December 16, 2016, - 4:18 pm

Wknd Box Office: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, La La Land, Jackie, Collateral Beauty

By Debbie Schlussel

Only one good new movie in theaters this weekend, and it’s one of the best of the year.

* Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – PG-13: As I noted in my review column on this earlier in the week, this is a long, slow, boring, lightweight, politically-correct rehash of the Star Wars story with dull, uninteresting characters who lack magic, charm, and charisma. On top of that, the casting is racist, with all of the villains being old White males and all of the heroes minorities and a chick. Read my complete review.


* La La Land – PG-13: This is truly one of the best movies of the year. Don’t let the label “musical” scare you (especially you guys–I promise you you’ll like this a lot–probably love it). Although modern musicals are generally horrible, this is the exception. I love this.

It harkens back to the “golden age” of Hollywood, when movies starring Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and Ginger Rogers entertained and captured the magic and glamor that is lacking in most movies and TV shows today. Although stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling aren’t Kelly, Astaire, or Rogers (they don’t even come close), they are charming enough and make a really good effort. Although their voices aren’t strong and their dancing is amateurish compared to the aforementioned talents of yesteryear, they entertain well enough, and their acting and the story carry this movie a long way. So does Gosling’s fabulous jazz piano playing. That’s really him on the keys. It’s a great, wholesome film, the kind we haven’t seen in years–no decades. I’d say this is a great movie for families (and it is), but there is a single F-word thrown in for no reason. It’s the only part I don’t get because it doesn’t belong here.

Emma Stone is an aspiring actress in Hollywood. She spends her days working as a thankless barista at a coffee shop on a studio lot, occasionally getting coffee spilled on her. And she also goes to a lot of auditions, where she’s working up her emotions in a scene, and just in the middle of all that, the studio exec interrupts her to take a phone call (or something like that). But, audition after audition, Stone never makes the cut and she’s stuck rooming with several other aspiring showbiz types.

Ryan Gosling is a very talented jazz pianist and composer. He, too, aspires to something bigger using his talent to entertain. He dreams of opening a jazz club and restaurant where he can show off his compositions and music to the masses. But for now, he, too, is stuck–stuck playing boring elevator music at a restaurant, where his boss won’t let him play jazz or play his compositions. When he tries to defy that order, he’s fired. And then he gets stuck playing for a very commercial pop artist whose music he hates. A guy’s gotta make a buck.

Gosling and Stone have unknowingly had several brushes with each other at the beginning, but now they consciously meet. She’s gotten dressed up and entered the restaurant as Gosling is playing his own music and getting fired. She’s impressed with the music and his talent, but he’s just lost his job and needs to earn a living. Soon they get together and share their dreams, trying to help and support each other reach those dreams.

While none of the songs are that memorable and–as I noted–their singing voices aren’t the strongest, it’s all good enough and better when you see this movie. You’ll be mesmerized by the scenery, the cinematography, the script, the story. It all comes together in a very magical, truly entertaining way. I especially loved the last scene. It’s just so well done. If you love the old-style Hollywood movies, you’ll especially love this. But even if you don’t, you’ll still like this a whole lot.

A REALLY GREAT MOVIE! A rarity. You gotta see this.


Watch the trailer . . .

* Jackie – R: I’m not really sure what the point was here. This long, slow bore is supposed to show you what Jackie Kennedy was saying, doing, and feeling in the week (and later, the months) after her President husband was assassinated. But that’s what I hate about movies like this: they are fiction that may not bear any similarity to what really happened. This is all imagined–all made up. Made up conversations, made up behavior. And, plus, I just didn’t care.

The only real thing in this movie is the White House tour Jackie Kennedy gave for the TV cameras. But you and I can see the actual tour on YouTube. So why pay ten-bucks-plus to see Natalie Portman pretend to be doing it? No idea. Portman gets the distinctive Jacqueline Bouvier patrician accent down pat. She also resembles her in some of the iconic, recreated Chanel and other designer looks. There is great attention to fashion and detail here, and I love that. But the story: Yaaaaaawn.

