Film Review : Whiplash (2014)

IMDB Score – 8.4
Rotten Tomato Score – 97%
Grand Jury Prize Winner at Sundance

Directed By – Damien Chazelle
Starring – Miles Teller, JK Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist, Austin Stowell, and Nate Lang

A promising young drummer enrolls at a cutthroat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.

Wow.

Fucking WOW.

I have only clapped at the end of one movie(which was this year…Boyhood), but now I can say I clapped to two. I couldn’t help myself. The theater couldn’t help itself. Whiplash was that good. I turned to my friend with absolute glee and shouted “THAT WAS FUCKING AWESOME”. I was, and still am, completely blown away by this film. The plot is simple. Andrew (Teller) is an aspiring jazz drummer in the most prestigious school in the country. He is hand picked by Terrence Fletcher (Simmons) to join his competition band comprised of some of the best musicians in the country. While there are a small amount of secondary characters including the return of Paul Reiser, the film mainly focuses on the relationship between Andrew and his teacher; a relationship that grows more volatile by the second.

There just isn’t enough to say about this one. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that doesn’t let up from the starting drum roll to the final curtain. I was captivated the entire time. I’ve had experiences with all the parties involved. I saw Chazelle’s first film “Grand Piano” earlier this year and found it to be entertaining but ultimately forgettable. Miles Teller broke onto the scene with his role in “The Spectacular Now” but is mostly known for his college party films such as “21 & Older and Project X”. JK Simmons is a brilliant character actor who was perfectly cast as Jonah Jamison in the Spiderman films and always delivers an interesting performance. All three combine to give the highlights of their careers in this film. Teller is remarkable. He completely sells Andrew’s strive to be the greatest drummer the world has ever seen. He is passionate, dedicated, and driven. Simmons is a force of nature. It is, without a doubt, the performance of the year so far. He dresses in all black. His face is stone cold and the boom of his voice is thunderous. Not even the smallest mistake makes it past his ears and of you don’t fix it on the next try, you’ll be sorry. The thing is, never was anything he did, no matter how terrifying, ever over the top. Simmons played Fletcher with a frightening sense of realism that will notch him into the lists of greatest villains of all time. This thing was full on psychological horror film for most of its running time, and I couldn’t get more of it.

The films writer/director, Damien Chazelle, knocked this out of the park. The editing was perfect. The pace was perfect. The dialogue and story were engrossing. There was symbolism in the cymbalism. The sound design was amazing. The music was amazing. The man has made a perfect film. It’s always a good thing when as soon as the credits begin to roll, I want to go out and buy a ticket to the next showing. The final 20 minutes was one of the most batshit emotional tornado I’ve ever experienced. In minutes, I was on the verge of tears to almost jumping out of my seat with excitement. His script is uplifting, scary, and ambitious. It tells the story of people who try to be the best and try to get the best out of people. If you have EVER been REALLY REALLY good at something, this film will show you just how much you have to go.

I just…can’t say enough about this film. I know this review is kind of short, but I really just can’t talk about this film in too much detail. I’ve noticed that most of the films I review that I consider fantastic pieces of film, have short reviews. I want you guys to experience these movies with a general idea of what to expect but to still be blown away by completely unexpected events. This film is not a masterpiece. This film is like your grandma’s cooking. It may be lasagna, but there isn’t a thing you can find wrong with it or a thing you would change. I can’t wait to see this again. I can’t wait for it to be released in more theaters so others can experience it.

Fuck it. This is my film of the year. So earned. It was just my fucking tempo.

5/5




Film Review : Grand Piano (2013)

IMDB Score – 5.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 81%
Netflix

Directed By – Eugenio Mira
Starring РElijah Wood, John Cusack, Kerry Bish̩, Tamsin Egerton, Allen Leech, Don McManus, and Alex Winter

Moments before his comeback performance, a concert pianist who suffers from stage fright discovers a note written on his music sheet.

HEY EVERYBODY. FRODO IS PLAYING PIANO. HAHAHAHAHA.

Alright, the horrible comedian inside me had to get that awful joke out of my system before I could continue with this. Honestly, I’m not a big Elijah Wood fan. He was serviceable in the LOTR films as Frodo but hasn’t been able to carry anything as well since. That and I just find his face annoying. I’m sorry Elijah. I’m sure you’re a wonderful person but I find your face annoying. I have the same problem whenever Ben Stiller plays his neurotic Jewish character that nobody likes. I think I just get angry at neurotic sad annoying characters because I see myself in them. I just get angry every time. I generally enjoy the television show Wilfred but Wood’s sad character just gets on my nerves and he plays pretty much the same character in this film. There were other flaws in the film but it sucks when an actor just takes you out of the film from the get go.

Mira actually did a good job with this. His direction was really the only thing keeping this from being a turd. The whole “taking place in one place” film seems very boring because it’s really a one trick pony, but I’ve always thought that it was a great opportunity for great writing. Films like “Exam”, “Cube”, and “The Square” have all been successes in my eyes in how to make an interesting film with only one setting. Grand Piano takes place almost entirely in a theater during one performance. Tom, played by Wood, is a former piano prodigy who has been talked into giving his first performance in five years. Five years earlier he was ridiculed as he goofed playing a piece in front of many admirers. He now has extreme stage fright During his performance he is forced into a game that could end up ending his life or the life of his wife. Guy, this is Phone Booth with a piano. It’s a obvious reference but it really did just fit. Wood however was god as good as Colin Farrell.

