Looking at: Whiplash

Undeniably the most intense film of the year. Of the decade. I have been looking forward to this film ever since I saw the trailer back in November and it did not disappoint.

Whiplash is about Andrew Neiman, a wannabe-jazz drummer who wants to be the greatest. He gets picked up by Terence Fletcher, the drill sergeant like jazz instructor, to join his band where the best of the best play. However we soon find out it’s not all fun and games at the top. Fletcher’s philosophy on pushing someone beyond what’s expected of them to become the best blurs the lines between pushing and bullying. He frequently humiliates those who fail to meet his standards and go off on a tirade on those who miss out by a hair. Only perfection exists in his band and nothing less and Neiman wants to be that perfect at any cost. The two are the perfect match for each other. They will challenge each other to be the best at any cost.

The story of this is very basic which goes to show you can a great film out of anything. The performance is what really makes this film, especially from JK Simmons, playing the force of nature that is Fletcher. He perfectly encapsulates the tortured nature of a cruel and bullying tutor. Perfection at any cost. At the basis of it, the search for perfection makes both characters quite unlikeable on their own. Neiman have other people in his lives, his father and a girl he dates briefly, but omits them very easily in his pursuit for greatness.

The fast paced nature of the music marriages well with the film’s pace. It hits the ground running from the very beginning and the editing very much so displays this perfectly. With cuts matching the fast drum beats and perfectly framed intense shots of instruments and close ups of the characters.

This is the most intense and well acted films from this year’s awards season. A must watch.

Top Ten Film: 2014

As our year draws to a close, time to see what films stood out this year. For arguments sake, I am going by the UK release schedule, so yes there will be films that technically came out in 2013 and had been featured at the Oscars, but my list my rules.

10. Inside Llewyn Davis

Starting off with a bang and in comes the latest addition to the Coen Brothers filmography. A film about a down-on-his-luck folk musician where we follow his daily trials and tribulations. A rewarding film which fantastic music.

9. Chef

Now here’s a feel good film. Jon Favreau taking the helm again with a stella cast telling the delicious story of a chef who decides to venture into the food business on his own. Very touching and lovely to watch. Just don’t go to it on an empty stomach.

8. Dallas Buyers Club

Created a lot of buzz at the Oscars with winning the Best Actor and Supporting Actor categories, a story about a regular average joe trying to not only beat AIDs, but the world.

7. The Grand Budapest Hotel

At last a comedy that is funny. Wes Anderson’s masterpiece about a lobby boy in a prestigious hotel and the hilarious adventures that take place.

6. Guardians of the Galaxy

Taking the award for comic book film of the year. Funny, adventurous and Groot. The type of sci-fi film we have been waiting a long time for. And the music, man the music.

5. Nightcrawler

The most original film we’ve had in years. Painted as a success story, this film shows the world what happens in the gritty life of a crime news journalist.

4. Begin Again

Aha, the spiritual successor to Once. For those who know me, need I say more? For those who don’t, great performances, great music, and a wonderful story.

3. Boyhood

Probably one of the biggest cinematic achievements in history. Richard Linklater started this project back in 2002 where he would film the story of a boy growing up, year by year. An ambitious project but what a pay off. Something to look out for at the Oscars.

2. Gone Girl

David Fincher can do no wrong. He took an amazing novel and made it into an even better film. Filled with as many twists and turns as a labyrinth, this will keep you guessing until the end. Calling it now, Rosamund Pike, Best Actress award.

1. Her

We all know this was gonna be here. The most innovative story of our time and one of the most relevant films of today’s time, Spike Jonze displays more heartfelt emotion and love in a film where a guy dates his phone than any other romance film ever. Truly a masterpiece and one that will stand the test of time.

Looking at: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

And so we come to the end. The end of the thirteen year journey that we all started on with the Fellowship of the Ring in 2001. A wondrous and emotional farewell.

I know the book’s been out for over seventy years but for those who haven’t read it, SPOILER WARNING.

