La La Land – LFF Review

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Writer and director Damien Chazelle must really love jazz. His second feature Whiplash had jazz by the trumpet-load and his latest is a musical romance about a jazz musician and an aspiring actress. A musical in this day and age? What will they think of next?

The film opens on a big sweeping musical number. The camera floats around rows of cars in a traffic jam as their occupants burst out and join one another in song. There are bright colours, tightly choreographed dance moves, and even a band hidden in the back of a lorry. This is one big love song to old school musicals and a statement of intent for what is to follow. The opening number misleads in some ways as it raises expectations for a traditional musical plot that La La Land isn’t happy to settle for.

From that opening we meet our two protagonists: Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is that very same jazz musician; a man so in love with the genre he dreams of opening his own jazz joint one day. His love interest is Mia (Emma Stone), a desperately auditioning actress and part time barista who sleeps at night under a giant portrait of Katharine Hepburn. They both have big dreams that nobody else believes in and from the moment they meet the only people who can deny their chemistry is themselves. What follows is an incredibly charming romance replete with songs and dance numbers. Neither Stone nor Gosling are singers but work with what they have and sing gently rather than belting out showstoppers. Their dance moves are impeccable and my mind kept wandering back to memories of Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon Levitt dancing in a bank. The role of the well-rounded movie star is alive and well with this pairing.

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Like all romance it isn’t all song and dance. As their relationship progresses Mia and Sebastian find themselves compromising on their dreams in order to be with each other. As the fairy tale starts to fade so do the songs and La La Land evolves from being a mere musical into something deeper. It it here that the film takes a risk as the razzmatazz is replaced with mundanity and doubt. For a period we are not in the colourful wonderland that opening song promised us but somewhere a lot less fun to be. I started to doubt the film at this point and thought it had gone off course; a valid try but not a triumph.

But then… Wow! That final section! The film pulls the rug from under you and throws all your emotions at you at once. In his last masterstroke Chazelle brings the whole film together with a flourish. What seemed to be a mistake became a necessity and La La Land, while not the film I thought it was, cemented itself as a modern musical classic. I’m still humming along now as I type.

For someone brought up on The Sound of Music and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers this was just what I needed.

Spider-Man, With This Casting You’re Really Spoiling Us

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Mild Concern was founded because on the 11th January 2010 I felt the need to say 73 words about the fact that Spider-Man was being rebooted. Since then the film gained the director of (500) Days of Summer (one of the films I most often force other people to watch) Marc Webb and the sexy young acting talents of Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield. The resulting film was… well… better than its predecessor and certainly seemed to be setting up for something we haven’t seen before. Admittedly I watched half of the film on a pirated DVD bought from a Turkish market which stopped playing halfway through so perhaps I am not the best judge.

All this aside there are new rumours that joining Amazing Spider-Man 2 are character actor extraordinaire Paul Giamatti and the one and only Felicity Jones – a woman for whom this blog acts as a temple as we wait patiently for her to make a five-star film. Giamatti is said to be playing The Rhino, not just any old rhino, while Jones has no confirmed role beyond attractive young lady who will win an Oscar one day even if I have to make her one myself.

This is exciting news if true and will mean that I will actually go and see Amazing Spider-Man 2 in the cinema and not be a Korsan Kaan which is what I have translated as the Turkish version of a Knock-off Nigel. You’re welcome Turkish Anti-Piracy Committee.

Gangster Squad – Film Review

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Gangster Squad opens on Sean Penn as real-life mobster Mickey Cohen, alone in a boxing ring. With a murderous glare and muscly arms more scary-looking than Madonna’s (incidentally, Penn’s ex-wife) he beats a punching bag violently whilst Josh Brolin details through voiceover how awesomely criminal Cohen is. Because director Ruben Fleischer doesn’t think this convinces us enough that Cohen is a cold-blooded psycho we cut to a remote location where he has a man chained to two cars pointing in opposite directions. Cohen instructs his goons to drive and audience cheers at the bloody violence thrown at them before they’ve even had a chance to sit down.

Mickey Cohen’s mafia occupation is a force that 1950s Hollywoodland can do without. That is why the incorruptible LAPD Chief recruits Josh Brolin’s equally honest Sgt. John O’Mara, a too-dedicated-to-the-force war veteran, to put together an unofficial squad to not just arrest Cohen but to destroy him.

Although some may find it odd that director Ruben Fleischer has seemingly taken a different route from his previous efforts Gangster Squad isn’t all that different from Zombieland and 30 Minutes Or Less. They all play host to dark humour, they all feature excessive violence, and they all play with their genres in ways that we don’t see often. It may play the plot straight but at the same time it is certainly no The Untouchables.

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Without crossing into parody the squad O’Mara selects are pretty laughable. The gang are sincere in their efforts to take down Cohen’s operation but run into problems only Mr Bean could have if he ever challenged the mob. Needless to say, the misfits are incredibly hard to not love. Brolin is excellent as the group’s leader whose biggest flaw is his dedication to his Protect And Serve oath, constantly endangering himself, ticking his pregnant wife right off. As friend, Sgt. Jerry Wooter, Ryan Gosling somehow balances cutie-pie with hard-nosed cop brilliantly, falling in love with Cohen’s favourite “doll”, Grace, played by Emma Stone (which makes the pair two for two in playing love interests in a film they both star in – the other being Crazy Stupid Love). The rest of the gang consists of veteran character actor Robert Patrick whose skills put to shame loyal Michael Peña, doubter Anthony Mackie and the reserved but bold Giovanni Ribisi.

Sticking to cliché most of the way some may sneer at Gangster Squad, but it spreads itself equally between set pieces and long dialogues, making it easier watch than most crime films without becoming a soulless actioner.

Gangster Squad is one of those fine films that fills you with absurd excitement; the kind of film that has you imitating the characters for the rest of your evening. Just like I put my socks on my hands and pretend to shoot webs right after seeing any Spider-Man film, Gangster Squad had me adding “lickety split” to every sentence and firing an imaginary tommy gun everywhere as I travelled home. Les Miserables this weekend? Gangster Squad, lickety split!

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Sexy Neighbourhood Spider-Man

Until recently we’d only had a single glance at Andrew Garfield’s lycra-clad superhero. Thankfully they didn’t wait until Comic Con to release new pictures from The Amazing Spider-Man, instead giving the scoop to Entertainment Weekly.

In the images below we get our first look at the entire cast, each of whom has proven themselves as quality actors above all else. It does help that they’re darn good-looking though:

See! Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield are a couple you can really root for, sorry Dunst and Maguire but upside-down kissing is out. Continue reading

The Help and The Inbetweeners – Trailers

Because you’re about to get a heavy review for an independent cinema filled with social commentary, I’ve decided to lighten the mood with a few trailers. One for a period dramedy about social progression and the other almost certainly to include the word “clunge”.

The Help

Why is this exciting? Emma Stone and Allison Janney make any film watchable (ignoring Ghosts of Girlfriends Past) and from the looks of this trailer we have a good mix of comedy and an important historical issue being tackled. It’s the American version of Made in Dagenham but with more racial diversity. Released in the UK on 28th October.

The Inbetweeners

Why is this exciting? Because The Inbetweeners is amazing in a very bizarre way that I’m not proud of. This trailer reminds me of the teaser for The Hangover Part II but ten times more fun. My only concern is trying to see it in a cinema that isn’t filled with young rowdy types. Press screening please? Released in the UK on 19th August.