Posts Tagged ‘emma stone’

la la land

An out of work actress named Mia (Emma Stone) keeps bumping into a soon to be out of work jazz pianist named Sebastian. (Ryan Gosling)  The first time they meet they give each other “the bird” in a traffic jam.  The next time they meet is shortly after Sebastian gets fired during Christmas.  The two meet again at a party when Mia requests a cheesy 80’s song and asks Sebastian to play the keyboard portion of it.  They meet again looking for their cars during a lovely sunset.  Later, Sebastian finds out that Mia has never seen Rebel Without A Cause and asks her to come see it, but she’s got a boyfriend, and she hates jazz, and he doesn’t want a girlfriend, especially one who doesn’t like jazz.  And they’ve both got big dreams.  She wants to be an actress, he wants to open a jazz club.  Does she go to the movie?  Or are their meetings just coincidental?

There are many good things about La La Land, but the writing is for most of the film is trite.  It follows all the conventions of every romantic comedy ever made including the man and woman hating each other at first sight.  Why does this always happen in the movies?  Nobody hates someone in real life and then, poof magic.  Nothing works that way.    There is a twist near the end, and the ending itself evolves into somewhat of a mystery, which belies the happy mood of the first hour, but is still better than a conventional Hollywood ending.

Ryan Gosling has made a living playing brooding, taciturn, characters, like in Driver, or Blue Valentine, so it was anyone’s guess how he would handle the lead in a musical romantic comedy.  He handles  the comedic part of the role well, but when the script turns more dramatic, his delivery is surprisingly flat. The same can be said for Emma Stone, she couldn’t really handle the more dramatic scenes, and even the comedic scenes, she would sometimes make a  silly face.  The two didn’t seem to have any chemistry, maybe it was the age difference.  Gosling is 8 years older than Stone, maybe that’s why they didn’t seem to have any sparks.   J.K. Simmons had a small role, I wish it was bigger, he is a heck of an actor.

There is a lot of good in this film, and most of it comes from  the director’s chair.  Damien Chazelle is a very talented director, and he realizes that film is a visual medium. This film pops with color, even the scenes filmed at night are brightly lit and look as if they were painted with a brush.  This is also a love letter to classic film, movie posters are strewn all over Mia’s apartment and the cameras catch all of it.  Even when the colors don’t pop, the camera is shooting from some interesting angle or other.  This is not Top Hat or Singin in The Rain, but that it aspires to be and tries to bring back the movie musical is a laudable aspiration.   The choreography is great, the songs are great, those two elements by  themselves make the movie worth watching. There are  portions of this this movie that are told without a word being spoken, that is an incredible achievement.

La La Land:  Mostly music to my  ears.

 

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birdman

Riggan Thompson (Michael Keaton) is a struggling actor, once famous for playing the superhero “Birdman” in a series of blockbuster movies.  Riggan is trying to rejuvenate his floundering career by writing, directing and starring in a Broadway adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story.  The play is a battle from the start, Riggan drops a lighting rig on an actor named Ralph (Jeremy Shamos) whose acting he didn’t like.  Riggan is battling the actor who replaces Ralph, Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) who is renowned, but who Riggan thinks is a prima donna. He’s battling with his wife, Sylvia, (Amy Ryan) who wants him to pay more attention to his daughter Sam (Emma Stone) who has a drug problem.  Riggan is also battling a vindictive theater critic, named Tabitha, (Lindsey Duncan) who doesn’t think that movie stars should be on Broadway.  Most of all he’s battling a voice in his head, begging him to forget the phoniness of Broadway, and cash in on another big budget “Birdman” film.  When the Broadway show goes to previews, Mike sabotages the play by breaking character. With all the distractions buzzing around him, what does Riggan decide to do?  Does he continue with his Broadway play or does he cash in with another big budget film?

There are interesting elements in this film.  There seem to be duel realities going on,  the reality as Riggan perceives it and actual events.  The line between reality and fantasy is purposely blurred. The internal dialogue between Riggan and the voice in his head seems to perpetuate the feeling that Riggan is losing his grip on reality, but is he really? The play that’s being performed serves a dual-purpose as well, the lines delivered by Riggan are lines in the play, but they also have a relevance to his life and struggles at the moment.  There’s also a critique of theater critics, and the importance of social media, themes that were better explored in the movie Chef, with food critics replacing theater critics.  Ultimately, there are too many characters and many of them are stock, the nagging ex-wife, insecure actors, the daughter with the drug problem, and these characters have no depth.  There is one or two false endings, and the actual ending which was unsatisfying to me. The story veered too much from light fantasy to heavy drama, and didn’t feature enough satire of both the movie and Broadway genres for my liking.  Do I think it will win best picture?  Maybe.  Do I think it deserves to win Best Picture?  No. it’s an ambitious film that falls flat on its face too often to be considered a  best picture.

