Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Dracula Untold (2014)
A Universal 300 clone
Dracula Untold was meant to be start of the Dark Universe for Universal Studio where they attempt to bring all their monsters together. What they created was a fantasy action film that looks like Universal were trying to make their own version of 300, one nation making an unreasonable demand to another, and has a smaller nation fighting a growing element. The opening was pretty much copying the visual style of that film with a voiceover expanding the history. And for a 300 copy it is one of the better ones because it visual design, especially when Vlad goes into the vampire's cave, and had some solid action sequences. It is a shame that the film went for an R-rating because it would have offered a lot of bloody. For what it is is a passable fantasy romp.
The kitten was cute
Key and Peele have a huge fanbase, but for me the big appeal of Keanu is the little kitten. And Keanu the kitten was a cute little thing and his bits were the best bits for me. Otherwise the film was a fairly average offering. Key and Peele clearly have chemistry considering their working history but most of the jokes were lightweight and the story was pretty standard. The best part was Keanu Reeves' cameo. Sadly underwhelming.
Peter Rabbit (2018)
Beatrix Potter is Rolling in her Grave
Beatrix Potter's books are known for being quaint, quintessentially English children's stories. The Hollywood adaptation ignores this for a brash comedy that misses the point of the books. Worst of all is the main character was turned from a mischevious youngster to a sociopath who's actively trying to kill someone. There were the occasional jokes that made me chuckle like the Rooster (Will Reichelt). But the film was an obnoxious, cynical cash grab that took away the charm of Potter's work. Watch the '90s animated series instead.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018)
A bold but divisive experiment
Charlie Brooker is known for being a video game enthusiast as well as being a talented writer and satirist. He got to compare all of these with the interactive film Bandersnatch which gives audiences branching pathways and a meta-narrative about a young video game designer losing control and alternative timelines. It is basically the Heavy Rain or Stanley Parable of the TV world. It's a film that allows you to awaken a viewer's inner psychopath. It is a film keeps to Black Mirror's bleak outlook and outcomes. It is a bold experiment that will divide audiences but I personally enjoyed Bandersnatch for what it is.
A good mainstream horror offering
Adaptations of Stephen King novels can be hit or miss. Fortunately It: Chapter One is one of the better adaptations. The director Andy Muschietti followed what worked in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (i.e. the visions) and the friendship of Stand By Me. It is far from a scary film but is a good offering as a mainstream horror film because of the relationship and performances from the young actors, giving the film an '80s Spielbergian feel. Muschietti and the writers being able to show the corrupting influence of It on the town. If The Shining is a haunted house film It is a haunted town film.
A interesting horror-thriller
Steven Soderburgh is a director who has a varied career, making mainstream films, awards contenders and experimental art-house films. Unsane was on the experimental side - a low budget thriller that was filmed in 10 days using a iPhone.
Unsane starts off slowly following Sawyer Valentini (Claire Foy) rebuilding her like in Philadelphia and ends up going to a psychiatry facility where she gets trapped.
Unsane follows One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest style film where people end up trapped in these facilities and their behaviour can be interpreted in a negative light. There were also elements of a previous Soderburgh film Side Effects - a film that started as a serious drama and turns into a twisty thriller. And if you like these films Unsane is for you.
Unsane was blessed with the talents of Claire Foy who gives a terrific performance who's pushed to the limit in the facility. The use of the iPhone gave the film a naturalistic look and used a lot of instance close-ups. It works as a psychological horror-thriller.
A Wrinkle in Time (2018)
When it comes sci-fi films Disney has a poor recent track record. Tron: Legacy, John Carter, and Tomorrowland were all flops that were met with a mix reaction. A Wrinkle in Time follows that trajectory and is particularly hated by fans of the novel. It was a such a flop that it didn't get a Blu-ray release in the UK and in some countries not even a theatrical release.