We see Kennedy speaking to a reporter from LIFE Magazine who is writing a profile of her at what seems to be a month or two after the assassination of her husband. The interview is at a ritzy mansion on the water. She tells the reporter how she felt in the days following the assassination and what he can and can’t write about it. Then, we see flashbacks to the day of the assassination—before, during, and after the assassination, and then the plane ride back. We also see Jackie in the White House, living there for a week or so after the murder. We see her moping around and drinking and smoking and feeling sorry for herself. Also, we see her dour self getting into the White House residence shower and then into bed. Who cares? Ho hum.

We also see Jackie arguing with the Kennedy family members (including Bobby), the Secret Service, and her and her husband’s staff about whether or not there should be a stately funeral and a procession down the streets of Washington, DC, and whether or not his grave should be in a Brookline, Massachusetts cemetery or something more grand.

In the end, Jackie’s attention-whorism and selfishness wins out. Her husband was President–Dammit!–and she’s going to have a procession and march in the streets to his funeral. Damn the security risks cited by Bobby and the Secret Service. Also, she’s going to have her husband buried in a prominent spot at Arlington National Cemetery. A Brookline plot isn’t fitting for a President, especially one that was married to her.

None of the scenes are in an orderly, linear assemblage. The flashbacks, flash-forwards, the scenes from the day of the assassination–the before, the during, and the after, the scenes from the White House, and the scenes from the interview with the magazine reporter are mish-mashed together in no particular order, making it confusing and hard to keep track of. It’s kind of herky-jerky in that way.

But I just didn’t care about any of this. The Kennedys and Jackie O are the most unnecessarily lionized figures in U.S. history, in my opinion. What did they ever do? And regardless of that, this movie–it’s pointless. It’s silly. And it’s just a waste of nearly two hours of your life that you’ll never get back.

And that’s why all of the tasteless, mind-addled mainstream (a/k/a liberal) movie critics just love it. When they gush over something, you should know by now to run like hell in the opposite direction.


Full “disclosure” on my six degrees of separation to Jackie: My uncle’s uncle, Maurice Tempelsman, was Jackie Onassis’ boyfriend for more than the last decade of her life. He invested her and her kids’ money and made them zillions from it, much richer than the other Kennedys (whose fortunes have dwindled as they have to spread over ever-growing numbers of kids in further generations). I once interviewed with and was offered a job by him and his son. And when my uncle and aunt got married, their engagement party was at Tempelsman’s apartment. A lot of press was outside the building, thinking Jackie was there. She wasn’t. I never met her. And don’t care.


Watch the trailer . . .

* Collateral Beauty – PG-13: The “My Six Year Old Died of Cancer and My Friends Blackmailed Me Feel-Good Movie of the Year”! No, they want you to think that, but it’s really nearly 2.5 hours of crap. There’s absolutely no beauty here–“collateral” or otherwise. And what the heck is “collateral beauty” other than some dumb, pretentious, meaningless phrase someone made up in order to write a manipulative, maudlin, sleep-inducing waste of time? Sounds like some uncreative idiot in a Madison Avenue ad agency made it up . . . like “Fahrvergn├╝gen” in those old Volkswagen ads in the ’90s. On top of that, the “heroes” of this movie are “friends” who defraud and frame another friend in order to blackmail and extort him into doing what they want. Wow, that’s friendship!

And speaking of New York ad agency idiots, the vastly overrated Will Smith plays a successful New York ad agency owner whose six-year-old dies of cancer. Thereafter, he becomes withdrawn and spends his days at work in an out-of-it existence, building those domino lines (where one domino falls on the other and so on). He spends his night angrily biking on New York’s bridges and then sitting in the dark in his apartment. His partner (Edward Norton) and top employees (Kate Winslet, and Michael Pena) are fed up. They are losing business and money and want to sell the agency to a buyer, before they lose everything. But they can’t get Smith to sign off on anything or engage in any business matters. So, they resort to blackmail and extortion and defraud their friend and partner, Smith.

