Film Review: “Alien: Covenant” (2017)

“Alien: Covenant” falls flat in delivering the origin story that this franchise deserved

Review of Ridley Scott’s latest addition to his ever-developing “Alien” franchise

By Carter Bagley

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Ridley Scott returns yet again to helm another installment of the classic “Alien” franchise he created way back in 1979. Scott was at one point a revered filmmaker after making films like “Alien”, “Blade Runner”, “Thelma & Louise” and “Gladiator” but despite the occasional classic he isn’t very consistent. One thing he is great at though in all of his MV5BNzI5MzM3MzkxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTkyMjI4MTI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_.jpgfilms is world building and his talent for directing memorable shots. So, naturally, “Alien: Covenant” is very beautiful and eery to look at. However, it lacks the coherent story that all those films I mentioned above have. In all of his years at directing he still has an eye for huge scopes and making an arching story. He attempted to do this with the “Alien” franchise back in 2012 when he made the prequel “Prometheus” which many considered a flop despite being fairly enjoyable in my opinion. That film contains a better story and better characters than this film though which is a shame because this is the film that explains the origins of the classic Xenomorph aliens, it falls flat though in almost every department. To be fair the ties to Prometheus are well crafted and Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston and Danny McBride all give entertaining performances. The main characters aren’t the issue here, it’s the mythology this film relies on that weighs it down. It seems rushed and not as complex and fascinating as it should’ve been considering these creatures are the classic alien design that has been terrifying audiences for nearly 40 years. Fassbender gives his all in this film despite having been given some questionable dialog at points. Sometimes the films is suspenseful like in the first and third act but the film’s extended second act is what tears this otherwise simple, science fiction thriller apart. Ridley Scott tries to weave this deep, philosophical, thought-provoking narrative that on it’s own has some interesting parts in it but when paired with the rest of the film and the franchise as a whole it just seems jarring. The characters were mostly put there to just be killed off and even the main characters don’t have much to them and it’s thanks to the talent of Waterston, McBride, Fassbender and Billy Crudup that this film is even somewhat intense at points, it’s not in the writing. The beginning of the movie and the end were quite enjoyable and interesting but as a whole film it left me confused and unsatisfied. Some great cinematography, music and performances can’t stop this film from feeling bloated in it’s muddled, pretentious plot. If you enjoy sitting back and just watching science fiction films this might be decently enjoyable for you, but if you’re going in expecting the next “Aliens” then you better lower your expectations.

Rating: 5/10

Film Review: “Kong: Skull Island” (2017)

“Kong: Skull Island” is a well-shot enjoyable action film with some glaring issues

