Whiplash – A Movie Review

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Mar 152015

Whiplash_Movie_PosterAndrew Neyman is an ambitious young jazz drummer, single-minded in his pursuit to rise to the top of his élite east coast music conservatory. Plagued by the failed writing career of his father, Andrew hungers day and night to become one of the greats. Terence Fletcher, an instructor equally known for his teaching talents as for his terrifying methods, leads the top jazz ensemble in the school. Fletcher discovers Andrew and transfers the aspiring drummer into his band, forever changing the young man’s life. Andrew’s passion to achieve perfection quickly spirals into obsession, as his ruthless teacher continues to push him to the brink of both his ability-and his sanity.

Director: Damien Chazelle; Writer: Damien Chazelle; Stars: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist; Runtime: 107 min; Rated: R; Genre: Drama, Music; Released: 2014-10-15

We actually went to see this a couple of weeks ago at Veteran’s 24 theater. My expectations were not too high, and I was surprised that Lay was interested at all. I was in the band in high school, a great band at that, with a tough (but nothing like the J.K. Simmons character, Terence Fletcher) band director. I just didn’t see how it could be that compelling. Boy, was I wrong. Everything about this film was stellar; casting, writing, acting, directing, music and cinematography all came together to just tell an incredible story.

Nineteen year old Andrew Nieman wants to be the greatest jazz drummer in the world, in a league with Buddy Rich. Andrew is starting his first year at Shaffer Conservatory of Music, the best music school in the United States. At Shaffer, being the best means being accepted to study under Terence Fletcher, and being asked to play in his studio band. Based on their less than positive first meeting, Andrew is surprised that Fletcher asks him to join the band, albeit in the alternate drummer position which he is more than happy to do initially. Andrew quickly learns that Fletcher operates on fear and intimidation, never settling for what he considers less than the best each and every time.

I don’t know who impressed me more Miles Teller in the lead as Andrew Nieman or Simmons playing Band teacher Terence Fletcher. Both did so great that had either been a lesser actor they would have been out shined by the other. Simmons’ character could have easily been cartoonish and 2 dimensional but Simmons gave him such depth that through the whole film I kept feeling wisps of compassion for him, and even understood his motives before he lays them out for Nieman in the third act. For a younger actor, Miles Teller,  who I haven’t seen in much, played his role like a seasoned actor. His performance just wrapped me up, and to find out he did much of the drumming himself is insane. Whilst watching some of the intense scenes I felt like I was watching him be executed, and other times it feels like the fight in Rocky, you feel like you are just watching him get demolished, except all of this is emotional and not  physical. Whether it is the discouragement, the social awkwardness, the single parent household, the internal conflict, the hubris, the arrogance, and at times the mental torture that he put himself through, all just blew me away. Teller had the charisma and electricity to connect to the audience.

The writing was outstanding. Often you kind of know where a movie is headed, but this movie stayed very unpredictable. Just when you think for certain how a scene or sequence of scenes will play out they take a hard left, and it keeps you off-balance (in a good way). It was so refreshing, a few times I thought the ending was near, but then something disrupts how “it should go or end”.

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Extract – A Movie Review

 Culture, Movies  Comments Off on Extract – A Movie Review
Feb 212010

Click to watch the trailer for Extract.Joel is one step away from selling his flavor extract factory and retiring to easy street when a freak workplace accident sets in motion a series of disasters that put his business and personal life in jeopardy.

Genres: Comedy; Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.; Release Date: September 4th, 2009 (limited); MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual references and some drug use.

Starring: Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, Kristen Wiig, Ben Affleck, J. K. Simmons

Directed by: Mike Judge

We watched this on DVD a couple of weeks ago, and it was reasonably good movie with several funny sub-plots. I watched this movie with Lay having no expectations whatsoever. I hadn’t seen the trailer and I didn’t know who was in it. The initial premise was interesting: a successful businessman in an odd industry wanting to sell up to be able to live a different life and spend more time with his wife.

With a few motion pictures and several television projects under his belt, Mike Judge has become the undisputed master of working man’s comedy. No matter the color of their, the characters created by Judge exist on the front-lines of American industry.  Judge is content not to tug the heartstrings or rely on frequent hilarity as long as he is able to build the impression that the people on screen are an honest reflection of the co-worker to your right or the relative on your left.

The cast Judge has assembled is very good. Jason Bateman continues to display his mastery of portraying the straight man; playing effortlessly against the eccentricities of his oddball co-workers and the other peculiar people surrounding him. The scene-stealers here, though, are Ben Affleck, Clifton Collins Jr., J.K. Simmons and David Koechner. Affleck submits a wonderful performance as a bartender who believes Xanax is the cure for everything (including the common cold). The role tackled by Collins Jr. is one dimensional on paper, but the actor’s performance provides the character with depth and humanity. J.K. Simmons appears to relish the opportunity to play Joel’s business partner and is given several killer lines to play with, while Koechner nails the part as the annoying, talkative, socially awkward neighbour. Mila Kunis (best known as the voice of Meg Griffin in Family Guy) is well-suited to the role of Cindy; she’s required to look ridiculously hot as she goes about her business of tricking the men she encounters, and she pulls it off. The music store scene is especially funny.

Judge places an interesting and funny film that doesn’t seem to be interested in finishing,or filling out the characters and/or situations of the story,and thus falls short of previous efforts(Office Space and Idiocracy). Practically every character besides Joel is left open-ended: the wife,the injured worker in question,the unctuous neighbor played by David Koechner and the grifter hottie. Certainly a quick comedy that plays for absurd events that mull out of mundane occurrences is probably going to have one-dimensional characters,but it still feels like this film was somewhat hurried. A little more exposition and maybe an awkwardly pinned ending might’ve improved the quality of this film.

Still,the lines and some of the performances–the guy who plays the stutlifyingly dumb young hustler hired to seduce Joel’s wife is particularly mint,complimenting Affleck’s inspired turn–make this movie easily enjoyable. Certainly no Oscar contenders here, but it was kind of a fun movie, and worth the time watching it.

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