Tag Archives: Ryan Gosling

La La Land – Movie Review

There’s a lot going on with La La Land, including a great deal of Oscar buzz. If you’re a fan of the early movie musicals like Singin’ in the Rain, you’re going to love this LA homage to the musicals of the past.

Release Date: December 25, 2016
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Director: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

La La Land follows with romance of frustrated jazz musician, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and struggling actress, Mia (Emma Stone). Sebastian languishes playing in piano bars hoping one day to open his own jazz club in Los Angeles. Mia works as a barista in a coffee shop on the Warner Brothers studio lot. She hopes one day to become a successful actress.

Through a series of coincidental and non-coincidental encounters, our heroes meet, fight, one-up each other and fall in love. Did I mention this is a musical? All this happens through song and dance.  Did I also mention the movie takes place in Los Angeles? All this happens at various iconic LA landmarks.

The love story of La La Land intertwines the dreams of our two star-crossed lovers. Mia is a struggling actress looking for that all important first role. After a series of rejections and disappointments, Mia produces her heartfelt one-woman show as her final chance to be discovered.

Sebastian, on the other hand, laments the decline of jazz. He gives Mia an impassioned lesson on jazz theory and turns her into a convert (sort of). Sebastian hopes, one day, to open his own Jazz club…and start a relationship with Mia. Though, neither pays enough to support his dream–let alone a relationship.

If you like musicals, La La Land was made just for you. Writer/Director Damien Chazelle offers his homage to the Hollywood musical of the past. La La Land is clearly the over-the-top musical from opening number featuring dozens of singer-dancers strutting their stuff on a gridlocked freeway traffic, dancing in the stars at Griffith Observatory to the surreal ending akin to Gene Kelly’s ballet finale of Singin’ in the Rain.

The songs also have the feel of the musicals of long ago. Composer Justin Hurwitz wrote actual songs for our characters and not the sing/talk songs of Broadway. The music of La La Land is above average. The musical themes are fantastic, but sadly the lyrics are forgettable. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are above average dancers and average singers, but they convincingly play the roles of lovers and artists. I don’t know if Gosling can actually play the piano at the level his character should, but the way the piano playing is shot is extremely convincing.

La La Land is a hard sell to the non-theater geek. It’s clearly not for everyone. Actors instantly break into song. They dance in inexplicable locations and the story follows one cliché after the other. I get it. It’s weird, but musicals have the ability to lift our souls to the heavens (with a little suspension of disbelief). The song and dance of La La Land convey the beauty of love, the giddy fun of falling in love and the melancholy of losing your dream. That’s why we go to musicals.

By no means is La La Land a perfect movie. It drags severely in the third act. I really wanted to see this movie wrap up quickly. Like many of this year’s Oscar contenders, the ending saves the movie. Good movies tap into your emotions and force you to feel and connect with the emotions of the characters good or bad. The ending of La La Land connects with you and uplifts your spirits with the love of the two main characters.

Nice Guys – Movie Review

From writer/director Shane Black, The Nice Guys is a fun comedy thriller returning the fun the buddy films that has been missing since his first movie, Lethal Weapon.

Release Date: May 20, 2016
Writer: Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi
Director: Shane Black
Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourri Rice, Matt Bomer

Taking place in 70’s Los Angeles, where the smog keeps its citizens indoors, and the gas shortage keeps them from leaving, two private investigators search for a missing girl, Amelia (Margaret Quailey), who doesn’t want to be found.

Holland March (Ryan Gosling) is a real private investigator hired by the mother of a murdered porn star to find her daughter after she sees her two days after her death. As a former cop, March takes small jobs from elderly seniors to support his daughter, Holly (Angourie Rice). Jauckson Healy (Russell Crowe) wants to be a private investigator, but realizes that he is more valuable as a hired thug. Healy is hired by Amelia to stop March from finding her.

