Tag Archives: Emma Stone

‘La La Land’ and the love that fades

Mia and Seb don’t end up together.

For all of its swoon-inducing musical numbers and fantastical visions of romance, La La Land is a tale about how love doesn’t always work out. The film is a tender warning, but it’s not pessimistic. It’s empathetic, not just for love faded, but for people with passion. In fact, the first two minutes of La La Land, during the enchanting number “Another Day of Sun,” are about a break up, and a young woman’s drive to make it as an actress.

The entertainment industry is ruthless, and writer-director Damien Chazelle introduces us to this conflict immediately, as Mia gives everything to an audition — a monologue that hints at its own heartbreak — only to be interrupted in the middle of it.

Sebastian’s introduction is of the same note. His sister chastises him for his countless unpacked boxes, joking that it seems like he’s just gone through a breakup before trying to set him up with someone. But Seb stays stubborn. He’s waiting to unpack his boxes in his club and doesn’t think he’ll like her if she doesn’t like jazz. He defends his untidy space by saying that he had a serious plan, but was “shanghaied.” His sister retorts that he was just ripped off by some shady guy, suggesting that “shanghaied” is too romantic.

“Why do you say romantic like it’s a dirty word?”

At first, the line oozes with the cliche of a typical romantic, searching for love. But this mention of the word is not in regard to some past relationship or some goal for the perfect someone. It’s in relation to an idea of oneself as an artist doing everything they can to make it. Seb embraces a romance with music, unashamed.

And Mia wants to be an actress. Those are the goals that La La Land starts with. Those are the lives that it envisions from the start.

Yet, those are the lives that can so easily fall into one another, the people that can so easily fall in love with each other. Mia and Seb officially meet at a party, as she networks and he plays a crap gig. The meeting seems almost too full of fate, too romantic, but people with passion tend to fringe familiar space.

And immediately, within three minutes of their introduction, Damien Chazelle indulges in the magical with “A Lovely Night.”

Chazelle truly understands how otherworldly love can be, even when it’s simply the awkward, playful first sparks. Mia and Seb’s first song-and-dance is almost entirely about their initial rejection of the sparks. But Chazelle, composer Justin Hurwitz, choreographer Mandy Moore, and cinematographer Linus Sandgren inject the scene with a levity that makes it feel as though the two could float into the sky at any minute. A simple Los Angeles hillside is rendered as dazzling as a dream.

They start to embrace those sparks through support of each other’s passions. Artists know an artist’s inner fire better than anyone else ever could, so when one lifts up another in their pursuit of dreams, it means something.

Those sparks almost die out, but Mia finally makes the decision to light them. The two meet up again at a movie theater, and as the film stock of the movie they watch bubbles and burns out, it becomes abundantly clear what Chazelle is doing.

He’s not only suggesting that Mia and Seb’s love has become its own movie in that world, the film stock burning out just as they’re just about to kiss for the first time and their drive to Griffith Observatory replicating that from Rebel Without a Cause, but he’s utilizing the tools of cinema to accomplish this himself with his movie. He’s using his own passion to pay tribute to, to do true justice to love between passionate people. And when Mia and Seb run off to Griffith Observatory, there, finally, they both float into the sky

But no matter the feeling of love, or the feeling that cinema leaves us with, there is a reality underneath. And that’s the reality of two people with passion trying to pursue their goals as they pursue their love.

It’s difficult. There’s an incredibly thin line of balance where both people are able to make both parts of their lives work. Rather simply, Mia and Seb could not find that balance. They both compromised too much for them not to crack. As we saw at the beginning, Seb is a stubborn guy. He was prone to say something he’d regret with the stress of excessive compromise, like at the heartbreaking dinner scene. And in the whiplash of that realization, Seb responds by not compromising enough, missing Mia’s play and solidifying the crack.

In the fallout, the most crucial moment of delivering on the film’s themes, Damien Chazelle remains empathetic. While there may be a crack in the romantic love that had formed, the two hold onto love for each other as people, which includes a support for each other’s passions. Through that, Mia is finally able to break through. And with that comes the film’s most emotionally raw number, “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” — a song about love for art and love for artists.

