Bring a winter coat for this one. Trust me.
I am writing the first draft of this review in the cafeteria of my new school, MacEwan University, in between my Human Interaction class and my Introductory Japanese class. I have no idea how my unscholarly self got into one of my better universities in Western Canada, but at this point, I’m just enjoying the experience until they (Whoever they may be) inevitably figure out that I’m a hack and kick my dumb ass out.
Speaking of hacks…
Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, hours and hours of both horrifying and hilarious entertainment)
Produced by: Marc Bienstock, Jason Blum, M. Night Shyamalan
Written by: M. Night Shyamalan
Genre: Comedy, horror
Starring: Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Kathryn Hahn
Music by: Paul Cantelon
Plot: 15-year old Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and her brother, 13-year old Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) are sent off to some hick town in Pennsylvania by their mom (Kathryn Hahn), a single mother who’s taking this time taking this time to go on a well-deserved vacation. Becca is a wannabe documentary filmmaker, thus giving an excuse for this movie to fall into the tired “found footage” genre (Although now that I think of it, how many 15-year olds do you know that give a shit about documentaries?), and Tyler is a rapper who is not shy at all about sharing his…Um…. “Talents”
While in rural Pennsylvania, the kids visit their grandparents (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie) who, at first, seem like regular, kind old folks. However, when the sun goes down, a different side of them emerges… And it’s discovered that Nana and Pop-Pop are completely bananas, even for most people.
I’ll be here all day, folks…
The rise and fall of M. Night Shyamalan has been so well-documented that I probably don’t need to mention it. I will though, because I’m a sadist.
After skyrocketing out of obscurity with the classic thriller The Sixth Sense and following hat up with the great deconstruction of superheroes that is Unbreakable, and fooling everybody into liking the critical and commercial successful crap-fest that is Signs, Shyamalan found himself on shaky ground with the massive cock-tease that is The Village before vomiting out absolute dogshit like Lady in the Water and The Happening. Lessening his tiresome shtick of twists that got less intelligent with each movie, M.Night tried his hand at two mainstream blockbusters: The Last Airbender (Based on one of my favourite TV shows of all time) and the Jaden/Will Smith nepotistic fever dream known as After Earth. Both of them failed miserably critically and commercially, with the former frequently featured on lists of the worst movies of all time. Shyamalan’s propensity for boring, exposition-ridden dialogue, wide-angle shots, pointless, insipid twists, and tendency to to somehow suck the talent and charisma out of supremely talented actors like Mark Wahlberg and Will Smith made him the butt of many jokes told by critics and internet commenters the world over. It didn’t help that Shyami has (Or had) quite the ego, inserting himself into Lady in the Water as a monumentally important writer, and writing a character for the very same movie that is little more than a caricature of a snarky, miserable critic who gets devoured by wolves.
I admit to getting in on the act of hating relentlessly on M.Night for quite a while. For further proof of his, see my angry, incoherent review of After Earth from two-ish years ago (Actually, please don’t). But, now that I’ve blossomed from a misanthropic, untalented and childlike 17-year old into a misanthropic, untalented and childlike 18 3/4-year old, I’ve gained a new perspective on this supremely important issue. While I still think that pretty much every movie that he’s done after Unbreakable is pretty much irredeemable shit, I appreciate that he comes across as someone who really loves his craft and wants to entertain. And with The Visit, Shyamalan seems to be returning to his roots, making a small-budget, semi-satire of horror movies set back in his home state of Pennsylvania.
And it’s not a classic, or anything, but hey, even a merely good movie is a monumental improvement over Airbender and After Earth, so rejoice remaining Shyamalan fans! Your king has taken baby steps towards reclaiming the glory and respectability he enjoyed at the turn of the century!
I found that it greatly increased my enjoyment of the movie when I didn’t think of it so much as a horror movie, but as kind of a dark comedy. Odd that Shyamalan would delve into comedy when his attempts at comic relief in his recent movies are the only parts that DIDN’T leave me laughing hysterically, but there you go.
From what I’ve heard, Shyamalan directed two cuts of The Visit. One of the two is pure horror (Yuck) and the other is pure comedy. Apparently, the finished product is a blend of those two cuts, and in the comedic aspect, it works very well. Not only is the humour very well-written (!!!), Shyamalan also willingly parodies himself, showing that he’s maybe realized some of his mistakes from his past projects…
… And his self-critique proves surprisingly effective. The problem with that is that the strength of the comedy actually exposes the weakness of the horror.
Granted, I really fucking hate 99.99% of all horror movies, so maybe I’m not the one whose opinion you should be seeking out out on this aspect of the movie, but for all the elements of shitty mainstream horror movies that The Visit does a good job of poking fun at, there are plenty of cliched horror elements that do sneak in that kind of take me out of it. There are plenty of stupid jumpscares to go around, to my chagrin and, to be honest, the horror element was extremely tedious compared to the story progression and the humour. I felt like I had to suffer through the horror (And to be fair, there was a fair bit of good humour injected into the horror) until I could get to the humour.
The combination of black comedy works well enough… Until the climax, when things kind of fall apart, tone-wise. At that point, the horror and comedy go to such opposite extremes that it really is extremely jarring.
And while the writing is good, one must always remember that this is still a post-Unbreakable M.Night Shyamalan script, and while it’s not as off-putting as, say, the script for The Last Airbender, of which I have been known to buy multiple copies of to burn in a bonfire while laughing maniacally and mainling pure ethanol, this one, while solid and frequently clever, does suffer from some noticeable plot holes. Nothing that serious, but definitely a detriment.
That said, there are some legitimately touching moments to be found, and the characters are well-written enough that they don’t need massive amounts of exposition. Not only that, but Shyamalan, who hasn’t exactly built up a reputation for being an actor’s director…
… Gets some pretty great performances out of his actors this time around. The older folks are terrific and suitably creepy, but the chi;d actors are really good. Like, Haley Joel Osment good. Granted, this and The Sixth Sense are very different movies, but… Well, you get the idea.
