After storming awards season with Whiplash two years ago, writer-director Damien Chazelle returns with something even better: an original movie musical that is shamelessly enjoyable. It somehow manages to be a feel-good triumph as well as a darkly honest exploration of the quest for fame and romance in Los Angeles. And with fantastic songs, colourful choreography and already iconic performances from Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, this is pure cinematic joy.
It opens in a traffic jam on a warm winter's day, where aspiring actress Mia (Stone) first encounters struggling jazz musician Sebastian (Gosling). They meet a couple more times before they begin to share the troubles they are facing trying to make their dreams come true. As romance blossoms, Mia urges Sebastian to go for his passion project to create a proper jazz bar, while Sebastian supports Mia's attempt to write a one-woman show to display her talents. But there are huge pressures to endure and obstacles to overcome as this city pushes them to compromise.
Chazelle establishes the film's musical tone from the opening moment, a breathtaking single-take full-on musical number on a freeway flyover. And the movie only gets better from there, deepening the two central characters as every scene is packed with hilarious comedy, honest romance and wrenching drama. Gosling and especially Stone are perfect in these roles, drawing on their already established chemistry as they add singing and dancing to their repertoires.
Continue reading: La La Land Review
Lisa (Paquin) is a Manhattan teen living with her single mother Joan (Smith-Cameron), an actress starring in her breakout stage role while seeing a new man (Reno). One day Lisa distracts a bus driver (Ruffalo), who hits a woman (Janney) in the street, an accident that sends Lisa into a spiral of sublimated guilt, as she lashes out in different ways at a nice classmate (Gallagher), her teachers (Damon and Broderick) and mostly her mother. And she doesn't stop there, meddling in people's lives in her effort to achieve a sense of justice.
Continue reading: Margaret Review
Nic and Jules (Bening and Moore) have been a couple for more than 20 years, and life is pretty matter-of-fact for them and their two kids, 18-year-old Joni (Wasikowska) and 15-year-old Laser (Hutcherson). Since Joni is now of age, Laser talks her into contacting their mothers' sperm bank so they can meet their biological father. He turns out to be restaurant owner Paul (Ruffalo), a cool guy who shakes their life up in ways none of them could expect. The big question is whether they can ever be the same again.
Continue reading: The Kids Are All Right Review
You see, Henry Poole (Luke Wilson) is dying. He has an unnamed disease which his doctor (Richard Benjamin) swears will "steamroll" through him. Hoping to reconnect with his past, Henry moves back to his home town. When he can't purchase his old house, he settles for a dilapidated number down the street. After he moves in, his nosy neighbor Esperanza (Adrianna Barraza) notices a watermark on his wall. To Henry, it's the sign of a bad stucco job. For her, it's the face of Christ. It's not long before the genial Father Salazar (George Lopez) arrives to conduct a Church-sponsored investigation. Even without confirmation, the smudge cures a little mute girl, much to her mother's (Radha Mitchell) amazement and helps a nearly blind girl named Patience (Rachel Seiferth) see. But the big questions remains: Will it help Henry? Or can anything?
Continue reading: Henry Poole Is Here Review
Garden State, an auspicious writing and directing debut from Braff (of TV's charming Scrubs), is about Largeman's return to his New Jersey hometown, and like Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, it's more about mood and moments than telling a single story (and like that film, it's about an actor feeling numb to the "real" world). Indeed, the plot feels very much out of short fiction -- and, we can't help but notice, possible autobiography; Braff is a young actor from Jersey, too.
Continue reading: Garden State Review
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