Entries in Drama (215)

Thursday
Apr202017

T2 Trainspotting- Review

 

“T2 Trainspotting” (2017)

Directed by Danny Boyle

Starring Ewan McGregor,  Ewen Bremner,  Jonny Lee Miller

Running Time 117 Minutes, Rated R.

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Ephesians 5:16

 

Monday
Mar272017

Beauty and the Beast- review

 

“Beauty and the Beast” (2017)

Directed by Bill Condon

Starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans

Running Time 129 Minutes, Rated PG

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

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

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

 

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

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

Romans 12:16

 

Monday
Mar272017

Before I Fall- review

 

“Before I Fall” (2017)

Directed by Ry Russo-Young

Starring Zoey Deutch,  Halston Sage,  Cynthy Wu

Running Time 98 Minutes, Rated PG-13

2 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Romans 7:15

 

Monday
Mar272017

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

 

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

Directed by Macon Blair

Starring Melanie Lynskey, Elijah Wood

Running Time 93 Minutes, Rated R.

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

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

 

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

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

Romans 12:2

 

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