LA LA LAND (12)
D: Damien Chazelle
Lionsgate/Summit/Black Label (Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz, Gary Gilbert & Marc Platt)
W: Damien Chazelle
DP: Linus Sandgren
Ed: Tom Cross
Mus: Justin Hurwitz; Benj Pasek & Justin Paul
PD: David Wasco
Cos: Mary Zophres
Ryan Gosling (Sebastian Wilder), Emma Stone (Mia Dolan), John Legend (Keith), Rosemarie Dewitt (Laura Wilder), J.K. Simmons (Bill)
I'll start this review by confessing that I'm really not a fan of the musical genre, bar a handful of the classics and a very small minority of modern musicals. The same goes for romance films, which I just can't buy into unless I make some form of connection with the characters. Considering La La Land fuses both genres, it's not a film I'd be rushing to see if it weren't for the Oscar hype.
The background of the film itself is quite interesting. It's the film that Damien Chazelle wanted to kick his career off with, but no producers were willing to trust him with the necessary budget to make it work so he initially cut his teeth with the critically-acclaimed Whiplash, which I have to admit was my favourite film of 2014. Since it struck a chord with many people, the producers gained trust in the young director and made it possible for La La Land to go into production.
The film is split into the four seasons of the year, beginning with Winter and the opening scene is a song and dance which brings life to the mundanity of traffic gridlock on the freeway. In all honesty, I wasn't particularly impressed and despite the choreography working like clockwork, I felt the worst for the next two hours.
In fact, the first act to me just felt like a contrived attempt to lure in Oscar votes, working like a checklist to score points for production design, costumes, cinematography and editing.
However, my opinion began to sway when the two lead characters meet at a pool party in the Spring, when aspiring actress Mia Dolan (Emma Stone) gets a bit of revenge for struggling jazz pianist Sebastian Wilder (Ryan Gosling) acting like a jerk at their very first meeting. The reason for my change of mind was simply due to the performances of the two actors, particularly Emma Stone, whose magnetism and pizzazz can't help but raise a smile.
As their relationship and careers blossom, the visuals throw in a wink and a nod to Hollywood, the dream of fame and as many references to golden age movies as you can handle, and considering how Hollywood loves to congratulate itself, it's little surprise that the Academy Awards lavished the film with a record-equalling 14 Oscar nominations.
However, the film is very clever with its back-patting, offering a different way to find appreciation for the genres we don't like (in the film's instance, Jazz music) and offers a modern twist to it.
It's fair to say, and I'll probably lose some street cred for this, but I was absolutely loving La La Land by the time the halfway point of the film came, and this continued until the very end.
It's a film for lovers of music, romance, movies in general and though it is very self-effacing, it has a deep message that we have two lives, the one we live and the one we dream, and there's really nothing wrong with losing yourself in pure escapism.
The winner of a record 7 Golden Globes is truly worth every single accolade and more. This really is a mesmerising movie event which has to be caught on the big screen.
LA STRADA (PG)
D: Federico Fellini
Trans Lux (Carlo Ponti & Dino de Laurentiis)
W: Federico Fellini, Ennio Flaiano & Tullio Pinelli
DP: Otello Martelli
Ed: Leo Cattozo
Mus: Nino Rota
Giulietta Masina (Gelsomina), Anthony Quinn (Zampano), Richard Basehart (Il Matto), Aldo Silvani (Signor Giraffa), Marcella Rovere (La Vedova)
Literally translating as The Road, La Strada is an Italian arthouse drama which made Federico Fellini a renowned filmmaker in world cinema.
Anthony Quinn plays brutish strongman Zampano, who takes the timid Gelsomina on his travels where he earns a trade as a street performer, herself playing the part of a clown and his assistant.
The pair later find themselves within the company of a travelling circus, but Zampano's jealousy gets the better of him when Gelsomina becomes friends with the troupe's fool.
Fellini's film is crammed with mythological references and is considered by many filmmakers to be hugely influential to their own careers. Though the plot is thin, its given a huge canvas by Fellini's style and the brilliant performances, especially Giulietta Masina who says more with her facial expressions than in her handful of dialogue.
