This must be one of the most intense movies I’ve seen in a long time. Written and directed by Damien Chazelle (Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, 2009), it tells the story of a first year music (drums) student, Andrew (Miles Teller, The Spectacular Now, 2013) who wants to be the best out there, he’s driven and not afraid of practice and effort. One day while practicing he is interrupted by Mr Fletcher (J.K. Simmons, Men, Women and Children, 2014); Fletcher is one of the College’s foremost lecturers, he’s a renowned Jazz musician and leader of the college’s Studio Band.

The college is one of the US’s top music conservatories, so those there are already a cut above the rest. Fletcher’s Studio Band is the cream of those students already ahead of the curve. Fletcher is a gruff un-mannered individual who pushes his students hard. From the very start we see the relationship between teacher and student is going to be a tough one. After being picked to attend the band practice, we see straight away how unorthodox the relationship is going to be. Told to be at practice for 6.00am, Andrew arrived only to wait until 9.00am before people arrived. His first impression is of military discipline among the students, down to and including them snapping-too when their Leader arrives in.

The relationship between students and master is not a particularly happy one. He is pushing them to perfection. At one stage another band member is out of tune, he notices and tracks down the culprit, however the culprit remains and another student who was convinced he was out of tune by Fletcher is thrown out, on the basis that he did not know whether he was out of tune.; this is in Fletcher’s eyes is worse than being out of tune.

As the training progresses we see how Fletcher pushes Andrew and the other students to and beyond their limits. It is vicious; there is no room for mistakes. In one particularly hard scene Fletcher drives Andrew to breaking while trying to get him to play to Fletcher’s Tempo. The manipulations and stress continue right up to a pre-competition breaking point when Andrew and Fletcher come to blows.

Out of the college, Andrew, now beginning to live a normal life, is persuaded by his father (Paul Reiser, (Life After Beth, 2014) to join an action against Fletcher, supposedly secretly. A while later Fletcher and Andrew meet in a jazz bar where Fletcher is playing and it would seem that the meeting was friendly, Fletcher even invites Andrew to play I a jazz band he is fronting at an up-coming jazz festival. Andrew agrees and turns up to perform.

What happens next is a mixture of pettiness, cruelty and public humiliation, betters by a fighting spirit and genuine talent. Fletcher excuses his actions by telling us how he is driving great artists to be even better, to be all that they can potentially be.

What does it take to be a world class musician, talent, strength, determination and   much more. This is a very intense movie and although centered around a college Jazz band it is a very engaging movie, which even had me sitting quite literally at the edge of my seat waiting for a wrong note or a breakdown.

This is an excellent movie which at time seems almost claustrophobic for the band members. I have absolutely no musical talent, and looking at this, if I had, I would keep it at a purely amateur level. J.K. Simmons who plays Fletcher give a master-class in how to be the bad guy, manipulating and bullying the students under his control, but all seemingly for the greater good. **** probably best described as an excellent, intense 4* production.

Two Night Stand

I’ll start of by saying I enjoyed this movie and only saw it on the recommendations of a friend. I say this because one or two others have not been too kind to the work. Directed by Max Nichols, this is directorial debut, and a good one at that. The premise is quite simple. Out of work and out of love Megan (Analeigh Tipton, Warm Bodies, 2013) is cajoled by her flat mate in to going out to a party, only to find she has no ID and cannot attend so back home. At home she decides to take the advice offered by everybody; get on line and find a guy.

After some time dithering about, she eventually cobbles together an on-line profile and enters the fray. Following a few minutes of the usual jokes she comes across “Alec” (Miles Teller, whiplash, 2014) who seems like a genuine guy; he does live on the other side of the city though, however she goes for it and heads over to Alec’s. after what is presumed to be a satisfying night Megan decides to slip out.

There are two issues with slipping out, firstly the front door is alarmed and causes here to jump back to bed before the siren sounds. This gets fixed only to have the morning after discussion with Alec rr as she mistakenly calls him; Alex. Many of the jokes/scenarios here are not new, but they are not hammed either. Indeed is their very recognisable nature which contributes to the scene, as we inevitably identify with various parts of the discussions. Finally leaving the apartment Megan has one last major obstacle to overcome; the New York snow, unfortunately the snow won as she is trapped inside , with no further option Megan returns with Alec to the apartment. What follows is the traditional awkward silence following the discussion they had earlier when they thought they would never see each other again. This is of course an ages-old gag; people insult each other only to be forced in to a situation together. What makes this work is the ability of both cast members to work well together and have a snappy script supplied to them by the screen writer (Mark Hammer, Skins episode 2011).

Having checked the weather , it looks like they are trapped together for at least another night, remember this is early morning. Eventually they settle done to a delicate “truce”, a truce which is put in jeopardy by Megan when she is in the bathroom and reads an article on the type of women who use dating sites for one night stands, she identifies as #2 – Damaged. Clearly still hurting she rips out the page and flushes it down the toilet. The only problem is the flood that follows. From here the disaster mounts. Alex has no plunger, but his neighbours have. The neighbours are away and Alex does not have a key, so the two of them gear-up and via the fire-escape go round to their neighbours’ apartment. The windows are frozen solid, normally a problem with the building’s windows would have meant they were open. Megan does what she needs to do and they get in, much to Alec’s shock and amazement.

Once the piece is recovered from the toilet, they have a discussion and the issue quickly passes, or does it? Following a smoke of a certain herb, they relax and after making a “blanket tent” relax for the evening. While talking they decide that their situation might allow for some Science – namely feedback on where they went wrong the night before. Queue night two. In the best traditions of love’s labours being lost, Megan leaves for home the next day, but under a cloud.

While Megan has been open about her relationships, Alec has been less so. What seemed like a budding friendship might just have failed at its second hurdle. Back at her apartment Megan’s flat mate, Faiza (10 Cent Pistol, 2014) and her boyfriend, Cedric (Scott Mescudi, Need For Speed, 2014) have news for her – she has 4 days to find a new place. Alex now has a similar predicament owing to items left in his apartment (see for yourself). So nothing else to do, it is time for the New Year’s eve party, which needless to say, is a bit of a damp squib for her, or at least it is until the police come looking for her. The consequences of her entry to Alec’ neighbour flat come back to haunt her. It seems as if this is Alec’s doing, she is in a holding cell and he’s trying to bail her out, unsuccessfully. The last few minutes of the movie you can check out for yourself.

This could very easy have been a painful saccharine affair (no pun) but with snappy script and delivery it turned the movie in to something well worth watching regardless of whether or not you are trapped behind a wall of snow.

A very solid ***