La La Land
Summit Entertainment / Lionsgate Films
Rated PG-13 for profanity
Gosling And Stone Co-Star In Enchanting Homage To Hollywood Musicals
If you only see one movie this year, you need to get out more. That being said, La La Land is the picture to catch. This nostalgic homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood is a panoramic masterpiece which makes very effective use of every inch of the big screen.
Written and directed by Oscar nominee Damien Chazelle (for Whiplash), the picture was shot in CinemaScope, a supposedly-obsolete technology that fell out of favor with filmmakers in the late ’60s. Here, Chazelle resurrects the wide-angled lens for a last hurrah in service of an old-fashioned musical unfolding against a breathtaking array of L.A. backdrops. La La Land also features an enchanting original score composed by Justin Hurwitz, who collaborated with college classmate Damien on Whiplash as well as his debut offering, the deceptively-unassuming Guy And Madeline On A Park Bench.
This relatively-ambitious romantic romp revolves around Sebastian Wilder and Mia Dolan, struggling artists played to perfection by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, respectively. Their talented supporting cast includes J.K. Simmons, John Legend and Rosemarie DeWitt.
After a showstopping opening staged on a gridlocked freeway where stuck motorists suddenly break into song and dance, we’re introduced to the likable leads. We learn that jazz pianist Sebastian’s a purist playing for tips in dingy dives while trying to save enough cash to open his own nightclub. Mia’s an aspiring actress who divides her time between fruitless auditions and a thankless job as a barista at a coffee shop right on the Warner Brothers lot.
Seb and Mia are strangers who initially experience only aggravation whenever their paths serendipitously cross. Eventually, sparks do finally fly, which inspires them to belt out mellifluous and melancholy tunes. More importantly, they fall in love and encourage each other to pursue their elusive dreams.
Since it would be unfair to spoil any of the ensuing plot developments, suffice to say that Gosling and Stone are pure delight, whether warbling or just generating screen chemistry. A charming crowd-pleaser that richly deserves all the superlatives it’s undoubtedly about to receive over the course of the upcoming awards season!
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 128 minutes
The Bounce Back
Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and brief drug use
Love Gurus Date Despite Philosophical Differences In Delightful Romantic Romp
Love guru Matthew Taylor (Shemar Moore) is the author of the new best seller, The Bounce Back. Accompanied by his enterprising business manager, Terry (Bill Bellamy), he’s been hawking the self-help book on plenty of TV and radio programs.
Since Terry believes that “image is everything,” he’s concerned that Matthew hasn’t settled down since his divorce. “A relationship guru should be in a relationship for longer than a minute,” he counsels his BFF/boss.
That sentiment is echoed by Matthew’s teenage daughter, Aleya (Nadja Alaya), who says, “Dad, you really need to get a girlfriend.” Nevertheless, her father tends to settle for one-night stands, like the one he recently shared with Lizette (Marta Cross), the makeup artist at a TV station where he’d just appeared.
Matthew finally meets his match, literally and figuratively, the day he crosses paths with Kristin Peralta (Nadine Velazquez), a fellow therapist also making the rounds on the talk show circuit. Trouble is, while there’s evidently chemistry between the two, they have conflicting advice to offer folks nursing wounds from a painful relationship.
Matthew’s simplistic suggestion is to “get out of your head and into action.” By contrast, Kristin doesn’t think the solution is quite that easy. She says, “Therapy’s a marathon, not a sprint.” After all, she’s still recovering from having her heart broken over six years ago.
Consequently, she views Matthew as a charlatan exploiting the vulnerable. And she tells him so to his face, snarling, “Quick fixes like yours are always a scam, whether it’s a book, a pill or a seminar.”
Confrontation makes for great TV drama and, soon enough, the two therapists find their services in demand to debate their contradictory philosophies head-to-head. However, the more time they subsequently spend together making personal appearances, the more the feelings between them have a chance to develop.
