Are American audiences ready for a full-blown movie musical about struggling performing artists in Los Angeles? I hope so, because “La La Land” is easily one of the best movies of the year. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are splendid in this magical romantic comic drama that was written and directed by Damien Chazelle, the man behind last year’s terrific jazz movie, “Whiplash.” “La La Land” is smart, poignant, tune-filled and funny. Those who love old-time musicals will be in heaven and those that don’t…will probably like it anyway. “La La Land” is a real gem.
A terrific cast has gotten mired in a well-meaning but misguided dramatic mess called “Collateral Beauty.” Will Smith, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Keira Knightley, Michael Pena and Naomie Harris do their best to make a sappy script palatable. Smith plays an ad executive who has shut down emotionally after a grievous personal loss. His co-workers hire actors to play love, time and death in an attempt to shake him out of his funk. Only a cast this good could make a premise this odd seem remotely believable.
“Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened” is a wistful documentary about the making of the notorious 1982 Broadway flop, “Merrily We Roll Along,” which almost destroyed the acclaimed partnership of composer Stephen Sondheim and director Hal Prince. Lonny Price, who was a member of the original cast, interviews many of the folks who survived the disaster, including fellow cast members Jason Alexander and Jim Walton as well as the show’s creators. This is a must-see for hardcore Broadway fans. Others may wonder what the fuss is all about.
Also opening this week, “Beyond the Gates” is 1980s-style throwback horror film about an alternative universe in a VCR board game. There’s also some low profile movie prequel called “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”