Review of the latest attempt to bring back the classic movie monster

By Carter Bagley

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After seeing the entertaining “Godzilla” reboot back in 2014 it seemed that Warner Bros. was planning something big and when they announced “Skull Island”, later titled “Kong: Skull Island”, it became clear exactly what that was. It was announced that these films were leading up to a King Kong vs Godzilla film, that sounds like a blockbuster that everybody wants to see. Although before we got that we were getting this new King Kong reboot. That’s not a bad thing though I was actually very excited going into it because we’ve never gotten an amazing look at Skull Island itself. So does it hold up? Kind of. The positives were pretty positive but this film had some pretty glaring issues. It features an amazing cast and crew led by director Jordan Vogt-Roberts who directed one of my favorite films of 2014, “The Kings of Summer”. The cast includes A-list actors like Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John C Reilly, and John Goodman along with newer blossoming stars like Toby Kebbell, Thomas Mann, Jing Tian, Corey Hawkins & Jason Mitchell. There’s no reason that this film should be anything other than wildly entertaining and well-made blockbuster. However, this film reeks of studio interference and Vogt-Roberts clearly didn’t get to make the film that he wanted to make. The action was incredible and the film features several sequences which that will stick in your head months after viewing and it does a great job at establishing the setting and introducing Kong himself. The big problems are the story and the characters. There seems to be no story here at all, pretty much what happens is that John Goodman’s character knows there’s an island full of monsters somewhere in the pacific so he takes a group of soldiers and scientists to go check it out. Once they arrive they start blowing up the ground and Kong shows up and takes down all the helicopters and from there it’s just the characters trying to get off the island. No one has any motive to do anything. Samuel L Jackson plays a Lieutenant who wants to kill Kong just because he killed some people. Even Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson are usually great in the films they’re in but here Brie Larson is reduced to a walking stereotype of women from the 70’s. Hiddleston is usually charming and interesting to watch but he looks like any other leading man in this film which disappointed me. The 70’s setting was kind of overbearing at times also because there’s no reason for it to take place back then and it features a great soundtrack of stereotypical Vietnam-era rock songs. Although “Kong: Skull Island” has some obvious flaws it still has great action sequences and a good setting and some genuinely creepy moments with various monsters on the island. For a film that could’ve been “Apocalypse Now” with monsters (which it wanted to be) it ended up just being an entertaining monster flick. Despite the characters not being very great some of the actors managed to stand out. John C. Reilly plays a World War II veteran stuck on the island and his character easily steals the whole movie. John Goodman and Samuel L Jackson are also very watchable and have an undeniable presence though their characters are pretty one note. Thomas Mann even has a couple good scenes and lines and proves that he’s one of the better rising stars today. Kong himself is fleshed out enough for you to care for him and the film ends with you wanting to see more of him. In the end “Kong: Skull Island” is a watchable blockbuster that has vibes of a classic monster B-movie and anyone who enjoys good action and incredible cinematography will enjoy the film enough.

Rating: 6.5/10

Film Review: “Life” (2017)

“Life” is an entertaining science fiction thriller albeit not an original one

Review of Daniel Espinosa’s newest science fiction film that borrows a lot from “Alien”

By Carter Bagley

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I’ve been slacking a lot on reviewing things on this site and I contemplated whether or not to review this film since it came out a while ago. I ultimately decided that by the end of the year I’d rather have it in my review catalog than not so here I am writing this. Daniel Espinosa has managed to make a career in the past several years of making life-posterentertaining if not forgettable thrillers or action flicks and it seems he may have done it again but not entirely. There are many interesting things happening in “Life” to make it memorable enough to mention to a friend but sadly it fails to make you think about what you see which is something I think it was going for. The good parts of the movie are really good, the performances are great and the entire cast is actually phenomenal. Jake Gyllenhaal does the best with what his character is given and Rebecca Ferguson impresses again a female lead after her breakout in the “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”. The two standouts for me however are Ariyon Bakare and Hiroyuki Sanada. Two names that I was not familiar with before going into the film but they had some of the best character development of any of the characters. Bakare plays Hugh Derry, a scientist who is the one that is tasked with taking care and keeping the specimen they find in a stable environment. Things quickly go awry when the specimen begins to grow and become intelligent. The crew quickly realize that they had no idea what they were getting themselves into when they brought this creature aboard the ship. “Life” takes some obvious ideas from “Alien” which is definitely not a bad thing but it does make it difficult for the film to stand on its own. To be fair the script is pretty clever in how the characters find ways to stop the alien from getting stronger. “Life” manages to be very entertaining and gripping but by the end of it you kind of saw it coming and it doesn’t stick with you. At times it’s very predictable and some of the dialogue and actions made by the characters seem a little unbelievable. Overall, if you are a science fiction fan than it will probably be a fun time but otherwise there’s no real rush to go out and check it out.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: “Logan” (2017)

“Logan” stands out ahead of most comic book films as a real human story told through the unique perspective of a beloved comic book character

Review of Hugh Jackman’s final portrayal of the character that made him an international star