The acting was good, I thought Keaton as Riggan was pretty flat, and then came his confrontation with the theater critic, and that turned the performance from a so-so performance to a good performance.  Is it Oscar worthy?  No, but there’s a lot of sentimentality behind Keaton right now and so he might win.  Hollywood loves a good comeback story, and Keaton has one now.  The best performance in the firm is given by Edward Norton as the pompous self-important actor who thinks he can save the play singlehandedly.  He’s also nominated for an Oscar this year deservedly so, but probably won’t win, up against JK Simmons.  Emma Stone gives a one note performance, angry, as Keaton’s wild-child daughter, I was expecting more subtlety, I didn’t get it.  She’s nominated, but won’t win. Patricia Arquette should win for Boyhood .Naomi Watts gives an uneven performance as an insecure actress and struggles with her American accent. But Zack Galifianakis is consistently funny as Riggan’s lawyer.

The direction is technically ambitious, but at times visually distracting.  Director Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu  uses one continuous shot through the film, the whole film is shot from Riggan’s perspective.

But then Inarritu has a drummer playing background music in the film and then shows the drummer playing in the film. That’s excessive.  The movie is too long, and several characters could have been  scaled down or eliminated entirely. The pacing is hurt by the one continuous shot.

Birdman:  Never really soars.

 

the croods

Grug (Nicholas Cage) is a caveman head of the Crood family, who keeps his family safe by following one simple rule, don’t leave the cave. But his daughter Eep (Emma Stone) is curious about the world outside the cave. One night, she sneaks out of the cave, and follows a glowing light source, and finds the source of the light, a dude named Guy (Ryan Reynolds) making what he calls fire. When Eep goes back to meet Grug, he finds out where she was and grounds her. But just when Grug thinks everything is under control, an earthquake wipes out their cave. Eep tells Grug about Guy’s idea about seeking higher ground, and soon the family is on a trek to the mountains, discovering shoes and Guy’s other inventions, like animal traps and cooked food. Do they make it to the mountains?

The Croods is a serviceable animated film, with all kinds of lessons about learning to take risks outside the safety of everyday life. A lot of the jokes are aimed at the younger set, 10 and below, but the idea of the first family road trip is somewhat inventive and a better than expected ending, makes the movie more enjoyable than it appears. The animation in certain scenes is very impressive, and the theme is uplifting. There’s a really good performance by Nicholas Cage, he seems better at doing over the top comedic roles like Big Daddy in Kick Ass or this role, than those dumb action flicks like Ghost Rider and Drive Angry. He makes the role of overprotective dad more emotional than most actors, because deep down, he is a good actor taking mostly poorly written roles. Emma Stone is good as the defiant, adventurous daughter, and this is one of Ryan Reynolds better roles, that’s not saying much, but he’s funny and makes a good love interest, playing the more evolved human, Guy. Cloris Leachman plays the wise-cracking mother-in-law, nothing new in her role. But ultimately, this movie falls short because there’s not enough here for the adults, the humor is kind of crude, pun intended.

The Croods: Crudely drawn entertainment for kids.

 

gangster sqad

Mobster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) wants to take over post-World War II Los Angeles by controlling drugs, prostitution and most importantly controlling the flow of gambling money all the way from Chicago to L.A.  The gambling operation is code named Operation El Dorado. Chief Parker (Nick Nolte) tasks Sergeant John O’ Mara (Josh Brolin) with bringing together a force of policemen to take apart Cohen’s burgeoning operation, and hunt down and kill Cohen.  Sergeant Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling) Officer Coleman Harris (Anthony Mackie) Officer Navidad Ramirez (Michael Pena) Officer Max Kennard (Robert Patrick) and Officer Conwell Keeler (Giovani Ribisi) make up what’s called the Gangster Squad, and they go about dismantling Cohen’s gang.  Keeler is the intelligence officer  who bugs Cohen’s house and provides the rest of the squad about what Cohen plans to do.  But Wooters, the rebel in the group falls for Cohen’s girlfriend, Grace Farraday. (Emma Stone)  Grace and Jerry know if their romance is discovered, it means death for both of them.  Do they end operation El Dorado, do they kill Cohen or does the romance between Wooters  and Grace Farraday get in the way?

