Whiplash

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10/10

Man oh man did this movie exceed my expectations. “Whiplash” is the story about music major Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) an ambitious young jazz drummer, well intentioned in his pursuit to rise to the top of his elite east coast music conservatory. Plagued by the failed writing career of his father, Andrew hungers day and night to become one of the greats. Terence Fletcher (J.K Simmons), an instructor equally known for his unequaled teaching talents as for his terrifying methods, leads the top jazz ensemble in the country. Fletcher discovers Andrew and transfers the aspiring drummer into his band, forever changing the young man’s life. Andrew’s passion to achieve perfection quickly spirals into obsession, as his ruthless teacher continues to push him to the brink of both his ability-and his sanity. I don’t often give out perfect scores for movies, and there is so much to talk about when it comes to this film as one of the best of 2014. If Simmons doesn’t WIN the Oscar for best supporting actor, i will no longer watch the Oscars. Simply put, he is that damn good in this film. His mentoring lessons are very damaging on ones mental psyche, but he has managed some of the greatest musical talents in the country, so there has to be a method to his madness. Simmons pushes the movie to such heart pounding levels of intensity, even to the point of exceeding the very drums he is hearing in the same room. What makes this role so memorable isn’t just the dictatorship, but the understanding of the kinds of pressures that someone with his accolades carries as he has to start fresh with a new group year after year. Simmons has always been known for him comedic talents, but it’s about time that he gets a dramatic role worthy of him carrying a movie. Teller also proves that he is ahead of the class with the next breed of a-list actors. It’s hard to believe this was the same kid who starred in 21 and Over, but he sure has come a long way. You see Andrew coming unglued with each lesson that passes. Every time he takes one step forward with Fletcher, he takes two steps back. The score is easy to talk about because it’s much more than just another musical score; it’s the whole movie. The smooth jazz is so alluring, and so complimentary to the scenes that you find yourself getting aggitated like his students when Fletcher stops them to give feedback. If you are anything like me when watching this film, you will find your toes always tapping to some impressive numbers. The camera editing is among the very best that i have seen in 2014 with a lot of quick cut drum shots to support the volume increasing moments of the drum solos. The pacing was great considering the film has a plot that isn’t anything extraordinary. The movie is very down to earth and knows how to pace every positive and negative with Neyman’s life. One scene in particular i found great was a dinner table conversation with some of Andrew’s family members. The scene has two college men who play football for a division III school, and it’s clear that their family views football as more important than music. It’s a very sad but true realism of the way our society views art. I was also happy to see that a movie knows how to do a great 3rd act, as i felt it was one of the best endings to a movie this whole year. So many films have been close 10/10’s for me, but ruined by an ending that is either unrealistic, or doesn’t mix well with the rest of the movie. I can safely say that “Whiplash” is never dull for a minute. I worry that director and writer Damien Chazelle won’t get enough credit for this masterpiece. A movie like this can only be written and executed on camera by a man with a vast musical knowledge, and it’s clear Chazelle knows what he’s doing. This is the 3rd film he has directed about music, so it’s clear that he has a passion for it. It’s sad that films like this are only showing at two theaters in Northeast Ohio right now, and yet films like Ouija, The Best of Me, and other boring moaners get a wide release. I have often questioned America’s taste when it comes to film, and this movie is evidence of that very question. If you feel like driving a little further, i can promise you it’s worth it. Get out and support this movie. It is one of those rare cases where i am 100% positive you will enjoy it. “Whiplash” is a behind the scenes look at the obsession to be great, and the consequences that come with such obsessions

