Saturday, December 20, 2014


Here is the Spanish poster, because the photo is better.
Don't worry the move is in English.
Plot: Andrew (Miles Teller) is a freshman at an elite music school, and big time Professor Fletcher (JK Simmons) invites him to join the seniors in the Studio Band. Fletcher is exceptionally tough on the band members, swearing at them, provoking them, and insulting them. Andrew gets fed up, which leads to escalating confrontation with Fletcher.  [imdb]    [photos]

Review: Some coaches and teachers push for excellence, and sometimes they push too hard. Whiplash is about that balance -- Fletcher's students achieve excellence, but he treats them inhumanly along the route. 

Every scene with JK Simmons is a highlight. Every word Simmons' Fletcher says is calculated to build up his band members and then tear them down, so they work ever harder. The dialog is punchy and interesting.

The best scene is a three-way challenge to play the drums in a competition; it was intense watching each boy play for just a few seconds with Fletcher stopping them suddenly and flinging insults. 

When Simmons was off-screen the story dragged, because the plot is simple and one-note. Some of the maltreatment of students is unpleasant enough to be hard to watch. The love story subplot with Nicole (Melissa Benoist) never went anywhere. Teller has a few good moments, but he was primarily a blank-faced enigma. Teller was supposedly motivated by competition with his brothers for his father's approval, but the dinner scene that set that up seemed inauthentic.

Simmons is nominated for a supporting actor Golden Globe & SAG Award, but he should have been a lead actor. 

Cast: Miles Teller, JK Simmons

Directed by: Damien Chazelle

Rating: 2.5 stars: Recommended. A little uneven. The good parts are very good, but the plot is simple and Teller doesn't deliver.

More: 60 year old Simmons must be on steroids because his muscly physique makes him look like a tough guy.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Plot: Katniss's (Jennifer Lawerence) escape in the last movie has created protests around her country of Panam. Katniss has taken refuge in the barren district 13, where its President Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) have her making commercials. Later enemy President Snow puts Katniss's crush Peeta on TV to taunt her. Katniss wants him rescued, and this leads to the final act of this 1st installment. [imdb]    [photos]

Review: Too much politics and an improbable plot sink the third installment of Hunger Games, which is based on the weakest of the three novels. Here Katniss, who is supposed to be inspiring the revolution, is also willing to settle for a peaceful life with Prim at home. The whole notion that a mascot like Katniss is critical to success of a revolution is hard to believe. Worse the relationships between Katness, Gale, Prim and Finnick don't seem that strong or believable. The Katniss/Peeta/Gale love triangle has its lost energy too.

The best part is the war of videos that Presidents Snow and Coin wage. In this world, the videos are the new bombs and bayonets, which is interesting social commentary. In many ways Putin's assault on Ukraine is being battled on TV.  The middle of the movie where Katnis is making inspiring videos was the best part, and the videos in the film even felt inspirational and emotional. 

The politics are far less interesting that the commercial and social themes of the first movie. 

Cast: Jennifer Lawerence, Liam Helmsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Banks

Directed by: Frances Lawrence

Rating: 1.5 stars: This is based on half of the weakest book. The politics is just not that interesting. 

More: The fun lifestyle satire of the first movies is gone, with just militarism in its place. 

Even More: Elizabeth Bank's Effy is still funny.