La La Land

Every scene in La La Land is a sight to behold. From stunning visuals to beautiful costume design, there doesn’t seem to be one imperfection; for Damien Chazelle’s masterful musical is two hours and seven minutes of pure, inimitable joy and heady emotion – with a handful of momentous genre moments to marvel at.

Chazelle celebrates the nostalgia of the movie musical while reinventing it with scene after scene of smile-inducing filmmaking that is such a treasure to discover for the first time. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling – who have previously been paired together in Gangster Squad and Crazy, Stupid, Love – share a sentimental on-screen chemistry that is at once moving and believable.

The triumph in La La Land is in Chazelle’s ability to write and direct a surreal and magical romance that manages to transport you to another realm while breaking your heart with its realistic handling of a modern relationship. It’s a true phenomenon of a movie. Stone gives the best performance of her career while Gosling constantly disarms you with his ever-pervading charm and boyish good looks. Both are perfectly cast here.

Justin Hurwitz has composed a score for the ages with understated tracks such as City of Stars and Mia & Sebastian’s Theme, while big numbers like Another Day of Sun hark back to Singin’ in the Rain and the glory days of Hollywood. Each song drips with warmth and wonder as the central love story takes us on a journey through a somewhat re-imagined Los Angeles. The music is as powerful as a mode of storytelling as the screenplay is – a true testament to the power of a truly good musical.

Lavish, delicately written, beautifully acted, and dastardly heart-wrenching – La La Land is everything, and more, you could ever wish for from a film.

 

Blade Runner 2049

I recently read an article that claimed ‘Blade Runner 2049 is a misogynistic mess’. As an avid film fan – and as a woman – this bold statement made me feel uneasy. And despite being a less than avid science fiction fan, but a feminist, I instantly disagreed. Here’s why:

  • The majority of the film’s supporting characters are women who are fierce, brave, intelligent and in control, including Robin Wright who is quite literally the superior to Ryan Gosling’s K. Wright’s character meets a fate that is certainly dark and grisly but it feels, significantly, under her own terms as she works to protect a secret.
  • The fundamental narrative for the film is based on a startling discovery by the renamed Tyrell Corporation described as a ‘miracle’ which a character from the first film, Rachael – basically the answer to the development of a decaying civilisation – , is responsible for.
  • Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace has a female replicant assistant known as Luv (Sylvia Hoeks). Luv is way beyond average in combat and fiercely loyal. She is also the most feared character in the film and makes for a terrifying opponent to K and Deckard. Like legit, she is mega scary. Luv‘s character is also much more developed than Leto’s Wallace, and the real antagonist of the film.
  • There is a pending replicant uprising against the humans and, you guessed it, it’s being helmed by a woman who commands respect and holds authority.

Women do play roles in Blade Runner 2049 which are challenging, and the film delivers a bleak and unpleasant look at the future, but for both sexes. And isn’t a bleak and unsettling dystopian future the point of Blade Runner? This new world is shown with such visual mastery at such an involving level you can’t help but believe it’s all real. I think to call this sequel misogynistic is to do the film, and the point of the role women play within the film, a disservice. Also, Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, Mackenzie Davis and Carla Juri are all exceptional. There is obvious imagery of the female body as spectacle, but it’s not gratuitous, and the sheer scale of the visuals are placed to make you gasp in awe rather than horror.

Villeneuve has created a superior modern day movie that looks not too far into the future in intricate detail, provided by master cinematographer Roger Deakins. From giant set pieces to revolutionary visual effects, the Californian landscape created in Blade Runner 2049 is an absolute vision to behold. Looks aside, there’s a hair-raising score of dreams provided by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch and genre fans will revel in it. The film is 163 minutes of gold and must be seen in the cinema. Perhaps too long, but beguiling enough to keep its audience tuned in.

To perceive Blade Runner 2049 as misogynistic is to misunderstand its intentions. And to misunderstand its intentions as a piece of world class cinema would be a shame. Villeneuve has made something so special here from a piece of filmmaking that was already revered so highly, and cemented himself as a true auteur in the process. See it, love it, and don’t overthink it.

The Nice Guys Review

In The Nice Guys Private Investigator Holland March and tough guy for hire Jackson Healy must work together to find missing woman Amelia. Violence and hilarity ensue as Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe showcase their comedy smarts in Shane Black’s 1970’s set romp.

Black’s feature, which is an ode to buddy films of the past, is in some part a tribute to the culture of 1970’s America. Set in Los Angeles, smog and killer bees and are on the brain along with porn stars and escalating crime. Holland March (Gosling), a PI with a drinking habit and single father to Holly (Angourie Rice), is charged with finding adult actress Misty Mountains but instead ends up trailing activist and runaway Amelia Kutner (Margaret Qualley). Crowe’s Healy is drawn into the mix and begrudgingly hires Holland for his services; together the two men embark on a wild goose trace to track down their target, finding themselves involved in the case of numerous murders within the adult film world.

