the screenplay by Tina Gordon, Alex Gregory, Peter Huyck & Jas Waters is very good. Although the plot is predictable & the characters are a bit thinly written, the dialogue is always hilarious.

This is a good comedy. Although it does hit many of the familiar tropes, it has enough in it to distinguish itself from other mainstream comedies.

What Men Want was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Friday, February 8, 2019. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 117 minutes, & it is rated R for language & sexual content throughout, & some drug material.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

They Shall Not Grow Old

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

World War I was one of the deadliest wars in human history. With 40 million casualties, people considered this to be The War to End All Wars. Sadly, this would not be true, as many wars have occurred in the century since then. Unfortunately, as the years go on, many of us don't remember who we fought against in World War I. As a result, many of the people who fought on either side of the battlefield have been forgotten as well.

They Shall Not Grow Old is a phenomenal documentary on both levels of storytelling & filmmaking. Narrated by dozens of British servicemen, the film follows the British Armed Forces in World War I, from their entry in 1914 to the end of the war in 1918. 6 million servicemen, some as young as 16 years old, fought bravely for their country: some volunteering, others conscripted, but all united in the fight.

Through the entire war, the soldiers experienced various horrors, including trenchfoot, mustard gas, & machine guns, along with so much carnage. These brave men would never be the same for the rest of their lives.

Peter Jackson's direction is phenomenal. When you consider all of the work that Jackson put into this film, you realize that it is just absolutely awe-inspiring. Jackson & his crew had to restore all of the 100-year-old footage, then get all of the footage to the standard 24 frames per second, then colorize the footage, & then finally add the voiceover & sounds to the film. The colorization brings these men & these events to life. These are simply not men & events from a long-ago era. These men were like many of us. Also, in lieu of focusing in on specific battles & looking at specific people, Jackson goes for an immersive approach, letting you feel what it was like to be a soldier in World War I. All of this was a miraculous effort, with miraculous execution.

This is not only one of the best documentaries of 2018, but it is one of the best documentaries of all time, & it is also certainly the best war documentary. It's a completely immersive look into one of the most horrific moments in world history, & it perfectly honors those men who bravely fought in this historic war.

They Shall Not Grow Old was seen by me at the MJR Waterford Digital Cinema 16 in Waterford Township, MI on Saturday, February 2, 2019. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 99 minutes, & it is rated R for disturbing war images.

Cold War

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

I'm half-Polish. My entire maternal side of the family is 100% Polish. However, I have never seen a single Polish film. I haven't seen any films by who are considered to be the best Polish filmmakers: Roman Polanski, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Agnieszka Holland, & Andrzej Wajda. In the future, I plan to rectify this.

Cold War is a phenomenal film with such immense beauty. Set between 1949 & 1964 in Poland & France, the film follows Zuzanna "Zula" Lichoń (played by Joanna Kulig), a young singer from a major city in Poland, but pretending to be a girl from the mountains. Haunted by an incident in her past, Zula goes to audition for Mazurek, a Polish folk group focused on bringing the music of the Polish working class to the world, led by Lech Kaczmarek (played by Borys Szyc), who has housed the audition in a welcoming villa.

At the audition, Zula meets Wiktor (played by Tomasz Kot), a jazz musician scouting for Mazurek. Although Wiktor is in a relationship with Irena (played by Agata Kulesza), he is immediately smitten with Zula. They eventually start a relationship, albeit a very rocky one, bound by music, but broken by the eventual transformation of Mazurek into another small cog in the Soviet propagandist machine.

Their love brings them together & tears them apart through Warsaw, Berlin & Paris, through freedom & tyranny. But they always try their hardest to make their love work, even if that decision could be very costly.

The cast is phenomenal. Joanna Kulig is a revelation. Her acting talent is phenomenal, but it is closely matched by her beautiful voice. Tomasz Kot is also phenomenal, always exuding so much charm at every moment. And their chemistry is just so intense.

Paweł Pawlikowski's direction is superb. For what seems to be a quiet romance, Pawlikowski brings so much liveliness to the film & explores so much in such a small runtime.

The screenplay by Paweł Pawlikowski, Janusz Głowacki & Piotr Borkowski is amazing. The plot never loses steam, the narrative is brief yet glorious, & the dialogue is terrific.

