‘La La Land’: Review

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La La Land works well enough because it operates within every preconceived notion and cliche of what you would be perceive this movie to be. It’s quirky, sends up Hollywood pictures of yesteryear and has a couple who meet then dislike each then like each other then date then have the best time of their lives then something UNEXPECTEDLY splits them apart then they become a “better” person from that relationship.

Now none of this is particularly bad per se, and La La Land has enough to distract from its formulaic misgivings, but still in doing so the film seems unoriginal in spite of what it’s trying to project on the screen. It so badly wants to rise from the ashes of all these old time Hollywood movies and become something different and masterful, but it’s still tied down by its trite machinations. I mean, sure, it’s not like the two main characters end up together happily ever after or anything like that, it’s not that formulaic, but it does the next best thing by having its cake and eating it too by saying, “Hey, we’re not gonna put them together, but see they’re better off for that and, awww, heck, fine, we’ll show you them together in some alternative world dream sequence.” Because the film is never content on straying TOO far from that happy Hollywood medium, less it get pulled out of its preordained rut. It’s a fine enough device, giving you the sad and happy by showing you both sides of how following your dreams or staying with a lover can work out either way and letting you choose what applies, but it still rings too cheap and easy.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are both exceptional in there roles, although I’m quite less enamoured with Stone even when while I still see the good stuff she’s putting out there. The writing and performances do a pretty good job in letting these characters be fun and eccentric without it veering too far into camp and seeming like these are just movie characters spouting these writer-speak words that nobody in real-life would ever say. In other words this movie wasn’t written by Diablo Cody. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but thinking that Gosling and Stone’s characters suffer from Gilmore Girls syndrome, where it’s all fun and charming to see them crack wise at each other and make funny little quips and have all these cutesy sayings, but imagine actually running into these people in real life and you won’t be able to find a razor blade fast enough to get away from these unbearable people.

I enjoyed all the musical aspects, ie breaking into song, but I honestly couldn’t help but thinking that the film didn’t really need any of it and at the end of things it just became more gimmicky than anything. There’s not a single song that stands out (good or bad) and it’s not like the film is worse off for any of it, or that it provides a disruption, it just seems like the musical aspect was force-fed into this movie that didn’t really need that to operate at a high level.

Believe it or not after the first four paragraphs that I wrote, but I actually liked this film. While I hated that it had to rely on so many cliches to get where it was going, it operates so well inside these cliches that it puts itself head and shoulders above what most do with them. Damien Chazelle is a good director and writer who crafts this film on such a grandiose stage thanks to his assured eye and vision that it’s hard to believe it’s only his third film. Everyone behind and in front of the camera delivers this whole package with such passion that it’s hard not to be moved by its emotion and the final grace notes from each character. La La Land is a film that loves old Hollywood musicals a bit too much, it has its own heart, but it just can’t resist the bright lights.

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‘Deadpool’: Review

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I am so sick of superhero movies. I’m not against the core concept, as generally engaging and entertaining movies can and have been mined from the concept of a superhero in both the action elements that obviously come with it, as well as the character and emotional aspects of how this person deals with the turmoils of being this different kind of person. Nowadays, though, these movies are so locked in to making money, it seems, that they’ve just become increasingly formulaic with all these characters blending into one where I don’t have any connection to any of them and thus don’t care about them or the movies.

In the Marvel canon, the only recent movies I’ve liked was the first Iron Man, due to it being something completely different from what we’d seen at the time, the depiction of a superhero not named Spiderman, Batman or Superman, the portrayal of the character by Robert Downey, Jr. and the overall fun the movie oozed. I enjoyed the Captain American movies, because although a superhero movie on the outset, at its core was a much more interesting spin on a investigative-type thriller with government-type organizations. The last movie I really enjoyed was Guardians Of The Galaxy again due to its out-of-the-box thinking and its penchant to just go all out and tell with whacky and fun story that at least presented itself as something new. Deadpool falls in line with this list, but to an even bigger degree in that it’s literally a superhero movie made to make fun of how boring and formulaic superhero movies are. Finally.

