Tuesday, January 31, 2017

LA LA LAND (2016) - Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

Director:     Damien Chazelle
Writers:      Damien Chazelle
Actors:   Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling

COMMENTS:   What a charming, old-fashioned movie this is.  It’s neither dependent on CGI effects nor filled with dramatic twists, shocks and mind-bending flashbacks. Rather, it is simple, dreamy, predictable, but imbued with such charm and style we can’t resist it.

The charm begins with the main stars, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.  Let’s be clear that they are not Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers. 

They are wholly the characters they portray, Sebastian and Mia, who dance and sing only as it serves to tell their story.  Their trembling, unsure voices depict their cautious exploration and the mystery of falling in love.  Their dance steps remind us of the tentative moves we make in our vulnerable moments of being open to love.

There is one CGI scene where they are floating among the stars at Griffith Park Observatory, and we know they have already fallen in love and are lured magically into the realm of impossible hopes and dreams, rising above the mundane realities which weigh people down.

Of course we can see what’s coming.  Life happens, and they are forced to face the material necessities of paying rent and dealing with people who don’t recognize – much less appreciate – their unique talents and skills.  I was so enraptured by the lovers I was resisting with all my might the inevitable intrusion of harsh reality.

But it happens.  How can it not?  Life is what it is.  In a wonderful scene when they meet again years after their breakup, Mia imagines life if they had stayed together. The look Sebastian gives Mia as she walks away is filled with all the love and compassion in his heart. 

Writer/director Damien Chazelle deserves kudos for his courageous brilliance in taking such a predictable love story and making it magical and real.

GEN:  9;  JUST:  8;  HUVA:  10

TAGS:  LA LA LAND, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, pianist, actress, Los Angeles, Damien Chazelle

Monday, January 30, 2017

ARRIVAL (2016) - Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Director:     Denis Villeneuve
Writers:       Eric Heisserer (screenplay) 
Actors:        Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

COMMENTS:   Twelve mysterious alien spaceships appear at strategic locations around Planet Earth.  Are they conquerors or are they space travelers with peaceful intentions?

Since no one seems able to communicate with them, the world must choose: Attack or befriend?  Amy Adams, who portrays linguist Louise Banks, is soon recruited to figure out a language for communication with the ET’s.

Jeremy Renner portrays Ian Donnelly, her physicist cohort.  While he offers theories of his own, very quickly we trust Louise’s theories more.  Amy Adams inhabits her role of brilliant scientist.  Yet the nuances of her human normality shine just as brilliantly when we witness the lingering heartbreak in her personal life and her inherent terror at facing the alien visitors.

Jeremy Renner is less effective.  The only time I believe in his character is when he’s fighting to protect Amy Adams.  I wish I could have seen some emotional passion in him.

The scenario is entirely believable.  When General Shang decides to attack one of the ships, we know that would be a big mistake.  Surely a civilization which can travel through galaxies has superior weapons?  It’s Louise Banks who saves the day, and there’s a nice twist in the story which makes this possible.

Director Denis Villenueve has opted for scenes which emphasize the predictable reaction of humanity at the dramatic arrival of ET’s on earth.  Of course there’s immediate military takeover of the situation, but shouldn’t we be patient and achieve communication before attacking?

There is no violence per se in this movie, but the fear factor is there. In the end, we are forced to consider the possible destruction of all humanity, and that is scary enough.

SUMMARY:  GEN:  8; JUST:  9; HUVA:  10   

TAGS:  Arrival, Denis Villenueve, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Extraterrestrials, Science Fiction, Linguist



Wednesday, January 18, 2017

ALLIED (2016) - Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris

Director:      Robert Zemeckis
Writers:       Steven Knight
Actors:        Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris

COMMENTS:   Brad Pitt has grown up.  I still remember his beauty as the youth in THELMA & LOUISE.  I thought then he was destined for a successful career.  Boy, did I underestimate the trajectory of his career (and life).

This movie is about love set in a time of world war between nations.  A man and a woman meet as Allied spies in the beginning of war, get married and establish a home base in London.  Marion Cotillard is a fine actress, one whose beauty derives not only by virtue of an attractive body and features, but more so because of her dazzling courage, her bright spirit, elegant intelligence and integrity of character.  The combination makes her absolutely irresistible.  Brad’s beauty has matured from his youthful days into a sexy version which elicits love more than lust.  He has endured the test of time imbued with a masculine depth and complex soul wisdom which totally fulfills all of the potential of his youthful self.

Their acting rings so profoundly true any real-life spouse of either one of them would feel challenged by the mutual love and respect they exude for each other as man and wife on screen.  The director, Zemeckis (the theme is quite darker than his BACK TO THE FUTURE movies), chose to elucidate the workings of the human condition as opposed to the dark violence of war.  Yet, we understand that the conflicts of war engage not only those between nations but those within the intimate closeness of people who love each other.  This is a beautiful love story.  Having watched this, I have no doubt that, during times of war, people on both sides are challenged every day, every minute and every second to question their love for country pitted against love for another human being.

SUMMARY:  GEN: 9;  JUST: 5 (The good guys are bad and the bad guys are good, so who can tell what’s just or unjust?); HUVA:  8 (the ending is at great cost, but it was paid in the only way possible).

TAGS:  Allied, Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Robert Zemeckis, World War II, Allies