Boyhood

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10/10

Richard Linklater has created something that tops his already impressive resume of film with his newest movie, Boyhood. It’s a never before done way of shooting a movie over a 12 year span. It’s a story through the lives of two children who live with their single mother and deal with the stresses and situations of such an age. Boyhood is seriously unlike anything i have ever seen in my life. It’s impressive to think that these actors signed up for a 12 year shooting schedule that takes them on a transformation much deeper than just character. The children are of course the biggest transformation as watching them grow is literally like watching family video tapes from a young age. It reflects the characterization in a way that makes you question if we are really watching actors playing characters or a legit team that became a family in 12 years of shooting. There is a scene towards the end of the film where the mother (played by Patricia Arquette) cries after her son finally moves out on his own. You feel her tears because this is literally like watching a real life child of hers move out on her. It’s that kind of chemistry that you won’t find in any other film ever. Think about it, what movie ever took twelve years to make while it’s constantly shooting scenes? The pacing is absolutely genius. It is such a coming of age story about growing up and the awkwardness and bittersweet moments that we go through on our journey of adolescence. The awkward scenes are great because usually in a movie you will get an awkward scene for it to go somewhere later in the film, but in Boyhood it’s done just to reflect the lives we once lived in that era. It’s not to set up any kind of storyline, and i really appreciate that. It keeps me on the edge of my seat when the movie is less predictable. The cast is perfectly crafted with Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette being the only big time movie stars in the film. The children (Coltrane Ellar and Lorelai Linklater) don’t ever feel like actors, and maybe that is for the best. It’s really a gamble to know if these kids who become adults are going to be good actors when they get that age because they are cast as an 8 year old. So i appreciated even more that director Linklater took a chance on a film for twelve years because it epically paid off. One of the other unique aspects of the movie is that of the soundtrack. During the year it is in, the movie will play only hit songs from that year. It’s a musical scrapbook of songs from the last decade that will have you trying to pick the song from the tip of your tongue as you listen in the backseat with the children. I can also imagine that it probably cost a lot of money to not only license the songs, but license them from bands who are really among the biggest in the world. Linklater spared no expense on his baby of a film, and it’s clear to see why. It’s also pretty cool to see the gadgets like Nintendo 64 and older model cell phones being used for the respective year they were popular. I am curious to know if it really is product placement when the film they are showing these gadgets off is done many years after they have already been discontinued. I found myself laughing when the kids got to be teenagers and the boy talks about wanting to delete his Facebook page because of ongoing drama. It’s situations like this that makes Linklater a master of studying today’s youth. John Hughes used to get credit as knowing teenagers better than anyone, but i think Richard deserves equal the amount of respect for having to learn about real situations in three different decades for our young stars. The only slight problem i had with the movie was the transitioning scenes where the kids would age a year or two. It happens without warning, and some of the past is never fully explained with relationships or what happened to characters who played an important role five minutes ago. I know it’s not Linklater’s style, but i would’ve preferred to see some small text revealing to us how much time has passed before we see the character with a different look. I think this is done so that he can tell us that sometimes our own children grow before our very eyes. That’s the way i interpreted it anyway. That’s why i didn’t get too mad at the long critique i had for the film. For anyone who has seen Linklater’s earlier work, you know the man is a guru with dialogue dominated films. It doesn’t work better than it does in Boyhood because you already know that these kids will grow up and move on someday. That dialogue shows us the viewer in so many words the subtle nature of these characters. You know that Ethan Hawke is a good, but struggling father to relate to his kids because of the way he stutters to find out anything new in their lives. You know that one of Patricia Arquette’s boyfriends are an abusive alcoholic because of random trips to the liquor store between playing father of the year. It gives you subtle hints at these characters without beating you over the head with it. The running time is just shy of 3 hours long, but it never ever dragged for me. I was well invested in these characters because i felt i grew up with them as a viewer of their growth. I sat through the film in one sitting and it never ever felt like 3 hours to me. I would like to say so much more, but i feel i got into spoiler territory towards the end of this review, and i don’t want to ruin it for anyone. I abso-freaking lutely recommend this film to every single one of my readers. Linklater’s satire is monumental in technical direction, but breathtaking in character transition to the eye. Adjectives won’t ever do this film justice because Boyhood is a cinematic masterpiece 12 years in the making. Thank you Mr Linklater for inspiring me to believe in films in 2014.

