All posts by Kenna

About Kenna

Kenna McHugh is an established freelance writer living in California. Her writing credits include the published book, BREAKING INTO FILM, Film Production book for inner-city kids, three screenplays, seven produced plays and hundreds of how-to videos on the Internet. "I love the challenge of writing because the end does satisfy the means. The writer is a valuable being. If the words aren't there the message isn't received. It is as simple as that. Give me a circumstance, a theme and away I go at my keyboard."

Officer Downe

Directed by Shawn Crahan, Officer Downe is based on the graphic novel of the same name. The movie is a blood-soaked tale of resurrection, revenge, and justice as the story follows an immortal, crime-fighting police officer, played by Kim Coates, and his rookie sidekick, played by Tyler Ross, who learns that being stuck between doing what he thinks is right and what he thinks is best is not an easy task.

The best way to describe this movie is Sin City meets dark science technology. The L.A. policeman is repeatedly resurrected and returned to active duty through a mysterious technology. When a rookie officer named Gable arrives on the scene as backup, we get to see Downe in a different way because Gable discovers there’s much more to the super-cop than a mindless law enforcement super-cop warring against twisted over-the-top super-villains.

The way the movie is told with over the top acting and action might be enjoyable for those you are looking for mindless entertainment. There is no thinking involved with this movie but, like I said, you will be entertained. You might even laugh because it is so over-the-top and unreal.

Sure, there will be those who felt they wasted their time watching the movie because there really isn’t much to it besides mindless fun.

Danny Says

Directed by Brendan Toller, Danny Says is a documentary that will send you into the world of Danny Fields.  Fields was a groundbreaking publicist and manager who worked with countless legends such as The Doors, Lou Reed, Judy Collins and The Ramones.

The film is guided by Fields’ voice and with tons of interviews, photographs, and audiocassettes. Just an amazing body of work if you are familiar with the legends he promoted in Rock n’ Roll history.

The guy is viewed as weird, twirling, frenzied waves of the late 60’s to the Bowery punk scene. Here are some names in the documentary that most people will recognize from the Lizard King, Iggy, and the Stooges, to Patti Smith.

The point is Fields dominated the scene with his eye for the art of the rhythmically irreverent. Since 1966, Danny Fields has played a pivotal role in music and culture of the late 20th century. The movie follows Fields from Harvard Law dropout, to the Warhol Silver Factory, to Director of Publicity at Elektra Records, to “punk pioneer” and beyond. Danny’s taste and opinion once deemed defiant and radical have turned out to have knowledge of events before they take place. It’s unreal in so many ways.  The guy knew the trends.

Danny Says is a story of marginal turning mainstream, Avant Garde turning prophetic, as the movie showed Fields looking to the next generation I was in awe watching this documentary. The amazing stories are literally whimsical. I found myself in wonderment of the way his life and career influenced so much of the kind of freak culture that became popular. The line-drawing animations enchantingly illustrate some of the stories in a rapid pace worthy of so much information to be viewed.

If you are a lover of the scene behind the rock n’ roll, then you must see this documentary.

Don’t Think Twice

Directed Mike Birbiglia, Don’t Think Twice follows a member of a popular New York City improv troupe catches the big break forcing the group to reevaluate their success and confront their fears in the hilariously honest movie.

This is a bittersweet movie about the behind-the-scenes look at the lives of six best friend comedians. If you have ever been with an improv group, like I have, you will find this to be one of your favorite films to watch with friends of the same persuasion. It is a funny movie about the angst of chasing aspirations.

I recommend taking a look at the behind-the-scenes featurettes. They add to the hilarity of the movie with a concept of what it takes to bring this whole movie to life. A movie about a six-person comedy team known as The Commune, working together for 11 years, has killed it onstage while waiting for their big break. Without warning, the team finds itself at a crossroads when one of the members becomes a solo success and the rest of the group realizes they may not make it big after all.

The featurette selection also includes Don’t Think Twice: The Art of Improv. It is a brilliant and enlightening piece about the love of improv, which is the heart of the movie. In this featurette, you will be able to explore the philosophy that inspired the world and comedy found within the movie.

My first thought, that is an entertainer’s nightmare. Success is great, but when other members are left out, it can feel like a long drop into the abyss of being no one.

The movie talented, funny and honest cast includes Keegan-Michael, Gillian Jacobs, Mike Birbiglia, Kate Micucci, Chris Gethard, and Tami Sagher.

