Whiplash: an ambitious and cocksure jazz drummer comes head to head with an abusive conductor that will do anything to push his students beyond their limits. It’s an interesting film in that the focus is on two very unlikable and unsympathetic characters; and a couple of Jazz songs dominate the soundtrack – both of these elements have the potential to isolate viewers. A film set around jazz band performances and rehearsals could have used more visual flare and flashy camera tricks, but the way it’s all cut together helps squeeze every last bit of tension and drama out of the big moments. All the actors live in the shadow of J.K. Simmons’ band leader, who is portrayed as venomous, dangerous, and borderline sociopathic individual… although it’s frequently hinted that – despite his extreme methods – he is genuinely trying to push his musicians into greatness. An examination of ‘how far is too far’, Whiplash is a unique teacher/student drama that’s adequately made, but elevated by huge performances, a booming audio track, and the fist-pumping finale.
And here comes mister gay pride of the Upper West Side himself. Unfortunately, this is not a Bette Midler concert, we will not be serving Cosmopolitans and Baked Alaska, so just play faster than you give fucking hand jobs, will you please?
Inside Llewyin Davis: follows a struggling musician for one week in the 1960s New York folk music scene. This film drags. This film is boring. Nothing significant happens. The Main guy is a total ass-hat (stubborn, unlikeable). There’s around 35 minutes of full-song renditions – it’s like a huge folk-music shaped penis being rammed down your throat (and into your ears) around every 10 minutes. Some sections just didn’t know when to end – like the trip to Chicago; it feels like you are in the car with them, but for all the wrong reasons. There are a couple of jokes sympathetically flicked at you every 20 minutes or so to keep you interested, but they’re too few and far between. The only saving grace is that Oscar Isaac (literally comes out of nowhere) and puts every fiber of his lifeforce into the role, and you totally believe he’s there, slogging it out, blaming everyone else and living a groundhog week. From around 30 minutes in I felt like the cat in the movie’ trapped with a douchebag and looking to throw myself through a window at the first opportunity. My final line in the A Serious Man review was: “Very difficult to watch, unless you’re a diehard Coen fan or were Jewish in the 1960s.” – and I’m going to be a lazy toad and change that to “Very difficult to watch, unless you’re a diehard Coen fan or love 1960s folk music.” Talk about niche movies…
Collateral: an LA cab driver becomes involved in several murders when fate makes his next fare a contract killer. The casting in the film is great: Jason Statham makes a brief appearance (was disappointed he didn’t resurface), Javier Bardem as a sleazy crooked nightclub owner, and Mark Ruffalo is unrecognisable as a cop (“No way, that dude sounds just like Ruffalo”). There are moments of truly great acting from both leads: Jamie Foxx as a bumbling, almost special / OCD cabbie and Tom Cruise as a stone-cold, experienced, remorseless killer. The entire film’s shot at night, and set over one evening, which gives it a creepy atmosphere and haunting vibe; quiet streets, empty buildings, dark alleys… the lighting, photography, and locations (empty LA is as much a character as anyone else) are all out of this world – although because it’s shot at night, on digital, with such a high ISO it looks very grainy. It all feels quite grounded and immediate during the movie, keeping a steady pace and having a lot of suspenseful moments, but the end leans towards a generic (albeit tense) action movie finale. My only major issue was that loads of things were hinted at, but never explained, particularly with Cruise’s character – is there any point in creating decades of backstory if all you get is a slight glance at the end of a murder? Collateral is a film every bit as polished, planned, sleek and exciting as you’d expect from Michael Mann, and pulls of the thankless task of being a character-driven action film with great ease.
Cowboy Bepbop (The Movie): Watched this film for the umpteenth time to test a 5.1 surround sound and it definitely does the trick! Could easily be considered as a demo disc for a multi-speaker set up. The story’s ace, animation’s quite good and all of the jazz / blues music is immense. Not as good as the series but definitely worth a looky!