Thursday
Apr202017

The Fate of the Furious- Review

 

“The Fate of the Furious” (2017)

Directed by F. Gary Gray

Starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez

Running Time 136 Minutes, Rated PG-13

2.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com


Like the rest of the masses I pledged my allegiance to the Fast and Furious saga with the fifth installment.  In “Fast Five” the powers that be decided that Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and crew weren’t just illegal street racers slash carjackers with hearts of gold on the run from the law, nay they had become basically superheroes. Their crew became recruited and entangled in taking down terrorism threats that ultimately protected the U.S. of A.  Somehow that move worked, and worked in a major way.  The Furious movies are a global phenomenon billion dollar business more furious than ever, but unfortunately the 8th entry stalls out for way too long to be measured up to the delights that are entries 5 thru 7.  

“The Fate of Furious” opens spectacularly with a drag race in Cuba that literally goes up in flames and shows us repeatedly what the ‘Cuban Way’ is, or so we’re told a half dozen of times.  The film ends on a very high note with Jason Statham stealing the show with the best airplane fight sequence gun battle while holding a baby throughout that I’ve seen in quite some time.  It’s everything in the middle that really drags and feels very un-Furious like.  At times I was actually bored, which is something I haven’t felt with this series in awhile; prime example is the film’s big midway action set piece of every car going zombie getting hacked in NYC that just didn’t have the exuberant visual flare I’ve come accustomed to.

 

This time around, Dom goes to the dark side having to split from his Furious familia when an uber hacker Cipher (Charlize Theron) has something on her phone that even he can’t overcome.  I so wanted the blackmailing video to be of Dom drinking a Budweiser instead of his usual Corona, unfortunately this is not what the video is but nonconsequential spoiler alert: it turns out they do drink Budweisers at the end of the movie.  Betrayal.  

The film takes a dark turn, and for me that’s a risky move that is valiant but doesn’t pay off.  The fun that this series churns out so easily is dimmed this time around.  Don’t go to a Furious movie looking for Aaron Sorkin writing, but even for this series the dialogue is quite painful at times.  Charlize Theron feels neutered, stuck to a hacker’s keyboard trading wild kingdom metaphors with Diesel that prove my previous point.  

I will say that the Furious team is literally up against someone this time around that is out for world domination, and I salute that.  I keep waiting for the Furious crew to end up in a Marvel movie, I wouldn’t blink an eye.  Here’s hoping #9 gets back on track.

Isaiah 27:4

 

Thursday
Apr202017

T2 Trainspotting- Review

 

“T2 Trainspotting” (2017)

Directed by Danny Boyle

Starring Ewan McGregor,  Ewen Bremner,  Jonny Lee Miller

Running Time 117 Minutes, Rated R.

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

This is a highly rewarding experience for those who are familiar with and those who fancy the original Trainspotting.  20 years after Danny Boyle’s groundbreaking original the gang is back together, and it is such sweet sorrow.  

Boyle, whose unique electric perspective is on fire here in this sequel, dazzling this viewer and quenching my thirst for one of my very most transformative films as a burgeoning cinephile.  Peppered in are cues from the original that will make you smile.  Ewan McGregor as the ever charming Scottish ex-heroin addict gives us an update on his famous “Choose Life” monologue that had me thinking mid scene of how great it would be to platonically grow old with the actor, and then I realized I have.

“Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares.  Choose looking up old flames, wishing you’d done it all differently.  And choose watching history repeat itself.”  McGregor absolutely nails this showcasing how father time is still undefeated, and if we live long enough, then we will eventually be awakened to that fact.  

 

We last left the Trainspotting crew 20 years ago with Renton betraying his friends by skipping Edinburgh with everyone’s robbed share of 16,000 pounds of drug money only leaving Spud (Ewen Bremner) with his share. Now after all these years Renton, who has changed his addiction to running, comes back home with a hope to right his sins.  Nowadays, the caption necessary Spud is still on the dark needle and is found by Renton with an unpleasant plastic bag around his head.  Renton’s former bestie Simon (Johnny Miller), aka Sick Boy, has moved on to cocaine with hopes of starting a classy brothel with his very young but very bright ‘girlfriend’ Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova).  As for Begbie (Robert Carlyle), he’s still a hurricane of destruction wherever he goes whose psychopathic tendencies won’t let prison get in the way of getting revenge on Renton.

There are winks to original; a bathroom toilet or Renton’s get away antics that will hit that warm nostalgia center of your soul as well as new shenanigans to delight in such as Renton and Simon’s impromptu musical stylings that cater to the dislike of Catholics all to prosper in some clever credit card fraud.

The end feels a little too focused on Begbie’s revenge, but throughout screenwriter John Hodge gets that history does have a way of repeating itself, and while we are in love with these lovable losers at the end of the day they are still losers.  But that’s what makes this film and the one before it a winner.

Ephesians 5:16

 

Thursday
Apr202017

Saban's Power Rangers- Review

 

“Saban’s Power Rangers” (2017)

Directed by Dean Israelite

Starring  Dacre Montgomery,  Naomi Scott,  RJ Cyler

Running Time 124 Minutes, Rated PG-13

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

Two sides of a coin.  I was just lamenting about the other film opening this week how “Life” is too much a carbon copy of “Alien”, but the very next film I saw, “Saban’s Power Rangers” is no more than a “Breakfast Club” but with kids who get superpowers, and I loved it.  Feels weird to type, but I really did love this Power Rangers movie.  I’m not even the target audience although I noticed some who were in the theater, and they were enjoying it even more.  Maybe not as ‘camp’ as its Saturday morning predecessors, but it’s just the right amount of corny because the casting of the kids is so good.  I almost cried during the yellow ranger’s monologue.  That shouldn’t happen.

