Category Archives: Musical

La La Land

What Dreams May Come

As soon as that first trailer hit 1.10 minutes and that flute starts rolling “roop roop roop flooop roop…” and shortly followed by those bumping horns “bah bah bah baaah bah, bah bah bah baaah bah” my spine tingled.

If this energising, inspiring and uplifting music is representative of the film then fuck yeah this is going to be great!

Musicals are, you know, OK… but writer/director Damien Chazelle’s first film (Whiplash) showed such reverence for the highest calibre of musical artistry and by wrapping it in a compelling story he managed to explain why such musical talent is important so I had really high hopes for La La Land. This will not just be a story of whoever X-Factor has farted out in season 39.

I guess I came into La La Land with different hopes to those who have been gushing about it because I would take Whiplash over La La Land.

I loved the moments in which the film lingers on dope musicians being dope musicians. This is exactly what I wanted from the film and sent me day-dreaming of supping bourbon in a smokey jazz club or sitting in on a jam session because the passion for talented musicians is once again on full display.

I also loved the dream sequences and how seamlessly they blended in to the films narrative without feeling like a generic cheesy musical.

In fact dreaming is the film’s dichotomy. We see Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) struggling to align and achieve their dreams. They both want to be together but Seb, a realist, wants to own a pure Jazz club and Mia, an optimist and dreamer, wants to become a famous actress.

These incompatibilities are a reflection of ourselves. We all struggle to spin plates the plates we have let alone adding that really cool gold-edged plate to the mix!

What do we sacrifice to get what we want? For me; this blog is a type of therapy but you know… life! It get’s in the way sometimes and my writing suffers, other times it’s climbing, running, learning french, personal sanity or personal fucking hygiene that falls behind!

This realisation that only one or two of our dreams are ever truly attainable (if that!) provides a solid backbone to the story but to me it also exposes the film’s flaws.

I found La La Land loosing a lot its mojo towards the middle of the film as the songs became more melancholic and the focus shifting from sweetness of love, music and life to the bitterness of a cold break up.

I fully admit that’s just me wanting more electric music and less emotional baggage but I also noticed the dance scenes in the middle of the film pales in comparison to “Another Sunny Day” or “Someone in the Crowd” at the start of the film.

The mid film dance scenes couldn’t hold up partly because Ryan Gosling was not a great dancer. He looked good – not that it’s hard for Gosling right?! – but he is no Gene Kelly.

Keep an eye out for the early scenes though. You’ll get a few minutes in to and think “hang on, haven’t cut away once yet!” It’s audacious amid a modern Hollywood which seems to believe that more edits mean more bums on seats.

La La Land is a great film. It really is. It’s the best romance film I’ve ever seen but I was just dreaming it was something else.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ A couple of cracking songs
+ Incredible one take dance scenes
+ A solid, bittersweet story


– Kinda sags in the middle
– More of a love story
– Ryan Gosling as a dancer

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Hail, Caesar!

Blacklisted

Have you ever heard of something called GlowBowl? No? Well it’s a gadget that makes your toilet bowl error… glow.

Seems pretty pointless to me unless you want people to think that your rectum is being haunted by Casper or if, after a heavy night out, you find it difficult to locate ‘Chinatown’ before bringing your drink back up.

At the same time though I weirdly like the idea of a ‘toilight’. This is how I felt about the Coen brothers latest film Hail Caesar! It’s really enjoyable but totally pointless.

The plot focuses on the kidnap of Hollywood star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) by a group called The Future and Eddie Mannix’s (Josh Brolin) hardship in keeping up appearances and handling the stress of managing a film studio in 50’s Hollywood.

I’m going to spoil what little there is to spoil in the next two paragraphs so be warned.

The Future is a group of ex writers who sympathise with communism. Whitlock becomes indoctrinated to the cause but eventually returns to the studio of his own accord.

So let’s recap on events. Kidnap. Guy returns on his own decision. Life goes on. As plots go, this is as thin as my ever receding hair and as hollow as cheap Easter eggs.

Hail Caesar! is a Coen brothers film though, which means is that you will be treated to some fantastic dialogue, most notably the criminally short and under-utilised scene where Mannix tries to gain approval for the titular Hail Caesar film from priests and rabbis. This scene is both beautifully worked and hilarious.

The humour is helped by some fantastic characters that carry the Coen brand of being whimsical, bordering on absurd, yet untrustworthy and bordering on menacing. There is something inexplicably fascinating about the characters that the Coen brothers create in all their films.

Some excellent performances by Brolin, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes… In fact everyone only serve to promote this aesthetic.

One thing I was impressed by was the way is very reminiscent of old Hollywood musicals without it ever feeling like a musical itself. The times we are let in back stage to see Scarlett Johansson synchronised swimming as a mermaid or Channing Tatum dancing as a sailor (complete with permanent cheesey smile) were the most enjoyable for me personally due to the behind-the-scenes glimpses of Hollywood in that era.

