Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

First Man (2018)

Image is property of Universal and Dreamworks

First Man  – Film Review

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Ciarán Hinds

Director: Damien Chazelle

Synopsis: Telling the true story of astronaut Neil Armstrong and how, through many years of intense training at NASA, he became the first man to walk on the surface of the Moon.

Review: In terms of the greatest historical moments of the 20th century, there is perhaps few that could rival the moment where for the very first time, the world watched as the human race set foot upon the surface of the moon. The man who took that very first step, and uttered the immortal line “One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for Mankind,” was Neil Armstrong.  It is this man’s remarkable life and journey that incredibly hasn’t really been explored to such an extent on the big screen before, this is until Damien Chazelle came along.

After working together so successfully on La La Land, Gosling re-teams with Chazelle to play Armstrong, and Gosling once again excels. Right from when we meet him, you get the impression that this guy is focused and determined, something that has run through both of Chazelle’s last two films. He’s much more stoic here, but no less resolute in his mission, except there’s no jazz clubs involved this time. Josh Singer’s script goes into some quite personal detail that people might know about Armstrong including his family life, and the deeply personal tragedy that he goes through in the early stages, whilst also focusing on his NASA training, and all the perils that he faced on his journey to becoming the first man to walk on the moon.

Claire Foy, having donned the crown of Queen Elizabeth II, steps into a very different role as Armstrong’s wife Janet. A role that is quite clichéd for sure, yet it’s one she absolutely shines in alongside Gosling to be there as his figure of support, and at the same time, when it comes to the eve of his lunar mission, to voice her fury at the very real possibility that her husband might never see their kids again. Their relationship is the fierce beating heart of this story, and while the rest of the cast all give solid performances to complete a solid ensemble cast, no one else apart from Foy really has enough time to shine alongside Gosling.

For a director who’s only 33, he has already had a remarkable run of success with his previous two films Whiplash and La La Land, both garnering critical praise and awards aplenty, including the Best Director Oscar for Chazelle for the latter. The ambition for a film like this almost goes without saying, but Chazelle rises to the challenge and delivers another immensely well crafted film. Re-teaming with some of his frequent collaborators in the cinematography (Linus Sandgren), score (Justin Hurwitz) and editing (Tom Cross) departments, the film is crafted to perfection. The space scenes, especially the final lunar landing are so masterfully executed, it feels so real and authentic, and Hurwitz’s score is just superb.

Given the scope of this story, spanning almost over a decade into just over two hours, seems like an impossible task but Singer manages to streamline it as effectively as he can. Yet the pacing does suffer around the second act, especially when there is not a great deal happening down on Earth. However once, we gear up for the all important third act, the spectacle is turned up to ten, and never ceases for the rest of the film. For a director as young as Chazelle, to have an absolutely stellar hat-trick of films already under his belt is a remarkable accomplishment.

A remarkable and fascinating look at the mission to the moon and the man at the centre of it, with superb performances from Foy and Gosling. Another out of this world addition to the stellar filmography of Damien Chazelle.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

La La Land (2016)

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Image is property of Summit Entertainment, Gilbert Films, Impostor Pictures and Marc Platt Productions

La La Land – Film Review

Cast:  Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

Director: Damien Chazelle

Synopsis: An actress desperately trying to catch her big break in Hollywood meets a jazz pianist struggling to make ends meet, and the duo begin a blossoming romance.

Review: The art of cinema is one that can have great impact on the human soul whenever we sit down to watch a film for the first time. Cinema has the power to generate so many emotions among its audience, from the most euphoric moments of unrivalled joy to the dark moments of despair. Writer and director Damien Chazelle’s previous directorial outing Whiplash certainly had a mixture of those happy and sad moments, more of the latter than the former mind you. Yet for his new picture, again with a musical theme at its brimming heart, definitely has a lot more of those moments of pure unparalleled joy.

An insane but quite brilliant musical number set on an LA freeway sets you up for the kind of ride Chazelle is about to take you on, as we meet Emma Stone’s Mia, an actress who, despite audition after audition, is just not getting any rewards. By chance she runs into Ryan Gosling’s Seb an aspiring Jazz pianist who also happens to be in something of a rut, this is until he meets Mia, and the two fall head over heels for one another and begin planning a life for themselves together, with both having big aspirations and dreams. It all seems so perfect for them, until their careers threatens to pull them away from one another, and both are presented with a difficult decision. Though this is very much a musical at is heart, its packed with great humour, romance and drama all fused into one glorious picture. right from the aforementioned musical freeway scene, you’ll be hard pressed to not find yourself tapping along with the music.