I have not read the novel so I can only the film on its own merits. It is not deserving of a weak 4.2 on IMDB and it should be somewhere in the 6 range. The film was a visual spectacle with strong CGI and bright colours. It film itself was basically a Doctor Who style fantasy and is it possibly why I'm not that hostile to the film.
However, the film shouldn't have centred itself around a child actor who well, couldn't act and Mindy Kaling was irritating speaking in quotes.
Another hit for Bong Joon-ho
Made for Netflix Okja is a sci-fi that all the hallmarks to be a cult classic. Made by Bong Joon-ho (The Host, Showpiecer), Okja is a film filled with his trademark combination of high-concept, humour and special effects and Okja can stand along his previous hits. Like those films Okja is surreal, wacky, has dark moments and unashamedly political. The most fun sequence is easily the escape in Seoul which was funny and exciting and a great mix of CGI effects and a car chase.
Mary Queen of Scots (2018)
Should have been a miniseries
Mary Queen of Scots is proven that a film can have lavish production values, great acting and directing and still falter if the screenplay is not up to scratch. After a fantastic open the film ends up trying to fit too much history in too short a run time. It would have worked better as a mini-series.
Universal Soldier (1992)
A Classic 90s Actioneer
Universal Soldier was Roland Emmerich's first American film and made at time where macho action films were king. And it deserves a place in the large back catalogue of '90s action films. Watching it as a first time viewer in 2019 it was refreshing because it was a simple high-concept film that had well crafted practical effects, stunt work and unashamedly violent. It may not be the best acted film considering its leads nor particularly deep film but it makes up for by being a simple, well-crafted film and is a breezy watch.
The fight for justice
Thurgood Marshall was the first African-American to become a judge on the Supreme Court and before that was a successful lawyer for the NAACP. The biopic Marshall looks at one of his court cases where he teams up with an insurance lawyer in Connecticut.
Marshall was clearly an important figure and the biopic focuses on a small slice of his life. What was delivered was solid courtroom drama set to the backdrop of the racial discrimination in the 1940s. It aimed to be Oscar-bait film and it doesn't reach that level yet fans of films about the legal system and historical dramas would be able to enjoy it.
Mary Magdalene (2018)
A dull attempt of Biblical Revisionism.
The 2018 version of Mary Magdalene was meant to be a retelling of the last days of Jesus Christ from her point of view It was meant to set the record straight and it does have some virtues - having a talented cast and some lovely cinematography. Mary Magdalene could have been a great well to revisit a classical Biblical story but sadly the director and writers did it in the most boring way possible because it is a film the doesn't have a lot about the role of women in the live of Jesus. It should have been better
Black Robe (1991)
A clash of cultures in a solid period drama
Based on a novel by Brian Moore Black Robe was a Canadian-Australian period drama made at a time when there was a mini boom of films about Native Americans (i.e. Dances with Wolves, The Last of the Mohicans and Pocahontas.) This film set in 17th century Quebec sees two missionaries go to a remote village where they have to battle harsh winter conditions, hostile natives and their own doubts.
Black Robe was a well received when it was first released but it has become more of a forgotten gem. It has a light story but it makes up for it because it was an avenue for the director and screenwriter to show the hardships of the journey, the clash of cultures and religions and questioning of ones faith. Bruce Beresford made a film with excellent production values, showing the basic settlements in the region and showing a great level of violence when the mission face a rival tribe.
Seek if out if you like films such as Dances with Wolves, The Last of the Mohicans, The Mission, The Revenent and Aguirre, the Wrath of God.
xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017)
Since returning to the Fast and Furious franchise Vin Diesel has tried to replicate the success by reprising his roles as Riddick and of course Xander Cage.
After a group of terrorist steal a device that can knock satellites out of orbit and kill Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) as he tries to recruit the football player Neymar the NSA seek to get Xander Cage out of hiding. But Xander faces his greatest challenge from a group of similarly skilled people.