By Carter Bagley

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I’ve always loved superhero films and I grew up watching “Spider-Man” and “X2: United” and those were some of the earliest films I remember really loving and being obsessed about. The X-men franchise has been steadily releasing films throughout my entire childhood and I remember being extremely excited about each one. I will say that it hasn’t cuaiczwueaaid_w-jpg-large.jpgall been perfect and there’s been many lows (I’m looking at you “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) but there’s been some incredible films to come out this series. Films like “X2: United”, “X-Men: First Class” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past” are truly great. If there was one thing that has always worked in the series however, was Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine. Unlike some comic book movies where the actors are clearly phoning it in for a paycheck, Jackman has always given his all to this amazing character and he’s been playing him for 17 years now. He’s getting older and him and director James Mangold decided to team up one last time to give a proper send off to this character. The movies have always been PG-13 and marketed towards kids and teenage audiences but this film is definitely not. If you know anything about the comic books you would know that the character of Wolverine is a complicated one. He’s aggressive, strong and reclusive but has an obvious vulnerability to him. He’s a character that has encountered so much pain in his life and he’s bottled it up and separated himself from everyone he cares about. Though there’s one thing about him, he can become very scary when he’s angry. This film is interesting in a way that Wolverine whose real name is Logan is old now. It takes place in the near future and mutants have pretty much gone extinct. Logan is taking care of his mentor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who is very old and sickly and is one of the only soft spots left inside Logan. He’s addicted to alcohol and isn’t healing properly like he used to and he wants to live out his days working as a limo driver and taking care of Charles. This changes however when a little girl named Laura comes to the attention of Charles and Logan. Charles who used to teach mutants wants to help this girl who he says is special and powerful but Logan being the old selfish man he is refuses. When an army of men come after her however they realize how powerful and important this young girl really is and Logan agrees to help her out. “Logan” is not like any other superhero film I’ve ever seen. In many ways it transcends the genre and becomes an indie film at parts or a western and that’s what makes it so brilliant. Hugh Jackman is amazing in the film and so is Patrick Stewart and you feel for these two characters more than you have in any other X-Men film yet. The R rating really works for this film because you get to see the pure animalistic side to Wolverine in a way we haven’t experienced yet. The action is incredible and bloody and brutal and Jackman takes it to the extreme in almost every scene. The little girl played by newcomer Dafne Keen is an interesting character as well and the little girl gives a very impressive performance. Boyd Holbrook also gives a great and intimidating performance as the main villain. “Logan” is exciting and perfectly directed by James Mangold and it’s filled with insane action, award-worthy performances and enough emotion to invest people who wouldn’t normally be interested in these kinds of films. This film marks the end of an era and the beginning of a new type of superhero film at the same time, and years from now I could easily see people look back on “Logan” as a very important and classic film in the genre.

Rating: 9.5/10

Album Review: The Shins “Heartworms” (2017)

“Heartworms” doesn’t stand up to their other albums lyrically but sonically it could easily be their finest

Review of The Shins’ long awaited new LP titled “Heartworms”