La La Land comes to a close, the film’s final musical number perhaps its most transfixing, precisely because it’s the embodiment of the film’s empathy for people with a passion and for love faded. The fairytale that is “Epilogue” is simultaneously a magical cinematic commemoration to a love that was true and a what if for a love that could have been.

There was a chance for the film to end tragically, with Mia simply walking out of Seb’s. But a simple smile acknowledges and becomes everything that “Epilogue” represents.

Mia and Seb don’t end up together. But love sometimes doesn’t work out. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. And that doesn’t mean it has to be reflected on as something sad.

Mia and Seb don’t end up together. And that’s okay.

 

Featured image via Lionsgate.

‘Battle of the Sexes’ Review: Emma Stone and Steve Carell are dynamic in this empowering sports duel

Battle of the Sexes isn’t necessarily about the central tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. Moreso, it’s about the battle that women of the time took up against overarching oppression, and the match is one of the pinnacle representations of that.

That’s what directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine) lay out beneath the surface of the picture, and rightly so. To simply focus on the match would be a disservice not only to Billie Jean King’s efforts, but also to what women encounter on a systemic scope. In this light, we see Bobby Riggs not as the main antagonist, but as an example of masculine fragility that enforces and takes advantage of such a system. Toward the end of the film, King breaks down sobbing, and it’s not because of what just happened in the moment, but because of what it means moving forward. And in that moment, writer Simon Beaufoy inserts a nod to the fight for LGBTQ+ rights that is still ahead of them.

While the angle of a grander image of feminism lends Battle of the Sexes a larger weight and greater stakes, the film is sadly a bit un-engaging. There are so many moving parts — a brand new tennis association forming in the fight for women’s rights, Billie Jean King exploring her sexuality, marital issues stemming from her exploration, Bobby Riggs dealing with gambling issues and post-fame withdrawal, Riggs manipulating the system in order to face off against King and how all of that represents the system at work and its impacts — and the film begins to buckle as it struggles to work each layer into a dynamic, unified progression.

Fortunately, though, Emma Stone and Steve Carell are both absolutely dynamic as King and Riggs, respectively. While Stone is mostly just good during moments of outward expression, it’s in King’s vulnerability where her acting chops shine — similar to her moments of strength in La La Land. However, it’s Carell who steals the show. We can see threads of the boisterousness of Michael Scott, but there’s something much more egotistically charismatic about Carell’s performance here. His energy is infectious and, with a slightly altered look in hair and teeth, there’s a physicality through which that energy manifests. And, in terms of that masculine fragility, Carell sells the dramatic moments when Riggs’ shell starts to break and his confidence is humbled. It’s certainly one of his best performances.

Those performances push us through the slower moments, rendering Battle of the Sexes worthwhile for what it hopes to achieve with its larger message.

Grade: B

 

Featured image via Fox Searchlight.

Box Office Report: Top three films within $500k of each other

After stepping down to number two the weekend prior, It is back at the top spot, taking home an estimated $17.31 million this past weekend. The Stephen King horror film has exceeded more than just expectations, sitting as the 5th highest domestic grossing film of the year in only it’s 4th weekend. Worldwide, It has taken in $555 million and will easily be one of the most profitable films of the year, on a budget of only $35 million. Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema are looking in the range of a $200 million profit.

Coming in second place, and under $300k away from It, Tom Cruise’s new film, American Made, made approximately $17.016 million. While this may be on the lower end of Tom Cruise openers, the film has already made $64.83 million internationally, putting its worldwide total at $81.85. On a budget rumored to be between $50 million and $60 million, American Made looks to make its money back, but also end up as a disappointment considering the Cruise superstar — is he still? — factor.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle rounded out a competitive top three, earning an estimated $17 million at the domestic box office. The sequel to The Secret Service, The Golden Circle saw a 56% fall off from its opening weekend, greater than the 49% second weekend drop of its predecessor and something only expected to continue in the coming weeks considering the poor reviews. To be fair, the film has nearly drawn even already, standing at $193.03 million worldwide on a $104 million budget.

