Movie Review: La La Land (2016)

Confession time: I am not a big fan of musicals. At least not live action musicals, Disney animated musicals I have no real problem with. It’s easy for me to believe that a cartoon would burst into song and dance. A real person, not so much. So even when a musical has a lot of buzz around it, I go into them mildly skeptical. I’m not saying that I’m against musicals, just that they’re my least favorite kind of movie.

Ladies and gentlemen… “La La Land”.

Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress, struggling to get parts in movies. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz pianist not getting a lot of great gigs. Both live in Los Angeles, and after they run into each other a couple times they start dating. And we follow them as they through the ups and downs of their relationship and respective careers. And I thought the plot here was quite good. It follows a lot of familiar beats that we’ve seen in other romance movies, but it does it in such a charming and well written way that I don’t mind the familiar aspects of the story. It also has a very inspiring message about going for what you want and achieving your dreams. It really is a love letter to the dreamers out there in the world. And I liked that. It is overall a good plot.

The characters here are likable, charming, and fairly interesting. Mia, like I said, is an aspriring actress who wants to get her big break, but struggles to even get any part in various movies she’s auditioning for. But she keeps going even if she sometimes doubts herself. And Emma stone is great in the role. Sebastian is man who’s passionate about jazz, wanting to play it to people even though he isn’t always allowed. And Ryan Gosling is great in the role. I also want to mention that Stone and Gosling share some really good chemistry, they were really likable together. We also get musician John Legend in a supporting role here, and he actually did a good job. J.K. Simmons also shows up briefly in the movie, and while he doesn’t do a lot I’d still say that he’s great… come on, he’s J.K. fucking Simmons, he’s always great. And yeah, it’s an overall well acted movie.

The score for the movie was composed by Justin Hurwitz, and the stuff he made here was great. It’s charming, it’s fun, it’s dramatic, it’s beautiful, and it just overall fits the movie very well. And I guess we should talk about the sung songs since this is a musical. They are incredibly catchy, and compared to a lot of other musicals, are very well inserted into the movie. In a lot of musicals there’s no good flow between normal scene and song/dance number, the stuff just happens suddenly. But “La La Land” is one of those rare cases that has good flow between scenes and songs, which I really appreciate. It also helps that the songs are great and just fun to listen to. So yeah, the music here is great.

This movie was written and directed by Damien Chazelle, the man behind the excellently excellent “Whiplash”. And he really shows what a talented director he is here. Everything has a lot of energy to it and it flows very nicely, making for an interesting watch. I do also think Linus Sandgren’s cinematography helps it out. Also, WOW look at all the colors! If you think about it, a lot of popular movies these days have a pretty drab color palette. But “La La Land” puts in a lot of color, making for one of the most pleasant viewing experiences in recent years. I also love the retro vibe that this movie has, despite it being set in modern day. The opening titles, retro. The clothing, retro. The overall style of the movie, retro. The movie is such a delight in terms of style.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 92% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 93/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,2/10 and is ranked #134 on the “Top 250” list. The movie won 6 Oscars in the categories of Best actress (Stone), Best director, Best cinematography, Best original score, Best original song, and Best production design. It was also nominated for an additional 8 (wow!) Oscars in the categories of Best picture, Best actor (Gosling), Best original screenplay, Best film editing, Best costume design, Best sound mixing, Best sound editing, and Best original song. 

“La La Land” is a really solid musical dramedy. It has a really good plot, really good characters, great performances, great music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *La La LAAAAAAAA*. My final score for “La La Land” is a 9,77/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “La La Land” is now completed.

That was delightful… which is the exact opposite of “Whiplash”.

Movie Review: Gangster Squad (2013)

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Gangsters, not sure what to say about them. They do bad shit, I guess that’s all I can say for now. Moving on.

Ladies and gents… “Gangster Squad”.

