“Going in Style” renews interest in heist genre

By Ben Haylett, broadcast director

The heist movies of yesteryear have given way to the action packed and CGI laden superhero blockbusters that block all other movies out of recent memory. Keeping this in mind, it makes total sense to employ a cast of older gentlemen in “Going in Style”, a half-comedy, half-heist film that walks the line beautifully.

“Going in Style” follows Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, and Michael Caine in the wake of losing their pensions. Desperate for the money they need to live in this modern world, they decide that the best course of action is to rob the bank that took their money away from them.

This seemingly serious premise is downplayed because all three men are above 75. Not only do they have to concern themselves with the logistics of actually robbing a bank, they have to deal with aching hips, hearing loss, and blurry vision. Hilarity ensues as they try to make their way through the process of both robbing the bank and evading the law enforcement trying to bust them.

All three of the leading men gave dynamic performances to the silver screen, but Morgan Freeman’s performance as a man in need of a kidney particularly hits home and plucks at the heart strings. As it is a major comedic point of the movie, the actors’ old ages lends itself well to the overall story. They all seem to be totally in their element and comfortable within their roles.

Overall, “Going in Style” is a great movie, perfectly suitable for family movie night, or even date night, and if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, maybe take your grandparents.

La La Land dances into America’s hearts

by Benjamin Haylett, director of broadcast

This year’s Oscar nominee record holder “La La Land”  is a fun-filled romp for the whole family, provided you are ready for its considerable length.

“La La Land” tells the story of lovers Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), two people just trying to make it big in Hollywood. Mia dreams of becoming a famous actress, while the jazz loving Sebastian wants to open his own club where the history and pure depth of jazz can be enjoyed by like-minded people to himself.

This is a story as old as time, and “La La Land”  works to perfectly personify the American dream in its brilliant acting and seamless integration of its musical numbers. The thing about musical numbers is in a subpar movie, they work to take the viewer out of the story, but “La La Land” hangs up with the greats like “The Sound of Music” and “West Side Story,” wherein the songs presented work to fully immerse the viewer into its world where breaking out into song in the middle of the workday is commonplace.

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are a match made in heaven in this wonderfully cast picture. Their heartfelt performances make it no surprise that the are up for Best Actor and Best Actress. Beyond their acting chops, both of the leads show off their singing skills with voices that keep even the most stringent audiophile at ease. J.K Simmons and John Legend are some of the other A-list stars to grace the silver screen with their faces.

Visually, “La La Land” is absolutely beautiful. The set designers and wardrobe department work together in perfect harmony to either convey moods of bliss, love, or angst with only the color on the screen. This fact coupled with the excellent cinematography that uses constant long shots to show the story as it unfolds as opposed to telling it. The cinematic style is reminiscent of the golden age of Hollywood and even touches on the silent era of cinema. Scenes of either instrumental music, or at more tense times, pure silence, work to give “La La Land”, a period piece feel, for a story set in the modern day.

“La La Land” has been nominated for 14 Academy Awards, an honor only shared with “Titanic” (1997)  and All About Eve (1959). With a rap sheet such as this, there is no reason why anyone shouldn’t go see “La La Landas soon as possible. Take your significant other, take your grandma, take anyone you want, there is something in “La La Land” for everyone. Just make sure you bring your tissues.

Rogue One soars into theaters

By Ben Haylett, broadcast director

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” opened last weekend to earn $290 million worldwide, and deservedly so as this is a Star Wars movie to rival any of the original trilogy from the 1970s and 80s.

This latest installment in the ongoing Star Wars universe shows long time fans of the series how the Rebel Alliance acquired the secret plans for the Death Star, a plot point pivotal to the story of the first movie from 1977. Along for this action-packed ride are new characters like Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, the daughter of the man responsible for designing the plans for the Death Star, and Cassian Ando, played by Diego Luna, a Rebel pilot who accompanies Jyn on her mission to find her father. Other big name actors such as Forest Whitaker and Alan Tudyk grace the screen with their true to life performances that never waves for a minute.

Special effects have always been a staple of the Star Wars films, and “Rogue One” is no exception. At no point does low quality CGI take the viewer out of the moment of the film, and a mix of practical effect and CGI adds a realistic basis for viewers to conceptualize the vast expanse of the creatures and machines depicted in the film. Most stunning of all was the use of CGI to bring the character of Grand Moff Tarkin, originally played by Peter Cushing, back into the Star Wars universe as a main character, even though Peter Cushing died in 1994. Using extensive facial tracking, the filmmakers modelled an intensely realistic model of Cushing’s face and applied it to his replacement actor’s face to give a true to life performance from a deceased actor. The same technology is used to make Princess Leia look as she did in 1977, but to a lesser degree, as she is in the film much less.

Overall, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is an excellent film and perfect for a movie night out with the family. For old and new fans of the Star Wars movies, this movie is a must see this Christmas season.