Whiplash (2014) Review

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Whiplash (2014)

Directed by Damien Chazelle

Starring:
Miles Teller
J. K. Simmons
Paul Reiser
Melissa Benoist

Running time: 106 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.

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My Opinion:

This is another one of those “Oscar Season” movies where the performances are a bit better than the movie itself. Well, the performance from J. K. Simmons is, at least. However, I did at least enjoy this movie which wasn’t so much the case with Foxcatcher or especially Birdman.

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J. K. Simmons is great as the music instructor who goes too far in pushing his students to be the best. He’s SUCH an amazing prick! He’s like R Lee Ermey’s Sergeant Hartman shouting horribly inappropriate insults at the soldiers in Full Metal Jacket. He’s so horrible yet so compelling you can’t help but watch & cringe as he reduces his talented students to tears. I think he’s certainly deserving of his best supporting actor Oscar nomination & think he’s the likely winner in that category. Then we have Miles Teller… What’s with this kid and why do I hate him for no specific reason? He just has such an unlikeable face. Is that rude? I don’t care – he won’t read this. 😉 Maybe I’m still annoyed that I watched that stupid Footloose remake he was in. Or maybe it’s because I couldn’t wait to see The Spectacular Now as I’d heard it was just like Say Anything so I watched it and it was NOTHING like Say Anything plus Miles Teller’s character was a prick. Lloyd Dobler wasn’t an alcoholic prick! So, anyway… I don’t like Miles Teller. Sorry Miles Teller! You’re really pretty good in this, though. Good job, dude!

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As for the movie, I did enjoy it. I’m not at all a fan of jazz (except for Vince Guaraldi “Snoopy” jazz, which kicks ass). I played the saxophone for years but I totally sucked. I also know nothing about drummers other than that they spontaneously combust. However, I’m still a big fan of music so this movie did appeal to me anyway. It’s a difficult one in that the two main characters are hard to like. Teller’s character is extremely ambitious, which you can respect, but it means he puts his drumming before everything (and everyone) else. Oh, and Paul Reiser is in this – that asshole Burke from Aliens! It’s a pretty intense movie at times & it’s interesting watching how far Simmons & Teller’s characters are willing to go for success. And, wow – do drummers’ hands really bleed that much?! Ew. I suppose they do…

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Summary:

I’d definitely recommend Whiplash to musicians or to anyone with an interest in music. It’s also a good character study & I’d recommend it to those who love to watch a great performance. Teller does a very good job in this but J. K. Simmons steals the show (in my opinion). Whiplash doesn’t have a chance of winning the Best Picture Oscar but it’s a strong film with great performances & I enjoyed it.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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Life After Beth (2014) Review

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Life After Beth (2014)

Directed by Jeff Baena

Starring:
Aubrey Plaza
Dane DeHaan
Molly Shannon
Cheryl Hines
Paul Reiser
Matthew Gray Gubler
John C Reilly
Anna Kendrick

Running time: 89 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A young man’s recently deceased girlfriend mysteriously returns from the dead, but he slowly realizes she is not the way he remembered her.

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My Opinion:

I can’t figure out how I feel about Aubrey Plaza. I’ve never seen Parks And Recreation. I first saw her in Safety Not Guaranteed, which I didn’t exactly love but I didn’t mind her. Then I saw her in a couple interviews and thought she was kind of weirdly funny. Then I watched that awful The To Do List and she just got on my nerves. This is my “horror month”, however, so I figured I’d check this movie out as I love a decent zombie movie (even though there are too many of them now).

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This movie had potential even though it’s too much of the same old “been there done that” when it comes to zombie comedy. The title is perfect and it makes you wonder if they came up with the title first then tried to write a movie around it. Some of this movie works but most of it doesn’t. Unfortunately, the weakest thing about the film is its two main characters (played by Aubrey Plaza & Dane DeHaan). I didn’t really like Plaza in this one – she played the role fine, I guess, but it possibly could have been a bit better with a different actress. That funny-looking Dane DeHaan was fine (sorry, Zoe – I think he’s a little funny-looking). 😉 I liked him most in Chronicle but it feels like he plays that same sort of role too much and his role in this one is somewhat similar in that he’s again a “troubled youth with issues”. Oh well – the role suits him. His main issue in this one is that he seems perfectly happy to have sex with a girl who has just returned from the dead and is very likely a zombie. Ew. The ROT…

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I understand the point this movie is trying to make about relationships and how we can sometimes stay in unhealthy ones because we find it hard to let go. It doesn’t work that well in the film, though, as I really didn’t care at all about the two main characters (especially poor Beth, who we don’t get to know at all in “life” – we only see her as a thoroughly unlikable zombie-girl made to represent the stereotypical “crazy bitch” girlfriend, which was almost a little sexist & insulting). It may have been better if we’d seen her as she was before her death. Maybe. I don’t know.

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What DOES work fairly well in this movie are all the lesser characters that provide the comic relief. Both sets of parents (John C Reilly & Molly Shannon as Plaza’s and Cheryl Hines & Paul Reiser as DeHaan’s) were pretty funny and I liked DeHaan’s asshole brother (Matthew Gray Gubler), who was a little bit like Bill Paxton in Weird Science. I wish these characters had had more screen time and that we’d had more of the overall story explained & happening all along (there’s a bit more to it than just “girlfriend comes back from the dead”) but, unfortunately, they chose to pretty much focus ONLY on the relationship between Plaza & DeHaan. This may have worked if their characters had been at all developed so that the audience cared one way or another what would happen to them. Without knowing what their relationship was like before the death, it just seemed a bit pointless.

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Summary:

Pretty pointless zombie-romance-comedy when there are plenty of better ones out there in this day & age of zombie movie obsessiveness. Just watch Zombieland or Shaun Of The Dead if you want a zombie comedy (or the movie I’ll be reviewing tomorrow) or Warm Bodies if you want this weird new genre of zombie romance. Those are good – Life After Beth is not. A waste of a good movie title.

My Rating: 5.5/10

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