*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)

*NEW* BAD SANTA 2 REVIEW *NEW*

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Was it just bad or ho-ho-ho-horrible!

Nothing on the original BUT a whole lot better than anything I could have expected.

Crude, vulgar, wrong BUT oh so funny.

Fuelled by cheap whiskey, greed and hatred, Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) teams up once again with his angry little sidekick, Marcus (Tony Cox) to knock off a Chicago charity on Christmas Eve.

From all the poor ratings I expected worse. The original was good BUT it was hardly groundbreaking comedy.

It was a breath of fresh air watching a foul mouthed SC screwing and boozing his way though life after all the corny and sickly sweet Christmas films that bombard us during the wintry period. BUT can lightning strike twice for Billy Bob?

In a nutshell, meh.

Has it really been 13 years?! Did we need another one?

From the incredibly sweary and dreary opening, it felt we never left with Willie killing his liver and vomming down an alleyway.

Thornton hasn’t changed one bit and delivered yet again. Bringing his silver tongue and miserable demeanour to the fold. He quickly summed up the 13 year gap. The only shocker being an absent Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls).

The first 20 minutes was so wrong and quite dark with Willie trying to top himself by sticking his head in an electric oven. Thankfully, a surprise visit from an old friend soon stopped him in his tracks.

Brett Kelly was hilarious as Thurman Merman. Apart from turning 21, his appearance hadn’t changed at all. He stole the show and worked really well off Thornton. His naive and bizarre outlook on life and Christmas cracked me up.

I was a little disappointed at his limited screen time. I know that Willie was trying to push Thurman away to save him from ruining his life BUT the loveable dimwit just won’t give up on the gutter mouthed grouch.

His return to the mix later on in the movie was a much needed injection to the piece when the pace (and gags) tragically lagged.

Cox and Thornton were a great dysfunctional duo once they made amends over Marcus’ backstabbing. The insults and put downs were relentless.

I couldn’t believe they got Kathy Bates in this as Willie’s mother. She gave it a good ol’ go as the pair tried to get over their fractious relationship for one big score. Welcoming the woman who brought him into the world with a punch in the face.

They weren’t a bad mother/son combination BUT we already had one foul mouthed drunk; we didn’t need another. It felt like a competition with the pair trying to out gross each other BUT there was fun to be had. One scene had me in tears. I think it was improvised because it was a lot funnier than it should have been. All I’ll say is pizza.

Mike Starr’s (Dumb and Dumber) unexpected cameo as a lecherous SC delivered a mad punch up. He managed to make Willie look like a decent human being. For a second.

The first hour actually had me in stitches. It was filthy crude humour BUT it did the job. A shame that momentum couldn’t stick. The remaining 30 minutes was a lot more strenuous and hard going.

I wasn’t really a fan of Jenny Zigrino after her cringe-inducing turn in Fifty Shades of Black and she did nothing to win me over in this either. Other than playing on her build, she didn’t bring anything to the mix and just wasn’t funny. Cox’s attempts to woo her were dull and boring.

Jeff Skowron was incredibly annoying as Dorfman. The security guard intent on foiling Willie’s plan. Bernie Mac, he ain’t. Could have done with someone like him in this.

I had actually forgotten that Octavia Spencer featured in the first one. Good to see her return in a small cameo as the washed up hooker Opal BUT some might see it as a bit of a step down after her stellar performance in The Help.

Christina Hendricks proved she was game and I wasn’t complaining watching Mad Men’s Joan Holloway getting down and dirty BUT it wasn’t really that funny.

I know it was supposed to mirror Willy missing Graham’s Sue BUT after a couple of scenes, the bonking and screaming profanities got repetitive pretty quick.

There were several scenes that were just retreads of the original and nowhere near as entertaining. The frantic finale did get a little predictable and ended on such an incredibly flat and unfunny footnote with the laughs few and far between. Shame.

However, it was still quite watchable and killed the time. Fans of the original will find some saving graces in this. Just don’t expect too much.

2.5/5

*NEW* SUICIDE SQUAD REVIEW *NEW*

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Meh. I didn’t hate it. Didn’t love it either.