What’s fascinating about this weekend is that the placing could end up changing, of any of these films to any of the top three spots, when the actuals drop.

Below them, however, the order is solid. The LEGO Ninjago Movie dropped only 41% in its second weekend, a rather good number considering the poor reviews, building to a $12 million haul. However, with a budget likely in the range of $70 million — The LEGO Movie cost $60 million and The LEGO Batman Movie cost $80 million — the film has an uphill battle to face if it wants to make its money back, currently at only $58.45 million worldwide. With it still to open in key international markets like the UK, China and Japan, it has a chance at pulling it off.

Newcomer Flatliners flatlined both critically and financially, taking in only $6.57 million this weekend. The film currently sits at an abysmal 3% on RottenTomatoes.

Finally, the Emma Stone/Steve Carell-starring Battle of the Sexes expanded into 1,000+ theaters this weekend, and made an approximate $3.4 million. The tale of Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs’ famous tennis match is in the hunt for Oscars, so it will likely see a long and solid run, even if it isn’t close to being one of the top earners of the year.

*All weekend numbers are domestic, meaning that they’re from theaters in the US and Canada, and are also estimates, reported by Box Office Mojo, with actuals coming out in the next few days.*

 

Featured image via Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema.

25 Most Anticipated Films of Fall/Winter 2017

2017 has proven to be one of the best years for film in recent memory, and the hits are bound to keep coming in the fall and winter. It Comes At Night may have led us down a dark and unsettling path earlier this summer, but we will likely remain wholly unprepared for the brilliant discomfort of Yorgos Lanthimos’ upcoming film, The Killing of a Sacred Deer. (This film has been described as more agonizing than Lanthimos’ previous work, The Lobster, which came this close to showing a man blind himself with a steak knife. Let that sink in.) Regarding films that don’t require an immediate, consolatory hug upon viewing, Baby Driver was a fun joyride — a perfect forbear for the frenetic energy of Kingsman: The Golden Circle. And then there’s a little indie coming in December called Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a family drama about space people who should never have become parents.  

The following list represents the films that make us at MovieMinis spontaneously squee. But since the list only includes 25 films, it doesn’t truly represent the amount of squeeing we do. The cutting room floor is littered with heavy hitters such as Steven Spielberg’s The Post, as well as The Current War, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison and Michael Shannon as George Westinghouse. There are also Cannes darlings that didn’t make the cut (but which you should see anyway) such as Michael Haneke’s Happy End and Palme d’Or winner The Square. We feel a great pang of guilt for excluding Justice League (squee!).

Regardless, here are our 25 most hotly anticipated films from the remainder of the year.

25. mother!

Paramount/Courtesy

The illustrated posters of mother! were merely beautiful yet unnerving glimpses into the horror of Darren Aronofsky’s next film. Bring in the trailer and it seems as though the director is returning to the brilliance of the genre that he dabbled in with Black Swan. And if this film really will follow in that one’s footsteps, then audiences should expect committed and haunting performances from Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, as well as a story with some of the most affecting scares since, well, Black Swan. Let’s just hope it appropriately contextualizes the relationship between a 27 year old and a 48 year old because, if it doesn’t, that might be more frightening.

— Kyle Kizu

24. Thor: Ragnarok

Marvel/Courtesy

Taika Waititi is easily one of the funniest filmmakers working today — just see here and here. His films bring loads of heart and even more laughs, something direly needed for Thor, a franchise whose second entry literally self-proclaims doom and gloom. Throw in Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett, the magic of Jeff Goldblum, a colorful Jack Kirby aesthetic and elements of Planet Hulk, and Thor: Ragnarok could be one of the best MCU entries to date. Oh, and in the last shot of the most recent trailer, Hulk goes toe-to-toe with Surtur the fire demon. In the immortal words of Ricky Baker, “Shit. Just. Got. REAL!”

