La La Land: A review

La La Land

Runtime: 2 hours 8 minutes
Budget: Estimated to be $30 million

“I don’t like musicals.” That’s a line has gotten me (playfully) unfriended and disavowed by more than a few friends.

“I don’t like jazz.” That’s a line from the movie. Whether or not the filmmakers intended for a parallel to people like me, it did just that. Both statements are sweeping and absolute and unfairly so. It leaves no room for nuance. Rather, I don’t like most musicals. As a self-proclaimed CommBro, perhaps I should engage in the precise use of language to properly communicate and minimize misunderstandings. I liked this musical.

By no means is this a perfect movie…but if that’s really the bar we’re using as the starting point, that’s a good sign. And for Damien Chazelle’s third feature length film as a director and a modest budget to boot, that’s as impressive as it gets. Nobody doubts that you’ll be able to retire comfortably with $30 million to yourself, but this is insanely low for a movie budget—especially one that features big names like Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. I’m pretty sure Robert Downey Jr. made more than this film’s entire budget for his appearance in Captain America: Civil War

At this point, they seemed to have turned a profit and I daresay it deserves even more. This was human emotion distilled into a film. While the general plot is nothing out of the ordinary (I say that a lot), other components were well worth the price of admission.

From now on, when someone says the phrase “poetry in motion” (don’t really hear it often), I won’t think of the Johnny Tillotson song (not that I ever did), the 1982 film (definitely didn’t anyway),  Arian Foster, or any of the other uses. It will make me think of this film.

The music, dialogue, the cinematography, and the humor all make this one of the best films of the year. I won’t go around deciding if it’s the best or not, because that’s just like, an opinion, man, but it’s definitely top tier.

Unfortunately, it had a rough start from an audio perspective. That had me wondering if it would be a painful two hour slog. And no, it wasn’t just the depiction of LA traffic that was painful or because I don’t like most musicals. The sound mixing was noticeably poor. If you notice sound mixing, then it’s bad. Just like traffic. That’s one thing I can use an absolute about. I don’t like traffic.

That being said, they nailed a lot of things about LA life, albeit exaggerated. The egos, parties for the sake of networking, traffic, crappy parking situations, numerous Priuses, getting stuck with roommates, and too many other things to name. Some of these certainly aren’t exclusive to LA, but they’re definitely prevalent.

They filmed at iconic LA locations, which is cool to see…even though there’s really no shortage of that. A favorite got missed though:

A real LA gem

Still a real LA gem

While the depictions of LA reached caricature levels the film was not devoid of more grounded moments. The stark reality of dreams versus “growing up” tends to be something else most people eventually encounter and is prominently displayed. Also, of particular note was one of the most believable arguments between a couple I’ve seen in a movie.

One of the most admirable things about this movie is that they managed to marry the realistic parts nearly seamlessly into the artistic side. And they sure took full advantage of the visual medium. The contrast of colors were truly vibrant and aesthetically pleasing. Most of the music was superb to the point that I find myself wanting to go out and buy the soundtrack right away.

This movie will definitely be joining my Blu-ray collection when it’s out.

CommBro Breaker

Did I really just praise this movie for realism? Emma Stone’s character leaves a voicemail at one point during the movie. Are you serious? What kind of self-respecting millennial leaves a voicemail? Immersion broken. Trash film. I rate it 2.001 out of 1946.

The Nice Guys: A review

The Nice Guys

Runtime: 1 hour 56 minutes
Budget: Estimated to be $50 million

After surviving the events of L.A. Confidential in 1953, Russell Crowe and Kim Basinger are both back at it in The Nice Guys about 20-something years later. The quiet life probably didn’t suit them, so they came back to LA to stir up crap—and stuff.

Funnily enough, the movies were made about 20 years apart. (1997 and 2016)

Funnily enough, the movies were made about 20 years apart. (1997 and 2016)

No, the films aren’t actually connected. This isn’t the Marvel Cinematic Universe here. Although, The Nice Guys was directed by Shane Black, director and co-writer of Iron Man 3. And also a Bruin.

At least they had a shot of the Felix car dealership across from USC.

A real LA gem

A real LA gem.

You could actually see the Gateway building…which didn’t even exist in 2007, let alone 1977. But since you didn’t come here for a USC history lesson…

Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe put their sorry characters together to try and solve a mystery with as much grace and subtlely as Jar Jar Binks and Forrest Gump. Overall, the film was interesting and worth a watch, but didn’t do any one particularly impressively. That’s not an insult by any means, but an honest evaluation.

The screenplay was a solid one, with lots of quips and funny moments brought to you by Gosling. I don’t remember any of the jokes really falling flat. However, over-reliance on coincidences to solve their problems seemed to be almost cheating.

Gosling even brings up his apparent plot armor as a joke at one point. Maybe that’s the point. It’s supposed to be a comedy, after all. It was a little more grounded in reality than, say, The Other Guysbut very far from the aforementioned L.A. Confidential on the spectrum of serious or not. They got some kicks out of the recurring side jokes.

Sadly, while the daugther was funny and intriguing as a character, she was the physical embodiment of the script’s biggest problem. She became whatever they needed her to be at any given moment to drive the plot along.

Props (haha!) to costume designers and set builders. I didn’t live through the 70s, but the look and feel were mostly convincing—except for things like Gateway showing up, but non-USC people probably wouldn’t know the difference.

Again, the film suffered from some flaws, but wasn’t bad. If you like comedy and crime films, you will probably enjoy it. Give them credit for trying to make a movie that isn’t based on something else—unlike most of the trailers prior to the movie. Tarzan, Bourne, Warcraft, Doctor Strange, even the Free State of Jones…

CommBro Breaker

not that there’s anything wrong with that. My personal philosophy is that films that strive for an original idea should be commended. The problem comes in when films that are based on something are derided. As long as they make good films, it shouldn’t matter. CommBro out.

P.S. don’t drop mics because they’re expensive and fragile.