We all know the story behind Deadpool, with everybody dreaming about the idea of an R-rated superhero movie with swearing and brutal violence that could be built upon the money and resources that the Marvel films seemingly have unlimited of. The first step came in X-Men Origins: Wolverine where Deadpool would have a cameo, until the movie actually happened and Deadpool was this neutered gimp that barred hardly a resemblance to the character. The concept and possibility of the movie zig-zagged for a couple years, only to finally be put into overdrive when some test footage “leaked” and was met with a ton of positive reviews, with the scenes including all the badass Deadpool traits everybody was expecting from such a movie.

Deadpool works on a lot of different levels and mostly in embracing what kind of movie it is. It’s basically like if Marvel did their own version of an “independent” superhero movie. Credit to Marvel for letting the people who made the movie go literally and figuratively balls out. The movie never skimps on any of the violence, sex, language, references and crude humour that you’d expect from the character, not that that content automatically makes this or anything a “good” film, but when you’re dealing with this character and idea that gets so much of its energy and purpose from all that, it certainly allows the film to breathe and be what it needs to be. The film is very small in so-fact as there’s is only about two major fight scenes (which the movie makes fun of, including the scope of these fights being limited where in the movie Deadpool will forget to bring extra ammo and guns), there is only two tertiary side superhero characters, the villain is pretty basic, the plot is a pretty stripped down revenge idea and so on.

Like I said, allowing the movie to go all out in its self-referential and mocking of the genre and Marvel movies with seemingly little restriction was all for the better. One of the best running jokes was Deadpool constantly obsessing and mentioning Hugh Jackman, along with other mentions of real life actors like Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool referencing the literal actor Ryan Reynolds aka himself, mentioning James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart, commenting on how small the film’s budget was when Deadpool arrived at the X-Men school and that you wouldn’t be seeing any cameos because their budget was too small. Or even T.J. Miller as Wade Wilson/Deadpool’s sidekick saying that he wasn’t going to join Deadpool in his final battle against the villain just because “he didn’t want to.” The film has so many ways and mentions of making fun of superhero cliches (and a lot of the time just general movie cliches) and formula that for at least this once and for a character that is bred off this it’s such a breath of fresh air that at least some of your concerns and groans with this genre get reflected back to you from a high stage. It’s not that these references cloud the movie too much or take away from the actual narrative and sense of it being a film, where it still very much feels like it’s own world.

Due to the small nature of things, the narrative itself was very small and contained and it was really all it needed to be. It all just boiled down to Wade Wilson wanting to get revenge on the guy who infused him with these mutant genes that were intended to cure his cancer, but rather disfigured him and kept him from his fiancee. In doing so they wove a simple origin story, which you kind of have to with this being the first film, but it never felt boring or dragged along as they did it partway through the film and it featured almost as more of a framing device/flashback. Ed Skrein as the villain Ajax wasn’t that great or memorable, but he really didn’t need to be since the film is all about Deadpool and it’s not like there was some major plot or set-up to his character or his means. Ryan Reynolds was fantastic, of course, because he finally just gets to play Ryan Reynolds with the sarcasm and rugged movie star looks that featured in every other movie of his that sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t coalesced into the perfect role where those are the main two tenants of his character as this anti-hero superhero.

So, man, imagine that, a movie the people have been clamoring for for years, an R-rated big studio superhero movie at that, actually delivered and was everything and more that people expected from it. The movie really does come at a perfect time as superhero fatigue seemingly reaches its all time high and we at least get this break to regroup before another Summer of much of the same. I would never think this would change anything and not that it really should or tries to be, but at least it makes certain that everybody is in on the joke whether it’s intended with Deadpool or just par for the course nowadays with seemingly every other superhero film.

‘Hail, Caesar!’: Review

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Due to my avoiding of as much of the trailers and released promotional materials as possible of movies nowadays, my view of Hail, Caesar! was a bit skewed. Ironically, I saw this trailer a ton from going to the theatre a ton over the past few months, probably more than others, and it mainly outlined the story of George Clooney’s top star actor of the 1950s character of Baird Whitlock being abducted by this mysterious group while Josh Brolin’s Eddie Mannix, an influencer in Hollywood, was tasked with getting him back, and then with this being a Coen’s brothers movie we’d be introduced to a cavalcade of wacky characters and such along the way. While this is true, the film is more specifically about filtering the eyes of Hollywood through Mannix’s eyes by going through all these Hollywood specific problems he has to deal with, with Whitlock’s kidnapping just another element of it.