— Harrison Tunggal

23. Suburbicon

Paramount/Courtesy

Suburbicon pulses with star power. The film is written by the minds of the Coen brothers, George Clooney (doing double duty as director) and his frequent collaborator Grant Heslov. If that isn’t enough, it stars Matt Damon, who invokes his Jason Bourne days by taking a fire iron to some poor thug’s face. The film also includes Julianne Moore (her third film on this list, she’s in Kingsman: The Golden Circle and Wonderstruck) and Oscar Isaac, whose mustache here deserves it’s own billing. Here’s to hoping that said mustache stays intact over the course of this darkly comic crime caper.

— HT

22. It

Warner Bros./Courtesy

Stranger Things, but a million times scarier. If that seems like an oversimplification of the upcoming Stephen King adaptation, it isn’t anything less than the utmost excitement condensed into seven words. Despite an initial rocky start (writer-director Cary Fukunaga left the project in 2015), It appears to deliver well-acted, visually stunning horror fare — such that will strike an existential fear of killer demon clowns into the hearts of a whole new generation.

— HT

21. The Meyerowitz Stories

Netflix/Courtesy

Welcome back, Adam Sandler. No, seriously. After a string of critically lashed Netflix comedies, here comes Noah Baumbach to remind us all, that when Sandler wants to, he can be one of the most emotionally affecting actors on the screen. Throw in Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson and the full support of Netflix, and The Meyerowitz Stories appears to be the first Netflix Oscar-contender that will gain traction among voters, audiences and critics when it releases in mid-October.

— Levi Hill

20. Coco

Pixar/Courtesy

Coco is a Pixar film. Need we say more? Well, we can. The film follows a young kid who dreams of becoming a musician and, through a spiritual connection with an ancestor, he enters the Land of the Dead. The trailer shows that the film will be a visual wonder, but the subject matter offers a look at Latino culture, one that mainstream cinema largely ignores. And with longtime Pixar veteran Adrian Molina stepping into the director’s chair alongside Pixar legend Lee Unkrich, Coco looks to be informed and genuine in its endeavors as well.

— KK

19. Mute

Netflix/Courtesy

Many may only think of Warcraft when they hear the name Duncan Jones, which is a shame because this is the director behind Moon and Source Code, two phenomenal sci-fi films. With Mute, Jones returns to the universe of Moon, but this time he takes us to the futuristic, seemingly Blade Runner-esque Earth within it. That tiny detail may be the biggest sign that this film could be special. Moon crafted such a thorough sense of society down on Earth, one that Jones has explored for years in planning for Mute, so the storytelling should be refined and invigorated.

— KK

18. Wonderstruck

Amazon/Courtesy

Todd Haynes’ upcoming Wonderstruck is based on the Brian Selznick novel of the same name, and the last time Selznick’s work was adapted for the big screen, the result was the Martin Scorsese stunner Hugo. With Selznick himself penning the screenplay, Wonderstruck seems poised to deliver a timeline-hopping, visual treat that will remind us of that which fills us with childlike wonder — film, museums and, if the trailer is to be believed, cool David Bowie covers.

— HT

17. Battle of the Sexes

Fox Searchlight/Courtesy

Sometimes talent alone can put a film on this list. Recent Academy Award winner Emma Stone, comedic (and now dramatic?) powerhouse Steve Carell, the co-directors of Little Miss Sunshine and the writer of Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours will bring us Battle of the Sexes. But that title, and the story behind it, makes this film about more than just talent — or maybe precisely about talent, that which is underserved. The story of tennis star Billie Jean King facing off against Bobby Riggs is an uplifting and landmark tale, with a whole lot of lively fun throughout, that could make for a wonderful and necessary statement in today’s landscape.

— KK

16. The Death of Stalin

IFC Films/Courtesy

Armando Iannucci may be the king of political satire, his time as Veep showrunner offering us some of the most gut-busting commentary on the current state of D.C. Pair him with the juicy material of the Soviet regime in the immediate aftermath of Stalin’s death — utilizing a bluntly British angle (they’re not even attempting Russian accents) — and you’ve got a comedy to die for.