Olivia DeJonge is awesome as a character who I suspect is supposed to be sort of a parody of Shyamalan, but even better is Ed Oxenbould as the younger brother. I know that I lost most of you when I said that his character is a rapper, an believe me, I get it. It is fairly annoying and cringe-worthy at first, but I figure it’s kind of supposed to be that way. Nobody puts a 13-year old rapper in their movie and expects you to take them seriously. That’d be like the inverse of putting a Holocaust scene in a movie and screaming “LAUGH DAMMIT! WHY WON’T YOU LAUGH!!!” when they won’t stop sobbing.
Overall: The consensus seems to be that this is Shyamalan’s best movie since Signs or The Village. These people are under the mistaken impression that Signs and The Village are actually good. While not a great movie, The Visit is Shyamalan’s best movie since Unbreakable and is an extremely welcome return to form for the much-maligned director, One can only hope that he keeps his second shot at respectability going.
If nothing else, this movie taught me the proper way to say “Suge Knight”. Now, I have knowledge to properly say “Suge Knight is a deplorable piece of shit who should’ve been thrown in jail years ago”.
Straight Outta Compton
Directed by: F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job, Set it Off, Friday)
Produced by: Ice Cube, Tomica Woods-Wright, Matt Alvarez, F. Gary Gray, Scott Bernstein, Dr. Dre
Screenplay by: Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff
Story by: S. Leigh Savidge, Alan Wenkus,Andrea Berloff
Genre: Biographical drama
Starring: Jason Mitchell, O’Shea Jackson, Jr., Corey Hawkins, Paul Giamatti, Aldis Hodge, Neil Brown, Jr., R. Marcus Taylor
Music by: Joseph Trapanese
Plot: Straight Outta Compton is the story infamous rap group N.W.A., from its inception to the aftermath of its dissolution, as well as the relationships between its members, Eazy E (Jason Mitchell), Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), MC Ren (Aldis Hodge) and DJ Yella (Neil Brown, Jr.) and those around them, as well as how the group impacted American culture.
We don’t talk much about music here on PKtM, especially ever since all the music experts in my employ were tragically lost in a completely non-suspicious mass suicide the day before I gave myself an enormous raise. All none of you who were around in those early days know that I’m not a huge fan of rap music. I like it fine, but my tastes are a little more, how should I put it, classic.
That said, I do like N.W.A. a lot, I appreciate the impact they had on Western society, and they did have quite the impact. So, especially with race relations being in the state that they’re currently at in the United States, it’s important that N.W.A. gets the biopic that, uh, America deserves, or whatever the fuck. And, while it doesn’t go quite as far as I would’ve liked in showing the, let’s say, unsavoury way some of the protagonists acted during and shortly after the N.W.A. era. But, I suppose that’s to be expected from a movie that’s produced by two N.W.A. members.
Aside from that, though, Straight Outta Compton does a terrific job of capturing that point in history for both American society and the lives of Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy E (Because MC Ren and DJ Yella apparently weren’t worthy of screen time).
I literally just learned that that album was made in memory of Eazy E. I feel like a tremendous dick now.
Though the publicity would probably have you thinking otherwise, the movie is only about N.W.A. for, like, half of the runtime, at the most. The majority of Straight Outta Compton is more about the personal relationships and experiences, especially the
five three main characters, who are all portrayed by relative newcomers who, I’m happy to report, are fucking killin’ it. Julliard alumni Corey Hawkins is terrific as Dr. Dre (Even if I personally feel like his character is kind of underdeveloped, but I could just be reaching a little out of my range for criticism’s sake), and O’Shea Jackson, Jr. is also amazing as his actual real life father, Ice Cube, the guy who wrote “Fuck tha Police” and proceeded to play a cop in Ride Along and 21 Jump Street, because irony’s a bitch.
I’m generally against nepotism in every shape and form…
But I suppose there’s an exception to be made for every rule, and this is a pretty great exception.
My favourite performance of the three is Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E. He disappears into the role even more so than the other two leads, which is saying a ton, believe me. I want him to be nominated for an Oscar early next year. That’s probably too much to ask, considering how marred in the 50’s the mindset of the Academy is. I can still have hope, can’t I?
And Paul Giamatti is amazing too as the group’s manager, Jerry Heller because, well, he’s Paul Fucking Giamatti and every time he’s given a substantial amount of screen time, he’s bound to be amazing, something Sony really took full advantage of when casting him as the Rhino in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
In addition to the actors, the movie has a terrific atmosphere and tone. You can pretty much reach out and touch it, only to have it bludgeon you to death because the atmosphere of American culture in those days was incredibly intense. You can feel the anger in the air of 80’s Compton and the disillusionment that the lower-class black community of the era was/is rightly feeling. The soundtrack, composed of hip-hop and R&B tracks of the day also help, the fact that they’re kickass jams definitely not hurting. “Kickass jams.”Jesus Christ, my whiteness is showing, isn’t it?
Throughout the first half, Straight Outta Compton is a blaze of righteous fury, and I was seriously considering it one of my favourite movies of the year so far, up there with Mad Max: Fury Road and Inside Out…
…And then the second half hit, and the movie screeches to a halt, becoming your generic, melodramatic biodrama. Don’t get me wrong, as generic, melodramatic biodramas go, it’s still fairly great, it’s just quite a bit of a let-down compared to the amazing first half. It’s essentially Fantastic Four if Fantastic Four started out terrific and ended up great, instead of starting off as the worst thing ever and ending as a worthless petri dish of awfulness that is now legally classified as a form of torture by the United Nation.
Overall: The second half is comparatively overwhelming for sure, but it’s not bad at all, and the incredible performances and the intensity of the first half more than make up for it.
Hey, if James Cameron approved it, it must be good, right?
Sigh….Let’s just get through this.