LADY & THE TRAMP (U)
LADY BIRD (15)
D: Greta Gerwig
Focus Features/A24 (Scott Rudin, Eli Bush & Evelyn O'Neill)
W: Greta Gerwig
DP: Sam Levy
Ed: Nick Huoy
Mus: Jon Brion
Saoirse Ronan (Christine 'Lady Bird' McPherson), Laurie Metcalf (Marion McPherson), Tracy Letts (Larry McPherson), Lucas Hedges (Danny O'Neill), Timothee Chalamet (Kyle Scheible), Beanie Feldstein (Julianne 'Julie' Steffans), Lois Smith (Sister Sarah Joan)
Greta Gerwig's coming of age comedy-drama is a very solid directorial debut, starring Saoirse Ronan as an entitled, belligerent teenager who demands to be called Lady Bird, as she completed her final year at a catholic high school, with her sights solely focused on getting in East Coast universities without really having to work for it, whilst simultaneously harming her chances further by indulging in usual teenage mischief and falling in with the wrong crowd.
Saoirse Ronan does an excellent job making a rather unlikeable character sympathetic as the story dissects the fractured relationship between Lady Bird and her mother, as her family fall on financial hardship.
At first glance, it would feel like this was a semi-biographical account of Gerwig's own childhood, but she has since admitted that this isn't the case. Nevertheless, it's incredibly well written and brilliantly directed, making some witty and touching observations on growing up without being puerile.
Laurie Metcalf steals the show as the mother, and the relationship between the two characters is probably the most touching mother-daughter relationship since 2003's Thirteen.
It won't be everyone's cup of tea, but those who do enjoy it will agree with its nomination for a Best Picture Oscar.
THE LADY IN THE VAN (12)
D: Nicholas Hytner
Sony/Tristar/BBC (Nicholas Hytner, Damian Jones & Kevin Loader)
W: Alan Bennett [based on his play]
DP: Andrew Dunn
Ed: Tariq Anwar
Mus: George Fenton
Maggie Smith (Miss Mary Shepherd / Margaret Fairchild), Alex Jennings (Alan Bennett), Roger Allam (Rufus), Deborah Findlay (Pauline), Jim Broadbent (Underwood)
A rather pedestrian adaptation of a stage play, based on events from its writer Alan Bennett's life, when he allowed an elderly woman to live in her dilapidated van on his driveway outside his London home.
Maggie Smith's cantankerous performance carries the film, which misses a trick by failing to capture any humour in the scenes where the main male character, based on the writer Alan Bennett himself, has imaginary conversations with his conscience.
Not a bad film, but not worth going out of your way for. It just doesn't motor along the way a stage play of the same material would.
THE LADY VANISHES (PG)
THE LADYKILLERS (U)
THE LAND BEFORE TIME (U)
THE LAST BOY SCOUT (18)
THE LAST BROADCAST (18)
LAST DANCE (18)
THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (18)
D: Wes Craven
Hallmark/The Night Co. (Sean S. Cunningham)
W: Wes Craven [based on "The Virgin Spring" by Ingmar Bergman]
DP: Victor Hurwitz
Ed: Wes Craven
Mus: David A. Hess
Sandra Peabody (Mari Collingwood), Lucy Grantham (Phyllis Stone), David A. Hess (Krug Stillo), Fred Lincoln (Fred 'Weasel' Podowski), Jeramie Rain (Sadie), Marc Sheffler (Junior Stillo), Gaylord St. James (Dr. John Collingwood), Cynthia Carr (Estelle Collingwood)
Wes Craven's directorial debut came with this 1972 exploitation horror movie, partly inspired by the Swedish folk tale "Töres Döttrar I Wänge", which was adapted for Ingmar Bergman's 1960 film, The Virgin Spring.
The plot revolves around a pair of teenage girls, on their way to a music concert when they are abducted and tortured by a gang of murderous thugs.
Initially effective with gruesome and tense scenes, the film does lose its way slightly in the final act, when it merely becomes about revenge. There are also some comic scenes featuring a bumbling sheriff which seem incredibly out of place.
Still, Craven sets up his career with this classic of the genre, which features an excellent folky soundtrack penned by head villain actor David A. Hess.
A remake was released in 2009.
THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (15)
THE LAST SEDUCTION (18)
THE LAST STARFIGHTER (PG)
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN (PG)
LEGALLY BLONDE (12)
THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE (PG)
THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JEAN (15)
THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (12)
D: David Yates
Warner Bros/Village Roadshow/Ratpac-Dune (Jerry Weintraub, David Barron, Alan Riche & Tony Ludwig)
W: Adam Cozad & Craig Brewer [based on characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs]
DP: Henry Braham
Ed: Mark Day
Mus: Rupert Gregson-Williams
Alexander Skarsgård (Lord Greystoke, John Clayton III / Tarzan), Samuel L. Jackson (George Washington Williams), Christophe Waltz (Captain Leon Rom), Margot Robbie (Jane Porter Clayton), Djimon Hounsou (Chief Mbonga)
A confused action-adventure which can't make up its mind whether it's a sequel, remake or straight-up ripoff of Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan stories.
Ten years after Tarzan left the jungle to settle in Victorian England with his now-wife Jane, the vine-swinging ape man is tricked into returning by a corrupt Belgian captain who is heading a diamond smuggling expedition on behalf of the Belgian king.
Honestly, the story is a complete mess which fails to engage and might have you catching zeds before the first act is over.
Alexander Skarsgård looks the part as Tarzan, but the dialogue is so ropey that he never really convinces. Margot Robbie is grossly miscast as Jane, and Samuel L. Jackson, Christophe Waltz and Djimon Hounsou are just in it for the paycheck.
There is time for some adventure during the 110 minutes, but not much. Not so legendary after all.
THE LEGO MOVIE (PG)
THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE (PG)
D: Chris McKay
Warner Bros/DC/Ratpac-Dune (Dan Lin, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller & Roy Lee)
W: Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern & John Whittington [based on characters from DC comics]
Mus: Lorne Balfe
voices of: Will Arnett (Batman / Bruce Wayne), Zach Galifianakis (The Joker), Michael Cera (Dick Grayson / Robin), Rosario Dawson (Barbara Gordon / Batgirl), Ralph Fiennes (Alfred Pennyworth), Channing Tatum (Superman)
The huge success of the first Lego Movie and the massive popularity of the brand itself made it absolutely inevitable that various spin-offs were going to happen, the first of which focuses on one of the characters who helped make the first film so much fun.
Bringing all of the characters from Batman's DC adventures into Lego form, the plot involves the Joker manipulating his way into the Phantom Zone, which holds all the worst villains from film and literature folklore, so he can escape and wreak havoc on Gotham City, all so he can prove that he is Batman's biggest nemesis.
Though the film is basically one big product placement for Lego merchandise, it still manages to be huge fun, drawing inspiration from all the Batman adventures over the decades. It's not just for kids.
LEON (aka THE PROFESSIONAL) (18)
LETHAL WEAPON (18)
LETHAL WEAPON 2 (18)
LETHAL WEAPON 3 (15)
LETHAL WEAPON 4 (15)
A LETTER TO THREE WIVES (PG)
D: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
20th Century Fox (Sol C. Siegel)
W: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (& Vera Caspary) [based on the novel "A Letter To Five Wives" by John Klempner]
DP: Arthur C. Miller
Ed: J. Watson Webb
Mus: Alfred Newman
Jeannie Crain (Deborah Bishop), Linda Darnell (Lora Mae Hollingsway), Ann Sothern (Rita Phipps), Jeffrey Lynn (Brad Bishop), Paul Douglas (Paul Hollingsway), Kirk Douglas (George Phipps)
Things may have moved on somewhat since the 1940's but I guess there will always be infidelity.
Adapted from a 1945 novel which was initially published in Cosmopolitan magazine, the plot loses two wives in its transition to the big screen and focuses on three principal leading ladies. During an outing, the trio receive a letter from their best friend, Addie Ross (voiced by Celeste Holm - uncredited), informing them that she has left town with one of their husbands, but doesn't state which one. The three wives then spend the rest of afternoon reminiscing about their unhappy marriages, as events shown in flashback offer clues as to which husband has been unfaithful.
Quite a lot of the mannerisms and attitudes seen seem dated by modern standards - a fine example being Kirk Douglas' husband being unhappy because his wife earns more money than him, but Joseph L. Mankiewicz's script and direction does push the boundaries for the time, sneaking double entendres into the dialogue as revenge for not being able to use some of the more risqué dialogue from the original source.
