Movie Review: Whiplash (2014)

WHIPLASH+onesheetWhere do I start with this one?  Whiplash, stars Miles Teller (Project X, the future Reed Richards) as Andrew, a young music student at a prestigious (yet fictional) conservatory of music. His passion is being the best drummer in the world.  In order to do that, he has to get in the good graces of the school’s best jazz band, lead by a temperamental perfectionist named Fletcher, played by a very bald, and a very muscular J.K. Simmons (the guy from the State Farm commercials; aka Juno’s Dad).

This movie honestly did not turn out like I thought it was going to. Based on the trailer, I understood that the story was about a young student studying the drums at a fine conservatory, and I knew that J.K. Simmons was playing a band director. And yes, in a way, that’s exactly what I got, but I thought Andrew and Fletcher’s relationship was going , more like a mentor and protegé relationship.  I thought Fletcher would take Andrew under his wings, and teach him what it means to be a good drummer…

That couldn’t have been further from the truth… Fletcher is the Gordon Ramsey of band teachers.  He berates, hazes, demeans, and physically assaults these students to make them the best.

This film made me very uncomfortable at times.  Simmons tactics as a teacher and director was very frightening.  I’ve always considered myself passionate about my chosen career path, and I’ve been in situations where mentors turn out to be monsters, so for me personally I could easily put myself in this young man’s shoes. This strategy of scaring the student into being better than they are and practicing more is a wrong-minded approach.  These tactics did lead Andrew and others to do better, but clearly there was a cost.

However, none of that should devalue the film, there were many times my heart was beating out of my chest after the amazing drumming and jazz music that helped tell the story.  The filmmakers did a great job with casting, Miles Teller was great… whether he was beating the hell out of the drums, or trying to ask a girl out, he played the part well.

I’ve always been a fan of J.K. Simmons, he’s a character actor who gets around.  As I said above, he’s probably most well-known as Juno’s dad in the Jason Reitman film; Juno, he was also in the TV show; The Closer, and he also played J. Jonah Jameson in the Sam Raimi Spider-man movies. Out of all the things I’ve seen him in, he’s really impressed me the most with this film.  He was nearly unrecognizable with his shaved head, and impressive physique, but most of all he really did deliver an Oscar worthy performance.  He certainly has a good chance to win that Best Supporting Actor Oscar…

Out of all the best picture nominees this year, I wouldn’t say this one would be my favorite, but it gets bonus points for J.K. Simmons.

 

 

PLP – Pod Shots – Rollerball

imageIn this episode, I’m joined by returning guest, Christopher Neseman to discuss the 1975 film, Rollerball! We discuss the viciousness of the game, and how we’re not really too far off from a sport such as this. We get into how the film begins and why that’s important, the social commentary in the film, as well as the tremendous ending. We discus the importance of individuality and how important that theme is to the 70s. It really is a fascinating film and sadly it has a lot of the future foretold in it, has become a reality! Check it out!

Music:
Bach – Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

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http://www.movienoise.com/plainlabel/podcasts/PodShots063.mp3

The Keith Show starring Keith Episode 19 – Agents of Marvel

Keith is joined by Alan White and Derek Coward as they discuss the first half of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD season two, and the first two episodes of Marvel’s Agent Carter.

The Keith Show starring Keith Episode 18 – 2015 Preview

Keith is joined by Ryan and Dean as they gaze into their crystal balls at the year to come.  They discuss announcements for the year 2015 in tech, comics, TV, and movies.

PLP – Episode 77 – Movies We Missed Part 1

imageWelcome to the Plain Label Podcast! In this episode we begin our new theme of Movies We Missed in 2014! For this episode we are joined by Anelle Strauss and Catie Kruse to discuss the films: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Snowpiercer, The Giver, and This is where I leave you. Do us a favor and check it out!

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Music:
Marco Beltrami – This is the Beginning – Snowpiercer Soundtrack

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Eric Williams, Rachel Szelag, Anelle Strauss, Catie Kruse, Plain Label Podcast

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@EricWilliams79, @LadySzelag, @AnelleElizabeth, @Cat_echisms, @PlainLabelPod

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http://www.movienoise.com/plainlabel/podcasts/PlainLabelPodcast077.mp3

PLP – Pod Shots – Hard Boiled

imageIn this episode, I’m joined by returning guest, Mr. Shawn Pryor. Once again we are discussing a John Woo Hong Kong action film and this time we’re going with Hard Boiled. We get into why this film, the poetic action pieces, the emotions this film can convey through action films, the lead performances and their motivations and the bad ass that is Mad Dog. Shawn and I get into the film and really begin to gush over how beautifully shot the film is and how wonderful the action sequences are. We do have a few problems with the film and we discuss that along with the ending. It’s always a great time having Shawn on and if you haven’t already checked out his podcast, you should do yourself and favor and do that. Also if you haven’t checked out this film or The Killer we would highly recommend those films, they are certainly worth a watch.

