WHIPLASH Review

by     Posted 15 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.

Miles Teller Talks WHIPLASH, BLEED FOR THIS, THE FANTASTIC FOUR, Wanting to Play Elvis, and More

by     Posted 15 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 when it comes to a theater near you.  For more on the film, read Matt’s review or watch the trailer.

Last week at the Los Angeles press day I landed an extended video interview with Miles Teller.  He talked about what the past year has been like, the experience of premiering at Sundance, how he views the promotional circuit, the tight 19-day schedule to shoot Whiplash, his interaction with Simmons on set, his relationship with Chazelle, preparing for Bleed for This and how he approaches preparation in general, how it felt to play a superhero in The Fantastic Four and getting along with the other actors in New Orleans, wanting to play Elvis, what he’s looking to do in the future, and a lot more.  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 18 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 Review | TIFF 2014

by     Posted 51 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. 

New WHIPLASH Trailer Showcases the Jazz-Infused Horror Starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons

by     Posted 61 days ago

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A new Whiplash trailer has gone online, and it gave me flashbacks of how much the film unnerved me when I saw it at Sundance.  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.  Although some may want to file this under “drama”, make no mistake: this is one of the scariest horror films of the year.  The word “horror” usually implies something supernatural and thriller conveys some form of excitement.  Whiplash is nerve-wracking dread, but it’s still a must-see, especially for Teller and Simmons’ performances.

Hit the jump to check out the international Whiplash trailer.  The film opens October 10th.

TWO NIGHT STAND Trailer & Poster Starring Analeigh Tipton and Miles Teller

by     Posted 78 days ago

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I remember hearing about Two Night Stand gearing up to shoot a few years ago and then it completely fell off the radar.  Today, it is once again a blip on the screen thanks to this new trailer.  The film is directed by Max Nichols (son of Graduate director Mike Nichols) from a Blacklist script by Mark Hammer and stars Miles Teller (fresh off shooting The Fantastic Four, which I believe went into production after this film) and Analeigh Tipton.

I’m a fan of Tipton’s and Teller seems like he’s got a few chops.  But while Two Night Stand actually looks pretty good for what it is, what it is… is not for me.  It’s certainly not offensive, in fact I find the idea of two young people engaging in a frank dialogue about how to be more considerate lovers to be a refreshing concept in today’s mainstream landscape.  Maybe it’s just that I’m a few years older than these characters and don’t need to delve back into that mindset.  Still, it’s nice that movies about, you know, people aren’t just limited to serious art house fare. Hit the jump for the Two Night Stand trailer.  The film hits theaters on September 26th.

Kate Mara Shares Celebratory FANTASTIC FOUR Image to Mark End of Filming

by     Posted 84 days ago

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One of the bigger “huh?” moments from this year’s Comic-Con was the complete lack of anything from 20th Century Fox’s The Fantastic Four.  Granted, director Josh Trank‘s superhero adaptation was in the midst of production and barreling towards a fast-approaching June 19, 2015 release date, but fans were hoping to see at least a title treatment or image from the pic.  Alas, no such preview emerged, but Invisible Girl herself Kate Mara has now shared a kind of Fantastic Four image by way of a celebratory selfie with her fellow FF members.  “That’s a wrap on Fantastic Four” the tweet reads, though it’s unclear if that means the entire production has wrapped, the principal castmembers have wrapped, or only Mara has wrapped.  Regardless, since we’ve seen nothing official from the film thus far, it’s kind of neat to see Mara, Miles Teller (Mr. Fantastic), Michael B. Jordan (Human Torch), and Jamie Bell (Thing) all together on the streets of New Orleans.

Hit the jump to check out the image for yourself.  Hopefully a genuine piece of Fantastic Four material will show up in the coming months.  The film also stars Toby Kebbell, Tim Blake Nelson, and Reg E. Cathey.

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

by     Posted 93 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 142 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.

DIVERGENT Sequel INSURGENT Begins Filming in Atlanta

by     Posted 151 days ago

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Lionsgate has announced that the Divergent sequel Insurgent has begun production in Atlanta, barreling towards the film’s March 20, 2015 release date.  That’s a rather quick turnaround for the futuristic thriller since Divergent only just opened in theaters this past March, and especially given that director Robert Schwentke (Red) has only been on the project for a couple of months.  Schwentke takes over directorial duties from Neil Burger, who was too busy completing post-production on Divergent to be able to prep and shoot Insurgent in the allotted time.

