MOVIE REVIEW: La La Land

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RATING: ★★★★☆

 

Cast: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, John Legend, J.K. Simmons

Director: Damien Chazelle

Length and Rating: 2 hrs 8 min | PG-13

 

When people hear that a movie-musical is coming to the big screens most of them run towards the door, but La La Land is a reason why people should watch. Set in modern day Los Angeles, a location where things have changed over time but also oddly stayed the same; the film follows the story of two artists that are just waiting for their big break. Mia (Emma Stone) is a struggling actress balancing going to multiple auditions a day while also working as the barista on the Warner Brothers lot, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) a jazz pianist who dreams of one day opening his own jazz bar.

When the two characters meet and a relationship begins to form they seem like the perfect couple, but when it involves two artists where success comes to them at different times, it makes it much more complicated. You see Mia go to audition after audition, where the casting directors do not seem to give her the time of day, and Sebastian is so set on how he sees the world of jazz music that he refuses to adapt to the times he lives in. You feel for both of them, you want both of them to succeed, and do it together.

More continuing it should be stated again, THIS IS A MUSICAL. Not a movie that has musical numbers in it a la Pitch Perfect, but a legit musical, where the songs in the movie move the story forward. That alone will deter people from seeing this film, but those who make the brilliant decision to do so will not be disappointed. The film is beautiful, from the sets, and costumes, and music, it does the perfect job of being set in today’s time but also pays tribute to old Hollywood musicals from the 40’s and 50’s.

Back on the screen together for a third time (Crazy, Stupid, Love, Gangster Squad), Gosling and Stone make it a hat trick with this film. Their experience at playing each other’s love interest is valuable here because you have no doubt in believing they could be together. Both of their singing in this film is great, but if told to choose Emma Stone would lead by a hair due to her gut-wrenching solo at the end of the film which gave off very similar feelings to Anne Hathaway’s “I Dreamed a Dream” performance. The music itself seems to be just as important of a role in this film as the characters, but would you expect anything different from the director that also did Whiplash? The songs throughout the film tie the whole story together and are so catchy that you will definitely be humming them says after you watch the movie.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: “Here’s to the ones who dream, as foolish as it may seem.”

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MOVIE REVIEW: The Edge of Seventeen

Movie, movie review, Review

RATING: ★★★★☆

 

Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner, Kyra Sedgwick, Woody Harrelson, Hayden Szeto

Director: Kelly Fremon Craig

Length and Rating: 1 hr. 44 min | R

 

Among friends, we call know there is this cardinal rule that we are not to go after our friend’s brothers or sisters. You just don’t. Obviously rule doesn’t always stop people from doing it, but it’s still there. There are countless movies and TV episodes where this happens, and The Edge of Seventeen can be included. When we meet our protagonist Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) and her best, and only, friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) couldn’t be closer. For Nadine, why have any other friends when Krista fully accepts her odd fashion choices and sense of humour. Besides other seventeen-year old girls are mouth-breathers, so why even try to make new friends. But that all changes after one night of drinking that leads to Nadine discovering that her best friend as hooked-up with her arch-nemesis older brother Darian (Blake Jenner).

After Nadine gives Krista an unfair ultimatum, she is on her own. Left to her own devices, she is now forced to interact among the people around her, whom she has spent the past three years of high school looking down upon. This includes her history teacher Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson), who we all wished was our history teacher in high school, because duh Woody Harrelson. Her overbearing mother (Kyra Sedgwick) who seems to still be in the transition of being a single parent after her husband, and Nadine’s father, dies of a sudden heart attack. And her classmate Erwin (the completely endearing Hayden Szeto, painfully endearing), who tries to get Nadine to open up enough to let him in.

Let it be known, this is Hailee Steinfeld’s movie. Yes there are other amazing people in it, but Steinfeld had the very difficult task of playing this stubborn, cynical, and emotional teenager (so a teenager) without having the audience completely abandon her. Yes her character makes mistakes, but as an audience you never really give up on Nadine. I think we forget that Steinfeld was first introduced to us as an actress, probably because we now know her through her songs that play on the radio and get stuck in our heads hours after hearing it. But it’s through her interactions with her teacher, mother, and brother that we see that this girl is not as tough as she wants people to believe she is.

This movie has been tossed around has being in the same genre of John Hughes movies of the 80s. And if you need to convince your friends to go see it with you, sure you can draw the comparison. But I think people make those calls because of the fact that this movie, along with John Hughes films, was able to capture what being a teenager is like. These films have teenage characters that are more than the stereotypes that countless other films cast kids to be like. And if that is what it takes for a film to be called “Hughes-like” then sure, I’ll give it that title.

