Archive for 4 Star Rating

Black Label Media, Gilbert Films, Impostor Pictures,

Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt, J.K. Simmons, Finn Wittrock, Meagen Fay, Callie Hernandez, Sonoya Mizuno, Jessica Rothe, Tom Everett, Josh Pence

Mia (Emma Stone) is a wannabe Hollywood actress, but stuck working as a barista in the studio commissary. She is frustrated, but full of ambition. Meanwhile, she keeps running into jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and tempers flare until sparks begin to fly. But each is filled with ambition and drive, and their paths are certainly separate from each other, so they have to face many difficult choices along their way for a relationship that seems to be doomed from the beginning. This is certainly a musical, but it’s filled with nostalgia for Hollywood yesterday, and old fashioned falling in love.

This film will ever be remembered as the film that Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announced as the Best Picture winner at the Oscars in 2017 when it actually lost. This was a classic screw-up of massive proportions. But was this film the Best Picture, really? La La Land is a paradox of ups and downs, goods and bads. On the good side, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling were absolutely great in their roles. They nailed the style and motif of the film perfectly. They both pulled off some really amazing skills that blew everyone away. For example, the plan was to use a pianist to play the piano with Ryan only pretending to do it. But he took lessons constantly that allowed him to play the music himself and perform the songs effortlessly. Even John Legend was impressed. Emma has a huge audition scene which she also performed herself, flipping between acting and singing without any the usual prerecorded track. The cast was very impressed. The cinematography is very well done. The look and feel of Hollywood is colorful and beautiful and show many of the sites and locations that mean so much to those of us who live here in LA. The story is very nostalgic, but that’s what we are really looking for. It pays homage to the Hollywood of yore and does it very well. It’s a simple boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl story, told with music. Now for the bads. The music is highly forgettable. When was the last time you heard a huge hit song from the new musical LA LA Land on the radio? It’s really simplistic and seems to mostly just fill in time. That part could have been done very much better. The story is rather simplistic. The drama seems really contrived and not really very believable. But the negatives don’t really destroy the experience, and it was very popular with the Foreign Press! For those who have had the acting or musician bug, it’s right up your alley, but not everyone is going to love this. I did not think it was best picture by any means, but it is good enough for a high recommendation. It is a great opportunity, like watching and old movie on AMC, to kick off your shoes, lie back, and enjoy a couple hours of pure unadulterated nostalgia. Finally a word about the ending. This may catch some folks by surprise, but there is an epilogue to the film that is a performance art sort of piece showing the “what ifs” of what life could have been. This film is about wishes and dreams, more than about love and romance, and it’s an interesting way to send us off think about that. The final ending is stunning. Wait for it.

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Paramount Pictures, Skydance Media, Huahua Media,

Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh, Austin Hébert, Patrick Heusinger, Aldis Hodge, Holt McCallany, Robert Knepper, Robert Catrini

“Jack Reacher” (Tom Cruise) in 2012 present Tom Cruise as an ex military police, lone vigilante type real badasss. [Click Here for Ed’s Review] Jack is back, this time under suspicion for murder, and watching people near him getting taken out at a speedy pace in this sequel to the 2012 film. Turner (Cobie Smulders) is in the office and is his primary contact, but when he arrives to see her in person he finds that she has been arrested for espionage, and those who are out to get him are after her too. It turns out it could be a huge conspiracy involving high up military personnel as well as a primary private contractor involved in a massive corrupt scheme. But Jack isn’t ready for another surprise as he finds out that he’s also wanted as a deadbeat Dad, since a woman filed a claim against him for a daughter he never knew anything about. She’s 15 now, and a true street rat named Samantha (Danika Yarosh) who is suddenly mixed up with Reacher and Turner as all three of them are on the run and trying to stay alive in this ultimately violent and extremely intense action film.

So it’s not surprising to anyone when I say that I’ve not been a Tom Cruise fan for many years, especially after the Mission Impossible disasters which I absolutely loathed. But I have to admit that he does a really good job with his Reacher character. It’s been a long time since we’ve had someone as rough and tough as this guy. He reminds me a lot of Charles Bronson in his heyday, and there is a feel a lot like the Death Wish films from the 70’s. The prime difference here is that Bronson was a private citizen who is wronged and heads out to exact revenge. But Reacher is an inside guy with his military background who has become discouraged with the corruption and heads out on his own against the system, but still with a strong feeling of right and wrong. Much like the Bourne films too, but Reacher is maybe not as smart as Bourne, but he’s certainly tougher than anyone I’ve seen in a long time. I actually really liked the original Jack Reacher, and I liked this one just as much. It’s every bit as exciting, and the addition of Cobie Smulders and Danika Yarosh really help, as both of them are really good here as well. I think Cobie was pretty good in this tough guy role, but Yarosh really blew me away with her acting skills. She really did an excellent job. All in all this is a very action filled crash fest with lots of fist fights, gun fights, and car chases, with some of the best cat and mouse scenes I’ve seen in a long time. If you like action, this is a really good film. I recommend this one for fans of the action genre. It’s a great sequel to a good original film.

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Apaches Entertainment, La Trini, A Monster Calls,

Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Lewis MacDougall, Liam Neeson, Toby Kebbell

Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is a young boy struggling with life in the private school where he is being bullied by some of his classmates. A horrible tragedy has struck, and Conor’s Mum (Felicity Jones) and his Dad (Toby Kebbell) have separated and Dad lives in the U.S. Conor is staying with his Grandmother (Sigourney Weaver) who is very strict and quite cross. To keep his sanity, Conor has a tree monster friend (Liam Neeson) who has promised to tell him three stories, then Conor must tell the fourth to solve his problem and relieve his pain. In the end, Conor must face the truth of his situation.

