City of Stars: A Review of “La La Land”

Movies are supposed to feel magical. They transport us to worlds both familiar and alien; relay stories ranging between grandeur and intimate scale; and introduce us to an array of characters we’ve known our entire lives along with those we’ve yet to meet. La La Land, from Whiplash writer-director Damien Chazelle, is 2016’s most magical and completely marvelous film. From start to finish, La La Land pays homage to classical Hollywood musicals in a wholly engaging and visually stunning tribute — one that features first class performances from co-leads Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, who impressively dance and sing along to its wonderful soundtrack.

Emma Stone plays Mia, a young, aspiring actress desperately hoping to make her break in Hollywood, but is unfortunately stuck working a barista job on a soundstage lot. Opposite her, Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian is a down-on-his-luck pianist whose admiration for jazz guides his desire to manage his own jazz club in L.A., but is rather left performing renditions of Christmas songs at a local restaurant.

The two eventually find what they’ve always needed in each other, but as these things always go, there’s initially some chance encounters in which the two butt heads and express how uninterested they are in each other. But it’s apparent that the pair has wonderful chemistry, brought to light early on in one of the film’s best pieces, “A Lovely Night.” The couple elegantly dances around an L.A. street corner as the sun sets — the scene not only being gorgeous to look at, but Stone and Gosling’s voices evoke similarly as much beauty.

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What Are You Watching?: The Last Five Years

The Last Five Years

With Valentine’s Day comes many things: the excessive amounts of reds and pinks flooding the aisles of Target, flowers skyrocketing in price and demand, and the impossible excursion that takes place trying to find movie tickets available for that day. This year’s big V-Day release was arguably “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which happened to “eclipse” the release of Anna Kendrick’s latest film, “The Last Five Years” (It was a pun. Anna Kendrick was in “Twilight.” Get it? Moving on…)

“The Last Five Years” is an off-Broadway musical that made it to the big screen with Tony Award Nominees Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan (from “Smash” on NBC). This show tells the story of Cathy (Kendrick) and Jamie’s (Jordan) relationship through the last five years from their first date to the wedding and ultimate divorce. Whoa! Way to spoil the ending! I assure you, I didn’t.

This movie opens on Cathy reading a letter from Jamie saying he’s left her. The story then digresses through the relationship to when they first met through Cathy’s perspective. At the same time, it progresses from the beginning to the end of their relationship in Jamie’s perspective. Confused? It sounds more confusing than it actually is, I assure you.

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