Los Angeles, late 1940s. Crime is everywhere, and the town is more or less run by the biggest criminal of them all: Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). This isn’t liked by those officers of the law who haven’t been corrupted yet. So police sergeant John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) forms a certain team that is willing to do whatever it takes to take Cohen down. And the plot in itself is… pretty good. The biggest problem with it is how it goes on for a while with a very straighforward story, but then opens a door leading to the theme of morals and such. They touch on that theme, but they don’t explore it. So it kind of bugged me a bit afterwards. At first it was basically just a gangster-based popcorn flick, but then it tried to be deep for two minutes and left the door open without using that little thing to it’s advantage to tell a compelling plot… so I have to take a little bit away from it. Don’t lightly touch upon a subject like that and then do nothing with it! (Advice for aspiring writers).

The characters in the movie are not the most interesting, but they aren’t bad. Josh Brolin is awesome as John O’Mara, playing a real badass with a clear goal/agenda. Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen, he’s really good. Ryan Gosling plays a young cop who easily snaps and he’s good in the movie. We also get really good performances from people like Emma Stone, Robert Patrick, Michael Peña, Giovanni Ribisi, Anthony Mackie, and Nick Nolte. Yeah, the it’s a very well acted movie.

The score was composed by Steve Jablonsky, and I think he did a pretty good job here. Sure, the score is kind of generic and I probably won’t remember it anytime in the near future, but it was pretty good and it fit the movie pretty well. There were also a lot of older licensed tracks throughout the movie that were really good and actually fit very well in the scenes.

This movie was directed by Ruben Fleischer and this is where I am a bit split. Because the movie is very well directed with scenes flowing pretty well, but the problem is that there are some tonal inconsistencies throughout. But that’s also kind of the risk when you take a director primarily known for comedy and then put him on a serious movie. But to make up for it, this movie looks fucking gorgeous, with some really good cinematography and a bit of stylish editing. This of course makes for some pretty cool and tense action scenes. Speaking of action, this movie is really fucking violent. I didn’t mind it too much, but I can tell that some people will have some problems with it.

This movie has not been too well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 31% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 40/10. Roger Ebert gave the movie 2/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 6,7/10.

“Gangster Squad” is an entertaining movie that wasted some of the potential that it had. The plot is okay, the characters are okay, the acting is great, the music is okay, and the directing/cinematography is terrific. Though it is bogged down by some narrative flaws, characters not being that interesting, and also some tonal inconsistencies. Time for my final score. *Bang*. My final score for “Gangster Squad” is a 7,99/10. So it’s far from from perfect, but it’s definitely worth a rental.
Rent it

My review of “Gangster Squad” is now completed.

This feels like what would happen if Zack Snyder would’ve directed “The Untouchables”.

 

My Favorite Scenes: Zombieland – Opening Credits

Guys, guys, guys! Hi. I hope you guys are good and I welcome you back to “My Favorite Scenes”, the thing where I share my favorite scenes from movies and tv. And this time we are sharing something that can technically tie in to “The Month of Spooks” even though that wasn’t the original intention. In fact, it kind of did that on accident. A happy accident mind you, but an accident none the less. Still, for this edition of “My Favorite Scenes” we are talking about the very openign credits or opening titles if you’re one of those people of, to the movie “Zombieland”. For those of you who don’t know, “Zombieland” is a 2009 horror-comedy starring Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson as two survivors in a zombie apocalypse. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend that you do it because it works both as a suspenseful zombie movie and a hilarious comedy. Anyway, opening credits. These are some of the coolest openign credits I have ever seen. First off, the shots of total chaos are gorgeously shot with some very well handled slow motion. Secondly, they are really funny showing the chaos that the zombies create. And third, the sequence is set to “For Whom The Bell Tolls” by Metallica, a song (and band) that I absolutely love. So yeah, these openign credits are kind of perfect in my opinion.
Enjoy!

Movie Review: Birdman (2014)

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Superhero movies! You either love them or you hate them, that’s how it is. Fine you can be indifferent about them too, but that isn’t important. So last year I heard about this new superhero movie that when it came out got some of the best reviews of any superhero movie ever. So I was of course pumped! Now this superher-what? This isn’t a superhero movie? Really? Well, fuck you, Jeff!

So this isn’t a superhero movie apparently… fuck it, this is my review of “Birdman”.

