Tag Archives: Miles Teller

Whiplash (2014) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

WHIPLASH.png

Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Stars: Miles Teller,  J.K. Simmons,  Melissa Benoist

I have to hold my hands up and admit I’m not a big fan of jazz but I have to say, I really enjoyed Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash. The movie is about Andrew Neiman played by Miles Teller who is an ambitious young jazz drummer. Andrew is hungry and his goal is rising to the top of his elite music conservatory.

Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) is an instructor known for his terrifying hardline teaching methods plucks young Andrew from a lower class to become a interim drummer in his ensemble and Andrew quickly realises the rumours about Fletcher’s teachings are very true and extreme.

The audience understands the relationship between Simmons (“Fletcher”) and Teller (“Andrew”) right from the kick off and looking back on the movie they are essentially the only characters in the film worth remembering. (That’s not a bad thing by the way) this is a result of the excellent writing from Director and Writer Chazelle.

Andrew’s dad played by the brilliant Paul Reiser and his girlfriend Melissa Benoist (Supergirl) are merely supporting characters and to be honest the movie probably shouldn’t have used these well known actors that serve little purpose other than to remind us outwith the Jazz clientele there are “normal” people out there who are not like Neiman or Fletcher. Without sounding cruel they could have really got anyone to play these roles.

The character of Andrew is insufferable at times in his attitude and his pomposity towards family members and close friends and fair play to Teller who does an amazing job of maintaining a dour and insensitive expression throughout the movie playing the dedicated student Nieman. He has the drive and the ambition to be a success, but feels his personal life must take a backseat on his pursuit of success.

Miles Teller really shows the agony and pain in his character going through to reach his dream and at times the intense drumming sequences look incredible and torturous workouts at times. He  also gives a spectacular performance as an unlikeable character who aspires to be one of the great jazz drummers and is convincing showing a great passion for what he does and I felt the actor really understood the character.

Simmons’s Fletcher is a superb sadistic maniac who thrives on filling his musicians with fear, paranoia and dread at every opportunity. He can only be described as our antihero of (kind of), Terrence Fletcher has a knack for reducing his traumatic students to the point of total mental and physical exhaustion and even depression. But his reasons for acting the way he does is for the sole purpose of finding the next big “Yardbird” Charlie Parker that will be otherwise lost, if not being pushed to the very limit by Fletcher.

I feel he manages to combine Fletcher’s distinguished persona with his terrifying unpredictability and is one of those actors that is simply great in every role he is in. At times there is signs that there is something within Fletcher that commands respect and approval. I felt Chazelle done a fantastic job in casting the two leads in Teller and Simmons. One thing I have to admit to is, I enjoy dark humour and “Whiplash” has plenty of that to go round.

Damien Chazelle directing and writing in “Whiplash” that allows the audience to enter the mindset of Andrew and Terence. I felt the script manipulated the viewer with giving Andrew little moments of success but swiping it away the very next scene and allowing us to experience the reaction of Andrew when Fletcher wanted to press or manipulate him. Each turn of the story shapes his expectations and ambitions and then escalates it to the right point.

I often think the best films are those that reach out to the most diverse and wide spectrum of film fans. Whiplash is refreshing to see, most people wouldn’t be strong minded enough to take that kind of punishment so it’s interesting to watch Andrew go through it all and see how far he was prepared to go to succeed. Director Chazelle achieved this with “Whiplash” which is full of well executed scenes and above all else, a love towards music and the challenges it often represents if you want to get to the very top. Highly recommended.

Bleed for This (2016) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

BLEED FOR THIS

Director: Ben Younger
Writers: Ben Younger (screenplay),  Ben Younger (story)
Stars: Miles Teller,  Aaron Eckhart,  Katey Sagal

Bleed For This is a movie based on the courageous and resilient real life experiences of boxer Vinny Pazienza.

Pazienza (Miles Teller) was the World Champion Boxer who was involved in a near fatal car accident causing severe spinal damage and left not knowing whether he’d be able to walk again afterwards.Rather than let it defeat him, Pazienza aimed to get back in the ring, setting in motion one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history ever. Pazienza said the thing that frightened him the most was giving up, because it was so easy to do.

The biggest draw of “Bleed For This” are its performances, particularly given by Miles Teller (Footloose 2011, Fantastic Four 2015). He never loses the sharpness of Pazienza, even when he faces a life without boxing and turns him into such a remarkable character.

Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight, Olympus Has Fallen) having his head shaved back and adding a few pounds portrays Kevin Rooney the former trainer to Mike Tyson who is now the tired cliché of the boxing trainer. To be honest the writing for the character is never up to par, which makes his performance seem a little overzealous. But to be fair I enjoyed the onscreen pairing of Teller and Eckhart as his trainer, Rooney and felt there was a good relationship in their scenes together.

Ciarán Hinds (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Frozen) playing the tough love father brilliantly and Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy, Futurama) although under-utilised delivers a fine performance as Vinny’s mother. If you are familiar with the work of both Hinds and Sagal I think we can all agree that their almost unrecognisable much like Eckhart. Other supporting roles with Ted Levine (Shutter Island, Monk, Ray Donovan) and Jordan Gelber (The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Boardwalk Empire) play their part as boxing promoters Lou and Dan Duva who basically pick Vinny up and put him down in a typical promotor fashion whenever they see or don’t see an opportunity to make money off the boxer.

One of the best aspects of this movie is by Ben Younger (Boiler Room, Prime) the Director (who up to this point only has a handful of directorial credits to his name) manages to capture the emotion that Pazienza is going through and my only gripe is the pacing during the recovery part I felt was slightly rushed compared to the first 30-40 minutes that introduced us to the characters at a nice pace.