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Produced by: David Ellison, Dana Goldberg
Written by: Laeta Kalogridis, Patrick Lussier
Genres: Science fiction, action
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Lee Byung-hun, J.K. Simmons, Matt Smith
Music by: Lorne Balfe
Plot: A retcon of sorts of the original series, Genisys (Ugh) kicks off right at the beginning of the Terminator series, with Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) getting sent back in time to 1987 by John Connor (Jason Clarke) in order to save the human race by protecting John’s mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke) from a Terminator (Poorly CGI’d Arnold Schwarzenegger). Once he gets back to the era when Los Lobos ruled the earth though, he learns that things have gone completely nutty. Sarah has been hunted by a goddamn T-1000 (Lee Byung-hun) for fourteen years, and has been protected by her own pet Terminator (Actual, live-action Schwarzenegger). What twists and turns await Kyle and Sarah in this bizarre reality?
Well, I won’t tell you, but I will tell you this: They certainly would’ve been a lot more impactful if I hadn’t had the big twist drilled violently into my head by the fucking trailers. God, the marketing team really dropped the ball.
In my opinion, the Terminator franchise should’ve ended with the second one (Unpopular opinion, I know). The Terminator is still an amazing movie, and Judgement Day is legitimately one of my favourite movies of all time. Rise of the Machines and Salvation, on the other hand, make no sense storywise (Skynet dies in T2, why are there still fucking Terminators???) and, quality-wise, the third and fourth movies left so little impact on me that I’m not sure how bad they actually are, which, I suppose, is kind of worse than just being a bad film.
Genisys, at least, is better and, yes, more memorable than T3 or TS. Does that make it a good movie, though?
Getting right into the review, the one constant throughout this franchise, besides the constant need to manufacture some new disaster. illogical or not, in order to pump out a sequel, is the Governator (What a stupid nickname) himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
As much as people (Including myself) enjoy ragging on his limited acting ability (Though I’ve heard he’s good in Maggie, I dunno) I truly believe that his performances as the Terminator are legitimately great. It would be so easy to just be a stereotypical robot, but Arnie is downright terrifying in the first movie, and even seamlessly added comedic elements to his performance in Judgment Day, to terrific results.
Thankfully, despite it being twenty-one freaking years since his last genuinely good movie…
… Arnold brings it to Genisys. He’s maybe not as intimidating as he used to be, considering he’s pushing seventy and is essentially playing Sarah Connor’s adoptive dad, but he still brings it in the action scenes (….Mostly), has some good comedic lines (Even if most of the comedy falls flat, what with the constant attempted shoehorning of repeat gags) and holds up his end of the bargain in terms of chemistry with Courtney and Clarke… Even if the latter two don’t hold up their end of the bargain.
But, with that out of the way, I just like giving credit where credit is due. While better than the third and fourth movies… Terminator Genisys is really bad. Not unwatchable, but… Yeah, still unmistakably bad.
The first warning that this was not going to be good was the fact that it was rated PG-13. I’m not saying that a Terminator movie has to be rated R to be good, but… It sure helps, doesn’t it? Terminator has always worked best as a scary, gritty sci-fi thriller and it’s hard to deliver on those fronts when you have a quota of blood and f-bombs that you can’t surpass. One would think they would’ve learned that with the last two movies, but on would be wrong.
And what’s with people’s asses getting blocked by shadow? Will kid’s retinas burn off if they glimpse CGI Schwarzenegger’s heavily muscled rear, or something?
So what if I’m shallow? We’ve established that. Sue me.
Genysis also falls into the trap of shoving in a bunch of callbacks to earlier films. Throughout the runtime, especially the first half, there are moments that are tailor-made to look exactly like scenes from the first two movies and, well, I guess it makes sense story-wise, and it’s not like callbacks are the worst thing ever, but these scenes are literally the EXACTLY the same. I don’t care if you’re ripping off Citizen Kane scene for scene, you CANNOT be that lazy. Even if you do make it similar, you can still do something new or creative with the locales and the dialogue (I think the only classic Terminator line that wasn’t rehashed is “Hasta la vista, baby”). Otherwise, you’re just being unimaginative, and fuck you for that.
Even the aspects of the film that should’ve improved from the last movies (The action and visual effects, specifically) show no noticeable improvement from T2, even. The action is completely forgettable, and seemingly built around Arnie’s inevitable semi-witty line, while the visual effects don’t look like they’ve come a long way from Judgment Day and sure, T2‘s special effects are terrific even today (Unlike the Arnie-Matronic in the first movie) but that doesn’t mean that we can’t improve on it, right? Isn’t that the whole point of a sequel (Or whatever the fuck this movie is supposed to be)? To build on the positives of the original?
Since I’ve gone on enough about everything else, it’s time to get to bitching about the things that piss me off the most about the movie, the wasted characters of Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor. Sarah had a terrific arc in the first two movies, transforming from an understandably frightened sadsack into an intense, asskicking badass. In Genysis, she starts off as a badass and… Goes nowhere from there. The only other layer to her character that we get is that she’s unhappy with the fact that her life seems predestined, and wants to do whatever she wants. Wow, we’ve never seen THAT character archetype before!
And as great an actress as Emilia Clarke is, she really isn’t very good as Sarah Connor. It’s not like she isn’t trying, because she obviously is, it’s just not clicking. At least Sarah likes the Ramones. That’s gotta count for something, right?
For being a main character of the first movie, Kyle Reese is a surprisingly underappreciated character in the franchise. In terms of the popularity, he probably ranks under the T-800, T-1000, Sarah Connor, pre-complete and utter insanity Edward Furlong, and that punk stereotype that the T-800 murders at the beginning of the first movie.
So, does Jai Courtney bring Kyle Reese back to the desired level of stardom? Your hint is at 2:40-2:45 in the video below. Also, spoilers for Se7en.
Kyle Reese is so fucking annoying in Genisys. Whenever he opens his mouth, it’s only to bitch and complain at Clarke and Schwarzenegger, yell frantically that Schwarzenegger can’t be trusted when that’s obviously not the case, and hit on Clarke. What a waste.
