Entries in Drama (211)

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Thursday
Dec152016

Arrival- review

 

“Arrival” (2016)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Starring Amy Adams,  Jeremy Renner,  Forest Whitaker

Running Time 116 Minutes, Rated PG-13

5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

Whomever decided to release this film directly after the election is a genius.

Speaking of genius, Denis Villeneuve’s “Arrival” is just that.  With how increasingly difficult it is for a world to communicate with each other, even though technology has granted us so many opportunities for it, how cathartic it is for a story to come along that shows immense benefits reaped from such a noble endeavor that is communication.  And cathartic this film is, the heavy hurt of such treacherous communication from this recent election (from BOTH sides) lifted, if not temporarily, but in essence, show how it could be cured.  Film is so beautiful in the way it can do that... if so inclined.

Villenueve’s “Arrival” introduces first contact with extraterrestrial life the same way many of us came to find out about 9/11.  Silently frozen to our television screens watching something of this magnitude start to unfold.  That’s how Amy Adams’ Dr. Louise Banks, an expert linguist, finds out about it, as her students are missing from class glued to the television showing 12 skyscraper spacecrafts that have landed in 12 separate areas of the globe that have no known pattern as to why.  Dread and fear are most people's first reaction, and the longer they hover there with nothing happening only allows the human race to dread and fear.  It’s human instinct to fear what we don’t know because we’re worried that what we have will be taken away from us by the unknown, and so we often feel obliged to strike first as a protection mechanism.

  

Within days of the arrival Dr. Banks is met by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) who recruits her and her top linguistic skills to go to Montana where one of the ships are located and take on trying to figure out why the aliens are here and what their intentions are.  There, Dr. Banks pairs up with physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), and in an absolutely stunning shot of the ship's first introduction, get to work trying to talk to them.  The ‘them’ are two squid-like creatures that Ian names ‘heptapods’ due to their seven symmetrical tentacles.  Quickly, Dr. Banks figures that understanding won’t come from the audio sounds of their language for which we have no way to derive anything from, but rather, the written word which when put down becomes an actual object that can be deciphered.  

The intelligent sci-fi is rewarding, but it’s the human story that amazingly pulls it all together and to the next level.  The film opens with Dr. Banks rehashing her daughter’s life and eventual way to soon demise.  This storyline is more than just a subplot and way more than just a device.  For me it was a new way of telling a story that much like Dr. Banks I had to learn a new cinematic language as the story unfolded, and at times I felt the fear, the dread, but eventually an immense joy of what we as humans are capable of.  You have to be reminded of that sometimes, and “Arrival” not only reminds you but celebrates it.

I was once again reminded of just how good Amy Adams is.  There is such sorrow yet such hope evoked that her character's journey is a spectacular one, one that few actresses are able to accomplish.  

“Arrival” is also a spectacular journey, that very few films are able to accomplish.    

James 1:19

 

Wednesday
Dec142016

Hacksaw Ridge- review

 

“Hacksaw Ridge” (2016)

Directed by Mel Gibson

Starring  Andrew Garfield,  Sam Worthington

Running Time 139 Minutes, Rated R.

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

When WW2 came along young Desmond Doss, played by the scrawny yet deceptively athletic Andrew Garfield, wanted to enlist just as much if not more than his peers around him, only thing was Desmond swore not to pick up a gun in battle with the strict intentions of not taking a life.  Desmond only wanted to save them, and he thought he could do that by being a war field medic.  Being a Seventh-Day Adventist, he held no commandment higher than ‘thou shalt not kill’, and after much resistance from his fellow unit and commanding officers that nearly resulted in a Court Martial, Desmond's’ faith and strong conviction led him to serve becoming the first ever ‘conscientious objector’ to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his remarkable heroics in the battle at Okinawa in 1945.  

 

The person telling this story is fascinating itself as it comes from the much maligned yet much celebrated Mel Gibson.  Gibson focuses on the faith you pursue in Desmond Doss and the great tests that will come of it, and the conviction it takes to stay true to your faith.  At one point Desmond gets a psyche evaluation where his commanding officers are hoping for a discharge, but Gibson makes a strong point that even though you can’t literally see, hear, or touch your god, that doesn’t make you mentally ill and in fact you are just as sane as the next.  There is beauty in the trials and tribulations of Desmond’s faith, and with the ability to extend himself to something greater than him he was able to have the unfathomable strength to do what most couldn’t in a time of war.