 

I’m not gonna go much into the plot.  Five kids get powers, Might Morphin Power Ranger powers, but it takes time to learn how to use them because they have to learn how to both get to know each other and especially themselves.  Told you it was corny, but it’s also fun, as a film about being able to be special should be.  The writing is both touching and has some good one-liners.  The lead, Dacre Montgomery who was made in the Zac Efron cloning tank is spunky as the Emilio Estevez type from “Breakfast Club”, and I think it’s actually really cool that they gave the Blue Ranger Billy (RJ Cyler) aspergers. I think the fact that it was handled very well without being shoved down our throat as a PSA is pretty uplifting.  Throw in Bryan Cranston and a very hammy Elizabeth Banks, and baby you got yourself a good movie stew.

This is one of those films I’ll eventually take my kids to rolling my eyes but come out gushing over it more then them.  

1 Corinthians 1:10

 

Thursday
Apr202017

Life- Review

 

“Life” (2017)

Directed by Daniel Espinosa

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds

Running Time 104 Minutes, Rated R.

2.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

Things don’t tend to work out the way we’d like them to in life.  Not in actual life (my jump shot), and unfortunately not in Daniel Espinosa’s Alien-lite sci-fi R rated thriller “Life”.  I could see how, on paper, there was enough for committed interest from such a talented cast as big A-listers Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, and eventual household name Rebecca Ferguson, who won moviegoers over with bad A turn in the last Mission Impossible film.  It’s set up as a fast paced monster B movie with the budget of an A, but after a good start, the weight of the material simply fizzles out interest beyond repair.  

 

A small soil sampling has been recovered by six astronauts on an international space station.  Inside that sample is the first proof of alien life; a sporulating cell structure, later named Calvin by a grade school back on Earth, what is unique about Calvin is the fact that each cell has brain, muscle, and sensory organs all in one. Small and adorable at first, eventually Calvin gets bigger and breaks free from it’s curious human captors, and the body horror begins as “Life” becomes a chess game of squid-like Mars alien and the Earthling spacemen at hand.  The semantics are posed but not really delved into that Calvin is not a monster but simply doing what all creation does: fight for survival.  It just so happens the crew is the only organic matter around.

The aforementioned Calvin breakout scene is a good one, but, unwisely, the best Espinosa has to offer, mixing sci-fi horror with some well paced tension.  The rest of this film is a less than thrilling move of those chess pieces.  There’s some benefit in watching the chess pieces, but I don’t know too much about those pieces and ultimately I saw where those pieces were going to be six moves ahead; even as clever as the player moving the chess pieces around thought they might be.  

 

Deuteronomy 6:24

 

Monday
Mar272017

Beauty and the Beast- review

 

“Beauty and the Beast” (2017)

Directed by Bill Condon

Starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans

Running Time 129 Minutes, Rated PG

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

A tale as old as time proves to be a tale worth retelling.

Disney’s 1991 “Beauty and the Beast”, which became the first full-length animated film to be nominated for Best Picture (and with only five film nominees I might add) is an indelible 5 Star film masterpiece - that few will argue.  A live action remake with today’s CGI wizardry seems like a no-brainer, but the question is could Disney actually pull it off again?  Bill Condon’s 2017 version is not in the same ballpark, but to my surprise it is a total winner.  At first I was worried that my early enjoyment of the film in progress was based solely off the nostalgia fumes of the original, but I succumbed to this version on its own merits.  From Bill Condon’s smooth yet excitingly fun direction, to the wonderful Alan Menken not only attending to the score by returning with the film’s beloved classic songs, but also adding some well done additions, to an all star cast up for the challenge, and most importantly delivering a love story that succeeds most of all.  

 

The story of a handsome self centered Prince cursed to be gnarly beast (both played by Dan Stevens) and stay a beast forever unless he finds true love before the last petal of a magical rose falls when he wrongs the wrong sorcerer (is there ever a right sorcerer)  The Beast is only left with his servants who were turned into household objects, including a candelabra (Ewan McGregor wonderfully returning to a film musical, Emma Thompson as a teapot, Ian McKellen as a grumpy clock, and others you will remember as well.  The true love you ask is Belle, enchantingly played by Emma Watson, a girl in a small French village who is considered a little off because she can read AND think for herself. She is someone the town’s ladyman Gaston (fantastically played over the top by Luke Evans) finds a challenge worth conquering for his bride.  Gaston is followed around everywhere by LeFou, who, worth noting, is Disney’s first gay character played by Josh Gad hilariously for the LGBTQ audience and every other audience existing.  

I teared up several times, (you’re the Beast if you don’t well up when Chip the teacup almost perishes!!!), but the best part of the film is the slowly played out true love that Watson and Stevens so tenderly achieve.  Beast and Belle are worth watching waltz all over again.

Romans 12:16

 

Monday
Mar272017

Kong: Skull Island- review

 

“Kong: Skull Island” (2017)

Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Starring Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson

Running Time 118 Minutes, Rated PG-13

2 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

A failed Vietnam War allegory as the latest version of the giant ape, “Kong: Skull Island”, painfully beats its chest trying to be an Apocalypse Now monster movie mash up to no avail.  Kong Screenwriter Max Borenstein, who also wrote the last Godzilla, is too focused on spearheading the two’s impending monsterverse to concentrate on the human element as the films leads are basically bystanders while the impressive CGI components do battle.  

