Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash”) continues to be a cutting edge and driving force in his very young writing and directing career. His newest endeavor is a musical, “La La Land,” starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. The two are young and struggling talents in Hollywood, trying to make a go of it while they dance and sing their way into each others hearts and arms. It’s a throw-back to a romantic and imaginative time in Hollywood yet set in the current times. It’s not Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but the story and creativity far out-weigh what the stars lack in singing and dancing prowess.
The “Star Wars” franchise continues with “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, and Ben Mendelsohn along with several more high-profile actors. No doubt that this cash cow will continue to produce green buckets for Lucasfilm, but does their $200M investment give them a golden story? No. This lackluster attempt at delivering a prequel to “Star Wars: A New Hope,” provides little information, characters with no personality except for a droid, and puts all their golden eggs into the special effects basket.
“Collateral Beauty,” blends a little bit of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” with Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” to give us this new film about love, loss, and what’s important in life. Howard (Will Smith) is a charismatic and extremely successful entrepreneur with a heart of gold until he loses his young daughter. This devastating event plummets him into an emotional hell, leaving his business and partners in financial shambles. In an effort to help Howard and the business, his partners hire actors to respond to his letters to the Universe including Love, Death, and Time—the concepts he feels are responsible for taking the most precious gift from him.
Stevie DiMarco (Chris Cordone), aka Stevie D, is the arrogant, obnoxious, misogynistic son of a well-connected L.A. construction magnate. His heavy drinking ways get him into trouble when he accidentally kills a crime boss’s son. Revenge by means of retaliation is the only payment that can settle the score. Stevie D is the prime target and his father, Angelo (John Aprea), hires a look-alike actor to play his son’s role, setting him up to unknowingly take the hit while the real Stevie D goes into hiding. As Michael Rose (Chris Cordone), the actor, successfully fills in, the consequences are not what everyone expected.
CLICK ON THE TITLES TO READ PAM’S FULL REVIEWS!