Film Briefs: Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher” and Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash”

channing_tatum_steve_carell_foxcatcher-618x400Film Briefs is our way of giving our opinions on films we might not necessarily have the time to review in full. This is a column where we sum up our feelings about movies currently playing in theatres and throw ‘em up just to give you an idea of what’s out there. Follow the jump to see briefs for Foxcatcher, and Whiplash.

Foxcatcher

thumbnail_19245This is a doozy of a film, one that seems to exist for the sole purpose of being the new perfect rainy day movie.

Director Bennett Miller is quickly becoming as synonymous to the biopic as Alfred Hitchcock was to suspense. First Capote (2005), than Moneyball (2011), and now Foxcatcher, in where he tackles (no pun intended) the shot-lived and bizarre relationship between two Olympic gold wrestling brothers and one very wealthy oddball of a coach.

Aside from the actual too-bizarre-to-be-true story, the real thrill came from the visceral pleasures of watching the transformative and incredibly nuanced performances of Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, and Steve Carell as they perfectly compliment Miller’s 1980s world of cold empty landscapes, slowed breath pacing, and brooding score.

I have little doubt that, come Oscar time, Carell’s transformation into what I can best describe as an eerie life size version of a twisted Mr. Burns (The Simpsons) will not go unnoticed. The real crime however will be overlooking Tatum and Ruffalo’s equally impressive chameleon performances.

Whiplash

000036.2771.Whiplash_still1_JKSimmons_.JPGThose of you looking for the next great sports drama may be a little befuddled to learn that its arrival comes under the guise of a movie about musicians.

To what lengths does one have to push themselves in order to be the greatest jazz drummer alive? That’s the question being posed in Damien Chazelle‘s swiftly paced drama in where the unconventional teaching methods of an uptight and dangerously abusive music conductor/drill Sargent goes head-to-head with an arrogant young student.

I strongly urge you to see this movie if you are a fan of any one of these things:
– The simultaneous humor and horror of R. Lee Ermy‘s performance as the hard-nosed Gny. Sgt. in Full Metal Jacket. Here it’s J.K. Simmons turn though to be lead hard ass.
– Jazz music, for throughout the movie’s duration it’s either being talked about in some manner, or better yet, being played.
– Having a character rise to the challenge against all odds. You know, films like Rocky, Rudy, Remember the Titans, etc., in where a character has their big moment to rise above adversity. If you’re a sucker for that sort of thing, you should eat this right up.

Does the movie has it’s faults? Sure, mostly with a couple seemingly underdeveloped supporting characters, and the strange lack of women musicians. However, for as much fun as I had during this movie, I’m willing to overlook these imperfections.

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