La La Land (2016) Review

La La Land (2016)

Directed & Written by Damien Chazelle

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt

Music by Justin Hurwitz

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.

My Opinion:

So, this movie got a record 1,582 Oscar nominations yesterday (roughly). I finally saw it over the weekend & knew instantly that it would get loads of Oscar noms as this is the type of movie that’s SO right up the Academy voters’ street (and butt). Don’t worry – I’m not going to be all “this is overrated!”. Those people who go around shouting “this is overrated!” are so overrated. This is a lovely film. It’s a good film. It’s not, in my opinion, up there with the all-time musical greats such as The Sound Of Music, The Wizard Of Oz, Singin’ In The Rain, etc etc etc. It’s good! I enjoyed it and really liked Gosling & especially Stone, who are as great together as always. But I think people will realize ten years from now that La La Land doesn’t come close to touching the all-time classic musicals. (It’s also far less of a “musical” than I was expecting!)

I found the movie a little uneven. It starts out with a big musical number that has such a different sound & vibe from the rest of the film that it feels like it’s from a different movie. It’s an okay number (not my favorite & I can’t even remember the music from it right now) but it sets things up to be this epic musical when all we get are a few more “big” song & dance numbers (I did really like two of these) and several smaller-scale musical scenes. I felt bad thinking that this movie was overlong and could’ve had at least 20 minutes shaved off of it (it’s 2 hours 8 minutes) but I don’t think I’d have been checking my watch if they’d had more scenes like the musical number with Gosling & Stone in the observatory. That one was lovely & it was one of the only times I thought the film came close to the standard I expect from a really good musical.

This movie didn’t seem to have a clear overall goal or, shit, I dunno… a clear aesthetic? Don’t get me wrong – I loved the bold, primary colors and I’m still trying to decide which dress of Stone’s I liked the most (probably the green dress in the above photo). But this didn’t always fit with the other imagery or with the music when the movie tried to be more “classic Hollywood” or tried to go with a jazz vibe. Damien Chazelle was possibly trying to cram in too many different artistic & musical styles he likes instead of sticking to one main theme or at least trying to make these different styles mesh together a bit better. Being a lover of film & classic Hollywood, I was naturally more attracted to the scenes such as the lovely observatory number that attempted to imitate this (although some of the classic Hollywood scenes were somewhat derivative) than I was to the brightly colored musical numbers that felt like some 1990’s Gap ad. Or, as my hubby put it, a Feist video. 

I think what’s possibly my biggest problem with the movie (this may get me into trouble to say but, hey, no one is reading this, right?) – La La Land is a bit too “Millennial Musical” for me to really see it as all-time classic. I can’t see me wanting to watch this 52 years from now the way I’ll still happily watch all 3 hours of The Sound Of Music. FYI – I did the math to find out that The Sound Of Music is 52 years old. Then I realized that I’m sounding like the grumpy old person that I am so I did some more math and realized that I’ll most likely be dead in 52 years anyway, so… Okay, I guess if you really love La La Land & I’ve offended you with my “Millennial Musical” statement, you’ll get the last laugh when I die of old age soon. 😉

Summary:

La La Land is a good film with Stone & Gosling just as lovable together as always. I’m very happy for their Acting Oscar nominations and think they’re well deserved. I know I often come across as negative but I’m perfectly fine with all the nominations this film has received as I do think it’s a very good and, at times, almost fantastic film. It’s not like I could make a better movie! What do I make? Stupid spreadsheets! (Although I do make them almost as colorful as La La Land).

I just feel like some absolute masterpieces have actually been made in the past few years with little or no rewards while La La Land will likely win all it’s up for mainly because it’s the Academy voters’ type of “thing”. They love a musical and anything that celebrates their way of life. I truly wanted to love this movie. I wanted to be moved by a film that celebrates a “love of cinema & the arts” the way I was by Cinema Paradiso. Or perhaps The Artist or Hugo – these three films capture the filmmakers’ love of cinema in a way that La La Land never quite manages. I wanted the powerful emotional response I had to Arrival & to Room (btw – Amy Adams was ROBBED!!!). For whatever reason, though, La La Land didn’t strike a chord with me. It’s a lovely movie to take your mind off the rest of the world for a couple of hours but I didn’t walk out of it with that feeling of elation that I (and other movie nerds) get from only the truly best pieces of filmmaking.

