Search only in certain items:

Whiplash (2014)
Whiplash (2014)
2014 | Drama
Whiplash makes for a painfully tense and terrifying learning experience that is nothing short of cinematic brilliance. It'll have you on the edge of your seat, with your heart still pounding even after it's over.
I believe that there’s a desire in all of us to achieve greatness. A deep, internal yearning for importance, respect, and acceptance. We want to be remembered and we want to fulfill a sense of purpose in our lives. For Andrew Nieman (Miles Teller), the central character in the 2014 Best Picture nominated film Whiplash, that desire is to be one of the all-time great jazz drummers. Of course, he knows that accomplishing such a goal will require a firmly fixed focus, an uncompromising dedication, and endless hours of practice. What he surely wasn’t expecting was to run into a teacher like Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), who will stop at nothing in order to push his students to strive to be their very best. Whiplash makes for a painfully tense and terrifying learning experience that is nothing short of cinematic brilliance.

Andrew is a first-year student at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory of Music in New York where the presence of their great head music conductor, Terence Fletcher, looms over everyone. Fletcher is well-known, respected, and feared. More importantly, he is their ticket to success as musicians. Landing a spot in his band is a coveted high honor. Earning his respect is even greater. Though under Fletcher’s guidance, success doesn’t come easy. He rules over the school like a maniacal dictator and he demands absolute perfection from his students. After all, he has a highly revered reputation to preserve, and he’s not about to let anyone jeopardize it. Andrew finds himself lucky enough to be chosen to rehearse with Fletcher’s band, but he’s soon tested, humiliated, abused, and pushed to the limit by his short-tempered instructor.

Already something of a loner, Andrew delves even deeper within due to pressure from his teacher, turning his passion for music into an unhealthy obsession. He cuts off contact with others and devotes himself entirely to practicing. With fingers bloodied from extensive drumming, he simply bandages them up and keeps at it. Not only is his music playing taking control of his life, but it’s also clearly taking a toll on his mental health. Even more troubling for Andrew is that no matter how hard he tries, Fletcher is never satisfied, and he torments his students until they get things right, even if it means practicing all night. Resentment and tension rapidly rise for Andrew as he approaches his breaking point, resulting in the film’s unforgettably tense conclusion.

Whiplash is no walk in the park. It will have you sitting on the edge of your seat in suspense and terror, with your heart still pounding even after it’s over. It’s an emotional horror for young Andrew who is put through Hell by his mad musical conductor. I was legitimately in fear for his life and sanity. While the movie has given me a greater respect for musicians, and jazz bands in particular, it sure makes me feel glad that I was never in band!

Whiplash is remarkable in its design and execution. The film’s cinematography shows a wonderfully adept eye for camera angles, and gives this low-budget film a distinguished look. The director revels in the closeness of the scene, putting us right alongside Andrew as he comes face-to-face with the ever-menacing Fletcher. It’s unbelievably tense and uncomfortable to watch while he’s being verbally and physically assaulted right before your eyes. The film’s Oscar-winning editing finds the right tempo with knowing when to cut and when to linger. It also expertly accompanies the music with its barrage of clear, fast-paced shots. Of course, Whiplash is also very respectful to its music sources, and it does an amazing job in showcasing the outrageous musical talent on display.

The performances from Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons are sensational. It is estimated that roughly forty percent of the drumming you see by Andrew in Whiplash was actually performed by Teller. Considering the ridiculous amount of skill involved in these jazz band classics, that statistic should not be understated in the least. Teller puts on an incredible display and pours his heart into this movie. He carries the film, appearing in every single scene, and makes for a believable transition of character under the strict discipline of Fletcher. Even more extraordinary is J.K. Simmons, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor with this performance. Simmons injects his character with an intense ferocity that demands your attention. He terrorizes his musicians while conducting with an iron fist. Yet there’s far more to his character than just being a bully. While I disagreed with his abusive methods, I couldn’t argue against his intended result. His character’s extreme conduct will no doubt take things too far for some viewers, but despite all of his anger, I still found Fletcher to be remarkably fascinating. In the end, as deserving of hatred as he may be, I couldn’t help but feel some level of respect for him, and I think that really speaks to the quality of the film.