As the Vietnam War is about to conclude, one more mission is sent to a career soldier played by Samuel L. Jackson and his outfit. They are accompanied by scientists including John Goodman, an expert mercenary tracker played by Tom Hiddleston, and an ‘anti-war’ photographer played by Brie Larson.  Goodman’s character says monsters do exist, and in no small size he is correct as they depart to an uncharted island where all Kong breaks loose.

 

The special effects are the fun of the movie, and Kong shines but I liked the giant creepy crawlers in Peter Jackson’s version better.  Borenstein tries to have too many characters, and neither him nor director Jordan Vogt-Roberts can make any of them compelling.  Hiddleston and Larson have so little do as the leads, especially Hiddleston’s sensitive tough guy really adds nothing story wise.  Jackson’s character is way too close to Colonel Kurtz as the film dimly points at what the “real price of war” is, and “who the real enemy is” and the soundtrack is as cliche spot on as Vietnam films go.  John C. Reilly pops up and gives the film life but is delegated to a unintentionally laughable credits sequence.  

“Kong: Skull Island” slips on a giant banana peel this time around.

Numbers 13:33

 

Monday
Mar272017

Before I Fall- review

 

“Before I Fall” (2017)

Directed by Ry Russo-Young

Starring Zoey Deutch,  Halston Sage,  Cynthy Wu

Running Time 98 Minutes, Rated PG-13

2 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

Do you love “Groundhog’s Day”?  Of course you do silly, you’ve got melanin don’t you (sorry albinos).  What if we took that beloved and fun ‘live the same day over and over again’ premise but substituted it with bratty and full of themselves popular high school girls?  Doesn’t that sound like fun?  Of course that doesn’t, you’ve got melanin don’t you (sorry albinos).  This sort of premise is meant to teach our stubborn lead a lesson, no matter how long it takes, but oooh wee it’s tough watching when you switch the means of entertainment from the GOAT Bill Murray comedy to YA petty drama.  “Before I Fall” fails to earn that genre trade off from “Groundhog Day”, and even if director Ry Russo-Young could relive 1,000 days in the editing room she still wouldn’t have gotten it right.

 

While Zoey Deutch ain’t no Bill Murray, I’m not gonna blame her for this film not working.  The spunky young actress had a very nice breakout role in Richard Linklater’s “Everybody Wants Some” that I particularly enjoyed, and here she proves the spotlight of such a demanding role.  Deutch plays Samantha, who worked her way up into the popular girl clique and has the cutest boyfriend, if not played and written a little generic douchey, who she is planning on letting deflower her later that evening at a big party.  Besides Samantha, the nails on a chalkboard quartet of ladies includes Ally the needy one (Cynthia Wu), Elody the lush one (Medalion Rahimi), and Lindsay (Halston Sage)  the bitchy ringleader are.  At said party the four rip into social outcast Juliet (Elena Kampouris) including everyone pouring their drinks on her.  But come uppance is a bitch as on their drive home they get into a pretty nasty car crash, and Samantha wakes up the next morning but it’s still Febuary 12th the previous morning. Rinse and repeat.

Director Russo-Young spends too much time in the film’s beginning showing just how nasty and annoying these girls are, and while Deutch can grab our empathy, the other girls, especially actress Halston Sage cannot; that becomes quickly grating.  Also this film suffers from what seems to be editor’s disease.  Scenes come out of nowhere that seem like there was a bigger storyline shot at some point, but the director was pressured to do more cutting than wanted.  A scene where Samantha gives her slightly older teacher the ‘sexy what for’ comes out of nowhere, and whatever issue those two characters had was never brought up again.  There is a second girl who comes under the wrath of the cool girls because of sexual orientation.. I think… that dichotomy seems wildly uneven as well.  

From V.O. Samantha seems to get her plot pretty quickly, and the lesson should be pretty obvious but her character isn’t written smart enough and even when it is tackled it’s done in a pretty lackadaisical and ineffective way.  

I learned my lesson my right away from “Before I Fall”, I will not watch it again.  

Romans 7:15

 

Monday
Mar272017

I Don't Feel at Home in this World Anymore- review

 

“I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore” (2017)

Directed by Macon Blair

Starring Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood

Running Time 93 Minutes, Rated R.

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

Actor Macon Blair, best known for the well done tense indie “Blue Ruin” takes the directing reigns for the first time in a stand against the slights of humanity tale not briefly titled “I Don’t Feel at Home in this World Anymore”.  Blair aptly takes cue from “Blue Ruin” and paints a misanthrope named Ruth played by the offcentered but warmly effective Melanie Lynskey who just wants but an explanation and maybe even an apology from countless ‘jerkiness’ she endlessly undergoes.  From getting stuck in line behind the chick who has 50 items in a 10 items or less lane, to cleaning not her dog’s feces off her lawn daily, to sucking the black exhaust of a non EPA friendly pickup truck, Ruth is drifting through days and losing sight of what compassion looks like in others.  

 

The straw breaks Ruth’s back when her place is broken into and her laptop and her beloved departed grandmother’s silverware are stolen.  When the police have better things to do, Ruth turns vigilante and picks up her boy wonder in the form of Elijah Wood, sporting a rat tail and nunchucks as the wonderfully weird but big hearted Tony.  Ruth’s anger and determination sends her down a path that Blair never lets become predictable.  This film drops steam midway, but Blair who has a very nice knack for setting up elaborate violence doesn’t disappoint with the third act.

Looking forward to what’s next for Blair, Lynskey, and Wood.