By Carter Bagley

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The Shins have always been one of my favorite bands growing up and I’ve never hidden from anyone that my favorite album of all time is their 2001 debut “Oh, Inverted World”. Singer songwriter James Mercer has this raw talent that I rarely see in other musicians. He is incredibly gifted with words and metaphors and this is why I’ve always had this personal connection to this band’s music. The rest of the band split after 2007’s “Wincing The shins-heartworms-3.jpgNight Away” and he pulled together a brand new team for 2012’s “Port Of Morrow” which was good but not great compared to The Shins’ first three albums. However, I appreciated how Mercer tried new types of music and tried to make a new sound and it worked on much of the album but not so much on other parts. This time around though it seems like he’s perfected these new styles and I’m glad to say that although this is different, it’s still The Shins I fell in love with. “Heartworms” begins with their second single “Name For You” which is a catchy, pretty pop song and a great start to a new album. It shows off Mercer’s vocal talents right off the bat draws you in instantly. The band released many of the song before the release date of the album and I thought all of those songs are great but it’s a few of the songs I hadn’t heard yet that hooked me. Songs like “Painting a Hole” and “Half A Million” recall back to “Wincing The Night Away” while simultaneously adding in some new flavor as well. The effects laden “Cherry Hearts” and “Fantasy Island” were the songs that really drew me in though. Mercer brings in all these new sounds that I haven’t heard from them before and he uses his voice as an instrument to pair with the music. It builds to a volume so high that it makes me wonder how he could possibly reach it. His voice and lyrics are so distinct that you know a The Shins song the moment the lyrics are sung. The third single “Mildenhall” brings in a folk sound that recalls back to their “Chutes Too Narrow” days. It manages to be perfectly nostalgic without being over the top and it may be a new classic from the band. Some of the songs didn’t quite hook me though like “Rubber Ballz”, “Heartworms” and “Half A Million” just didn’t work on every level like many of the other tracks. The lead single “Dead Alive” is fantastic classic sounding The Shins and I loved from the first time I heard it. “So Now What” is easily one of my favorite tracks from the album and I’ve loved it since it was first released way back in 2014 for Zach Braff’s film “Wish I Was Here”. The whole thing closes out with the longer track “The Fear” which uses interesting melodies that seems like they come straight out of the 90’s at points. The album is not lyrically as strong and much of the band’s discography but but seems to focus more on the sounds. Many songs build this huge wall of sound and it’s interesting to hear all of it surround you and listen as they start to fade out one by one at end of each song. James Mercer focused on many different types of music hear and incorporated all of it into this album and at some points in the same song even. I loved it more than I expected and I can honestly say that this album is not perfect but it’s pretty damn great.

Highlights: Name For You, Cherry Hearts, Fantasy Island, Mildenhall, Dead Alive, So Now What

Lowlights: Rubber Ballz, Half A Million, Heartworms

Rating: 8.5/10

The Top 25 Greatest Films Of 2016

2016 managed to be a rough year across the board but despite all that some great films were released. This is a countdown of the greatest films of the year.

Countdown of the Twenty-Five greatest films of 2016

By Carter Bagley

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Last night was the annual ceremony where Hollywood comes together and awards some of the greatest films of the past year. To celebrate the 89th Academy Awards I’ve put together my personal favorite films of the calendar year of 2016.

Movies That Almost Made It

“Indignation” – James Schamus, 2016

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“Zootopia” – Byron Howard & Rich Moore, 2016

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“War Dogs”- Todd Phillips, 2016

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“Sully” – Clint Eastwood, 2016

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“Sully” Review

Now Here It Is, The 25 Greatest Films Of 2016

25. “The Accountant” – Gavin O’Connor, 2016

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A film I didn’t expect to like as much as I did at all was “The Accountant”. It’s the perfect example of what an action movie should be and it gives me hope for the future of the genre. From start to finish it was emotional and exciting and I’m excited to see if this film could get a sequel.

“The Accountant” Review

24. “Star Trek Beyond” – Justin Lin, 2016

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The latest film in the “Star Trek” universe managed to be action-packed while having the same feel and tone as the classic TV series. Justin Lin did an outstanding job on his first film for the franchise and since I had a lot of fun with this one I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

23. “Green Room” – Jeremy Saulnier, 2016

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An amazingly suspenseful and brutal horror film that has one of the most original and terrifying plots in recent years. With a great performance by the late Anton Yelchin and Patrick Stewart portraying the scary and intimidating bar owner, “Green Room” manages to be intense and memorable.

22. “Snowden” – Oliver Stone, 2016

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This film was bound to be controversial from the moment it came into fruition but I think people overlooked the film way more than it deserved. “Snowden” was a very well made film with an excellent performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

“Snowden” Review

21. “Oasis: Supersonic” – Mat Whitecross, 2016

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An all inclusive documentary on one of my all-time favorite bands so I may be biased here but it’s definitely a powerful and well made documentary.

