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
Henry is a former Navy SEAL who now works as a forest ranger while living in a woodland cabin. One day he is paid a visit by his former military colleague Clay who pulls a gun on him before reminding him of his desertion while on duty. Determined to exact a deadly revenge, Clay drags him towards the water's edge in the woods, but before he can do what he set out to do, they are interrupted by a brutal drugs gang who are searching for fifty pounds of heroin that got lost in transit. In order to evade the gun-toting cartel, Henry and Clay must for once work together or risk being shot on sight. Reluctantly, they set to escape the area together, but find that their adversaries are much more skilled then they first realised.
Continue: Enemies Closer Trailer
Cynical audiences will hate this simplistic, softhearted comedy, but for a bit of undemanding entertainment, it isn't too bad. And while the cast members don't remotely stretch themselves in these roles, they at least manage to get the emotion flowing in the predictable final act. And sometimes a bit of mindless silliness is just what we need.
Crystal and Midler play Artie and Diane, grandparents who have little contact with their uptight daughter Alice (Tomei), who lives on the other side of the country. When she decides to accompany her inventor husband (Scott) to an awards ceremony, she reluctantly agrees to let her parents take care of their three over-protected kids: burgeoning teen daughter Harper (Madison), shy son Turner (Rush) and mop-headed Barker (Breitkopf), a bundle of cheeky energy who immediately renames his granddad "Fartie". Of course, tech-phobic Artie and hug-loving Diane struggle to keep up with these children they barely know, but they're more resilient and far cleverer than Alice gives them credit for.
The script never tries to be sophisticated, announcing its important life lessons early on and never putting any of the characters in danger of not learning something. Meanwhile, the writers continually contrive the plot to keep Tomei on screen as much as possible, even though this kind of undermines the whole point of the grandparents being there in the first place. And every challenge faced by each character (there's a mini-plot for everyone) is fairly easy to navigate. But all of the actors manage to underplay the physical chaos while bringing enough charm to the film to keep us engaged.
Continue reading: Parental Guidance Review
As Fernanda enters her final year at Tanner Hall, a rundown boarding school in New England, she is met by some surprising changes within her group of peers. A friend from her childhood joins the school. Victoria, an alluring trouble causer brings a whole new challenge to her school.
Continue: Tanner Hall Trailer
As a group of 30-ish friends gather Big Chill style for a month in the Hamptons, they can't know tragedy awaits. The core of the group is the enchanting Sara (Alex Davalos), the lifelong muse of her best friend, gay writer Adam (Tom Everett Scott), who shows up with his boyfriend Shawn (Chris Pine). Also in the group: Sara's school chums, Maddy (Lauren German) and her husband Peter (Josh Hopkins), along with their new baby.
Continue reading: Surrender Dorothy (2006) Review
As the story goes, Matthew (Matthew Settle) just can't get over his ex-girlfriend Liz (Gretchen Mol), which sees him drinking heavily and attempting to beat down Liz's door in the hopes of getting her back. (Never mind that Matthew's job is being a radio psychologist...) Fortunately, Liz's friend Corey (Samantha Mathis) enters his life, and maybe Matthew will be able to move on, right? Alas, he continues stalking Liz while he's banging her friend. And to throw another twist on you, Matthew's co-worker Garrett (Tom Everett Scott), decides he now loves Liz, and he's going to return the favor by stalking Matthew and Corey.
Continue reading: Attraction Review
Have campus comedies really reached the point where fashionable, ante-upping gross-out gags are obligatory? I mean, do we really need a movie in which bulldog semen is served in pastries to unsuspecting frat jerks?
I ask only because "National Lampoon's Van Wilder" has such hilariously droll dialogue and such a witty, charismatic lead in Ryan Reynolds (of TV's "Two Guys and a Girl") that it's just bursting with untapped crafty comic energy that has been redirected toward the lowest of the lowbrow.
Reynolds emits an aura of smarmy charm in the title role of consummate collegiate slacker Van Wilder who, after seven years as Big Man On Campus and $40,000 in tuition, has been cut off by his fed-up father (played by Tim Matheson in one of the flick's many nods to "Animal House").
Continue reading: National Lampoon's Van Wilder Review
A Generation X cautionary tale about greed and impatience, "Boiler Room" is a sharp-edged, adrenaline-driven movie that takes place in the eat-or-be-eaten world of crooked stock trading.
Populated by 25-year-old, overnight millionaires who wear their testosterone on the sleeves of their tailored Armani suits, this is an imposing, vigorous and pulsating picture that could have been mighty and portentous if writer-director Ben Younger hadn't cribbed half the script from "Wall Street" and "Glengarry Glen Ross."
Giovanni Ribisi ("The Mod Squad") plays an unscrupulous college dropout looking to make a quick buck with an underground casino he runs from his rented row house. But he starts seeing much bigger dollar signs when a newly-rich (and Ferrari-driving) acquaintance recruits him to cold-call moneyed suckers and pitch them investments for his suspicious brokerage startup.
Continue reading: Boiler Room Review
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