The Battle of the Five Armies is the final installment to The Hobbit trilogy which depicts the final part of the 1937 novel. The mountain is won, with word reaching the four corners of Middle-Earth, armies of Elves, Men, Dwarves, Orcs and (eventually) Eagles set sight upon Erebor to bask in it’s riches. The film is exactly what it says on the tin, one massive battle. This in it’s self is both the film’s strength and weakness. Strength as it’s a grand spectacle of a battle filled with large set pieces and fantastic stand offs, weakness as it’s not much more than that. This goes on to the answer the question on everyone’s lips, should The Hobbit have been split in three parts? I would say no. I liked that it included parts that wasn’t in the book, especially when Gandalf was off doing wizard stuff as it nicely linked into the Lord of the Rings. The bits with Legolas was ok but the romance between Kili and Tauriel was weak at best of times and worse in this film. My main gripe with the trilogy aspect comes from this film. It comes in at 144 minutes, very lean for a Middle-Earth film, with the non-book moments feeling very misplaced. The films feels like it should’ve been at the end of the second film (as much as I do love the perfectly put together final sequence of Desolation of Smaug). The part where Sauron makes an appearance was very disappointing. It was very quickly dismissed and badly put together. I think more with Saruman was needed along with the opening sequence with Smaug. If you’re gonna make the third film, at least fill it up enough. In short, I think it should have been two parts like they originally planned. Make the beginning of An Unexpected Journey shorter so you could have some Gandalf side quest from Desolation. Then with the extra room have more of a conflict with Sauron along with the Battle.

Overall it was a very satisfying film. The highlights were Thorin’s duel with Azog and Bilbo’s farwell. Billy Boyd’s song The Last Goodbye is the perfect farewell featured over the closing credits. A very fitting end to not only The Hobbit trilogy, but to the Middle-Earth saga.

Something a little extra. To save time when people will ask me in the future here are the Middle-Earth films ranked. This was bloody difficult. These are just my opinions and are ranked among themselves. They are all wonderful films and will stand throughout time as one of the greatest achievements in cinema.

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
2. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
3. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
4. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
5. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
6. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Looking at: Interstellar

Gonna say this now, SPOILERS ahead. It’s a good film and you should watch it. Something I would say is that if you didn’t understand Inception, you will have a tough time with this film, but it shouldn’t put you off because it can be easy going if you let it. If you don’t want to know more than that, stop reading now.

Now, Interstellar is the latest film by Christopher Nolan, the mastermind behind the bendy films of Inception and Memento. The story is how a group of astronauts go off to find a new home for the human race. The film is a visual masterpiece and very accurate with regards to it’s science. At just under three hours running time, it’s a very easy moving epic which doesn’t feel long. It’s a roller coaster adventure that takes you from Earth to the far reaches of space.

I personally enjoyed it very much. I’m a big science-geek with regards to space travel and the fact that it was doing wormholes and black holes properly was very exciting. Just the scale of the film was epic, it felt very epic. The amount of stuff they went through in the film was astronomical. However, the film does fall down in some aspects. When it came to the emotional scenes, I felt they weren’t properly dealt with. Now I wasn’t following the development of the film as I wanted to go into it with a fresh mind but I learnt recently that the film was intended for Steven Spielberg to direct, which does show through these emotional scenes. Nolan is known for having very emotionally absent films; the complexity of the story and science behind the film is right up his alley but with the emotions and humanity side of the film is probably better suited for Spielberg. However with the two big tear-jerker moments, they did deliver.

However, what I really want to get down to is the third act. Now there are three big reveals in this film, two of which I saw coming and the third is somewhat predictable once you think about it. In the final act, McConaughey’s character, Cooper, goes into a black hole. Doing so he enters what is called the fifth dimension. I’m not gonna explain what that is as it is a very complex subject so I will leave this link for you to read up on. (Fifth Dimension) But in short I would say that if you take someone’s life, and track their point from birth to death, the fifth dimension is every possibility that could happen and you can interact with it (I think, this is rather deep stuff). So there’s Cooper with his daughter’s life around him. Earlier in the film, these “ghostly” occurrences leads Cooper to NASA where he then goes on to his mission. We find out that these occurrences are Cooper himself in the fifth dimension. Now I was watching this bit thinking “yeah that’s pretty good, pretty sad in parts…but something’s not right”. And they use the “love will conquer all” answer which was hinted earlier in the film. Now this is something that has to be handled very well. It’s very easy to get wrong and I’ve seen it fall in the past. This was the part that Spielberg would’ve excelled at, this had his name all over it. Sadly with Nolan, it wasn’t really executed perfectly. It was ok, but not what I would like.

All in all, I really enjoyed the film, I came out of it mind blown but I did sit there at points thinking “this scene is uncomfortable”, and unfortunately, it is the emotional scene and that third act. People have been asking me is it better than Inception and is it Nolan’s best film. It’s not Nolan’s best film, that title still belongs to Memento. Is it better than Inception? That’s very difficult to say as they are very different films. Inception is more enjoyable, but Interstellar is smarter. What I went in wanting to watch is a very thought-provoking film which is enjoyable, which is what I got. This is the same I got with Inception but the enjoyment outweighs the thought-provoking. If you want to enjoy a film that makes you think a bit, watch Inception. If you want to come out experiencing a very fun and thought-provoking space journey, watch Interstellar.

Enjoy the trailer.