I am ready to concede this last point because I have a degree in film and I’m boring. Tip of the cap moments to the old studio system and Hollywood blacklisting that was prevalent in the fifties is fascinating to me, no matter how subtle. Others might not care at all.

Hail Caesar! is a film for the film buffs, the film students or the Hollywood insider and not necessarily for Joe public because simply saying: “here are some things that Hollywood used to do” is not enough to keep it from feeling ultimately pointless. Yet through it all it is still a Coen brothers film and it is still indescribably watchable even if it’s not their best.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Some great Coen-esque dialogue
+ Some great Coen-esque characters
+ Some great 50’s-esque film scenes


– Pointless
– Hollow
– Built for film students and insiders

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Annie

It’s a hard ’nuff film to watch

It’s amazing achievement that a musical film, which is based on an established Broadway musical, can crumple in a heap harder than a car crash using 1960’s safety standards and it does so purely based on the musical numbers in the film.

How the film manages to make them the absolute worst part of a musical film is beyond me. In fact it’s almost worth seeing just for the sheer farce of it all.

Now I haven’t actually ever seen Annie the theatre production nor have I seen the 1999 movie, nor the 1982 movie of the same name. Neither am I a musical aficionado, though I’ve seen my fair share. What I am trying to say is that I have no pre-conceptions of this film before seeing it.

I can only imagine that this film was once quite decent but then someone from marketing came along and demanding more material objects thrown in like bigger LCD displays and helicopters, less dancing and generally more douche-baggery wildly spewed on screen. I feel the phrase “no, we need to cheese-it more” was the yardstick used.

This film, in a nutshell, a bunch of shit adverts strung together by a generic drama that is only made palpable by Jamie Fox who is by far and away the best thing in the film by being both funny, assertive and compassionate. Oh, also there is a cute dog which is also a highlight.

A fucking dog. That’s one of the highlights.

It’s actually quite a shame because the film did have a bit of promise. The setting has been changed to be a little black girl instead of a little ginger haired white girl and that’s perfectly fine because the ideology of the film is about a foster child going from a bad situation to finding love and compassion in a new foster home. This motif absolutely must transcends race and even gender because every kid deserves the best shot in life. If you don’t think that’s true then 1930s Germany will telegram you shortly no doubt.

So the setting is perfectly fine, interesting even. We then have Cameron Diaz who actually plays quite a good shambolic drunk foster carer by taking up the role of Hannigan who initialy looks after Annie and a handful of other kids. Unfortunately ahe doesn’t feel brutal enough to really make any impact on the kids lives or indeed, those painfully sitting through the film. Whenever she shouts at the children in her care they just sort sit there emotionless and just shrug it off.

This blaze attitude is carried all through the film by Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) so you don’t ever root for her to thrive under the care of Will Stacks (Jamie Fox). Even when she get’s kidnapped by people pretending to be her real parents the only emotion is ‘meh, oh well!’. Just another ordinary day being kidnapped.

Surely this must have been toned down in order to make it fully accessible by younger children as a family friendly film but there is something to be said about making Diaz’s character more menacing because really she doesn’t seem that bad. Even if you let this aspect slide though, there is no excuse for the piss poor musical numbers.

Almost every musical number is dubbed. Ok, fine. But there is so little background noise going on that it feels like a shallow music video that is obviously, and often poorly, dubbed. There is only one scene where Annie sings and it sounds like her voice, singing on location and it’s a shame on 2 fronts, it stands out as bizarre because it is so different to the other highly polished yet soulless mp3s that are laced over the top but also because Quvenzhané Wallis actually has a quite sweet voice and it’s simply wasted here.

Then there’s the dance numbers. So I have been break dancing for about 12 years, 15 years? I loose count. Whilst I barely have a chance to do it anymore I still get excited by interesting dance scenes. Again, the film shows some promise at the start with the ‘hard knock life’ song containing some ingenuity when Hannigan’s foster kids, including Annie, clean the house whilst dancing.

After that scene though the best dancing can be vividly described as ‘walking around a bit’. In one half arsed attempt at creating something that crawls above the level of woeful; Annie, Grace (Rose Byrn) who plays Will Stacks’ assistant and some other random woman literally walk around Stack’s penthouse apartment stepping on tables, hugging sofas and licking TV screens in awe of how much money Stacks has.

This is are as sophisticated as the scene get and if this is considered to be a dance number then you could argue getting stabbed is a professional appendectomy.

I deliberated giving this 2 star, with one extra given purely for Jamie fox who, again, was really really good but the more I think about it the more i’m disappointed with the film. Bring your kids to see it by all means but I suggest you bring an ipod, play some soothing rainforest or whale sounds and have an hour and a half snooze. You’ll have a better time.

Go See

  • Child friendly family film
  • Jamie Fox

Avoid

  • Terrible song/dance numbers
  • Generic supporting cast
  • Lacking any real drama

Overall

1-stars