— KK

15. Roman J. Israel, Esq

Columbia Pictures/Courtesy

Nightcrawler is aging like fine wine, with many critics and movie fans looking back at it as not only an absolutely brilliant movie, but also a significant independent film and a vehicle for one of the best performances of the 21st century from Jake Gyllenhaal. So any movie that writer-director Dan Gilroy does next is on a must-see list. Cue Roman J. Israel, Esq, a film where Denzel Washington has an afro and plays a snazzily dressed defense attorney.

— KK

14. Last Flag Flying

Amazon/Courtesy

Honestly, if there is one film on this list that just can’t go wrong (outside of the movies that have already premiered), it is Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying. Starring the dream-team worthy trio of Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Laurence Fishburne, the film is a years-after sequel to the Oscar-nominated, Jack Nicholson-led and Hal Ashby-directed The Last Detail. With that set-up, Last Flag Flying could potentially end up being the de facto critics favorite with Linklater’s humanist style mixed with the socially angry, if touching tale of three Navy vets coming to terms with the world they live in that Ashby knocked out of the park back in 1973.

— LH

13. Lady Bird

A24/Courtesy

Casual fans of indie cinema know Greta Gerwig as the magnetic star of films like Frances Ha, Mistress America and 20th Century Women, but those of us obsessed with the genre know that it’s behind the camera where she makes even more of an impact. After writing a number of successful indies, Gerwig will make her solo directorial debut this fall with Lady Bird. While not much is known about the plot, the film follows a high school girl (Saoirse Ronan) as she spends a year in Northern California. Joining Ronan is a heavy hitting cast of indie favorites that includes Timothée Chalamet, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts and Lucas Hedges.

— Kate Halliwell

12. Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Fox/Courtesy

Matthew Vaughn established himself as an action director extraordinaire with the first Kingsman — the film’s church scene now infamous as one of the most exhilarating fight sequences in recent memory. With that style, Vaughn’s dry British wit, the brilliant cast and brand new American territory to explore, The Golden Circle is set to be one of the most fun films of the fall — and sometimes, fun is all we need.

— KK

11. Molly’s Game

STX Entertainment/Courtesy

Aaron Sorkin is widely known as one of the great writers — of most mediums — of our time. The fact that Molly’s Game is written by him is enough reason to be excited, but the film is also his directorial debut, which elevates our hype tenfold. Even if the film isn’t good, it will be fascinating to see his visual style directly translated to the big screen. But it seems like there are too many pieces in place for this to be a dud — Jessica Chastain munching on Sorkin’s words is the dream performance we need.

— KK

10. Downsizing

Paramount/Courtesy

When every single one of your films (except your first) received Oscar nominations and endless critical heap, audiences will take notice when your next film comes out. And thus is the case with Alexander Payne, who, to this day, seems incapable of making a bad scene, let alone a bad movie. However, the science-fiction satire Downsizing, starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig, promises to be a marked difference from the traditionally very naturalistic stories Payne has told in the past. Yet, that’s what it makes it this writer-director’s most intriguing project yet.

— LH

9. Hostiles

Lorey Sebastian, Le Grisbi Productions/Waypoint Entertainment/Courtesy

Hostiles may not release this year as it currently doesn’t have a distributor, but it’s set to premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in a bid for an acquisition. Made by Crazy Heart director Scott Cooper, the film stars Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Ben Foster and Timothée Chalamet, so it’s got a great chance of being picked up for an end-of-year release. And that team of talent is precisely why this movie is so salivating. Christian Bale is never anything less than entirely transformed, Rosamund Pike needs more roles after her Oscar-nominated, frightening turn in Gone Girl, Ben Foster is one of the most underrated actors working today and Timothée Chalamet is on the verge of breaking out with Call Me by Your Name later this year.

— KK

8. The Shape of Water

Fox Searchlight Pictures/Courtesy

The great Guillermo Del Toro returns to the big screen with The Shape of Water, which stars Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon and Michael Stuhlbarg. The film’s stellar trailer teased a sweet romance with sci-fi elements, but also raised the possibility that The Shape of Water is a secret Hellboy prequel centering on Abe Sapien. Even though Del Toro has since debunked those rumors, we’re still thrilled to see him combine the things we love about his filmography — fairy tales with a touch of the macabre and of course, amphibian men.

