Directed by: Damien Chazelle Written by: Damien Chazelle Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling
Summary: Mia and Sebastian’s lives intersect as they both pursue their dreams living in Los Angeles. They fall in love amidst their successes and failures as Sebastian strives to open a jazz club and Mia works to be an actress.
On paper La La Land was made for me. It’s directed by Damien Chazelle who made Whiplash, one of my favorite movies of the last few years. I was confident that he would assemble a super talented team, so the Film Studies student in me was excited to see what he would produce. I’m a long-time fan of musical theater, both as a performer and a spectator. One of my favorite choreographers from So You Think You Can Dance was on board (Mandy Moore). I should love this movie.
But I don’t.
I’m actually not even sure I like it.
Yet, at the same time it’s also one of the most beautiful and innovative films I’ve ever seen. La La Land is impressive.
But I don’t need to see it again. (more…)
Directed by: Denzel Washington Written by: August Wilson, based upon his play of the same name Starring: Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo
Summary: Through the eyes of Troy Maxson we see a black working mans’ desires, disappointments and ultimate self-destruction in 1950’s Pittsburgh. He laments for the life he felt he was cheated out of and watches as his family erodes due to the choices he made.
Fences was the first movie of 2016 I got excited about. Mid-summer I always pour through lists of the most anticipated movies of the fall and winter months and Fences was on just about every one of those lists – and with good reason – it’s a film with a very compelling story and some unforgettable performances.
Directed by: William H. Macy Written by: Jeff Robison and Casey Twenter Starring: Billy Crudup, Felicity Huffman, Anton Yelchin, Selena Gomez, and Laurence Fishburne
This was NOT the movie I expected it to be. It’s going to be difficult to say much without spoiling the twist that made me like Rudderless so much more than I anticipated, so I will keep this brief.
After the devastating loss of his son, Sam struggles to cope with his life moving forward. Sam’s ex-wife gives him a collection of the songs that their son had written and recorded. He immerses himself in the music and eventually performs one of the songs at a local bar. A nervous, persistent young man, Quentin played by Anton Yelchin, then approaches him about collaborating on the songs; the two form a bond and eventually begin playing this very popular music for large local crowds. (more…)
Directed by: James Marsh Written by: Anthony McCarten, based on “Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen” by Jane Wilde Hawking Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones
Despite some minor shortcomings, The Theory of Everything is a delightful film with two of 2014’s best and most career defining performances. There are many things to praise about this film, but I think it’s important to note; this is much more about Jane Hawking and the unique challenges she faced as she served as Stephen’s companion and caregiver than it is a biopic of Stephen Hawking.
The story opens on a college party where Jane and Stephen meet. In a rather hastily depicted courtship we see the two fall in love and come to face the reality of Stephen’s ALS diagnosis together. Despite being given a devastating life expectancy of just two years, Jane is determined to stay with Stephen. We see the two marry, create a family, and struggle as his illness progresses. Ultimately, The Theory of Everything is a lovely, heartwarming film about two people learning to cope with the devastating effects of chronic illness. (more…)
Written & Directed by: Wes Anderson Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Saoirse Ronan, Tilda Swinton
I just don’t understand all the fuss about this movie. Or really, Wes Anderson in general. There were some great things about The Grand Budapest Hotel, mostly having to do with aesthetics, but I don’t understand the accolades it has received.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is a quirky comedy about the hotel’s notorious concierge, Gustav, played by Ralph Fiennes. The story follows Gustav and his young protege Zero between the first and second World War while the two flee from the authorities amidst a murder mystery at the hotel. (more…)
Directed by: Morten Tyldum Written by: Graham Moore, based on “Alan Turing: The Enigma” by Andrew Hodges
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Charles Dance, and Mark Strong
If the term ‘Oscar Bait’ was in the dictionary you would find a definition that perfectly encapsulates The Imitation Game: a reputable cast and crew take on the story of a misunderstood public figure in an effort to humanize him/her while making some kind of political statement about the injustices they suffered. This sounds like a negative sentiment, but I did actually really, really like this movie. The Imitation Game is rich with emotional tension and is beautifully put together and acted. The realities of Turing’s life are tragic; by the time the credits rolled I was heartbroken but eager to learn so, so much more. (more…)
Directed by: Alejandro González Iñárritu Written by: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Armando Bo Starring: Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Ryan
I was very, very skeptical about Birdman when it was first released in the fall. I put off seeing it until practically one of the last screenings. The story as I understood it didn’t interest me, the gimmick with Michael Keaton literally having superpowers seemed too much to bear, and the only reputable person on the project that I was aware of was Immannuel Lubezki. Eventually the attention it was getting from critics was just too much to ignore so I reluctantly made my way to the theater and ended up loving just about every minute of Birdman. (more…)
Directed by: Clint Eastwood Written by: Jason Hall; based on the book by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, James Defelice Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller
I completely underestimated how many people wanted to see American Sniper. Last Saturday I casually strolled into the theater and was met by a ‘sold out’ sign for the screening I was trying to go to. What? Since my initial bewilderment I have realized the this film has appealed to a vast audience by crossing genres, gender appeal, political affiliations, etc. This was a strong recipe for an above average movie that would do exceptionally well at the box office, especially for a lazy January weekend. (more…)
Directed by: Ava DuVernay Written by: Paul Webb Starring: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson
I have to admit, this movie was very good, but I didn’t love it. It’s weaknesses are few and far between but it did NOT earn the 100% score it received on Rotten Tomatoes prior to its wide release.
Selma is the story of Martin Luther King Jr’s march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery in protest of voter discrimination laws in the state. Hundreds of people joined King on this march which at one point resulted in televised barbaric beatings of his supporters. (more…)