“Whiplash” – Not my tempo.

If you’ve read any of my posts before then you know that the line after the title “in quotes” is the tagline from the movie. Some movies however, don’t have taglines so I am left to choose a quote from the film itself to fill in the space. I try to find the line most representative of the entire film just to give you a taste of what it is. Therefore, I need to point out that “Not my tempo.” is not how I felt about the movie, but a quote from J.K. Simmons’ character, Fletcher. Needless to say, I love this movie.Whiplash

Being a band kid during my high school years I am no stranger to wrath-incurring band directors who want their students to play the best damn music anyone’s ever heard. Now my director didn’t go so far as to call us derogatory names or hurl cymbals at us, but she certainly made me feel that way at times. That is what this movie is about; the band directors willing to scare you, possibly even hurt you into becoming a player you never thought you could be.

Enter Andrew Niemann, played skillfully by Miles Teller. He’s attending a prestigious music college where he’s honing his skills in order to become “one of the greats” as a drummer. After being noticed by Fletcher, the band director from the top tier ensemble known for making his students cry, things get a little hairy. The whole film is a rollercoaster of emotions for both audience and characters, and I’ve got to say that it’s well worth the ride. Generally I don’t like when new actors are used continually and Miles Teller is one of those actors, but he really shines in “Whiplash”. Maybe it’s because it’s a lesser known film that it’s not as big a deal to me, or the fact that the part required a talented drummer which Miles actually is, but he just seems to really fit the role rather than being shoved in because he’s an “up and coming star”. And J.K. Simmons was the PERFECT choice for Fletcher, and I haven’t seen him in anything for a spell. It’s as if J. Jonah Jameson lost his job at the Daily Bugle and went completely insane, which is great because he’s nominated for Best Supporting Actor. I haven’t seen all of the Oscar nominees yet, but I can say without a doubt that he deserves this.

While watching the film I had this weird…call it an out-of-body experience. Andrew (Teller) walks into his first jazz rehearsal run by Fletcher, and it starts off as if he should’ve been there the entire time. He’s playing pretty well, Fletcher seems to like what he hears and even compliments him in front of the entire band. Andrew smiles. Then a chair is hurled at him and suddenly he realizes that he’s playing in the big leagues now. This scene reminded me of the first time I was on a film set. I barely knew what I was doing and nobody around wanted to help, they all just wanted to be away from me when I screwed up. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience before, one where you’ve almost been lulled into a false sense of security and then totally destroyed. I feel it’s somewhat rare that a film can totally implement an emotion that you connect to, but in that one scene I felt real fear. In case you haven’t had that moment, imagine a music director saying, “You want to clean the blood off my drum set?” If you think you could walk away from that phrase smiling, then you should probably google “S&M”.

scrshot1This is anything but a friendly chat between director and student.

Finishing this film left me with a few thoughts. Among them were the following:

1. I had never even heard of this movie until I saw the Oscar nominations. It wasn’t until I watched the trailer that I even garnered any interest, mainly because as I mentioned earlier I was getting tired of seeing Miles Teller everywhere. So don’t judge a film by its poster, you may be missing something great altogether.

2. I left high school vowing to never touch my saxophone again because of how my band director treated me. Instead of trying to improve on my sound by practicing more I decided to be stubborn and show her that I could fight back too. It’s only now that I think she may have been trying to push me, push us to be a much better band. Had I been more determined I may still be involved in music today, and have her to thank for it. But who knows, she may have just hated me.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: Excellent film that sadly will not win “Best Picture” (my prediction), because “art about art” rarely seems to captivate the audience it should. J.K. Simmons should absolutely win the supporting trophy though, even if he is scarier than any horror icon I’ve ever seen.

SCENE COLLECTED: Besides the one I mentioned above, the last scene of the film is truly amazing. I can’t describe it here for obvious reasons but just know that you really will want to fist pump the air once the credits start rolling.

FLICKCHART RATING: 247/2272

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“Warm Bodies” – There’s nothing hotter than a girl with brains.

Up until a few years ago I really wasn’t a big fan of the zombie craze. All of the movies seemed the same and I didn’t feel like trying to bond with a group of survivors just to watch them get killed off one at a time. Then I was introduced to “The Walking Dead”, and everything changed. Well, not everything I guess, just that I was more tolerant of zombie entertainment. So when “Warm Bodies” showed up as something to watch, I figured why not.Warm Bodies

This is not your average horror/zombie flick. In fact, it gives an answer to the longest running zombie question: what if there were a cure? I thought this was a pretty unique idea, seeing how almost every other zombie movie and show tries to find a scientific cure, something that can be injected into corpses or sprayed over a field in order to change everyone back. But “Warm Bodies” covers different ground; what if the “disease” was more like a cold, something that you could eventually get over? Pretty cool stuff.