What is odd is the insanely violent bloodied take Gibson uses to tell the story of the peaceful Desmond’s story. “Hacksaw Ridge” becomes a straight horror film with Desmond and his fellow troops hit Okinawa. Dismembered limbs aplenty and a soldier's insides resembles moms spaghetti.  No doubt war is that visual and even more so, but there is sense this visual style is told to entice the viewer with great violence rather than to repulse and horrify.  

The story of Desmond Doss at Hacksaw Ridge is a powerful one, the story told by Gibson is a somewhat powerful story.

Exodus 20:13

 

Wednesday
Dec142016

Trespass Against Us- review

 

“Trespass Against Us” (2016)

Directed by Adam Smith

Starring  Michael Fassbender,  Brendan Gleeson,  Lyndsey Marshal

Running Time 99 Minutes, Rated R

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswitmitch.com

Is “Trespass Against Us” a broody indie drama with dark comedic undertones or a hyperkinetic dark comedy with brooding indie dramatic undertones?  I don’t think director Adam Smith even knows, and usually I’m not ok with that, but Smith’s missed clarity has a way of working for him.  Having Michael Fassbender and Brendan Gleeson as your leads goes a long ways to alleviate those certain faults.  

Maybe it’s my American ears that had to squint extra hard to pick up the very thick lower class English brogue that helped me focus on the film’s visual strengths that gave this film a pass.  It’s like listening to Brad Pitt’s Pikie mumbalaya but with no Jason Statham to have it translated.  

 

Fassbender, always searching for indie gold, doesn’t quite reach it in “Trespass Against Us” but not for a lack of trying.  Fassbender plays Chad Cutler of the locally famous Cutler family.  A caravan dwelling family of thieves, Chad is Steve McQueen behind the wheel with a mouthful of marbles, alluding any coppers with his getaway skills, but very much wants to go legit for his wife Kelly (Lyndsey Marshal) and their two kids.  But his oppressing, blue tongued and god fearing father would never let Chad out of the family business, and as Chad fears, is grooming his grandson for the life as well.

Fassbender’s duplicity with Chad doesn’t always feel right, a problem Adam Smith didn’t really care to fix, but there is a dirty ever moving energy in this film that for me was undeniable.  Mix in a few superb car chases, and all was forgiven as the credits rolled.

Genesis 31:36

 

Thursday
Nov172016

The Accountant- review

 

“The Accountant” (2016)

Directed by Gavin O'Connor

Starring Ben Affleck,  Anna Kendrick,  J.K. Simmons

Running Time 128 Minutes, Rated R.

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

Ben Affleck’s latest, “The Accountant” is a damn better superhero film than “Batman V. Superman”.  Strip mall accountant by day, deadly assassin by night, Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff, a MMA trained, crackpot sniper, who is a mathematical savant that cooks books for those who don’t go through conventional (mob-fearing) accountants. What is the source of his superpower you ask, well that’s the best part, Christian Wolff is autistic.

 

Wolff, diagnosed with a high functioning form of autism, may not be able to look you in the eye, but his bullet will.  Wolff has the superhero tragic upbringing; a disability that led to his wearied mother hitting the bricks while his military father ‘doesn’t believe the world is a sensory-sensitive place’ so his son shouldn’t be coddled as so.  “Warrior” (5 star film) director Gavin O’Connor takes us back and forth with Wolff and that pays off for the viewers as well as giving us flashbacks to J.K. Simmons’ Treasury Agent supervisor that don’t pay off almost taking the film off it’s tracks all together.  Thankfully, good action, nice side performances from junior accountant Anna Kendrick, and competing assassin played by the very cool Jon Bernthal, as well as, of course, Affleck who rightly downplays his character (even though I think a Christian Bale would have brought out more) bring it back on track.  

There is a want to be as badass as “John Wick” with attacking some social issues.  “The Accountant” definitely is no John Wick but if there’s a franchise a brewing, then count me in.

 

Thursday
Nov172016

Birth of a Nation- review

 

“Birth of a Nation” (2016)

Directed by Nate Parker

Starring Nate Parker,  Armie Hammer,  Penelope Ann Miller

Running Time 120 Minutes, Rated R.

