Daniel McFadden/Sony Pictures Classics
In “Whiplash,” Juilliard-esque Shaffer Conservatory of Music freshman Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) gets handpicked by exacting and much-feared teacher, Terrence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons), to be an alternate drummer in a jazz ensemble intended for the competition circuit.
Fletcher sizes Neyman up while exchanging pleasantries, and quickly proceeds to humiliate and bully him with what little biographical information he has gathered. Mr. Simmons hurls orders, insults and obscenities like a cross between Armin Mueller-Stahl’s tyrannical father from “Shine,” R. Lee Ermey’s drill sergeant from “Full Metal Jacket” and his own Aryan leader from “Oz.”
Continue reading "Music Discipline" »
Goodbye to Language (2014)
The unveiling of a new Jean-Luc Godard film always incites circlejerks among elitist cinephiles, who collectively muster as many pretentious fancy words and insufferable exclamation marks for the occasion as their copy editors will tolerate. Never mind that they've been punk’d — encore — by the biggest troll working in cinema. When Gaspar Noé splices in a gratuitous insert of hard-core sex, it’s the tantrum of an enfant terrible. When Mr. Godard does the same thing, it's poetry! Whatever, dude.
Continue reading "Notre technologie" »
Nicola Dove/Pathé Films
Bookended by the London Pride parades of 1984 and 1985, “Pride” dramatizes the real-life Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners campaign to raise funds for the Neath, Dulais and Swansea Valleys’ Miners Support Group in Wales during a yearlong strike.
Continue reading "A Civil Union" »
Tracy Bennett/TriStar Pictures
When the Game Stands Tall (2014)
“When the Game Stands Tall” centers on the real-life Spartans football team of De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif., under its legendary former coach Bob Ladouceur, here played by Jim Caviezel. It isn’t about how the team achieved its storied 151-game winning streak, however; but rather how it ultimately fumbled that winning streak and then recovered.
Continue reading "Friday Night Blights" »
Frank Masi/20th Century Fox
Let's Be Cops (2014)
The buddy cop subgenre has proven such a bankable formula in Hollywood — yet again by the success of “Ride Along” earlier this year — that some might now consider it a bona fide genre. The trope often combines varying percentages of thriller and comedy to mixed results. Some entries like “Lethal Weapon” skew more toward the thriller, while ones like “White Chicks” obviously yield to the comedy. Casting choices usually give a good indication which way it will turn out: If one of the partners belongs in the K-9 unit, you can be sure of the lowered stakes.
Besides the fact that neither of the main characters is an actual police officer, “Let’s Be Cops” feels unorthodox for defying these formulaic expectations the subgenre has been steadily creating through trial and error since its inception in the 1980s. The film actually has incredibly high stakes, like a much sillier “48 Hrs.” rather than a more thrilling “21 Jump Street.” If it’s any indication, Damon Wayans, Jr. plays the straight man to Jake Johnson’s instigator — complete with a reference to the Glover-Gibson dynamic.
Continue reading "Knock Off" »
Warner Brothers Pictures
Into the Storm (2014)
“Into the Storm” imagines a tornado outbreak — including an EF-5 on the enhanced Fujita scale — wreaking havoc on fictional Silverton, Okla, in Tornado Alley. A team of storm chasers on a fruitless documentary project (among them Matt Walsh, Sarah Wayne Callies and Arlen Escarpeta) arrives fashionably in a Titus tank, while the vice principal of a local high school (Richard Armitage) attempts to locate a missing son (Jeremy Sumpter) and his classmate (Alycia Debnam-Carey).
We’ll leave film’s scientific legitimacy to professional meteorologists to assess, although the one played by Ms. Wayne Callies herein certainly casts doubts on the plausibility of this parade of cyclones. Since the film eschews the 3-D gimmick de rigueur for all Hollywood tentpoles, the only thing that separates “Into the Storm” from “Twister” made 18 years ago is its found-footage trope, utilized most memorably by “The Blair Witch Project,” “Paranormal Activity” and “Cloverfield.” As such, the entire endeavor is a total, um, disaster.
Continue reading "Twister of Fate" »
Anthony Nunez/Open Road Films
The Fluffy Movie (2014)
A concert film documenting comedian Gabriel Iglesias’s two-night stand in San Jose, Calif., last year, “The Fluffy Movie” demonstrates just why the oversize top banana has cultivated quite the sizable following worldwide.
Continue reading "No Fluff, Just Laughs" »
Andrew Schwartz/Screen Gems
Deliver Us From Evil (2014)
“Inspired by the actual accounts of an N.Y.P.D. sergeant,” “Deliver Us From Evil” draws from the book “Beware the Night” by Ralph Sarchie, here played by Eric Bana. Three Iraq war veterans — driven by horrific impulses apparently unrelated to post-traumatic stress disorder — perpetrate some bizarre crimes in the Bronx.
Continue reading "Infernal Affairs" »
Matt Kennedy/Screen Gems
Think Like A Man Too (2014)
Steve Harvey’s 2009 book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man” served as the dating gospel for characters in its movie adaptation, “Think Like a Man.” While the original cast and crew reunite for the sequel, “Think Like a Man Too,” they no longer seem to practice what Mr. Harvey preached. Oddly, the film is even more by-the-book — just not Mr. Harvey’s — than its predecessor.
Continue reading "Dating Game Over" »
Keith Bernstein/Warner Brothers Pictures
Jersey Boys (2014)
Based on Des McAnuff’s Tony-winning musical about Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, the big-screen adaptation of “Jersey Boys” under the direction of Clint Eastwood seems like the antithesis of Rob Marshall movie musicals. With the meteoric rise, rock-bottom fall and all the fourth-wall breaking, the book by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice keeps hinting at its potential as the next “Casino” or “Boogie Nights.” But Mr. Eastwood seems oblivious to these thematic cues, and instead directs it in his typical B-movie low key as seen in “Million Dollar Baby.”
Continue reading "A Fistful of Doo-wops" »