The partner and employees learn that Smith has written letters to “Love,” “Time,” and “Death.” So, they hire three actors (which include Helen Mirren and Kiera Knightley) to portray Love, Time, and Death, and confront Smith on the street. As each actor is confronting him, Smith’s associates have hired a private investigator to videotape it. Then, they edit out the actors and show it to Smith, telling him he’s going crazy, talking to the air. They use that to extort and blackmail him into signing the agreement to sell the agency, so they can make their money. Like I said, it’s all very manipulative. But, yet, this movie makes these three into heroes for their successful scheme to defraud their friend. Charming.

This movie is bitter and hopeless like Michelle Obama, and it’s out of place in a time of hope and joy. It bored me to tears, and it movies glacially slow. On top of that, there’s a lot of stupid crying and pouting. Who wants to pay to see that? Who wants to pay to see people mourning and crying over their six-year-old daughters? Especially right before Christmas.

Come on, Hollywood.


Watch the trailer . . .

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12 Responses


Re La La Land:

The random F-word is added to PG movies so they can earn a PG-13 rating and thus presumably appeal to a wider audience. The MPAA perceives that certain target audiences won’t go see a movie unless it is rated a certain way. So, PG movies are moved to PG-13 and PG-13 moved to R.

I’ve done a lot of research on movies since the Rating Revolution and would enjoy collaborating with you on a book, which would be fun.

BTW, I admire your courage.

Best Regards

Paul Hoffman

PAUL on December 17, 2016 at 10:09 am


e.g., why did Matt Damon have to show his naked butt in The Martian and sprinkle the F-word around? To get an R rating for the picture…

And don’t get me started on the nude men’s butts issue…

PAUL on December 17, 2016 at 10:34 am

Poor Debbie watches these awful Hollywood libtard movies and gives us the heads up so we know which ones to avoid (which is almost all of them).

Samantha on December 17, 2016 at 1:22 pm

Hey Deb

It just sounds like La La Land’s plot has been done before and with more talented people, don’t forget Stone’s been one of those whos loves working with Woody Allen.A fun fact about Jackie Kennedy,sarcastic here, when she found out about Oswald she thought it was ridiculous he was killed “by some silly little communist” which indicates she didn’t keep up with the opression of most of Europe under the USSR. One more thing, like the Clintons, borrowing from the song War,the Kennedys weren’t good for anything and were useless.

Robert on December 17, 2016 at 2:57 pm

Thanks. I will go see La La Land. Been wanting to go to the movies for 6 months but you don’t rate that many as good. I switched to live plays which cost a lot more but worth the extra money over seeing crap on a screen.

Barry Shandler on December 18, 2016 at 7:12 am

Wow 4 Reagans ! Never seen that before.

a Charles Martel fan on December 18, 2016 at 9:05 am

The trailers above are very revealing. “La La Land” immediately shows the viewer beautiful costumes, stunning scenic designs, creative art direction, sumptuous cinematography, imaginative choreography, and solid direction. But I also recognize that in spite of these magical qualities, something very critical is missing: memorable music! What is a musical without first-rate music?

I’ve had the good fortune of seeing theatrical revivals of many musicals during this last year or so, including “White Christmas,” “Gypsy,” “West Side Story,” and “My Fair Lady.” There’s a good reason that these musicals can be revived again and again over the decades, having a timeless appeal. And a vital component, if not the core of those musicals, is that they’ve got great songs of such quality that they stand all on their own. But when given the full “Broadway” treatment, they are truly magical.

La La Land seems to not only be lacking in the music department, but Ryan Gosling’s acting seems wooden to me. Emma Stone seems to shine here, and I’m impressed with Gosling’s dancing and piano planning, but his acting leaves a void. Maybe the movie will change my first impression from the trailer, but I doubt it. A musical trailer in particular typically shows some top musical and acting moments, and these fall flat in the trailer. It’s a shame that the people behind the scenes in La La Land didn’t do “Jersey Boys,” instead of Clint Eastwood. The people behind La La Land clearly know how to make a movie musical, and Clint, for all his talents, doesn’t.

