Movie Review – La La Land

Director :  Damien Chazelle
Year Of Release :   2016
Principal Cast :  Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, Finn Wittrock, Jessica Rothe, Sonoya Mizuno, Callie Hernandez, JK Simmons, Tom Everett Scott, Meagan Fay, Damon Gupton, Jason Fuchs, Josh Pence.
Approx Running Time :  128 Minutes
Synopsis:   A jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles.

******

There are few things Hollywood loves more than films about itself. Perhaps the only exception is the grand old musical, products of a bygone era when the studios released plenty of the toe-tapping variety to willing audiences. These days, musicals, viewed through the prism of technicolor spectacles, are something of a rarity – if you discount Disney and the occasional Oscar-foray in Moulin Rouge, Dreamgirls or Chicago – so to find ourselves with a new big-budget piece from Whiplash director Damien Chazelle, starring the white-hot Ryan Gosling (Drive) and Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man, Easy A) is a real pleasure. Where La La Land deviates from most modern musicals is that it is a legitimate throwback to the genre’s heyday – this ain’t some fantastical orgy of Bazz Lurhmann CG excess, nor some overly histrionic Social Message Movie, but a dead-set widescreen Hollywood blast of sugary confection torn right out of a R&H playbook.

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Movie Review – Arrival

Director :  Denis Villeneuve
Year Of Release :  2016
Principal Cast :  Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma, Mark O’Brien.
Approx Running Time :  118 Minutes
Synopsis:  When 12 mysterious spacecraft appear around the world, linguistics professor Louise Banks is tasked with interpreting the language of the apparent alien visitors.

*******

It’s rapidly becoming apparent that a new film from director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Prisoners, Enemy) is an event not to be missed. Solidifying his reputation for creating intelligent, artistically challenging, emotionally resonant cinematic works, Villeneuve’s Arrival is not only one of the best films of 2016 but could mount a solid argument as being one of the best sci-fi films of all time. Marked by a superb performance by Amy Adams, as well as exquisite visual effects and an affecting story that slams home its gut-punch mid-film reveal, Arrival’s themes of loss, grief, tension and hope are subtly delivered in a melancholy, haunting essay on what it means to be human.

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Movie Review – Fences

Director :  Denzel Washington
Year Of Release :   2016
Principal Cast :  Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, Saniyya Sidney.
Approx Running Time :   139 Minutes
Synopsis:  A working-class African-American father tries to raise his family in the 1950s, while coming to terms with the events of his life.

*****

In years to come, Denzel Washington’s adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer and Tony Award winning play Fences will rightly be regarded as a powerhouse performance piece. Both Washington, who stars as well as directs, and an awesome Viola Davis, deliver grade-A character work that will define their career highlights package, in what is a genuinely moving conveyance of the Black American Life in 1950’s Pittsburgh. Themes of racism, social classism, the struggle of working-class America, and fidelity, combine to provoke a thoughtful, if melancholy, study of how little has changed at a basic human level; Fences strives for the big leagues and for the most part delivers, but much of the social narrative feels mishandled, lost amid the dynamite acting and heartbreak contained within.

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Road To The Oscars – Oscar Week Begins!

As hard as it is to believe, but Oscar time has rolled around for another year! It’s only 7 days until we’re all attentively watching the broadcast from the comfort of our couches (or wherever) and mocking, cheering, jeering and social-media-ing our way through yet another three hour solemnised celebration of all things cinema, as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences delivers their exclamation point to the 2016 year of film. The Academy Awards will be broadcast next Monday (Australian time), and as usual we’ve put aside the week prior to deliver our reviews of all the Best Picture nominated films, other than the two we’ve already delivered in Hacksaw Ridge and Hell Or High Water. The 7 other films up for Best Picture will be reviewed daily here at the site – keep us in your “favourites” tab on whatever browser you’re using – and on Monday morning we’ll be having a look at our predictions for the ceremony.