Saving Mr Banks

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10/10

Ladies and gentlemen, i give you the best cast in a film this year. Saving Mr Banks is one of those films that come along every once in a while and leave you with all kinds of emotions while watching it. You will laugh, smile, cry and even be frightened for the character of E.L Travers, the author of Mary Poppins. The film shows Travers (Played amazingly by Emma Thompson) struggling to make a living since writing Mary Poppins over 20 years ago. She is approached by Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) with a deal to make Mary Poppins into a film. What follows is the struggle to find a decent agreement between the two sides for making a film that won’t damage the other party. There were so many great performances to talk about that i feel this review might be my longest ever. Tom Hanks is the only choice for Walt Disney. He brings out the magic and charisma in a constant workaholic who made a 20 year promise to his daughters to get this picture made. Emma Thompson deserves an Oscar nod for bringing out the true heart in an otherwise grouchy woman. She makes us understand why she is the way she is when pitching the book to Disney. Colin Ferrell stole the film for me. He gives his best performance to date as the father of a young Travers. He is majestic and energetic as a loving parent with a bad secret below surface. This is the second part of the story told in this film. It shows us flashbacks as the current film is going on of a young Travers and the actual real story of her family and the wonderful woman who came into their lives, Mary Poppins. I honestly tried my hardest to find something negative about this film, and i couldn’t. Everything is done so well that i would totally see this film more than once in theaters just to catch what i may have missed. The supporting cast also deserves praise for the talent that they bring to this picture. Paul Giamatti (ALWAYS amazing), Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman and BJ Novak bring just as much to the picture as the actors i already names. Scwartzman is brilliant as the song writer to some of Disney’s most magnificent numbers. Giamatti is the limo driver who forms the only friendship with Travers, as he sees something deeper below the surface. The set pieces were outstanding with the recreation of 1960’s Hollywood. The film really does it’s homework in trying to get the look and feel right, from vehicles to clothes to Disney Land itself. Saving Mr Banks is one film that definitely cannot be missed. I can’t imagine anyone would have anything negative to say about this film. It’s one of those where the whole family will love it, and it tells two amazing tales with one movie.

12 Years a Slave

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10/10

There are very few words that i can say to express how amazing and disturbing this film was. Steve Mcqueen is back with another masterpiece which is his best work to date. He has an amazing way of shooting the expressions in an actor’s face and it’s those reactions that really bring out the story of Solomon Northup, a New York businessman who is captured and tortured as a a slave in Georgia for 12 years. Many films and series have done this premise and the story on racial inequality before, but none better than this film. There were times when i had to look away because the scenes were done so tragically. When a movie can reach through the screen and grab at my heart strings, that is when it will more than likely receive a ten from me. People always ask me why i don’t give them out often and it’s because it will mean more when one finally does come out of my mouth. If Chiwetel Ejiofor doesn’t win an Oscar for his work in this film, the academy are a bunch of morons, plain and simple. I feel like Mcqueen is one of those directors who can push each actor to the peak of their performance, and that is evidenced in this film. Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson and the amazing Michael Fassbender give the best performances of their lives. I was even impressed with Paul Dano as i do not usually enjoy his work. 12 Years a Slave is one of those films that show us that our pasts should never be forgotten. Racial equality has come a long way in this world, but it also took a long time to get here. I don’t feel incorrect at all in saying that this film doesn’t have one thing wrong with it. It is the best film i have seen in a long time. I don’t want to give too much away because the images are something that has to be seen to be believed. All i will say is that i totally recommend this film to everyone. If you have to pay 1,8,10 or 12 dollars to see this film, hand it over without questions. There are still a lot of Oscar contender movies to come out over the next few months and i cannot wait to see them. It just sucks for those films that 12 Years a Slave came out the exact same year.