Speaking of wooden acting, the trailer of “Collateral Beauty” immediately exhibits a glaring weakness: Will Smith simply can’t act. Sure, he can shed some tears with the proper preparation, but even there, the underlying emotion is missing. What’s worse is that he’s the lead “actor” doing scenes with some first-rate actors, like Helen Mirren, Kiera Knightley, and Edward Norton, so credibility is lacking no matter how good the story and script are. Will Smith has some talent for light comic roles, but serious roles like this one are totally our of his range.

Turning to the trailer for “Jackie,” like “La La Land,” the look of the movie seems first-rate, including the costumes, the set designs, and the cinematography. And, unlike Will Smith, Natalie Portman immediately demonstrates that she’s a first-rate actress, going far beyond just the looks and mannerism of the real Jackie, but also showing emotions that ring true.

What is clear from the trailer, however, is that there’s a glaring omission absolutely critical for a movie like this to succeed: a good story. I see absolutely no sign whatsoever that this movie has a story to tell.

You can tell this almost immediately by the dramatic device of a writer (presumably playing Theodore White) interviewing Jackie. Such a device should ONLY be used to tie together a long sprawling story, and even then it should be avoided where possible because it’s been done so many times before. This device works just fine in a classic movie like Herman Jacob Mankiewicz’s and Orson Wells’s “Citizen Kane” script or in a biography movie like “Chaplin,” starring Robert Downey, Jr. But those screenplays cover a timeline of events spanning nearly the entire lives of their main characters. In Jackie, the “story” appears to cover only a week, with some flashbacks thrown in. So, “Jackie” is off to a poor start from the get-go.

I should also point out that there’s lots of material for a story about Jackie that could be made, so there’s no excuse for a lack of a genuine story even if the moviemakers wanted to focus solely on the human side of Jackie’s life. For example, in the years leading up to the JFK assassination, JFK had engaged in several affairs unknown by the public at that time. But, ironically, in the last year of his life, he became closer to Jackie than at any time during his presidency. This was because Jackie was pregnant and Patrick was supposed to be born in September 1963. Tragically, Patrick was born by emergency caesarean section about 5 weeks prematurely and ultimately died in early August 1963, a little more than 3 months before JFK was murdered in Dallas. This time period leading up to the assassination would make for good dramatic material.

As for critics “raving” over “Jackie” as a signal to run the other way, that’s hardly a strong indicator unless we know WHY they are raving over a movie. Critics are also raving over La La Land, so that doesn’t tell us that the movie must be bad. If critics are, in fact, raving over “Jackie,” that could be for several diverse reasons. Maybe they were captivated by Natalie Portman’s performance. But maybe they were also relieved that the movie didn’t really touch on any political hot buttons and, instead, stuck to the “official” story. Critics don’t automatically give the thumbs-up just because some parts of the JFK story are told. The 2011 TV miniseries JFK did not generally get good reviews, even with some pretty solid acting by Greg Kinnear as JFK and Katie Holmes as Jackie.

The real story of JFK has yet to be told, however, because there are some very powerful forces that don’t want the story to be heard. Unfortunately, the only way you can find out the real story is by doing a lot of reading and studying of the events at that time and from many different sources. Thus, Debbie has one view of the JFK story, and one filled with disinformation and misinformation. It’s not her fault. If you only see one part of a story, and one that may not even be true, then you are not going to get the full picture, and certainly not the true picture.

I have studied the JFK history for more than two decades and I have considerable expertise in the subject, so I naturally have a very different view of it. The evidence is overwhelming that the FBI and the CIA lied about the JFK assassination and that the CIA had direct involvement in it. And the lying hasn’t stopped.