Romans 12:2

 

Monday
Mar272017

On the Rocks- review

 

“On the Rocks” (2017)

Directed by Ariel Gardner,  Alex Kavutskiy

Starring  Chase Fein,  Nichole Bagby,  Kate Freund

Running Time 90 Minutes, Rated R.

1.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com


A comedy of misery shouldn’t make the viewer miserable, but this one did.  To quote the great Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

The writer/director team of Ariel Gardner and Alex Kavutskiy seem to be so focused on making their characters as annoying as possible that I wonder if they ever stopped to think about how annoying “On the Rocks” is to watch.  The acting, for the most part, is pretty decent, and I’m sure both Gardner and Kavutskiy knew it as well and ran with it as much as they could. This strength, however, ultimately fails the viewing experience since this is a character piece, and we are relentlessly exhausted with grating banter and nauseating human interactions.

I don’t use the word ‘literal’ lightly.  “On the Rocks” gave me a literal headache watching it.  It’s not easy to produce an actual physical reaction in me watching films, but congrats cause I immediately swallowed 1000 mg of Ibuprofen once the credits rolled.

Dallas (Chase Fein) is a nice enough guy who lets everyone in his life run over him and run over him they do. From his bipolar demanding wife Karen (Nichole Bagby), her bossy older sister Krystal (Kate Freund) and provocative younger sister Kaitlynn (Audrey Whitby), to his scamming boss, and just about everyone else our lead crosses paths with. Dallas is mentally pulverized by the people in his life, and that eventually takes a toll on him physically.

 

I got to give it up to actor Chase Fein as the sad sack Dallas.  Fein really does have the gift to pull the viewer in and be invested enough to want this guy to get the hell out of Dodge from these crazies.  Fein doesn’t play Dallas as the perfect guy either, his flaws are there, but the actor makes him easy to root for.

To reiterate, this is an endlessly annoying affair.  I kept thinking, what is the filmmakers objective here? Because laughter couldn’t have been one of them.

It’s almost a tie between who is more annoying; Bagby’s bonkers wife Karen or Freund’s worst person on earth older sister Krystal.  And again, I’m looking more at fault to the director than to Bagby.  Seriously, Bagby’s character screams 75% of her lines (aforementioned headache), and I’m betting she was coerced into that.  

You know I said it was mostly the director's fault and that the acting was pretty decent, well not so much with Freund’s performance.  While the tone is always hectic and heightened, there is smidge of sense of reality throughout but not with Freund’s choices.  Didn’t believe in her character for a second.  

You put all of this crap together with longhand scenes that scream I have a problem with my stream of consciousness.  I’m sure it was a choice to have no filter and craziness keep going and going, but I think it was a poor choice.  I was worn out 15 minutes into the film.  “On the Rocks” sure felt a lot longer than it’s 90 minutes running time.  

After viewing “On the Rocks” I washed those Ibuprofen down with a stiff drink.

 

Sunday
Mar262017

Logan- review

 

“Logan” (2017)

Directed by James Mangold

Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen

Running Time 135 Minutes, Rated R.

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

The heart of Wolverine has finally made it onscreen.  

It only took Jackman’s 9th time portraying the character to really feel it.  This is no fault to Hugh Jackman, who got the career changing role after Dougray Scott had to drop out for Mission Impossible 2 reshoots (ouch), and has killed it ever since.  It’s just tough to truly capture a 200 year old plus dude who has knives for hands and uncontrollable berserker rage because all he loves eventually dies because of his name.  

“Logan” director James Mangold nearly got it right with the character’s last solo outing in “The Wolverine”, but a wrong third act where the studio took over and Mangold’s very nice character piece up to that point was pushed to the side.  That was a still a decent picture overall, but now with Jackman declaring that this would be his last Wolverine/Logan outing he had the chip stack to bluff the studio out of a PG-13 superhero blueprint, Mangold was given the canvas with an “R” rating and not shackled with having ‘fate of the world’ stakes, but instead this beloved actor played with his beloved character and Logan’s ‘soul at stake’.   

Thy soul has been redeemed with “Logan”.

 

Somewhere and sometime after “X-Men: Days of Future Past” we find a weary Logan who has lost everyone he’s ever cared for besides a senile Charles Xavier (Sir. Patrick “Friggen” Stewart) whose mind is the first to be classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the U.S. government.  If it wasn’t for Xavier, Logan just might use the one adamantium bullet he hast left on himself; the only thing that he knows for sure that would end his seemingly immortal existence.  That is until someone else comes along for Logan to protect.  An 11 year old girl named Laura (an impressive debut from Dafne Keen) who has the same ‘gifts’ that Logan has with just as much anger to boot.  With much convincing from Xavier, the three head out on a road trip to North Dakota where a young mutant ‘eden’ is said to be had.

“Logan” is a sloppy film at times.  You can feel the different drafts and how different story aspects were meshed together.  There are plot holes as well.  Like giving an arbitrary finish line in the film of getting to a border and all danger for our mutant outlaws will cease.  Regardless of that and the feeling that one very important scene midway was too underplayed so that a similar scene towards the end could be played bigger, “Logan” is a winner.  Intimate, touching, tremendous violence that actually resonates to the viewer instead of just bouncing off our bloody immune eyes, this is a film that goes smaller but hits harder than any X-Men previously ever could.  We have been blessed to see Jackman play so many chapters of this character, and play them with such force that he has changed the landscape of cinema.  

Bravo.   

Proverbs 25:28

 

Monday
Feb272017

Get Out- review

 

“Get Out” (2017)

Directed by Jordan Peele

Starring Daniel Kaluuya,  Allison Williams,  Bradley Whitford

Running Time 103 Minutes, Rated R.

