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

 

Monday
Jan022017

Don't Think Twice- review

 

“Don’t Think Twice” (2016)

Directed by Mike Birbiglia

Starring Keegan-Michael Key,  Gillian Jacobs,  Mike Birbiglia

Running Time 92 Minutes, Rated R

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com


The art of sho-cruelty and its business.  When things are going just ok or even less than ok with creative type performers, and one of your peers starts doing better than ok, that’s when when the truth comes out.  

Mike Birbiglia’s love letter to the art of improv is a comedy slash drama or a drama slash comedy that either way works.  Spending so many of my previous years in the improv world I’ve seen so much of this before; the waiting tables while you hurry off shift to get to a gig, the team dynamics of both crushes and feuds, the ego’s that are juggled and tested when one climbs higher on the ladder’s rungs.  As I am not on SNL, you can tell which side of the coin my comedy fate fell upon, and that’s why I thought this film, with all the people I love (even Chris Gethard who was killing it at the UCB while I was taking classes there), would hit harder to home for me, but it didn’t.  Birbiglia’s directing does a more than fine job balancing the the live and die aspect of team improv as well as the cutthroat selfishness performers can tend to have, but “Don’t Think Twice” was ultimately a mild hit for my heart; laughed with, not at, and appreciated.

 

Birbiglia also plays Miles, a forty year old improver who leads a well liked group called ‘The Commune’.  Miles still holds out for a spot on the coveted “Weekend Live” sketch show but is jolted when that honor goes to the younger Jack (Keegan-Michael Key) who nails the audition and gets the job.  Friendships are tested and life keeps on chugging.  “Don’t Think Twice” captures the pursuit of your dream and all the bs that’s in between.

2 Timothy 2:7

 

Wednesday
Dec282016

Too Late- revie

 

“Too Late” (2016)

Directed by Dennis Hauck

Starring John Hawkes, Crystal Reed, Dichen Lachman

Running Time 107 Minutes, Rated R.

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

One easy way for your movie to sucker me in is by being a long uncut film or by having long uncut scenes/ (“Children of Men”, “Birdman”).  I love the technical and artistic achievement it has the guile to attempt in a median that so often cops to the super-chop style that gives me vertigo.  Another way to sucker me in is having John Hawkes acting in your film.  The long time character actor is ridiculously talented, playing just as ferocious as he can play meek, lovable as juxtaposed to menacing.  Dennis Hauck has combined the both is his directorial debut, “Too Late”.  Not fair.

While John Hawkes can never be a gimmick, the whole uncut thing can be or at least be just plain fruitless. Brian De Palma's “Snake Eyes” has an awesome almost 13-minute uncut scene to open the film, but not even that and the majestic Nicolas Cage are enough to save it, nor did a long tracking shot in the infamous “The Bonfire of the Vanities” help that movie out any.  It does help out “Too Late” however, bigtime. Hauck breaks down “Too Late” into five acts, each being one continuous roughly 20-minute long uncut take that interweaves back and forth via the nonlinear style that is very much in the vein/homage to Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction”.   It showcases a neo noir murder mystery that’s drenched in 90’s indie crime story format, but that’s shot in 35mm to give it that grainy 70’s look, and all with the super flippin cool Hawkes who can back that dialogue up because that’s what super flipping cool actors do.  I hope you’re walk into “Too Late” with an empty stomach, because you’re about about to be served a whopping film buffet of awesome.  

 

Hawkes is Sampson, a rough edged L.A. detective that can’t get out of his own way or go long enough without finding the comfort of another lost soul between the sheets.  When a distressed call comes in from a young stripper (Crystal Reed) he met a few years back beckoning for his help, Sampson is on the case following the clues that are paved by the underbelly of Los Angeles where twists, turns, bullets, and sexy women abound.    

Hauck, who also wrote the screenplay, peels the onion back making way for Sampson to become a fuller and fuller character.  The more his film goes, the stronger it gets.  I will say that for such a good film it surely didn’t start off so hot.  Hauck’s first act doesn’t feature Hawke but for a few mere moments, and the other seasoned casted actors such as Robert Forster (also always cool) and Jeff ‘Lawnmower Man’ Fahey don’t join us until the second act so without that talent, the first younger bunch of actors aren’t able to grab the noir dialogue with such competence.  While intriguing, It’s kind of a rough first 20 minutes but in a weird way it just sets the film up for its impending success.  