The Nice Guys successfully transports its audience to 1977, capturing the era well with a scorching soundtrack made up of Earth, Wind & Fire, Kool & The Gang and The Temptations, and vibrant costume design from Kym Barrett. Black’s screenplay is genuinely hilarious and his two protagonists have fun flexing their comedic muscles in amongst ludicrous set pieces and many an injury. Almost dream-like in narrative (spot President Nixon), there’s an emotional core which grounds the flick and keeps it from descending into complete meaningless madness. Rice as Holly is an absolute star and she should have a promising career ahead of her, while Kim Basinger and Yaya DaCosta confidently support our two male leads. The whole cast thrives here and we have just as much fun watching the narrative unfold as they seem to acting it out.

Gosling, Rice and Crowe in The Nice Guys

While Black’s nostalgia-fuelled feature made little at the Box Office it’s been a hit amongst critics and is a total triumph that is very nearly flawless. It perhaps might be a little too violent for some and the action sequences come thick and fast, but these don’t completely consume the story and there is plenty of room left for sharp wit and moments of dialogue that boasts some of the best writing in comedy filmmaking we’ve seen in a long while.

The movie is also touchingly sentimental when appropriate as Holly, her father and his new friend form a bond that speaks more of family than friendship and the plot comes full circle, never relying on its violent asides to keep the audience entertained. While there are moments of shocking spectacle these are counterbalanced by farce-like comedy that intelligently steers away from the film becoming darkly serious.

The Nice Guys takes its audience on a wacky, fun-fuelled journey back in time while Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe have immense fun as two pals up against a whole mob of Hollywood bad guys. A total riot.

Drive, 2011 – Understated Filmmaking At Its Very Best

It’s likely that if you’re reading this review you’ve already seen Drive; a film full of ingenuity and originality, one that stuck in the minds of cinema-goers for some time following its release. There are myriad ways in which Nicholas Winding Refn’s masterpiece leaves a lasting impression. From the eclectic, nostalgic score to the punch-you-in-the-face violence, Drive has an endearing quality despite the underlying brutality and the hard-to-crack impassioned characteristics of Ryan Gosling’s The Driver. Having said that, these are the refinements that allow Drive to transcend a particular mood – a feeling that evolves and changes from viewer to viewer, but one that evokes questions of morality, ethics and life choices. Aesthetically Drive looks as though it could of been released in the 1980’s with its simplistic set pieces and mise en scene; as an entire piece the various components come together to make Refn’s feature an entirely contemporary movie.

The main talking point following the release of Drive was Ryan Gosling’s nail-biting performance as this character who is seemingly impossible to read. The Driver is passionate but somewhat psychotic, with a malevolence that hangs uncomfortably in the air – when will he turn, and who will bare the brunt of it? Gosling adopted this antihero almost silently, yet so memorably. He went on to play another quietly haunting role in Refn’s art-house film Only God Forgives, this didn’t, however, inspire the same kind of reception from its audience. The Driver, the titular character of the film, is on the brink of losing any shred of humanity he still encompasses, there are two people who can save him from becoming completely engulfed in a life of violence and gangsters – Carey Mulligan’s Irene and her son Benecio (played by Kaden Leos). Said gangsters are led by Ron Perlman; an actor of diverse talent yet one who is so comfortable playing the antagonist. As Nino, Perlman channels a barbaric streak that slowly simmers throughout the film up until the moment in which the unspoken cruelty becomes visually grim (it’s these scenes that distinguish Refn as a filmmaker unafraid of challenging his audience).

ryan gosling as the driver in drive

ryan gosling as the driver in drive

Categorised as neo-noir, art house, crime and drama (the list could go on to include romance with Mulligan and Gosling sharing a sizzling on-screen chemistry that simmers in the background) Drive is genre busting at its very best. Adapted from the 2005 novel of the same name written by James Sallis, penned by Hossein Amini and with cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel, Refn and co’ collaborate to ensure the feature stays clear of  clumsy criminal underworld cliches and a formulaic narrative that can be called from start to finish. The Los Angeles setting is refreshing too. With a gritty, moggy look on the eyes and a juxtaposition of The Driver‘s life on and off set, the locale is as pivotal to the story in the way that Mulligan and Bryan Cranston are, just as Gosling’s dialogue delivery is.

Whether you’re going into the film from a new perspective or you’re a returning viewer already aware of just how important the movie is within the world of cinema, Drive is a fresh watch each and every time you set your eyes upon it. Cinematic genius that’s stripped back and unforgettable. It made Gosling the respectable star he is today and set the tone for the films that have followed, but yet viewers still return for more of Nicholas Winding Refn’s incomparable feature that sparkles like a fresh penny.