We spend the movie following “R” (Nicholas Hoult), a zombie who can narrate his thoughts for the most part but cannot remember his name from before he turned. He introduces us to his good buddy “M” (Rob Corddry), with whom he grunts to about being hungry, basic zombie stuff, and that’s pretty much what sets the story in motion. However, this is a love story and we need someone for R to fall in love with.

Enter Julie (Teresa Palmer). She’s a human living in the city of survivors under the rule of her father (John Malkovich) and with her boyfriend Perry (David Franco). While on a raiding mission to find some more supplies, R and the gang ambush Julie and her group and a massacre happens. Perry is quickly lost in the shuffle, but more importantly is R’s immediate attraction to Julie. Crazy, right? Zombies falling in love with humans. Who they usually eat. So basically R escapes with Julie and lets her cope with the fact that he isn’t trying to kill her, all the while he starts to change. He’s talking, his skin is becoming less pale, there’s this weird thumping going on in his chest…it’s basically puberty. Can’t give away the rest of the movie so I’ll have to leave it at that, but I promise you it does get better, albeit a little predictable.

warm-bodies-blu-ray-screenshot-0007663-I-824

Conversation looks riveting among the undead. Can’t wait.

As I mentioned earlier this movie really stands out because of it’s concept, be it either zombies having the ability to fall in love (or feel at all, really), or the fact that there could be a cure that doesn’t require medicine of any sort. It’s not an overly violent film, nor does it really have many gruesome parts so it’s not geared towards your average “Walking Dead” crowd, but more of a romantic comedy that involves death. Also if you haven’t caught on yet, it’s a modern (kinda) representation of Romeo and Juliet, even down to the names of the main characters, and there are plenty of scenes that are reminiscent of the actual play.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: So for a zombie flick that’s imitating a Shakespearean play that isn’t about gore and the death of the human race…it’s pretty good.

SCENE COLLECTED: Early on when Julie and R are hanging out together, Julie takes R for a spin in a BMW on an abandoned tarmac, set to “Shell Suite” by Chad Valley.

FLICKCHART RATING: 842/2239

“A Long Way Down” – Life is looking up

This movie is about four strangers who try to commit suicide at the same time and instead, decide to sign a pact not to kill themselves until Valentine’s day.

Now that that’s sunken in, let’s move on.A Long Way Down

I loved this movie. Obviously with a premise like the one above you just wouldn’t expect it to be an uplifting tale of togetherness or hope, but I was more than pleasantly surprised. I found this gem on Netflix which was surprising seeing how it was released this year. Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB gave it average reviews, but the user reviews are what stood out to me. Phrases like “Don’t trust the critics” and “This blew me away” are always good indicators of an amazing film, so I gave it a shot. The poster and the storyline set you up for this comedic adventure; something where these four people decide not to kill themselves followed by whatever hilarity life decides to throw at them. But that’s what was so intriguing; that’s not what happens.

With an amazing cast of misfits for their roles, such as Pierce Brosnan as non-Bond as possible, Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman’s calmer cousin, Toni Collette in a mind-blowing performance, and Imogen Poots as a rambunctious twenty-something with a political father. Poots and Paul already had amazing chemistry in “Need For Speed” (albeit not the greatest movie ever) so I was happy to see it rekindled in this…a film about suicide. I have to say though, that Brosnan’s performance was so on point that I think that’s what made me happiest about the film. Even when “The Thomas Crown Affair” came out, he was still very suave and sexy, not really hanging up the James Bond coat. But THIS…THIS is where he shines. He’s nothing like the Pierce Brosnan you expect him to be and that is exactly why he was perfect for this role. As if during the casting discussion someone in the back, some intern, just popped up and said, “What about Pierce? He’d be pretty good.” Hopefully that intern’s running a studio somewhere now. Or at least getting coffee for someone super important.

The film is very surprising. As I mentioned earlier, I went into it thinking it was going to be some kind of comedy, that two guys and two girls try to commit suicide but somehow find love and all’s well by the end. Not so. These four wind up creating a bond that to me, goes beyond affectionate love. Maybe it’s just because my favorite stories are the ones where unlikely heroes bond together to slay the dragon, and in this case the press is the dragon. The journey they all embark on after that one New Years Eve is a great one, finding more about one another than I’m sure they ever knew about themselves. Now I understand that critics are definitely not idiots and will rate films the way they see them, so I’m not here to tell you they’re wrong. In fact if you’re reading this, it’s because you want MY opinion on the film. Are you going to watch it after you read this? Who knows. Is this going to impact how you feel about it after watching it? I sure hope so.

Screen-Shot-2014-01-27-at-11.18-bannerThey look like a happy bunch, don’t they?

Watch it. This isn’t necessarily an original story. Hell, it’s based on the book by the author of “About a Boy” so I’m sure you’ll pick up on some of the same “feels”. Watch it because it’s heartwarming and the performances are spectacular. Watch it to spite the critics. Watch it because I told you to.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: Watch it for Pierce Brosnan.