 

FAVOURITE QUOTE:

“You’re the first person who has underestimated how much I make, that made me feel good.”

Mr. Bruner (Woody Harrelson)

MOVIE REVIEW: Arrival

Movie, movie review, Review

RATING: ★★★★☆

Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Length and Rating: 1 hr 56 min | PG-13

Are we the only living things in this universe? If not, what would we do if aliens came to Earth? Well, in Arrival, it seems we would all lose are freaking minds. Because when 12 alien pods, that look similarly like the Chicago bean, land all over the planet in different locations, the planet is at a lost of how to communicate with them. In America, the army enlists the help of renown linguistic Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and scientist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) to try to decipher their language in order to know their purpose here on Earth. They are not only racing against time, but also against the other host countries of these pods so that no one takes matters into their hands and start an all-out war with these aliens.

Amy Adams shines as Dr. Banks, a woman who is tasked with an impossible job while also struggling with her own inner turmoil. Her anxiety is also ours, and your wanting her to succeed also comes with apprehension of what her victory will mean for the planet. Will we like what the aliens have to say?

What this movie succeeds in is the fact that it throws away this notion that if alien life were to inhabit Earth we would be able to understand them. This film explores the idea that aliens not only would not be able to speak any of our languages, but also have a completely different comprehension of what language is and how it is used. Which only makes the task of deciphering their language that much more difficult.

This movie is advertised as an alien invasion movie, but if you have read other reviews you know that it’s more than that. This film does bait and switch, and the decision to accept that is ultimately up to you. But if you do accept it, you will walk away thinking about this movie for days after, like I did.

 

FAVOURITE QUOTE: “There are days that define your story beyond your life, like the day they arrived.”

Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams)

MOVIE REVIEW: Dr. Strange

Movie, movie review, Review

RATING: ★★★½☆☆

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton

Director: Scott Derrickson

Length and Rating: 1hr 55 min | PG-13

 

It’s been a couple months since a superhero has been released into theatres, but the Marvel movie making machine made sure that their films are perfectly spread out so we don’t forget about them. The newest installment of the Marvel universe comes in the origin story that is told in Doctor Strange. Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a world-renowned brain surgeon whose skills barely surpasses his ego. He’s good at his job and he knows it, and lets everyone else know it. But not even the greatest surgeon is immune to distracted driving. When it is revealed to the great Dr. Strange that he will no longer be able to use his hands in the same capacity as before, he refuses to accept that and goes on a quest to regain the mobility he has lost. It is on this journey that he gets swept to Kathmandu and the teaching of The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), where his understanding of the known universe gets expanded drastically.

Dr. Strange may not be the most popular superhero in the Marvel universe; where Captain America has his shield and super strength, Thor has his hammer and luxurious blonde locks, Dr. Strange can bend space and time all while donning a cape (who is a scene stealer). This is definitely the most psychedelic Marvel movie, with special effects that make Inception’s seem like child’s play.

Whenever the concept of time and the ability to control it may cause the audience to lose its ability to follow the storyline, it makes up for it with the characters that are infused in this universe. Although Dr. Strange can be completely arrogant, Cumberbatch’s approach to the character makes you not want to fully abandon the character. Making him more rounded of a person with sprinkles of redeemable qualities. The supporting cast is just as strong, with Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mordo and Mads Mikkelsen as the villian Kaecilius. Even with all the controversy surrounding the whitewashing of the character The Ancient One, Tilda Swinton does do a superb job, but even the performance doesn’t take away from the fact that the casting should have been more conscious of the choices they were making.

FAVOURITE QUOTE:

“We don’t get to choose our time.”

The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton)

MOVIE REVIEW: Me Before You

Movie, movie review, Review

RATING: ★★★½☆☆

Cast: Emilia Clarke, Sam Claflin, Charles Dance, Janet McTeer, Jenna Coleman, Matthew Lewis, Stephen Peacocke

Director: Thea Sharrock

Length and Rating: 110 min | PG-13

With all the superhero movies being released recently, Me Before You attempts to get people to go to the theatre for something other than grown men in capes. Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke, Games of Thrones) has lived her whole life in the same town and has been at the same job for years. But when she is forced to find new employment she lands herself a job as a caregiver to Will Trainor (Sam Claflin, Hunger Games: Catching Fire), a quadriplegic who is adjusting to his new life predicament, poorly.

It classic girl meets boy, boy dislikes girl, girl dislikes boy, girl begins to like boy, boy has given himself 6 months to live… wait a minute. Yes, Will has given himself and family a specific length of time he would like to remain on earth before he goes to a medical facility that will help him commit suicide. You won’t find that in your superhero movie.