In the end, it’s not much of a spoiler, but the whole Whitlock kidnapping is a non-starter. He gets abducted by some Communists, is a little unsure of everything, but then eventually becomes swayed by their ideals and then he just eventually gets rescued while the Communists are out dropping one of their members off on a Russian sub (yep). There is no big showdown, fist or gun fight or one-on-one battle, nope, Whitlock just gets rescued being left alone in his captor’s house, and that’s that for what you originally would think would be the main thrust of the picture.

Of course there are other stories, including Hobie Doyle an actor specifically skilled to play basic cowboy roles being thrust into a serious dramatic role which includes things he’s not used to like speaking… He thus finds himself more embroiled in stereotypical “Hollywood” in getting set up on dates to make his image look good and just generally trying to get by in the business on his good boy charm. Scarlett Johansson is in briefly as DeeAnna Moran a famous star whose new pregnancy causes the studio to scramble to cover it by hooking her up with a partner or making her adopt her own kid to look good in PR. We see a glimpse of Channing Tatum’s character of Burt Gurney who of course is a skilled dancer and singer and of course ends up being the leader of the Communists who abducted Whitlock and the same guy who gets dropped off at the sub.

Writing out these storylines they seem kinda boring and seemingly having no juice to use as a storyline in a movie where really not much actually happens or even really that much positive or negative and everything really just ends up pretty neutral at the end of things. This being the Coen’s it’s not that straightforward and tedious, where going through the ride of the film it eventually becomes quite evident that it’s very happy to remain so small, and never is a big sweeping epic with large plot or scene set pieces (besides the literal films), but everything works fine enough that way. Everything is very small scale and eventually reverts back to the status quo, something I’m sure that was prevalent in the minds of the Coen’s when they made this a commentary of Hollywood at the time and the business in general.

In other hands this wouldn’t work so well, but the Coen’s are skilled enough to make the small-scale minutiae work so well and the cast is all game and so seemingly of the area that they make everything work where their commitment would cover holes, if any. On first glance it still feels like one of the lesser Coen films, even though there is a lot to like in what they generally do with their lighter films, but is still a worthy addition to their catalogue, especially with the ones where they like to put the fun out forefront with the more serious issues bubbling just underneath.

‘Movie 43’: Review

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I was forever obsessed with the backlash to Movie 43, I mean it looked dumb and stupid, but I couldn’t believe all the vitriol and hate people had towards it, and so embarrassingly bad that actors in it wanted to remove every evidence that they had been involved in it. I got why people hated it, dumb and crude fart, poop and sex jokes that looked to be aimed at teenagers. Well, guess what, I love that stuff! I was out to prove these people wrong that while it probably is a bad movies, there’s gotta be some merits…

As you can probably tell from my obvious wind up, in fact everybody was right and the movie really deserves all it has got. Sure, I laughed at some stuff in it, and oh, boy was it insanely stupid, but so is my brain so I’ll give it that.

But, if you want to pick the movie apart piece by piece it’s so easy to do that. The concept is good enough, get a bunch of funny directors and actors to make a bunch of short films and put them together, unfortunately nobody tried hard enough to make something beyond easy poop and period jokes. They also tried way to hard to tie everything together and have an overarching plot of how these stories fit together, which was unnecessary in a movie people are just going to see for the worst jokes every, anyways.

I really don’t have much to say about it, just really that I was surprised and actually kind of appreciative that it was actually as bad as everybody said it was. So, kudos to all involved, I can’t wait for the sequel!

1/10

The Culture Of ‘Gilmore Girls’

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I really don’t know why a 22 year old male like myself thought it would be a good reason to watch all 7 seasons and 153 episodes of Gilmore Girls, but here I am and I did just that. Now, of course just because the show is primarily about the relationship of a mother and a daughter and their adventures through various dudes and their bizarre relationships with an even bizarre town doesn’t mean it’s only applicable to those types of people.