Looking at: The Judge

Going from a bad film to a great one. I’ve been using one word all day to describe this film and that’s “perfect”. And man is it. The film tells the story of Hank Palmer, an arrogant, self-obsessed lawyer, portrayed fantastically by Robert Downey Jr. On the day of a trail, he gets a call saying that his mother had just passed away. Going back to his hometown, he is reunited with his two brothers and cold-hearted father, Judge Joseph Palmer. Later, Judge gets arrested for a hit and run charge. This leads Hank to represent Judge in the case.

The story is very detailed, filled with depth and twists. It left me feeling very moved and glad as I had very high hopes for this film. The performance was off the charts. Downey was on top form as always and Duvail is perfect as Judge. Also had a very nice appearance from the formidable Billy Bob Thornton. At the heart of this film, we have a lovely heart warming tale of a distant child reconnecting with his forgotten family. There’s been a few of these tales lately but this one tells it most honestly and is presented in a very compelling situation, a situation where both parties have to put their differences aside and work together to benefit each other.

As I said before, just perfect. Check it out.

Looking at: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Well that was terrible. The latest adaptation of our favourite four turtles is horrible. Now the script, action sequences and acting are all pretty bad, but the worse thing about this film is the character designs. Man it’s worse that the transformers design. The turtles are all really ugly with Splinter being the worse.

The film fails to capture the essence of the original characters. They’re all stereotypical archetypes of nerd, perv, angst and normal when the characters are suppose to be so much more than that. There is no depths to these characters or the situations they’re in. Shredder is not as he is in the comics and the television shows. He had a much more intimidating and important presence, here he’s basically an attack dog and that’s all his character amounts to. The plot is very thin, the history of the Foot Clan and the turtles is very rushed and delivered poorly.

These characters were treated with the same disrespect and disregard as Transformers was, which is no surprise as this was produced by Michael Bay. It’s a very sad sight to see our favourite childhood heroes be reduced to mindless drivel to feed the masses. Not impressed.

This doesn’t even deserve a trailer link.

Local Heroes (3)

Here it is. The final product. The finished piece. It has been a great journey. I would like to thank Dan and Ryan from Local Heroes for the opportunity to work on this project. It has been a lot of fun. I would also like to thank to students of Luton Sixth Form College for taking part in the video, to thank my friend and mentor Phil Dickson-Earle and his sons for taking part, and last but no where near least to the talented Joe John Wiggins for scoring the video.

Check out the guys’ webpages.

Local Heroes: http://www.lhdiversity.org.uk/
Joe John Wiggins: https://soundcloud.com/joejohnwiggins

Without further ado, I present Local Heroes.

Top Ten Film: David Fincher

With the release of Gone Girl, David Fincher has reached his tenth film. Let’s list them.

10. Panic Room

Fincher’s fifth film is also his worst film. On it’s own merits it’s an enjoyable popcorn thriller with a rather mediocre story but some great acting. But in the grand scheme of Fincher’s filmography, it feels very lacking.

 

 

9. Alien 3

Fincher picked the right series to create his debut feature film. With the other three cementing the careers of legend film makers, Fincher joined their ranks. However, the film itself is very lacking in it’s story, not the fault of Fincher as he did arrive late into production, but it took the series off track. When it comes to the production, it’s a very well put together film. It has Fincher’s unique style all over it.

 

 

8. The Game

Now this was an odd film. It’s about man who experiences a lethal series of events which is described as a game. Great acting and style but it just gets more and more confusing as the film progresses. And the ending is very off putting. On the plus side, Sean Penn is fantastic.

 

 

7. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Great acting, lovely style and well put together. Just not very engaging characters. Interesting characters, just feel very detached from them. It’s difficult to care about them.

 

 

6. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Now this was fun. A tale about a man who ages backwards is gonna take you on a twisty ride. It’s a very moving piece with lovely CGI.

 

 

5. Fight Club

The top five. The best of the best. Fight Club is probably one of the biggest cult classics of our time. Gritty with brilliant performances. Wasn’t a crowd-pleaser when it came out due to it’s very “different” approach, but it soon became a favourite among film fanatics. A must see for everyone.

 

 

4. Seven

The one that made Fincher’s name. Two detectives go on the hunt for a serial killer who’s crimes are related to the seven sins. Will keep you guessing till the very end. Well directed, and a knock out cast.

 

 

3. Gone Girl

Fincher’s newest addition to his great array of work. Adapted from Gillian Flynn’s best seller, Gone Girl tells the story of a man dealing with the fallout of his missing wife. And if you think that’s the whole story, you are very wrong. It’s goes so much deeper than that. A complex story that only Fincher could put on the big screen.