Whiplash is an emotionally stirring masterpiece that questions how much is too much when it comes to pushing someone to be their best. It also explores the emotional and psychological harm that can result from that level of pressure and abuse. The movie is bolstered by two tense and energetic performances from Miles and Simmons, who are deserving of all of their praise and accolades. You don’t have to be a fan of jazz music to enjoy this phenomenal film. I found the music to be intoxicating, but the real strength of the movie is the teacher and student dynamic between Andrew and Fletcher. With a diabolically delightful and brilliant ending, these two characters have achieved an esteemed level of movie greatness that make Whiplash a must-see!
Whiplash (2014)
Whiplash (2014)
2014 | Drama
Well, I must’ve done something to incur this kind of karma recently … My editors have been assigning me some excellent films this past month and this one is another on that string …

intensity, drive, and jazz combine to form the synopsis of this latest film. ‘Whiplash’ is a dramatic ‘jazz thriller’ which premiered at 2014 Sundance film festival back in January and instantly received several awards and critical acclaim before hit the theaters earlier this October.

Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, ‘Whiplash’ stars Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser, Jayson Blair, Austin Stowell, and Kavita Patil.

At a music conservatory where the competition could be compared to a ‘dog-eat-dog’ philosophy, Andrew Neyman (Teller) is a promising young drummer, willing to sacrifice his personal life and nearly everything else with his ultimate goal of becoming one of the great jazz drummers in memory. Having fallen under the eye of Terence Fletcher (Simmons), an almost insane and ruthless music conductor who notices the young music prodigy’s talent and becomes the drummer’s mentor.

Assigning Neyman as 2nd then 1st chair, Fletcher at first calmly nurtures the drummer prodigy but then pulls a complete 180 berating Neyman and very nearly assaulting him with a drum cymbal and reassigns him to 2nd chair. Later, at a jazz competition where the 1st chairs music was lost and Neyman ‘saves the day’ by playing the entire music set from memory Fletcher assigns him to 1st chair as a reward only to reassign him a few days later and replace him with another ‘supposed’ drummer prodigy. All the while, Neyman is devoting all his energies and thought to his drumming to the point of boarding on a nervous breakdown and injury …. even ending his relationship with his girlfriend. Throughout all these events Fletcher continues his villainous and tyrannical treatment of Neyman all in an effort to inspire him to realize his true potential …. the potential that Fletcher believes Neyman possess.

I mentioned ‘intensity’ and ‘drive’ at the beginning of this review …. Those two key words ….

are what this film created. The drive of Neyman and the intensity of his mentor Fletcher ….

Perhaps it’s the other way around? When the movie ends, you left with the same feeling you might imagine if you tried a 5 shot espresso. This film shows how much music (in this case jazz) can affect an individual. How anyone’s true passion can push someone beyond what is would be described as normal.

Teller and Simmons had the rare good fortunes as far as the casting in which they could both be the lead actors in this film where the intensity is magnified by the reaction of the other’s volatile attitude from one minute to the next. It was like watching a violent chemical reaction unfold in a science lab. You almost found yourself wanting to duck for cover when Neyman and Fletcher started fuming at each other. At the apex of this volatile relationship was the goal of realizing Neyman’s potential again, it was all about the drive and the intensity.

Despite the films praise, it has not been without criticism …. In recent edition of Slate, an internet culture and current affairs magazine, Forrest Wickman accused the film of distorting and misinterpreting an anecdote regarding legendary jazz composer and saxophonist Charlie Parker. Both main characters Fletcher and Neyman mention that drummer Jo Jones threw a cymbal at the teenaged Parker’s head as retaliation for Parker’s supposedly losing the beat of the composition they were performing in Count Basie’s band during a 1930s performance. According to Wickman, “Jones didn’t throw the cymbal at Parker’s head. He threw it at the floor near his feet, ‘gonging’ him off. It wasn’t an episode of physical abuse.” Jones was upset at Parker’s failure to change key with the rest of the band NOT losing the beat.