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With this marking their third collaboration since Crazy, Stupid Love and Gangster Squad, it’s crystal clear at this point that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling have brilliant chemistry together, and it is their chemistry along with brilliant performances from them both that help elevate La La Land to a golden standard for musical cinema. As well as the electric performances, the music is also beautiful to listen to. With each note that Stone and Gosling sing, it will find its way to melt your heart and fall in love with these characters, even if a member of the audience is about as emotionless as a Cyberman from Doctor Who, it will lift your spirits and leave you floating on cloud nine. All of us undoubtedly have dreams and aspirations for want we want to do with our lives, and this film has much to say about following your dreams, that will hit home with almost everyone.

Despite those moments of sheer joy, it is not all sunshine and rainbows for our leads, as they encounter some tricky obstacles in both of their lives. Rest assured however, that no one is throwing any chairs at anyone this time, and no psycho music teachers brutally tearing people down. This is nowhere near as intense as Whiplash was, but it’s just as well written and equally tremendously acted, with a glorious cameo appearance from J.K Simmons, this time not in raging jazz teacher mode.

Chazelle, with only his third feature film, seems to have found his spark, when it comes to live action musicals, currently he is the man of the moment, and is certainly proving himself to be a formidable director and one to watch. A recording breaking Golden Globe haul accomplished, with the Oscars in sight, La La Land looks certainly set to sing and dance its way to more awards glory.

With some thumping good tunes, Stone and Gosling on electric form, and a deep, thought provoking story, this is cinema at its heart-warming and magical best.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Whiplash (2014)

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Image is property of Sierra/Affinity, Bold Films, Blumhouse Productions, Right of Way, Films Sony Pictures Classics

Whiplash  – Film Review 

Cast: Miles Teller, J.K Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser

Director: Damien Chazelle

Synopsis:  A story of an aspiring young drummer who gets his chance to enrol at a music school as he seeks to impress a brilliant but maniacal music coach who will push his students to breaking point…

Review: Jazz music, a sweet and relaxing genre of music that you put on after a difficult day’s work,  or to the background music for a beautiful date. It’s the perfect music for a laid back occasion, right? Normally yes but under the guidance of one music teacher, a day’s work for a young upcoming drummer, the jazz music will involve your teacher screaming in your face, sweating buckets, and also throwing objects at you after a mistake.

That young drummer is Andrew played by Miles Teller, a young man who’s determined to make the grade as a drummer and in style. He will do whatever it takes to be the best, and that includes dumping his poor girlfriend along the way as he sees her as an obstacle on his path to success. Teller is fantastic in this role that is a breakthrough performance for him. With the Fantastic 4 reboot on the way later this year, this was his chance to shine, and boy did he hit every note spot on. The frustration, the joy and the tears of a young man doing everything he can to be the best, is some of the most riveting and suspenseful cinema you will ever see.Anyone watching can empathise as we all would go through anything to achieve our hopes and dreams to be the best in our profession. With one masterful performance on board, it is matched by another superb performance by J.K Simmons as Terence Fletcher.

This man is a HARDCORE instructor, screaming expletives, hurling chairs, and making his musicians perform until blood is dripping from their hands and they cannot play any more. A real psychiatric war breaks out between our two main stars, and it is flawless in its delivery and execution. Teller is absolutely on point no question, yet this is the performance of a career from Simmons. You want to hate him for the way he treats his students, and his harsh and somewhat brutal methods, but you understand the drive and passion he has for the craft and wanting to see his students achieve success. Simmons swept the board in this year’s awards season and fully deserved every gong that came his way, which included the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Through the scenes where Andrew is performing and Fletcher is conducting, there is an incredible amount of tension. Arm rests are gripped tight as you pray for our resolute and determined young performer to not make a mistake. You would think that this sort of scene would not create a terrible feeling of nervousness and dread among the audience, but it certainly did this and with great aplomb. It pulls at your heart strings and tears them out violently and as the film reaches its intense climax, heart rates will only get faster and faster, kind of like the beating of the drums, faster and faster until you are completely out of breath and blown away with what you have seen and you need a minute or two to calm down once the film has reached its nail biting finale. The film also offers one of the best endings we have seen in the past year of cinema. With no action, it packs anxiety and tension in more than a few scenes, as much as any hostage scenario or high octane thriller that has graced our screens in years gone by. However as the film reaches its crescendo,  you find yourself hoping for an encore.

Pulsating and nerve-racking throughout combined with two outstanding performances that will leave you breathless, this is the Mozart of film-making, incredible genius and perfection

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