This was a very surprising film. It looked like a typical kids fantasy story, but is much, much more. This is a very difficult story to tell and to make it interesting enough for adults, yet not too extreme for younger folks. This is not a fantasy science fiction-y fairy tale, but a true life story of love, loss, death, and pain, told in a gentle way. The power of this story is impressive, and the director J.A. Bayona did an amazing job of bringing this story to the screen. Lewis MacDougall was absolutely amazing as Conor. He deserves a lot of praise for the professional way he played his role. Sigourney Weaver, of course, was fantastic too. In fact, the entire cast was really awesome. This is such a touching story, and one that was so very well presented, that I was really moved. The Monster in this film, is mostly real as well, with many different pieces of the tree built as practical set pieces that could be used for filming. Kudos for not resorting to CGI for most of it. Excellent choice. I have to recommend this film, a great fantasy, with such a powerful story that you’ll never forget it. This is a must see film.

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Studio Ghibli,

Nobuo Tobita, Toshihiko Seki, Yoko Sakamoto, Yuri Amano, Kae Araki, Jun’ichi Kanemaru, Ai Satô, Aya Hisakawa, Tomokazu Seki, Hikaru Midorikawa

Taku (Nobuo Tobita) is a young first year college student who returns back home to the seaside town of Kochi a little town on an island in Japan. When he arrives home for his high school reunion, he is reminiscing of his Junior year in high school and the young beautiful city girl Rikako Muto (Yoko Sakamoto) who transferred to Tokyo to his school. Stuck by her immediately, both are young and inexperienced in life, and have to go through many trials and tribulations, fights and disagreements, but when she doesn’t return to the reunion, Taku finally learns the truth and sets off for the city to find her again.

This is one of the most stunning films from Studio Ghibli which brought us 2001’s Spirited Away, 2003’s academy award winner for Best Animated film, and 2010’s The Secret World of Arrietty [CLick Here for Ed’s Review], this is an older film (1993) but every bit as good or better than the previous ones (and more) from Studio Gibli. This one has received a great makeover and is now available on DVD in the Unites States, and it’s not dated or old in the least. In fact, it’s one of the greatest coming of age stories of a young couple who don’t know they’re in love than any live action film I have seen that tries to touch the subject. Everything is simply spectacular. The story is very touching and the word that comes to mind is subtle, as it’s never pushy or in your face, but very tactfully told. The animation is completely stunning, and many of the scenes, especially in the city, you will forget that you’re watching animation. It’s animation is simply amazing. The movie is in Japanese, with English subtitles, but I think that was an excellent choice as the background music and score of this movie is as good as any Hollywood has done. If you are a lover of animation, this is simply a must see film, and is very, very worthy of the 4.5 stars I have given to it. The only problem is that you will have to focus and read the subtitles to get the touching story, but it’s well worth it as you need to pay attention to the detail and beauty of the animation. This is a love story as good as any, and well worth the extra effort to really pay attention to what you are seeing. I highly recommend this movie.

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FilmNation Entertainment, The Weinstein Company, Faliro House Productions,

Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Linda Cardellini, Patrick Wilson, B.J. Novak, Laura Dern

Dick McDonald (Nick Offerman) and Mac McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) were brothers who opened a drive in restaurant in San Bernardino, California. They were struggling with all the problems that come with Drive Ins, with the clientele and the car hops themselves, and the difficulty of keeping each of the menu orders straight. But the brothers came up with an idea they called Speedee Service where they trimmed down the menu to just Hamburgers, Fries, Milkshakes, and Soda, nothing else, but also a redesigned kitchen that allowed them to fill orders at the walk up window in about 30 seconds. Additionally they did away with all the silverware and dishes, and packaged everything in disposable wrappers in a bag designed to be totally disposable. Meanwhile Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) was a salesman, struggling to eke out a living selling milkshake blenders on the road. But he was a big dreamer, and when he heard of the success of the McDonald brothers, he set out to see it for himself. They made a tenuous partnership and struggled to bring to fruition Kroc’s vision of the largest franchise in history, with a restaurant in every town, the McDonalds we know today. This docudrama tells the story of the recognized franchise king Ray Kroc from the eyes of the two brothers who actually invented the system.

The main character all are excellent actors. Michael Keaton did an excellent job as did Nick and John as the McDonald Brothers. Laura Dern also brought a lot to the movie with her role as Ray’s wife. She added quite a bit to the story as her role is very complex, but but she pulled it off very well. This is one of the better docudrama’s I have seen in a long time. I think most everyone is aware that Ray Kroc was the founder of McDonalds, but few people know the background of where the golden arches came from, originally. This movie is rather interesting because of the unusual path it took. Everyone wanted to tell the story of the McDonald brothers and how Ray Kroc ran over them with a steam roller, but this producer, director, and screen writer realized early on that Ray Kroc is the center of the film, and that it’s not all black and white. Without taking sides, it’s told from the McDonald Brothers point of view, but as you go through the film, there are no heroes and not bad guys, really. Everything is really grey as we come to understand how things happened the way they had to do. I highly recommend this film as I found it very well made, well told, and quite interesting. Give it a shot.

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