Alas, there is a an occurrence of the dreaded ‘artistic license’ in the film. And although it’s disappointing to see such an excellent film ‘alter history’ in order to better meld with the film’s script/premise the movie was so well done that I kind of let that slip by. If the performances by Teller and Simmons aren’t enough to convince you … At least go for the music! If you’re into ‘real’ jazz and not the ‘Starbucks Coffeehouse Crap’ that J.K. Simmons refers to in the film, then ‘Whiplash’ is definitely a film worth checking out. Definitely NOT one for the kids as there is A LOT of foul adult language in the film. Once again, I’m going to give this film 4 out of 5 stars.
Only The Brave (2017)
Only The Brave (2017)
2017 | Biography, Drama
Strong cast (0 more)
The movie drags a little and is too long (0 more)
A true story that deserved to be told
Only the Brave is based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots - the first ever municipal fire crew to be certified as Hotshots, which is the name given to the brave firefighters that tackle wildfires on the ground. It's another true story I wasn't aware of, and as with many of the others that have had movies made of them recently, it is just as deserving to be told. My appreciation of the movie, in particular how it all ended, was certainly improved based on the fact that I had no prior knowledge of the story.

Although, we do get to see a number of wildfires throughout the movie and get to fully appreciate the scale and danger that they present to both firefighters and residents in the path of destruction, Only the Brave never descends into an over-the-top disaster blockbuster. Instead, the movies main focus is often on the team of firefighter themselves, their family lives, and how they juggle all of that along with such an intensely demanding work life. At times though, this side of the movie doesn't work so well as we constantly meander through some of the less interesting parts of the lives of the crew, and I felt the whole movie could have benefited by shaving about 30 minutes from its run time. There's a great, all-star cast to help things along though - Josh Brolin is supervisor Eric Marsh, Miles Teller one of his rookies, and that's just the start of it. Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly, and Andie MacDowell all feature in strong supporting roles.

Despite its slow start and extended run time, I definitely found Only the Brave an enjoyable and emotional story.
War Dogs (2016)
War Dogs (2016)
2016 | Comedy, Drama
The post-9/11 world changed how America conducted business and shaped our foreign relations. It also led to changes in how war was conducted and maintained. In War Dogs, we witness how companies of varying size were able to cash in on America’s need to supply their military and those of their allies as they continued their fight against terrorism and conducted nation-building. War Dogs follows the ill-fated careers of Efraim (Jonah Hill) and David (Miles Teller) as they aspire to cash in on the arms dealing frenzy that is unleashed by the US government. The film, based on actual events, gives its audience a glimpse into the problematic and perilous world of arms dealing. Efraim and David are confronted with international gangsters, bureaucratic “red tape,” and push their friendship to the limit as they pursue the goal of becoming wealthy by fulfilling government contracts.

War Dogs allows its viewers to have a greater understanding of how the government works and how businesses are competing with each other, to not only create a positive business relationship with “Uncle Sam,” but to become major players in an industry filled with companies and individuals who must suspend, amend, or terminate their moral code in order to become “merchants of death.” The film itself does a suitable job in telling the story of how these men form their own company from the ground up only to have it dismantled by mistrust, greed, and jealousy. War Dogs has its moments where you as a viewer envy the ability of these men to succeed in an industry that many would thumb their noses at out of disagreement with the war or adherence to their principles. We quickly see how money becomes a motivator for these friends as they pursue the opportunity to take on larger and more complex contracts in order to compete with the likes of Halliburton.
Fantastic Four (2015)
Fantastic Four (2015)
2015 | Action
If you hold the film rights to an iconic and beloved comic book series, one would think you would do everything possible to see that it flourishes under you watch. For 29th Century Fox, The Fantastic Four is an asset that should be a gem of their studio as the long-running Marvel comic series has had legions of fans for generations.

The previous two films did well enough but still had their detractors amongst the fans. So, Fox opted for a hiatus and then a radical reboot of the series complete with casting choices that were considered very questionable.