And Łukasz Żal's cinematography is gorgeous. Żal beautifully films the scenery with a monochrome Academy-style ratio, & the lighting is wondrous.

This is a true masterpiece. This is one of the best romances in recent memory. It's a vivacious film from start to finish.

Cold War was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, February 1, 2019. It is currently in 4 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 State Theatre in Ann Arbor, MI. Its runtime is 89 minutes, & it is rated R for some sexual content, nudity & language.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The LAMB Devours the Oscars: Best Supporting Actor

As part of The LAMB's The LAMB Devours the Oscars series, I will be writing on the 5 exemplary nominees for Best Supporting Actor. I will start things off with...

Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley in Green Book

Previous Nominations: 1 (Moonlight)
Previous Wins: 1 (Moonlight)

Mahershala Ali does a great job here, considering the material he was given. He does bring a lot of life & heart to the role, although the weak script does hold him back from his performance being a fantastic one.

Adam Driver as Philip "Flip" Zimmermann in BlacKkKlansman

Previous Nominations: 0
Previous Wins: 0

Although Driver has appeared in both blockbusters & acclaimed indie films, he has not received recognition from any of the major awards until now, & his nomination is very well-deserved. He excellently portrays the struggle of realizing your ethnic identity & what that means for yourself.

Sam Elliott as Bobby Maine in A Star Is Born

Previous Nominations: 0
Previous Wins: 0

For a well-known actor who has been in film for such a long time, it's a surprise that this is only Elliott's first Oscar nomination. But the wait was worth it. Although Elliott doesn't have much screentime, he is able to make such an unforgettable mark on the film & the audience.

Richard E. Grant as Jack Hock in Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Previous Nominations: 0
Previous Wins: 0

Grant is one of the finest character actors in the minds of those who know of him, but to others, he is one of those people who they see in many things but can't remember his name. But after this performance, they'll remember his name. He is nothing short of a powerhouse here. From the first moment he's on screen to the last, Grant has so much firepower, with so much humor, heart, a tremendous scene-stealing ability.

Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush in Vice

Previous Nominations: 1 (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Previous Wins: 1 (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

If anything here, Rockwell shows that he is the best & only person to portray George W. Bush. He nails everything we know & love (or hate) about the 43rd President: his accents, his mannerisms, & especially his Bushisms. All that together makes for Rockwell's finest performance.

Who Will Win? - Mahershala Ali. He's been the frontrunner ever since Green Book premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. However, there is a possibility that he could falter at the Oscars if he loses the BAFTA to Richard E. Grant.

Who Should Win? - Richard E. Grant. I haven't loved & adored a performance in 2018 more than I adored Grant's performance in Can You Ever Forgive Me? Performances like his with that much wit & charisma come around once in a blue moon, & as a result, Grant should be handsomely rewarded.

If there is someone who I think should be nominated in this category, it's Daniel Kaluuya in Widows. His performance was easily the best villainous performance since Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds, & performances like these are so rare.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Stan & Ollie

★★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy were some of the best comedians of all time. Their chemistry & slapstick humor made millions laugh & inspired thousands of people to go into comedy.

Stan & Ollie, while not entirely perfect, is a funny & heartwarming look at the iconic comedy duo. Set between 1937 & 1953, the film follows Stan Laurel (played by Steve Coogan) & Ollie Hardy (played by John C. Reilly), who are riding high & are the kings of comedic cinema. However, all is not dandy, as Stan has been adamant in not renewing his contract with Hal Roach (played by Danny Huston). Oliver remains tied to his contract due to a separate deal, & is not let go, thereby separating Stan & Ollie. Although they would team up, Ollie's absence at a meeting with Twentieth Century Fox causes them to not be signed, & eventually their friendship becomes strained, as Stan feels betrayed by Ollie.

In 1953, Stan & Ollie reunite for a music hall tour of the United Kingdom & Ireland, in order to gain revenue for a comedic reimagining of Robin Hood. They are both married now: Stan to Ida (played by Nina Ariadna) & Ollie to Lucille (played by Shirley Henderson). However, their manager, Bernard Delfont (played by Rufus Jones) has only booked them for very small venues. As a result, Stan & Ollie receive minimal fanfare to start off; however, after doing some publicity, their venues get much bigger & more people come to see them. But long-held animosities threaten to pull the duo apart once again.

