whiplash

FILM REVIEW: ‘INSURGENT’

‘Insurgent: The Divergent Series’
Insurgent_poster

Written by: Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman (screenplay)

Directed by:  Robert Schwentke

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller

Story: Tris bands together with a group of ‘Divergents’ against an increasingly powerful alliance which threatens to destroy her. 

Ahh, ‘Insurgent’.. Or should we call it ‘Mockingjay Again’?! It certainly feels like it is. In fact, if you don’t have the time to watch Mockingjay, you can always watch the first hour of Insurgent and it should pretty much fill you in on what you missed. The reality is, it’s easy to be harsh on Insurgent because it is a sequel to a film that surpassed so many expectations. Divergent introduced the world to Shailene Woodley and made her a bona fide star. It also confirmed Theo James’ status as a teen heartthrob, and continued Jai Courtney’s meteoric rise to stardom. What’s more, it was enjoyable for people of every age and seemed so different to the other young adult franchises garnering attention.

Having said all of this, Insurgent kinda disappoints. Having not read the book, it’s easy to cast judgment on a lack of originality or stimulating content but we have to acknowledge that this might be the fault of the novelist, not those behind the film. Was it so wrong to expect something a little different to what appears to be the bog standard: young (self sacrificing) girl in dystopian future becomes the ‘chosen one’ (the divergent/mockingjay) and is protected and given strength by a band of misfits in an underground lair.

It’s not all bad. This is a basic summary of the first half of the two hour show. The second half really finds it’s footing so it’s difficult to say whether this is a film that is a slow starter, or one that couldn’t distinguish it’s own identity in a crowded franchise driven Hollywood. downloadIn the second hour there is a noticeable shift: the ‘Divergent’ we loved is back. Our main character begins to struggle with a more tangible demon, and the story seems to be making some sort of progression. It doesn’t seem a coincidence that the most enjoyable parts of this film are those where Miles Teller features heavily: though he provides comic relief, we see a lot of hope for a larger and more significant role in the next films.

The positive shift in the film is short lived. A disappointing ‘plot twist’ and resolution remind us that what we are watching is a ‘filler film’ – only serving to add context to future instalments. More disappointment.

The action sequences are well shot, and the ‘sim’ sequences are fun: if you’re looking for an action film then this is what you watch for and you won’t be let down. We also have the same audience challenges: ‘Is this still a sim, or is this real life now?’ If you have seen ‘Divergent’ then you will remember this well.

Shailene Woodley does fine here. There isn’t anything particularly memorable about her performance, not like in the first film where she stands out as a sure thing for future success. It almost seems that she herself is underwhelmed by what she is given to work with. Theo James is similar: almost symbolically his character takes a back seat for the entire film and serves as an underdeveloped and ‘vanilla’ sidekick. Uncharacteristically, Kate Winslet is also a little vanilla here. Where she usually stands out, she begins to pale. She almost smirks her way through cliche’d dialogue and a plain jane stereotypical villain role.

The thrills here come from Teller and Courtenay. Where Teller is providing a laugh track to an otherwise dry script, Courtenay is giving us the villain that Winslet wishes she could be. Whenever Courtenay is in a film we see a little more of something in him that makes us crave diversity. We can only hope that he isn’t typecast into an action star and goes for something a little more ‘meaty’. We can’t help but think that if these two had a little more screen time, we would of been watching a different film.

All in all, Insurgent is OK. If you don’t mind the clichés, dry dialogue and unambitious performances then you will have a perfectly good time.

Rating: 5/10

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OSCARS 2015: THE RESULTS…

How about a post from 30,000 feet?

OSCARS 2015: SURPRISES AND RELIEFS!

SURPRISES:

 SURPRISE: Birdman as Best Picture.
OK, yes, we picked it. Birdman had gained incredibly momentum over the last few weeks and seemed the likely winner. Having said this and predicted it ourselves, it was still surprising that Boyhood would not take the Oscar home. Between the high emotional stakes of the film and the time dedicated to it (not just from he Director, but from all involved), we had perhaps hoped that this would be enough to win big. Unfortunately, it just didn’t happen. This leads us to…

SURPRISE: Alejandro Innaritu as Best Director.
Now, this isn’t really a surprise, and the award is not undeserving. His creative lead ensured that Birdman was one of the most original pieces from the last five years. Much like the ‘Best Picture’ award, though, it is disappointing that this wouldn’t go to Richard Linklater. It really seemed like his time after beautiful films like Before Sunset, and a 12 year investment isn’t easy. We were sorry to see him walk away without one of the ‘big two’. 

SURPRISE: Grand Budapest Hotel winning in both Costume Design and Makeup/Hairstyling.
The production design for this movie was brilliant: the entire film was an array of colour and sound (somewhat of an assault on the senses: very ‘Wes’) However, when faced with tough competition from the likes of Guardians Of The Galaxy (Zoe Saldana being painted green anyone?!) it came as quite a surprise that Grand Budapest would reign supreme. 

SURPRISE: ‘Best Picture’ winner falls short in acting categories.
This seems strange. Generally when we have a film win both ‘Best Picture’ and ‘Best Director’, there are additional victories within the acting categories, either for lead or supporting performances. Yes, Birdman backed up their win with many technical accolades, but to not see any performances recognized is interest
ing. Perhaps this simply proves that Birdman was not reliant on it’s actors, and thing could be a good thing?

RELIEFS:

THANK GOD: Eddie Redmayne as Best Actor.
Yes the competition was tight, with an absolutely stellar performance from Michael Keaton hot on his heels, but Redmayne was the standout winner this year. And what a cherry on top that Stephen Hawking reached out to Eddie to congratulate him on doing such a fantastic job. When you make your subject proud, you know you have done a good job!