My Rating: 7.5/10

Here’s that Feist video. La La Land is an enjoyable film but if you really don’t fancy it, I suppose you can just watch this video to get a feel for one of the three main vibes going on in it.

Plus this Gap ad:

And this is easily my favorite theme from La La Land. I do think this is beautiful and wish all the music in the film was as simple & elegant as this piece. THIS feels timeless:

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The Help (2011) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Natasha of Life Of This City Girl. Thanks for the review, Natasha! 🙂 Now let’s see what she thought of The Help, IMDB rank 234 out of 250…

There are another 15 movies available if anyone wants to do a guest review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE. Also, if you’d like to add a link to your IMDB review(s) on your own blogs, feel free to use any of the logos at the top of any of these guest reviews.

Movie Review: The Help (2011)

Plot: An aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids’ point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.

Rating: 8.5/10

Hey, T9M readers! I’m reviewing The Help here today, because when I saw it was on T9M’s remaining movies to review for her IMDb Top 250 challenge I greedily claimed it as my own, seeing my chance to finally watch it.

I was surprised. Not only is The Help a really good film, it is also right up my alley and has stayed with me since I saw it.

What works well for this film first and foremost is a fantastic cast. To name a few, but certainly not limited to, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain, Emma Stone, Allison Janney to Anna Camp all came to life as some form of a Southern Belle working to adjust to changing times.

The Help focuses on a time in America when things were changing. Women were entering the workforce, they were suddenly allowed to have bigger dreams than being barefoot and pregnant, and alongside that liberation came a movement where people realized that black people also had rights. Shocking, I know. Idiots. That’s where Skeeter Phelan comes in – she’s recently graduated and in look of making a name for herself. She moves back to Jacksonville, her home town that has not progressed with racial equality at all, and starts working a dead end job writing housekeeping tips for the local newspaper. Skeeter seeks to find the nanny who raised her, a woman whose disappearance makes her very worried – this is the woman that truly raised her, not her scatterbrained and often mean spirited mother. This leads her to embark on a project that records the tales of the black women who raise white children while their own sit at home.

In a very idealistic fashion, The Help isn’t particularly violent. I’m not a fan of gratuitous violence at all. There is a time and place for it and only in certain films, and I get upset especially when it involves minorities being beaten down. Django Unchained is pretty much the threshold for me, and let me tell you, as much as I love Tarantino, that film was almost too much to watch. The Help tells and accurately depicts inequality without making it an unnecessary blood fest nor a pity party, and yet you walk away feeling definitely disgusted with white ancestry. I saw that a lot of people did feel that the movie fancily glosses over the atrocities that happened and I do agree on that point though.

I liked the most that there were some genuinely sweet white people that offset the heinous racists that were also depicted. Jessica Chastain plays the particularly kind Cecilia Foote, who has been shunned because she’s just a bit too attractive and fun loving for Hilly Holbrook, excellently brought to life by Bryce Dallas Howard. Hilly is racist and underhanded, using her status in town to control everything– social events, treatment of staff and generally just getting her way in everything. The good tries to offset the bad, but it is still so obvious about how unjust the system was – I recently saw that it was a time period where it was finally acknowledged that black people deserved rights, just not quite as many as white people. I’m not going to go all swearing about this, because I am guest blogging here, but you can please include a number of profanities to gather my opinion about this.

Most of all, the end impressed me – things do not end perfectly for Phelan. After successfully publishing her novel, Phelan is shunned by many in town, including her boyfriend, but since he was a pompous, primitive prick from the very start I’m not feeling that she’s missing out on something special. It shows that actions have consequences, even when the action was required and did something good.

If you are looking for a film that accurately portrays inequality in the 1950’s, this probably isn’t for you. The Help is mostly feel good with some bad moments between, a very well-produced and acted out film for this. Octavia Spencer won Best Supporting Actress for this and it is well deserved – her sassy attitude is a scene stealer every single time. I’m likely to watch it again at some point, and am pretty glad that I took the time to watch this.

Thanks for having me lady!

Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance) (2014) Review

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Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance) (2014)

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu

Starring:
Michael Keaton
Zach Galifianakis
Edward Norton
Andrea Riseborough
Amy Ryan
Emma Stone
Naomi Watts

Running time: 119 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A washed up actor, who once played an iconic superhero, battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career and himself in the days leading up to the opening of a Broadway play.