 

 

2. Zodiac

Based on the famous story of the Zodiac killer, this film re-tells the movements of Robert Graysmith who quickly became obsessed with the Zodiac killer and uncovered his identity through amateur detective work. The atmosphere of this film is chilling at the best of times, and the visuals has that very distinct Fincher look, where a shot can look beautiful and murky at the same time. Check this out.

 

 

1. The Social Network

This is the one. The best of the best. One of my favourite films of all time. Not only a great film, but a very important film for our time. An in depth character study on how success, money, power and social importance can change people and turn friends into enemies. A film about geeky students typing on keyboards and ripping each other off. Doesn’t sound very interesting, but in the hands of the great David Fincher, it’s the most invigorating and compelling film of our time.

Looking at: The Riot Club

Never have I despised a group of individuals so much in my life. Anyone who knows me would tell you that I completely hate the elitist culture and that you must work for what you want.

The Riot Club looks at a group of Oxford students who are part of the secret and exclusive club dedicated for the best and wealthiest students. Together they engage in debaucherous and selfish behaviour, causing havoc to the locals and fellow students. Before I go on I would like to say that I enjoyed the film, it’s the people in it that I don’t like. By that I mean the characters.

They are a group of arrogant and pathetic boys who believe that they are the king of the hills because of their family bank balances; that they can do as they please to who they please because they can pay them off. They believe that they own others. One of the actors referred to the group as a gang but with power and money, which makes them all the more fearful as it is because of the power and money they can get away with most of what they do.

The film looks into this minority of people and turns the tables on them. It puts them in situations where they’d expect to get what they want due to their wealth but actually they don’t. Which just goes to make them more arrogant and determined to push their vulgar values onto others. Part way through the film, during a drunken party, there was a pro-elitist address being given by one of the members accompanied by chants of “fuck the poor” which rallied the group into believing they are powerful beyond measure. All of which led to a wonderfully put together scene that brings them down to planet Earth. It was at this point I thought the message of the film was clear, but I was wrong. SPOILER After the scene where a crime was committed and one of them was charged, the character went to see an ex-member who is now a Tory MP. The MP went to offer his help in keeping the character’s future viable despite this recent mishap, stating that the “old boys” look after it’s own. Earlier in the film, it was said that the members go on to “sit behind important desks”, that they will all get into a position of power where they will control the quality of people’s lives. By the end of the final scene, I was left feeling concerned that such individuals with such disgusting values and morals are the ones who are quite frankly guaranteed a position in power all because of their privileged backgrounds; that us working citizens have to fight for our opportunities where as this lot get everything handed to them whilst believing they are above the law.

A well told film showcasing the reality of a minority of privileged folk. It’s just saddening that this portrayal is actually quite accurate and it’s the kind of world we live in.

Top Ten Film: Marvel

Right, now that we have been given the tenth Marvel film (from the Cinematic Universe, forget about Spiderman and X-Men) it’s time to rank them.

10. Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Now, I wasn’t a massive fan of either of the Thor films. I mean they are good films, but compared to the rest of the Marvel films, they are just very lacking with regards to story and drama. And the romance between Thor and Jane is really forced, worse so in this one. Plus Malekith is really boring enemy. However Loki is fun as always.

 

 

9. Iron Man 2 (2010)

I love Iron Man. I love the Iron Man films. But this is the weakest. Again, with a boring enemy, not a brilliant story and Stark at his least likeable.

 

 

8. Thor (2011)

Not really surprised. Just didn’t enjoy it as much as the rest. The story of this film just felt like it was made to support the Avengers. It didn’t really stand on it’s own two feet. However it had a fantastic opening scene on Asgard, that I loved.

 

 

7. The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Am really sad to put this one here but the remaining films are all amazing in their own respects and this doesn’t exceed them. This does surpass the previous Hulk film and Edward Norton was a brilliant Bruce Banner, but again, just a not very interesting villain.

 

 

6. Iron Man 3 (2013)

Right now on to the big stuff. Brilliant film with a touching “tortured hero” story but come on! That ending. Really? You would not destroy all of your suits man.

 

 

5. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Finally, a decent Captain America film. With the Red Skull as well! Completely nerded out with this film. Loved the setting, loved the story, and the best portrayal of the Cap we have seen.

 

 

4. Iron Man (2008)

This set the benchmark and what a high benchmark. It captured the character perfectly in a modern day setting. Loved it!

 

 

3. Avengers (2012)

Biggest nerd moment in cinema. No more needs to be said, just not as good as…

 

 

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Want a superhero themed espionage film, well here it is. Extremely compelling and very clever.

 

 

1. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

You must’ve seen this coming. I love space operas and this does not disappoint. Get film with a kick ass soundtrack. More to follow in my review.