The original xXx was meant to be dethrone Bond, a hardcore American action hero with extreme sports skills and an anti-authority streak. Yet it was a film I hated at the time because it was such a poor attempt to outdo Bond and it is even worst because it is so dated. The aim of this broaden the franchise's appeal and making xXx more like Fast and Furious.
xXx: Return of Xander Cage has an international cast, getting actors from India, China, Britain, Australia and Thailand, major markets and having stars that could appeal to action nuts.From a stunts and action level Return of Xander Cage is solid enough and the presence of Donnie Yen and Tony Jaa is always a welcome presence.
xXx: Return of Xander Cage is a big improvement over the previous two xXx films but considering the standard of those flicks the only way was up. Despite some decent action sequences and an unexpected return of one character xXx: Return of Xander Cage was a cynical piece of filmmaking and Diesel shows he does not have much appeal beyond the Fast and Furious films.
They don't make them like that anymore
George S. Patton was one of the most controversial and famous general during the Second World War and his war career got adapted into a Oscar Winning film in 1970. Based on a couple of book Patton works best as a board overview of his career, from taking over the American II Corp after the American Army was humiliated during the Battle of Kasserine Pass to meeting the Soviets after Germany's surrender. Running for three hours Patton was able to cover a lot of the general's war career as he brought discipline to the American Army, well read with a knowledge of history and led from the front but got into as much conflict with generals on his own side, slapping a traumatised soldier and made controversial statements. It is a great big film that don't get made anymore and even though the film does side a bit too much with Patton on a personal level it is a strong World War II film.
The BFG (2016)
A weak offering from a usually great director
The live-action adaptation of The BFG sees Steven Spielberg return to making family films, a special-effects heavy film that is geared towards younger children despite it undertones involving cannibalism.
Sophie (Ruth Barnhill) is an orphan in London who ends up being taken by a giant (Mark Rylance) after seeing him at 3 in the morning. In the land of giants Sophie discovers that the giant known as the Big Friendly Giant captures dreams so he can give them to people in the UK and is bullied by the other giants. With the giants posing a threat to the children of Britain Sophie and the BFG goes to the Queen of England (Penelope Wilton) to warn her.
The BFG is a slapstick-heavy film, having nut-shots, smiley vegetables and show pleasure with green gassy farts. It's a film where even the Queen farts. It is a kid-friendly comedy especially for children who enjoy that try of humour but there isn't so much for adults.
Spielberg does add a level of whimsy and wonder particularly when The BFG enter into a world where he captures dreams and then gives a family happy dreams. This is done through the colours and John Williams' score and there is a great amount of detail like in the BFG's home. Some great moments are when the camera follows Sophie around a location when she is avoiding being seen by the other giants. Yet some of the CGI for the giants falls into the uncanny valley territory.
The BFG has a great cast and Barnhill is a revelation as Sophie, being forceful when needed and performed well considering she would have been working mostly with a green screen. Rylance worked well with Spielberg in Bridge of Spies and he offers a gentleness as the BFG. Jermaine Clement was unrecognisable as the leader of the giants and Wilton is perfectly regal as The Queen. The film even has Rebecca Hall as the Queen's assistant and has connection with Sophie.
The BFG is a film that children will easily enjoy but as their get older will not look back at it as fondly.
Alternative Christmas viewing
The Hunt was a critically praised film when it was first released, winning the Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.
Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) is a popular kindergarten teacher in a small Danish town: but his world is shaken to its core when he is accused of being a paedophile and the accusations make him a pariah.
The Hunt is a superbly acted film as would be expected due to the subject manner. Mikkelsen who's best known for playing villainous roles in English language movies is much more vulnerable figure, becoming a broken man. He is surrounded by a talented cast with the most impressive was Annika Wedderkopp as Klara, the girl who unwittingly makes the allegations and kicks off this horrible chain of events.