I felt the script lets him down a little just after the car accident happens and the movie kind of skims past Pazienza’s recovery, which I felt should have been more in depth and more the focus on the movie. But as I previously mentioned that’s just nitpicking on my part as Younger still manages to capture the emotional struggle Pazienza is going through. Younger chooses to focus on the man mostly outside the ring and how driven an individual he was to get back to his best in the ring against the odds, physically and mentally.

Younger also delivers some energetic fighting sequences to be fair, using quick edits and excellent sound mixing to almost feel like you’re taking the punches at times. However, the moment that would have the audience viewing uncomfortably would be when Vinny has the metal halo removed from his head six months after the accident. Younger manages to capture in sight and sound how excruciating this would have been for Pazienza and especially as the boxer insisted on no anaesthetic during the procedure and believe me the screws in his head where in deep.

If you’re a fan of boxing films, “Bleed For This” is a film you should see. and if you aren’t a big fan of boxing films I wouldn’t dismiss it entirely because there is plenty to admire in this portrayal of one of the most inspirational comebacks in sporting history.

War Dogs (2016) Movie Review by Kevan McLaughlin

WAR DOGS

Director: Todd Phillips
Writers: Stephen Chin (screenplay), Todd Phillips (screenplay)
Stars: Jonah Hill, Miles Teller, Steve Lantz

War Dogs is the incredible real life story of Efrain Diveroli and David Packouz who were supplying arms and ammunition to the US military by the time they were 19 and 23, respectively. It’s perhaps more astonishing that the film, with it’s very serious subject-matter, can actually live up to its description as a comedy/drama. This is Wall Street in the Bush administration.

The Goodfellas of gun-running.

David Packouz (Miles Teller) is in a cycle of mediocrity and failure. He’s a struggling entrepreneur and working as a masseuse when he meets his old friend Efrain (Jonah Hill) at a funeral. They reminisce about their exploits at school, getting into schemes and scrapes while high off their asses.

David learns that since they last saw each other Efrain has been doing very well supplying the military with equipment  in low-end contracts that none of the big arms dealers would concern themselves with. They’re squabbling over the pie and he feed “on the crumbs.” Efrain is savvy, fast talking and ambitious and David is in awe of him.

When David’s girlfriend Iz (Ana de Armas) tells him she’s pregnant he panics.

Efrain offers him a job but David has misgivings because of his and Iz’s stance against the war in Iraq. Efrain charms David into morally tap dancing his way around his beliefs, reasoning that someone will get rich out of this and it may as well be him. But he lies to Iz, telling her that one of his previous schemes has finally paid off and he’s secured a deal supplying linen to the army. In the middle fo all this is Kevin Pollack who plays Ralph, a devout Jew who believed it’s his responsibility to protect America and Israel by financially backing Efrain in his exploits with the military.

The boys enjoy success until David makes a mistake. Unaware of an Italian embargo on the sale of weapons to Iraq, David can’t fulfil his order for the Iraqi police, under the watchful eye of the US army. David and Efrain then smuggle the guns, unbeknownst to them, through the Triangle of Death.

They’re gaining a reputation for getting a job done when they land a $300 million contract for supplying AK-47 ammunition to the military. This is what has become to be known as the Afghan Deal.

They’re approached by the shady Henry Girard (Bradley Cooper), a legend amongst arms dealers, who can supply the ammunition to them and when Efrain enquires why he isn’t doing this deal directly the boys learn that Girard is on a government terrorist watch list. Unperturbed, David and Efrain continue with the deal leading them to Albania where stockpiles of unused guns have ammunition have been sitting in warehouses since the Cold War, waiting on unscrupulous middle-men to make arms deals.

There is, however, a huge concern. Girard hasn’t let the boys know that the ammunition is Chinese, and since America has an embargo against China any potential deal with the US government would be illegal. Efrain has an idea to re-package the bullets using a local Albanian box company. He tells the Albanians it’s necessary to re-package the ammunition because the old containers are too heavy.

Efrain’s increasingly erratic mood swings jeopardise the deal. His drug use has escalated and he’s become dangerous and paranoid. He tells David he intends to shut Girard out of the deal by buying the bullets directly from the Albanian government. When David snaps at his friend’s insanely dangerous plan Efrain retaliates by informing Girard that the opposite is true – that David is the one who intends to betray Girard.

Everything finally unravels when David and Efrain finally fall out with the latter refusing to give his friend one penny from the deal. Furthermore, the FBI arrest both David and Efrain for fraud as it’s came to the attention of the government that the boys knew about the bullets being Chinese and that they deliberately tried to conceal this. It’s revealed that it was the owner of the box factory who tipped off the US government in retaliation for not being paid.

Jonah Hill’s performance is both hilarious and disturbing. Efrain is morally ambiguous and a social chameleon.

He will say anything to get what he wants. To Ralph he acts like the staunch Jew to curry his favour, to an army general in Baghdad a devout Christian to buy more time on a gun deal. Hill has already shown his potential for brilliance in The Wolf of Wall Street  and furthers his reputation as more than a comedy performer by his portrayal of Diveroli in War Dogs.

Miles Teller’s character is, ultimately, likeable. He lies to his girlfriend about his job and the danger he’s in but it’s a sympathetic performance by Teller. He narrates throughout the film, always telling you his perspective and winning you over with reason.

Todd Phillips has not-so-much departed radically from Old School and the Hangover trilogy as incorporated his comedic background into a pretty bleak and tense set of circumstances.

It’s no mean feat, but it doesn’t exactly pay off. Scarface is oft-quoted throughout War Dogs and, with a darker tone, this film could have potentially tapped into that claustrophobic and paranoid feel. Still, it’s a very enjoyable movie with a killer soundtrack and memorable performances.