Tag Archives: miles teller

War Dogs – Review

22 Aug

There’s so many things that happen in the world that I’m am blissfully unaware of. For example, I never really think about the lucrative and shady business of international arms dealing. I’d be surprised if that crossed a lot of people’s minds on a daily basis. When I think of films that cover this topic, my mind automatically goes to the Andrew Niccol film Lord of War, which was actually a very good movie. The last person I would have ever thought to make a movie about the arms trade is Todd Phillips, whose directed such films as The Hangover and its sequels, Due Date, and Old School. It’s been proven that comedy film makers have the know how to make exceptional, satirical films about real life events, like Adam McKay did with The Big Short. I was very excited to see War Dogs and while the movie didn’t 100% live up to my expectations, it was still a really fun time.

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David Packouz (Miles Teller) feels like his life is going absolutely nowhere, especially after ordering an absurd amount of sheets with hopes of selling them to nursing homes. Right as that business fails, he finds out that his girlfriend is pregnant, and he has no money to give in order to raise a child. Enter Efraim Diveroli (Jonah Hill), Packouz’s childhood friend, who has done very well for himself in the business of small time arms dealing. The reason Diveroli has returned to Miami is to go legit and start his own arms dealing business, and he wants Packouz to be there as his partner. Thus is the beginning of AEY, which soon becomes a multi million dollar business. This skyrockets Packouz and Diveroli to the top of the arms dealing chain, but it also puts them in a whole lot of trouble when they believe they can get away with more illegalities than they actually can, while also crossing paths with Henry Girard (Bradley Cooper), a shady businessman that can’t be trusted.

I feel like I can’t put War Dogs into a subgenre of true story/crime/comedies that often deal with white collar “gangsters” who live their lives from one bad choice to the next. This movie had a lot of similarities with Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, but it would also fall in nicely with smaller films like Casino Jack and Middle Men. I really like movies like this that take a comedic look at people who involved themselves in business that is pretty far on the other side of the law. I mean, let’s face it, real life can actually be this funny sometimes, even if you are breaking the law on the federal level. That being said, this film provides all of the tropes you would expect to see in a movie like this, and even though I felt very familiar with this movie, it still had scenes that were wholly unique and strongly separates itself from other movies like this.

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While Todd Phillips definitely has his own brand of humor and style on this movie, which is why I said War Dogs stands well on its own, I couldn’t help but think that at certain moments it felt like a bit much. I’m all about the voice overs and cool music choices, but there were some scenes where it just became a bit too heavy handed. There were also these lines of dialogue that would come up to sort of break the movie into chapters, which might have seemed like a cool idea, but it would have been a lot cooler if they actually thought of chapter titles instead of just using lines that were going to be spoken. On the flip side, there were some really great scenes that featured this kind of over the top film making and editing. One hilarious scene in particular has the U.S. Army show up just in time to save the two dealers from hostiles to the classic rock musings of CCR. What I mean to say is that sometimes Phillips sort of overdid some things, but a lot of the crazy stylistic things that he throws in does add to the hectic nature of the lives these two guys led and it ultimately works to the movies advantage.

War Dogs is a very character driven story, and it rests firmly on the shoulders of both Miles Teller and Jonah Hill. They’re really the only two characters in this movie that matter, which puts a lot of pressure on these two actors. People have been raving about Hill’s performance as Efraim Diveroli, and I completely agree with all the positivity being thrown his way. He really hams up everything about this character making him into a classic cinematic slimeball that thinks he runs the world, but is actually full of a lot of weakness and stupidity where it really matters. It’s a complicated character that Hill seems to have a firm grasp on, and it certainly helps that he’s also one of the funnier guys working in the industry right now. Teller plays a much more subdued character, who may be quiet but provides an excellent everyman for the viewers to relate to. He plays a great straight man in the odd couple that is AEY, and this chemistry is what made me really believe in these characters.

All in all, War Dogs was a really fun movie that was filled with style and very good performances, and also a true story that is almost mind boggling. Unfortunately, I feel like it didn’t quite reach the mark that it was trying to hit, either because it was an exercise in style over substance or possibly because not enough was done with the material. Regardless of its shortcomings, I still laughed quite a bit at a lot of the dialogue and the situations, and was really intrigued by the story. Not only is there plenty of comedy, but there’s a lot of drama and character development which made this more than a hollow shell of a movie. It’s not the best of the year, but it’s a movie I’ll remember and recommend.

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Fantastic Four – Review

3 Sep

I always look at movies at having a certain kind of structure. Every movie I watch has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In that regard I have to hold Fantastic Four as one of the most complex experimental films I have ever seen. I’m kidding, of course. That would be the same as me saying that Fantastic Four is the best comedy of the year. Let’s be honest, though. This is a superhero “movie” released in the year 2015, and this is the best they had to offer. Fantastic Four is one of the most gut wrenchingly awful movies I’ve seen in a long time, if you can even call it a movie.

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Reed Richards (Miles Teller), who along with his close friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), have been working since childhood to perfect a device that could act as a teleporter. This catches the eye of scientist Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara) at a high school science fair. They bring Reed and Ben to the Baxter Foundation, along with Franklin’s son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) and outcast Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell), to build it on a much grander scale. When the government wants to use their people as its first explorers, Reed leads his team on a rogue trip to another dimension where they accidentally receive superpowers, but also lose von Doom. As the kids are being utilized by the military thanks to their unique powers, the threat of someone now being called Dr. Doom looms in the next dimension waiting for revenge.

