Screened Out – La La Land

By : Stephen Miller
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Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

Do-It-Yourself indie films and high-polish Hollywood musicals don’t seem to fit together. And if fact, there are some brief points in La La Land that don’t quite sing. Yet, as a whole, this small, modern throwback to Hollywood’s heyday is delightful. It reminds us that miracles can still happen, even in the simplest films.

And it doesn’t hurt that La La Land has the imitable and immutable charm of Gosling and Stone together in another love story (after the cute Crazy Stupid Love and the duller Gangster Land). Their singing may be a little windy and wispy – no full-throated Merman-like belting here. However, their chemistry is undeniable.

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Screened Out – The Nice Guys

By : Stephen Miller
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Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, Kim Basinger, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Angourie Rice, Keith David

Though it’s a bit of a mess, the Disco-decade murder mystery The Nice Guys has one groovy thing going for it; it’s crazy entertaining!

Sure, it’s got problems. They start with film-noir narration never used twice – an odd throwback to the 1940s in this 1970s flick. Small, intriguing scenes are simply tacked on, not integrated at all. The plot is fairly convoluted. Director/co-writer Shane Black doesn’t stick with the groovy ‘77 film style anyway, wandering away, especially in the dialogue and camera work, even into the ‘80s. Some of the violence is a little explicit. Finally, Gosling’s character is way more interesting (and fun) than Crowe’s.

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Screened Out – The Big Short

By : Stephen Miller
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Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carrell, Brad Pitt, Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo, Finn Wittrock, Max Greenfield, Billy Magnuson, Rafe Spall, Tracy Letts, Margo Robbie

This Oscar-nominated dark comedy succeeds – and the people in the film succeed – by betting on failure. While the rest of us were reeling from the financial crash of 2008 – foreclosing our houses, losing jobs, watching our retirement funds disappear – a small group of counter-thinkers were getting rich.

Director/co-writer Adam McKay (Talladega Nights, Anchorman) finally arrives with a film that entertains while it infuriates. It’s callous, cavalier comedy about a subject sometimes hard to understand: subprime loans. Next to Spotlight – another true story about uncovering a scandal – The Big Short has the best ensemble cast this year.

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Screened Out – Focus

By : Stephen Miller
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Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro, Gerald McRaney

You can feel Focus trying to be as debonair and romantic as the Oceans films and as character-driven as American Hustle. Despites its sites, it never reaches those heights.

It’s not that Smith isn’t an expert at playing slick – he’s less appealing at the romantic banter required here. It’s also not that Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street) isn’t sexy. In fact, her glamour and comic timing are the best things about this flick. The complications are entertaining. Although this is pure escapism, it’s just slight on memorable moments and sexual chemistry.

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