The new version features Miles Teller as Reed Richards, a young man obsessed with teleportation to the point that his teachers and other students laugh at him for his odd and obsessive ways.

His only friend is Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), who despite a lack of scientific knowledge supports Reed in his efforts which eventually allow him to be recruited by Dr. Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey), who discloses that he is working on a large scale teleportation device and seeing how Reed pulled it off with a device he made in his garage, is eager to see what he can do at a fully-funded facility.

Reed meets Franklins adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara), as well as his son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan), while they work with the mercurial Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), to complete the device.

When the team finds success, they are horrified to learn that the government plans to take over control of the project so Ben, Victor, Johnny, and Reed opt to use it themselves to visit the other dimension in order to leave their mark in history.

Things at first go well but when a mysterious force envelops them, odd things start to happen when they return home. Reed is capable of stretching himself, Johnny is a living fire, Ben is covered in rocks, and Sue is phasing in and out.

Flashing forward the group is under the watch of the government and Reed has fled not wanting to be a part of whatever is going on. Ben is used for special operations and blames Reed for abandoning them as Sue and Johnny are prepped for the field.

Now one would think a setup like this has some potential at the very least for some action and great FX. Sadly the film lurches ahead fairly light on action. The threat to the film appears, and within 10 minutes has moved to a fairly underwhelming final conflict that is so obviously done in front of a Green Screen that it loses much of the intended impact.

The best I can say for the film is that it is a forgettable and flawed film that tries to launch a new franchise in a new way. But the casting choices in the film are so wrong, that it undermines it at every step. Setting aside the debate over an African American Johnny Storm, Miles Teller is so bland; he just does not scream leading man or driving force behind the team.

The same can be said for pretty much the entire cast. The backstories hint at various things but their actions conflict several aspects of the film which to be honest are fairly forgettable.

The entire movie is like watching a Jr. College Fan Film where the cast has a Green Screen and studio funding, but not a clue on how to carry out a story, modern action sequences of character development.

Fox needs to take a serious page from Sony and work with Marvel if they are going to continue this franchise, or return the rights to Marvel so fans can finally get a film that does justice to the source material.

I am glad that Director Josh Trank is no longer associated with the pending Star Wars film as this movie is a train wreck that spits all over the history and legacy of the source material.
Only The Brave (2017)
Only The Brave (2017)
2017 | Biography, Drama
One of the year's best films
Films based on true events are ten-a-penny these days. From 2015s stunning American Sniper and 2016s breath-taking Deepwater Horizon to the critically acclaimed Patriots Day, there seems to be no stopping the ‘true to life’ variety of movies that has suddenly become very popular.

The trouble is, getting the films right is trickier than for any other genre. Not only do you have to please the audience with bombastic spectacle, you have to respect the events that caused them to exist in the first place. The new kid on the block is Only the Brave. But does this tale of the Granite Mountain Hotshots do their incredibly tragic story justice?

Through hope, determination, sacrifice and the drive to protect families and communities, the Granite Mountain Hotshots become one of the most elite firefighting teams in the country. While most people run from danger, they run toward it — watching over lives, homes and everything people hold dear, forging a unique brotherhood that comes into focus with one fateful fire in Yarnell, Arizona.

With a cast that includes the likes of Jeff Bridges, Miles Teller, Josh Brolin, Jennifer Connelly and Andie MacDowell to name but a few, there’s no denying there is some seriously good talent on offer here. After researching the people these characters are based on, it appears that director Joseph Kosinski – who just so happens to be directing the long-awaited Top Gun sequel – has picked the perfect group of actors to portray them.

Teller is frankly, outstanding as troubled Brendan McDonough, joining the Hotshots after leaving his life of crime and addiction behind him. Josh Brolin is his ever-magnetic self as group leader Eric Marsh and the legendary Jeff Bridges really needs no introduction. The cast ooze class in every frame.