The ensemble cast are all excellent, despite nobody really standing out and the picture having three principal leads. Celeste Holm's uncredited vocal performance as Addie Ross was kept secret for quite some time, since the marketing for the film built on the mystery of this. Mankiewicz won Best Director and Best Screenplay at the Oscars, and even repeated the same feat a year later with All About Eve.
A made for TV remake aired in 1985
LIAR (aka DECEIVER) (18)
D: Daniel Espinosa
Columbia/Skydance (David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Bonnie Curtis & Julie Lynn)
W: Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick
DP: Seamus McGarvey
Ed: Frances Parker & Mary Jo Markey
Mus: Jon Ekstrand
Jake Gyllenhaal (David Jordan), Rebecca Ferguson (Miranda North), Ryan Reynolds (Rory Adams), Hiroyuki Sanada (Sho Murakami), Olga Dihovichnaya (Ekaterina Golovkina), Ariyon Bakare (Hugh Derry)
Since Alien hit the screens in 1979, there have been plenty of copycats, of which Life is just another in a long run. The comparisons are obvious, but Life isn't a bad movie by any stretch, despite playing fast and loose with the laws of physics.
The story takes place aboard a space station, where a team of scientists have just discovered life on Mars, and experiment with the jellyfish-like creature, which quickly becomes hostile and picks off the crew members one-by-one.
Although it is one big ripoff of arguably the best science fiction-horror movies of all time, this film does have enough plot twists to provide an element of surprise.
D: Alfred Hitchcock
20th Century Fox (Kenneth MacGowan)
W: Jo Swerling & John Steinbeck
DP: Glen MacWilliams
Ed: Dorothy Spencer
Mus: Hugo Friedhofer
Tallulah Bankhead (Constance Porter), William Bendix (Gus), Walter Slezak (The German), Mary Anderson (Alice), John Hodiak (Kovak), Henry Hull (Rittenhouse), Hume Cronyn (Stanley Garrett), Heather Angel (Mrs. Higgins)
One of Alfred Hitchcock's lesser works, although on craft alone it deserves to be held in the same regard as his finest works.
In the midst of World War II, the survivors of a torpedoed passenger ship amass on a cramped lifeboat as they drift amongst the flotsam.
The survivors include a vast range of characters, from a fashionable socialite to the U-boat commander responsible for their plight.
Based on a story by John Steinbeck, the film and its director do an excellent job bringing tension to a single location, helped no end by the performance of the ensemble cast.
The film has since been considered a propaganda gimmick, which is completely unfair. It's a wonderfully crafted film, with excellent production values for its age.
LIGHTNING JACK (PG)
LILO & STITCH (U)
D: Charles Chaplin
United Artists (Charles Chaplin)
W: Charles Chaplin
DP: Karl Strauss
Ed: Joe Inge
Mus: Charles Chaplin, Raymond Rasch & Larry Russell
Charles Chaplin (Calvero), Claire Bloom (Thereza Ambrose), Nigel Bruce (Postant), Buster Keaton (Calvero's Partner), Sydney Earl Chaplin (Ernest Neville), Norman Lloyd (Bodalink), Marjorie Bennett (Mrs. Alsop)
Though produced and funded in the United States, Limelight was met with blackout when it was originally slated for release in 1952, mostly due to Chaplin's political stance on communism. It was finally given widespread US release in 1972, thus becoming eligible for the 45th Academy Awards, where it won Chaplin his only competitive Oscar in the Best Original Score category.
The film itself is quite obviously biographical, set in London's East End, where a washed up music hall comedian saves the life of a young ballerina and the two form a relationship which gives them both hope of realising their dreams of fame.
Chaplin very much plays an older version of the usual character for which he became famous, and Claire Bloom is excellent as the young ingenue.
It's not quite the best work of Charlie Chaplin's illustrious career, but it's a film which certainly sums it up, as he gracefully hands the spotlight to a younger generation.