When you think of Gilmore Girls you think of dialogue and then by extension character. Amy Sherman Palladino and co. did such an innate job at crafting words into these characters mouths that make them seem incredibly human and real, sure a little wacky at times and maybe a bit more pop culture references than one speaks every two sentences, but it created such an identity for these characters. Even ones that you’d only see every couple seasons and hardly in episodes at a time, you’d know what they were all about just by their stark lines, delivery and cadence when they were given something to say.

If there’s anything I can really cite as a drawback, something really born out of my doing, is that especially in the later seasons a lot of the episodes kind of molded together and became a slog when they’d hit the same beats of Rory boy trouble, Lorelai unsure of what dude she really wants, trouble with parents and such. It came to almost feeling like watching a reruns at times. Of course, I binge-watched the whole thing watching episode after episode and it wasn’t like there was an insanely complex and narrative driven story that kept me on the edge of my seat to see the next episode, so it’s possible it’s not the greatest to watch continuously when its formula is pretty basic and repetitive.

‘House Of Cards’ And ‘Orange Is The New Black’ Progress To Differing Second Seasons

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Fundamentally, House Of Cards and Orange Is The New Black don’t have much in common. Besides the fact that they’re both the stalwart first drama series for Netflix and have gained some critical notoriety in some aspects, although one more so and deserving of the other. The first seasons of both shows left me pretty neutral, I wrote before on House Of Cards and how it didn’t really provide anything we haven’t seen done expertly better in other dramas. With Orange Is The New Black I enjoyed it much more than “Cards” because it offered something new and provided a new perspective on what we expect from these sorts of dramas.

For me House Of Cards was really just a continuation one everything the first season did so mediocrely. Just a continuation of Frank Underwood getting his way, and slowly but surely seeing all his plans come together until he’s to become president. It’s comfort food drama at it’s best, hitting all the same beats you would expect. A surprise death or two, the lead character in a seemingly unescapable predicament that he finds his way out of, last minute twists, betrayals and all that. Which is all fine and good, but it just doesn’t seem to care about trying something new, knowing full well that staying in this path is just fine for what they want to accomplish. The performances are good and help cover up the lacking other parts of the show.

Orange Is The New Black on the other hand operates on a multitude of levels that help develop and push the show in different directions. The show is mainly quarantined just within the prison, but it really causes no problems in thinking of inventive storylines and happenings. Along with this they expertly focus on one character an episode and flashing back to how they found themselves in prison, allowing a break from the prison locals and letting us out into the world. The strength of the show is no doubt in the colourful character of all different shapes, sizes, backgrounds and motives, creating odd relationships and different combinations to play off of.

House Of Cards was the perfect launch show for Netflix, had a bankable star, an engaging enough premise and a broad reach for who’d enjoy it, guaranteeing it at least moderate success at the commercial level. Orange Is The New Black came along and pushed things a little further, being a bit of an unsafe choice, one that doesn’t follow all the rules and allows for some freedom coming on the tails of the brand maker of House Of Cards. The second seasons of both shows cemented these differing statuses for each, and for good or bad, we get a look at what’s to come for the foreseeable few years as these show top a new era in TV popularity.

‘Soapdish’: Review

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I don’t know how Soapdish is like the only movie to tackle soap operas in the film industry, I literally can’t find anything else. It’s not like it’s the be all and end all of exploration of the subject, it tries to be and is interesting, but never totally makes it. The film is great in theory, poking fun at not only the cliches of soap operas within the story of the film itself and also how it operates as a story. It achieves it half-heartedly, hitting some fine notes on the relationship dramas, slapstick and over-the-top activities. The film eventually gets to into itself and it becomes hard to discover when the film is being sincere in it’s motivations in a cliche story or when it is poking fun at these ideas. It can’t pick and choose it’s battles all too well.

The actors in here are all perfectly cast, Sally Field and Kevin Kline both exude these “classic” actors who are over-the-hill, but still contain something of a spark left in them, inspired from their early career greatness. Downey Jr. is fun as the conniving director, who tries and tries to get his way, and Whoopi Goldberg is great at playing Whoopi Goldberg. Cathy Moriarty is the one weak link, even if she looks the part well enough, she falls underwater against the others.

I really did like this film overall just as an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half. The satire doesn’t completely hit, which keeps it from being an essential or memorable film, it’s not bad, but average when there’s little weight behind it.