I did not like Gangster Squad.  My displeasure starts with the voice over narration, don’t get me wrong classic movies like Sunset Boulevard and Citizen Kane, use voiceover narration to great effect, but it’s simply not necessary here.  The movie is a triumph of style over substance.  The movie looks great, it captures the art-deco style of 1940’s Los Angeles perfectly, the day-glo colors of the buildings and neon literally jump off the screen, the costumes are similarly spiffy, but the story is simply not compelling.  It’s like some of the best actors in America got together and decided to play cops and robbers.  What makes Cohen want to be a gangster? Is it his background as a fighter? Is it his ethnicity, being a Jew in a profession dominated by Sicilians? There is not enough character development for any of the characters, all the cops are perfect, except for Wooters and other than his relationship with Grace Farraday, this movie tells us nothing about him.

Sean Penn gets lost in the prosthetic makeup, and trying to create a distinctive voice for Cohen.  It really is not a good performance.  When Cagney played  Tom Powers in The Public Enemy, his anger as seething below the surface.  Sean Penn, sometimes plays Cohen as low-key, but sometimes screams just to show that he is acting. I found Ryan Gosling’s performance oddly uninteresting, and I usually like Gosling.  He had more chemistry with Stone in Crazy Stupid Love, and that’s not a good sign.  Stone does her best Veronica Lake (or was it Jessica Rabbit) style femme-fatale, but I never got the sense that she was in danger, or for that matter dangerous. Josh Brolin ‘s character was made perfect, flawless, and so he couldn’t really do much except be flawless.  Mackey and Pena were in the movie I suspect to appeal to a certain demographic, as Hollywood is known to do.

The writing is subpar, extreme violence fills the gaps for actual plot, and the story was much too long.  I saw nothing spectacular in the direction, but it’s the first time I actually noticed set design and costume design.

Gangster Squad:  A bloody mess.

ghosts of girlfriends past

Conner Mead ( McConaughey) is a fashion photographer who’s as famous for his photos, as he is for his reputation as a ladies man.  Conner agrees to go to his brother Paul’s (Meyer) wedding, but he refuses to toast the groom or take wedding pictures. At the wedding Conner only seems interested in bedding one of the bridesmaids, despite running into his first love and former girlfriend Jenny Perotti (Garner) Everything seems to be going perfectly for Conner, until he starts seeing a ghost of his Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas) and his first girlfriend Allison (Emma Stone) We learn that Conner gets his heart broken by Jenny, and his uncle gives him lessons on the fine art of womanizing.  Despite seeing these ghosts, and the ghost of his assistant Melanie (Noreen Du Wulf) Conner proceeds to almost screw up the wedding, by dropping the wedding cake and telling Paul’s fiancé, Sandra (Lacy Chrebret) that Paul slept with one of the bridesmaids.  Will the wedding happen?  Will Conner end his womanizing ways and sett down with his true love Jenny?

This is a totally formulaic, romantic comedy, with a likeable actor ( McConaughey) playing a pretty unlikeable womanizing character.  Not only is McConaughey an unlikeable character, Michael Douglas plays an absolute scumbag, with a drink in his hand and a cheesy pickup line on his lips.  He takes a junior high school kid to a bar and teaches him how to pick up women.  Despite all this sordid behavior, McConaughey has some touching and affecting moments in this movie.  They come too late to save the movie, but they prove that McConaughey is a good actor, but it also proves that he needs to stop making these forgettable romantic comedies.  Finally he and Garner have no chemistry.  When is the last time Garner made a movie worth mentioning?

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.  The Spirit is Weak.

zombieland

Columbus (Eisenberg) is a happy little shut-in nerd playing his Worlds of Warcraft, and drinking his Mountain Dew Code Red, eating his Golden Grahams, no girlfriend, no prospects of one, until a neighbor named “406” (Amber Heard)  comes to him for help.  A homeless man tried to bite her, could he help her?  Soon, Columbus discovers 406 is a zombie, and kills her.  A variation off the mad cow virus is turning people into zombies. Two months later Columbus has become one of the best zombie hunters in Zombieland, by following 32 rules, among them stay in shape, check the back seat, buckle your safety belts, and above all, don’t be a hero.