The cast is fantastic. Steve Coogan & John C. Reilly showcase a perfect mix of comedic & dramatic acting, disappearing into their characters, & their chemistry is terrific.

Jon S. Baird's direction is great. Although it's a bit visually stale at some points, Baird is able to overcome that with a surfeit of warm-heartedness throughout.

Jeff Pope's screenplay is amazing. The plot feels fresh & inspired, the dialogue is well-written, & the narrative is incredibly sweet & pure.

And the makeup & hairstyling is phenomenal. The makeup is incredibly transformative for both of the main characters, as they perfectly resemble their real-life counterparts.

This is a great film. Although there are a couple minor flaws, it's an incredibly sweet tribute to an absolutely incredible comedy duo.

Stan & Ollie was seen by me at the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema 16 in Troy, MI on Friday, January 25, 2019. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 98 minutes, & it is rated PG for language, & for smoking.

Sunday, February 3, 2019


★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

M. Night Shyamalan's career has been a polarizing one. From his quiet start with 1992's Praying with Anger & 1998's Wide Awake, which are vastly different from the films we associate with him, & his most successful period with 1999's The Sixth Sense, 2000's Unbreakable, & 2002's Signs, to his less successful period with 2004's The Village, 2006's Lady in the Water, 2008's The Happening, 2010's The Last Airbender, & 2013's After Earth, & his rebirth with 2015's The Visit & 2017's Split, his career has been received at the extreme opposites of the spectrum. I have only seen Unbreakable & Split, which I both enjoyed.

Glass is the only film by M. Night Shyamalan that I have not liked. The third installment in the Eastrail 177 Trilogy, the film follows David Dunn (played by Bruce Willis), a former security guard in Philadelphia with superhuman abilities & the ability to sense other people's crimes by touching them. Dubbed "The Overseer" by people on social media, & with his son Joseph (played by Spencer Treat Clark) working behind-the-scenes, David fights crime as a vigilante.

One day, David encounters Kevin Wendell Crumb (played by James McAvoy), a former employee at the Philadelphia Zoo who has dissociative identity disorder, with 23 different personalities, which combine to create a 24th personality named "The Beast." 3 weeks earlier, Kevin, under the control of his personalities, kidnapped 3 girls, killing 2 of them, & then letting Casey Cooke (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) go free. Kevin, dubbed as "The Horde", is sensed by David as the person who has kidnapped 4 cheerleaders. David goes & finds them, but soon after, David & Kevin end up getting into a huge fight, & are soon arrested & taken to a mental institution.

At the mental institution, they soon meet someone who was once involved with David: Elijah Price, AKA Mr. Glass (played by Samuel L. Jackson), who has osteogenesis imperfecta & once manipulated many disasters to find David some years prior. Dr. Ellie Staple (played by Sarah Paulson), the head doctor of the institution, has 3 days to convince all 3 of them that they do not have superpowers & only have delusions of power. Joseph, Casey, & Elijah's mother Mrs. Price (played by Charlayne Woodard) try to vouch for them, but to no avail.

While in the mental institution, & through some manipulation, Elijah & Kevin meet, & once assured of the existence of "The Beast," Elijah decides to team up with Kevin to show that superhumans exist. Now it is up to David to stop them.

The cast is excellent. Bruce Willis shows that he still has some acting talent left in him, as he has not shown that since Moonrise Kingdom. James McAvoy shows once again that he can play villains incredibly well. Samuel L. Jackson is great, as always. And the rest of the cast, especially Taylor-Joy & Paulson, is excellent as well.

M. Night Shyamalan's direction is great. Although Shyamalan goes a bit off-course near the end, he does have a lot of ambition, along with a very grounded realization of superheroes.

And M. Night Shyamalan's screenplay is a mess. The dialogue is very well-written, & the first act is intriguing, but the second & third acts are not well-plotted, & the twist is awful.

This is a disappointment. Although certain aspects are very well-done, others are not, making this a very ambivalent end to the trilogy.

Glass was seen by me at the MJR Marketplace Digital Cinema 20 in Sterling Heights, MI on Saturday, January 19, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 129 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for violence including some bloody images, thematic elements, & language.