WHIPLASH Review

by     Posted 8 days ago

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[This is a re-post of my review from the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.  Whiplash opens today in limited release.]

We know “greatness” demands sacrifice. It’s blood, sweat, and tears, and if you’re not willing to dish out all three constantly and consistently, then hey, you’re not worthy of your dream. Physical greatness–the greatness of athletes, for example–is easily quantifiable. But when that physicality is blended with musical expression, it becomes something more vague, complex, and fascinating. Writer-director Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash provides an intense and disturbing exploration of the primal drive to dominate and achieve greatness but at a horrific cost. Anchored by extraordinary performances from lead actors Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, Chazelle’s film never loses its brooding, unnerving energy even as it stumbles trying to find a fitting crescendo.

Director Damien Chazelle Talks WHIPLASH, His Drumming Experience, LA LA LAND, His Neil Armstrong Biopic, and More

by     Posted 11 days ago

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One of my favorite films this year is writer/director Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash.  The film stars Miles Teller as a jazz drummer who aspires to greatness under a ruthless instructor, played brilliantly by J.K. Simmons.  While the film focuses on musicians, it’s really about anyone trying to become great at something and the cost of achieving said goal.  Trust me, it’s a great movie and something you should seek out this weekend when it opens in limited release.  For more on the film, read Matt’s review or watch the trailer.

A few days ago I landed a great interview with Damien Chazelle.  He talked about what 2014 has been like after playing film festivals around the world, drawing from his own drumming experiences, the universality of the film, working with Blumhouse Productions, and more.  In addition, Chazelle talked about his two upcoming projects, La La Land, and a Neil Armstrong biopic.  Starring Teller and Emma Watson, he says he’s shooting La La Land in the spring and described it as an old fashioned musical in the vein of Singin in the Rain but set in contemporary L.A.  He wants it to be “a big, cinemascope love letter to Los Angeles.”  Regarding his Neil Armstrong movie, he says it’s a mission movie that’s primarily about the landing and it covers six years in time, starting with Armstrong joining NASA and ending with the landing.  Hit the jump to watch.

Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist, and Writer/Director Damien Chazelle Talk WHIPLASH, Shooting the Drum Solo, Creative Freedom, and More

by     Posted 11 days ago

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Writer/director Damien Chazelle turns the music movie genre on its head with Whiplash, an intense, exhilarating psychological drama that’s built around riveting, award-worthy performances by Miles Teller as an ambitious  young drummer and J.K. Simmons as his ruthless teacher.  For his impressive second feature, Chazelle pushes the boundaries in ways we’ve never seen, where precision musicianship is front and center, instruments resemble weapons, and the action unfolds on the unexpected battlefield of a school rehearsal room or on a concert stage.  Opening October 10th, the kinetic, inspiring and brutally funny drama also stars Paul Reiser and Melissa Benoist.

At the film’s recent press day, Chazelle, Teller, Simmons and Benoist talked about how the movie operated differently on screen than it did on the page, bringing to life the showy roles of Andrew and Terence, how streaks of tyranny have historically led to great musicianship, how Teller’s and Chazelle’s experience as musicians channeled its way into the film, the decision to shoot L.A. for N.Y., shooting the big drum solo, the questions Chazelle hopes the cathartic finale raises, how he allowed the actors the creative freedom to explore their roles, and why this was such a cool movie to be a part of.  Check out the interview after the jump:

WHIPLASH Director Damien Chazelle to Helm Neil Armstrong Biopic; THE FIFTH ESTATE Writer Josh Singer to Pen Script

by     Posted 25 days ago

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Arguably the biggest success story to come out of this year’s Sundance Film Festival was the breakthrough for director Damien Chazelle for his debut feature Whiplash.  The intense drama has received plenty of critical acclaim and earned both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize.  It remains to be seen if this movie will be able to power through to awards season (Sony Pictures Classics should at least push J.K. Simmons for Best Supporting Actor), but it’s definitely put Chazelle on the map.  Although his next feature will be the musical La La Land with Miles Teller and Emma Watson, he’s going to be taking a giant leap with his follow-up: First Man, a biopic about Neil Armstrong.

Hit the jump for more.

WHIPLASH Review | TIFF 2014

by     Posted 44 days ago

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[Note: This is a "second take" review of Whiplash by Phil Brown from the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.  To read Matt's initial review from Sundance 2014, click here.]

Reduced to the most basic possible logline plot description, Whiplash might sound like an impossibly cheesy inspirational teaching drama with jazz band setting. Thankfully anything resembling warm, fuzzy, and safe entertainment ends there in writer/director Damien Chazelle’s debut feature. What he’s created is a vicious game of psychological warfare between a talented pupil and nearly psychotic teacher that ducks and swerves against convention at every possible turn, transforming into a fascinatingly dark character study quite unlike anything that could be expected from this subgenre. Want to know why? Then go ahead and hit that jump. 

WHIPLASH Trailer: J.K. Simmons Induces Terror as the Jazz Instructor from Hell

by     Posted 86 days ago

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Fresh off a prestigious TIFF selection, Sony Pictures Classics has released the first Whiplash trailer for writer/director Damien Chazelle’s Sundance award-winning drama.  The film stars Miles Teller as a student jazz drummer who aspires to greatness under a ruthless instructor, played with palpable intensity by J.K. Simmons.  I caught the film at Sundance, and this trailer does a great job of conveying the pic’s tone.  It’s essentially a story about the cost of striving for artistic perfection, but it almost plays out as a small-scale horror film with Simmons wholly embodying the role of a relentless teacher.  Teller does excellent work here as well, and he’s already making plans to reteam with Chazelle on another feature.