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

There is nothing like a very good horror film to tap into the focused mistreatment of a wronged group or a social dynamic that has been broken in some way.  Whether it be man's controlling of women in “Stepford Wives” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, or South Korea’s passivity to the U.S.A’s bullying in “The Host”, or the rampant Reagan era consumerism in Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead”, these films were spot on with a minority’s view toward their abuse and were damn good scary thrillers on their own.  You can now add Jordan Peele (yes, Peele from the spot on sketch comedy “Key & Peele”) to the list with his racially charged horror/comedy masterstroke “Get Out”.

There's outright hatred racism where a person is attacked only for the color of their skin and that’s how “Get Out” begins as a young black man is snatched up by a masked man who pulls up in a blinding white corvette. Then there’s the ‘thinly veiled’ racism that confuses that when we elected President Obama racism was cured in America.  Ala passive aggressive racism that I saw the other day where at my job a fellow employee who swears not to have anything against black people couldn’t understand why so many blacks were nominated for Oscars this year.  Like this only happened to make up for last years political protests instead of there just being plenty of great contributions from black people in the industry.  It’s that kind of racism that is hiding around every corner for a black person that must make America feel like a real horror film, and that’s where this film truly scares the ‘same colored shit as everyone else on this planet’ out of me. 

Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is a black photographer who is doing so well with his white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) that it’s time to meet her parents.  With growing trepidation he asks her if her parents know that he’s black.  She laughs off the question saying her father will tell him that he would have voted for President Obama a third term if possible..and he does.  They drive off to her parents house in a tucked away very white suburbia off the lake and even though little insensitivities come along in meeting Rose’s parents (played excellently by Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener) his reserved demeanor shrugs them off.  

While Rose’s father explains away why they have a black maid and a black gardener, Chris can’t help but notice how odd their demeanor comes off.  More and more Chris shrugs off the signs until the warnings become unshruggable and the horror takes hold.  Peele will have the morally afflicted angered in this film but he will also have the horror fan freaked out.  His tonal shifts are perfect, his editing is so acute, and his actors are so finely tuned that “Get Out” fires on all cylinders.  Don’t want to give anymore away than that but please, ‘get in’ line for this film.      

1 John 2:9

 

Monday
Feb272017

The Great Wall- review

 

“The Great Wall” (2017)

Directed by Yimou Zhang

Starring Matt Damon,  Tian Jing,  Willem Dafoe

Running Time 103 Minutes, Rated PG-13

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

Matt Damon is a great director whore.

Matt Damon has an unquenchable thirst for the world’s greatest film directors.  After knocking out legends; Spielberg, Scorcese, Eastwood, Van Sant, Scott, Nolan, Coen Brothers, etcetera, etcetera… Matt Damon keeps on hunting.  His latest effort has him under the thumb of legendary Chinese director Yimou Zhang (“House of Flying Daggers”) in the baffling and somewhat slightly above generic “B” monster movie “The Great Wall”.  I say generic, but I say it slightly above, because with all the talent in this film you’d hope for something more than slightly above but as I kept my eyes peeled the ‘eye rolls’ didn’t come and most importantly to my surprise I honestly wasn’t bored.

 

Matt Damon is William, an 11th Century scruffy haired mercenary thief who is trying to work his way out of Gobi desert to bring back the game-changing ‘black-powder’ and head back to Europe and become rich.  From a larger group of thieves only William and Pero (Pedro Pascal), who the two have some of the best ‘worst buddy banter’ to have scratched screens in quite some time, survive an attack from unknown monster beast that we later come to know as the Tao Tie.  Basically lizard creatures that appear every sixty years to look to world domination but serve the Chinese more as a life lesson not to be greedy.  It’s a good thing that William is a bit of a hoarder, as the trophy arm that he removed from a Tao Tie and a black rock (their kryptonite) that nobody else wants somehow comes into play greatly with the plot (you don’t say???!!!)

The more advanced Chinese army, who are ready for the Tao Tie attack, take William and Pero in and join forces under the leadership of Lin Mae (Tian Jing) who tries to teach William a thing or two about the benefits of teamwork and trust.  Basic film equation plays after; show enemy, heroes survives first enemy attack, that gives us time to have an arrow-off to showcase heroes skills, the two walks of life get to know each other, blah, blah, what’s the Chinese word for blah.

But like I said, I wasn’t bored.  Zhang is known for his colorful imagery, and that is certainly the highpoint for “The Great Wall”.  It certainly isn’t Matt Damon’s weird accent, which is explained by him being an orphan soldier who has served under many flags, but it’s fascinating to hear him speak and tell jokes like he was actually Chinese and trying to do an impression of what he thinks a white American joke sounds like.  I was truly entertained by Damon and Pascal cracking whips with the likes of “Do you think they’ll hang us now?”, with the response of “I could use the rest”.  And don’t miss Willem Dafoe in the film for practically no good reason but to hit home what greed is and to get that international Dafoe box office money (ka ching!)

Many people got in a tizzy that this film was whitewashing and that Damon would be a the white savior.  He is not, the Chinese teach whitey a lesson and his character becomes a better person from taking on their ways.  I don’t really recommend this film but I don’t don’t recommend this film, if that helps any.  Which I know it doesn’t.  