But to give you a little insight into what JFK did that was different from what any president before had done, consider just the simple story of his encounter with U.S. Steel, which once controlled 25% of the world’s steel market.

Back in 1959, a year before JFK became President, steelworkers staged a 4-month strike. JFK wanted hoped to avoid a similar flareup during his tenure because of his concern over rising steel prices. JFK helped to strike a deal between the United Steel Workers (USW) and U.S. Steel executives which enabled workers to get a slight wage increase and a postponement on price increases. However, US Steel CEO Roger Blough double-crossed JFK after the deal was done and announced that the Company was going to raise prices by 3.5% percent, with other steel companies following suit. (This was before laws against price collusion were enacted.) JFK responded by informing US Steel that a new submarine construction contract would be given to a smaller steel company that hadn’t agreed to the price hike. Immediately, other manufacturers that had raised prices in response to U.S. Steel’s maneuver quickly withdrew their price hikes. JFK’s bold action would earn him a new enemy. Many more would follow.

The reason that the JFK story is so enduring, even though the public has scarcely been told any significant part of it, is that his administration was period of great hope where things previously thought impossible could be made to happen. You can get a sense of that in this clip involving JFK, space travel, and John Glenn. The US was on a great trajectory during JFK’s administration, but that trajectory would end on November 22, 1963, and the US war machine took control–which JFK sought to avert while he was alive–plunging the US into a long war in Vietnam costing many, many lives and billions and billions of dollars that would set the US back for decades.

Ralph Adamo on December 18, 2016 at 8:51 pm

A little Jackie trivia; the cover and feature article photos for the July 20, 1953 LIFE Magazine was done by my uncle Hy Peskin.

SSgt Preston, USMC on December 20, 2016 at 10:03 am

Just saw La la land, and for the first time, I’ve been disappointed by a review here. Reason I cannot disclose, since that involves a spoiler on this movie.

However, one thing did strike me – the period in which this musical is set. On one hand, Emma’s character has an iPhone, which pretty much puts her in this millenium. OTOH, Gosling’s character plays a gramaphone record. I thought those things went out of style in the 90s, once CDs hit. Yeah, one can buy a turntable even these days, but it seems highly strange that he didn’t choose to get his music converted to MP3s or something

Infidel on December 25, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    Infidel, I’ve not seen La La Land yet, though I hope to. But if Gosling’s character is playing “vinyl,” or “LPs” (long-playing records), this does not necessarily mean that he’s “out of style.” It could just mean that he has a “different style.”

    Although CDs and other digital forms of music are of very high quality, there are many music lovers who prefer the analog sound of vinyl. In fact, there is a thriving market for NEW vinyl, as well as original vinyl, particularly in such categories as pop music, jazz, rock, and folk. The vinyl recordings tend to have a greater warmth to the tone. (Similarly, there is still a market for tube amplifiers, rather than conventional solid state, again, because tubes produce a “warmer” tone.)

    Thus, since the Gosland character is a musician (given what little I know about the movie), I’m sure that the writers deliberately made his character prefer vinyl, possibly to show that he’s a musical “purist.”

    Scientifically, tape and vinyl recordings of music do have a different, measurable sound profile from CDs and many people can actually hear the differences. However, there’s also a certain tactile difference too. And vinyl also carries with it a sense of nostalgia and connection to the past. The downside of vinyl is that it’s harder to transport and the LPs have a “hiss” sound and may develop popping or crackling sounds over time because playing vinyl eventually erodes the sound quality, regardless of the quality of the turntable, arm, and the diamond stylus that reads the grooves that produces the sound.

    Ralph Adamo on December 27, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      many people can actually hear the differences.

      Sure, they can hear the artifacts of the vinyl – I despised records when they were contemporary because of them.

      Also, related to this topic, my bro-in-law is a multi-gold-record-winning music producer and composer and he has been using digital recording since its infancy as a technology and he says that he can’t hear the difference between analog and digital.

      DS_ROCKS! on January 30, 2017 at 4:54 pm

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