Music:
Hard Boiled OST – Hard Boiled Overture

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@EricWilliams79, @shawnrpryor @PlainLabelPod

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http://www.hhwlod.com/2013-05-03-02-12-30/the-black-box
http://www.movienoise.com/plainlabel/podcasts/PodShots062.mp3

William Friedkin Episode 2

Friedkin2

On this episode of Filmographies, Cameron and Eric are joined by writer/artist Gabriel Hardman to discuss the golden age of Friedkin. We discuss “The French Connection,” “The Exorcist” and “Sorcerer.” Did we love all three? Did arguments in sue? Has anyone seen French Connection 2 or the Exorcists prequels? Give a listen and find out!

Links:

Gabe’s Twitter: here

Gabe’s Website: here

 

Movie Review: Tammy (2014)

tammy1Okay, raise your hand if you saw Melissa McCarthy’s last solo vehicle; Identity Thief?  If you didn’t raise your hand, don’t worry… you didn’t miss anything.  I think I reviewed that movie somewhere on here before, and if I remember correctly I gave it a pretty poor review.  It was a poor movie for such a talented comedic actress.

Well, I am happy to report that McCarthy’s latest starring film; Tammy, was a delight, and much funnier than the film before it.

I realize it’s not all that fair to judge an actors performance on the one before it, but to date Identity Thief and Tammy are her only two starring roles, where she is the center of the film… it is a Melissa McCarthy “vehicle”  (I suppose you could say that The Heat is also a Melissa McCarthy vehicle, but it’s equally a Sandra Bullock vehicle as well).

Not unlike the character she played in Identity Thief, the eponymous character of this film share certain intellectual shortcomings… meaning, they are both dumb, dimwitted, and just all around not smart.  But the big difference here is that Tammy ultimately has heart, and cares for the ones around her.

For those unfamiliar, Tammy; is about a down on her luck fast food employee who loses her job, and discovers her husband is cheating on her, all in the same day.  After finally having had enough, she and her alcoholic grandmother hit the road to find a new life. Tammy’s grandmother; played by the great Susan Sarandon, is the only person who believes in Tammy and will do whatever it takes to help her find a new life, and maybe protect her or lose her in the process.

There’s a long history of “road movies”; where the two main characters hit the road in search of something better, heck one of the greatest road movies of all time; Thelma and Louise, also stars Susan Sarandon.  As with any road movie, the protagonists go on a journey, and on the way they discover not only the world that they never knew existed, but they also discover themselves as well.  And along the way, they have many side journeys that either help to move the story along, or to add some comic relief.

This film is no different, except it brings on a lot more laughs than many road movie predecessors.  In fact, in this movie the laughs keep on coming… and it keeps the film fun and enjoyable, while also adding a lot of heart.

Overall the movie was; much to my surprise, good… in fact it was really good.  It was very well written (co-written by McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone, who also directed the movie) and even though the title character mainly serves as the butt of the jokes, it never once felt like the comedy was over the top or out-of-place.

Sadly because of Identity Thief, and because of the similarity between characters, I almost passed this movie by without giving it a chance.  I was very pleased that I had watched it, and I hope that Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone can come up with many more films that are just as funny and enjoyable as this one.

Also sadly, it seems I’m the only one who feels this way about this movie, as Tammy is on the list of the worst movies of 2014.  As usual, I am contrary to any popular opinions… but that’s why you love me right?

 

PLP – Episode 76 – Spoofs Part 4

imageWelcome to the Plain Label Podcast! In this episode we are concluding our two month long theme of Spoofs with a discussion of National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story! We begin with a discussion on Loaded Weapon and mention some of our favorite aspects of the film. We mention a few things that don’t quite work before getting into the ridiculous cast this film has behind it. Moving into our second film, we discuss Walk Hard, Eric’s apprehension with the film and the comedy styling of John C. Reilly. We compare and contrast this film with Loaded Weapon as well as Walk the Line. Again we mention some of our favorite moments of the film before a wrap up of our thoughts on this genre as a whole. It’s another fun and funny episode, do yourself a favor and check it out

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Music:
Dewey Cox

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http://www.movienoise.com/plainlabel/podcasts/PlainLabelPodcast076.mp3

The Keith Show starring Keith Episode 17 – Santa’s Radioactive Roofie Dust

Keith goes toe-to-toe with the “classic” holiday film SANTA CLAUS VERSUS THE DEVIL and only one will survive.