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558th Review - And all that jazz
Whiplash is a tour de force of a film that hits you hard in stomach from the get go and keeps going. With career defining performances from J K Simmons as a Svengali mentor and Miles Teller as an ambitious young drummer willing to go through hell to achieve greatness.
Director Damien Chazelle gives the film a near stage like look that suits it well, there are only three or four outdoor scenes, otherwise the claustrophobia created by focusing on the music practice room suits the piece well.
This is a film about suffering for ambition. A film about the need to be the best, to strive for fame, but also about two characters who are destined to clash. Simmons is pure vitriol, knowing exactly how to use his temper and words to break a player, and it is a fine performance - showing just the right level of loss of control with a cold logic.
Central to the film is the struggle jazz has to be seen. Given the immense work required to become a jazz great, jazz tends to be difficult on film compared to the glamor of rock. This is a film that likes it jazz straight up - and is better for it.
It is one of the better films of the year. It is a powerful film with great performances that it is about very human traits: the need for approval and the abuse of power and if liberation is ever possible. Recommended.
557th Review: King's Indelible Legacy - Marching To Today
Selma is a magnificent, inspiring, and massively watchable film that does not shy from the politics or from showing King as a man. Above all, though, this is the film that bothers to take its research very seriously. As many of us, I have studied in depth the Rights Movement. The attention to historic detail, without glorification or hagiography is commendable. The attempts to use actors that look like the person they portray, excellent, and the tone and mood of the film is a truly fitting depiction.
The Civil Rights movement took the impetus and teachings of Gandhi (King traveled to India and stayed in Ashrams in 1959 in order to understand NVDA) and coupled that with the true spirit of Southern Baptism - and found their leader in King.
There has been nothing like Attenborough's Gandhi for King. Partly because of internal rights (and it is too complicated to explain here, but worth research) and partly because other attempts have not captured the true spirit of both sides. Where Selma succeeds massively is that it captures deeply what both sides believed in - the incredible bigotry is shown as is - the film shows that morality, justice, and the dignity of men lies in justice and fairness and that such freedoms are worth all; then and now. This is a film that inspires young and old people and reminds us all that we can do and do better.
Selma is a clear and sincere historical account of the events of late summer 1965 that would lead to LBJ enacting the Vote Act - it is powerful tribute to one of the most important events of the 20th Century American history.
556th Review - One of the Best of British Films
I am a huge, huge fan of British Film - in particular comedy-dramas from 1932 - 1961. In 1949, just after making Kind Hearts & Coronets, Alec Guinness made A Run For Your Money about two Welsh Miners who win £200 and are sent to London. It has everything that Lion, Gainsborough, and Ealing were to make staples of.
Pride is the closest thing this reviewer has seen this decade to the huge legacy and spirit of 50s cinema - it has a message, but it entertains - massively. It is joyful, moving, deeply deeply inspiring and above all it's simply watchable, as in real story-telling and humanity. I need to go back via Full Monty to Brassed Off to remember a film that really does hit home this hard while still being a British Comedy. It takes both the Gay Pride movement and the Miners' Strike of 1984 and produces a film that is moving and funny.
If you want a great film that will make you remember what it's like to really experience life then go see Pride - it captures the early Eighties in Britain brilliantly with excellent performances and a zinging script. This is what cinema should be about - it'll make you laugh and cry and it'll stir your spirit.
Get on Up (2014)
555th Review - The Music Biopic of the Year
Electrifying music coupled with electrifying performances make Get on Up one of the best music biopics. It has serious musical chops and acting chops that combine in a non-linear narrative that is full of sly comedy and good emotions.
Above all, this is Chadwick Bosemans film - he is totally convincing as James Brown, not just in mannerisms and some extraordinary performances, but he gets the spirit spot on - a dizzying concoction of funk, dance, comedy, threat, drive, and soul, it is a bravado performance that it's hard not to be simply swept up with.
Tate Taylor does a great job as director - it really is along with the documentary of Searching for Sugarman one of the better music films of the past decade. Mick Jagger put his money behind this and all we can say is: Long Live Funk!
554th Review: The Big Sleazy
Nightcrawler is a superb watch - the genius lies in taking all the lines they've sold us over the decade about management and work, self-improvement and negotiation, and put them into the hands of a narcissistic sociopath that is Louis Bloom. What we get is a both the snake and the snake charmer in one person - and just as mesmerizing.
When Bloom gets his shot at the big time, he not only grabs it, he manipulates everyone in sight with a slick sleaze that leaves you gasping at his chutzpah. This is characterization and script with real zing. First time director Dan Gilroy gives us the slimy underbelly of TV news, where ratings have become more important than any sense of ethics - and flies with it.
