Monthly Archives: January 2017

La La Land

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Having swept the boards at the Golden Globes and up for 14 awards at this year’s Oscars the hit musical La La Land is on a high. But will it have me singing it’s praises?

When aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) meets jazz musician Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) it’s not exactly love at first sight. But as their paths keep coming back to each other they find it hard to deny their mutual attraction. But in LA where hopes and dreams are crushed daily can they keep love and ambition alive?

Just like everyone else I seemed to have fallen under the spell of La La Land. From it’s dazzling opening number on a busy highway to it’s poignant ending it’s a fine piece of filmaking by Damien Chazelle. I loved his previous work Whiplash and La La Land shows that he’s no one hit wonder. Whether it’s turning an observatory visit into a dance among the stars or a simple solo in an audition, Chazelle balances the film perfectly.

As the two young dreamers Gosling and Stone once again show off their great on-screen chemistry, and their characters’ passion for their ambitions (and each other) shines through. While they are not professional singers and dancers they admirably throw their all into the numbers and although some may prefer pitch perfect singers I would argue their rawness adds realism and vulnerability to their performances that otherwise may have been too polished.

So why if I’m praising it so much have I not awarded the film with five stars like everyone else has? Well, while I really liked the film, and some parts I absolutely love, I’m not in love with the film like all the critics seem to be. Maybe it’s a side effect of having so much hype behind it that I was expecting it to be a modern classic whereas it’s ‘just’ a really great film. Also there were moments of cliches that really bugged me such as Sebastian realising he has an important photoshoot which just happens to be on the night of Mia’s big theatre opening. Scenes like this brought me out of the moment and irritated me no end.

So close but no cigar. However if you fancy a hark back to old school Hollywood with modern sensibilities and catchy tunes (which is better City of Dreams or Audition/The Fools Who Dream? I can’t decide) then take a shot at La La Land, and see what all the fuss is about.

Rating 4/5 – while it isn’t note perfect this bittersweet musical is still a worthy awards contender

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Split

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For so long the words An M. Night Shyamalan film was something to be dreaded. Then The Visit showed that Shyamalan could still produce a decent if unremarkable movie. Now his latest movie Split is supposedly a return to form and last night I got a chance to see an advance screening of the film before it’s general UK release on Friday.

Three teenagers are kidnapped by a man named Kevin (James McAvoy) who suffers from a form of dissociative identity disorder. Kevin has 23 distinct personality and the 24th is on it’s way, and the girls must escape before he arrives.

Breathe a sigh of relief everyone, for Shyamalan is well and truly back. Long may the likes of The Lady in the Water and The Happening remain a distant memory ! In all serious though Split was a great movie and I really enjoyed watching it. Instead of getting lost on a tangent Shyamalan’s focus seems much clearer in Split, with the story and pacing feeling much tighter then his previous efforts.

The cast is good, and Anna Taylor-Joy makes good on her early promise in The Witch as one of the kidnapped girls. However this is McAvoy’s show, who despite playing numerously distinct different personalities doesn’t descend into caricatures or overacts. Each performace is finely judged and flips between creepy, to humorous to compassionate without drawing you out of the moment.

For those expecting more out and out horror Split is more about building tension and the fear of whether personality number 24 actually exist and what they will be like if they do come out. Some may also be disappointed that, despite the film’s marketing focusing heavily on Kevin’s 23 personalities, we only see a select number of them.

So not up there with The Six Sense or, my personal favourite of his, Unbreakable but Split shows there’s still hope for Shyamalan’s career yet.

Oh and if you are thinking of going to see Split I would do it soon as the last scene is something a lot of people will be talking about (the audience I saw it with was buzzing with chatter as soon as the film ended). So see it before someone spoils it for you.

Rating 4/5 – with some help from McAvoy, Shyamalan is back to making good films-at last!

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