Cinematography wise, the lush landscapes of Arizona lend themselves perfectly to a beautifully shot film that features intense CGI and tasteful practical effects. Make no mistake though, this is not an action film and it feels all the better for it. While the fires themselves are mightily impressive and rendered with magnificent detail and precision, the real action here is in the human drama, of which there is an abundance.

The fact that this touching story is based on true events means that the subject matter needs to be handled as sensitively as possible and in that respect, Only the Brave has succeeded on every level. The touching tribute to these incredible men before the end credits proves to be a final emotional gut-punch after 2 hours of absolute excellence.

The script is good at making us feel for these people through their daily personal lives and their professional mentalities. In fact, it’s so well written, it may just be one of the best scripts I’ve had the pleasure of watching come to life all year and coupled with the glorious airborne shots, it makes for a deeply immersive film.

Only the Brave isn’t a film that shouts about any one thing it does well. Instead Joseph Kosinski rallies a phenomenal cast in a film that is beautifully written, exquisitely acted and is a fitting but perhaps most importantly, touching, tribute to the men who desperately tried to protect those around them.
Insurgent (2015)
Insurgent (2015)
2015 | Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
With the faction system thrown out of balance, Jeanine Matthews(Kate Winslet) the leader of Erudite needs to find someone who can open a box with the answer to fix it all. Unfortunately, only a special Divergent can open the box, and Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) is that one. Based on Veronica Roth’s bestselling book Insurgent comes second installment of The Divergent Series: Insurgent.
With Tris, Four (Theo James), Peter (Miles Teller) and Caleb (Ansel Elgort) on the run from Eric (Jai Courtney) and other members of the Dauntless who follow Erudite. Now being blamed for the attack on Abnegation Tris and the others must fight to stay alive; to do so they seek refuge with Amity. From that point on Tris and Four realize they must find the rest of the Dauntless to stop Jeanine from slaughtering anymore innocent lives. With betrayal, alliances, and having to face the truth; Tris struggles to forgive herself for the events that happened in Divergent. Will the truth set her free or will she get herself killed?

The second installment of the Divergent franchise brings a strong focus to plot progression and more so action. With the main characters on the run the pace of the movie is fast and keeps the viewer entertained. Be warned though, the 3D is kind of a pain; since a lot of the scenes having running or speedy shots the glasses definitely took away from the experience. If I were to go see it again it would be 2D for me. The acting between the two stars Shailene Woodley and Theo James is a homerun; the chemistry from the first movie did not fade in the second! However, one problem I had with this film is the soundtrack; I feel the first movie had such a dynamic background track. Unfortunately, this film’s soundtrack really did not stand out as must as the first one.

I would recommend this movie to anyone who loved the first one, but to the fans of the books I would take it with a grain of salt. It’s not exactly like the book, but as a fan of the books and the first movie I thought it was a great adaptation.
Thank You for Your Service (2017)
Thank You for Your Service (2017)
2017 | Biography, Drama, War
The words “Thank you for your service” have gone from a meaningful statement of gratitude to an empty platitude. As a veteran, I cringe when someone says it to me when buying groceries, at the gym, or at an event where there is a casual reference to veterans. The film Thank You For Your Service examines the lives of those affected by the war directly and indirectly. In the movie, Miles Teller (Whiplash, War Dogs, Fantastic Four) plays Staff Sergeant Schumann, an Iraq War vet who is returning to his family and hoping to return to some sense of normalcy. Unfortunately, he and his friends discover that the war and the horrors that they witnessed cannot be escaped.

Thank You For Your Service is able to address an aspect of war that many films overlook; how the men and women who are deployed changed by their experiences. Additionally, it tackles the questions of how their families cope with the changes to them, how they go about living a normal existence, and how people understand how they are harmed by war without any visible injuries?

The film is a testament to the men and women suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It doesn’t sugar-coat or trivialize their experiences. The emotions are raw. The visual representation of their daily terror is present. With depth, the film shows audiences who may be unfamiliar with veterans or those suffering from PTSD what the world really looks like to them and how they struggle with just existing.