Based on the DC Comic, the government gives a team of super villains a chance at redemption. The catch: their mission will probably kill them all.

The first 30 minutes was brilliant. It hit the ground running and got straight to business.

Director David Ayer’s rapid quick cut editing and mad eclectic soundtrack ticked all the boxes as each dysfunctional member of this demented squad were introduced with their own theme song and back story.

A little silly BUT it gave off that Guardians of the Galaxy vibe.

BUT despite doing a good job of flicking through everybody’s origins and getting them into the mix as quickly as possible, more time should have spent on that.

I don’t think newbies or non-DC fans need to know too much going in BUT I was more intrigued in the back stories we were teased with than the Enchantress’ apocalypse plot.

We only had a taster of the warped relationship between Harley Quinn and the Joker in several flashbacks.

The biggest scene stealer and the one I was looking forward to seeing was (of course) Margot Robbie (Wolf of Wall Street).

She captured Quinn perfectly. Mental and vexing in one scene, troubled and lost the next. And not too bad on the eye either (What?). She really picked up the pace which tragically lagged.

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Jared Leto, on the other hand, failed to make an impression on me. I was unconvinced by his clips in the trailers.

I said the same thing for Heath Ledger back in the day BUT he proved me wrong tenfold and became one of the best Jokers I’ve seen.

I mean there were a lot of factors going against Leto. BUT after hearing all the weird method acting rumours and the lengths he went to get into character, he was only in this for 15 minutes.

He looked the part BUT in one scene, he won me over; the next he infuriated and that laugh! Sounded like he was trying to cough up something stuck in the back of his throat.

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He wasn’t really necessary or needed in this piece as Harley’s origin story was rushed through too quickly.

BUT this wasn’t the Joker’s movie. It was supposed to be about the Suicide Squad.

I had to agree with someone who said this movie should have been called Deadshot. We had more exposition and focus on Will Smith’s hitman than we did on anybody else.

We had his troubled relationship with his daughter. Animosity towards the Caped Crusader.

I thought this could be a different role for Smith BUT he provided his usual spiel and whether it was the shoddy lines in the script, it just didn’t work. I was impressed with the effects and Deadshot’s shooting skills BUT it soon got very repetitive and very dull.

His fractious relationship with Joel Kinnaman’s Flag was the only thing that broke up the monotonous action. I haven’t really rated Kinnaman in his Hollywood endeavours (The less we say about Robocop, the better) BUT he was great as Flag. The rock that was weighing down on this bunch of parasites.

Jai Courtney’s Boomerang should have been so much better than he was. His quips and quirky behaviour had potential BUT wasn’t really explored. All we knew was that he carried cans of beer and a pink unicorn under his jacket. Okay then.

Karen Fukuhara’s Katana was a waste of time. An unnecessary addition to a bloated squad. Everyone else had a quick synopsis about their past. All we got was a quick flashback to an irrelevant street brawl to explain why she was late for the party.

Oh . . . and some guff about her sword bearing the soul of her dead husband?! What? Why? By the end, I didn’t care.

Adam Beach’s Slipknot was also another waste. His introduction nothing more than a statement from Flag (and a poor one at that). Jay Hernandez’ Diablo just moped around. His personal reasons for not fighting were so freakin’ predictable that by the time he wanted to share, I wanted him gone.

Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje (LOST) was another disappointment as Killer Croc. The make-up and effects were brilliant BUT he was in the background far too much.

Viola Davis (The Help) and Ike Barinholtz (Bad Neighbours) made more memorable turns! Frankly, Davis wasn’t in this enough BUT thankfully we might be seeing more of her.

The second half ruined the whole thing. It took such a sombre turn and got far too serious with our motley crew all suddenly growing a conscience.

I didn’t think the team really gelled enough to forge proper bonds and considering how violent and anti-social they were, they decide to look out for each other and become pals in one night? Come on. It hampered the momentum of the piece a treat.

They spent so much of the running time squabbling, escaping or sulking. The relationships were either forced or clichéd.

