Article: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


Title: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Year: 1966

Director: Sergio Leone

MPAA Rating: Approved


Tuco, a criminal with a crooked smile, sits on a horse with a noose tight around his neck. He squirms uncomfortably. A crowd surrounds him, waving their hands in front of their faces to keep the flies away. Squinting to shade the sun, the deputy finishes reading Tuco’s offenses. “Therefore, according to the powers vested in us, we sentence the accused here before us, Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez.”

From behind a horse stable’s window, Blondie steps out to survey the scene, a cigar in his mouth. “Known as the ‘Rat’,” he whispers.

“…and any other aliases he might have, to hang by the neck until dead. May God have mercy on his soul. Proceed.” The deputy, concluding the list, gives the executioner a nod. The executioner raises the whip and brings it down on the horse, but before the whip touches the horse’s back, a gunshot tears it from his hand. Another shot severs the noose around Tuco’s neck and send the horse galloping away. Then three more shots remove the hats of three frightened onlookers.


Review: Happy Death Day (2017)

full review

Happy Death Day (2017)

Rated PG-13 for violence/terror, crude sexual content, language, some drug material and partial nudity

Rating: 7/10

I can easily imagine how the script pitch meeting for Happy Death Day unfolded. A producer shouts out, “Let’s remake Groundhog Day!” followed by another producer who shoots his hand up and adds, “with blood and death!” Some could rightly say that Hollywood is running low on creativity because now they have resorted to mashing up two ideas. Honestly, though, this idea works to an extent. Happy Death Day is stupid fun. Turn your brain off for an hour-and-a-half or so and enjoy this roller-coaster.

Article: Blade Runner


Title: Blade Runner

Blade Runner: The Final Cut (aka Blade Runner: The Definitive Cut) 2007 Release*

Year: 1982

Director: Ridley Scott

MPAA Rating: Theatrical Version: Rated R for violence

Final Cut: Rated R for violence and brief nudity.


Shirtless and dripping from the pouring rain, Roy Batty, an Android, steps closer to Rick Deckard, chasing him into a corner. Clenching a dove in his hand, he sits down and locks eyes with the frightened Blade Runner. He collects his thoughts before speaking slowly, enunciating each word with care: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe,” he chuckles cynically before continuing. “Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time.” He gulps sorrowfully. “Like tears in rain… Time to die.” Smirking one last time at Deckard, he bows his head. Rain pours down over his head and drips down from his chin in a single stream. The dove flutters out of his hands and ascends.

Article: Whiplash


Title: Whiplash

Year: 2014

Director: Damien Chazelle

Rated R for strong language including some sexual references

As the live jazz continued in the background, the dim lights of the jazz club twinkled on. The slim number of casual patrons created a low buzz in the background. With two glasses standing between him and Andrew Neiman, Terence Fletcher, Andrew’s band leader, leaned in closer to his former pupil. His frown developing with terrifying intensity, Fletcher lowered his voice and continued—his voice was as sharp as knives. “Now imagine if Jones had just patted young Charlie on the head and said ‘Good job.’ Charlie would’ve said to himself, ‘Well…I did do a good job,’ and that’d be that. No Bird. Tragedy, right? Except that’s just what people today want.” Fletcher paused before driving his final sentence in with menacing emphasis. “There are no two words more harmful in the entire English language than ‘good job.’”

If you have played a team sport or picked up an instrument, you have most probably experienced a “Terence Fletcher” moment at least once. “Faster! Faster!” and “Not my tempo!” your instructor shouted at you. He said you weren’t playing it right, or you were a hair too slow, but nothing seemed to satisfy him. Never before had you felt this close to giving up the sport or instrument. But a few hours or days after your nightmare with your teacher, it didn’t seem that bad after all. However, what if there was a teacher who was very much like this and was a bit realer than a nightmare?

Before his 2016 musical, La La Land, Damien Chazelle wrote and directed Whiplash. It’s the story of an aspiring jazz drummer named Andrew Nieman (Miles Teller) who, after practicing till blood trickled down from his hand, is admitted to the Shaffer Conservatory Studio Band, the top jazz orchestra in the world, but the conductor, Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons), is no less than a human incarnation of the devil. He tortures his students, pushing them closer and closer to the edge of breaking—and some do break. He hurls chairs at his band members, physically attacks them, and insults them to nothingness, just to name a few. Why does he do this? Throughout the film, Fletcher often repeats a story of how Charlie Parker became Charlie Parker: Jo Jones threw a cymbal at his head.

Fletcher wants to train the next Charlie Parker; the next Louis Armstrong; the next Jazz great. In a pivotal scene near the end of the film, Fletcher tells Andrew, “Any idiot can move his hands and keep people in tempo. No, it’s about pushing people beyond what’s expected of them. And I believe that is a necessity.” More or less, Fletcher is the jazz equivalent of Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s renowned war film, Full Metal JacketWhiplash is very much like a war movie, and in fact, it probably is more intense and gritty than most war films.

I don’t think it would come much as a surprise that writer and director Damien Chazelle procured this story from personal experiences. A jazz drummer himself, Chazelle relates the story behind his film in NPR’s January 7, 2017 “Fresh Air” interview: “It had a lot to do with a very intensive jazz program at my high school that I was a part of, and a very demanding teacher, and certain emotions I felt as a young player where the kind of enjoyment and appreciation of the art of music was inextricably wrapped up in fear and dread and anxiety about getting something wrong.” So, really, he molded this film after his own nightmares. In fact, the Academy Awards nominated its screenplay under the Adapted Screenplay category instead of the Original Screenplay category because it was quite autobiographical. What makes this film so gripping is the amount of relatability that everyone faces sometime down along the road with teachers, coaches, bosses and maybe parents—some to a high degree, some less. Plus, the fact that it was based off his real-life experiences drives this film forward with a gut punch.