 

 

 

In Order of Disappearance

Directed by Hans Petter Moland and The New York Times critics’ pick, In Order of Disappearance stars Stellan Skarsgard, Pal Sverre Hagen and Bruno Ganz. The movie is filled with action and is constantly moving as a diehard thriller. The movie follows an honorable citizen, Nils, played by Skarsgard. He uncovers evidence that his son was murdered and a victim in a turf war between the local crime boss and his Serbian rivals. Following his discovery, Nils embarks on a quest for revenge.

The movie is very good because Nil is a fish out of the water. Introverted and hard-working snowplow driver Nils has just been named “Citizen of the Year.” When he receives news that his son has died of a heroin overdose, nothing seems to make sense.

Disbelieving the official report, Nils quickly uncovers evidence of the young man’s murder – a victim in a turf war between the local crime boss, known as “The Count”, and his Serbian rivals.

Armed with heavy machinery and a good amount of beginner’s godsend, Nils embarks upon a quest for revenge that soon escalates into a full-blown underworld gang war, with the body count spiraling ever higher and higher.

The movie is a rocket ride and hilarious in a very dark way. Skarsgard makes the movie great, and I have a fun time watching it.

The Great Gilly Hopkins

Directed by Stephen Herek, The Great Gilly Hopkins, is an inspiring film the whole family can enjoy. A true classic story that will capture anyone’s heart. The cast alone is worth renting or buying the movie including Kathy Bates, Octavia Spencer, Glenn Close. These talented women bring so much life to the classic young-adult novel by Katherine Paterson, who also wrote Bridge to Terabithia.

This great tale won the Truly Moving Picture award at the 2016 Heartland Film Festival. The story is about real, emotional, funny and captivating scenes featuring Sophie Nélisse, who was unforgettable in The Book Thief.  She brings her same talent to this adorable movie, which also stars Julia Stiles, who plays Gilly’s mother.

The story follows Gilly as a coming-of-age story about one girl discovering what a family really can be. We met the feisty and headstrong Gilly Hopkins where she has made a name for herself in the foster system. She outwits family after family in hopes of being reunited with her birth mother.

In a comical effort to escape her newest home and overly affectionate foster mother, Mamie Trotter, played by Bates, the young girl devises a scheme she believes will send her mother running to the rescue. When her grand plan backfires, Gilly realizes she may have been wrong about everything in her search to find where she belongs.

The movie brings up questions like “What is a family?” “What is family love?”

I was touch by this film because it holds life lessons with an impressive cast from a charmingly written novel. It all comes to life with a perfect mix of characters. I laughed, cried, and loved it.

Little Men

Directed by Ira Sachs, Little Men stars Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle, Paulina García, and Alfred Molina. The movie is an in-depth look at the innocence of young relationships and the inevitable evolution of human connections.

The riveting drama delivers a heartfelt narrative through Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri as Jake Jardine and Tony Calvelli in their unforgettable performances, truly make the movie worthwhile to watch.

When a 13-year-old, played by Taplitz, grandfather dies, Jake’s family moves from Manhattan back into his father’s Brooklyn home. There, Jake befriends the charismatic Tony, played by Barbieri, whose single, Chilean mother Leonor, played by Garcia, runs the dress shop downstairs.

Jake’s parents Brian, played by Kinnear, and Kathy, played by Ehle, ask Leonor to pay a higher rent and a feud ignites between the adults. The boys take an oath of silence against their parents in protest. From there the story is endearing. Sachs coats the movie with humanism and insight, as the story is about life-defining friendship amid family turmoil.

An interesting aspect of the story is Jake’s father, Brian, when he learns that his late father’s a small business was not profitable. He can’t continue the same business practice. As a result, there is deep-rooted tension with him and the owner of the business that is renting from him. The fact that his son is best friends with the owner’s son is even more intense.

This story is true and could happen to anyone. Thus, it will make viewers think about morality or what is right or wrong when it comes to making a living and surviving. A smart business person would raise the rent because why suffer.

Still, the whole story of the adult’s and the kid’s relationships are real and honestly looked at as the characters come to terms with the situation.

The movie needs more upbeat moments to appreciate the low points in the movie. Too much angst and not enough smiles and joy.  The abrupt ending could have played out a bit more with the whole story coming to a happy ending.

The two young boys are amazing on screen and worth watching if you want to see some fine talent.

Manchester by the Sea Featurette

Directed by Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea follows the life of a solitary Boston janitor, played by Casey Affleck. He is transformed when he returns to his hometown to take care of his teenage nephew. The story of the Chandlers, a working-class family living in a Massachusetts fishing village for generations, is winning awards and with much anticipation for an Oscar nod.  The movie is a deeply poignant, unexpectedly funny exploration of the power of familial love, community, sacrifice and hope.

manchester-by-the-sea-postAfter the death of his older brother Joe, played by Kyle Chandler, Chandler is shocked to learn that Joe has made him sole guardian of his nephew Patrick, played by Lucas Hedges. Taking leave of his job, Lee reluctantly returns to Manchester-by-the-Sea to care for Patrick, a spirited 15-year-old and is forced to deal with the past that separated him from his wife Randi, played by Michelle Williams, and the community where he was born and raised. Bonded by the man who held their family together, Lee and Patrick struggle to adjust to the world without him.

