Whiplash (Movie Review)

“I WANT SPIDER-MAN!!!”

So, after this, I’ve decided that any complaint I may have had about any of my teachers ever was mostly likely frivolous bullcrap.

Seriously, this was rough to watch.

 Whiplash

Directed by: Damien Chazelle

Produced by: Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook, Michel Litvak, David Lancaster

Written by: Damien Chazelle

Genre: Drama

Starring: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist, Austin Stowell

Music by: Justin Hurwitz

Plot: Nineteen-year-old Andrew Neiman has a pretty sweet life. A very talented jazz drummer attending the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory music school, Andrew is currently serving as an alternate (See: backup, essentially), being a first year student, and all. This all changes, however, when Andrew is recruited to the Conservatory’s studio band by acclaimed conductor Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). A promotion! Fantastic! All’s good in Neiman-land, right?

Oh boy is it ever not.

While few would hesitate to call Fletcher a dedicated teacher, he is also, in scientific terms, a complete and total asshole. I’ve had teachers swear in class before, but nothing compares to Fletcher’s antics. He screams profanities at his students, berates them viciously for what are really minor mistakes, and even physically abuses them in order to get the best results out of them.

By the way, the way you’re imagining a scene like that playing out in your head? Complete bullshit. I assure you, it’s at least fifty times worse than that. J.K. Simmons as this Fletcher dude is absolutely terrifying. Every single time he appears in a scene, he is accompanied by this super-palpable aura of dread. You can absolutely feel and understand the terror the students feel whenever he appears. And yeah, obviously, this mostly has to do with J.K. Simmon’s masterful performance, but I feel that a lot of it can be credited to Damien Chazelle’s direction, and how he made sure to capture the terrified expressions of the students, and not just the eerily unforgettable presence of a bald Simmons in a tight black shirt, with every vein in his head bulging out to the point that you would worry about him getting a coronary if he wasn’t such a total dick.

By the way, this is unrelated, but this photo sums up the movie nicely.

Also, for the record, this movie has some great music. I know, shocking that a great movie about jazz music would have some great music, but there you have it. Also, kudos to the sound people on this movie for making this music sound so good in the first place.

More credit needs to be heaped upon second-time director Damien Chazelle for his role in this movie, not just as a director, which is a job he clearly excels at (The one action scene in this movie actually got me to exclaim out loud in shock, something I actively try to avoid in non-comedies. Also, that last scene. Holy crap, you guys!!!), but also as a screenwriter. This dude can write characters and dialogue like nobody’s business. The bizarre decision by the Academy to classify Whiplash as an adapted screenplay for reasons I couldn’t care less about could wind up benefiting it, as it no longer has to go up against Birdman (Still my favourite movie of 2014) but instead has to contend with The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game, which are not bad movies by any stretch of the imagination, don’t get me wrong, but they’re definitely easier competition. I dunno, if I was Chazelle, I would be feeling pretty okay about my chances.

Just because I said that, watch fucking American Sniper win it.

If y’all will allow me though, I’d like to double back to the character of Terence  Fletcher, if only because I will keep sucking up to J.K. Simmons until I completely devolve into a blubbering fool. See, while it’s super easy to get sucked into the pure dicketry of the character, the movie does a good job of portraying him as both a ravenous beast of a man, and as, you know, an actual human being who genuinely believes that he is doing the right thing for these kids by psychologically damaging and abusing them in the hopes that he can push them to their full potential, even if it means crossing several lines that even the biggest hardass of a music teacher wouldn’t dare approach, even. Look, I’m not saying I agree with the guy when he does eventually rationalize his actions, I’m just saying you can’t completely disregard his practices as the demented practices of a raving madman. There is supposedly a method to the madness, and if you can momentarily cast a blind eye to the obvious, plentiful drawbacks that this kind of thinking leads to, you can kinda see a method to the madness.

I mean, if you actually emulate him, you’re still a goddamn sociopath. I think that should be clear enough.