Hit the jump to watch the Whiplash trailer, click here to read Matt’s review, and click here to watch Steve’s interview with Teller from Sundance.  Whiplash also stars Paul Reiser and opens in theaters on October 10th.

Emma Watson and Miles Teller May Go Musical for LA LA LAND; Lupita Nyong’o to Lead AMERICANAH; Ike Barinholtz Joins THE NEST

by     Posted 135 days ago

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A couple of interesting casting announcements have surfaced.  First up, director Damien Chazelle—whose dark music-centric drama Whiplash drew raves at Sundance earlier this year—is putting together his next project.  Whiplash, a film about the relationship between aspiring jazz drummer (Miles Teller) and his ruthless instructor (J.K. Simmons), marked Chazelle’s feature debut, and it appears that he wants to stay in the music realm for his follow-up.  The Wrap reports that Miles Teller is in early talks to reteam with Chazelle on the musical La La Land, with Emma Watson in talks to tackle the female lead.  The story follows a lonely, aspiring actress and a cocky, charismatic jazz pianist who fall in love in Los Angeles.  However, they are soon faced with the stiff challenge of navigating a relationship in the cutthroat climate of L.A.

Hit the jump for more on La La Land and news regarding a new Lupita Nyong’o project and a Neighbors standout landing the lead in the new Tina Fey/Amy Poehler film.

J.K. Simmons Throws a Chair at Miles Teller in First WHIPLASH Clip

by     Posted 151 days ago

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Ahead of the film’s screening at the Cannes Film Festival, Sony Pictures Classics has released the first Whiplash clip from writer/director Damien Chazelle’s acclaimed drama.  The pic stars Miles Teller as a student jazz drummer who aspires to greatness under a ruthless instructor, played to perfection by J.K. Simmons.  I caught the film at Sundance earlier this year—where it took home both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize for the U.S. Dramatic competition—and found it to be an entertaining and terrifying character study.  I’d go so far as to call it a horror film, as it puts an inventive spin on the “hard-ass instructor/striving-for-perfection student” genre.  This debut clip does an excellent job of conveying the tone of the pic as well as teasing the relationship dynamic between Teller and Simmons.

Hit the jump to watch the Whiplash clip, click here to read Matt’s review, and click here to watch Steve’s interview with Teller from Sundance.  Whiplash opens in theaters on October 10th.

Director Damien Chazelle, Paul Reiser and Austin Stowell Talk WHIPLASH at Sundance 2014

by     Posted 260 days ago

whiplash-miles-teller-j-k-simmons-slice

One of my favorite films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival was writer/director Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash.  The film stars Miles Teller as an aspiring jazz drummer who aspires to greatness under a ruthless instructor, played brilliantly by J.K. Simmons.  While the film focuses on musicians, it’s really about anyone trying to become great at something and the cost of achieving said goal.  Trust me, it’s a great movie, and one you’ll be able to see by the end of the year because Sony Pictures Classics picked up the film for domestic distribution.  Whiplash also won both the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize for the U.S. Dramatic competition at Sundance.  For more on the film, read Matt’s review.

While at Sundance, I landed a short video interview with director Damien Chazelle, Paul Reiser (who plays Teller’s dad) and Austin Stowell (another drum student).  They talked about the positive reaction to the film, whether the project changed during development, the making of the film, getting it ready for Sundance, and more.  Hit the jump to watch.

Sundance 2014: WHIPLASH Review

by     Posted 274 days ago

whiplash-slice

We know “greatness” demands sacrifice.  It’s blood, sweat, and tears, and if you’re not willing to dish out all three constantly and consistently, then hey, you’re not worthy of your dream.  Physical greatness, the greatness of athletes, for examples, is easily quantifiable.  But when that physicality is blended with musical expression, it becomes something more vague, complex, and fascinating.  Writer-director Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash provides an intense and disturbing exploration of the primal drive to dominate and achieve greatness but at a horrific cost.  Anchored by extraordinary performances from lead actors Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, Chazelle’s film never loses its brooding, unnerving energy even as it stumbles trying to find a fitting crescendo.

John Cusack Plays GRAND PIANO, Jude Law Stars in DOM HEMINGWAY and Liam James Added to THE WAY, WAY BACK

by     Posted 2 years, 154 days ago

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A couple of heavy hitters in casting news today.  Here are the headlines at a glance:

Hit the jump for more on each project.

THE LAST EXORCISM Sequel Moving Forward; Damien Chazelle Writing the Script

by     Posted 3 years, 57 days ago

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Following on the heels of the original’s financial success, a sequel to 2010′s The Last Exorcism is now in the works. Heat Vision reports that Damien Chazelle will pen the script for the follow-up which is scheduled to begin production this fall. Chazelle, a Harvard grad whose debut feature Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench premiered at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival, also penned the 2010 Black List script The Claim which was picked up last October. Most recently, the busy scribe sold his thriller screenplay Grand Piano to producer Adrian Guerra (Buried) who has Eugenio Mira attached to direct.

As for The Last Exorcism, details are sparse regarding Studio Canal’s sequel.  Director Daniel Stamm’s original was made on a budget of around $1.5 million and took in approximately $62.5 million at the worldwide box office. The pic took a found-footage approach and centered on a preacher who allows a film crew to document his final foray into exorcism land. Those interested can find our review of that film by clicking here.

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