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My Opinion:

Birdman is definitely a film lover’s film. I’ll probably not mention it to any co-workers today if they ask what I did over the weekend because I know I’d just be met with blank stares. I’m not saying that as some film snob because I’m not – I like some things that are slightly more obscure but I also like plenty of mainstream movies. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy Birdman as much I was hoping I would as a film lover.

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First of all, I’ll say that the performances are as good as I’d heard. I’m very happy that Michael Keaton is nominated for an Oscar as I’ve always quite liked him and I think he’s done an excellent job in this so it’s nice seeing him finally getting some recognition (and he’s my favorite Batman). Emma Stone is also very good as his messed up daughter and Edward Norton as a real prick of an actor. I can’t fault any of the acting or the script or… anything, really. It just didn’t really work for me overall and I walked away from the movie knowing it was one I “appreciated” as opposed actually “enjoyed”. Which is fine sometimes but it’s great when you can have both. As far as this year’s movies filled with Oscar nominated performances, I think I actually preferred Foxcatcher as a film.

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Even more than a film lover’s movie, this is an ACTOR’S movie. I can see why actors or anyone with theater experience would love it. It’s not something I can relate to at all but I’ll be very surprised if Keaton doesn’t win the Oscar as he’ll certainly get all the actors’ votes. I really liked the “play within a play” concept and the use of music worked so perfectly with that. I also liked the various storylines for each character and there were some good humorous moments.

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To read a great review from someone who more fully appreciates what this movie is trying to do, I’d suggest you read Cara’s Birdman review over HERE at Silver Screen Serenade. She uses big words like meta! Well, okay – that’s actually a pretty short word… I’m not going to ramble on about this movie or do a summary. This is a good movie with an original concept and great performances (including a career high from Keaton). I very much appreciate what they’ve tried to do and like that it felt fresh & original. But, in the end, I just didn’t really care about the characters (except maybe Keaton’s a little) or what the outcome would be. Still, I fully support movies like this as opposed to the countless remakes, reboots & sequels out there. I just wanted to like it more.

My Rating: 7/10

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) Review & Poll

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Directed by Marc Webb

Based on Spider-Man by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko

Starring:
Andrew Garfield
Emma Stone
Jamie Foxx
Dane DeHaan
Colm Feore
Felicity Jones
Campbell Scott
Embeth Davidtz
Paul Giamatti
Sally Field

Running time: 142 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Not much different from The Amazing Spider-Man (2012). And I’m too lazy to write a synopsis.

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My Opinion:

I remembered writing a bit about The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) somewhere on this blog. I found the post! I started this blog at the end of 2012 so I just did a round-up of every film I’d seen that year (And ranked them from my favorite to least favorite. Those who know me know I’m anal like that). 😉 Anyway, that post is HERE and it makes for more interesting reading than the very little bit I said about The Amazing Spider-Man, which I ranked as the 18th best movie I went to in 2012 & gave a 6/10. I actually thought I’d liked it more than that! Hmm… This was my in-depth analysis: “Not actually that bad, but… What’s the point?? Do prefer Andrew Garfield to Tobey Maguire, though.

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Well, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is pretty similar to the last one. As I say at the start of every superhero movie review I do, I’ve never read a comic book so all my knowledge is only of the films I’ve seen. All I’ve really ever known of Spider-Man is what I saw in the Tobey Maguire movies (I still do NOT understand why they’ve done this whole reboot). Anyway, I enjoyed those just fine. Can’t say I’ve watched any of them since going to them, though, and I never really bought into Maguire.

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So far, I feel pretty much the same way about the Garfield films – I’ve enjoyed them so far but it’s unlikely that I’ll be re-watching them anytime soon. They’re fun popcorn movies but I don’t enjoy them to the same degree as the Avengers films or the X-Men films. I do still prefer Andrew Garfield to Tobey Maguire, though.

FYI: I casually mentioned on Twitter that I’d seen this movie & ended up discussing the whole Maguire vs Garfield thing for a good couple of hours. I’ll go into detail on this at the end of the review plus there’ll be a POLL! You can vote for Team Maguire or Team Garfield. Go team Garfield! 😉

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I do think this second Amazing Spider-Man is a slight improvement over the first one. I thought the villains and the big showdowns were better. They did a good job further developing the Gwen Stacy/Peter Parker romance plus his relationship with his aunt. The villains didn’t feel very developed, though, but this is often a problem with superhero films anyway. And Jamie Foxx was a bit weird as a total Poindexter nerd.