The middle act meandered along and when we weren’t subjected to petty feuds, we had a ridiculous end of the world plot that had me in stitches.

The supernatural stuff didn’t work one bit. Cara Delevigne did her best as the Enchantress BUT her character was far too weak and the shoddy CGI didn’t do her any favours.

What was the deal with her demon dance?! She was supposed to be summoning a death machine NOT the funky chicken.

The story line got so stupid that you began to wonder why we needed these guys in the first place.

Especially when we had cameos from a couple *COUGH* SPOILERS *COUGH* members of the Justice League. And that finale was so hammy and stupid. The demon fight sequence – what da fuq?

Mixed bag, to say the least. I’ve seen a lot worse.

A mad riotous opening first half was spoiled by a lagging pace, clichéd dialogue and a complete mismatch in tone with a ridiculous finale.

If Ayer could have kept that mad energy and stopped trying to be like every other superhero film, then we would have had a winner.

A fun mess that’s not completely worth the mauling it’s received.

2.5/5

*NEW* IRRATIONAL MAN REVIEW *NEW*


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Just like the protagonist. Strange, dark and all over the place.

A tormented philosophy professor (Joaquin Phoenix – Walk The Line) finds a will to live when he commits an existential act.

“All we do is talk, talk, talk”. I should have known what to expect from an Allen flick. The guy loves to talk. After watching Irrational Man, I’ve finally accepted that I’m NOT the biggest Woody Allen fan. BUT at least it featured one of Phoenix’s best performances.

The mind numbing opening didn’t really build my hopes up with Phoenix’s troubled Abe waffling on about morality and aesthetics. I felt like I was sitting in a philosophical lecture. Yikes.

The premise was hardly original. A radical professor shakes up the quiet life of a high school academic achiever. The first act trundled along at an easygoing pace with the predictable and nauseating romance blossoming between Emma Stone (The Help) and Phoenix.

The pair had good chemistry BUT somehow Stone just grated against me. Her role nothing more than an audition to be the next Diane Keaton. Strong willed and independent in one frame. Annoying and a chatterbox, the next.

You couldn’t find a better choice for an irrational man than Joaquin Phoenix. He really did carry the piece. There were moments to be had as he tried to avoid the flirtatious advances of his work colleague (played brilliantly by Parker Posey – Superman Returns). He even churned out some quick witted one liners; referring to his own philosophical theories as “verbal masturbation”.

His path to destruction made for engaging viewing. A man truly on the brink. Teaching his students a lesson in existentialism with a loaded gun and a game of Russian roulette.

BUT it was all a little too slow and pretentious for my liking. Listening to Phoenix’s philosophical ramblings and watching Stone inevitably fall for him while bleating on to her long suffering boyfriend (Jamie Blackley – If I Stay) really did test me.

However, my interest was finally peaked when the film went in a completely different direction. A change in tone and Abe’s character transformed a typical Allen rom-com into a black comedy.

My griping was soon put on hold as Abe set out on a moral crusade to punish a judge after overhearing a custody battle conversation at a diner. Random, strange BUT intriguing.

A slow burning stake out unfolded as Abe contemplated seeking justice on the small town judge. The dark thoughts turning into actions as our irrational man tries to rationalize this insane situation and the aftermath that inevitably followed.

The only problem was that, despite this much needed change in pace and tone, it was all a little mismatched. Too light and easygoing to be taken seriously. And even when things finally took a darker turn with Abe’s crusade and demented new lease on life, the end result was flat and didn’t really deliver after all the promise.

I could appreciate the irony of it all BUT it was all over the place. A watchable mess. It didn’t help that the leads’ chemistry wasn’t strong enough for me to care by the finale. Shame.

A sterling turn from Phoenix and a strange premise did enough to keep me watching BUT I won’t be taking this class again any time soon.

2.5/5

BIRDMAN REVIEW

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It didn’t make me fly for the exit. Strange, bizarre, funny and different. A breath of fresh air.

A promising start for a new year in film. Hopefully.

A somewhat slow opening did leave me a little anxious after the endless hype. So much so that two people left within 15 minutes!