“Birdman” is about washed up actor Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton). In the early 90’s he played superhero “Birdman” (Roll Credits). But now he got no major relevance. So to kind of get back some of that former glory he is setting up a stage play. But that isn’t as easy as it may seem. For one it is on Broadway, A.K.A it is a big production. Next up he has to deal with a few family issues, mainly his daughter Sam (Emma Stone). He also has to deal with a last minute replacement actor named Mike (Edward Norton) who is really “method”. We also get to kind of see Riggan’s descent into madness throughout. And it turns out the story of “Birdman” is fucking amazing. I have never been invested in a story this weird and amazing since I first saw “Fight Club”. Seeing Riggan and everybody try to deal with setting up the play is interesting and then to see the often kind of surrealistic descent into madness from Riggan just adds to the already multi-layered and amazing story.

The characters in this movie are all incredibly interesting with some terrific writing and great development. It is also noticeable that they all have their own problems to deal with. It was also great to see a movie with so many great performances. Michael Keaton gives the best performance of his entire career. I have always liked the guy, bur he has never really been THIS good. Emma Stone was also great. Hell, even Zach Galifianakis was really good in this movie. And I am aware you know I will gush over Edward Norton since he is my favorite actor so let’s just get it over with. Edward Norton was fucking amazing in this movie. Now he is always great, but he hasn’t given a performance this good since I don’t know, “The Illusionist” maybe. But I do think all the acting in the movie was great and all characters were well-rounded and well-written.

The score was done by Antonio Sanchez and the funny thing about the score is that it is made from percussion only… but I didn’t mind. The score was truly great and really worked to give the feel of all the situations and emotions of the characters. There is also a thing about the score that integrates itself into the movie in a really fun way that I am not going to spoil, but when you see it you will know it and really enjoy it. Overall I found the score to be great.

This movie looks amazing. Not only because they found people who could line up the shots perfectly but also because it all looks like a continuous shot. That’s right, the entirety of “Birdman” looks like one long never-ending shot. Of course there are cuts in it, but it is cheated and edited so well that it isn’t easy finding them all. It is also kind of ironic that this is about a guy who used to play an iconic superhero, even bigger irony is that the last movie that said character was in came out 1992 (according to characters in the movie). Why is this ironic? Well because Michael Keaton used to play Batman back in the day and that the last movie he played Batman in was “Batman Returns” which came out in 1992. See the irony? Good. To keep on the same trail of superheroes, this movie gives a lot of great statements on superhero movies, stage plays, actors, critics and everything within the entertainment business you could think of. And that type of self aware commentary is something I love seeing in movies. Of course I love myself a good superhero movie, but the way this movie comments on them is genius. Believe me, this movie doesn’t rip the superhero movies a new one, but it sheds a good amount of light and gives great commentary on it. There is also a scene featuring some great commentary in the movie where the character of Riggan just explodes on a critic and it is glorious! Of course I might sound a tiny bit like a hypocrit saying that because I might be viewed on as a critic and I completely understand that, but I’m not a critic… but that’s for another time! *Nudge nudge, wink wink*.

This movie like I said in the beginning got some great reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 93% positive rating and is certified “Fresh”. On Metacritic it has a score of 88/100. And on imdb.com it has an 8,1/10 and is ranked #202 on the “Top 250” list. Also, as of this review the movie has been nominated for 9 Oscars (Holy shit) in the categories of Best motion picture of the year, Best Actor (Michael Keaton), Best Supporting Actor (Edward Norton), Best Supporting Actress (Emma Stone), Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best cinematography, Best sound mixing and Best sound editing.

“Birdman” is an achievment in film-making with it’s original filming/editing style. It also got some truly great performances, a great score, a great original story and some great commentary on the entertainment industry. Time for my final score. JEFF! Where’s the fucking envelope!? Thank you! My final score for “Birdman” is a 9,86/10. This is a fantastic movie that of course gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”
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“Birdman” is now reviewed.

Why the extra title? Why not simply choose one? Either you go “Birdman” or you go “The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance”. Simple as that.