“Oasis: Supersonic” Review

20. “Doctor Strange” – Scott Derrickson, 2016

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Marvel continues to entertain mass audiences with their crazy visuals and great storytelling. “Doctor Strange” is different than the rest though and manages to stand completely on it’s own as an original and fun film.

“Doctor Strange” Review

19. “Lion” – Garth Davis, 2016

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Another film I saw very recently and I’m glad I caught it in time because it’s a beautiful, tragic and redeeming tale of family that will make anyone tear up just a little.

18. “Moonlight” – Barry Jenkins, 2016

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This film has received a lot of love and praise and took home the statue last night (after an unfortunate mixup) and despite being good I don’t think it’s the greatest film of the year by any means, but that doesn’t take away at all from it’s good qualities.

“Moonlight” Review

17. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” – Gareth Edwards, 2016

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Another year. Another “Star Wars”. This one, however, isn’t another sequel and instead tells an unconventional story that isn’t perfect but manages to be completely thrilling and entertaining.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” Review

16. “The Jungle Book” – Jon Favreau, 2016

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There’s no way in hell I expected to love this film as much as I did. This adaptation of the classic Disney film and novel may be the best one yet and it’s the perfect family movie for anyone to love.

15. “Hell Or High Water” – David Mackenzie, 2016

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An unexpected success story, “Hell Or High Water” is a thrilling and smart heist movie set in small town America and despite it’s small setting and simple premise what it has to say is by no means small.

14. “Don’t Think Twice” – Mike Birbiglia, 2016

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A relatable and simple film set in the world of improv comedy. It doesn’t have much to say but it says what it tries to in such a lovely and entertaining way that it will have a soft place in your heart after you watch it. The cast is fantastic and fun and “Don’t Think Twice” is simply just a fantastic film.

13. “Hacksaw Ridge” – Mel Gibson, 2016

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Mel Gibson’s comeback film that’s brutal yet inspiring and tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a man who’s courage and moral compass is so admirable that you can’t help but at least enjoy this film.

“Hacksaw Ridge” Review

12. “Hunt For The Wilderpeople” – Taika Waititi, 2016

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A film that I didn’t get a chance to see until recently but it was totally worth. It’s quirky and odd but completely deserves your attention.

11. “Everybody Wants Some!!” – Richard Linklater, 2o16

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Richard Linklater’s spiritual sequel to “Dazed and Confused” is just pure entertainment that’s funny, charming and filled with classic music that’ll take you back to a time that’s passed… even if you never lived it to begin with.

10. “Arrival” – Denis Villeneuve, 2016

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Denis Villeneuve is a masterful filmmaker who’s made great film after great film and “Arrival” is no exception. I just can’t wait until I get a chance to see his take on “Blade Runner”.

“Arrival” Review

9. “Midnight Special” – Jeff Nichols, 2016

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Directed by Jeff Nichols who is starting to become one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation after directing “Take Shelter” and “Mud” which are each brilliant in their own right but now he’s topped himself with a compelling modern sci-fi film that proves he’s poised for great things still.

8. “Swiss Army Man” – Daniel Kwan & Daniel Sheinert, 2016

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A movie that must be seen on it’s insane premise alone. It could’ve easily sold itself on shock value alone but instead it uses quirky comedy and the excellent performances by it’s two leads to craft an odd yet effortlessly charming story.

7. “Captain America: Civil War” – Joe & Anthony Russo, 2016

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Another film that’s gotten a lot of hate from the time of it’s release until now but after rewatching it, it still stands as a near perfect blockbuster and one of the greatest superhero films to date.

6. “Nocturnal Animals” – Tom Ford, 2016

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A movie that was a bit divisive in many ways but it’s incredibly clever and packed with powerful performances.

