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
Essentially this year's Moneyball, but set in American football rather than baseball, this fast-paced drama is brightly made with an especially strong cast. But only die-hard fans will be able to drum up much interest in the plot, which is played as if it's the most important thing on earth. This insular approach is seriously alienating for audience members with even the slightest sense of perspective about life. Thankfully, the actors are likeable and entertaining.
It's set over the 12 hours leading up to the NFL draft, when teams select the top players from university teams. In Cleveland, manager Sonny (Kevin Costner) is struggling to hang on to his job, arguing with Coach Penn (Denis Leary) about who should be the first pick. And when he swaps with another team for the top selection, the team owner (Frank Langella) pressures Sonny to take the most highly desired player in the field (Josh Pence). But Sonny has his doubts, and amid backroom dealings and frantic last-minute swaps, he also looks at another promising player (Chadwick Boseman) while making sure the team's current quarterback (Tom Welling) is up to his job. Meanwhile, Sonny and the team's financial manager Ali (Jennifer Garner) are in a secret relationship and have just found out that they're pregnant.
Most of this takes place during phone calls, but director Ivan Reitman manages to make this visually intriguing using whizzy split-screen trickery. And while Garner's character feels utterly irrelevant, like a distraction to the main football plot , she adds the badly needed human interest element, as do two other actresses in smaller roles: Ellen Burstyn and Rosanna Arquette as Sonny's mother and ex-wife, respectively. There are also strong cameos from the likes of Sean Combs as a high-powered agent and Sam Elliot as a sporting veteran. And it's all anchored effortlessly by Costner's affable charm, providing resonance in Sonny's attempt to play a long game while being pushed to make the flashier decisions.
Continue reading: Draft Day Review
Sonny Weaver, Jr. is the general manager of National Football League team the Cleveland Browns who is faced with immediate dismissal if he does not put together an unbeatable draft pick for his team. With pressure from his associates and from Browns fans, he wants to make a spectacular impact on the football world on draft day but, with his ideas being very different from everyone else's, he's in for a big struggle to bring everyone round to his way of thinking and after making what seems like a professionally suicidal trade, even his mother starts to lose faith in him. Excitement builds as draft day nears, with everyone baffled by what could possibly be in store for the Cleveland Browns; but will Sonny pull through with the number one pick of the year?
Continue: Draft Day Trailer
Abigail Spencer, Colton Haynes and Josh Pence - Brook Brothers' Holiday Celebration Benefiting St. Jude Children's Research Hospital - San Francisco, California, United States - Tuesday 10th December 2013
'A Beautiful Mind' director Ron Howard is snapped talking to a publicist before posing for photos with Canon Inc. officials Paige Michaels, Ross Held, Tony Kano, Eliott Peck and Michelle Fernandez on the red carpet at the Canon Project Imaginat10n Festival in New York.
Popular high school chicks Wren and April can't believe their luck when they are invited to long-haired heartthrob Aaron Riley's much anticipated Halloween party. It appears Wren's only problem is to work out what her costume's going to be; that is until she's about to leave the house and her mother drops the bombshell that she's to babysit for her eccentric younger brother Albert while he goes Trick-or-Treating dressed as Spider Man. As if things weren't bad enough, while Wren and April are moping about missing the party, Albert disappears on his own. Anxious that her mother will find out she's been neglecting her responsibilities, Wren and April set out on a frantic search for Albert; who is being used an accessory by a man who has set out to avenge a broken heart; whilst swindling 'nerds' and suffering public humiliation along the way.
Continue: Fun Size Trailer
Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham after eight years in The Dark Knight Rises, his alias Batman nursing a sore reputation after the last film, The Dark Knight, where he assumed responsibility for the attorney Harvey Dent's crimes in order to protect Dent's name after he loses his life during The Joker's assault on the city. This time he intends to defend Gotham City from a new villain: the virtually indestructible Bane who, as discovered by Commissioner Gordon, is plotting the obliteration of the entire city from the inside.
Continue: Dark Knight Rises Trailer
It has been eight years since Harvey Dent was killed, during the Joker's killing spree. Billionaire Bruce Wayne accepted responsibility for Dent's death and left Gotham. The city has now recovered from the shocking events and is living in peace.
Continue: Batman: The Dark Knight Rises Trailer
The story of Facebook is given a dramatic twist by the combination of Sorkin's brainy script and Fincher's brawny direction. What emerges is the tale of a computer nerd who only understands relationships if they're online.
While at Harvard in 2003, Mark Zuckerberg (Eisenberg) and his best pal Eduardo Saverin (Garfield) came up with the concept of linking the students in a virtual network that honed the concept of MySpace into something more personal.
The problem is that it springs from a project Mark is working on for beefy twin rowers (Pence and Hammer) and their techie pal (Minghella), who immediately launch a legal battle against Facebook. Later, Mark links up with slick Napster founder Sean Parker (Timberlake) to push the site further, but he loses Eduardo in the process.
The chronological narrative is broken up by scenes from the legal encounters relating to the two lawsuits filed against Zuckerberg, and this gives the film its sense of dramatic momentum. But these legal skirmishes are red herrings; this is actually a story about relationships that go horribly wrong, most notably the friendship between Mark and Eduardo. And from the first scene to the last, the central point is that Mark simply can't make any relationship work.
While the irony of this is a little over-the-top, it's very nicely underplayed by the whole cast. Eisenberg is terrific in the film's most thankless role, but he never overeggs the performance, so Mark comes across sympathetically as a complex genius with a severe blind spot. He gained the world but lost his soul, as it were. Garfield gets a more emotional role and delivers an excellent turn that gives the film its heart. And Timberlake is also superb, never chomping on scenery in the flashiest role.
Of course, Sorkin's boyish script is snappy and almost too sharp, packed with hilarious jokes and intelligent conversations. It's great to see another big Hollywood movie this year (after Inception) that actually stimulates our minds for a change. While it sometimes feels a bit dense, it's also a thoroughly gripping look at the fallout of relational dysfunction. And we can all identify with it, whether or not we're a computer nerd.
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