The film shows how these rumours are spread and the community can turn against someone. It's a giant game of Chinese whispers as children are asked leading questions and parents are given information about the signs of child abuse which lead an overreaction. Even when Lucas' innocence is proved he still has the stigma against him. It is a situation that is all too real.
Whilst The Hunt is primarily an actor's film director Thomas Vinterberg is able to put his visual stamp on the film. There are subtle little look throughout the film and there was a great sequence when Klara is making a Christmas decoration with her brother before running outside for the first snow of the winter.
The Hunt is a bleak drama that could easily been a story ripped from the headlines. Certainly a film who fans of indie and Euro dramas.
Dial M for Murder (1954)
Based on a play by Frederick Knott, Dial M for Murder follows a standard formula of a Hitchcock thriller of this time, like Rear Window and Rope, claustrophobic films about murder. Set in London Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) plans to commit the perfect murder by blackmailing a man (Anthony Dawson) he use to know a university to kill his wife, Margot (Grace Kelly). However, the best lay plans go to waste.
Dial M for Murder embraces the theatre origins and is set mostly in the Wendice flat and few scenes take place outside. And like a play there was a two-act structure than the usual three and it is a dialogue- heavy film as characters talk about the set-up and events. The risk of this is it breaks the rule of show don't tell, but Hitchcock and Knott deliberately leaves the audience in the dark, especially regarding the police investigation.
The film was also made during the 3D boom of the 1950s and it was noticeable with objects being placed in the foreground. The film has more of a depth of feel then most modern 3D films.
Dial M for Murder is great for Hitchcock fans, yet it is far from being his best offering, even from this period of his career. Dial M for Murder a tout film, but some audiences might be driven away by its dialogue-heavy nature.
Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
Beautiful and Ambitious - Laika's Best
In recent years Laika has been developing a flawless reputation, similar to what Pixar use to have and their latest film is easily their best (or at least able to rival Coraline).
In a small village in a world similar to Medieval Japan Kubo (Art Parkinson) is a young boy who tells stories for money during the day and cares for his mother at night. However, it turns out the stories that Kubo that were true and he is being hunted by The Moon King and his mother's sisters (Rooney Mara).
Compared to other Western animation studios Laika are darker with its storytelling and imaginary and Kubo and the Two Strings continues that trend. The sisters are a wonderfully creepy creation because of the masks they wear and Mara's manipulated voice.
As well having the best features of other Laika films Kubo and the Two Strings also works within the Disney and Pixar templates. Kubo is a fantasy story in the vein of recent Disney efforts like Tangled and Moana and gives audiences some great action set-pieces. Whilst like Pixar Kubo has the heart and some of the themes would have fitted in a Pixar film - Kubo's first scene was him caring for his mother who was in a vegetative state. It's the type of scene that could have fitted in the opening of a Pixar film - Wall-E and Up even did that.
Throughout the film there is a thematic throughline of what makes a family with Kubo having to find out what makes a family as well as care for his mother. There is also a theme the importance of memory and stories and how they are connected. It gives Kubo a lot of substance.
Although Kubo does stray into dark material for a kids film it's not without moments of fun. Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey make for a great double act as Monkey and Beatle, having some great banter and there are some of big action scenes include a fight with a giant skeleton and Monkey fighting one of the sisters who uses a Kusarigama.
Kubo and the Two Strings is a great film, working both as a fantasy adventure and as something deeper. It's a great offering from 2016 which itself offered some great animated films.
A solid debut film from a great director
Duel was Steven Spielberg's debut film, made as a TV in the US but extended to be a theatrical film in Europe.
Duel follows David Mann (Dennis Weaver) is a businessman who ends up being chased and tormented by a large truck on the Californian Roads. This simple premise was great for a first-time director to cut his teeth on and even at the age of 24 Spielberg showed his talent. Duel was basically a chase film/horror-thriller that only had a few moments of respite.