The camerawork in this film is a language of its own. It alone tells a story, and the editing that complements it is simply genius. Isolated, the cinematography itself is half the work; it’s merciless, never pulling any punches. And that is even without mentioning J. K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher. This film is not for the faint of heart. Simmons embodies the monster of Fletcher so well that it seems like they are the same person—outside of the movie too. He’s always on the verge of snapping. One moment he’s giving a high-five to a little girl; the next moment he insults your mother as if she had offended him greatly. After you watch this film, you will never see Simmons in his other films in any other way anymore. Even if he plays a protagonist in that film, he’ll still look to you like a ticking time bomb. Frankly, that’s just how terrific J. K. Simmons is in Whiplash.

Unsurprisingly, there is quite a steady stream of uncompromising foul language here, mainly Fletcher. And the acts of violence—though, compared to other war films, they are sparse—are fueled with meaning. When it comes from Fletcher, we feel nothing but shock and anger against him. But when it comes from Andrew, it’s both satisfying and sickening to watch. I have to admit that though Miles Teller is one of my least favorite actors in the industry, he does do a decent job as Andrew Nieman—probably his best performance ever. It’s still far from a good performance, but it doesn’t take much away from the impact of the movie.

With the addition of Fletcher’s swearing that spices up the personality of the driven band leader, Simmons’s portrayal of the violent perfectionist is captivating and real. He commands Fletcher’s role so well that we can’t look away for a single beat. His fuse is always about to blow, and we can’t help but give in to our curiosity, wondering what’s going to rain down on his students when he does. This film is a bumpy and unpredictable ride. The way it ends, too, is explosively triumphant and absolutely riveting as all the pieces of the film come together in viciously directed fireworks—easily one of the best endings in film ever. Whiplash is mesmerizing. It’s intense. It’s brutal. But before the final beat drops, you’ll be caught knee-deep in its vivid storytelling. weekend-lin- manuel-miranda- la-la- land-director-


Quality: 9.5/10
Content: 4/10


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Article: The Truman Show


Title: suggested by anonymous.

Title: The Truman Show

Year: 1998

Director: Peter Weir

MPAA Rating: Rated PG for thematic elements and mild language

Quality: 7.5/10

Content: 7/10

Since 2002, Dr. Joel Gold, an assistant professor of psychiatry at New York University, and his brother, Ian, have been the leading researchers of a rare mental illness that has affected more than forty people in the U.S. and U.K. Patients of this illness range from drug abusers to Army veterans, and the effects range from travelling to a downtown Manhattan federal building for asylum to (almost) climbing the Statue of Liberty for escape (Marantz).

What exactly is this mental illness? The Gold brothers have titled it the “Truman Show delusion” after the majority of their patients explicitly mentioned the film as the origin of these false perceptions or as a medium of relatability (Kershaw). Victims of the Truman Show delusion suffer from a paranoia that there are cameras everywhere filming them and broadcasting them live to a worldwide audience, and the delusion that their relatives and friends are all actors in this 24/7 reality TV show (Kershaw).

Truman, as seen through a camera. Paramount Pictures

Many of these cases point to The Truman Show as either the instigator or endorsement of these thoughts. Maybe because that’s how real and relatable The Truman Show is.

Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) is just a normal guy in a normal town who does normal things. Or so he thinks. Gradually, he discovers odd peculiarities that lead him to believe he’s being filmed 24/7. Jim Carrey’s performance is so winning that you feel like one of those viewers back at home or at a bar rooting for him. Though there is a handful of normal, “in-movie” shots, most of the shots we see are through the show-within-the-show’s perspective. Even the aspect ratio of the film is small at 1.85:1—very close to that of television sets in the 1990s and of most screens today. Note the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen in most movies. Depending on the size of the screen, the bars should be either non-existent or minuscule.

Despite its persuasive use of dramatic irony, The Truman Show could’ve added more to the effect of Truman and his gradual realization of his lie of a life. In probably the second most dramatic scene in the film (second to the finale), Truman recklessly drives around the town with Meryl (Laura Linney), his on-screen wife, and he swells with frightening madness and insanity. Carrey’s performance already gives this scene the skittish, insane vibe it has, but somehow, that scene feels a bit underwhelming. It could be that the scene was too short for the mood to sink in, or the ending with men in biochemical suits surrounding Truman doesn’t seem right for the mood of the scene. Honestly, though, I don’t know what I would do to change this scene; I just know it could’ve gone places that it didn’t.

Escaping the set, as seen through a camera. Paramount Pictures

Regardless, Jim Carrey’s crazed Truman and Laura Linney’s frightened Meryl along with Peter Weir’s hyperventilating camera nail the mood while it lasts, so maybe it evens out. Their collaboration of talents throughout the film highlights Truman’s growth from an ignorant idiot to one who—slight spoiler alert ahead—disobeys “God” at the end. As the film begins, the falsity in all the lies Truman believes to be true are revealed, and it’s hard to resist the urge to scream at his ignorance multiple times throughout the film. But, boy, does the ending satisfy that itch and add to the victorious actions of Truman. Jim Carrey is the star of The Truman Show, but unfortunately, his résumé boasts only a small handful of other good films; we’ll have to take what we can get, I guess. His charm and charisma make Truman so lovable and appealing to both the on-screen audience and real audience. This one’s a crowd-pleaser and a necessity for film fanatics.


Marantz, Andrew. “Unreality Star.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 16 Dec. 2014,

Kershaw, Sarah. “Look Closely, Doctor: See the Camera?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 28 Aug. 2008,