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 : Enemy (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 71%

Directed By – Denis Villeneuve
Starring РJake Gyllenhaal, M̩lanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, and Isabella Rossellini

A man seeks out his exact look-alike after spotting him in a movie.

Lately I have been thinking of what up underrated directors do I think are going to be the next big thing in film. Obviously guys like Paul Thomas Anderson and Spike Jonze have been receiving recognition for their work due to their originality and dedication to their work They aren’t pumping out films left and right and what we are ultimately left with is engaging cinema that is going to be talked about for years to come. Denis Villeneuve should be added to that list. He is seriously growing into one of my favorite directors working today. This film just etched it into stone that he is the real deal. While I still haven’t seen his first film “Maelstrom”(I just added to the top of my Netflix queue), I enjoyed “Prisoners” immensely and “Incendies” is one of my favorite films ever. I ended up driving over a half hour to see this is a little indie theater in south eastern New York and it was worth the time and gas mileage. Denis Villeneuve decided that when he was making this film, adapted from the novel “The Double” by Jose Saramago, he decided to make the best David Lynch film since David Lynch’s last film. Look at my profile picture. Do you think I loved the film? Sure did guys. Sure did.

“Enemy” stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Adam, a history professor who gets a movie recommendation one day and after watching it, finds a completely identical person to himself in the film. With some research, Adam finds the man and works up the courage to confront him. That’s all you’re getting guys. The film twists and turns so much while staying eerily still and creepy that any other information about the plot will ruin things Plus, if you’ve read my ramblings you will have learned that I hate giving away plot. Hell, I don’t even like watching trailers anymore due to my interest in holding complete surprise when I enter a theater. This is why you read who made the film ladies and gentlemen and also why you remember their names. I didn’t see the trailer to this but as soon as I heard that Villeneuve had a film out I made time to see it. I ended up being the only person in the theater. The box office attendant told me that everybody has been ripping on the film and that nobody liked it. I told him that those people expected a more polished and cookie cutter film. That is not what you will end up getting. What the film is is a puzzle that only serious pondering will solve. I’m not even bragging. I had to look up the damn meaning of the film after driving a half hour and not getting really anywhere besides a few more obvious mysteries. This is where the David Lynch in this film flourishes. There are a lot of scenes that make little to no sense up front but when you start putting pieces together, those pieces start t look like something recognizable. Even then it can be so abstract that the finished product still will turn people away. That;s okay. The film is definitely not for everybody but I applaud Villeneuve for trying something different and pleasing the shit out of me.

If I were to find some more general appreciation that more people would like, I’d have to go with both color scheme and the acting of Jake Gyllenhaal. I always knew Gyllenhaal was a great actor but he’s really been coming into his own as of late. His role and the last two Villeneuve films have been fantastic and even his work in more mainstream films such as “Source Code” has been good. Playing two characters, Gyllenhaal plays with subtly brilliantly as we really aren’t given any other clues as to who is who besides body language and voice tics. He played both versions of himself great. The other standout is the color scheme. The very bleak and hazy colors that bled into the film were very comforting but also melted with each scene so well. The films score, an eerie and haunting storm of violins and cellos blended with the colors flashing on the screen. The camera work was amazing just as every one of his films has been amazing. I just can’t wait to see another one of his films.

I wish I could discuss more without going into the plot of the film but that would be a disservice as this is really a film to be experience with no prior knowledge. It’s in a very limited release right now and may be hard to find but if you can find one under an hour drive and are fans of films that don’t make a lot of sense but invite the viewing in for serious thought process, then take the drive and see it. The film will certainly give you a one of a kind experience even if you end up not liking it. Shit, the ending alone was one of the most unique things I’ve ever seen and I still have no idea what happened. You won’t be disappointed.

4.5/5

Suggested Viewing – Fight Club, Moon, Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire, Another Earth