With all the much-deserved praise being heaped upon J.K. Simmons, one tends to forget that he is not, in fact, the lead actor of this movie. That would be Miles Teller, an actor who, I must admit, I wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of before seeing this movie. Project X is a terrible movie, 21 & Over isn’t much better, That Awkward Moment doesn’t look good at all and I still haven’t seen The Spectacular Now. So, when people started praising this movie and, by association, him, I was somewhat skeptical, and who could blame me? He was in Project Fucking X. 

So imagine my surprise when he turned out to be one of the best parts of the movie. Miles Teller absolutely kills it in a performance that, much like his co-star’s performance,  needs to be seen firsthand in order to properly do it justice. I, personally, would have expected a lot more Oscar consideration for him, if not a nomination. I also heard that he did all his own drum parts. No idea if that’s true, but if so, that’s pretty damn amazing.

Big fucking deal. I played a mediocre flute in junior high. Beat that, Teller!

Overall: This movie excels in just about every possible way, and is an absolute blast to watch, easily one of the five best movies of 2014.

Rating: 10/10

“You are a worthless, friendless, faggot-lipped little piece of shit whose mommy left daddy when she figured out he wasn’t Eugene O’Neill and who’s now weeping and slobbering all over my drum set like a fucking nine-year-old girl! Now, for the final FATHER FUCKING time… SAY IT LOUDER!”

 You’re welcome for that mental image.

Left Behind (Movie Review)

…So it’s come to this, has it, Cage?

 Vic Armstrong is a name that, I believe should be a household one by now. He, for the uninitiated, is an award-winning stuntman who has stood in for such legends as Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones  movie, Christopher Reeve in the first two Superman , George Lazenby in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and, uh, Timothy Dalton in his supporting role in Flash Gordon.

What you are likely less than aware of is that Armstrong has also directed a couple of movies. One was released way back in 1993, a little-know, probably terrible Dolph Lundgren movie named Joshua Tree. His second movie was released in 2014, and was a reboot of a series of movies based on a bunch of faith-based novels known as the Left Behind series. Does the legendary stuntman’s success translate into directorial gold?

Well, you could watch the movie and find out! Or, preferably, you could snort a metric ton of anthrax. At least the latter  guarantees that you never have to think about this movie ever again.

Left Behind

Directed by: Vic Armstrong

Produced by: Michael Walker, Paul LaLonde

Written by: Paul LaLonde, John Patus

Genre: Disaster (How appropriate)

Based on: Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Chad Michael Murray, Cassi Thomson, Nicky Whelan, Jordin Sparks

Music by: Jack Lenz

Plot: Nicolas Cage plays a pilot who is being unfaithful to his wife, who he, along with his daughter (Cassi Thomson) has been growing apart from after her conversion to Christianity. One day, while Cage is piloting the plane with a motley crew of passengers, as his daughter hangs out with her mom, a sudden event occurs in which people all over the world, including Nicolas Cage’s wife, vanish into thin air. As Cage attempts to safely land a plane full of super confused people , his daughter runs around the city screaming for her mom and brother. Enthralling entertainment, isn’t it?

Now, I’m going to be upfront: I am not a religious person. I don’t think I ever bought into religion, even as a kid (I was more into worshiping Spider-Man and Pokemon), and no form of religion has done even a passable job of swaying me to their side. However, i also believe that personal beliefs should be set aside when objectively reviewing movies, so, after setting aside my atheism, I watched this movie, and what did I think?

This movie is the cinematic equivalent of a dumpster fire.

I like to start these reviews with something positive, however miniscule it may be (Unintentional hilarity doesn’t really count). To date, the only movie that I haven’t been able to find anything positive in was Movie 43. It may have company. The only thing that I can think of in this movie that isn’t totally awful is the fact that at one point, after what seems like years, it ends. Hell, even Movie 43 looks like it has the production value of a bona fide movie, even if it was put to the worst use possible. This movie is not only terrible, it looks terrible. Somehow, a movie with a budget of sixteen million dollars ended up looking worse than a goddamn Hallmark movie. The direction is terribly bland, and the cinematography is incredibly dull and unpleasant to look at. The soundtrack is one of the laziest I’ve ever heard (Imagine a stripped-down instrumental adult pop rock song. Now quarter its already nonexistent quality) and the special effects are just plain bad.

