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After respectable musical efforts in awful films (Pitch Perfect, Into the Woods), Anna Kendrick takes a nice leap forward in The Last Five Years, a film adaptation of the off-Broadway musical.

She plays Cathy, a woman we see singing a mournful post breakup song as the film begins. Her husband, newly famous writer Jamie (Jeremy Jordan), has just left her for superstardom and multiple girlfriends. The film then flashes back to show moments over the last five years of their lives, with almost all of the dialogue being sung.

The two stars, especially Kendrick, do much of their singing live. The music itself isn’t all that memorable, but it’s not bad, and it does require Kendrick and Jordan to often use the upper register. They both have impressive pipes.

Unfortunately, the Jamie character drags the film down a bit; he’s a bland, reprehensible prick. That could work fine, but he’s portrayed sympathetically instead of as the asshole he is. The script should have called for more humor and less sap. Still, the technical aspects of the movie are exemplary.

The movie, directed by Richard LaGravenese, was shot in about three weeks on a minuscule budget, yet it still winds up being a competent exercise in musical theater. In the end, it shows that Kendrick is the real deal.

The Last Five Years is available on demand and via online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com. 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Angelina Jolie directs the harrowing story of Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell), a real life Olympic-runner and American soldier who was shot down over the Pacific during World War II. Zamperini wound up at sea on a lifeboat for a grueling stretch until he and his co-survivor, Phil (Domhnall Gleeson), were picked up by Japanese soldiers and put into a prison camp. That’s where the real hell began.

Unbroken shows Zamperini going through a nasty amount of torture at the hands of the camp commander, Watanabe (Takamasa Ishihara). In fact, some of the stuff Zamperini endured—like an entire prison camp population punching him in the face, one person at a time—seems like it must be embellished. (Nobody could survive all those haymakers in a row … could they?) Still, the story is uplifting, and Jolie makes a good-looking movie.

The script was co-written by the Coen brothers along with Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson, based on a book by Laura Hillenbrand.

Zamperini died in July 2014. The film acts as a nice tribute to his courage.

Unbroken is playing at the UltraStar Mary Pickford Stadium 14 (36850 Pickfair St., Cathedral City; 760-328-7100), the Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 (72777 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage; 844-462-7342) and the Century Theatres at The River (71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage; 760-836-1940).

Published in Reviews