BUT it was merely adjusting you to Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu’s (Babel) style and setting up the pieces.

Preparation for what would lie in store. A darkly comical acting tour de force as one man descends into madness.

So what is it about? A washed-up actor Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.

At first glance, the washed up actor shaking off his superhero status and Michael Keaton probably hit home a little too well. BUT what a resurgent return from the Dark Knight. It is not as if he really left. Come on, he was in The Other Guys and Need for Speed (The less we say about that one, the better).

When Keaton’s character was first introduced, I felt he was drowned out by the rather animated and incredibly talented supporting cast. His performance didn’t seem to justify the hype. BUT by the end, oh boy, was I wrong! He was remarkable. A powerhouse performance. Vulnerable in one shot, volatile and violent the next.

The Broadway play setting was a perfect platform to unearth personal problems, dig up rivalries and delve into fractious relationships and affairs. The rehearsals may seem a little repetitive but as we delve more into each character’s issues and flaws, it brings a different dimension and take on that same bit of dialogue and scene. Expertly captured and cleverly written.

This all helped make this simple dark comedy drama turn into something so much more. Riggan has to deal with the stress of the play as well as his inner demon. Taking the form of an avarian comic book superhero with the voicing style of Beetlejuice. Brilliant.

I loved how Innaritu incorporated the “super real” fictional theatre scene into the real world. The meta-textual references were brilliant and really added to the film. The digs at the Avengers franchise and celebrities brought a little grin. The open criticisms in how people don’t want to watch films with long drawn out philosophical talking and how they want big, dumb, action packed blockbusters was spot on!

The cinematography was superb. Emmanuel Lubezki manipulated the camera work and editing to make it appear like one continuous long take. It certainly kept things moving but the 119 minute length did feel a little long at the tooth in parts.

I wonder if Keaton incorporated some of his own troubles into the film. In one of Riggan’s arguments with his “Birdman” alter ego who at this point harassing him to do another Birdman sequel, Riggan yells out, “That was 1992! Get over it!”Coincidentally, the year Batman Returns was released. Hmmm . . .

The supporting cast were fantastic. Consisting of the likes of the flirtatious Andrea Riseborough (Oblivion), the insecure Naomi Watts (The Impossible) and the snidey film critic hell bent on ruining Riggan’s opening night, Lindsay Duncan (About Time).

Once Emma Stone (The Help) was given the screen time, she was (to be expected) very good as Riggan’s drug addict daughter.

Amy Ryan (The Wire) was wasted in her small role. Not enough of her. She had good chemistry with Keaton and I felt more could have been made of the broken family dynamic. She didn’t even interact with Stone’s character at all. Merely popping in lulls after Riggan’s meltdowns.

Zach Galifinakis (The Hangover) played a much more subdued role to what I was used to. He actually got to do a spot of acting as well as delivering the laughs.

BUT the main scene stealer that rivalled Keaton through out the film was Edward Norton (American History X). His portrayal of Mike was fantastic. Egotistical with a penchant for some improvised method acting. Constantly seeking attention and out to undo Riggan’s work, undermining and offering “suggestions”. I couldn’t stop watching him. Scene stealing in almost every turn.

Without spoiling too much, Birdman does get a little random and bizarre in parts as you don’t know how many of Riggan’s encounters and altercations are actually happening.

The ending may split people. But for me I liked it. It was one of those that was open for interpretation. Something that appeared cut and dry but was it?

I mean, this is most definitely a mood piece. If you’re in the mood for something a little different, then I recommend it. BUT if not, then maybe steer clear.

It’s not without it’s imperfections; a questionable pace and a slow opening, along with some irritating drum music did dampen things (BUT only a little). Seriously the drumming got on my nerves. It worked as Riggan reached breaking point, the drumming getting faster and faster as it drew to it’s climax. BUT throughout, it was just racket.

However, once you get past that, it’s a cleverly written multi-layered dark comedy drama that is fantastically acted by an incredible cast. A good piece of film-making that for a moment restored my faith in films.

3.5/5

BUT the more I think about that ending. This may change to a 4. So watch this space.