But can a relationship survive on chemistry alone? That is the pivotal question posed by The Bounce Back, a delightful romantic romp directed by Youssef Delara (Filly Brown). The movie is most reminiscent of Think Like A Man, another urban-oriented soap opera revolving around the battle-of-the-sexes.
Nevertheless, this novel contribution to the genre stands on its own and thus warrants recommending, between a solid script with a couple of cleverly-concealed plot twists, and a plethora of praiseworthy performances on the part of a talented cast topped by Shemar Moore, Nadine Velazquez, Kali Hawk, Sheryl Underwood and the versatile veteran, Bill Bellamy.
Confirmation that opposites do, in fact, attract, even shrinks dispensing diametrically-opposed dating advice!
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 104 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening December 9, 2016
Office Christmas Party (R for crude sexuality, graphic nudity, drug use and pervasive profanity) Raunchy holiday comedy about a couple of corporate execs’ (Jason Bateman and T.J. Miller) attempt to save their jobs by throwing a wild party to impress a potential client. Ensemble cast includes Jennifer Aniston, Kate McKinnon, Vanessa Bayer, Olivia Munn, Courtney B. Vance and Rob Corddry.
All We Had (Unrated) Dysfunctional family drama about a cash-strapped single mom (Katie Holmes) living hand-to-mouth with her 13-year-old daughter (Stefania Owen) until they move to a tiny town where she finds a steady job as a waitress only to be victimized by a fast-talking mortgage broker (Mark Consuelos). Featuring Eve Lindley, Richard Kind and Judy Greer.
Befikre (Unrated) Romantic comedy about a guy (Ranveer Singh) who ventures from Delhi to Paris in search of employment only to fall in love with a free-spirited Indian girl (Vaani Kapoor) born in France. With Elisa Bachir Bey, Julie Ordon and Hugo Diego Garcia. (In Hindi with subtitles)
The Brand New Testament (Unrated) Irreverent comedy about a sadistic God (Benoit Poelvoorde) living in a high-rise apartment in Brussels where he abuses both his wife (Yolande Moreau) and 10-year-old daughter (Pili Groyne). Support cast includes Francois Damiens, Catherine Deneuve and Marco Lorenzini. (In French and German with subtitles)
Burn Country (Unrated) Crime thriller about an Afghani refugee (Dominic Rains) who finds his life threatened after he takes a job as an investigative reporter with a newspaper in the quiet California town where he settles down. With James Franco, Melissa Leo and Rachel Brosnahan.
Friend Request (R for profanity, violence and disturbing images) High attrition-rate horror flick about a popular college coed (Alycia Debnam-Carey) who comes to regret unfriending a stalker (Liesl Ahlers) when her closest classmates start disappearing one-by-one. With William Moseley, Connor Paolo and Brit Morgan.
Harry Benson: Shoot First (Unrated) Reverential biopic chronicling the enduring career of 86-year-old Harry Benson, legendary photographer of the stars, with subjects ranging from The Beatles to Muhammad Ali.
Kill Ratio (Unrated) Espionage thriller about an American spy (Tom Hopper) working undercover to protect a fledgling, Eastern European democracy during a coup d’état being orchestrated by a ruthless, renegade general (Nick Dunning). With Amy Huberman, Lacy Moore and Michelle Lehane.
On The Map (Unrated) Inspirational documentary recounting the Cinderella story of the Israeli basketball team’s unlikely win of the European Cup in 1977.
Slash (Unrated) Coming-of-age comedy about an introverted, high school freshman (Michael Johnston) who turns a new leaf when a cute upperclassman (Hannah Marks) takes an interest in his erotic fiction. With Tishuan Scott, Jessie Ennis and Michael Ian Black.
Solitary (Unrated) Prodigal Daughter drama about an unemployed, substance-abusing party girl (Katharine Lee McEwan) who moves back home to live with her aging father after getting dumped by her boyfriend. Cast includes Sam Hoare, Jana Dowling and Jack Lowe.