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Trailer Trash! – Colossal (Trailer #1)

Not all that long ago we posted the first glimpse of the next Anne Hathaway film, Colossal, in which her character apparently inhabits/controls the body of a giant kaiju monster wreaking havoc across the city. Now we get the first full trailer for the film, and although it doesn’t have a huge amount of new footage, the geeky, subversive humour and tone of a Being John Malkovich suddenly comes into full focus. Enjoy the first trailer for Colossal!

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Movie Review – Train To Busan

Director :  Yeon Sang-ho
Year Of Release :   2016
Principal Cast :  Gong Yoo, Ma Dong-seok, Jung Yu-mi, Kim Su-an, Kim Eui-sung, Choi Woo-shik, Ahn So-hee.
Approx Running Time :  118 Minutes
Synopsis:   While a zombie-virus breaks out in South Korea, a couple of passengers struggle to survive on the train from Seoul to Busan.

*****

There are two types of films in this world. Films that are damn good, maybe even great. And then there are films that are pure cinematic dynamite. Train To Busan is a prime example of the latter: a tour-de-force of zombie cinema that pulverises your senses with hyperkinetic style and delivers knock-out thrills, scares and effects. A terrifying mix of Snowpiercer, 28 Days Later and even World War Z, Train To Busan’s zombie-centric plotting turns the genre on its head with a brave mixture of characters you care about, wide-ranging set-pieces and a sense of apocalyptic desperation not seen on the big screen in years.

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Movie Review – Sing Street

Director :   John Carney
Year Of Release : 2016
Principal Cast :  Ferida Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Aiden Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Kelly Thornton, Ben Carolan, Mark McKenna, Percy Chamburuka, Conor Hamilton, Don Wycherley.
Approx Running Time :   105 Minutes
Synopsis: A boy growing up in Dublin during the 1980s escapes his strained family life by starting a band to impress the mysterious girl he likes.

******

Few films manage to engender the feeling of nostalgia quite like a coming-of-age story. Sing Street, set in mid-80’s Dublin, Ireland, and using the proposition of a bunch of school kids setting up a band, not only taps into nostalgia but makes one almost yearn for a simpler time, before wi-fi, Facebook and the ubiquitous internet. Directed by John Carney (Once, Begin Again), Sing Street is effortlessly enjoyable yarn about first love, finding out who you are, and fractured family dysfunction. Not to mention, a couplet of terrific era-attuned songs, written by the director and inserted into the film in a manner so innocuously they creep you on you with how catchy they are. Yes, Sing Street enters the coming-of-age lexicon as a contender of the highest order; sadly, it won’t be seen by a lot of people, more’s the pity, but if you’re reading this then you owe it to yourself to locate it.

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Trailer Trash! – Ghost In The Shell (Final Trailer)

Every time I see a new trailer for this film, I can’t help but think Denis Villeneuve has his work cut out for him making the Blade Runner sequel pop just a little more. Ghost In The Shell arrives next month and even if the story is as incomprehensible as the animated film version, the visuals alone will make for truly spectacular viewing.

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Movie Review – Deepwater Horizon

Director :  Peter Berg
Year Of Release :   2016
Principal Cast :  Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, Dylan O’Brien, Kate Hudson, Ethan Suplee, Trace Adkins, Brad Leland.
Approx Running Time :   118 Minutes
Synopsis:  A dramatization of the April 2010 disaster when the offshore drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon, exploded and created the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

*****

Consider this: one of the world’s largest man-made environmental disasters, the Deepwater Horizon explosion, has to-date cost BP, the company behind the operation of the failed oil-rig in the Gulf Of Mexico, some $54 billion. The company’s 2015 total revenue came in somewhere 6 times that amount. Meaning the cost of the Deepwater’s failure to BP is barely a drop in the ocean (pun intended) for the massive conglomerate, and some would suggest that perhaps they should have been gouged more for creating one of the worst catastrophe’s in modern history. Peter Berg’s memorialisation of the Deepwater incident, in which 11 people were killed and millions of gallons of crude oil spilled into the open ocean creating an enormous slick covering much of the US’s pristine lower coastline, is a compelling affair, maximised by Mark Wahlberg’s competent leading man performance and a gravitas that never steps into exploitation.

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