I have to give Fantastic Four a lot of credit for being a big budget blockbuster release without actually being a movie. This isn’t a movie, plain and simple. Let’s start at the beginning. We’re introduced to cardboard cutout recreations of the beloved comic book character. Since they seem to be completely devoid of all personality, it goes without saying that there is absolutely no chemistry between any of them. I can’t even blame the cast because they’re all very talented actors. Miles Teller and Toby Kebbell especially seem to be really trying to work with the lackluster material that was given to them. So with all of the characters introduced and all of the exposition given, the movie continues simply because it has to in order to get to the end, without any visible rhyme or reason.

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Now we come to the middle of the “movie.” Whether you like the 2005 version or not, you have to admit that it at least builds up some sort of suspense and relationship between the characters. In this version, there is none of that. After they get their powers, we skip to one year later, and they all have complete control over their abilities. Great. So one of the most fun parts of the “movie” doesn’t even exist. The characters who will later go on to be one of the greatest superhero teams in comic book history don’t even really spend any time together or talk at all, so when they are finally all forced to combine their powers (a scene which I am unfortunately getting to) it doesn’t feel cool because they haven’t been through anything together. It’s like the whole second act of the “movie” was scrapped which made me feel like I was missing a lot.

The third act of Fantastic Four may go down as one of the best punchlines ever put on screen. It so perfectly completes the joke. Instead of seeing a fight between the Fantastic Four and their arch enemy Dr. Doom, we see… I don’t really know what. It’s not a fight certainly. It’s not even a climax since nothing was really building to it. The scene just happens because it’s a “movie” about the Fantastic Four, so we need a final showdown where they all work together as a team. But they still don’t even really do that. What was everyone working on this “movie” thinking? Have they ever watched anything else before? What twilight zone an I in that something this ludicrous, muddled, and nonsensical can be released?

How can this “movie” even be called Fantastic Four when they really aren’t even in it. I saw no evidence of them or Dr. Doom or any of the other characters. This movie was in trouble from the start with the rights to the material, the studios making major changes, and Josh Trank’s apparent behavior on set. Fine, whatever. That’s not what I’m talking about. The fact that it’s 2015 and a superhero movie like this can be released is absolutely ridiculous. I can only hope that this acts as a punch in the face to studios, telling them that just because it has comic book characters in it, doesn’t mean it can’t fail miserably.

Whiplash – Review

13 Feb

Have you ever been watching a movie and thought that in the same situation you would have just given up? That’s pretty much how I felt all through out Whiplash. Going into this movie, I knew it was going to be great, but I didn’t really know what it was going to be about, and after watching it I’m still trying to figure out what it all means. The bottom line, however, is that it’s giving Birdman a run for its money as my favorite movie of 2014.

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Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is a nineteen year old jazz drummer studying at the Shaffer Conservatory in New York. His entire life is built around drumming and what he can do to perfect his skill and be remembered as one of the greats. This dream seems to be underway when he is accepted to join a prestigious school band led by Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons), a teacher who will do whatever it takes to push his students to perform at the best of their abilities. What Neiman soon learns is that Fletcher’s motivations takes the form of physical, verbal, and psychological abuse and punishment, which leaves Neiman wondering how far is too far and if this dream is even worth the punishment.

Writing a summary for Whiplash is very hard because there is so much happening beneath the surface of the story that’s really important and made me want to include, but I could really go on all day about how great and deep this movie is. It would be easy to have made a movie about a kid following his dreams to be an excellent jazz drummer, but writer/director Damien Chazelle went for a much more complicated approach. This is a movie about jazz and dreams, but it’s also a movie the explores complex human emotions and psychological warfare. If that wasn’t enough, Chazelle also created one of the greatest onscreen character relationships of all time between Neiman and Fletcher. Love/hate isn’t really what I’d call it. In fact, I’m still trying to completely wrap my head around it.

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This movie is being recognized in many ways as one of the best movies of 2014, garnering 5 Oscar nominations, but I just want to briefly mention the editing and Simmons’ performance. The editing in this movie can be so rapid fire and rhythmic, I really just wanted to look at the timeline the editor was using. As Neiman’s drums roar and saxophones burst with melodies, the editing matches it all, capturing Chazelle’s beautiful camerawork at the same time, but also capturing Fletcher’s rage. Simmons has always been known to be a good actor, but now it’s established that he’s fantastic. His performance as Fletcher is one of, if not the best performance of the entire year. One minute you hate him, and the next you begin to understand him. He’s such a complex character and Simmons managed to pull it off so perfectly.

What’s incredible about Whiplash is how intense it is. I never thought that a movie that takes place in a music school could be so insane. A lot of people have been comparing this movie to the beginning of Full Metal Jacket, and I do see where they’re coming from, but Whiplash managed to sustain that level of intensity without ever firing a shot and taking place not in the military, but a music school. Everything comes together so well that it creates a story unlike anything you or I have seen before.

Whiplash is plain and simply one of my favorite movies of the year. I knew that I was in for something great but this was just awesome. The music, the performances, the editing, and the nail biting, gut wrenching, butt clenching intensity were all note perfect, pun intended. It kind of shares the same themes as Black Swan, in the sense that you have to wonder how far people can go with what they love before it completely destroys them. It’s an interesting look at the fragility of the human psyche and also one of the best film of 2014.