Isaiah 38:2

 

Friday
Feb242017

The Lego Batman Movie- review

 

“The Lego Batman Movie” (2017)

Directed by Chris McKay

Starring Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Zach Galifianakis

Running Time 104 Minutes, Rated PG

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

I went into this thinking of it more of the Lego movie brand rather than the Batman movie brand.  The first Lego movie being a runaway success delivering a wildly funny joke-a-minute fervor that made ‘everything awesome’.  One of the stand out characters was Will Arnett’s growling brosef’ Batman.  So if you were Warner Bros. and you owned that property, why wouldn’t you make a stand alone film with one of the most profitable movie characters ever?  You would and so would they, therefore, “The Lego Batman Movie”

As awesome as the original Lego movie?  Not nearly, a lot of that has to do with the novelty of a Lego movie not having the same cache but the 5(!!!!) writers throw just as many jokes out as the first one, and they are funny.  A whatever plot that deals with Zach Galifianakis’ passable Joker needing Arnett’s egocentric Batman to acknowledge that they are hetero lifemates almost 80 years in the making, while Batman needs to learn the lesson that he can’t do it all himself and should trust in Rosario Dawson’s Batgirl/Barbara Gordon, Ralph Fiennes dutiful British performance of Alfred Pennyworth, and Michael Cera’s exuberant performance as fellow orphan Dick Grayson/Robin.  

I didn’t champion the Lego Batman as much as I did the original Lego, the story just didn’t hold my interest as much this time around.  And while I appreciated all the deep pull Batman references that one could handle (Condiment King and Polka Dot Man) that couldn’t have played for most everyone else.  Regardless, “Robot Chicken” director Chris McKay lets you in on a good time with characters you love, including other WB villains such as Voldemort, and has you giggle a plenty in between.

Ephesians 4:16

 

Friday
Feb242017

John Wick: Chapter 2- review

 


“John Wick: Chapter 2”
(2017)

Directed by Chad Stahelski

Starring Keanu Reeves,  Riccardo Scamarcio,  Ian McShane

Running Time 122 Minutes, Rated R.

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

It came and left the theaters in 2014 without much of a thump, but the reviewers (yes, me included) knew it instantly.  “John Wick” wasn’t just good, not just an ‘out of the blue’ winner, but a cinematic ‘achievement’.  I walked out of the theater knowing that “John Wick” was an action genre instant classic.  For those who listened to my recommendation, their lives were enriched.  For those who were Keanu Reeves haters, their hearts were no longer hardened by the “Cool Breeze’s” talent converting the nay’s to whoa yays.  

“John Wick” is, and I don’t say this lightly, life changing- two lifelong stunt coordinators turned first time directors taking on delicate precision on wide-shot excellently choreographed action sequences, done by the film’s star who has the intensity that the film’s assassin lead character requires to build a legend that makes other killers tremble.  A film that created a civilized world for paid killers and above all, telling the story of a man who got out of the game for true love and has to return to it after said deceased love’s dying gift of a dog is taken away from him by the unwitting thug son of a mob boss.  Don’t F’ with John Wick because he’s John F’ing Wick!

 

Word caught on of John Wick’s cinematic legend, and so we were blessed with news of a greenlit sequel.  All too often I’ve salivated over a film’s original and when the sequel comes out I have cried tears of sadness, but I come to you with tears of joy after viewing “John Wick: Chapter 2”.  Above all, the action hasn’t been changed or tainted, the ‘gun-fu’ of the original is only elaborated but enhanced for the delight of viewers.  What grabs ahold of you here is the excellent world building that takes the first film’s only rule; no blood will be shed in the Continental, a hotel sanctuary for all assassins and adds the second and last rule; if you agree to a blood oath, it must be honored no matter what.

Chapter 2 picks up hours after the first one concluded where an Italian crime lord Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) calls upon the blood oath that Wick owes, even though Wick wants nothing more than to honor his late wife and leave his past behind.  Criminal community politics play out, earning Wick two assassins on his tail; an old colleague played by the actor Common with very good results and a petite deaf assassin played by Ruby Rose whose character doesn’t play as well as she doesn’t have much to do besides one scene.  

You could say that most of this film is set up for the inevitable Chapter 3, and I say that’s not a bad thing. Chapter 2 is exciting, fun, and badass to boot and Reeves, who has always been a personal favorite of mine, doesn’t disappoint.

 

Ezekiel 25:17

 

 

Friday
Feb242017

Split- review

 

“Split” (2017)

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan

Starring James McAvoy,  Anya Taylor-Joy,  Haley Lu Richardson

Running Time 117 Minutes, Rated PG13

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

I held a glimmer of hope for the longest time and then that glimmer had faded.  M. Night Shyamalan was all but dead to me, like “Kevin Smith” dead to me.  After the amazing “The Sixth Sense”, the super underappreciated “Unbreakable”, and the flawed but still very good “Signs”, M. Night’s production value started going south and fast.  To this day, “The Last Airbender” is the only film I’ve given zero stars to, and I consider it the worst the film of all time that I have ever seen.  But then came 2015’s “The Visit”.  It had Shyamalan’s underlying social commentary and was used to be the underlining story propellant while the horror/mystery was the primary, making it a darn fine “B” genre movie.  

 

Shyamalan’s latest, “Split” is also of the “B” movie cloth and totally in a good way.  If you’re gonna do a “B” movie it’s imperative to have some “A” casting and Shyamalan has that with the talented James McAvoy.  Here as a man with 23 separate diagnosed split personalities, McAvoy is utterly tremendous.  Such separation from one personality to the next, it is a different fully realized persona but just under the hood of one actor.  “Split” starts off with one of McAvoy’s personalities abducting three teenagers; Anya Taylor-Joy (“The Witch”), Haley Lu Richardson (“The Young Kieslowski”), and Jessica Sula.  Barricaded and held against their will, the three young ladies are promised that they are going to witness something special, the introduction of The Beast; the higher evolution of man which McAvoy astoundingly delivers.