The film has a streak of dark humor, but more than that, it reflects the zeitgeist. In a world where TV is struggling this makes us a little too uncomfortable as we suspect it might all be possibly possible.
With excellent performances and a killer script this is the thriller of the year - a nasty slice of satire that deserves its evident success.
Mr. Turner (2014)
553th Review: A Very Good Biopic
Mr Turner is a brilliant costume drama so out of step with most films these days: it isn't frantic, or frenetic, instead it requires genuine thought and insight. It's lovingly made with real acting and the attention to period detail in speech and look is terrific.
For those who say there is no plot - I say look again. Turner suffered from serious bouts of depression as he grew older, and in a world where there is no such word every grunt and groan expresses this. This is not a simplistic biography, it melds together the life of an artist, with the work of an artist to produce a deeply satisfying film.
Above all, this is a film about performances - Timothy Spall is brilliant as the crude force of nature that was Turner, and his support, particularly Paul Jesson as his father, and a laugh out loud performance by Dorothy Atkinson as his ever-suffering housekeeper, are excellent.
This is a film for those who can watch at a slow pace, and enjoy real acting. For this reviewer the change of pace was not dull or boring but like going for a long walk in the countryside it rewards. Finally, Turner is a film that is about as far removed from the Marvel style of filming as it is possible to be. It is also a film that deserve the awards that are coming its way - it will make a clean sweep at the BAFTAS and I would expect it to pick up two technical Ocars for costuming and cinematography.
552nd Review: A Significant and Interesting Film in US Cinema History - No, Seriously...
Boyhood maybe one of the best film this reviewer has since this decade - I cannot think of any other film that celebrates cinema and reflects what film can be better than this - not Winter Bone or The Artist, not No Country For Old Men or Crazy Heart - they were entertaining, but Linklater has created an unforgettable cinematic experience - and let's face it's pretty seldom these days that we can say that.
This is hugely watchable, without twists or plot, it's all just arc - boyhood from 5 to 18 captured - shot over 12 years with the same crew and actors, the result has an openness, honesty, and frankness that is plain, simple, and yet engaging, and truly, deeply satisfying. Its semi-documentary approach and fantastic casting reward the viewer with what both Jarmusch and Malik would love to show, but does so without an ounce of posing or posturing.
This is cinema. It has more to say about both film and life in a simple straight-forward manner, but it's also done in a way that deserves all the possible recognition and encouragement.
Hit by Lightning (2014)
551st Review: A Rom-Com meets Film Noir
HBL has Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men) as Ricky, a man entering his forties without love and soon without hair. He just wants to find someone special - and he does in Danita (Stephanie Szostak). Ricky and his best friend Seth (Will Sasso - MadTV) has been best friends forever and muse over the chances of each actually finding their soul mate. Ricky joins an online dating site and seems to have found his. Needless to say things aren't quite what they seem and soon Ricky finds himself in a quandary.
Hit by Lightning has a little too much a feel of TV about it to really fly, though it's got pace and a good script - personally I would have liked some filters and feeling of film, it is shot and lit very directly.
It is a nice movie to wile away some time to - Cryer is good in his way and this small film plays to his strengths - it's the sort of film that you can watch on a plane and enjoy.
Fack ju Göhte (2013)
550th Review - Fun Comedy, Seen Far Worse
I can honestly say I have never watched a German comedy before (Excepting Goodbye Lenin), but this was way better than expected. It's everything Bad Teacher could have been and more.
Firstly, it's genuinely funny - petty criminal becomes substitute teacher sounds weak but here the relationships and the script have a lot of zing and deliver.
Even though the arc is fairly by the numbers, the plot detailing is excellent, with fresh siutations and a strong romantic subplot. The cast are all on point and very likable, particularly the stars. All in all we liked it a lot - it's fun, consistently funny, has heart, and is definitely one of the better comedies of 2014.
The Longest Week (2014)
549th Review - If You Miss By Just A Millimeter 10 000 Times...
The Longest Week is a lesson that it's possible to have ideas, a great cast, a good script and then put it all up on screen and miss - dreadfully.
The Longest Week comes with a healthy dose of frustration as we delve into the incredibly narcissistic world that our three main protagonists live in. It borrows from the New York film book but is too much in love with the world it wants to send up and we fall, not for the characters, but asleep.
This film is not a mess - it looks great, the acting is great, the constant narration is annoying, but more than that is a vast sense of alienation between the screen and the viewer - it's an unbridgeable abyss caused by a palpable sense of ennui and boredom.
All in all, the next film will work - this goes from charm to smarmy to boring very fast and never gets us to care one jot.