Hauck is somebody to keep your eye out for.  With what appears to be an unwavering vision of what he wants in “Too Late”, and he achieves it.

...unwavering vision of what he wants in “This”, and he achieves it.

Luke 12:40

Thursday
Dec222016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story- review

 

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016)

Directed by Gareth Edwards

Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna

Running Time 134 Minutes, Rated PG-13

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

The best ones stay with you.  I came out of Roge One feeling good and feeling satisfied, but the scenes have stayed with me over the past few days.  Something drives this film to another level, one could say that this film has a certain- wait for it…..- force to it (lame).

It’s right there in the title: A Star Wars Story, and that it is.  A story that precedes to the point of exactly right before A New Hope.  A story that deepens and enriches the Star Wars lore and mythology but so much more importantly, this is a story that holds up on its own.  

On imdb the genre listed is sci-fi, but it should be listed as a war film first.  George Lucas didn’t mince in the New Hope that the Imperial Guard was the Nazi regime and Rogue One tells this from the rebel side of a war torn Europe ravaged by it’s evil and it was the Rebels that back in WW2 helped change the tide for victory and that same power is translated to the Star Wars universe.  There is power there in it’s message because this did happen, sure there weren’t lightsabers, but there was a sweeping hate that took advantage of people’s fear and masqueraded as the right way.    

 

If I ever wondered why the Death Star had such a crippling flaw as it does, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” gives you a worthy and plausible explanation.  Without getting into too much detail, Felicity Jones fiercely plays Jyn Erso the daughter of the scientist who created the Death Star, which is now just being completed and is ready to be unleashed on a less than unified Rebel Alliance.  Erso is rescued by a Rebel intelligence agent played by Diego Luna and his trusted by sassy say-whatever-is-on-it’s-mind’ droid K-2SO (voiced by “Firefly” actor Alan Tudyk).  Later the rag tag crew is joined by a blind warrior named Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen who is working on his ‘force’ skills, and I’m pretty sure his common house law scruffy nerf herder looking haired NRA card toting boyfriend Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen); rounded out by defected Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed).

Forest Whitaker has some great scenes as a guerilla warfare leader, and even better Darth Vader returns and his scenes do not disappoint.  Besides a ‘not worth it’ cameo by the “A New Hope” deceased Peter Cushing the rest of the lore doesn’t feel forced.  Kudos also to the ending, not the most Disney way to end it and that’s a good thing.  

Rogue One is a good thing.

Proverbs 17:11

 

Thursday
Dec222016

Nocturnal Animals- review

 

“Nocturnal Animals” (2016)

Directed by Tom Ford

Starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon

Running Time 116 Minutes, Rated R.

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com


Former fashion designer turned director Tom Ford delivers a tantalizing yet chillingly bleak picture with his sophomore effort “Nocturnal Animals”.  

I found Tom Ford’s direction to carry the juxtaposition of being both beautifully sleek yet heavy-handed in a way that hammers it’s nails all the way in.  Ford uses three storylines interweaving in “Nocturnal Animals” that carries the feeling of getting lost in a good book where the dialogue jumps off the page, and that page gets closer to your face with each turn.      

After one of the more ‘sparkling’ opening credit sequences I have ever seen, we meet Susan Morrow, played by the absolutely crushing-it Amy Adams, an L.A. socialite art gallery owner who is unhappily married to her bronzed perfect husband played by Armie Hammer.  In the mail is a manuscript from her first husband Edward, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who has titled it “Nocturnal Animals”, a pet name he would give her for her never sleeping ambitious ways.  

 

The next storyline we encounter is from Edwards’ pages he wrote.  There he tells the story of  a man named Tony, who is also poignantly played by Gyllenhaal, who with his wife and daughter included is terrorized by three hellions in the rural wastelands of West Texas.  After the horrendous interceding, Tony’s wife and daughter’s life are taken and Tony is slowly turned from his pacifist ways to man of vengeance with the helpful nudge of a grizzled justice-wanting detective brilliantly played by Michael Shannon.  

