I can’t say I was all that taken by Chadwick Boseman in his star-making turn in the overrated Black Panther, but I was open to seeing what else he could do. So we come to this fairly typical thriller … that has Boseman as a seasoned detective with a bit of a reputation for gunning down bad guys over the years, who becomes involved in a manhunt for two crooks after a group of cops get killed. In order to trap the criminals he makes the unprecedented decision to lock down Manhattan by closing all bridges leading off the island. However it soon transpires there’s more to the situation than what first appears.
Boseman’s character history with his father being killed in a similar way, caused this viewer to get invested in the character’s methods. Support cast including a firm favourite of mine, J. K. Simmons and a barely recognisable Sienna Miller both prove interesting. However it’s how the two criminals are portrayed that delivers the movie’s depth and I’d have certainly liked that to have been explored a bit more. Also, an on-foot chase in the middle I must say was heart-in-mouth exciting.
However the movie’s twist sign-posts itself way too obviously early on, which means where it goes turns out (for the most part) predictable. Which is a shame because overall this is slick, exciting and regularly thrilling with plenty of style and energy. Boseman is a decent lead but at times his line-delivery is a bit ‘what did he say?’ but that’s a small gripe, and I was still gripped by his plight. Not a classic then, but a worthwhile, gritty thriller thats I still had a good time with.
Another movie that got a great deal of buzz around the time of the awards season, and nabbed a best supporting actor Oscar for J K Simmons. This tells the story of a ‘prodige’ drummer Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) who wants to be recognised for his skills and be a part of a respected jazz orchestra. However in order to do that he must prove himself to renowned tutor and conductor Terence Fletcher (Simmons). Only problem is, Fletcher is one tough cookie and uses controversial methods to get results.
Simmons’ portrayal of this cruel and testing tutor is part Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society, part Lee R Ermy drill instructor in Full Metal Jacket. This actor I first discovered in hard hitting HBO drama ‘Oz’ as the leader of an Arian Brotherhood Nazi gang – and he was unflinchingly cruel but also charming – something he lends to this powerful character. Teller, looking like a young John Cusack deserves recognition too and is clearly a skilled drummer who brings his character plenty of emotion and at times crazy-determination to be taken seriously. Director Damien Chazelle fills the movie with tension and well observed character moments that make both leads more than one dimensional stereotypes – despite his tough demeanour, Fletcher does end up coming across as a man who wants to achieve greatness with his students, and Neiman although at times ridiculously dedicated in the face of some pretty nasty treatment (let’s go to the rehearsal, despite having been in a car crash!) – you do understand him.
I’d have liked a bit more going on with the supporting characters … a love story felt under-explored and fellow band members rivalry or comradery is mostly ignored. Yet this was an absorbing movie that although I felt was familiar, and didn’t really surprise me as it drew to it’s conclusion … had strong performances and solid enough direction to make for a firm recommendation.
I’ve not really taken much interest in the Academy Awards this year, as I am getting increasingly underwhelmed by award ceremonies of late where it’s always the same names and the same kinds of movies getting nominated let alone winning anything. However on taking a casual glance at this year’s winners, I feel pleasantly surprised to see some deserving names getting mentioned.
I was wanting to see Birdman for a while but haven’t yet got around to it. At first I was intrigued as it was a come back vehicle for Michael Keaton, then I heard it was directed by 21 Grams auteur Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. So I am equally happy to report that the movie grabbed Best Picture along with a Best Director nod for Alejandro. In some of the other categories I was not surprised to see who won, such as Eddie Redmayne as Steven Hawkins in The Theory Of Everything … typical Oscar fair but I hear it’s an amazing performance. I was also pleased to see J K Simmons getting Best Supporting Actor for Whiplash – not overly familiar with the movie but he has always been a very underrated actor. I was surprised to see Patricia Arquette getting Best Supporting Actress – thinking this actress, her appearance in Boardwalk Empire aside, was a bit of a has-been. So very pleased for her also. I am also a growing fan of Julianne Moore so was happy to see her get the Best Actress nod for Still Alice, even though I’m not familiar with that film.
One disappointment I did have was that once again, the Best Animated Feature Film went to a big budget Hollywood animation (Big Hero 6), and the also nominated Studio Ghibli movie The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya was snubbed – but, I haven’t seen either so that’s just a personal gripe. Yet I was happy to see that The Grand Budapest Hotel did fairly well in the production design, music and costume categories, even if I’d have loved it to get Best Picture.
Seriously, how interesting can a teen movie about pregnancy really be? Well I rented this as it had garnered great reviews and built a steady cult following … and well I’ve always had a soft spot for teen movies, at least back when they were really good (Clueless, anyone?). So I thought, what the hell.
Ellen Page plays tom-boy schoolgirl Juno, a smart-talking, street-wise girl who one night gets a little too friendly with her favourite ‘boy’ friend and falls pregnant. With no interest in raising a child, she seeks out the perfect couple, that will give the child the future she feels she can’t. Thankfully this isn’t too navel gazing and ‘message’ filled, as written by Jennifer’s Body writer Diablo Cody it is full of sharp, quotable dialogue, some genuinely funny moments and plenty of interesting, cookie characters – all wrapped up with a soundtrack so hippie brilliant you’ll have the songs stuck in your head for weeks. Ellen Page is excellent as Juno, building on her audience grabbing turn in low-budget shocker ‘Hard Candy’, and making for one of the more interesting young female actors in the biz. Michael Cera, hot off Superbad is also perfectly cast as her on/off boyfriend, as is pretty much everyone else – including an always dependable J K Simmons as Juno’s protective but un-smothering father.
So to conclude, this is one of the more effective and heart-warming teen movies for some time, and is mature enough not to thrust its more deeper themes down your throat – and you still get the point. Class stuff.
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