In his first film since 2011’s acclaimed Margaret, Lonergan once again proves himself a powerful and visionary storyteller as he seamlessly weaves past and present together, crafting a tension-filled tale that deftly eschews sentimentality in favor of penetrating emotional insight and deeply affecting human relationships.

Mechanic: Resurrection

mechanicresDirected by Dennis Gansel, the action-packed, thrill ride is the best way I can describe Mechanic: Resurrection because the movie takes off right at the get-go. Bullets spray and jaws get smashed with the starring power of Jason Statham as Arthur Bishop, an assassin who makes each of his targets’ deaths look like accidents, whose calm retirement is shattered when a former employer requires his services.

The movie also stars Jessica Alba, Tommy Lee Jones, and Michelle Yeoh.

The movie follows Bishop as he returns as the Mechanic in the sequel to the 2011 action-thriller. When the deceitful actions of a cunning but beautiful woman, played by Alba, force him to return to the life he left behind, Bishop’s life is once again in danger as he has to complete an impossible list of assassinations of the most dangerous men in the world.

Mechanic: Resurrection includes five behind-the-scenes featurettes looking at the development of the sequel, scoring the film, a breakdown of the Malaysian prison break sequence, and in-depth interviews with Michelle Yeoh and Jason Statham.

Tommy Lee Jones arrives but for not long. He still adds a lot of fun, which I enjoyed because he is a veteran and makes it look so easy. Jessica Alba looks good like a trophy. I just wish her character had more depth, but that is Hollywood for you. All in all, the movie is fast paced with tons of action and totally no-brainer entertainment. Any Statham fan will want to see this movie because it reeks action fight scenes only Statham knows how to do best.

Jackie: Official Trailer

Directed by Pablo Larraín, Jackie is another look at the Kennedy tragedy. How many times can Hollywood tell this story? Which angle of the lens are we seeing the Kennedy lineage this time? Fortunately, Natalie Portman is playing the role of Jackie Onassis Kennedy. It appears in this trailer that we will, once again, relive one of the most important and tragic moments in American history.

The movie follows First Lady, then Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and places us in her world during the days immediately following her husband’s assassination. Known for her extraordinary dignity and poise, here we see a spiritual portrait of the First Lady as she struggles to maintain her husband’s legacy and the world of “Camelot” that they created and loved so well.

Jackie nabbed several Independent Spirit Awards nominations for Best Feature, Best Director, Best Editing, and Best Female Lead (Portman).

Lo and Behold: Reveries of The Connected World

loandbeholdDirected by Werner Herzog, Oscar-nominated documentarian, Lo and Behold: Reveries of The Connected World chronicles the virtual world from its origins to its outermost reaches, exploring the digital landscape with the same curiosity and imagination Herzog does with all his movies.

In his other movies like Lo and Behold, Herzog set his camera on destinations as disparate as the Amazon, the Sahara, the South Pole and the Australian outback. Now, he leads us on a journey through a series of provocative conversations that reveal the ways in which the online world has transformed how virtually everything in the real world works – from business to education, space travel to healthcare, and the very heart of how society conducts our personal relationships.

Lo and Behold: Reveries of The Connected World features interviews with well-known internet pioneers and visionaries including Bob Kahn (Co-Inventor of Transmission Control Protocol and the Internet Protocol), Elon Musk (Founder and CEO of SpaceX) and Kevin Mitnick (Hacker, Author and Computer Security Consultant).

The movie holds a tremendous amount of intellect and honesty. Herzog’s calculation about the future of the Internet is eye-opening if not kind of daunting. The Internet is only 25 years old with nothing ever like it before in human history. Society has become very dependent on our technological advances. As a result, society would be lost without it.  If a lasting interruption happened today, saying chaos would ensue is being gentle. Most people would not be able to survive. Then, there would be those that do survive, but not on the strata they do now. The movie says billions would succumb, which is scary to imagine – life without the Internet and other technologies.

All in all, the movie’s message is something society needs to know. But, the flow of the movie is a bit disjointed with the pros and cons of the internet being presented in a way that lacked uniformity. I got lost a few times where is seemed like Herzog threw out ideas that were unrelated but important.