Future films to get excited for

One of the best thing’s about being a film fanatic is the fact that there is an endless supply of new material to get your teeth stuck into. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the films to come at the end of this year, and the new year and this inspired me to write this post about those films! I would also love to hear about what up-and-coming projects have got you excited, so drop a comment and let me know! I’ve selected four films to chat about, all completely different, some with a release date in the next few months, some not until later on in 2015, but all unique and hella-exciting.

gosling on the set of lost river

gosling on the set of lost river

First up, Lost River, a film that has already been screened (at the Cannes Film Festival), to both positive and negative reactions from the audience. Lost River is the first directorial effort from actor Ryan Gosling, and has technically been released (but is yet to hit UK cinemas, so for the sake of this post, we’ll make an exception and include it!). Gosling is said to take great influence from directors like David Lynch and pal Nicholas Winding Refn, but the word on the street after its Cannes debut was that Lost River looked and felt all too familiar, meaning Gosling’s abilities as a director were definitely questioned by critics and film-goers alike. Despite this 50/50 reaction from the film’s premier in May (its said that some of the audience even got up and walked out), the trailer, and plot, definitely gave me reason to be both excited, and intrigued, to see what Gosling has to offer here. Starring previous co-stars Ben Mendelsohn (one of my favorite actors of the past couple of years), Christina Hendricks and Eva Mendes Lost River follows several characters (que some strange names including Bones, Rat and Bully) as they navigate life both above, and below water. All this seems pretty perplexing, and the trailer didn’t clear things up much more, but with a cast like this, and a director with a vision like Gosling’s, Lost River could be one of the best commercial art films in a long while (if Gosling can bring in a crowd for Only God Forgives, there’s hope).

Next up, a change in direction, and a look at a film that there is little to no information about. But this next offering is something to certainly get excited about; its Jurassic World! So, what do we know? The initial release date was said to be May, but now it looks like June 2015 is when it’ll hit (hola Summer blockbuster), Colin Trevorrow is taking the helm as director (an interesting choice here, bring Spielberg back!) and there’s an array of up-and-comers starring (including The Kings of Summer Nick Robinson and Twilight‘s Bryce Dallas Howard). So, a different director, and a whole new cast, but what of the story? The title seems to be pretty self-explanatory so far – Jurassic World will be set on Isla Nublar, twenty years after Jurassic Park (I don’t think anyone needs to be reminded what went on there), now a theme park open to anyone who wishes to visit (did they learn nothing?), it looks as though the dinos are gonna team up and take back the island for themselves. Filming wrapped in August so a teaser trailer can be expected soon, hopefully with a feature trailer to follow early in the new year. If Trevorrow can bring back the intensity of the original, and if there’s a new spin to the story, Jurassic World could patch up the wrong-doings of Jurassic Park 3. Watch this space.

the first poster for jurassic world is released

the first poster for jurassic world is released

Third up, another franchise re-working. Terminator: Genysis, has been on the cards for a while, and is finally in the works. A release date of Summer 2015 is expected at the moment (a little competition between this and Jurassic World perhaps?) and the film will welcome back Arny as the beloved (and equally hated) Terminator. Again, we have a bunch of up and coming actors to get ourselves info-d up on before it hits screens and a whole new look at a world full of killer robots. Sounds fun, right? Right now, I’m not sure whether to be excited or weary about the thought of a new Terminator film considering the franchise took a dip somewhat after Judgement Day, but with not a lot to go on right now my hopes are high that we’ll see a return to form (that form being the days when the Terminator films had witty humor, awe-inspiring effects and an original and unique storyline). Alan Taylor, director of Thor: The Dark World is taking the lead here, and with the success, and size of that, Taylor taking the helm could be pretty promising. Get ready to expect a re-imagining of a robot-lead world, time-hopping and lots of snazzy one-liners.

Last, but most certainly not least (this is actually the film I am most excited for), is Entourage, yes that’s right, there is going to be a film version of one of the funniest (and personally my most beloved) television shows to grace our screens. HBO, we love you. Not a lot needs to be said story-wise if you’re clued up on the series (if you’re not, you have until June 2015 to catch up, and trust me, it’ll be worth your time), as the film is going to take off exactly where things were wrapped up (in short, the boys all achieved what they had been after all along, and Ari discovered he didn’t need the business to be happy – or did he?). Dillon, Grenier, Piven, Ferrara, Connolly (plus more) are all to return, and expect some well-known celebs playing alter-egos of themselves, for your humorous effect of course. Whether you are already a fan, or completely oblivious of Entourage, you wont watch to miss what will be one of the funniest films of 2015. Never afraid to be controversial, and wonderfully adult, Entourage is a project to be excited for. Go and get that box-set, to either discover (or re-discover) the boys as they find their feet in Hollywood and become a permanent fixture on your T.V screen (and soon to be cinema screen).

These are just four of hundreds of films that will grace mine, and your, screens in the next year. There are so many more to research, mark in your calender, love/hate and discover from war drama Unbroken to the Bards Macbeth and adaptations like Tulip Fever. Enjoy!