— HT

7. The Disaster Artist

A24/Courtesy

James Franco can never be faulted for producing/starring/writing/directing in a seemingly impossible amount of projects in one year. What he could have been faulted for in the past, though, is that each project he stood behind the camera on felt like an interesting misfire. Not anymore. With stunning, Oscar-potential raves out of SXSW, Franco seems to have found the perfect source material for his stylings: the best worst movie of all-time, Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. With Franco directing and, more excitingly, playing Tommy Wiseau on the set of The Room, The Disaster Artist promises a hilarious, if pointedly tragic real-life story of a failed artist. But really, we can’t wait to hear “YOU ARE TEARING ME APART, LISA!” again.

— LH

6. The Florida Project

A24/Courtesy

Sean Baker turned heads and took home awards with his 2015 film Tangerine, notably shot entirely on iPhones. He returns this year with The Florida Project, which follows a six-year old girl (Brooklynn Prince, this year’s Jacob Tremblay) and her adventures living in a run-down motel near Disney’s Magic Kingdoms. With Willem Dafoe and a host of talented newcomers rounding out the cast, this one is not to be missed.

— KH

5. Blade Runner 2049

Warner Bros./Courtesy

Getting another Denis Villeneuve film immediately after last year’s Arrival is already worth celebrating, but the fact that his upcoming project is a Blade Runner sequel (shot by Roger Deakins, no less) makes the occasion seem like Christmas — of the neon, steampunk, existentialist variety, of course. With Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford teaming up, the hype couldn’t be bigger for this film, which will hopefully answer the greatest question of our time — what happened to the other 2,047 Blade Runner sequels?

— HT

4. Call Me by Your Name

Sony Pictures Classics/Courtesy

The trailer alone launched one thousand Armie Hammer crushes and caused us all to stop and consider spontaneous trips to Italy; the film itself might cause actual meltdowns (in the best way). Timothée Chalamet and Hammer star in Luca Guadagnino’s book-to-screen adaptation as two bisexual Jewish men who fall in love over the course of a sun-drenched summer. The film has drawn rave reviews from early festival screenings and has film buffs all over the world hungry for its November release. Peaches, anyone?

— KH

3. The Killing of a Sacred Deer

A24/Courtesy

Following the surprise Oscar nomination for the dark (twisted) comedy/science fiction fantasy film The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos and Colin Farrell return with an even more twisted, full-on psychological horror film. The early reviews for Sacred Deer, out of the in-competition bow at Cannes, promise that it will blend the calculated coldness of craft found in a Stanley Kubrick movie mixed with the cynical social commentary found in the best genre films. Add in the rising star Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk) as what appears to be the villain (but nothing is that simple in a Lanthimos tale) and the where-is-she-not Nicole Kidman as Farrell’s estranged wife experiencing horrific acts she has no fault in causing, and Sacred Deer promises to be the feel-bad movie of the Fall movie season.

— LH

2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Lucasfilm/Courtesy

You don’t hire director Rian Johnson to make a cookie-cutter Star Wars movie. The man behind Looper, Brick and two of Breaking Bad’s most daring episodes seems poised to deliver — dare we say — the best Star Wars entry of all time. Forget getting answers to questions we’ve had since 2015 (Is Rey a Kenobi? Is Snoke actually Sy Snootles? Will Luke get a haircut?). We just want another Rian Johnson movie.

— HT

1. Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Fashion Film

Jürgen Fauth/Courtesy

Quite simply put, There Will Be Blood is one of the best films of the 21st century and Daniel Day Lewis’ performance in it is one of the best of all time. So, with Paul Thomas Anderson pairing up with DDL yet again for what is, apparently, DDL’s last performance ever, this film — rumored to be titled either Phantom Thread or Woodcock — will be a special one in the history of cinema, even if it’s not as breathtakingly affecting and engaging as TWBB (and, of course, it easily could be). Add in the rumors that the film is Fifty Shades of Grey if directed by Mike Leigh and we are more in than we’ve ever been for anything, honestly.

— KK

Featured image via Warner Bros.