La La Land is Overrated

la la land movie poster3star“This is the dream! It’s conflict and it’s compromise, and it’s very, very exciting!”

La La Land’s ode to old Hollywood has re-ignited our love affair with musicals and the magic seldom seen on screen, but while this movie reminds me why I love classics of yesteryear, it’s respectful homage is also a reminder that it will never match those classics it honors.

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Bogart and Bacall. Tracy and Hepburn. Stone and Gosling? I can’t quite stomach the idea of the latter couple on the same pedestal as the power couples of the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema, but La La Land desperately wants you to believe that Stone and Gosling are the 21st century golden couple.

With a massive 12 nominations from the Critics Choice Awards, La La Land is proving to be the movie to beat this year as critics hail it “the years best” and “an instant classic,” but Ryan Gosling tap dancing around a light pole at dusk doesn’t make him Gene Kelly.

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My Favorite Things About Scrooged

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Robin over at Write Out of LA is hosting a Christmas Movie Advent Calendar series throughout December highlighting one holiday film per day. My contribution to the series is the 80s-inspired modern retelling of A Christmas Carol, Scrooged.

Scrooged is undoubtedly my favorite Christmas movie of all time – it’s a tale as old as time without the gimmicks or seriousness. It’s got one hell of a cast with the most memorable Scrooge himself, Frank Cross, played by the legendary Bill Murray. The film was actually a resurgence for Murray who had taken an imposed four-year exile from Hollywood and what a joyous return!

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Murray was an A-list movie star by the time Scrooged hit theaters, but up until that point he had always been part of an ensemble cast (Caddyshack, StripesGhostbusters). This was his first opportunity to shine solo on screen. Director Richard Donner admit this little gem about shooting the final scene of the movie: “On the last take I saw something happen to Billy. I saw Billy Murray become an actor.”

Here are my five favorite things about the movie.

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Coming of Age: The Edge of Seventeen Movie Review

The Edge of Seventeen movie poster3star“And I say to myself, ‘Everyone is as miserable as I am. They’re just better at pretending.'”

The Edge of Seventeen is being called a “teen-angst masterpiece,” but this darkly comical coming-of-age portrait of youth is a walk in the park in comparison to my teenage years.

What immediately captured my attention was this movie’s masterful marketing: “In the tradition of classics like Clueless, Mean Girls and Juno…” and “This film captures the essence of what made John Hughes movies so special.”

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Classic and timeless are being tossed around by many critics describing this movie. I don’t want to start this review on the wrong foot, because I enjoyed the film, but I missed the masterpiece that everyone else is experiencing. This glimpse into a suburban teenager’s world is as average as it is predictable. If you want to see something you haven’t seen before, you won’t find it here.

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Review: Arrival is Year’s Best Sci-Fi

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“If you could see your whole life laid out in front of you, would you change things?”
5star

If E.T.’s landed on Earth tomorrow, what would you do? If you had the option to change the course of your life, would you do it?

Arrival is the most cerebral experience of 2016, and the intimate nature of the film has everything to do with that.

The film is not entirely original; it takes the age-old science fiction premise of aliens landing on Earth with the panicked world asking: “Why are they here?” But this sci-fi addition has all the right ingredients from it’s cast to director to score to script that produces some serious thought-provoking material. The exploration of this archaic, hypothetical reality leaves me wondering when this inevitable future will occur off-screen. I’m. Not. Ready.

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7 Great Actress Roles Oscars Forgot

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Welcome to 7 more gloriously under-looked excuses to have a good old moan. This time the ladies. The years and years of the Academy’s illustrious history in rewarding great work in cinema has generally been very kind. But boy do they forget about a lot of terrific performances. And I am talking every single year. Below are 7 performances I am particularly fond of, and I know I am not alone here. These are not necessarily my all-time favorites, but they are certainly plucked from the very best that missed out on Oscar nominations. I know, three of the actresses derive from France – what can I say, I am something of a French cinema fanboy. It could easily have been all 7. Hell, 100. For now, get acquainted with these Oscars-neglected, but extremely talented women. Enchanté.

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7 Great Actor Roles Oscars Forgot

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As we hurtle towards the film industry’s awards season beyond the festival circuit, I tend to fall deep into the heartbreak of those that don’t make it to the Oscar nominations. I know, the Academy Awards are miles away, but those in the field of reporting and predicting the Oscars are already talking about it. Not all can make the final cut of course amidst the politics of preferences, and I am never short of choices that didn’t receive AMPAS recognition. It’s impossible to choose set favorites, but I picked 7 actresses and 7 actors from the array of many that the Oscars seem to have forgot. Let’s save the dominant of the species til last and start with the men.

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Review: Moonlight is the Best Movie of 2016

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5star

“At some point you’ve got to decide for yourself who you gonna be. And let nobody make that decision.”

Moonlight brings the internal struggle of being a gay black man in America out of the shadows by shining a light on the concept of masculinity within the context of personal identity.

“What’s a faggot?” asks young Chiron, mercilessly bullied by classmates each day, because they consider him different.

Moonlight unfolds in three chapters of one man’s life, from childhood to young adulthood, as he discovers who he is as a black, homosexual man in the Miami projects. With themes including race, homophobia, identity and black masculinity, it’s a miracle that a film of this nature was made. It’s going to be the answer to last year’s #OscarsSoWhite.

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The film is based on the unproduced play by gay black playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue. “Black men loving each other is a radical idea,” McCraney admit. It certainly isn’t a conventional story, but it’s one that desperately needs to be told.

Being poor, black and struggling with sexual identity are things I know absolutely nothing about. What I can relate to in Moonlight is identity and how society can negatively affect personal development in crucial stages of life. It’s bold exploration of personal adversity is exactly what the world needs to see right now.

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7 LGBT Films You Haven’t Seen… But Will!

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I’m spreading the word about the LGBT film experience, and I’ve picked 7 little wonders of the film world that delve into transsexual lifestyle, forbidden love, secret affections, identity crises , homophobia, etc. Spanning the corners of the world, from Canada, France, and England, to Sweden and Greece, then Iran and over to Cuba. The stories told here on celluloid are great ones, enlightening reflections on the human spirit and depictions of romantic, sensual bonds. So dig out your watch-lists and make room for the following seven:

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The Magnificent Seven is a Great Remake

the magnificent seven 2016 gif4star-2“What we lost in the fire, we’ll find in the ashes.”

 It’s been 56 years since Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen burst onto the screen introducing a generation to one of the greatest Westerns of all time. Now, director Antoine Funque (Training Day) has decided to resurrect a nearly extinct genre for a new generation of cowboys.

If you’re familiar with my reviews, you’ll know that I’m not the biggest fan of remakes or reboots, especially when you’re tapping into golden nostalgia. I’m also not a fan of Westerns or shoot-em-up flicks, so what sold me on The Magnificent Seven?

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Generations of Magnificence

The Magnificent Seven (1960) is actually a remake of the 1954 Japanese epic Seven Samurai. Whether or not you believe this is a story in need of of re-tellling, Funqua cites our current political atmosphere is the perfect opportunity to modernize a classic with diverse heroes attempting to halt political corruption.

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