Speaking of waste, Clarke isn’t the only great, miscast or poorly utilized actor in Genisys. Jason Clarke is perfectly unspectacular as John Connor, Matt Smith appears for two seconds, Lee Byung-hun has nowhere near enough screen time and J.K. Simmons is completely wasted on a character that contributes nothing. What a spectacular comedown from Whiplash.
Overall: It doesn’t usually bode well when Arnold Schwarzenegger gives the most emotional performance in your movie.
(This has nothing to do with anything, but another reason why this post is so late, besides Father’s Day, is because my piece of shit McAfee software keeps sending pop-ups that turn off my Google Chrome tabs. I got seven hundred and fifty words into the review on Sunday and Monday before McAfee struck. It’s partially my fault for not saving frequently, I suppose, but still, fuck McAfee.)
I got out of my French diploma at ten-thirty on Friday. I’m not usually one to compliment Edmonton weather, but late Friday morning was absolutely gorgeous, with beautiful mid-20’s temperature (That’s Celsius for those of you unlucky enough to live in a Fahrenheit realm, or whatever) and the slightest of cool breezes.
Before I gained a barely steady cash flow, I might’ve sought out my friends, or gone home to play catch with my brother. Now? I went on my own to an air-conditioned movie theatre, where I watched a movie aimed at children, where I was the only person in the theatre who was neither a six year old, nor a parent of a six year old.
Needless to say, the minutes leading up to the movie starting were not the most comfortable for me.
Directed by: Pete Docter
Produced by: Jonas Rivera
Screenplay by: Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley
Story by: Pete Docter, Ronnie del Carmen
Genres: Animation, Comedy, Drama
Starring: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Bill Hader, Richard Kind, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan, Kaitlyn Dias
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Plot: Riley Anderson (Kaitlyn Dias) is more or less your typical eleven-year old Minnesotan girl. She loves her family, friends, the great sport of hockey and couldn’t be much happier with her lot in life…. That is, until her dad’s job forces the family to move to the relatively hockey-unfriendly (Unless we’re counting San Jose) city of San Francisco, throwing the cartoon emotions inside her head into disarray.
Oh, right, the cartoon emotions. Almost forgot about that tiny detail that’s also the premise of the entire movie.
The five emotions that guide Riley through her tumultuous life are Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Fear (Bill Hader) and, when shenanigans ensue because of the move to San Francisco, the emotions have to work together to get Riley through this ordeal emotionally and physically unscathed.
God, this movie is fucking awesome.
I’m not going to surprise anybody when I say that I love Pixar. At this point, they’ve influenced pop culture to almost, if not the same, extent as their parent company, Disney.
That being said, I’m also not going to pretend that they’ve had a perfect go of it. In fact, since Toy Story 3, Pixar has released, at best, Brave, a movie directed by two people with different visions (And boy does it show!!!) and at worst, Cars 2 or Monsters University (Unbefitting of their predecessors. Well, actually, Cars kinda blows, but Monsters Inc. holds up beautifully).
So, I don’t know if I can really be blamed for not being all that excited about Inside Out when the movie was announced. Sure, it was an interesting concept, and the fact that Pete Docter was director, and the concept was intriguing, but… I dunno, the character designs seemed kind of lazy to me, and I thought that child psychology might be a bit of a lofty aspiration, even for a generally smart studio like Pixar. Sure, I get that they’ve done very smart movies before, but… I dunno, as deep as they’ve gone in Up, for instance, I don’t know if you could really call it as profound as, say, the psychology of a prepubescent child.
And then they announced the voice cast. Holy crap, was I ever on board. The casting director for this movie deserves a lifetime supply of coke and hookers. Or, y’know, whatever it is that people besides myself consider to be sources of joy.
You could not ask for better personifications of joy, fear, sadness, anger and disgust than Poehler, Hader, Smith, Black and Kaling.
Huh. I just realized that every main cast member besides Poehler and Black appeared on The Office in some capacity. Cool.
I guess you could make the argument that Kaling, Smith and even Black are underused, but they don’t receive that much less time than Poehler and Smith, and they’re still terrific. So are Poehler and Smith, who do receive the most of the screen time. Off the top of my head, I would say that Smith as sadness is my favourite, although Lewis Black could pull ahead, the more I think about it.
Inside Out delivers on every level that you could ever want a great Pixar movie to deliver on, at least before Larry the Cable Guy voicing a tow truck was considered par for the course Pixar. The animation? Terrific. The score from Michael Giacchino? Terrific. The character design? Actually, despite my reservations, they work incredibly well during the movie, as, while the designs themselves may not be anything special, they’re animated (And voiced, and written) in such a way that gives them way more personality than the designs let on. The comedy, drama and script in general? Well, it’s not laugh-a-minute, but it’s still a brilliant, touching script.
Also, Richard Kind’s character.
Didn’t appear at all in the marketing (That I could tell, anyways), but contributes a lot to the story. He can come off as kind of annoying, but I guarantee that he grows on you.
What I appreciate the most of this whole movie though, is the fact that, not only does it handle the deep elements inherent to a movie about goddamn child psychology, it also refuses to talk down to children. Too often, I think we’re seeing kids’ movies cater more and more to the demographic of “adults who just want something amusing to distract their kids for two hours while the parents pop vicodin in the bathroom.” Instead of making great, inventive fun movies that still manage to teach a great lesson and leave an impression on the audience, it’s becoming par for the course to shit out a movie about cartoon animals and bright colours, load it with adult jokes that wink so hard and often at the adult audience that they would be breaking a blood vessel if they were human, and cap it off with some half-assed, generic lesson that we’ve heard a million times before. It won’t leave any worthwhile long-term impression on the audience, old or young, but the studios won’t give a shit, because people are still going to see movies and because the idiot kids don’t know any better!!!