5. “Deadpool” – Tim Miller, 2016

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A near perfect action-comedy, Ryan Reynolds pushed this thing along for years and it turned out perfectly. If you haven’t seen this film yet, do yourself a favor and go see it as soon as possible.

4. “Manchester By The Sea” – Kenneth Lonergan, 2016

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One of the saddest but most powerful films I’ve seen in a long time. Casey Affleck really amazes here and completely deserves all the praise he’s receiving.

“Manchester By The Sea” review

3. “The Nice Guys” – Shane Black, 2o16

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Hilarious. Entertaining. Overlooked. This film needs more attention because it’s truly amazing and Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe make an incredible duo. Go watch “The Nice Guys” if you haven’t already.

2. “Sing Street” – John Carney, 2016

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Horribly marketed by the Weinstein Company upon release and overlooked this is a lovely little film that sadly will be forgotten about. Though to the people who saw it, it left it’s mark and to me it’s simply one of the most personal films I’ve seen in years.

“Sing Street” Review

1. “La La Land” – Damien Chazelle, 2016

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This is one of those films that will get tons of hate for a little while and for some reason it’s kind of cool to hate it. This seems to happen to a couple movies every year but while others are released to praise and later get swallowed by the hate this one will be one to overcome it. “La La Land” is a beautiful and entertaining tale that will one day go down as a Hollywood classic. There’s simply no other film that belongs at this spot.

“La La Land” Review

 Film Review: “Manchester By The Sea” (2016)

“Manchester By The Sea” is a powerfully touching and human story with timeless themes with incredible talent on and off screen

Review of Casey Affleck’s Oscar caliber tour-de-force “Manchester By The Sea”

By Carter Bagley

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Casey Affleck has been a seemingly underrated talent for years now. Ever since he first broke on the scene in the shadow of his older and more famous brother, Ben, he’s been tragically overlooked for his sheer talent of conveying such deep emotion through his stare and expression alone. Now it seems this year he’s finally getting the universal Manchester_by_the_Sea.jpgrecognition he’s always deserved. The plot of this film is typical “oscar-bait” formula but the performances and the little hints of comedy lightly sprinkled through really make this one stand ahead of the pack. Kenneth Lonergan who has become a master at crafting powerful and emotional masterpieces directs the hell out of this film and knows exactly how he wants every single line and glance delivered and it’s because of this that the actors really thrive. Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler who is a depressed and distant handyman in Boston who must travel to his hometown of Manchester, Massachusetts after his older brother passes away. He must cope with the death and find out what it means for his teenage nephew while also battling horrifying memories he has with his hometown. The film really rests on the shoulders of the younger Affleck who proves himself capable of going toe-to-toe with any other actor of his generation. Throughout the film you see this deep and unexplainable sorrow in his eyes and it’s only in time that Lonergan brilliantly reveals the details to this harrowing story and Affleck’s performance really starts to make sense. I will say that if this isn’t an oscar-winning performance than I don’t know what it is. Newcomer Lucas Hedges plays the teenage son of Lee’s deceased brother and he also delivers an impressive and magnetic performance that shows a boy struggling with loss in an honest and subtle fashion. Michelle Williams is up for an oscar also as she plays Lee’s ex-wife who painfully stirs up old memories for Lee who desperately tries to cope with mistakes he made in the past. This film deserves all the recognition it’s being given and any other year might be sweeping the awards floor with it’s strong emotion and powerful themes. Normally I would not expect to be effected emotionally by a film as much as I was after I saw it and the credit is owed to every single aspect of talent that went into this modern emotional masterpiece. “Manchester By The Sea” is a devastating and extremely powerful human story that is guaranteed to move anybody who goes in and gets invested in the film and the many touching performances throughout this tragic drama. It may not have the style and quirkiness of “La La Land” or the social and topical themes of “Moonlight” but it makes up for in it in sheer classic quality and a dramatic timelessness that will never become outdated.

Rating: 10/10