The third and final storyline is the courtship and demise of Susan and Edward's marriage nearly 20 years prior. Susan wanting nothing more than to not turn into her mother, played by Laura Linney with some gigantic Texas hair but crumbling to her fate and knowing that one day she will regret the horrible thing she has done to Edward.

The second storyline is obviously the most gripping and effective thematically, but while not perfectly, they all three mesh together with substance and something to say.  If it were up to me Adams doesn’t get the nod here because she gets it from “Arrival”, but Shannon does, as he turns in another solid quiet scene chewer.  Who needs praise is the Gyllenhaal’s unflashy performance, especially as Tony.  Tony’s grief is one that is suppressed until the pot boils over, and Gyllenhaal does a masterful job of boiling over at just the right time.  

Jeremiah 17:9

 

Thursday
Dec222016

The Wailing- review

 

“The Wailing (Goksung)” (2016)

Directed by Hong-jin Na

Starring Jun Kunimura,  Jung-min Hwang,  Do Won Kwak

Running Time 156 Minutes, Rated R.

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

This is a hellishly bonkers film and one heck of a treat.

Korean filmmaker Hong-jin Na has expertly crafted a topsy-turvy supernatural thriller that is purposely confusing at times but miraculously never boring for a second in this 156 minute foreign affair.  Continuously building bigger insanity off the previous scene’s insanity, “The Wailing (Goksung)” is a daft mixture of Coen brothers dark inept humor, eye scorching gore, and a mystery worth chasing after.

 

After a slew of homicides in his small mountain village, a not-up-for-the-job police officer named Jong-gu, played with early comedic slapstick that transforms into dramatic tragedy by Do Won Kwak, gets the case. Horrific crimes mixed with a mysterious Japanese man living in the woods could be the work of just mushrooms or something much more sinister.  Eventually Jong-gu’s daughter is possessed, and a shaman is called upon for exorcism.  

There’s a lot to unravel in this film, and I’ll gladly give another viewer some other day but a little google research from my wife helped out a bit and I’ve been deciphering it ever since.  I encourage you to decipher it for yourself.

1 Peter 5:8

 

Thursday
Dec222016

La La Land- review

 

“La La Land” (2016)

Directed by Damien Chazelle

Starring Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling

Running Time 128 Minutes, Rated PG-13

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

When Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling smile at each it’s enough to make one sing and dance.  Turns out it makes them sing and dance as well.

Damien Chazelle dazzled everyone with his critical darling debut “Whiplash” earning him a screenplay Oscar nomination and winning J.K. Simmons the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.  With that momentum, Chazelle did not rest on his laurels but instead went bigger in scope, bigger in music, and bigger in stars.  His latest, “La La Land” an MGM musical that is both a love song to the grandiose musicals of yesteryear and the City of Angels itself with its transports that dream of stardom.

 

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling pair up for the third time and better than ever. The two’s natural chemistry is unparalleled in young Hollywood, and they don’t disappoint here.  Gosling is a brooding Jazz pianist with dreams of reigniting the dying genre and opening his own club, while Stone has left her small town of Colorado to make it big on the big screen and show them all that she’s got ‘it’.  Their characters find each other and fall for each other, and when that rough patch hits it’s Chazelle’s snappy crisp dialogue and our leads impeccable talents that transcend the love stories you’ve seen countless times before.

Oh, and let’s not forget that this is full blown musical that is actually made like they used to be, and the result is a grin from ear to ear for its viewers.  Watching Gosling tap dance as Stone belts her notes out makes for a wonderful return to the musical genre that captures that great nostalgic feel while not just depending on nostalgia to get by.  It makes you remember the classics while still feeling, looking, and sounding bold and fresh.  While Gosling is strong and proves to be also incredibly funny instead of just great looking and dramatically talented, his character pales in comparison to the depth that Emma Stone delivers upon.  This is her movie and she nails it.  

Romance is in the air in Chazelle’s latest, and it’s infectious.  “La La Land” is lovely.

Proverbs 16:3

 

Sunday
Dec182016

Manchester by the Sea- review

 

“Manchester by the Sea” (2016)

Directed by Kenneth Lonergan

Starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Lucas Hedges

Running Time 137 Minutes, Rated R.