THANK GOD: Birdman wins Best Cinematography.
This shouldn’t really need explaining. When is the last time we had ‘single take’ cinematography running through an entire film?! This not only made Birdman a joy to watch, but really got in behind the theatrical undertones of the film and drove them home.

THANK GOD: JK Simmons for Whiplash.
Definitely our tempo.

THANK GOD: Patricia Arquette wins for Boyhood.
As with our surprises above, we are super relieved that there was recognition for Boyhood, and Arquette was an incredibly worthy recipient. Arquette also made the second actress over 40 who took home an Oscar last night, truly silencing those who say there are no roles for older women in Hollywood.

What were your surprises and reliefs? Is there anyone you wish hadn’t won? Or had?! Let us know!

FILM REVIEW: WHIPLASH

‘Whiplash’download (4)

Written by: Damien Chazelle

Directed by: Damien Chazelle

Starring: Miles Teller, JK Simmons

Story: A young drummer struggles with the ’make or break’ coaching style of his mentor who will stop at nothing to help him realize his true potential.

Writer and Director Damien Chazelle struggled to get funding to make ‘Whiplash’. Despite his efforts, he just could not afford to get it made. Instead of being discouraged, he turned Whiplash into a short film and submitted it to the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Short Film Jury Prize. On the coattails of this success, Chazelle generated enough money to turn Whiplash into a feature length masterpiece. Whiplash is now one of the lowest grossing films in history to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. JK Simmons is hot tipped to take home ‘Best Supporting Actor’. The film is speeding towards a 9 star rating on IMDB.com and boasts a 96% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

All of this begs the question: Is Whiplash worth the hype? And can it be enjoyed by anyone, or is the audience very select?

The truth of the matter is that Whiplash is potentially one of the most intense, emotional, well made, and universally enjoyable films of the last ten years. Even if we keep saying this and driving it home, you will probably still be surprised by how it touches you and exceeds your expectations. 

Whiplash is a film with two main characters: everyone else is really contextual padding. Teller comes into his own and plays an incredibly childish character with maturity we have not seen from him before. His character is stunted and one track minded Whiplashand compliments Simmons character perfectly. Simmons is the driving force of the film: turning a boy into a man, and challenging him, incentivizing him, and degrading him towards success for the 1hr 45 minute running time. We have not seen JK Simmons like this EVER: he takes on this leading role and owns it completely to the point where you wonder if anyone else could of ever even been considered. He is deranged, but with a purpose stronger than many other lead characters this year. The driving force of both characters are clear, but not too clear, and their evolving relationship makes one thing very clear: true artistry, drive and passion are all worthy of respect.

One thing that really stands out in Whiplash is the editing which is *almost* drool worthy. We do have a few moments where the soundtrack is off key with what we see on the screen, but as we can imagine the drumming is done with such ferocity it would be near impossible to match up. Cuts and slides only add to the intensity of the viewing experience: we dare you to sit still! 

It is almost criminal that more people have not seen Whiplash: it made a paltry $135k on opening weekend. However, there is no mistaking that this is truly the start of something for Damien Chazelle and a lesson to all of us: do not get discouraged.

Rating: 9.5/10

OSCAR PREDICTIONS: BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR & BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Best Supporting Actor:

ethan_hawke_horizNominees:

Robert Duvall (The Judge)

JK Simmons (Whiplash)

Ethan Hawke (Boyhood)

Edward Norton (Birdman)

Mark Ruffalo (Foxcatcher)

The Performances: This is difficult because so many (well, all) of these performances were spectacular. A seventh Oscar Nomination for Robert Duvall indicates that it could be his turn, but with a lack of nominations for The Judge in other categories makes it seem unlikely. JK Simmons seems like a hot contender but could be deemed irrelevant to the Academy (much like Bruce Dern’s snub last year for Nebraska). The sad reality is, one of the strongest performances here is Mark Ruffalo, but much like The Judge, ‘Foxcatcher’ hasn’t garnered enough attention to warrant an Oscar. Which leaves us with two…

2015_golden_globes_68614Who Should Win? We can’t decide. Edward Norton is reliable as ever, but really actually struggles to stand out in such a talented cast. Hawke has a much better opportunity to shine in Boyhood and make a lasting impression…

Who Will Win: Ethan Hawke. Especially if Patricia Arquette takes Best Supporting Actress. It seems a shame for Norton and Birdman, but Boyhood is going to reign supreme this year.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

patricia-arquette-3d6f32076e34b922The Nominees:

Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)

Emma Stone (Birdman)

Meryl Streep (Into The Woods)

Laura Dern (Wild)

Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)

The Performances: It feels like a few of these nominees were padding for the category. Don’t take that the wrong way: all of the performances were good, but some are clearly more Oscar worthy than others. Critically all performances have been praised, however Dern’s total lack of screen time doesn’t instil great hope that the Academy will bestow this on her. What we have to look for are performances that are not overshadowed by their fellow cast members which points to three notable contenders: Streep (because it’s the Oscars), Stone, and Arquette. What is interesting is that in any other year, Emma Stone would probably be a shoe in especially with Birdman doing so well in other categories. Her real competition (Sorry, Meryl) comes from Patricia Arquette: with Ethan Hawke being hot tipped to take away Best Supporting, it almost seems fated: two award winning supporting performances driving a film is what it should be!Emma-Stone-Golden-Globes-thumbnail

Who Should Win? Patricia Arquette. Just little enough screen time to be billed as a support, but put it enough of herself to be the leading lady of Boyhood.

Who Will Win: Patricia Arquette. It could be snatched from her by Stone, but she is a dark horse. Also, Stone is young: The Academy are more likely to go for Arquette as (much like with Julianne Moore) it is more her ‘turn’.

SNUBS: None worth noting.