This is not a Nicholas Sparks film, although you would be forgiven if you thought so. This film is funnier than a Nicholas Sparks film, surprising funny. It actually has you both laughing and crying if you let yourself get swept up in the story. Emilia Clarke, a.k.a. Queen of Dragons, plays quirky Lou without making her seem over the top and unbearably happy. She in fact has most of the funny lines in the film, giving the girl who wears the outlandish outfits some substance. With Sam Claflin, who we have seen play charming in the Hunger Games franchise, as her counterpart the two have some chemistry. And it’s not an instance romance with is refreshing, as each character becomes for comfortable around one another that’s when the relationship between the two changes gradually until you realize they are in love with one another.

What may lose some people is the subject matter of doctor-assisted suicide, which is a factor in this film. Since his accident Will feels likes this is not his life anymore, and he is not the same person. He was meant to have a different life, and that life ended for him when his accident happened. Whether you think what he wants to do is morally right or wrong is up to you to decide. Now is this the film to have a serious debate on doctor-assisted suicide, maybe but probably not. But the ultimate goal of the movie seems to be to encourage fullness of life, and as the film’s tagline suggests, to live boldly.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: “You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.” – Will Trainor (Sam Claflin)

MOVIE REVIEW: X-Men: Apocolapse

Movie, movie review, Review

RATING: ★★★½☆☆

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee

Director: Bryan Singer

Length and Rating: 144 min | PG-13

After X-Men: Days of Futures Past, the possibilities that these following films can go are endless due to the fact that Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) changed the course of time. This film focuses on what happens years after mutants saved the President from an attack against him. Unfortunately for the mutants, as seems to be the case in every X-Men film, they are still being hunted and killed. But when an ageless God-like mutant Apolcalypse (Oscar Isaac) awakes and is determined to rid the world of its humans, it’s up to Professor Charles Xavier and his baby-faced X-Men in training to save the day.

That is the main story line for this film, but threaded throughout are many smaller components. Beginning with the introduction of the young Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan), and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee). There is Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), who has gone into hiding, resisting to be the poster girl for mutants everywhere she has decided to travel around in her non-blue form and save as many other mutants as possible. And there is the constant tension between Professor Xavier and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) who can never truly see eye to eye when it comes to the state of humanity.

So really, all that means is that this is a long film. It’s two and a half hours. If you are a fan to the X-Men films you won’t care or notice. But if you’re not you probably will. And with all those plot points to hit and character development to be made, at times the film can seem like it was trying to accomplish too much. In addition, when you have a great actor like Oscar Isaac as the villain there should be little need to cover his face in makeup and prosthetics.

The introduction of the younger X-Men members were great, knowing how these characters interact later on in time make these scenes able to melt hearts. Managing to capture the essence of the character while also making it refreshing. Special acknowledgements should go out to Kodi Smit-McPhee as the young Nightcrawler, definitely a favourite. Also great was the always changing dynamic between Professor X and Magneto, one of the best “friend/foe” relationships around. With Fassbender giving the familiar villain more depth and understanding as to why he is the way he is. Similarly to Captain America: Civil War you can understand why there are two sides to this fight. One wants to see the best in the world, while the other wants to change its sad reality.

Mutants are being ostracized because they are different, and the world does not want to accept them. It is something that can be seen in the world around us today as well. People being afraid of what they do not know, of what is different, causes divides and creates hatred. Professor X’s goal, which has been constant throughout these films, both the original series and the reboot, is to blur these lines and have no divide. Here’s hoping he gets closer to achieving that in the next film.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: “I feel a great swell of pity for the poor soul that comes to my school looking for trouble.” – Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy)

MOVIE REVIEW: Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Movie, movie review, Review

RATING: ★★★☆☆

Cast: Seth Rogan, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Chloe Grace Moretz, Ike Barinholz, Kiersey Clemons, Beanie Feldstein

Director: Nicholas Stroller

Length and Rating: 92 min | R

If any couple went through what Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne’s characters did in Neighbors they would get the hell out of dodge too. As their young daughter is getting older Mac (Rogan) and Kelly (Bryne) bought a new home in the suburbs and are selling their old house. The only thing between them and suburban bliss is thirty days in escrow. What can go wrong?

Here enters Shelby (Chloe Grace Moretz), the college freshman who is repulsed by the Greek system rules against sororities throwing parties that she decides to create her own. And where better to house them then right next to Mac and Kelly. So now they have to get the sorority to quiet down and stop throwing parties so they can sell their home, or else they’re screwed.

