PATRIOTS DAY–Pointless. If you lived through the Boston Marathon bombings, nothing compares. For all its good intentions and attempts at verisimilitude, this film adds nothing and mutes the impact of that tragic week in Boston’s history. It also traffics in some pretty annoying cliches: Boston cops are, apparently, the most foul-mouthed in the country; and only the same roster of actors can manage a credible Boston accent, thus they appear in every movie set in our fair city: Kevin Bacon, Michelle Monahan, Erica McDermott in a small role, and of course Mark Wahlberg whose pugnacity is once more hitched to some sort of battle. Here he plays a composite character, a police officer who manages to be EVERYWHERE: at the scene of the bombings, behind the scenes with the FBI, and at the big shoot-out in Watertown. “They messed with the wrong city,” he threatens as he heads out of frame. I think filmmaker Peter Berg and company messed with the wrong subject.
LA LA LAND–I have NO idea why so many critics think this is the best film of the year. It was entertaining and among the most unusual offerings of the season, another from the talented Damien Chazelle who last year gave us WHIPLASH. Some have said it “re-invents” the movie musical. Sure–by casting it with actors who can’t sing or dance. I LOVE Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone who have real chemistry here as the romantic leads seeking fame and fortune in Hollywood. The opening sequence is a splashy surprise, a sprawling production number on the sunny L.A. freeway. And the final sequence is a bittersweet mini-movie marvel all by itself. But what happens in between either goes slack or left me wanting. Whenever I saw Stone and Gosling break into a musical number, I couldn’t get Fred and Ginger and Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse out of my head. What’s the point of this casting? That we all dream ourselves bigger and better than we actually are? It IS beautifully shot, and cracks open the soul-killing erosion of auditioning and commercialism on aspirants with real talent. Best of the year? No way. (see my list). Worth seeing? Sure.
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY–an exciting adventure “Once Upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away,” that pits the Rebel Alliance against the Imperial Forces in pursuit of the plans for the death star! It’s all a prequel to the ground-breaking “Star Wars” saga and iconic characters to come. Lots of fun, and just enough action to keep you engaged, but perhaps MOST notable for having the heroine–a fearless and forthright Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso– lead the charge and all the derring-do, while her partner Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) follows her with growing admiration. Its parting shot will make your heart ache. R.I.P. Carrie.