Tag Archives: New York



Director: Damien Chazelle; Main Cast: Miles Teller, J.K. SimmonsPaul ReiserMelissa Benoist;

Andrew Neimann (Teller) is a young musician, attending a prestigious music school and dreaming of nothing else but to become a great jazz drummer. As he strives for perfection, he meets Terence Fletcher (Simmons), revered teacher and leader of the best band in the school. It seems an encounter without consequences but it changes Andrew’s life, when it’s clear that Fletcher wants him in his band. It begins then a battle of wills, Fletcher always pushes his musicians beyond their limits but he takes a particular interested in Andrew and, at times, it seems that perfectionism becomes sadism. Andrew, on his part, is so absorbed by his quest for greatness that he’s ready to accept the abuses, disregarding his father’s (Reiser) concerns and discarding a budding relationship with Nicole (Benoist), a sweet girl from another college. The plot is very simple but both Simmons and Teller really sell this story of a match made in dysfunctional heaven, of driving someone to the edge: being another person or oneself. The “no pain, no gain” mantra that is the leitmotif of so many films about artists or athletes, reaches a whole new level here, turning what I always regarded as a fun, harmless thing, a drum set, into an instrument of torture both psychological and physical. I bet Darren Aronofsky, the master of cinematic obsessive behaviour, would approve and Sigmund Freud would have a field day. After yet another extreme event (showing up cover in blood and with a probable concussion to a concert) Andrew is forced by his father (who finally decided to intervene) to take a step back from music and leave school. However, he goes out with a bang denouncing Fletcher’s mistreatments and having him sacked. This would be the celebration of a sound approach to life and an uplifting ending, barring joining a rock band and having tons of fun while on world tour. Alas, this is not that kind of tale: there is a comeback and a final show down and the audience is left wondering if anyone really won or it is just a beginning of a new chapter of an enabler and his favorite addict. Chazelle has put together an interesting movie, thanks to amazing performances and refreshing directing choices; in addition jazz makes a great soundtrack. Captivating —7.5/10


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Girls (season 2)

Main Cast: Lena DunhamAllison WilliamsJemima KirkeZosia MametAdam DriverAlex KarpovskyChristopher AbbottAndrew Rannells;


The adventures and mishaps of Hanna and her friends continue (here is my review of season 1, in case you missed it). Since the very first scene we can see that, this time around, Girls is more about boys. Not only as friends, boyfriends or ex-boyfriends of the girls in question but also as characters in their own right. We see how Adam (Driver), Hanna’s former boyfriend, reacts to heartache and is more peculiar than ever. Charlie (Abbott), after breaking up with Marnie, bounces back pretty nicely and his friend Ray (Karpovsky), cynic and rather jaded, finally falls for a girl. Hanna’s life seems back on track: getting along splendidly with her new roommate Elijah (Rannells), a new boyfriend and a job as writer, everything is rainbows and puppies. On the other hand Marnie has fallen, rather spectacularly, to pieces: no more ideal job, no more boyfriend and no more great expectations. Jenna, while breezing carefree through her days, still exuding charisma, has found her focus or so it appears. Shoshanna finally feels like a grown-up with a proper boyfriend, Ray. The set-up is for meaningful character development but that’s not the life of twenty-something girls, at least according to Dunham. The evolution is more a devolution and we witness the downward spiral of our heroines, their attempts to solve messy situations land them, more often than not, into more predicaments. Moreover they show signs of borderline mental disorder, Hanna most of all, and it is a little disconcerting. Watching episode after episode is similar to the morbid fascination of looking at a car crash: you know you shouldn’t but you can’t help yourself.  Baffling but addicting —6.5/10

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Girls (season 1)

Main Cast: Lena DunhamAllison WilliamsJemima KirkeZosia Mamet;


The stories of four girls in their early twenties living in New York City: Hanna and her roommate Marnie, Jenna and her cousin Shoshanna. We follow their everyday life and their struggles with work and relationships. Hanna (Dunham) is self-deprecating, aspiring writer but she has to face the dullness of regular job in order to pay her bills. She tries to live as much as possible in order to have lots of material for her stories but she ends up, more often than not, in weir/ridiculous situations that only increase her self-loathing. She also aspires to a nice boyfriend but she seems not to want to make an effort into building a proper relationship, she is “dating” Adam, a free spirit with a very unconventional uptake on life.  Marnie (Williams) is quite the opposite of Hanna, she is an assistant in an art gallery, first rung on the ladder of her dream career, she has a long-term boyfriend Charlie and she has got her act together, or at least it looks like that at the beginning. Jenna (Kirke) is beautiful, charismatic with a bohemian life-style and a penchant for making the world revolve around her. Shoshanna (Mamet) is still in college and she seems conflicted between being a serious, responsible girl or being glamorous a la Sex and the City. Director/writer Lena Dunham has a knack for making messed-up, disagreeable characters rather likable, so much that following the (mis-)adventures of these girls is quite addictive, I’m curious to see what comes next. —6.5/10

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Empire State

Director: Dito Montiel, Main Cast: Liam HemsworthMichael AngaranoDwayne JohnsonEmma Roberts

Boy dreams to become a NY policeman but he ends up becoming a security guard for an armored car depository.  His dream in tatters, he decides to organise a heist at said depository with the help of his best pal, a petty criminal. Things get complicated, then messy and finally they spiral out of control. Michael Angarano’s performance and the characterisation of the Greek neighbourhood in Brooklyn are the only noteworthy things of the whole film. They reminds me of James Ransone’s character and the “Greek” connection in season 2 of The Wire; ironically, Ransone plays here an FBI agent while Paul Ben-Victor is the father of the lead and an ex-cop. For the rest…well, Liam Hemsworth has the emotional range of a flatworm, which makes me regret the absence of Channing Tatum, Montiel’s favorite actor, and it is something, because I’m really not a fan of the guy! Dwayne Johnson as the tough, good cop is utterly forgettable and Emma Roberts seems like she dropped in by chance. Montiel had a good idea but he comes up short. Wasted opportunity! Watch “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” instead.  —5/10

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