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I’m not sure what else to say about this. I do still feel this reboot is pointless but it doesn’t mean these new films are BAD… If the others didn’t exist, people would like the Andrew Garfield ones more than they seem to. To be honest, I just want to start talking about the Twitter debate now because that was pretty entertaining. 😉

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is fun, as was the first one. It’s not going to change the world but it’s light entertainment. I had fun with it & there are far worse ways to spend a couple of hours.

My Rating: 7/10

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ANDREW GARFIELD vs TOBEY MAGUIRE: THE BIG DEBATE

So, after seeing this movie last Tuesday, I casually mentioned to my usual group of Twitter buddies that I’d seen it. Bloody hell – I didn’t expect to spend a good chunk of the rest of the day arguing about who was the better Spider-Man: Andrew Garfield or Tobey Maguire. But it was fun and that’s what I love about this little group of people – I think I enjoyed the Twitter debate more than the movie. 😉

So I’ve chosen just one quote from each person as the debate went on for ages. And at the very end of this post, you’ll find a poll so you can vote for your favorite Spider-Man of the two. If you want to also put your choice in the comments below, I can add you to TEAM MAGUIRE or TEAM GARFIELD here & link to your blog.

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TEAM MAGUIRE:

Brian at Hard Ticket To Home Video:

I was considering adding the choice of “Team Don’t Give A Fuck” as this is the team Brian declared he was on after spending a good couple of hours making it pretty clear he was very much NOT Team Garfield. Lol! Gotta love Brian. Here’s my favorite Brian quote. Note the time – 7:26 pm. My first post about going to the movie was at 1:50 pm. I think I just wore him out! Bwahaha! 😉

https://twitter.com/dr_goodtimes/status/458673224994533376

Eric at The IPC:

Eric seems to think Andrew Garfield is a teenage girl. This was Eric’s main argument throughout the day. Funny how all the girls are on Team Garfield. I think the boys may just be jealous of Garfield’s lovely big, brown, puppy dog eyes…

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TEAM GARFIELD:

Me at Cinema Parrot Disco:

The tweet that started it all…

Zoe at The Sporadic Chronicles Of A Beginner Blogger:

After Brian & Eric had a go at me on the Garfield thing for a bit, I was very relieved when Zoe came to my rescue!

Mike at Screenkicker:

THEN, as a huge surprise, Mike showed up and agreed with us girls! We weren’t expecting that! Yay, Mike!

Cara at Silver Screen Serenade:

Cara wasn’t around until later in the day and we were all dying to know which team she was on. Well, I was at least. Lol. Luckily, she chose wisely…

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UNDECIDED:

(Never got an exact answer from these two. If either of you wish to pick a side, I’ll move you to the appropriate place). 😉

Seth at Kloipy Speaks:

In a bit of a “Brian move”, this is the reply I got from Seth when I asked for everyone to choose a side “for the record” as I planned to mention the Twitter debate in my review. Lol!

Melissa at Snap Crackle Watch:

Melissa was more interested in another conversation that started up in which I reminded Zoe that she should watch the film Never Let Me Go, starring Garfield. I think we’d all like to read the book it’s based on. 😉

PICK YOUR SIDE:

The Croods (2013) Review

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I get a little snobby about animated kids films. If it’s not Pixar, I’m usually not all that interested. DreamWorks make okay animated films that are decent enough & a way to switch off for a couple of hours while your kids are entertained. I even find Shrek a little overrated. Shrek isn’t bad but it’s certainly not something I’d ever consider a favorite movie of mine.