2 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

Movies are a vessel that can take you through time, examine atrocities, and in the best of examples create conversation and even change.  Slavery movies have a rich history of doing so, holding a mirror to America’s horrendous choices and ultimately America’s glorious emergence through civil war, with 2012’s Best Picture winner “12 Years a Slave” showcasing so well.  Director/writer/star Nate Parker’s slavery film depicts a literate slave preacher, Nat Turner, who orchestrates the first black rebellion against Southern slave owners and unfortunately does not fall into that rich cinema history.  While this topic is noble and very important, Parker’s “Birth of a Nation” simply just isn’t that well made of a film.

 

Nate Parker’s direction is way too heavy handed, giving little to no nuance as all characters wear their black or white (no pun intended) characteristics on their sleeve.  The film’s plotting is a major problem, giving a lack of tension throughout.  Honestly, I wish I could have seen this film in Sundance, where after the #OscarsSoWhite controversy this film was well revered and Fox SearchLight paid a hefty amount to obtain it, but now the critics have come out since Nate Parker’s own personal controversies have surfaced.  I’m separating artist from art, and I just wasn’t that impressed with the art.  The historical differences that I have been informed of, along with its overall melodramatic sloppy tone kept me underwhelmed with “Birth of a Nation”.

Galatians 3:28

 

Thursday
Nov172016

Queen of Katwe- review

 

“Queen of Katwe” (2016)

Directed by  Mira Nair

Starring Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong'o

Running Time 124 Minutes, Rated PG

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

Mark this in the Disney ‘feel good’ movie category.  Is that such a bad thing?  Rhetorical question, so don’t answer. Also, I can’t hear you talking at your screen anyways.  Disney’s “Queen of Katwe” is the latest underdog story of people rising to heights that they weren’t meant for, or there wouldn’t be a movie made for them.

I’m pretty sure we see young Ugandan actress Madina Nalwanga grow up before our eyes as Phiona Mutesi, a child living in the slums who when we meet her can’t read but against all odds reaches the tops of being a chess champion.  Phiona comes from such poverty that the other poor kids tease her for being so poor, but she takes a liking to the game and excels with the help of local church leader and all around good guy, Robert Katende (David Oyelowo), and the tight grip of her stern, but loving, single mother Nakku (Lupita Nyong'o).

 

All the notes of a weepy movie playout, and guess what, I needed some tissues throughout.  Those paint by the number notes will only get you so far, it’s the tremendous work of David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong'o  that take you past the cliches and transcend them.  

As far as being a ‘sports’ movie (which it wants to be at times) in the lines of chess counterpart “Searching for Bobby Fischer”, it is but a pawn bringing zero tension to the outcome.  Don’t go to “Queen of Katwe” for ESPN highlights, but if you like heartwarming tearjerkers than this film will do.  

Romans 12:12

 

Thursday
Oct062016

Sully- review

 

“Sully” (2016)

Directed by Clint Eastwood

Starring  Tom Hanks,  Aaron Eckhart,  Laura Linney

Running Time 96 Minutes, Rated PG-13

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com


When Tom Hanks’ Captain Chelsey Sullenberger declares, “brace for impact” over the flight intercom, we know that impact is coming, but it still feels out of nowhere just like it must have for the 155 passengers on that cold day. There is power in that moment as you are put in their situation in the way only the filmmakers can.  

In 2009 Captain Sullenberger, better known as ‘Sully’, landed a 737 commercial airline in the Hudson river just minutes from takeoff at the Laguardia airport.  The fact that no one was hurt and that Sully, his co-pilot Jeff Skiles (played with a sweet push-broom mustached Aaron Eckhart), and the rest of New York City's finest all acted to their top level is something 9 out of 10 people already know. That doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate their heroism.  

 

Appreciation aside, the film’s drama doesn’t come from the landing of the airplane but in the investigation that comes afterwards.  That’s where Eastwood, directing his 35th film, lets “Sully” shine the most even if he paints twirly villainous mustaches on the Aviation Administration investigators played by Anna Gunn and Mike O’Malley.  

It’s Tom Hanks who is not disappointing as usual.  It’s a pleasure watching him in extraordinary situations as his eyes process all the information at hand, and you can see the actor truly work out complexities without a word.  

Joshua 1:9

 

Monday
Aug292016

Hell or High Water- review

 

“Hell or High Water” (2016)

Directed by David Mackenzie

Starring Ben Foster,  Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges

Running Time 102 Minutes, Rated R.