Instead of split personalities being a disease, Shyamalan asks if it is rather man taking the next evolutionary step.  Not all the psychology mumbo jumbo jargon in the film plays out effectively and scenes with the girls on their own are not always that strong either, but every time McAvoy is on screen he has your full devotion. There is a twist at the end, and it’s not in the way you would think.  The twist has an ongoing development for Shyamalan fans, and as an early Shyamalan fan I am eager to see where this twist plays out.  

That’s two in a row for Shyamalan, I hope the streak continues.  

Jude 1:6

 

Tuesday
Jan102017

Silence- review

 

“Silence” (2016)

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Starring Andrew Garfield,  Adam Driver,  Liam Neeson

Running Time 161 Minutes, Rated R.

4.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

At this screening I noticed a handful of people walking out before it was well over.  Most of the time that is an example of a poorly made film, but not always.  Martin Scorsese’s latest, “Silence”, is an example of the latter.

Scorsese has been trying to make this epic film about faith for the last 20 years.  There is a true testament of faith just in that.  His faith in this project bears us the viewers great fruit; while the fruit of “Silence” may not be that delicious to the senses, it is quite sustaining.  Here is a film that Scorsese has crafted with a precise nature, and while 2 hours and 40 may seem long, this is deliberate in the way that your faith will be tested time and time again and while there can peace and joy in it there is also endurance that is needed.

Adapted from Shūsaku Endō‘s novel by Scorsese and Jay Cocks (“Gangs of New York”, “Age of Innocence”), “Silence” is the true story of two Portugese Jesuit Priests, Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garupe (Adam Driver) who in 1636 travel to Japan in search for their mentor Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) who has gone missing and is rumored to have apostatized, denouncing one’s faith.  Japan is enemy territory for Christians, and being caught with any semblance of its faith is punishable by death.  Smuggled into Japan by a very flawed Japanese man Kichijiro (Yôsuke Kubozuka), Rodrigues and Garupe are instant outlaws but are blessed to find a village of some secret Japanese Christians whose living their beliefs in secret is showed to be very hard.  The arrival of the Fathers give the villagers hope but in one of the many complexities that Scorsese delves into, we gather from Rodrigues’ prayers that he is concerned that they are putting their faith in tactile objects such as rosary beads and straw crosses instead of having it in their hearts, minds, and soul.  

 

Eventually Rodrigues and Garupe split up, and we follow Rodrigues as he is eventually captured by the Inquisitor (Issei Ogata) who will and does take the lives of Christians but would rather give you time to think it over so you can denounce the faith and be set free.  Freely admitting from his earlier mistakes, the Inquisitor says that they don’t kill off villagers first making them martyrs but instead, he focuses on getting the Priests to denounce their faith for the villagers to see.  Father Rodrigues is left captured while he watches those who have taken up his faith tortured and executed.  It is excruciating as Rodrigues holds fast to his belief in God even though his prayers are answered with only silence, but the practical and maybe moral decision of saving those with the act of stamping your foot on a bronzed image of Christ can’t be denied.

Andrew Garfield, who has taken up two devout Christian believers this year with “Hacksaw Ridge” and “Silence” impresses me even more in this.  Starved literally and in faith, his portrayal is of a man of God that can’t hear Him and is left to hold onto his beliefs as greatly as he can.  If it were up to me Kubozuka’s sinning Kichijiro should be nominated for Best Supporting Actor.  Kichijiro is Scorsese’s depiction of Man, who keeps failing over and over and needs unlimited forgiveness.  There is such beauty when Father Rodrigues glows in his letters about how time spent with Kichijiro and his resurgence of faith; like God’s love for his lost sheep.  

Beautiful and tragic to look at,  Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography holds you tight when shots of the ocean and beaches are present, and the score is perfect in it’s use of simple nature sounds to fill the screen.  

Ultimately the film boils down to God knowing what’s in your heart and where our soul stands on that ground. The ending is tense and delivers more in a meditation of faith than I could have ever of grasped.  

Dear Scorsese, 20 years well spent.   

P.s.  As a Christian (gasp!), these are the type of films that should be mandatory for stretching and challenging one’s faith walk.  Sure, recent based films like “The Young Messiah”, “Risen”, “God’s not Dead”, “Miracles From Heaven”, and “War Room” have their place and their audience but all too often those films give way to less talented storytellers.  Having cinema greats such as Scorsese is immeasurable, and for me my faith is fed so much more with a film like “Silence” rather than “Miracles from Heaven”.  

Mark 16:15

 

Tuesday
Jan032017

Lion- review

 

“Lion” (2016)

Directed by Garth Davis

Starring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara

Running Time 118 Minutes, Rated PG-13

2.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

The story of Saroo Brierley is an extraordinary one.  Saroo, impoverished and only five years old is tragically separated from his family when he gets stuck in a train that goes 1,000 miles to Calcutta.  Unable to speak the language and with no way to find his way back home, he is eventually put in an orphanage until he is adopted by a well off Australian couple Jon (David Wenham) and Sue Brierley (Nicole Kidman who is truly terrific here, deserving award attention).  Eventually a grown up Sarro, played by Dev Patel (who looks like he’s been lifting) is reminded of these past transgressions and sets out to find his biological family.