FLICKCHART RATING: 260/2214

“Chef” – Starting from scratch never tasted so good.

Have you ever read a book, gazed on a painting, or really listened to a song that made you rethink your priorities in life? I haven’t either, but “Chef” came really close. But not “close” in the way that made me feel like I’m on the wrong path in life, but “close” in the sense that I REALLY want to learn to cook like a boss.Chef

I’ve always liked Jon Favreau, from “The Replacements” (what I consider to be the best sports movie of all time) to what he kicked off with the “Iron Man” films. He’s got a good head for comedy and his direction is pretty spot on. So when I heard about “Chef” a little while back (guilty for looking up what Robert Downey Jr. had in the chamber), I knew I’d have to check it out when it became available. Last night I sat down with my roommates and we set out on what has surely been the most mouth-watering hour and a half I’ve ever been a part of. Here’s the synopsis:

Really talented chef at a prestigious restaurant loses his job but decides money isn’t what’s important, it’s cooking for people. After much urging and pushing from his ex-wife, he decides to start a food truck business, where he can cook whatever he wants.

I feel that’s a little better than what IMDB has to offer, so forgive me for embellishing. Point is, we get to sit through this man’s (Jon Favreau himself) delicious journey through self-discovery, family, and what the most important things in life are.

The film is packed with some great talent, and they all share the spotlight equally well. Rounding out the cast we have Scarlett Johansson, John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Robert Downey Jr., Sofia Vergara, and Bobby Cannavale. Take a step back for a moment and realize that this is an epic list. Lequizamo shines as Favreau’s good friend and chef-in-arms and really helps keep the mood up even in the few minutes where the film gets sad. The rest of the cast fits in perfectly and I couldn’t be happier with their performances, however the real heavy hitter here is Favreau. The last few films I’ve seen him in, he was portraying Tony Stark’s driver with a witty line here or there, so it was great to see him step off the sidelines and onto the field. He truly made this film a masterpiece.

_DSC3847.NEF

Shout out to Roy Choi who taught Favreau how to make many of the dishes in the film.

Now onto what I was talking about in the beginning: his cooking. As I understand it, Favreau actually learned how to cook the dishes he’s seen making in the film, and just writing about them now is making me hate the chicken salad I packed for dinner. One of the simplest meals he makes in the film is a grilled cheese, and I’m pretty sure his version tasted better than most filet mignon’s I’ve had. After the credits started to roll I turned to my roommates (one of whom was already looking up how much food trucks cost) and suggested that we each pick out a simple recipe, and over the next few weeks experiment with it until we are able to create a masterpiece. They both seemed to agree and I’ve already started looking up ways to beef up the grilled cheese.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: I feel that films like this are a rarity now, where you not only enjoy what it’s about but are left wanting more out of your own life after viewing. Hats off to you, Mr. Favreau.

FLICKCHART RATING: 294/2200

“The Bunker” – The evil is within.

Wow, it’s been a spell. Anywho I’ve jumped back in with what appeared to be a low-budget horror flick from 2001 called “The Bunker”. This is the third film I’ve seen that has to deal with German soldiers and sealed up bunkers during WWII, and at this point I’m starting to think they lost the war due to paranormal activities. Sadly none of these films really hit “outstanding” on any scale so I’m not sure why they keep getting made, but for what it’s worth “The Bunker” was decent enough and something I may in fact watch sometime in the future. How’s that for a ringing endorsement?The Bunker

As far as haunted bunker stories go, there isn’t much variation. Generally some Nazi’s stumble upon some sort of building that they need to hide in and there’s always the one older guy who’s seen some sh&* in his time who warns everyone about “the tunnel” or “the basement”, but either through necessity or stupid curiosity everyone winds up below and starts dying. “The Bunker” is no different than this, except that the story is just a tad more interesting than some creature killing everyone off. Without giving away the ending (albeit a cop-out of an ending), the movie has flashbacks every now and then, just a few seconds long, finally leading up to the big reveal of what’s actually haunting these dudes. It’s pretty easy to guess before the ending actually occurs but meh. Unlike its siblings, “The Bunker” focuses more on the paranoia the soldiers experience while being trapped and how it starts to affect each of them in turn. It’s similar to one of my favorite horror movies of all time, “Session 9″…except not as well executed.

thebunkerI wouldn’t have chosen to nap there, but that’s just me.

