La La Land

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

La La Land  (B+).  To me, musicals are like Westerns—it’s such a novelty when a new one gets made, you just have to go see it.  But when I set out to see this new musical from the director of Whiplash, I had no idea it was getting so much love from the critics.  Apparently it has lots of Oscar buzz, especially for star Emma Stone (Magic in the Moonlight).  It’s not perfect, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.  It hearkens back to the glory days of the movie musical, with a few big, show-stopping song-and-dance numbers, and with the simplest of plots.  Aspiring actress Mia (Stone) and jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling, Crazy, Stupid, Love) meet in Los Angeles, sing some songs, fall in love, sing some more songs, and hit complications in their relationship and their careers.  Stone and Gosling aren’t natural-born singers, but they have charisma and chemistry to burn, and they really make the show work.  If Rogue One is sold out, why not give La La Land a try?

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The Big Short

A new review from the desk of The Movie Snob.

The Big Short  (B+).  This movie is entertaining and infuriating and unnerving at the same time.  It’s sort of an educational movie in that it tries to explain, at least in broad outline, what caused the housing bubble and the following economic crash in 2007.  (Greed, stupidity, and lack of oversight all seem to have played large roles.)  When the jargon starts to get too complicated, director Adam McKay lightens the mood by pausing and bringing in Margot Robbie (Z for Zachariah) and Selena Gomez (Spring Breakers) to explain and simplify things for us.  But the movie is mainly entertaining because it focuses on a handful of financial outsiders and oddballs who figured out not only that the bubble was bound to burst (and even roughly when it would happen) but also how to cash in when it did.  These characters are well played by Christian Bale (American Hustle), Ryan Gosling (Blue Valentine), Brad Pitt (Troy), and especially Steve Carell (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) as a tightly wound money guy who starts out thinking that the whole world is full of crooks and frauds and eventually realizes he still wasn’t cynical enough.  It’s not at all what I would have expected from McKay, director of Talladega Nights and Anchorman 2.  All in all, it’s a solid movie, but one that left me a little angry and a little nervous about the future.

Drive

A DVD review from Nick at Nite.

Drive

I loved this movie. Two words: Ryan Gosling. Two more words: Techno Beat. Combine them and you have a pulsating, action-minded getaway film that will leave you wanting more. Gosling stars as the quiet, methodical driver – he will get you out as long as you are on time, no questions asked. Things get difficult when he falls for the ex-con’s girl next door. He has to help the ex-con with a job that runs afoul of the Jewish mob bosses played by Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks. Should have gotten more Oscar buzz than it did. See it. Go. Now. You will not be disappointed.

The Ides of March

The Movie Snob reviews a recent release.

The Ides of March (B-).  This political drama stars the ubiquitous Ryan Gosling (Crazy, Stupid, Love) as Stephen Meyer, a talented and idealistic member of a presidential campaign team who gets a crash course in hardball politics in the run-up to the Ohio Democratic primary.  His candidate and apparent hero is Michael Morris (George Clooney, O Brother, Where Art Thou?) who is the governor of Pennsylvania and sounds like Barack Obama would sound if he didn’t have to worry about polls and elections.  Rounding out the cast are luminaries like Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Savages) as Morris’s top campaign adviser, Paul Giamatti (Win Win) as Hoffman’s counterpart in the opposing camp, Marisa Tomei (Crazy, Stupid, Love) as a reporter for the Times, and Evan Rachel Wood (The Wrestler) as a luscious young intern on the Morris campaign team.  The movie kept my interest pretty well, but the whole thing got a little lurid and overheated for my taste.  It’s got a lot in common with the classic Robert Penn Warren novel All the King’s Men, so if you like The Ides of March, do yourself a favor and check a copy of All the King’s Men out of the library.

The Ides of March

The Bleacher Bum pitches us this new movie review.  (NOTE – this review arguably contains spoilers)

The Ides of March:  The movie is adapted from the Broadway play “Farragut North.” It is directed by George Clooney and has an A-list cast, featuring Ryan Gosling, Clooney, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, and Paul Giamatti. Governor Morris of Pennsylvania (Clooney) is trying to claim the Democratic nomination for President by winning the state of Ohio. His campaign is led by Zara, his campaign manager (Hoffman), and Myers, his deputy campaign manager (Gosling).  Myers truly believes in Morris and believes Morris is going to win, until Myers uncovers a dirty not-so-little secret. Before Myers can “fix” the situation and keep a persistent New York Times reporter (Tomei) at bay, Myers loses his job after being played by Morris’ opponent’s campaign manager (Giamatti).  The movie provides great performances (notably Giamatti), fantastic dialogue, a good pace, and a very realistic look at what goes into winning an election, the good and the bad.  However, I bet the movie played better on the stage in front of a live audience than on the silver screen. GRADE: B-.

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

A new review from The Movie Snob

Crazy, Stupid, Love.  (B)  Was the annoying title punctuation really necessary?  Anyway, I went into this movie with fairly low expectations, despite Mom Under Cover’s favorable review from August 1.  To my pleasant surprise, I quite enjoyed it (even if it did get a little long).  Steve Carell (Little Miss Sunshine) plays a fashion-challenged and apparently rather dull guy named Cal who learns in the movie’s opening scene that his wife Emily (Julianne Moore, Children of Men) is having an affair and wants a divorce.  He moves out and starts frequenting a trendy bar, where a handsome player named Jacob (Ryan Gosling, Blue Valentine) unexpectedly takes him under his wing and helps him out with his clothes and with the ladies.  For me, the relationship between Cal and Jacob was the heart of the movie, and both actors did a great job in bringing it to life.  But the subplots are generally handled pretty well too, such as the crush that Cal’s 13-year-old son has on the family’s 17-year-old babysitter Jessica, and the crush that Jessica in turn has on Cal.  There is a satisfying scene near the end that ties a lot of plot points together, and then a less-satisfying scene that I found kind of cliched.  But on the whole, I quite enjoyed the film.  A sidenote:  Near the beginning of the movie, I started wondering how many degrees of separation there are between Steve Carell and Kevin Bacon (Apollo 13).  Well, guess who else is in this movie?  That’s right, Kevin Bacon (Footloose).  How about that?

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Mom Under Cover says you’d be stupid crazy to miss this.

Crazy, Stupid, Love.  (B+)

This romantic comedy is clever and fun–more complicated than the previews would suggest. The screenplay (Dan Fogelman) is well written.  Admittedly, I like Steve Carell and Julianne Moore who play leads Cal and Emily.  Carell delivers that cringeworthy humor we love from The Office and more.  One of the strengths of the movie is the cast.  Marisa Tomei (Kate) demonstrates that maybe that Oscar wan’t a fluke after all.   Ryan Gosling (Jacob), Kevin Bacon (David Lindhagen), Emma Stone (Hanna), Analeigh Tipton (Jessica), and young Jonah Bobo (Robbie) all contribute solid performances.

The movie opens with zinger;  Cal asks Emily what she wants for dessert, “A divorce” is the reply.  She admits to a fling with a co-worker (Bacon as Lindhagen) and boredom in the marriage. Jilted Cal retreats to a popular bar where he watches the young, hip, ladykiller Jacob (Gosling) operate night after night.  Jacob takes pity on Cal–gives him a new look, new clothes and teaches him how to pick up women.  Cal finally succeeds with Tomei about the time Jacob meets a woman he actually cares about–the adorable Hannah.  Multiple generations all seeking love (even 13 year old Robbie has a crush on the babysitter Jessica) weave an unexpected tapestry. Tenderness and hilarity in equal parts make for a very enjoyable movie.