If this sounds like it’s like the first movie, it’s because it is. If you liked the predecessor to this film then yes, you will enjoy it. But if you’re expecting something different, then wait till it’s on Netflix. That’s not saying that the film isn’t good. It’s pretty funny. Zac Efron continues to show comedic skills with character Teddy, a college graduate that is trying to figure out what to do next with his life. And if you like Seth Rogan, then yes this film is for you.

The film also has surprising feminist undertones in it. The film successfully demonstrates a fraction of how the Greek system can function and Shelby and her sorority sisters are disgusted by it. And instead of participating in or ignoring it, they decide to make a change. Even the jokes made can hit close to audiences especially with the conversations that are taking place in the media today.

The takeaway, if you liked the first one you’ll like this one.

FAVOURITE QUOTE:

“Do you know how to hot-wire a car?” Mac (Seth Rogan)

“No, but I do know something about airbags.” Teddy (Zac Efron)

MOVIE REVIEW: Captain America: Civil War

Movie, movie review, Review

RATING: ★★★★☆

Cast: Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle, Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland

Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Length and Rating: 147 min PG-13

The world has been saved by the Avengers, and on more than one occasion. All the Marvel films surrounding the superheroes show nothing short of the lengths these people go to in order to stop the bad guy. But what happens after the day is saved? When the dust is settled after buildings are torn apart and cities are destroyed. There has been no consideration for the lost of innocent lives that have happened since the Avengers. Until now.

After the death of innocent civilians during the latest mission from Captain America (Chris Evans) and his band of superheroes, the hammer has come down on them. The solution is the Accord, a document that will make the Avengers act under a UN task force. Meaning the Avengers can only act when there are allowed to do so, by a vote of this committee. This divides the group in half, on one side there’s Cap who believes that the Avengers should help no matter what. Stating that once they sign this document they become a tool to a powerful group, which has the power to manipulate them for their own agenda. On the other side is Iron Man (Robert Downy Jr.) who urges that there has to be some limitations on their abilities. Allowing there to be more accountability for them moving forward.

The film does a great job in establishing the two sides to this issue. There is no clear right side to this problem. There is no black and white; rather the film is just all grey. You will be flip flopping sides until you are just completely stuck in the middle. And seeing the Avengers themselves divide over this is difficult, because neither one of them are wrong.

The multiple trailers that have been released for this film definitely make it seem like it is Avengers 3 instead of a Captain America film, but that is deceiving. This is a Captain America film and it follows events from the previous film. Although the usual suspects of the Avengers are in this film, there is continual focus being drawn to the relationship between Cap and Winter Solider (Sebastian Stan), which makes it more a Captain America film.

Among this group of heroes are notable newcomers Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Spiderman (Tom Holland), both as a great addition to the film and to the Marvel universe. Boseman’s Black Panther is racked with anger and revenge, which motivates his actions for most of the film. But the scene-stealer is Holland’s Spiderman, who joins the fight as the youngest of the superheroes. Being able to portray the youthfulness without coming off as annoying or dumb was fantastic. A very real interpretation of a teenager that has just been thrown into the superhero battle of the decade while also trying to learn his own abilities as well. Both of these character introductions will make audiences excited for their own solo films.

I’m not lying in saying that this is a long film, but it’s necessary in order for every character to get their fair share of the screen. No character (or actor) is just in the film for the sake of being in it. Everyone serves a purpose in this ensemble. The special effects are amazing, but would you expect anything less from a Marvel film. You go into the film wanting to see Captain America and Iron square off and those films do not disappoint either, but it the moments that lead up to this battle-royale that make this film more than just a superhero movie.

So whose team are you on?

FAVOURITE QUOTE: “This job… we try to save as many people as we can. Sometimes that doesn’t mean everybody. But if we can’t find a way to live with that, next time… maybe nobody gets saved.” – Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans)

MOVIE REVIEW: The Jungle Book

Movie, movie review, Review

RATING: ★★★★★

Cast: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken

Director: Jon Favreau

Length and Rating: 1hr 45min PG

Disney had been slowly over the past few years taken their beloved animated films that were released before the new millennium and have made them into live action films such as, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and now The Jungle Book. With these live action adaptations most of the audience members know the story they are investing time into, so the goal for these films is to try to tell the stories that everyone knows but in new way so people don’t get bored. How do you do that? Well, just do everything this movie did.

You know the story, or at least everyone who grew up with Disney’s 1967 animated version does. Man-cub Mogli (newcomer Neel Sethi) with the help of his panther companion Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) must leave the jungle and head to the human village in order to escape the tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba). You run into all the characters from the previous version: King Louis (Christopher Walken), Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), and the best bear around Baloo (Bill Murray).

