Greetings one and all! Welcome to this week's #AtTheFlix! It's a pretty strong week with a number of really interesting releases, a few always with a shout in the awards season, so let's take a peek.
Having already seen a preview, never has a film title seemed more apt! Whiplash is the name of a piece of music played by the fictional musicians of this film - but the film is actually loosely based on the director Damien Chazelle's experience as a jazz drummer and the fear for his teacher.
This is the antithesis of a pupil-mentor film like Dead Poets Society. This is more like Full Metal Jacket set in a music school. Such is the intensity of Whiplash, J.K Simmons' bravura theatrical performance as Terence Fletcher will have you laughing at his insults and then cowering with horror when he yells at his drummers whether they rushing or dragging a double time groove at 330bpm. When he's not yelling, you'll be waiting for him to 'yell'!
With the film's kinetic two leads, this has all the intensity and energy of any thriller you are likely to see in 2015.
You may find the leads highly unsympathetic and the level of bullying and ultimate breakdown unrealistic, but that's not the point! The film asks us to question the level to which a person should be ridiculed for his faults in the pursuit of greatness and whether this, at times brutal, method of 'teaching' has a place in bringing the best out of people. Much like the music you'll come out both exhilarated and exhausted.
American Sniper (15)
If there's a word that you can always attach to Clint Eastwood's films, it is "dependable". Well, when given the right subject matter, he is the one of the most dependable storytellers out there, and in this, the story of the no.1 US sniper following both his tours of duty and his own battles on his return home, is most definitely an area that Eastwood can shine at.
The trailer has hinted at other contemporary war thrillers like The Hurt Locker, offering like that an exploration of men struggling with the chaotic circumstances of war. I hope that the film is just that - looking at unique person dealing with extraordinary circumstances.
The question mark against the film is to what extent the film plays with the political viewpoints on the role of America in the Middle East.
In any case, it looks like a very gripping war story with a bulked up Bradley Cooper giving a powerful lead performance.
Testament Of Youth (12A)
Offering a very traditional strictly British and stiff upper lip approach, this film is equal parts Merchant Ivory and Powell and Pressburger in its influences, a story of love, war and remembrance, and based on the First World War memoir by Vera Brittain, a testimony of war from a woman’s point of view
Not a bullet is fired in this film but it is about young love, the futility of war and the worst of times. It's worth watching probably for Alicia Vikander who is impressive in nearly everything she is in - and who has the job of portraying Vera's character.
This is director Jean-Marc Vallee's follow up to Dallas Buyers Club and is the true story of Cheryl Strayed's solo thousand mile hike across the Pacific Crest Trail.
The film wholly depends on Reese Witherspoon's abilities to open up the character to her own frailties amidst her trek and judging by the many reviews, the film succeeds in doing so with much honesty, insightfulness and physicality.
This is not a film that everyone is likely to get. If nothing else, see it as an exploration of a character amidst the great outdoors and watch it for the great imagery.
Elsewhere this week, the electric invite you to a showing of Beyond Clueless and a Q+A with its director Charlie Lyne. The film is an exploration of the "mind, body and soul of the teen movie" and putting Hollywood’s high school under the microscope. In this post-John Hughes universe, I'm for one intrigued at the many theories he'll present as well as his sheer love for the genre, as it's one that has, more than often than not, not connected with me.
That's it from me this week. As always, any comments, quibbles or rudiments, please point them my way at @timmy666 on twitter.
Have a great week at the cinema and keep that drum kit in tune, or else!