4.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

I thoroughly loved this film.  “Hell or High Water” is a contemporary western that also serves as a heist movie that grabbed ahold of me from the get go and didn’t let up. It has a dark sense of humor that is as dry as the Texas heat it’s set in, a tragic reflection of the financial corruption put upon the little guy, a perpetuating loneliness struck hard for our two leads, and pacing so perfect that you’re in your seat for just as long as you should be with an ending that absolutely delivers.   

“Sicario” writer Taylor Sheridan does it again and even better this time with his pulpy tale of two brothers bank-heisting their way through the southwest while having two U.S. Marshals hot on their tracks.  I was just knocking how tonally bipolar “Suicide Squad” was, but Sheridan along with British director David Mackenzie blend zingers with heartbreak with grit to spare in a way that makes for the perfect stew.  

The two brothers aforementioned are Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) Howard.  Pine is an absolute gem in my books, and this is his finest work to date.  Pine’s Toby is a divorced dad who is a first time criminal but is the smart and patient one of the two.  Pine brings a weight of weary loneliness to Toby and is laser focused taking from the banks, who we see as the film’s villain, as they’ve taken so much away from him.  I’m so glad to see Foster continually show up in good work, he is a daredevil of an actor, and his Tanner who has spent half of his life in jail already doesn’t flinch at the opportunity to take down some banks all because his brother simply asked if he would.

 

The U.S. Marshals consist of the crusty and soon to be retired Marcus Hamilton played the raspy Jeff Bridges who gives his best performance since the fellow western “True Grit”.  “Twilight” veteran actor Gil Birmingham, also gives a tremendous performance as Marcus’ partner Alberto Parker.  Alberto takes the brunts of Marcus’ off-hand quips about his Native American and Mexican heritage, but he also gives it right back to him.  There is a great scene where as the two are driving in search of the brothers next bank Marcus once again slams Alberto’s Native American descent, but Sheridan doesn’t write it as funny but a poor joke that just falls flat although Marcus doesn’t realize it, and in that uncomfortable silence I don’t think I’ve laughed louder in a theater all year.

“Hell or High Water” ramps up to a hectic violent climax that doesn't disappoint, along with a final scene of Brides and Pine conversing that is just as exciting.

“Hell or High Water” will easily be on my top 10 films of 2016.

Psalm 38:9

 

Monday
Jul112016

Swiss Army Man- review

 

“Swiss Army Man” (2016)

Directed by Dan Kwan,  Daniel Scheinert

Starring Paul Dano,  Daniel Radcliffe,  Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Running Time 97 Minutes, Rated R.

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

I don’t want to label it as the farting corpse movie like everyone else, but I can’t get away from what this film is… a dead body with a great deal of flatulence.  

But in that body that shuffles off its mortal coil with its powerful magical ass-ripping I can’t help but find the meaning of life.  When you’re a kid you think farts are funny.  Yes, you think this as an adult but you do this in the confines of your dearest friends and in a I’m being a bad adult kind of way.  But kids just outwardly laugh at farts with a beautiful and blissful ignorance that wonderfully doesn’t want to know any better.  As kids get older they are told farts are gross and so they for the first time hold that fart in, holding in something that is not only literally essential to their existence but something that will be apart of them for the rest of their lives.  We eventually get to the point where we’re mortified and worst off ashamed of the farts that we let slip out.  

 

And there we are, life is the masquerade of never showing the universal ugly part of ourselves that we can’t get rid of even though we once celebrated.  Like Cypher in “The Matrix” I’d rather be apart of the lie eating my synthetic steaks and not smelling your nasty-ass-nasty farts but I’m too old in the system to be saved but I’m given hope with the Daniels directed (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) absolutely original vision that shows Hank (Paul Dano in one of his better roles) and his quest for understanding.  On an island, a scraggly bearded, and about to kill himself Hank reconsiders when he comes across the the dead business suited body of Manny (an even better Daniel Radcliffe).  Hank finds that Manny’s body farts so much it’s enough to be a human powered jet-ski that brings him back to mainland.

Eventually Manny begins to slowly speak, among other things that become a bevy of talents that earn the films title.  More importantly Hank has to teach the what and why’s of what life is all about.  There Manny’s innocence is lost, and the crippling fears of becoming an adult organically creep in as they do for everyone.  But there is joy in this film, as Radcliffe gives an amazing physical performance restricted by being a physically restricted corpse treating the joys of life like a sponge, so much to the point this his erections are used as a GPS for getting back home.  