4.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

People don’t always snap out of grief in a movie like climactic victory.  For many, grief is too much to overcome and over time eventually can become a facet of someone.  “You Can Count on Me” writer/director brings us his heartbreaking masterpiece with his latest, “Manchester by the Sea”.

Long have I been a Casey Affleck fan.  Intensely brooding to the point of sexy, but coming off unforced and unwanted the younger Affleck is one hell of an actor.  Truly, one of my favorite performances is Casey Affleck in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Cowardly Robert Ford” (also, one of my favorite film titles).  His portrayal of Robert Ford as a sniveling young man with a childish hurt ego was truly mesmerizing.  Affleck has done one better as Lee Chandler in “Manchester by the Sea”.  Affleck takes on Lee’s grief in a non-showy way that has you aching with his ache.  This is a simple straight forward story that Lonergan’s brilliantly unfolding script and Affleck’s sadness helps to traverse an incredibly deep and profound story.

When we first meet Lee, we see him pass the time by working four Boston apartments as a handyman janitor.  One word answers and little to no eye contact, socially distant is an understatement for Lee.  His nights are spent at the bar where a female’s flirting is lost on him and he drinks himself into unearned physical altercations.  Sidenote; I guess in New England you can get into bar fight whenever you want and not go to jail (good to know for me).  Standoffish and obviously broken, we haven’t yet learned of the tragedy, but Affleck’s posture lets us know it’s there.

 

Then one day Lee gets a call that his brother is in the hospital again, and by the time it takes Lee to drive an hour and a half down to Manchester his brother (played by Kyle Chandler) has passed.  As a sick joke to Lee, his brother leaves his 16 year old son Patrick (excellent newcomer Lucas Hedges) in Lee’s guardianship.  This scene and many more are captured in Lonegan’s dark humor filled script and pitch perfect direction.

Eventually we learn of Lee’s Manchester past, one that was shared with a wife played by the exquisite Michelle Williams who not only nails her mouthy down to earth broad type role but also nails an impeccable New England accent.  Then we learn of the tragedy, and even though we know it’s coming sooner or later it’s still a drunk irish punch to the gut.  A scene later between Affleck and Williams addressing said tragedy is the most wrenching scene of the year.

Psalm 34:18

 

Sunday
Dec182016

Moonlight- review

 

“Moonlight” (2016)

Directed by Barry Jenkins

Starring Mahershala Ali,  Shariff Earp,  Duan Sanderson

Running Time 111 Minutes, Rated R.

4.5 Mitch’s out 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

Tender and somber among many things, Barry Jenkins “Moonlight” is hard to quantify but easy to qualify as one of 2016’s best films.

“Moonlight” lets us in on the life of Chiron in three chapters; played as a father starved young boy by Alex Hibbert, a scrawny and heavily bullied Ashton Sanders, and a projection of black masculinity by Trevante Rhodes.  All three tight lipped with little to no eye contact and all desperately trying to avoid the pain that’s around each corner.  

There is so much said in Jenkins tightly focused direction and script; from dealing with sexual identity in a culture where it is mostly reviled, the irony of the drug epidemic as it houses the suppliers and destroys the houses of the supplied, the bully nature of our youth, and the overall reaches of what it is not only to be black but a grown black man.

 

The true power of “Moonlight” though is how intimate it all feels.  There is a wide scope of issues being told, but ultimately this is the story of Chiron and the heavier heart tug is pulled for your concern for him, his struggles, and his journey.  When young Chiron meets up with Juan (wonderfully played by Mahershala Ali) he slowly soaks up his first sign of a father figure while coming across male attention that he’s unfamiliar with.  A scene where Juan teaches Chiron to swim are as soft as the waves that lap upon the young boy’s face, but when he comes to realize that Juan is responsible for selling the drugs that are ruining his crack addicted mothers life, you can see him harden right before our eyes as he computes life’s hardships.

Jenkins camerawork feels like those South Miami waves at times, fluid and beautiful, ever moving as is Chiron’s life.  Chiron’s life is a story not often told but I’m glad it was.