Hit the jump for more on Insurgent, including the full press release and official synopsis.  The film stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Ray Stevenson, Zoe Kravitz, Jai Courtney, Mekhi Phifer, and Maggie Q.

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

by     Posted 158 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.

TOP 5: GODZILLA Set Visit, DIVERGENT, Final Trailer for THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, MUPPETS MOST WANTED Interviews, CHEAP THRILLS

by     Posted 217 days ago

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Now available on VOD and in select theaters is Drafthouse Films’ dark thriller/comedy Cheap Thrills starring Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, David Koechner, and Sara Paxton. I watched the film last night and, while not for the faint of heart or stomach, I can’t recommend it enough. At its core, Thrills works from a single question: how far would you go to be able to provide for yourself and/or your family? It uses precision pacing, confident direction from E.L. Katz, and solid performances across the board to explore this question, all while gradually rising to a crescendo that feels both inevitable and wildly inventive. Offhand I can’t think of a film that blends the thrilling and the disgusting, excitement and repulsion, in a more entertaining way than Cheap Thrills. Regardless of whether you want to or not (and I don’t think you will), this is a movie you won’t soon forget.

In addition to talking a bit more about Cheap Thrills with Matt’s review and a couple of interviews, this week’s Top 5 also highlights our set visit coverage for Godzilla, Matt’s review of Divergent plus interviews with Shailene Woodley and more, the final trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Muppets Most Wanted interviews with Tina Fey among others. Read on for a brief recap and link to everything I mention above.

DIVERGENT Review

by     Posted 219 days ago

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The story of Divergent celebrates bravery, compassion, and above all, accepting an emotional complexity that goes beyond a single characteristic.  Unfortunately, Neil Burger‘s adaptation of Veronica Roth‘s best-selling novel is constantly softening that emotional complexity or dodging it altogether.  The director is more focused on recreating the world of the novel, but rarely does he concern himself with fleshing it out and making the character relationships more than superficial.  The result is a staggeringly safe picture in what’s supposed to be a dangerous setting.

Miles Teller and Jai Courtney Talk DIVERGENT, Neil Burger, Shenanigans Off Set with the Rest of the Cast, TERMINATOR: GENESIS, and More

by     Posted 221 days ago

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With Divergent opening this weekend, I recently landed an exclusive video interview with Miles Teller and Jai Courtney.  During the interview they talked about working with director Neil Burger, why the police called so many times to the apartment building where the cast was staying, what can they tease about Reed Richards and Kyle Reese in Fantastic Four and Terminator: Genesis, and more

For those unfamiliar, the film is based on the Veronica Roth novel of the same name and takes place in a society where people are divided into factions based on their personalities.  Tris (Shailene Woodley) is a young girl who doesn’t fit into any of the pre-assigned groups and faces grave consequences due to her status as a “Divergent.”  Hit the jump to watch the interview.  Divergent also stars Theo James, Ashley JuddRay StevensonZoe Kravitz, Tony GoldwynAnsel Elgort,Maggie QBen Lloyd-HughesChristian Madsen, and Kate Winslet.

Over 25 New Images from DIVERGENT Featuring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Miles Teller, Zoe Kravitz, and More

by     Posted 225 days ago

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Summit Entertainment has released a number of new images from director Neil Burger’s (Limitless) upcoming Veronica Roth adaptation Divergent.  The film is on track for a big opening weekend, and from what little footage we’ve seen, I’ve really liked Burger’s visual take on the dystopian world.  Moreover, the prospect of seeing The Spectacular Now stars Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller together again onscreen (albeit under very different circumstances) is highly enticing.  For those unaware, the futuristic thriller takes place in a society where people are divided into factions based on their personalities.  Woodley plays a young girl who doesn’t fit into any of the pre-assigned groups, and faces grave consequences if it’s revealed that she’s “Divergent”.

Hit the jump to check out the new images, which fans of the book will be happy to know include looks at nearly the entire cast and even Roth’s cameo.  The film also stars Theo James, Jai Courtney, Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn, Zoe Kravitz, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q, Mekhi Phifer, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Christian Madsen, Ray Stevenson, Amy Newbold, and Ben LambDivergent opens in traditional theaters and IMAX on March 21st.

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