The Daniel’s gave moments of true wonder and Larkin Seiple‘s  script does so much with the low budget given. I won’t say I was shaken to the core with discovery, even though I mentioned this film might give the meaning of life, but I will say that “Swiss Army Man” may be the deepest and most thought provoking fart joke in cinematic history and is definitely worth a toot or two.  

 

Saturday
Jun112016

The Lobster- review

 

“The Lobster” (2016)

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring Colin Farrell,  Rachel Weisz,  Jessica Barden

Running Time 119 Minutes, Rated R.

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

I yearn for this sort of dangerous filmmaking.  Director Yorgos Lanthimos who is coming off the equally dangerous “Dogtooth”, has a knack for audacity, and that is a rare commodity in today’s cinema.  His english language debut, “The Lobster”, hearkens back to the beautiful misery that is “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, and while it doesn’t achieve that film’s consistency and masterpiece, this is a film that is but a few wrong turns away from it, and that’s fine by me.

If you become single at any point in your adult life, whether it be from getting dumped, getting widowed, or even both, you have 45 days to find another life mate or you are turned into an animal of your choice.  David, played by a fantastically drab Colin Farrell who put on 40 pounds for the role, has become single and is put up in a posh country club in a world that is monotonically void of joy in every sense of the word.  David has chosen to be a lobster for reasons that will break your heart.

 

Later David breaks free of the singles club where he becomes a fugitive and takes up with those who have also chosen to break the law (society) and be single, hiding in a forested commune lead by a very cold Léa Seydoux (“Blue is the Warmest Color”).  There Dave meets and falls in a mutual but secret love with a woman that also shares this short sidedness (they both don’t see too well) played by Rachel Weisz who is of course billed as Short Sighted Woman because our common traits are of course what defines us, right?

You’re damned in this culture if you’re single by choice or not.  Both schools of thought harvest intolerable people who know their way of life is right and look down on you with disdain for choosing the other.  Lanthimos loses the film’s tight grasp of it’s satire in the third act as it drags, but he still gives you so much to chew on afterwards that is highly rewarding and rare in itself.  Just be sure to have some melted butter to dip in before you do chew.  

2 Corinthians 6:14

 

Thursday
Apr212016

Midnight Special- review

 

“Midnight Special” (2016)

Directed by Jeff Nichols

Starring  Michael Shannon,  Joel Edgerton,  Kirsten Dunst

Running Time 112 Minutes, Rated PG-13

2 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

It’s these type of films that make me want to stop film reviewing.  Not be cause they’re so gosh-darn awful, no, because they ultimately make me feel stupid.  Jeff Nichols is an extremely smart and thoughtful filmmaker who is one of the rare ones who takes the time to challenge the viewer.  Watching his latest, “Midnight Special, a sci-fi heavy on the intrigue and light on the sci-fi, I feel as if this challenge has overmatched me.  I was blown away from both of Nichols’ previous efforts in “Take Shelter” and “Mud”, but in “Midnight Special” I was left more than a tad frustrated as I tried to wade through all the never-ending vagueness that for this viewer, built up to nothing rewarding.

A young boy named Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) is unique to say the least.  Alton wears goggles to keep bay powerful beams of light shooting from his eyes and he can also intercept radio transmissions.  His father Roy (Michael Shannon) has reclaimed him after having him raised in a cult like congregation called The Ranch where the boy is thought by some to be a messiah.  Roy is driven to bring his son a specific place at a specific time that Alton deciphered and that’s all that matters.  Roy has the help of his old hometown friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton) and eventually Alton’s mother Sarah (Kirsten Dunst) but is being hunted down by both zealots from The Ranch and every branch of the government assisted by a green NSA agent played by Adam Driver.

 

Question builds upon question producing curiousness but never evoking substance. When Alton’s powers are elicited it’s definitely neat and puzzle worthy but for what and for why.  I do appreciate a slow burn heady genre piece that is usually littered by morons but when the pieces are put together in a big visual finale I was nowhere closer to understanding why we were putting the pieces together in the first place.   The acting is the film’s saving grace.  Nichols veteran Michael Shannon is his consistently strong self portraying a father who knows his son is beyond him but is relentlessly committing to his parental duties.  Edgerton brings some well needed softness, Driver brings some even more needed flashes of awkward humor and Lieberher holds himself up very well for a thespian of his age.  

The acting isn’t enough for “Midnight Special” to bring out something special.