Traditionally, when a movie wins either the Grand Jury and Audience Dramatic Awards at Sundance, it’s meant for big things. Then there are some really special films that win both. Precious and Fruitvale Station are two recent examples. This year’s Sundance opener Whiplash is another.
Directed by Damien Chazelle, Whiplash tells the dramatic story of Andrew (Miles Teller), a highly ambitious young drummer who finds himself under the wing of the most demanding, intimidating and influential music teacher in the country. That’s Terence Fletcher, played by J.K. Simmons. Those dueling passions sets up a battle of the wills as Andrew tries to prove himself for Fletcher, hoping he doesn’t have to face the frightening truth that he’s just not good enough.
You can read Russ’s Sundance review here, but in lieu of a trailer for the October 10 release, the first Whiplash clip has now made it online. In it, you’ll get a sense of the film’s incredible tension and powerful performances. Read More »
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Damien Chazelle, who wrote Grand Piano and wrote and directed Whiplash, certainly has a musical bent. While both of his films so far have had thriller elements, they have also had significant musical influence. Grand Piano follows a concert pianist, played by Elijah Wood, who is warned that any missed note in one particular performance will have violent consequences. Whiplash (above) follows a student jazz drummer who seeks greatness under the tutelage of an unusually stern taskmaster. (Read my review here.)
Now Chazelle will make a film called La La Land, which keeps the musical element, still with a jazz inclination, and sounds like it could even edge into thriller territory. Read More »
Grand Piano was one of the most entertaining films I saw in 2013 — its premiere screening at Fantastic Fest last year had the crowd roaring with delight, and was the thing everyone talked about for the rest of the fest.
Coming from director Eugenio Mira, who did the music for Timecrimes; star Elijah Wood; and screenwriter Damien Chazelle (whose directorial debut Whiplash was just a big Sundance hit) the film is a technical tour de force that puts Wood in the hot seat as a killer targets him during a tense musical performance. The film has a delightfully composed visual style which indulges in De Palma-esque touches to manipulate suspense as the action unfolds. The underlying concept may be somewhat silly, but the execution is excellent.
The film is on iTunes and VOD now, and we’ve got an exclusive alternate poster below, along with a behind the scenes featurette and a clip. Check it all out, and revisit the trailer, after the break. Read More »
The heart of Whiplash is a duel between Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, and the weapon of choice isn’t a gun or a knife, but a drum kit. The players’ duel is a concept that cuts across musical genres. It can blaze bright in jazz, when players both complement and one-up one another in an effort to push a performance to its limits. The tendency leads to performances like the “drum battles” between Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa.
Andrew, played by Teller, has definitely heard those battles; he idolizes Buddy Rich and wants to be the next great jazz drummer. In his first year at an elite music academy he finds the ne-plus-ultra of instructors: Fletcher (Simmons), a jazz pianist and draconian band conductor. What begins as a simple teacher/student scenario escalates into a full-on battle of wills as Fletcher deploys manipulative tricks to beat Teller into shape as a machine able to perform on cue. The teacher will hurl a chair as quickly as an insult; is he wildly unstable, or a genius?
Whiplash is structured like a jazz tune, with the duel as the central melody out from which spring scenes that attempt to flesh out both characters and inform their tactics. When that melody rises above everything else, the film is unique and viciously energetic; the side notes, however, are wan, and the whole is messy and less driven than either lead character. Read More »
Let’s just get this out there: in describing the film Whiplash, which has set Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now) to star, Deadline calls the approach “Full Metal Jacket at Juilliard.” If that doesn’t make you wonder what the film is all about, nothing will. The film is an expansion of a short from Sundance, with Damien Chazelle, who wrote the short, directing the feature.
Teller will play a student drummer under the rule of “a brutal jazz orchestra teacher” played by J.K. Simmons. While dealing with his teacher’s methods, Teller’s character “begins to lose his humanity in his quest to become the core skins pounder of the top jazz orchestra in the country.” Again: Full Metal Jacket at Julliard. Consider me intrigued, especially with Simmons as the domineering teacher.
If you’re still not too familiar with Teller, check out a couple clips from his current film The Spectacular Now below. Read More »
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The 2010 horror movie The Last Exorcism told the story of Cotton Marcus, an evangelical minister in Louisiana who is the subject of a documentary effort by a small film crew. Though Marcus doesn’t believe in the power of exorcisms, he performs them occasionally as a faith-building exercise. But while doing an exorcism on camera for the film crew, things get out of control.
This sequel is connected to the original, as the formerly possessed Nell (Ashley Bell) takes center stage, but it uses a slight location change and convenient amnesia to tell what looks like enough of a standalone tale that anyone who didn’t see the first film can jump right in. Yep, Nell is found by the ancient evil once more. (We know he’s ancient because he still calls the landline.) It also is presented as a conventional movie rather than a found-footage film.
It’s easy to make a joke about the title, so think of it this way: if the title of the original film represented the last exorcism performed by Marcus, this one twists it a bit. Which is to say, the demon in Nell might well be saying “the last exorcism you experienced wasn’t enough to drive me out.” Yike? Some of the trailer looks like old-fashioned scary movie fun; see it below.
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Posted on Monday, December 17th, 2012 by Angie Han
Just as we’re enjoying the last of 2012’s cinematic offerings, the latest edition of the Black List has hit the web. The annual survey highlights the hottest unproduced screenplays of the year, as based on the votes of hundreds of executives.
The term “unproduced” is used rather vaguely here. Some of these scripts (like Ivan Reitman‘s Draft Day and Wally Pfister‘s Transcendence) already have a director or star attached, while others are still floating around in search of the right studio or producer. The subjects and honorees range greatly as well. Nazi hunters, Hillary Clinton, the NFL, and time-traveling teens are among the subjects of this year’s winners, and the screenwriters run the gamut from industry newcomers to seasoned pros.
Hit the jump to read the full list.
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Years ago, after the Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock thriller Speed dominated summer box office, jokes quickly spawned about how studio development of films based on the success of a story about a bomb-rigged bus that had to maintain speed in order to avoid detonation. “Speed on a Plane,” ” Speed in an Elevator,” and other gags were floated. It was the new “Die Hard on a ____” plot gag. Hell, a “Speed on a Boat” joke actually became Speed 2.
But I don’t think anyone ever talked about making “Speed at a piano,” until now. Read More »
Posted on Friday, September 23rd, 2011 by Angie Han
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson hasn’t exactly blown anyone away with his acting chops, but the guy who once got shot 9 (or was it 3? Either way) times and lived to tale the tale isn’t about to get scared off by a couple of negative reviews. He’s already got three films lined up for next year, and he’s just landed one more: Frozen Ground.
Written and directed by Scott Walker, the film is based on the true story of Alaskan serial killer Robert Hansen, who murdered at least 17 victims over the course of twelve years. Jackson will be playing an ’80s-era pimp, which producer Randall Emmett describes as a “substantial role.” He joins a cast that already includes John Cusack as Hansen, Nicolas Cage as a state trooper, and Vanessa Hudgens as the escaped victim who helps catch Hansen. Frozen Ground will begin shooting in Anchorage next month. [The Playlist]
After the jump, a WWE champ and a Breaking Bad star join Channing Tatum’s stripper movie, and The Last Exorcism star Ashley Bell lands two new roles, only one of which is a sequel to The Last Exorcism.
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