From the beginning shots of this film you are completely pulled into the scenery and animals of this world (especially if you saw the 3D version). The special effects in this movie were all I heard about it going into it, about how amazing they were and how the actor who played Mogli is the lonely real thing. And the reason why people are talking so much about it is because it’s 100% true; the special effects are unreal. The animals look so real and you could swear that they are, if it wasn’t for the fact that all these amazing actors voice them. The jungle itself changes too, depending on what part Mogli stumbles into and who inhabits that area.

The actors that were voicing these characters were perfect matches for one another. Idris Elba’s Shere Khan was terrifying and sure to be in the nightmares of kids. Every time the tiger came onto the screen that’s were all your focus goes. It’s his deep voice tied in with the stalking movements of the animal that gives the scene an anxious feeling. You never know when he is going to pounce. On the other side you have everybody’s favourite Bill Murray has the best bear side kick around. For kids who do not know the actor they will still love him, but for the adults that do I feel they’ll love him even more, it’s the definition of a perfect casting.

There are scenes in this film that are taken right out of the animated version, shot for shot, making this reviewer’s heart melt. Whether it’s hand made drawing or computed generated special effects, the tone and feeling that you get watching this story does not differ between the two. With so many films coming out being remakes there is this notion that people have of it not being able to compete with the original, and normally the original version of something as an association of being what you watched growing up. For kids that have never seen the animated version, this is what they will grow up with. But has a fan of the animated The Jungle Book this live action adaptation is exactly that, a great live version adaptation. It includes the heart of the story.

FAVOURITE QUOTE:

“Look for the bare necessities, The simple bare necessities, Forget about your worries and your strife”

– Baloo, Bill Murray (Just imagine a big bear being voiced by Bill Murray singing this song… yes, it’s that great)

MOVIE REVIEW: Batman v Superman – Dawn of Justice

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RATING: ★★★★☆

Cast: Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Amy Adams, Gal Godot, Jeremy Irons, Jesse Eisenberg, Holly Hunt

Director: Zack Snyder

Length and Rating: 2hrs 31min PG-13

One of the most anticipated films of the year has finale arrived to theaters. All the trailers and promotional footage that have been (slowly) released to us over the past year has lead to this. And in a film where arguable the two most powerful and popular superheroes in the DC universe fight not only the bad guys but each other; that concept produces a larger than life spectacle of a show.

Taking place after the events in Man of Steel, we have Superman (Henry Cavill) facing a world where he is not accepted by everyone. One of the members of the anti-Superman club is Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), businessman by day and the “Bat of Gotham’s” Batman by night. From Batman’s perspective you see what destruction Superman has caused in his attempts to save the world.

The film dives into this idea of what would really happen if there were someone like Superman in the world. A person who can do the impossible, someone who could save the world and in doing so create hope for people. Would that person have consequences? Would they have to answer to anyone? Who gets to decide who gets saved and who doesn’t? Where Batman ‘created’ his power with his wealth and was fueled by a need by his city, Superman was born a hero. With powers that are too great for a person, which is why he is not from this earth.

Henry Cavil continues to be great as Superman, as a man conflicted with what he feels he should do and what people want him to do. As the man opposite Kal-El we have Ben Affleck as the Batman, while he definitely has the superhero chin and physique to fill out the cape crusader’s outfit Affleck also bring the ruggedness and grit that this character needs. With the Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy so fresh in our minds still, Affleck had the hardest job of the movie. Trying to bring his own take on a character that is so well know and has been done brilliantly in the past.

Special shout-outs go to Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luther. An actor, who along with Affleck, people had serious doubts about his ability to play this role. Showing the more psychotic side of Superman’s nemesis, Eisenberg is a scene-stealer. Sharing that talent is Gal Godot playing Wonder Women. Although she is not in many scenes, what she is in gave us hope for the upcoming Wonder Women film. Showing how a woman can really kick some ass in these men-centric worlds.

As much praise as this film seems to be getting in this review, it does have little flaws. Mainly with time jumping, some scenes you are unsure as to if it is a scene that is actually happening or just being dreamt by some character. Also there seems to be too many scenes where these two superheroes are just simply not using their brains. But this film does do a fantastic job in setting up for the future Justice League film, where all the superheroes people love all join together.

FAVOURITE QUOTE:

“Be their hero, Clark. Be their angel, be their monument, be anything they need you to be… or be none of it. You don’t owe this world a thing. You never did.”

Martha Kent (Diane Lane)