On his way to Columbus Ohio, Columbus meets Tallahassee (Harrelson) a guy with seemingly nothing left to lose and even less to live for.  He loves his puppy, which he lost, he loves Twinkies and he occasionally likes breaking stuff once in a while.  Tallahassee will take Columbus to Ohio and no further.  But as luck would have it, the nerd and the cool guy meet two sisters.  Wichita (Emma Stone) and her 12-year old sister Little Rock (Breslin) who want to go to Pacific Playland, an amusement park where the rumor goes, there are no zombies.  Columbus is taken by Wichita’s dark good looks, what he doesn’t realize is that Wichita and Little Rock are con-artists, who take Columbus and Tallahassee’s Escalade, and their ammo and scram.  No worries, Tallahassee finds a brand new Hummer , which Wichita and Little Rock steal from them again,  only this time they let them stay in the car. Columbus decides to go to California with Wichita, after he finds out that Columbus Ohio is a burned out husk, and because he is starting to have a thing for Wichita.  What do the four find in California?  Do the four even make it that far?

This is a very cool, very hip, very funny, zombie movie.  Sure there are details that drive the viewer crazy, if the meat is contaminated, what do they eat? Where do they get their endless supply of ammo?  Why do they find the two cars in the entire country that work?  How do they stay looking so clean if they don’t bathe?  But forget logic, this is a fun monster flick.  Woody Harrelson is one of the best, most underrated actors in America; he can make you laugh or cry.  Eisenberg is a less irritating version of Michael Cera.   Emma Stone is interesting as the brooding goth con-artist, and Breslin shatters her little girl image for good by shooting guns, and conning people.  This is just an enjoyable movie.  So enjoy it.

Zombieland:  The undead tickle your funnybone, while gnawing on it.

Movie Review: Easy A (2010)

Posted: November 17, 2012 in Comedy
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Olive (Emma Stone)  is an unremarkable high school girl, she’s smart, funny, and incisive, therefore she has no boyfriend.  While talking to her friend Rhiannon (Allison Mikalka) Olive makes up a fictitious date with an imaginary boyfriend, rather than go camping with Rhiannon and her parents.  Under duress, Olive adds that she and the fictitious boyfriend slept together.  This news whips around the school like a whirlwind, and suddenly Olive has a reputation as a trollop. Olive doesn’t mind the reputation at first because it gets her noticed and it’s based  on a lie,  But then friends start to take advantage of Olive’s newfound bad reputation.  Brandon (Dan Byrd) who’s gay, wants people to think he slept with Olive, so kids stop picking on him.  Olive agrees to play along, to help Brandon, and it works.  Brandon’s reputation as  a stud is cemented.  Then a fat kid named Evan (Jameson Moss) wants people to think he got to second base with Olive.  Olive reluctantly agrees in return for a gift card.  The news of Olive getting paid for her services whips around the school like a tornado.

Upon hearing this, the local Christian girl, Marianne (Amanda Bynes) begins a crusade against Olive, seeking to get the Jezebel kicked out of school.  When Marianne’s boyfriend. Micah (Cam Gigandet) finds out he has Chlamydia, he blames Olive although he’s really sleeping with the school’s guidance councilor, Mrs. Griffith (Lisa Kudrow) Olive goes along with this story to protect Mr. Griffith (Thomas Haden Church) an English teacher whose classes she enjoys. The protests over Olive’s perceived behavior get louder and louder, the only person who seems to believe Olive throughout the rumor and innuendo is Todd (Penn Badgely) her oldest friend and secret crush.  Todd asked Olive to fake a kiss with him in the eighth grade, because he wasn’t ready to kiss a girl then, Olive agreed.  Will Olive survive the high school rumor mill?  Will she ever get to tell Todd how she really feels about him?

Just when I thought that the teen comedy was dead as a genre, along comes this delightful film.  Let me count the ways that it’s different from the usual teenage sex comedy.  It’s told from a girl’s perspective, which is rare but refreshing.  It uses a classic book, the Scarlett Letter as its basis, how many teenage sex comedies can say that?  The parents in this movie are kind, loving smart, and supportive of their daughter, in every other teen movie, the parents are dumb as posts, clueless as to what their children are doing.  The movie also lovingly references many 1980’s romantic comedies, all of which I’ve seen. If I have one nit to pick with this movie, it’s the overly broad generalization of Christians, as judgmental, intolerant people.  Hollywood would like people to believe that all Christians are fundamentalists and that’s just not true.  The performances are fabulous, the standout performance is of course by Emma stone, she plays tough, and vulnerable better than any young actress I’ve seen in a while.  She played the same type of character in Zombieland, a character with a strong voice, who you want to see succeed.  Amanda Bynes is surprisingly good as the Christian girl, Marianne, she shows range that I didn’t know she had. Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci are outstanding as Olive’s hip California parents, truly revolutionary to see smart parents portrayed in Hollywood.

Easy A.  Passes with flying colors.