Romans 12:2

 

Sunday
Dec182016

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them- review

 

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (2016)

Directed by David Yates

Starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol

Running Time 133 Minutes, Rated PG-13

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

This is a J.K. Rowling joint all the way through, being the film’s only credited writer, Beasts just doesn’t feel like a cash in but a thoughtful fresh start that cues in on a tidbit from the original Harry Potter universe and brings us something new, beautiful, and bold.  A very effective doe-eyed and gentle Eddie Redmayne stars as a Brit sorcerer named Newt Scamander, fresh off the boat he arrives in a wonderfully imagined 1920’s New York City.  Newt has brought one of his beasts that he tends after to America to return it to it’s Arizona homeland.  

A very heavy magic regulated U.S. with their own magic immigration problems is just one of the problems Newt and his newly acquired friends face, that also includes a ‘witch hunt’ that keeps most of the magically inclined underground, much to the chagrin of some.  

 

Reteaming with Rowling is Harry Potter director veteran David Yates, whose steady hand brings a more tempered style that does well for me as we get familiar Potter touches but for the most part a lot of new information and characters are being thrown at us.  The tempered approach was pleasant for me, but that can’t help but dim some of the excitement for the subplots, primarily a budding romance between an eager officer of the Magical Law Enforcement named Porpetina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston).

I think all the Potterheads have plenty of gripes with J.K. Rowling returning to her phenomenon source material with the prequel, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”.  Not me, I found it rather charming.  While the spell isn’t cast as deep with this rendition, Beasts has me under enough to keep looking where to find them.

I’m just a Muggle, or should I say a ‘non-maj’, so what do I know?

Colossians 2:8

 

Thursday
Dec152016

Bad Santa 2- review

 

“Bad Santa 2” (2016)

Directed by Mark Waters

Starring Billy Bob Thornton,  Kathy Bates,  Tony Cox

Running Time 92 Minutes, Rated R.

2 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

Before there was Deadpool there was Bad Santa.  13 years ago Billy Bob Thornton donned a red suit, with the filthiest mouth around, and was able to regenerate from any wounds (physical or emotional) with his superpower of being able to consume great amounts of anything alcohol.  Thornton’s sexfiend, booze swilling, kid cursing, safe cracking mall Santa is now a Christmas classic.  I’ll never look at an Advent calender the same.  Many Christmas’ since it has often been on my wish list for a “Bad Santa” sequel.  Problem was, I forgot to also ask that it would be worth it.

Willie Soke (Thornton) is back.  Convinced to uncoil the toaster cord off of his neck and come out of retirement by his double crossing elf partner (Tony Cox) that tried to kill him last time around.  They team up with Willie’s even filthier mom played by Kathy Bates and aim to heist a homeless children’s charity for one more big score.

A toast to Billy Bob Thornton.  He’s in a bit a career upswing, and that’s a good thing because that means more...you guessed it...more Billy Bob Thornton.  Thornton is such a good actor that his down and always out Willie Soke breaks our heart when he goes off about the reasons and moments that made him a whiskey glass all empty kind of guy. It’s just too bad the film’s direction and script can’t match Thornton’s deranged heart.

 

The first film’s well placed deranged heart is seriously lacking in #2.  Johnny Rosenthal and Shauna Cross’ script can’t hit the bigger notes.  The only time they come close is with Thornton’s interaction with the first film’s Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly) character who is 21 years old now and considers Soke the only family he’s got.  Soke’s family reunion is less than moving.  Things really hit home in the first film because of Soke’s hitting rock bottom and Thornton portraying it really never gets that bad for him. Here, Rosenthal and Cross are more focused on saying nasty dialogue.

The nasty dialogue isn’t anywhere as funny as the writers think it is.  It mostly just comes off mean.  Maybe it’s the time we live in now; I recently just watched all of “Arrested Development” again (oh, good for me), but a lot of that dialogue, especially the ill-gotten Netflix season, just felt a bit cringeworthy.  Same here, as where the nastiness of Deadpool pays off, here they’re just trying to cram in as many ‘I hate women’ and little person jokes as they can to fill space.

Tony Cox’s character return isn’t really needed in the film at all and serves no good purpose but for to expel as many little people jokes as possible and to set up a Mexican standoff for the film’s climax.  It’s not a very layered character, nor is Tony Cox the caliber actor that Thornton is, so maybe they felt forced to give him less to do.  He plays angry offended well, and that’s all his character is really used for.  

“Bad Santa 2” is a Christmas wish gone bad.

Isaiah 63:2