In that respect, Inside Out is the great redeemer for the recent slew of terrible family movies. Not only is this story all those positive qualities I mentioned above, but it’s maybe the smartest family movie ever made in a long time, and almost certainly one of the better depictions of the elements of childhood and growing up ever put to screen, capturing in ninety-four minutes what Boyhood couldn’t do in a million hours, or however long that fucking movie was. It’s joyous (Pun intended) but also bittersweet. It’s simple and carefree, but also confusing and difficult to get your head around. You can feel on top of the world one day and have it all crumble down in mere seconds. Multiple times. It’s good to see that Pixar not only rebounded from their rut, but rebounded with a movie that is going to mean so much to so many.
That said, I don’t like the character design in The Good Dinosaur. Let’s see if Pixar makes me look like an ass again.
Overall: Brave is no longer the best Pixar movie since Toy Story 3. Thank Jeebus for that.
Oh, what a lovely, lovely day.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Director: George Miller
Produced by: Doug Mitchell, George Miller, P.J. Voeten
Written by: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, Zoe Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton
Music by: Junkie XL
Plot: Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is doing the two things he does best: Wandering the wasteland that is the Australian Outback after some catastrophic event, and slowly letting his mental instability and past regrets consume him.
I had to take that shot. I just had to. I’ll be judged for it some day, but I don’t regret it.
During this adventure (Which I hear takes place between the events of The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome, but don’t quote me on that), Max comes across a group of loonies known as the War Boys, who, being loonies, capture and torture him. The War Boys are led by Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who also played Toecutter in the original Mad Max movie), a terrifying Beetlejuice-Bane hybrid who rules his territory thanks to the personality cult that he imposes on his people.
While in the custody of the War Boys, Max gets involved in a conflict with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), a badass warrior lady who has taken Joe’s “Breeder Wives” (Disturbing) with her in a giant truck, in a desperate attempt to get them to a better place. Caught between the two factions, Max is in for the most batshit insane ride of his life.
Raise your hand if you would have trusted a 70-year old man (Whose last project was Happy Feet 2) with a $150 million budget for a ultraviolent, batshit insane movie that includes scenes like, uh, this:
In case you can’t see, that is, indeed, an actual scene from the movie that involves a man that looks like a Mutant from The Dark Knight Returns dressed in a red onesie playing a twin-necked electric guitar that is shooting fire.
So, everybody who raised their hands? Total liars.
Actually, I think that picture is a pretty good barometer of whether or not you’ll like this movie. If you’re the kind of person who thinks that combining Mutants, electric guitars, flamethrowers and giant, threatening vehicles are awesome, then you’re gonna have a great time.
And if you’re not? I couldn’t care less, you should still watch this movie. Mad Max: Fury Road is fucking amazing. The only movies that I’ve seen since I’ve started reviewing recent releases that I’ve loved more than Mad Max are Birdman and Whiplash, and even then, I’d have to think really hard about putting them above this glorious movie. I truly believe that this will go down in history as one of the classic, genre-defining action movies, and I also think that it’s definitely the best action movie of the decade so far. It is that fucking majestic.
Credit for the awesomeness should probably be laid at the feet of George Miller, the aforementioned 70-year old director, who makes ageist jackasses like me look like total fools. Unlike other directors who return to their franchises after a long hiatus and succumb to the temptation of overdosing on CGI…
… Miller wisely decided to use as little CGI as possible, relying mostly on as many practical effects as around $150 million will get you. The result is a veritable goddamned smorgasbord of unhinged vehicular carnage throughout the giant action scene that is this movie.
That last sentence wasn’t an exaggeration, by the way. Fury Road is essentially a two-hour long action scene with some (Very, very well done) dramatic scenes interspersed throughout. You would think that a setup like that would be extremely tedious .
That is not the case with Fury Road. I never once grew tired of the relentless action. Why is that? Well, I’m not sure, but I’ll chalk it up to some combination of the skillful direction of George Miller, the terrific uses of practical effects, my own personal uncontrollable bloodlust, and the score from both Junkie XL and the freak with the guitar, who, awesomely enough, is actually incorporated into the score, to terrific effect.
Aside from being just a terrific score on its own, the music really contributes to an atmosphere of franticness when it calls for it. Believe me, nothing gets your heart pumping like a guiet score getting interrupted by guitars and drums pounding along at a relentless, breakneck pace.
An awesome action movie wouldn’t be awesome without some badass characters fucking shit up, though, and thankfully, Fury Road delivers awesomely on that front too. Tom Hardy is the supposed lead of the movie, replacing Mel Gibson as the titular character. He doesn’t say much, unsurprising, since Mad Max has never been the chattiest of protagonists, but his scowling, brooding, insane demeanor more than does the trick, selling the fact that he’s a goddamned badass who will tear your damned throat out if you so much as squint at him.
Nicholas Hoult is also terrific as a War Boy named Nux, who I’m not going to get into for fear of spoilers. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley does a good job of redeeming herself for Transformers: Dark of the Moon with a strong, badass performance here, while Hugh Keays-Byrne is suitably scary as Immortan Joe.
The real standout, though, is the arguable star of the movie, Charlize Theron, who absolutely KILLS it as Furiosa. The rest of this movie could have been total shit, and it still would have been awesome as a whole because of Charlize Theron.
And she pisses off sexists, so that’s awesome too.
Overall: Go see this movie. Just do it. You won’t regret it. Unless you’re epileptic, then maybe wait for the Blu-Ray release. I dunno, just watch the damn movie, alright?
Before Age of Ultron, I had to do four major exams and a French oral presentation. That made May 1st one of those days that was simultaneously the best and worst day ever.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Produced by: Kevin Feige
Written by: Joss Whedon
Based on: The Avengers by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany
Music by: Brian Tyler and Danny Elfman
Plot: The Avengers; Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye, have been at their superheroing ways for a while now, fighting evil wherever it may rear its ugly head. However, after a somewhat traumatic mission in the fictional Eastern European nation of Sokovia or whatever (Where the official language is apparently heavily accented English),Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) decides that what the world needs is not the Avengers, but a super-powerful artificial intelligence whose goal is to achieve world peace by any means necessary. This is a wholly original concept that has never been attempted before in fiction, right?