I’ll be honest, for a low-budget thriller like this one it was actually done decently well. The first internship I ever had was for a straight-to-DVD movie called “Halloween Night” which was downright terrible. This film didn’t rely on gore or overused explosions to freak out the audience, but rather the acting and well timed shadows. I honestly thought it was a film made in the late 80’s/early 90’s when it first started because the music and title screen was very reminiscent of John Carpenter’s early work (look at me being all connoisseur-esque). The cast is also pretty impressive, filled with actors from the UK that you’ve seen before, such as Jack Davenport, Jason Flemyng, and Eddie Marsan. Much like the Tom Cruise film “Valkyrie” they didn’t hide their accents at all, even while portraying German soldiers but if that honestly bothers you then you have bigger things to worry about. With a good cast of veteran supporting actors, they all did a good job making it seem like they are actually terrified of what the tunnels in the bunker have in store for them. Probably the best part is that very few of them are actually scared of “things” down below, but rather the American army they believe themselves to be surrounded by. Interesting to watch a WWII movie where the Americans are in a sense the bad guys.

So there you have it, easy enough storyline to follow, pretty decent acting, and no scares big enough to make you jump but rather make you glad you aren’t in their position. Out of the other bunker films I mentioned earlier, this is definitely not the best nor the worst of them.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: Not too long and creepy enough to give you slight chills, but that also might be due to the air conditioner being on too high.

FLICKCHART RATING: 957/2188

“Grabbers” – Last call at the bar

This will be my shortest post ever due to the synopsis of this movie. Grabbers

It’s a film about a small Irish town that gets invaded by human-eating aliens. The catch? The aliens are deathly allergic to alcohol. This means that in order to survive, this small IRISH town needs to get drunk.

Yep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIRECTOR’S CUT: See above.

FLICKCHART RATING: 1278/2143

“Snowpiercer” – We Move Forward.

Good news, this movie will be in theaters somewhere on June 11…though I’m not sure where. I can’t remember how I came across it, probably some IMDB list of “Movies of 2014 you need to see!!!!!!” or something, and being a fan of Chris Evans I gave it a go. Not a bad flick actually, and probably the closest thing to a real life anime film you’ll ever see. So there’s that.snow-piercer-poster

“Snowpiercer” tackles the apocalyptic thought of how we’d survive by placing the remainder of earth’s humans on a self-sustaining train that rides a track built over the entire world. Yeah. As I’m sure Americans would be the first to do, the train is split up by the wealthy and the poor, with the poor being placed in crummy conditions in the “tail” section, while the wealthy get to live it up in the front. Curtis (Chris Evans) is a tail member who just doesn’t want to take it anymore. Everyday they are ruled over by a military force put together by the front and forced to eat “protein” bars; basically black Jell-O that I wouldn’t touch if I were dying. So Curtis and Edgar (Jamie Bell) plan and execute a takeover attempt (not really a spoiler, kind of what the entire movie is about) and it’s essentially a rollercoaster ride of results. Or in this case a train ride. Because it’s a movie about a train.

Now I mentioned that it was the equivalent to a real life anime, and I’m pretty sure that’s spot on. There are fight scenes with axes, torches, guns, dodging, Tilda Swinton, and just all out anarchy. There’s this great scene where everyone is throwin’ ‘bows in a train car when a conductorish guy comes out and blows a whistle, gets everyone’s attention, counts down from three and then wishes all a happy new year. You don’t see stuff like that in your everyday movie, so it added a nice level of humor to what was going on. As for the cast, a lot of recognizable faces in very odd roles that ultimately pull the whole thing together. Obviously Chris Evans is Captain America without the shield or shower, and his language is a bit more colorful but he runs the show. Jamie Bell as his number two, and John Hurt as his number one, the man who looks as if he’s run some rebellions in his time. Personally I’m surprised this guy is still acting (and doing a great job at it), as he looked about 50 in “Alien”. Alison Pill makes an outstanding “Teacher”, completely in love with the “benevolent “creator of the train and brainwashing her kids with stories of the years spent riding around the world. Last but not least is Tilda Swinton, who I had to double check to make sure it was actually her. Basically the voice of the train’s upper class she serves to keep the tail section in line both before and during their revolution. She’s got an excellent set of upper teeth and coke bottle glasses that give her character the most ridiculous sounding voice and look ever, and I loved it. She’s so creepily stern, especially when during the rebellion she stands in front of the attackers and says, “Precisely 74% of you will die.” Eerie. Plus it’s Tilda Swinton, so she’s got that going for her.

snowpiercer-trailer-2Welcome to the weirdest fight scene you’ve ever watched.

All in all this is a pretty decent movie. If anything it’s a new take on how to handle the apocalypse via the DC metro system. Director Joon-ho Bong really tackled a series of graphic novels with this film, and in my opinion did a much better job with this than his previous, “The Host” (not the Twilight piece of crap). So don’t see that. See “Snowpiercer”.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: See this. Don’t see “The Host”. And if the apocalypse is soon, I’d opt for the non-train version.

FLICKCHART RATING: 1611/2142 (Let’s just take a moment and point out that I’ve seen 2,142 movies)