Pixar, on the other hand, manage to make what I see as proper “family” films that adults enjoy just as much as the kids do (well, I do at least!). Pixar films don’t treat kids like idiots – they’re not dumbed down for the kids but they’re still completely kid friendly and appropriate for all ages (without humor that’s a little TOO risqué being thrown in here & there to wake up the adults who are bored in the audience – I hate kids films that resort to that in a pathetic & unfunny way). And I think Pixar films are just much more “timeless” (I love that word – I use it a lot). Something like Finding Nemo will be just as loved 30 years from now whereas I don’t see most of the DreamWorks stuff aging as well (in my opinion!). I always take a long time to get to my point… My point is that I’ll review this movie for what it is – a DreamWorks movie aimed at kids. It’s not something I expected to be in the same league as Pixar films like Toy Story. Or even Despicable Me! (See? I can like a non-Pixar! Love that one). 🙂

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The Croods is about a family of cavemen (or I suppose cavepeople as there are girls too). As it was a very dangerous time to live in, the father in the movie (voiced by Nicolas Cage) is very overprotective of his family and insists that they never stray far from their cave or leave it at all after dark. (So, he’s Marlin). His teenage daughter (voiced by Emma Stone) is becoming more and more curious about what’s out there in the world but her father won’t let her explore – he believes that curiosity is dangerous (so the daughter is Nemo). I’m sorry – I promise to try to shut up about Pixar but it really is Finding Nemo with ugly cavepeople instead of adorable little fish! 😉

Well, ugly cavepeople except for one – Enter teenage caveboy heart-throb (voiced by Ryan Reynolds). Seriously, he actually IS fairly hot – I think he’s even better looking than his voice actor. Check him out:

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So, anyway, teenage cavegirl sees this light one night and leaves the safety of the cave to follow it. Turns out it’s something called fire, which hot caveboy (who is further evolved than the Croods) has discovered. Cavegirl instantly falls for caveboy. CaveDAD, of course, does NOT approve of this boy who has come along and made his daughter want to leave the safety of their cave. Caveboy wants her to join him as he follows the sun to what he thinks will be a safer place because he believes the world is ending.

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Unfortunately (but fortunately for the sake of the story, of course), The Croods cave is destroyed in an earthquake. The Croods then have no choice but to follow caveboy to a safer place.

The story then goes exactly how you’d expect it to. Caveboy eventually earns cavedad’s trust as they make their way on their long journey to a safer land (That’s really not a spoiler to anyone who’s ever watched any movie EVER). And of course cavedad and cavedaughter end up bonding and cavedad learns that it’s important to live your life instead of always being scared & hiding away from everything (Again – not exactly a spoiler. We’ve all seen Finding Nemo!). 😉

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In all honesty, though, The Croods isn’t bad & it’s even a bit better than I was expecting. It starts out a little slow and, of course, everything is very drab & colorless when they won’t stray far from their cave. Once they follow hot caveboy, though, they find a lovely green & colorful land filled with all kinds of strange & wonderful creatures. The movie was a lot more fun to watch once this happened.

As for the characters, the main three I mentioned are fine. As with any animated story, you need a main set of characters like these to drive the story along. But, as is very important in animated kids films, you need some fun extra characters to provide the comic relief. The other characters that make up The Croods are:

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– The Cavegrandmother (voiced by Cloris Leachman). She’s the mother-in-law to cavedad so you get all your typical “I hate my mother-in-law” type jokes there. She’s fine. She’s crazy, of course. Cloris Leachman always does a great crazy-old-lady (love her as this in the TV show Raising Hope).

– The Cavemother (voiced by Catherine Keener). Not funny or anything – just a typical animated mother-type. Fine but a little boring. The voice of reason when Cavedad is being ridiculous (of course).

– The Cavebrother. Not much to say about him. He’s the most boring of the characters. He’s, of course, extremely dumb.

– The Baby Cavesister. She’s a fairly entertaining character. She’s like a rabid little dog, which is kind of cute.

– Belt. This was my favorite character. He’s a sloth who’s caveboy’s pet (and also acts as his belt, holding caveboy’s pants up). He does a funny little thing a few times in the movie – I won’t give it away (best bit in the movie- not sure if it’s been in trailers anyway). Best character – should have been used slightly more.

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Summary: The Croods is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from DreamWorks. It’s not the best animated DreamWorks film but it’s not the worst – it’s probably somewhere in the middle. The kids will be entertained but the adults might lose interest a few times & zone out (I actually had to look up what destroyed their cave because I seemed to space out at that point in the movie – it was suddenly destroyed & I had NO idea why). It’s not gonna change the world. Go to it. Zone out. Eat some popcorn. Laugh at Belt. Be annoyed when sometimes Nicolas Cage sounds a bit too Nicolas Cage-y. 🙂

My Rating: 6/10

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