D: Garth Davis
The Weinstein Company/Screen Australia/See-Saw (Iain Canning, Emile Sherman & Angie Fielder)
W: Luke Davies [based on the book "A Long Way Home" by Saroo Brierley & Larry Buttrose]
DP: Greig Fraser
Ed: Alexandre de Franceschi
Mus: Dustin O'Halloran & Hauschka
Dev Patel (Saroo Brierley), Rooney Mara (Lucy), Nicole Kidman (Lucy Brierley), David Wenham (John Brierley), Sunny Pawar (Young Saroo)
Lion is the true biographical story of Saroo Brierley, a lost five year old boy on the streets of Calcutta, a thousand miles from his small village on the other side of India. Unable to speak the local Bengali dialect or even pronounce his mother's name or home village properly, he is taken into an orphanage and subsequently adopted by an Australian couple, who take him back to Hobart, Tasmania.
Twenty years later, with the aid of Google Earth, he discovers the location of his village and embarks on a journey to be reunited with his biological family.
The plot does share some similarities with Slumdog Millionaire, especially in the first act, but this is much more than Oscar bait. Dev Patel is excellent as an adult Saroo Brierley and Nicole Kidman also deserves praise for her performance as his adoptive mother. Another star of the movie is the beautifully haunting music, composed by Dustin O'Halloran and Hauschka.
Certainly amongst the top ten best films of 2016.
THE LION KING (U)
THE LIST OF ADRIAN MESSENGER (PG)
LITTLE CHILDREN (15)
D: Todd Field
New Line/Bona Fide/Standard (Todd Field, Albert Berger & Ron Yerxa)
W: Todd Field & Tom Perrotta [based on the novel by Tom Perrotta]
DP: Antonio Calvache
Ed: Leo Trombetta
Mus: Thomas Newman
Kate Winslet (Sarah Pierce), Patrick Wilson (Brad Adamson), Jennifer Connelly (Kathy Adamson), Jackie Earle Haley (Ronnie McGorvey), Noah Emmerich (Larry Hedges)
Figuratively speaking, Little Children is a modernisation of Flaubert's literary classic Madame Bovary, relocated from 18th Century France to the leafy, picket fence suburbs of modern day Boston, Massachusetts.
Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson star as two adulterous parents, unhappy in their respective marriages, who embark on an affair. Meanwhile, their idyllic small town is rattled when it emerges that paedophile lives amongst them, himself trying to put his murky past behind him and move on with his life, but a disgraced ex-cop doesn't want to let sleeping dogs lie.
This intricate drama uncovers the deep layers which a small suburban community might have in a more tasteful and easier to watch way than the way David Lynch may have approached similar material (Blue Velvet, for example) and I found it to have a little influence from Robert Altman's Short Cuts with its execution.
The performances of the ensemble cast are all excellent, particularly Kate Winslet and Jackie Earle Haley (both of whom received Oscar nominations), but the film itself wasn't as good as it could have been, and was definitely hampered by an awful Desperate Housewives-esque narration by Will Lyman which I found to be more intrusive than it was informative.
LITTLE MAN TATE (PG)
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (15)
A LITTLE ROMANCE (PG)
LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (PG)
LIVE BY NIGHT (15)
D: Ben Affleck
Warner Bros/Ratpac-Dune/Appian Way/Pearl Street (Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Davisson & Jennifer Todd)
W: Ben Affleck [based on the novel by Dennis Lehane]
DP: Robert Richardson
Ed: William Goldenberg
Mus: Harry Gregson-Williams
PD: Jess Gonchor
Cos: Jacqueline West
Ben Affleck (Joe Coughlin), Elle Fanning (Loretta Figgis), Brendan Gleeson (Thomas Coughlin), Remo Girone (Maso Pescatore), Sienna Miller (Emma Gould), Zoe Saldana (Graciela Corrales), Chris Messina (Dion Bartolo)
Based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, whose previous titles Mystic River and Shutter Island were turned into successful movies by Clint Eastwood & Martin Scorsese.
Unfortunately, Ben Affleck doesn't have the same magic touch, and the plot doesn't add up to much more than a revenge gangster story set against a prohibition-era backdrop.
Ben Affleck in the lead does little more than his charming man act, but at least his performance is better than Sienna Miller, who constantly looks like she's sucking a lemon as she delivers her Oirish accent.
Live By Night is aesthetically pleasing, however, with close attention paid to period design and costume, but this alone isn't worth the price of a ticket.
The film bombed at the box office, and though it's not totally awful, you can understand why it lacked appeal with cinema audiences.