Stark and Dr. Banner (Mark Ruffalo) accidentally create an A.I. named Ultron (James Spader) who, as anybody with half a brain could predict, is overwhelmed with a god complex, concluding that, since humans are the ones screwing up the world, the only way to ensure world peace is to destroy all humans, particularly the Avengers. Not exactly taking his kindly, the Avengers set out to defeat Ultron, but find themselves contending with divisions within the team, two mysterious twins working with Ultron, Pietro and Wanda Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen) and the mysterious android named the Vision (Paul Bettany).
If that sounds like a lot of stuff going on, it’s because it kind of is. It’s become a growing trend among superhero movies lately to really up the amount of complicated subplots. I guess it makes sense that an extended universe would have more complicated storylines. You can’t merely have Superman saving Lois Lane anymore, you must have Captain America destroying HYDRA, have that tie in with a damn TV show, and have THAT tie into a movie that stars Vin Diesel as a fucking talking tree.
While I wouldn’t go so far as saying that you needed to have watched the other Marvel movies in order to understand this one, there are still some issues to be found in Age of Ultron. Joss Whedon has said that there is one hour of footage that had to be cut in order to get the movie down to a manageable length, and I commend him for that, because who wants to see a three and a half hour long superhero movie?
That said, during the second act, the movie starts feeling a bit rushed, trying to squeeze in development and plot points that kind of come out of nowhere. There’s an entire sequence involving Thor that tries to serve as both an advancement of the plot and a setup for Thor: Ragnarok (Get hyped for that November 3, 2017 release date!!!) and… It doesn’t work. There’s just not enough explained. I understand part of the conclusion that Thor comes to during the subplot, but I’ll be damned if I know what happened up until that point. Something about Asgard, Stellan Skarsgard, Chris Hemsworth shirtless in a pool of water, whatever. Until the extended edition comes our on Blu-Ray (Please???), I can’t really give this movie points for flawlessly cohesive storytelling.
Also, while I’ll get into Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen as Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch a little later, their accents didn’t do it for me at all. Who knows though, maybe the official language of Sokovia is English spoken with a cartoonish Russian accent? Fuck if I know.
I’m done dicking around, though. What did I think of Age of Ultron as a whole?
I fucking love it.
I know, I know, I’m predictable, but this movie…. It’s just so cool, you guys.
Yes, in terms of story, it’s not the most narratively well done, and the “Evil A.I” has been done to death, but if you’re really bothered by that when watching… You were probably too far gone to enjoy the movie in the first place.
While the action is great, as one would expect from most summer blockbusters nowadays, and the CGI is on point (… Save for some moments in the opening action sequence), this movie, even more than the first Avengers, lives and dies on its larger than-life characters and personalities.
Some people assumed from the trailers that Age of Ultron was going to be yet another goddamn “dark and gritty” superhero movie, and while it does have some heavy moments, its not a dark movie. Like, at all. It has more or less the same tone and atmosphere as the first one, just with, you know, a threatening villain.
Again, thanks to the trailer, many people assumed that Ultron would be the most threatening villain in the MCU to date, based on his menacing appearance and penchant for monologuing. Once again, that’s kind of misleading. While Ultron is really cool, and James Spader is downright fantastic, he was also, completely unexpectedly, really damn funny in an appropriately twisted, dark way, which makes sense, when you consider that he was created by Tony Stark. In addition to that, he’s not entirely a creature of logic, he could be seen as a child with a very black-and-white view of morality. That’s a pretty good way to distinguish him from the humorless “Evil A.I.” archetype that fiction has beaten to death at this point.
What I’m most impressed with, though, is what they did with the main characters. Actually, scratch that, Captain America, Thor and Iron Man are just as awesome and well-written as they were before, but the secondary Avengers, for lack of a better term, get a whole hell of a lot more interesting. Hulk and Black Widow have a relationship that some people are calling forced, but I think it helps develop their character arcs a little more. especially since we haven’t had a solo Hulk movie for a while, and fans are still holding out for the Black Widow solo movie that is growing more and more unlikely by the minute.
There was definitely a more PC way to phrase that caption, but my point still stands.
The surprising one for me (And a whole lot of other people) was Hawkeye, who was pretty much nondescript in the first movie, was my favourite character in this movie. Without getting spoiler-y… He’s a scene stealer. Hawkeye is a scene stealer. God, this movie is bizarre.
Lastly, the new characters are, big surprise, pretty damn great. The Vision, without spoiling any details, is fucking awesome, and Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are also good. While I wouldn’t say that this Quicksilver is as entertaining as the one in Days of Future Past, but this one has a pretty enjoyable personality that Aaron Taylor-Johnson has a lot of fun with. (Fun fact: Taylor-Johnson was the star of Kick-Ass, while Evan Peters, who played Quicksilver in Days of Future Past, played Taylor-Johnson’s friend in Kick-Ass. Full circle, or whatever.
Also, I have a crush on Elizabeth Olsen. I didn’t know that before today.
Overall: Age of Ultron delivers as a summer blockbuster on every sustainable level, being almost as good as the first movie. Shame the mid-credits scene sucks balls.
You may or may not have noticed, but vampire fiction hasn’t been doing itself that much favours as of late. I’m sure I don’t need to really get into the Twilights of the world, as, by now, we’ve all done our respective shares of ragging on the influence behind the literary masterpiece that is Fifty Shades of Gray.
With all the crap that the genre has had to got to lately, it’s easy to forget that movies like What We Do In the Shadows and Only Lovers Left Alive have come out recently. Hell, we’re barely a decade removed from one of the more celebrated vampire sagas in recent memory.
Just kidding. Boy, you’d think Mel Brooks would be chomping at the bit for some form of redemption after that movie. No, I’m talking about the Blade trilogy, you guys.