Spielberg knew how to make increase the tension of the situation, working with his composer and editor to do this. It is especially true for the final showdown between David and the Truck. For a fan of practical effects Duel is a treat because of all the car chases and stunts. It is even more impressive because the film's budget $450,000, which even by early '70s standards a modest sum. It was similar to the first Mad Max film which was also a car movie made cheaply.
The problem with the film is the writing. Duel was written by Richard Matheson, best known for writing I Am Legend. Matheson also wrote episodes of The Twilight Zone and Duel was basically an extended episode. Even at 89 minutes Duel was padded - 50 to 60 minutes would have been sufficient.
Boyz n the Hood (1991)
An important film from the '90s
John Singleton's debut film was seen as remarkable back when it was released in 1991, screening at Cannes and making Singleton the youngest director to ever be nominated for the Academy Award and the first African-American. And Boys n the Hood still stands up today.
Set from 1984 to 1991 in South Central LA Boyz n the Hood follows three friends, Tre Styles (Desi Arnez Hines/Cuba Gooding Jr.), a smart kid who wants to lead a normal life, Ricky Baker (Donovan McCrary/Morris Chestnut), an aspiring American Football player and Ricky's gangbanger half-brother "Doughboy" (Baha Jackson/Ice Cube).
The main characters three different aspects of black life - Tre is the academic, Ricky is athletic and Doughboy falls in with a bad crowd and serves as an example of what could happen to Tre and Ricky. Although Tre and Ricky have ambition and potential they can't escape the gang warfare infecting the area.
Singleton gets the atmosphere of the area - the constant police presence and shootings, the young men that roam in cars and gangs and the drug addiction of some the residents of the area. A powerful image early in the film is showing children's drawings of the gang and police violence.
Some of the dialogue is a bit too blunt and heavy handed but I willing to put it down to Singleton's youth at the time as he was trying to get his point across. The same goes for the more melodramatic scenes but this was because of extreme personal circumstances that the characters have to go through.
Boyz n the Hood is a highly influential film in the 'hood subgenre' and it is clear it set up some of tropes that many of it ilk followed.
Seven Psychopaths (2012)
An entertaining crime comedy
Seven Psychopaths was Martin McDonagh's big follow-up to his dark comedy hit In Bruges and was placed on the Blacklist of best unproduced screenplays in 2006.
Marty (Colin Farrell) is a struggling screenwriter in Hollywood who unintentionally gets involved in a the Los Angeles criminal underworld when his roommate, Billy (Sam Rockwell) kidnaps the beloved dog of Charlie (Woody Harrelson), a violent gangster.
Seven Psychopaths had a lot of talent involved: McDonagh was able to recruit an all-star cast that featured Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson and Christopher Walken in the main roles and well known actors like Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, Gabourey Sidibe and Michael Pitt in minor ones. That alone is enough to drawn in film fans and they all have excellent chemistry together. Many of them have excellent comedic timing. It was obvious the actors wanted to work with McDonagh because many of them only had one or two scenes in the film.
McDonagh is a skilled wordsmith and Seven Psychopaths' best feature is its dialogue. Combined with the acting Seven Psychopaths has a zip and the banter naturally hilarious. McDonagh is a master at the dark comedy genre and he knows how to make it funny: something other filmmakers forget.
Seven Psychopaths has a plot and a style that's similar to the films of Quentin Tarantino, Shane Black and to a lesser extent Guy Ritchie. It matches the tones, quick dialogue and comedy as well as the crime setting and ultra violence. Yet the big weakness of the film is its desire to be meta and self-referential due to Marty's profession. It does learn to fine scenes of violence and action but it does not serve a purpose to the main story. It's a piece of writer self-indolent.
Seven Psychopaths is an entertaining crime comedy that fans of Tarantino and Shane Black will enjoy but it does match the heights of In Bruges
Visually stunning retro sci-fi
In an age of dark, grim visions of the future Disney's Tomorrowland is a delightful throwback to upbeat adventures of the 60s and 80s, a retro sci-fi film for the whole family to enjoy.
Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) is a bright and optimistic high school student who does not share the pessimistic views of elders. When Casey discovers a mysterious pin that shows her fantastic world and sets out to find the futuristic city with the help of a jaded inventor, Frank Walker (George Clooney) and Athena (Raffey Cassidy), an English-accented Audio-Animatronics.
Tomorrowland is a deliberately old-fashioned film both its tone and visuals: the film was loosely based on the Disney ride of the same name - considering that Disney were able to turn Pirates of the Caribbean into a billion dollar film series. Bird was a wise choice to direct and co-write, The Incredibles had a 60s style sci-fi look to it and he brought that look to Tomorrowland. It was bright and colourful with its showing of various technologies, from robots, jetpacks, lasers and a steampunk rocket.
Brad Bird has already shown himself to be a capable action director with Mission Impossible: Ghost Portrayal and with Tomorrowland he had much better CGI. There are some cool fight sequences, especially with Athena - it is awesome to see a little girl beating up fully grown men and giant robots. Tomorrowland is visually spectacular especially when we get to see the city in all its glory for the first time. Bird certainly brought out a sense of awe, whimsy and wonder.
Tomorrowland also has a great trio in the leads: Clooney, Robertson and Cassidy are terrific together, having many witty moments together when they are travelling and there is a zip in their interactions, like when they use a knock-out tool. Although Robertson's look too old to be a high schooler she pushes off the necessary enthusiasm. But it was Cassidy who stole the show: she was a revelation as Athena, playing a character who was older than she actually looked and at times acts a Terminator. She personally reminded me of Saoirse Ronan when she was younger, just with dark hair.
Although Tomorrowland had a talented director at the helm it also had a screenplay with Damon Lindelof's fingerprints, a man who has poor reputation as a screenwriter. As an adventure Tomorrowland is excellent but when it goes to the science fiction the film gets bogged down with mumbo-jumbo about time particles and destiny. This part needed to be expanded and more refined. When it's revealed that Tomorrowland was a place for exceptional people to come to where they would not disrupted by government or civil society. Essentially this is similar to Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, a controversial sci-fi work that abdicates the philosophy of Objectivism, or if you prefer it's the ideology of Andrew Ryan in Bioshock. The prologue at the 1964 World's Fair could have been cut and it would have made the reveals more impactful.
Tomorrowland is a good of romp of a film, providing plenty of laughs, action and visual spectcle. It was rated a 12A in the UK but it is on lower scale of that rating and could easily be enjoyed by children younger than that age.
A series running on fumes
If there was a case for young adult adaptation are all the same and blend together then Allegiant can be used as evidence, borrowing elements from The Hunger Games and Maze Runner series.
After the events of Insurgent the faction system has broken down after the people have found out that Chicago was no more than an experiment. Tris (Shailene Woodley) wants to see the outside world and together with her boyfriend, Four (Theo Jones), brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), friends Christina (Zoe Kravitz), Tori (Maggie Q) and Peter (Miles Teller - the term friend is being used very loosely) go over the wall and discover a civilisation of scientific advance people lead by David (Jeff Daniels) who explains how the world felt into chaos and why Tris is so special. But, David has his own motives.
I had a soft spot for the Divergent series until now: the first two films were solid films for their target audience and had some fun trippy Inception style scenes in the mindscape. Yet the good will that the series has built has spent and Allegiant used ideas from Mockingjay and The Maze Runner sequels, that people secretly exist beyond the world and they are not to be trusted whilst the desert landscape is like the one in The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, just with much worst CGI.
Allegiant even rips off the previous films in the series. The climax is similar to what happened in the first two films, the heroes have to break into the central governmental building to stop the villain's scheme and free either friends or family. Insurgent was able to get away with this because there was enough of a different because Tris was stuck in the dreamscape to open mystery box.
