Last year was definitely a great one for indie films, giving us gems such as “Birdman” and “Wild” to shake the masses and critics alike. “Whiplash” is no exception, delivering some of the best acting of the year.
The film tells the story of a music student, played by Miles Teller, whose desire to be the best is antagonized by a painfully challenging music instructor expertly played by J.K. Simmons, who won a Golden Globe for his role in this film. Not only are the performances by both gentlemen superb, but so is the screenplay and direction by Damien Chazelle, elevating the film to the title of masterpiece. The plot slows slightly at the beginning of the third act, when the film makes you think the remainder will be sad and mellow, only to crush audience’s expectations and deliver one of the best and most satisfying third acts ever put to film.
Thanks to the tension between the two lead characters, accented by amazingly composed and mixed musical numbers, “Whiplash” doesn’t only stand as a technical and artistic achievement for the minds behind it, but for independent film and film in general.
Final rating: 9.4/10
The main problem with movies about racism and how bad it was during the 1960s is that most movies may feel pretentious and repetitive; fortunately, “Selma,” which was nominated for Best Dramatic Motion Picture, proves to be different. Driven by Englishman David Oyelowo’s brilliant transformation into Martin Luther King Jr., “Selma” unfolds as an entertaining film and a non-preachy history and morality lesson for the new generations.
Telling the story of King and company’s efforts to bring equality to the U.S., the screenplay gives the classical tale a twist by also showing King’s interactions with President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson) and Johnson’s efforts and frustrations during this time of protests and unrest.
“Selma” delivers a great and satisfying message of unity and collaboration, in addition to unapologetically depicting the horrors of racism and racial violence. The best part is that the film proves to be unbiased, showing both black and white characters to be flawed and relatable at the same time. Even though it counts with a boring and almost unfitting subplot focusing on King’s marriage, the film almost never slows down and certainly gains a lot of power during King’s speeches.
Final rating: 8.2/10
“Into the Woods”
Disney’s stronger productions have always been its animated musicals, and even though “Into the Woods” has a lot of the same elements that make Disney movies great, it doesn’t come close to the more average Disney pictures.
The film is an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway musical of the same name, but most likely shortened and censored in order to gain the PG stamp for which Disney is known. The plot, though fantastical and purposely quirky, is so poorly handled that most adults will want to stop the movie and ask, “What just happened?” The fact that the film is set in a magical world doesn’t give it the right to dump logic and causality out the window, killing characters out of nowhere and without explanation, seeming to forget about or poorly wrap up other subplots.
Most of the musical numbers are good, with particular praise for the 15-minute opening, but nothing to really inspire that Disney magic everybody’s used to. Most of the performances are fair, but lack justification for the number of award nominations they’ve gained recently, including a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Comedy. While some may enjoy this movie, if you’re looking for a decent piece of entertainment from Disney, you’re probably better off watching “Big Hero 6” again.
Final rating: 5/10