10 CLOVERFIELD LANE REVIEW

*NEW* LA LA LAND REVIEW *NEW*

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Over-hyped drivel.

Well, that’s what I thought I was going to say.

Overrated, maybe? But as much as I tried to resist the crazy hype train, I still couldn’t help but fall for this highly watchable and entertaining romp.

A jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) falls for an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) in Los Angeles.

The opening sequence did nothing to win me over. Despite director Damien Chazelle’s opening credit titles and Cinemascope capture mimicking the days of old; it was too much.

People jumping out of their cars, free-runners . . . free-running, the word ‘chaotic’ doesn’t come close. I couldn’t even hear the lyrics being sung.

All that was missing was a truck with some bongo players in the back . . . Oh, wait, no. There they are.

The soundtrack was a little disappointing. The first two or three songs were highly unmemorable.

Chazelle’s disorienting camera work and ever-growing ensembles combined with his incredibly mad and colourful palette felt like a shot of insulin being given to a caffeine addict. Overkill.

However . . .

I will admit. I’m not the biggest fan of Gosling and Stone. There’s just something about them that grate against me. The Help and The Nice Guys being exceptions.

BUT once the couple were finally brought to the fold, my grumbling was subdued.

Both caught up in their own testing life struggles from Mia’s awkward cringe-inducing auditions to Seb accomplishing his dreams of running a jazz bar.

The concept was hardly original. The focal point of the piece was just like any other musical. A love story.

BUT despite its predictable nature, Chazelle managed to cross exam a relationship from its crazy highs to its downbeat lows. All aided by fantastic chemistry between two brilliant leads and a good script.

I didn’t realise Gosling could play the piano. He was fantastic. City of Stars was probably the only song that I (annoyingly) can’t stop whistling. That blasted piano rift!

I thought the pair’s singing was very good. Considering they aren’t professionals, they sung very well. Stone’s rendition of Audition was excellent.

In all fairness, I would have been happier to watch more of their dancing. A Lovely Night was a bit of a weak song BUT with Justin Hurwitz’s score and the duo’s late night toe tapping dance in the dusk, I was entranced.

The whole thing had a slight air of Astaire and Rogers about it.

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That was until their beautifully shot ballroom dance in the Griffin Observatory. Dancing in the stars. Cheesy but a nice touch with a fitting nod to A Rebel Without A Cause.

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I knew the Whiplash director would sneak jazz into the mix. The only problem was that I’m NOT the biggest fan. I’m sure Seb would have a few choice words to say about that. For those who’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean.

There were some good songs BUT it all felt a little samey to me and the pace was starting to test. If it wasn’t for Gosling’s (and Chazelle’s) enthusiasm, I would have found all the jazz trivia a little dull.

BUT I was engaged in the couple. We watched their romance blossom over the seasons as their paths crossed time and time again. Fate playing its little game.

Laughing as they inevitably fell in love and wincing as the strain of their busy lifestyles took its toll. We could all relate to moments that the pair experienced.

The epilogue was unexpected. Just when I thought I had the film pegged, Chazelle managed to surprise. And not even the Twitter references and endless memes spoiled what was a wonderfully captured and fitting swansong.

The set design, the layout, the choreography. Fantastic.

The hype may have hindered. From all the astounding comments you’d think people hadn’t seen a musical before?!

I’m not saying I’m the biggest musical fan. BUT I don’t hate them either. West Side Story, On The Town, Chicago, Singin’ In The Rain, Moulin Rouge are classics I could watch again and again (Bet you weren’t expecting me to name those titles).

As much as I enjoyed this, I wouldn’t rush to make a special trip to see it again.

La La Land certainly celebrated the much missed presence of an absent genre. I tried to compile a list of musicals in the last decade. Not many came to mind; Frozen, Sing Street (A must watch) and . . . shudder . . . High School Musical.

As much as I felt this may have been over-hyped by awards buzz, it was still an entertaining watch from two underrated actors.