Allegiant relies on the characters to be idiots for the plot to continue, especially Tris who should have been more sceptical of the mysterious people who have been watching Chicago, not less. She was both the chosen saviour who had enhanced instincts yet also be incredibly gullible.
The relief in Allegiant is the world fell apart was humanity split between genetically enhanced people and regular people. Basically it was a cross between Gattaca, X-Men and the Animatrix short The Second Renaissance. Humanity split into factions because the genetically enhanced got corrupted, making some virtues greater at the expense of others, making them 'damaged'. Tris is told she's the cure for the 'damaged' and like the kids in the Maze Runner series being the cure for the zombie outbreak. Even for a sci-fi film this is a stretch and Allegiant does not mitigate the criticism the series has suffered that the faction system doesn't make any sense: if anything the revelation makes the concept harder to swallow.
Allegiant shows that the Divergent film series has run its course. It has run out of ideas and the low Rotten Tomatoes score and box office returns has put paid to the idea that there would be a sequel: although there would be a sense of schadenfreude to see big- name and emerging actors forced to appear in a TV movie.
La La Land (2016)
A wonderful throwback or over-hyped?
La La Land is one big awards contenders of 2017, sweeping the Golden Globes and been nominated for 11 BAFTAs at the time of writing and received near universal acclaim. But is really worthy of this praise or has it been over-hyped? Mia (Emma Stone) and Seb (Ryan Gosling) are two artistic dreamers living in the City of Angels who inexplicably keeping each other in the metropolis. Mia is an aspiring actor and Seb is a jazz pianist who wants to open his own jazz club. They soon for start a relationship and encourage each other to follow their dreams, but the harsh reality of real life test them regarding the personal and professional life.
Damien Chazelle is easily considered one of the great emerging directing having already made Whiplash and now has La La Land to his credit it has been announced he would be reuniting with Ryan Gosling to make a biopic about Neil Armstrong.
La La Land opens with an excellent song-and-dance number on an LA freeway and Chazelle embraces the old-fashion nature of the film. The film celebrates the fact it was shot in cinemascope and it uses a lot of techniques that was common in the technicolor era, using long tracking shots (making the dance numbers even better) and the editing transitions. But some of the early songs do have the same structure, a soft beginning becomes a bigger numbers as the song process and then two-thirds through the song one singer has a moment of introspective before a huge finish. One of the best moments is a big tap-dancing when Mia and Seb start to get to know each other, wonderfully reflecting the musicals it's reflecting.
When Seb and Mia finally get together the musical number pretty much stop and La La Land becomes more like a serious drama about a relationship. Whilst this part of the film of fine but it was not the pastel coloured detail that made the first act such a delight. It becomes a romantic drama about the highs and lows of a relationship. There is a logic in the film having less music during its middle act because of the reality of their situation but one of the big selling points of La La Land was it meant to be an all-singing-all-dancing aware. It doesn't go back to being a musical until the third act in an extremely drawn-out ending.
The retro style and story about the struggles in Hollywood La La Land has similarities to 2011's The Artist, the story of a silent movie star whose career takes a downturn whilst an actress he helped out becomes a huge star. Both films were celebrations of a bygone era in Hollywood, using the same techniques that the films that were referred used. This is usually a great way for a film to gain awards attention.
La La Land personally reminded me of John Carney's Begin Again, both similar openings, including showing two characters having bad days, plot points and themes about success vs. artistic integrity. La La Land also looks at the reality of a relationship and artistic lifestyle and it is essentially a story about the American Dream - looking at the sacrifices people need to achieve their goals.
La La Land offered a lot of promise with its big opening and the film as a whole should have been a big song-and-dance feature throughout. There is too much of a lull after it's great opening act and whilst La La Land is enjoyable, it is not the masterpiece some have made it out to be. Moana is the best musical of 2016 and Chazelle's previous offering, Whiplash was a better film.