Blade was the the second major Marvel release after Howard the Duck, and, if you’ve read my review of that goddamn atrocity, you know that Blade looks like friggin’ Citizen Kane. Is it as good as that? NO. But, audiences seemed to enjoy it, and it got two sequels, Blade II and Blade: Trinity, with the former being the best-received (Marginally) and most profitable of the three.
The three constants throughout the trilogy are: Writer David S. Goyer (Of the Dark Knight trilogy), Wesley Snipes, in his best known role as the title character, a half-human, half-vampire force of nature who specializes in killing the evil cabal of vampires that control the world, and Kris Kristofferson as Abraham Whistler, Blade’s mentor and partner in vampire killing.
The first movie was released in 1998, and, y’know, it’s alright. The basic premise has Blade an Whistler meeting a woman (N’Bushe Wright), who was bitten by a vampire, and who needs to find a cure ASAP. In addition to that, Blade fights against the aforementioned vampire illuminati…
… As well as a dangerous individual within this sinister cabal named Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff), who is making a power play that would essentially be game over for humanity.
Any discussion of the Blade trilogy has to begin with Blade himself (Or Eric Brooks, as he is called once in the first movie), Wesley Snipes. I’m not exactly a Snipes connoisseur (The only other movie I’ve seen him in is Major League, which he was great in), but man, did he really bring it to these movies, not so much in acting ability (Although he’s not bad), but in sheer badassery.
I have no idea how big a fan Snipes is of the original character, but I think he would have to be, considering that he not only stars as Blade, but also helped produce every movie of the trilogy, and worked as a fight producer for the first two movies. And if you’ve ever seen one of the fight scenes from either of the first two movies, you know that the latter credit is especially impressive. If only he put half the effort that he put into his fight scenes into paying his goddamn taxes.
When it comes to the performance on its own, Snipes is a pretty solid action star which, honestly, is all that’s really needed. Kris Kristofferson is also good as Abraham Whistler, playing more or less your average gruff, tortured older mentor. Nothing to write home about, but it works. Stephen Dorff is a lot of fun to watch as the villain, which is good, because the character himself isn’t all that interesting (None of these characters are, really).
The Goyer-penned script is solid, action movie generic, and while I have to dock it some points for being so unspectacular, it works fine when you really get down to it.
Where this movie comes apart is when a couple scenes that don’t make a whole lot of sense occur. One of the two examples that spring to my mind is the scene where Blade and Frost are confronting each other in a very public place, and Frost is holding a child hostage. During this standoff, they are talking (Rather loudly) about vampires and the extermination of the human race…. And none of the many people who walk by, clearly within earshot, react at all. That’s… Really fucking stupid. This isn’t the Dream World in Inception, real people react to shit like that. Especially when it evolves into a full-blown action scene. That scene was bullshit. It took me right out of the film.
There’s also a scene involving an interrogation of a morbidly obese vampire, and I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something unpleasant about it. Bitch and moan, bitch and moan, I know, but something about that scene really rubs me the wrong way.
Also, N’Bushe Wright is really, really fucking boring.
After the success of Blade, it’s only natural (Well, natural in Hollywood) that a sequel was released in 2002. Goyer, Snipes and Kristofferson were on board, but the director, Stephen Norrington, was replaced by an upstart Mexican director who was making his first American movie.
The director’s name? Guillermo del Toro. I fucking love Guillermo del Toro.
In the sequel, Blade and Whistler are forced to team up with a team of vampire warriors (Led by Leonor Varela and Ron motherhugging Perlman) in order to stop a new breed of monster that feeds on both humans and vampires.
While del Toro wasn’t ever going to do much to overcome the average dialogue and uninteresting characters and motivations, he brings a lot to the action scenes and, while he’s a lot more restrained here than in, say, Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth, he does bring some notable creativity to the character and monster designs.
Aside from that, I’m not that sure why I liked Blade II so much more than the first movie. The script is just as mediocre, the characters are just as underdeveloped (Albeit, memorable. I’m looking at you, Ron Perlman), and while the action is better, it’s not by a huge margin.
I guess it comes down to the fact that, while they’re essentially the same movies, I bought into the world of Blade II a lot more, if only because Blade II didn’t have the unnecessary scenes (And one super boring character) that plagued the first movie.
Two years later, the inevitable third movie was released, titled Blade: Trinity. This movie has Blade facing off against the baddest vampire of them all, Dracula (Dominic Purcell) or “Drake”, as he is called for some stupid reason. In order to do this, he unwillingly joins up with the Nightstalkers, a group of vampires led by Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds.
Out of the whole trilogy, Trinity was the one that was the most harshly criticized of the trilogy, but I was still optimistic, as it’s not like the first two movies were critical darlings, and I like the first one fine, while I just about love the second one.
As it turns out, my optimism was sorely misplaced. This movie is a dumpster fire.
Much of Trinity‘s problems can be traced back to the fact that this movie had a very troubled production. Guillermo del Toro didn’t return as director, so the writer, David S. Goyer, took on double duties as writer-director. Snipes wasn’t too happy about this. Understandable, considering Goyer’s spotty track record (Which remains spotty today). However, instead of handling it in literally any other fashion, Snipes decided to handle it by holing up in his trailer when filming was supposed to be taking place, smoking weed literally all the time, and generally being a giant dick, calling Ryan Reynolds a cracker (Unironically) and choking out Goyer, at one point. Yikes.
Snipes was absent for so much of the filming that they actually had to use body doubles to a ridiculous extent. I guess I’ll give them some credit, I didn’t figure that out until I read about it later, so that’s a point in its favour, I guess.
Also, Ryan Reynolds is Ryan Reynolds, which is awesome. Otherwise, Trinity is trash.
It’s obvious that nobody cares in this movie. The acting is bad, the action scenes are poorly done (Thanks to Snipes not being on set, I’m guessing), and the script is really, really bad.