There just wasn’t much to do with the premise to avoid falling into stereotypical thriller cliches. The villain, played by Cusack, talked too much. He was in enough control to plan this detail and complex situation but couldn’t keep it together during the execution. It’s a problem a lot of these films have. You cook up a scheme that only a criminal mastermind could come up with but since these types of things rarely happen, the criminal usually fucks up and burns out. There was enough tension in the film though to keep me interested but it really was just silly once the halfway point hit. Also, nobody can play piano like that and use a fucking cellphone.

Overall it was an average thriller with some cool camerawork. Fans of Wood, I know there are many, might like in more than others but for me it was just average.

Suggested Viewing – Exam, Cube, The Square, The Killing Room, Phone Booth

2.5/5



Documentary Review : A Band Called Death (2013)

IMDB Score – 7.4
Rotten Tomato Score – 96%
Netflix Watch Instant

Directed By – Mark Christopher Covino and Jeff Howlett
Starring – Bobby, David, and Dannis Hckney

A documentary on the 1970s punk trio Death, and their new found popularity decades after they disbanded.

I’ve never been a fan of punk rock. I always understood the value of rebelling against social and political norms but musically I just have always found punk to be to bland. To me, the good punk bands are the ones who either came first or blended other sounds with the generic punk sound. Bands like The Ramones, The Clash, The Talking Heads, and now, Death, are all the type of punk that I like. I’m not going to try to sound cool by claiming that I knew about death before seeing this film. I stumbled across them about two years ago and then when my computer crashed with all my music on it, I failed to reconnect with the band. This documentary just reinvigorated my interest in one of the coolest sounding bands of the ’70s I’ve ever heard.

The film tells the story from the beginning and since the band consists of all brothers, mixes in their family life as well as their musical backgrounds. Music really isn’t the driving force of this film. Spirituality and family are huge themes as the two surviving brothers relive their story of practicing in small apartments and getting denied every way they turned. The name “Death” doesn’t really appeal to a lot of people and in the ’70s I’d say those numbers are significantly less. The story behind the name all goes back to the bands unofficial leader David Hackney. His story is really the one being told and the emotions that go with it surprised me. I was getting very choked up watching everything unfold as tragedy and distance combine to make this a very up and down film. In the end it ended up being a film that is both hopeful and uplifting while also being very powerful and sad.

It’s one of my favorites of the year and should really be check out by anybody who has a Netflix account.

4.5/5



Film Review : Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

IMDB Score – 8.0
Rotten Tomato Score – 93%

Grand Prize Winner at Cannes for Joel and Ethan Coen
Four Golden Globe Nominations including Original Song, Cinematography, Best Actor (Oscar Isaac), and Best Picture

Directed By – Joel & Ethan Coen
Starring – Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garret Hedlund, and Justin Timberlake

A week in the life of a young singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961.

I honestly don’t think the Coen brothers can make a bad film. There is not a single film of theirs that I can say I didn’t enjoy in some respect. That statement was made with full awareness that “The Ladykillers” is a film. I actually enjoyed it. Lately, they have been making very subtle and quiet films with heavy undertones of sadness and bleak realism. We saw a completely cold and menacing hitman in “No Country for Old men”, a Jewish man seeming to be under a test from God in “A Serious Man”, and a revolving door of bad decisions in “Burn After Reading”. I don’t think any other filmmakers have such a unique style as the Coens. They have a resume of films spanning all kinds of genres but still seem like they fall in the same universe as each other. I’ll never get tired of seeing them succeed.

Inside Llewyn Davis is probably one of their best films. I absolutely loved it. I’m not going to go so far as call it a masterpiece because it’s going to be something that most people are going to like but certain people are going to fall in love with. People who seem to be set with their lives are going to laugh at the antics of John Goodman and a hilarious supporting cast of characters that fall right into place with all the other great Coen scene stealers. They’re going to appreciate the music and probably be confused with the end and you know what? That’s okay. This movie is really made for people who are having trouble finding where they fit in this world. The story follows Llewyn Davis, a struggling folk singer without an address who is trying to build a career in his passion of singing songs and playing his guitar. He sleeps on couches. Most people don’t like him. He is the epitome of a lost soul trying to find substance and meaning. I may not be in the same in the same situation as Davis, but I connected with him as somebody who just can’t catch a break in trying to find happiness. It’s a bleak but very real look into a time where so many people were trying to find themselves.

The film is smart and witty. I found myself belly laughing at a lot of scenes which feature the usual Coen sense of humor. John Goodman steals every scene he is in but also plays one of the films more tragic characters. Justin Timberlake and Garret Hedlund don’t have much screen time but each of their characters make an impression one way or another. The always great Carey Mulligan plays a former lover of Davis and a spiteful one at that.

The music in the film is the final character as it’s one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in a long time. I’m not even that big a fan of folk music but the songs in here are sung with such emotion and feeling that it was hard not to fall in love with them. I’ll be purchasing the soundtrack. Oscar Isaac, whom I’ve only seen in one other movie (Drive), gives one of the best performances of the year. The dude can also sing. This is obviously to be expected but I was surprised by how good he was. His performance was crushing and while his character definitely came off a bit unlikable, I couldn’t help but sympathize with him. I wanted Llewyn to find happiness in his life just like I want everybody to find happiness, including myself.

The film is fantastic. It’s the perfect film for people trying to leave a footprint on this planet. It’s going to be too depressing for some, boring for the others, and pointless for many, but I found the film to be engrossing and completely endearing to the human need for purpose. It’s a special film with a special performance. I’ll be seeing it again.

5/5