So, aesthetically, Left Behind is nothing to be proud of. How about the writing. Surely, the writers were invested in at least injecting some semblance of a solid plot into their Evangelical propaganda (Which this movie very openly is, by the way. The original book was written by Reverend Tim LaHaye, for fuck’s sake.)?

Surprise!!! The writing in this movie makes George Lucas’s love scenes look like something Quentin Tarantino might’ve written. The dialogue is unlistenably awkward and clumsy, and the characters are all unimaginative stereotypes. Nicolas Cage is the good-hearted heathen. His daughter is the atheist who is angry at the world and just needed a push in the right direction. Chad Michael Murray is the jaded, worldly journalist who has seen too much (Fun fact: That character was played by Kirk Cameron in the original Left Behind movie. Go figure). And if you think that the main characters are the worst part of the movie… Well, they are, but the supporting characters (AKA The heretics on board the airplane) are awful too. Off the top of my head, I can name “Little Person With a Napoleon Complex”, “Greedy, Capitalistic Texan” and “Drug-Addled Basket Case”. The Transformers franchise has better characters than this movie, and those movies have a presumably drug addled John Turturro, annoying stoner parents, a pedophilie that we’re supposed to root for and racist robots.

Suddenly, Dumbo‘s crow characters look absolutely PC.

Terribly conceived characters are one thing, but if the actors at least deliver, it could at least make up for the shortcomings in the writing. Unfortunately, nobody delivers. The supporting actors bring absolutely nothing to the table. Chad Michael Murray (Of One Tree Hill and A Madea Christmas “fame”) is boring and brings nothing to the character. Cassi Thomson is fucking annoying. Her brother literally vanishes into midair and she spends literally half the movie looking for him, screaming “RAYMIE!!!!!!!” the entire fucking time. The only hope this movie had was Nicolas Cage, and all the batshit insanity that comes with him. And what does he do? Scream about nonsense? Light himself on fire? Do an awesome Adam West impression?

Whatever the fuck is going on here?

No. Nothing. He is SO. FUCKING. BORING, you guys. He clearly has absolutely no desire to be in this movie (Imagine that, a bad movie Nic Cage doesn’t want to be him), more or less sleepwalking through the whole movie.

Also, the movie is not only terrible, it’s fucking insulting. Specifically, the minute, the fucking MINUTE that all the super-devout Christians were raptured, society absolutely collapses. Because god forbid that society is left with a bunch of liberal Christians, atheists, and people of different faiths. It’s not like people of mostly non-devout backgrounds have ever made an advanced civilization for themselves. It’s not like Japan exists, or something.

Japan, post-rapture.

 If this movie was really trying to say that society would immediately devolve into chaos if devout Christians were taken out of the picture, and not even try to make something entertaining out of it, well then, fuck this movie. Fuck it. Nobody involved in this movie is worthy of your respect. Nicolas Cage has tarnished any good thing (Or so bad it’s good thing) that he’s ever done. I can never watch the Indiana Jones trilogy again without thinking “Oh, that stuntman directed Left Behind.”

You’ve done it Left Behind. You are actually the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Worse than The Room. Worse than The Last Airbender. Worse than Movie 43, even. Hell, it’s so bad, it has broken my beloved review scale.

No! Please! Anything but my generic, unspectacular review scale!!!

Dear god people, do not support this movie. Just don’t.

Overall: I hope every copy of this movie, online or otherwise, spontaneously combusts.

Rating: -3/10

If you need me, I’ll be watching Kick-Ass while sobbing uncontrollably.

Quote of the Day: February 5, 2015

I’m almost done that Left Behind review. I swear.

“The boys… Went off grieving that there were no more outlaws any more, and wondering what modern civilization could claim to have done to compensate for their loss. They said they would rather be outlaws in Sherwood Forest then President of the United States for ever. 

-Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The mustache along has felled several mere mortals.