La La Land

Director: Damien Chazelle (2017) BBFC cert: 12A

Be swept off your feet by this swooning romantic musical.

Unashamedly nostalgic for the music, movies, stars and Los Angeles of yesteryear, this fabulous fantasy is a sumptuous love letter to Hollywood’s golden age classics such as Singin’ In The Rain (1952) and An American In Paris (1951).

The ridiculously attractive Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling star in their third film together, and their irresistible chemistry continues to burn through the screen. While neither are great singers or dancers, the film doesn’t pretend they are, adding to the honesty and charm of their performances.

Their characters meet in a gridlocked highway, a metaphor for their lives going nowhere. As the traffic jam becomes a joyful dance number, it’s tempered with the sting of frustration, and the tone scene is set for the story to come.

Gosling plays Sebastian, a struggling jazz pianist with dreams of opening a jazz club. His life takes a left turn when he meets the aspiring actress, Mia. Between auditions she works as a coffee shop waitress at the Warner Brothers studio.

Matching her dance partner step for step but having the more difficult part of doing it backwards and in high heels, Stone offers astonishing levels of heartbreaking vulnerability.

Though Gosling’s talent means he’s far from just window dressing, Stone owns the film. As the pair follow their dreams, they discover compromises must be made when balancing art and commerce.

La La Land‘s deserved record breaking sweep of seven Golden Globe awards has seen bookies make it the favourite for this years top Oscars and its easy to see why.

This is a dreamy, delirious and delightful concoction of high stepping choreography and toe tapping compositions. It’s bursting with sexy energy, eye popping colour and soaring ambition.

Go ga ga for La La Land and shower yourself with tinsel town stardust.

@ChrisHunneysett

 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Director: Marc Webb (2014)

A swinging good time is guaranteed in this superhero sequel which comes fully charged with a shocking finale.

During the many amped–up action sequences, the swooping, dipping camera captures the dynamic thrills of the original comic artwork.

They crackle with humour which Brit actor Andrew Garfield supplies through his upbeat charm and gift for physical comedy.

He reminds us how much exuberant giddy fun can be had as a web-spinning, crime–fighting superhero.

Especially when he’s up against an enjoyably preposterous super-villain called Electro (Jamie Foxx).

Garfield has less fun as alter ego Peter Parker and spends a lot time out of costume mooning over his sassy girlfriend Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).

However the real-life couple share a hugely likeable and engaging on–screen chemistry.

Parker’s dramatic declarations of love bode ill for the future of their relationship, especially as Gwen surprises him by applying to study at Oxford University here in Blighty.

Spider–Man’s friendly neighbourhood persona mask hides Parker’s emotional pain caused by being abandoned by his parent as a boy.

While he’s making a discovery that leads to the truth about their death, a lonely electrical engineer Max Dillon (Foxx) develops an obsession with Spider-Man.

Meanwhile the new head of Oscorp Harry Osborn (a pale and interesting Dane DeHaan) is suffering from a genetic disease and believes Spider–Man’s blood will save him from an early death.

An ignorance of health and safety regulations and a giant vat of electric eels leads to  a workplace accident – transforming Dillon into the glowing blue-skinned Electro.

After an electrifying confrontation in Times Square, Electro is locked up and blames Spider–Man. Osborn frees him and together they join forces to track down Spidey.

Brit guitarist Johnny Marr contributes to the high voltage soundtrack – appropriately he was once in band called Electronic.

Birdman

Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

This extraordinarily ambitious black comedy about a desperate actor having a nervous breakdown is funny, sexy, brave and bold.

Michael Keaton, former star in blockbusting Hollywood superhero franchise Batman plays Riggan Thomas, former star in the blockbusting Hollywood superhero franchise Birdman.

That was twenty years ago and now Riggan, aware of his age and lack of artistic legacy, wants to reboot his career as a serious artist by starring and directing in a Broadway adaptation of an important literary work.

However he’s beset by professional and personal problems – not least being haunted by his gravel voiced masked-man alter ego of yesteryear who preys on his many insecurities.

As an accomplished actor Riggan is an untrustworthy guide to his own existence and it may be best not believe anything he says, sees or shows us.

He has re-mortgaged his house to pay for the production but influential critic Tabitha Dickinson (Lindsay Duncan) threatens to bury the show and a former employee wants to sue him.

His daughter Sam (Emma Stone) is out of rehab and last minute replacement actor Mike (Edward Norton) is re-writing his lines and stealing the limelight.

Meanwhile co-star girlfriend Laura (Andrea Riseborough) is pregnant and manager Jake (Zach Galifianakis) is constantly lying to him.

Dressing rooms are trashed amid scenes of fights, affairs, drunks, drugs, and attempted suicide.

It all leads to an astonishing scene in Times Square where Riggan clutches at his rapidly shrinking dignity.

As shamelessly superb camerawork (Emmanuel Lubezki) and editing (Douglas Crise, Stephen Mirrione) create the astonishing illusion of a single continuous shot that lasts the entire film.

Dynamic and fearless performances embrace the vanity of the flawed characters and offer moments of insight creating an exhausting, energetic and constantly surprising experience.

Birdman is a soaring success.

★★★★★