Tuesday, 27 December 2016

MOVIE REVIEW: LA LA LAND



10/10 
 
A traffic jam on a busy LA highway. People stuck in their cars, each locked up in their own little world, waiting patiently (or not) for the opportunity to move forward. A boring everyday scene... until one of the drivers breaks into a song... what happens next has to be seen to be believed.
 
This is the opening of LA LA LAND, an original musical with catchy tunes and a well written book. It is also well acted. Who would know that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone could sing and dance like that? Their voices may not sound as good on a standalone soundtrack, but they are perfectly natural in a film where characters break into song for no apparent reason and start dancing spontaneously. Bottom line is... if you love musicals you will be absolutely taken by LA LA LAND. If you don't... well, you may just be converted. 
 
LA LA LAND, a love letter to Hollywood classics, is about dreamers, about a journey to a goal. What it gives and what it takes away. It is also about love, what love can represent for a determined person and it raises an important question - when you give your dream all you've got, is this love, a support mechanism, or distraction? Or both?
 
The director Damian Chapzelle, who himself had to give up a dream to become a jazz musician, is talking about something very close to his heart. LA LA LAND involves a lot of talent, the choreographers and the musicians, but what Chapzelle manages to nail is the dialogue and the realism of the relationship in a movie where realism does not exist by definition. The sugar coated settings and expanded romantisism allows the writer to be honest when required, and LA LA LAND delivers a few dramatic punches that are hardly expected from a Hollywood fairytale . 
 
But the most important thing in the film is the music. It is lavish and memorable, with one song that probably will be playing in your head is CITY OF STARS. Is it an Oscar nominee? This remains to be seen. Justin Horwitz has only one major soundtrack in his resume (For Whiplash, a previous film of Chapzelle) but has a touch of the master who understands musicals and is particularly brilliant as a jazz composer. 
 
At heart LA LA LAND is a small story, about small people with big dreams, with the problems easy to relate to and the love story you would wish a happy ending for with all your heart.  In a way, the plot lets you choose the conclusion you desire. Some movies tell you more about yourself, then the characters of its plot. LA LA LAND is this kind of film.
 

Sunday, 18 December 2016

MOVIE REVIEW: ROGUE ONE


8/10

 
Jyn Erso grew up doubting everyone, including her father, a scientist working for The Empire.  Just as he has completed his deadliest weapon yet Jyn is rescued from The Empire's clutches by the Rebels, in order to help to bring her father down. Reluctantly she agrees. What begins as a simple mission of introducing the Rebels to a family supporter and friend, turns into a fight for survival. Faced with the magnitude of the danger Jyn and her new found friends embark on a suicide mission to steal the plans of Death Star.

Serving as a link between the prequel trilogy and the original, ROGUE ONE ends where NEW HOPE begins. And all in between is an unexpectedly original take on the Star Wars universe that generates more suspense than your average sci-fi film. The outcome of the story may be known to all, but what is the fate of the new characters, that are so easy to love? ROGUE builds up to be a traditional STAR WARS movie, both in spirit and action. Until it breaks the rules...

ROGUE ONE is a rather dark take on the STAR WARS universe, where the shades of grey between good and evil are more profound than in any other instalment. Your expectations will be fulfilled, however. Quirky characters - check! Grumpy android - check! The carefully thought through universe with a multitude of different alien nations - check! Right dosage of humour - check! Not talking about action, which is amazing (just buy the artbook) and can be a subject for a separate review.

But....

and there's a big "BUT" coming. To say any more would be a spoiler.

ROGUE ONE is not a perfect film. There are problems with pacing and the story is too linear, but it can be applauded for bringing dilemmas into a well established franchise and doing something different in the end.

To sum it up, ROGUE ONE is a sort of a cold shower for those of us who grew up with a franchise. I needed a stiff drink when I got home. Will you?