Unless you’re completely anti-musical. If so then why you are here?

3.5/5 (Just)

*OSCAR WINNER* WHIPLASH REVIEW

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The verdict is in. It may have won an Oscar BUT did it get a yes from the Mad Movie Ranter? There’s only one way to find out. Drum roll, please.

An intense psychological thriller + two stellar performances = one happy film goer.

One of the better ones. I have to say J.K. Simmons deserved that Oscar for Best Supporting Actor without a doubt. I originally banked my money on Edward Norton for Birdman. That was until I saw Whiplash.

So what’s it about? A promising young drummer (Miles Teller) enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor (J.K. Simmons) who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.

Impressive work all round. The leads were superb and writer/director Damien Chazelle pens an impressive feature breaking away from his earlier efforts (The Last Exorcism Part II). He will certainly be one to watch in the future.

Teller (21 & Over/That Awkward Moment) proved he could actually act and act well. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to take him seriously after 21 and Over, That Awkward Moment and Divergent. BUT he was fantastic.

Ironically, however, he was always going to play second fiddle to Simmon’s Fletcher.

I have always rated Simmons as an actor and desperately craved for him to get a meatier role than the tidbits he was given. Bar Spiderman, of course.

And at last, we got one. J. Jonah Jameson, no more! I couldn’t take my eyes off him (Not like that. Behave and eugh!).

The opening sequence perfectly established both characters. Teller’s Andrew, an isolated loner intent on perfecting his craft, the drums. Constantly trying to be faster and better. Pushing himself and his body.

Enter Fletcher from the dark hallway. Slick and charming. Passionate for music. One bad note and he changes in an instant. Storming out into the dark abyss.

Thus starting a psychological battle for ambition and perfection and one of the better films I have seen this year.

Fletcher’s volatile behaviour keeps you on tenterhooks throughout the film.

Smooth and calming one second, demanding and violent the next.

The volatility was intense. In one scene, he throws a cymbal at Andrew’s head and slaps him over and over until he can identify the mistake he has made.

Relentless, dark BUT hypnotic. Some of Fletcher’s earlier put downs were quite comical. Nothing more than any teacher you got in an 80s comedy BUT it soon brews into something much more.

You constantly question why Andrew continues to take such savage treatment from such a deluded instructor?

BUT the more you see of his daily routine and his dinner dates with his dad (Paul Reiser), you soon realise that maybe Fletcher isn’t the only deluded player in the game.

It is a great examination piece on the lengths that people will go to achieve greatness.

By the end, you wonder who the real monster was. Is it Fletcher the volatile perfectionist? Or Andrew the self-isolated masochist who constantly pushed himself until his fingers literally bled?

It was great to see Paul Reiser (Mad About You) back in the mix. He played Teller’s father well but there wasn’t enough of him to be honest. But I think that’s kind of the point. Probing and providing some sort of explanation into Andrew’s psyche and behaviour.

Melissa Benoist (Glee) and Teller had good chemistry together and made their couple seem quite real. Normally, you get the awkward cheesy guff BUT it was played down and done quite well. I wanted more of that dynamic.

The drum solo sequences do go on a little bit BUT that is coming from someone who is not a jazz fan. The songs (when NOT interrupted by the foul mouthed Fletcher dispersing insults or instruments) were very good.

The pace dipped a little halfway through the film UNTIL an unexpected moment. NO SPOILERS! I didn’t see it coming and the finale. Just wow! Everything coming to an explosive end, metaphorically.

It was tense, nail biting and riveting. I came out of the screen NOT wailing, like Fletcher, at another film for “NOT BEING ON MY TIME!” but pleasantly surprised and rewarded.

This gets a 3.5/5 BUT I may change this to a 4.

I am very hard to please (Steady now). To get a 3.5 is pretty damn good for a fellow art lover desperately seeking perfection.

If you want a suspenseful psychological thriller with two brilliant and extremely underrated actors, then I can’t think of many other titles. Invest.