The film takes the statement of “Thank you for your service” and gives it greater meaning in able to connect the problems inherent in the military, healthcare system, and how we as a society view mental health. The film allows for an authentic examination of what servicemembers deal with in their return home from war. It becomes apparent that they themselves may be able to leave the battle, but the battle stays with them, tormenting and haunting them as each day passes. The war they face never ceases. Thank You For Your Service will hopefully help foster substantive discussions about what many men and women deal with in their return from the horrors of war.
Allegiant (2016)
Allegiant (2016)
2016 | Action, Romance, Sci-Fi
The third film in the popular “Divergent” series is here and will follow the pattern of recent book based films of splitting the finale into two films. In “The Divergent Series: Allegiant Part 1”, we catch up with Tris (Shailene Woodley), and Four (Theo James), shortly after the events of the previous film.

The wall has been opened and residents seek to leave the city and see what lies beyond. This is cut short when a power grab arises as Four’s mother is putting people on trial for supporting the last regime and executions or a common place as mob mentality has arisen.

Risking it all, Tris, Four, and a few companions make a daring brake and discover a wasteland beyond the wall before being taken in by a seemingly ideal community under the leadership of David (Jeff Daniels). It is learned that via sophisticated technology, they have watched Tris and the others as well as their society for ages as they were conducting a social experiment to undo evils of the previous world which lead to war.

Tris is highly prized as she is seen as genetically pure and David hopes to find out why and how so it can be replicated for the betterment of humanity. Naturally things are not always as they appear and before long, Tris, Four, and the others are forced to pick sides especially with a civil war brewing back at home.

The movie has some decent visuals but relies on the characters to carry the film. In many ways this is the downfall of the film as Woodley simply does not emote and James is very one-dimensional. Only Miles Teller and Jeff Daniels show any real or sustained emotion throughout the film.

There is also the matter of plot holes such as a society which amazing surveillance technology but they could not see a fairly obvious and common effort used during the finale of the film.

The movie is setting up the finale which hopefully will bring some advancement and satisfying closure to the series and characters. For now the film is a flawed but at times entertaining entry which should keep fans happy until the final film arrives.

JT (287 KP) rated Rabbit Hole (2010) in Movies

Mar 10, 2020  
Rabbit Hole (2010)
Rabbit Hole (2010)
2010 | Drama
6.7 (3 Ratings)
Movie Rating
Anyone with children will surely feel the pain in this film which is disheartening right to the core. It’s emotionally draining with great central performances from Kidman and Eckhart.

Set eight months after the death of their son, Becca (Nicole Kidman) and Howie (Aaron Eckhart) are trying to come to terms with him not being in their lives anymore and both have a different way of dealing with it. Howie prefers to relive the past by watching videos on his phone late at night, while Becca wants to eradicate his memory altogether by giving away his clothes, removing his paintings from the fridge and cleaning his room so that all traces are gone.

The pair try to seek solace in counselling, talking with other couples who regale their grieving process. This doesn’t sit well with Becca but Howie tries to stick with it. He even becomes close, too close in fact, with one of the other wives when he realises that the bond he has with his own wife might be slipping away. Their cause is not helped by the fact that Becca’s slightly rebellious sister falls pregnant or that her Mum, Nat, is still hurting from the death of her own son, a drug user. This only angers Becca more when Nat compares the two.

The cause of the death is slowly discovered when Becca spots the culprit on a school bus and it is revealed that Jason (Miles Teller) was behind the wheel of the car. The pair engage in secret meetings, as if having some kind of affair but simply sit to talk and reflect on each others lives and the accident itself.

Pain never goes away, it’s something that is carried around with you forever, people seem to tread lightly around you, and life will never be the same again. It’s certainly a tear jerker, there are plenty of moments to choose from in this but for me the film is all about the acting of which there is much to enjoy.

Kidman is at her best and Eckhart who was hand picked by Kidman to be her leading man is sublime and yet explosive in a number of highly charged scenes. The ending shot is one of hope, amid the shattered pieces of their lives scattered all over the place you feel that they might have crossed the road to a happier future.