 

I appreciated that Saroo’s childhood and the journey he goes on isn’t quick lived, as it actually takes its time for us to try to appreciate what it would be like for a five year old to be on his own in a foreign land.  This takes up the first half or so of the film and not coincidentally enough this is the film’s compelling half.  I’m not sold on Dev Patel’s acting yet, and as the older Saroo, his brooding and distancing himself when he sets out for his Indian family actually distances us the audience from the story.  This is just as equal a directing problem from Garth Davis and script problem from Luke Davies screenplay that’s adapted from Brierley’s book “A Long Way Home”.  And as for the ending, which of course is a beautiful thing in real life, but in the film it comes across as either happenstance or divine intervention and neither of these themes were set up at anytime prior in the film. 

“Lion” has heart but a rocky path about it.

Psalm 32:8

 

Tuesday
Jan032017

Fences- review

 

“Fences” (2016)

Directed by Denzel Washington

Starring Denzel Washington, Viola Davis

Running Time 138 Minutes, Rated PG-13

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com


Ok, so the Denzel Washington directed “Fences” doesn’t overcome feeling like a filmed stage play and ultimately takes you out of the ‘cinematic’ experience from time to time, but do you know what “Fences” has that blows that out of the water- Denzel Washington the actor and Viola Davis the actress.  Denzel pisses me off sometimes with complete payday schlubs like “The Magnificent Seven”, but Denzel’s acting prowess is in the top 1% of every actor in the world and when he chooses to showcase that, well, you better buy a ticket.  Also, in that top 1% is Viola Davis, who will finally get her Oscar this year, and even though Denzel out Denzel’s himself, Viola out Denzel’s Denzel and well, you better buy a ticket.

 

Based off of August Wilson’s 1983 Pulitzer Prize winning play which Denzel and Viola have done on stage before, Fences comes to the big screen.  While I mentioned that at times I felt like I was sitting in a playhouse rather than in front of a movie screen, that doesn’t mean Denzel doesn’t know where to put the camera and tell this marvelous and heartbreaking story nonetheless.  

Telling the story of Troy Maxson (Washington)in the 1950’s who has seen the better days of his life pass by while dealing with the ever changing and progressing race relations as his wife Rose (Davis) ever stands by his side.  Troy’s son Cory (Jovan Adepo) fears his father but doesn’t want to be held back from him and longtime character actor Stephen Henderson does a fine job as Troy’s best friend Bono who has been by his side longer than anyone else.  

 

Not much more to say than treat yourself to some powerhouse acting.  When it comes to that, “Fences” is a homerun.

Ephesians 2:14

Monday
Jan022017

Hunt for the Wilderpeople- review

 

“Hunt for the Wilderpeople” (2016)

Directed by Taika Waititi

Starring Sam Neill,  Julian Dennison,  Rima Te Wiata

Running Time 101 Minutes, Rated PG-13

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com


Taika Waititi’s “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” is much like Sam Neil’s very rough around the edge’s character Hec’s description of the vast New Zealand bush, “Magestical”.

You may not know this but this offbeat comedy is New Zealand’s highest grossing locally produced film of all time at $5.2 million.  After some quick research on Boxoffice Mojo that ranks as the #146th film released in just 2016 and 5,313th of all time; do with this what you will.  Taika Waititi, who cool film nerds will know for directing himself and Jemaine Clement in both “Eagle vs. Shark” and the fantastic “What We Do in the Shadows” (2nd highest grossing film in New Zealand) has crafted a wonderfully weird, wonderfully feel-goody film that shows the wonderful pleasure of incomplete people coming together for completion.  

 

We’re introduced to foster child Ricky (young Julian Dennison crushing a sneaky challenging role) who is labeled as “a real bad egg” who in a very funny montage, has been charged with counts of spitting, kicking, throwing stuff, and my personal favorite loitering.  Ricky is a big boned kid and speaks in gangsta slang and is thrown a curveball when he is sent to a remote cabin with an ‘all the love in the world’ Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and her ‘stay out of my way’ grizzled husband Hec.  After some adjusting Ricky takes to his new setting, but when tragedy strikes he takes off getting lost deep in thick country bush.  Hec finds him, and after a fractured leg and a misunderstanding that makes Hec seem like a pedophile, Ricky and Hec are on the run in a nation wide manhunt for the two.

Look for Taika Waititi showing up with a great cameo as a Minister, and a message about Jesus and doors.  The climax and a foster agent played by Rachel House got a bit too cartoony for me, overstepping the groovy reality edge that Waititi straddles perfectly for the rest of the film, but besides that, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” is a real gem.  If you’re in a downer of a mood just pop this in and that will wash away real fast.

Ephesians 1:5

 

Monday
Jan022017

Sing Street- review

 

“Sing Street” (2016)

Directed by John Carney

Starring Ferdia Walsh-Peelo,  Aidan Gillen,  Maria Doyle Kennedy

Running Time 106 Minutes, Rated PG-13

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

It’s Dublin and the year is 1985.  You don’t know how to play an instrument, but you’re gonna start a band anyways.  Because of a girl, it’s always because of a girl.

So lies the foundation for “Once” director John Carny’s infectious and sweet natured “Sing Street”.  The story of 14 year old Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) who is counting down the days until his parents’ impending divorce, and whose family strapped for cash transfers him out of private school and into a rowdy Catholic one.  When Conor comes across a 16 year old would-be model Raphina (Lucy Boynton) who desperately wants to move to England, he forms a band heavily influenced by Duran Duran and The Cure.

 

Conor’s band, titled Sing Street play a little too well for the amount of time they play together, but the songs written by Carney are spot on for the time and that goes a long way.  Besides Conor, Raphina, and Conor’s older brother heartily played by Jack Reynor who has great brotherly advice to spare but can see his best days already behind him, there is literally no other character development to be had.  Still, heart abounds in this musically gifted coming of age story and deserves it’s tune to be heard.

Ephesians 5:19