Shane Black tells a fantastic story of these two unlikely PI’s. It is clear that director Black likes to play against type. As March, Gosling appears to be the goody-two-shoes and straight-laced investigator, but he has problems with drinking and literally stumbles into the important clues. As the hired thug, Crowe plays Healy as the healvy, who wants nothing to do with the immature behavior of March.

Black is at his best by keeping audiences on its toes. Little mundane details at the beginning of the movie play a role in complicating. Black also likes to play against tropes and The Nice Guys becomes a series of mishaps that work together to solve the big case. Never knowing exactly where the movie is going next makes The Nice Guys the fun thriller to see this year.

Angourie Rice is fantastic as March’s daughter Holly. She is constantly in danger or constantly puts herself in danger and has the maturity to get out of tough situations. Although, this movie makes March a really bad father by all of the time his daughter is captured or almost killed.

Humorous moments come from the banter between March and Healy. It also comes from the fact that their plans of solving this case ever work the way they think.  The Nice Guys will hopefully find its way to becoming Black’s next franchise movie. Please let a sequel be in the works.

The Big Short – Movie Review

If anything The Big Short is a lesson in Economics and Finance. Based on the book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis, Director Adam McKay manages to take the complex idiocy, that brought down the housing market in 2007, and makes it understandable. How by putting Margot Robbie in a bubble bath.

Release Date: December 11, 2015
Writer: Charles Randolf based on the book by Michael Lewis
Director: Adam McKay
Cast:  Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling

In 2007, the Housing Market bubble burst to send the U.S. and world economies into a tailspin. The Big Short follows a hand full of savvy investors, who saw the evitable economic disaster and bet everything against America.

The movie starts by following Dr. Michael Burry (Christian Bale), who left his medical practice to start a highly successful hedge fund. Burry was the first to see the inevitable failure of the housing market and convinced the major banks to let him bet against the real estate market by creating the Credit Default Swap. Even I was told during this time that nothing bad could ever happen to the real estate, so the banks were more than willing to take his money. All Burry had to do was make the initial investment and then make monthly premium payments for the life of the investment. Everyone thought Burry was crazy, even the investors in his hedge fund.

Next we follow trader Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), who catches wind of what Dr. Burry was doing, and convinces hedge fund manager, Mark Baum (Steve Carrell) to provide the money he needs to invest in the Credit Default Swap. Even Baum is skeptical of Burry and Vennett and Baum needs proof that the housing market is inevitable going to crash. Baum is somewhat of an economic activist, his team of investors are always looking for corruption and greed in the banking industry.  Baum’s team goes to Florida to inspect million dollar homes in foreclosure, interviews real estate agents and brokers about the incentives they receive to sign no check, no income verification loans and then attends a mortgage bankers conference. After realizing the entire industry is managed by greedy idiots, he immediately invests in the Credit Default Swap.

Then there’s young small time investors, Charles Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock). They stumble across Vennett prospectus and look into investing as well. Because they are small time investors, no one will allow them to invest. They decide to hook up with former investor Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), who has the clout to make the investments for them.

Writer Charles Randolph and director Adam McKay should be commended for taking on a subject that would go over the heads of even the best investor and explain what was happening in a language that the average movie audience can understand. For example, he uses Margot Robbie to explain subprime loans and its contribution to the market crash. Then chef and world traveler Anthony Bourdain to explain what banks would do with an excess inventory of bad mortgage loans. And finally, pop star Selina Gomez to explain how banks could spend billions investing in bad loans and not care.

Initially, I thought The Big Short was an indictment of the evil capitalist system, but instead, it’s an honest account of what exactly happened to the housing market, why it happened and the people to became rich betting against America.

Like any movie based on a true story, there are over-the-top moments that were created to make a dramatic point in the movie. Most of the over-the-top moments in The Big Short happened in real life. There is the moment that Mark Baum interrupted the keynote speech at the American Securitization Forum in Las Vegas.

The Big Short, if anything, is not a warning but more an account of how insane finance in the world operates. What is even scarier is that this world will never learn from its mistakes.