Even Snipes (Who is high) and Kristofferson are really bad, and the latter is phoning it in to a pretty serious degree, which doesn’t surprise me, considering he’s in it for around a collective ten minutes throughout the whole damn movie.
Logical fallacies like the ones found in the first movie abound, and as you would probably would guess, there isn’t near enough good stuff to distract me from the flaws.
For example, the action in this movie is kicked off by Blake’s murder of a Familiar (Human servant of vampires), which apparently garners interest from the police. That’s weird. The hundreds of Familiars that he killed in the first two movies didn’t garner any interest at all.
Also, there’s a scene where Dracula (Sorry, “Drake”) sneaks into the Nightstalker’s base, and, since he can shape-shift, turns into somebody who I’m not going to reveal, but it doesn’t make any sense.
God, this movie is so stupid. At least it’s still a better story than, you know, that other vampire series.
Overall: The first two Blade movies are good fun, perfect for action and horror (-ish) fans everywhere. The third one can go die in a hole.
Blade II: 8.5/10
Blade: Trinity: 3.5/10
To kick off Mighty Marvel Movie Month, I watched the very first movie based off a Marvel Comics character. However, unlike DC, who released the rights to their A-list characters to respected filmmakers right off the bat, Marvel handed over character rights to a respected filmmaker (George Lucas), but the character itself was a bizarre choice: An anthropomorphic, cigar-smoking, ill-tempered duck named, well, Howard the Duck.
For those of you who don’t know, Howard the Duck made his comic book debut in Adventure Into Fear #19 (December 1973) and became something of a cult character thanks to his strange, existentialist sense of humour, appearing semi-regularly until finally getting his own series, and (Thanks in part to the movie) eventually fading back into obscurity until his cameo appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy.
Having admittedly been born after the character’s heyday, I’ve never personally been a huge fan of this fucking weird character. If I wanted to read about a combination of Daffy Duck and Sartre, I would… Probably be too far gone at that point. Whatever, give me Spider-Man or Deadpool any day. Absurdism can bite me.
Around the height of Howard’s popularity, George Lucas, in between writing jobs in The Temple of Doom and Willow , decided to try to adapt him to the big screen, as this was a point in time when George still cared about storytelling. So, he got his American Graffiti co-writer to direct, and casted some good, young talent to star, including Tim Robbins and Lea Thompson. The movie opened on August 1, 1986 and, long story short, bombed at the box office and is considered one of the worst films ever made. And yeah, it’s pretty fucking bad, you guys.
So, what’s the plot? Well, unbeknownst to humanity, there exists a parallel universe known as Duckworld, in which anthropomorphic ducks are the dominant species. In this world, there lives a washed-up wiseass named Howard (Voiced by Chip Zien). If you thought that Jar-Jar Binks was the most annoying thing George Lucas has ever put to screen well, you’d still be right, but Howard the Duck is up there.
Anyways, out of goddamn nowhere, a portal opens up and Howard is flung out of Duckworld and into our world. Cleveland, specifically. More specifically, the 80’s.
In Cleveland, he meets an aspiring rock star (Lea Thompson), the oh-so appealing and not at all bone-crushingly stupid love interest, who is the third most annoying character, after Howard and a pre-Shawshank Redemption Tim Robbins, who is the “Jar-Jar Binks” of this movie. A movie that has a fucking talking duck has someone even more annoying than said talking duck. Let that thought sink in, why don’t you?
George Lucas didn’t write this script (Shocking, I know), but honestly? I think the movie would’ve been much better off if he had hijacked it like he did the Star Wars prequels.
You heard me. I would’ve preferred the writer who wrote Anakin and Padme’s god awful romance. I feel unclean just typing that.
This entire movie’s dialogue is just about completely comprised of in-jokes, eye-rollingly bad innuendo, and all the duck-related puns you could ever want, and then some. I almost would’ve rather the writers had just written an existentialist movie, like the comic book, if only because I love me some absurdist philosophy, but I guess that wouldn’t have made that much money, and it’s not like this movie bombed at the box office or anything.
On top of being irritating as all get out, Howard doesn’t look very good. I’ll give this movie some credit, though. At least it didn’t go the Smurfs route of having a CGI character in a live-action world. That said, even if they had gone that lazy, lazy route, it probably could’ve turned out better than this monstrosity.
There isn’t a good performance to be found among the human actors, although I think they could be forgiven for not caring. Lea Thompson sucks, although I think anybody would suck if they were asked to read lines like “This is Earth, I think.” Tim Robbins was… Just, so fucking weird, man. Thank god things worked out for him.
Jeffrey Jones (Ferris Bueller’s principal) is the antagonist, and he’s terrible as well. Although, it could just be that I don’t think that Jeffrey Jones could ever play a character creepier than Jeffrey Jones already is.
The only way that this movie could’ve ended up enjoyable is if it had just decided to revel in its own unapologetic campy strangeness, and to an extent, it tries to do just that, but, damn, in terms of visuals, this movie is pretty dreary! For such an idiotic movie, it’s very dark (Visually, not in terms of content) and very unpleasant (In terms of imagery). You’re more likely to be disturbed than amused, honestly, and for a movie in which a talking duck has an electric guitar solo, the more disturbing scenes really don’t fit.
Apparently, this movie has picked up a tiny cult following, and that completely baffles me. It’s not, say, Batman & Robin bad, and I wouldn’t even place it in the twenty worst movies I’ve ever seen. Shit, I’ll even admit to chuckling at a couple of the less atrocious lines (And some of the more atrocious ones, if only out of sheer exasperation). On the whole, though, it’s just god awful, and I came out of this experience a worse person because of it.
Overall: What could I possibly say about Howard the Duck that hasn’t already been said a million times? Don’t subject yourselves to it, you guys.
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.
Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Produced by: Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook, Michel Litvak, David Lancaster
Written by: Damien Chazelle
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.
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.
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.
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.
You’re welcome for that mental image.