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Posts Tagged ‘Miles Teller’

Chris Hemsworth

“SPIDERHEAD” My rating: C (Netflix)

106 minutes | MPAA rating: R

A promising premise goes nowhere in “Spiderhead,” a si-fy-ish melodrama that at least allows Chris Hemsworth to play something not of the Marvel Universe.

Scripted by George Saunders, Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese (on whose short story it is based), the film unfolds in a futuristic concrete edifice perched on the edge of an island.

Inside it looks like maybe a posh-if-sterile spa melded with a swingers’ resort. There are video games for the residents to play, good food and apparently a hands-off attitude when it comes to romantic connections between the participants.

But we soon discover that this is actually a high-tech prison dedicated to medical experiments. The residents/subjects are inmates from the mainland who have volunteered to be guinea pigs in return for a more relaxed environment: no armed guards, no bars, no locked doors. Moreover, most of the men and women are non-violent offenders.

We learn about the place through Jeff (Miles Teller), who was convicted of vehicular manslaughter. Most of the time he cohabits with Lizzy (Jurnee Smollett), who serves as chef in a well-equipped kitchen.

But periodically Jeff is called to the Spiderhead, a testing center run by Steve Abnesti (Hemsworth), a bespectacled brainiac who is clearly working hard to exude an aura of frat-bro affability. He treats his inmate/subjects like buddies…until it no longer serves his purposes.

Steve is a pharmaceutical wiz who has formulated a wide array of mood-altering drugs. His subjects — all volunteers, remember — never know what they’ll be dosed with when they start a session. It might be potion that makes them laugh uproariously at even the lamest joke. For that matter, under the influence thy will find even human suffering hilarious.

There’s a drug that makes two strangers fall almost instantly and carnally in love…although when the effect has worn off there are no residual feelings of romance or lust.

The worst tests, though, involve Darkenfloss, which plunges the subject into the deepest imaginable depression.

That’s where Jeff has issues. He is expected to collaborate with Steve on who gets Darkenfloss and the dosage to be administered…and he’s deeply disturbed at seeing his fellow human beings in the throes of crippling, even suicidal, downers.

A contest of wills develops between Jeff and Steve…at which point Steve shows his true fascistic colors.

The notion of drugs that can drastically change a person’s mood — almost like a hypnotic suggestion — should be fertile ground for some interesting scenes — everything from comedy to tragedy.

And yet “Spiderhead” — which was directed by Joseph Kosinski of “Top Gun: Maverick” fame — never really takes advantage of the possibilities. In a lot of ways it’s a standard-issue mad-scientist flick.

Let’s give some credit, though, to Hemsworth, who seems to have de-bulked for his role (he never takes his shirt off) and offers a physical vulnerability that is in sharp contrast with his Thor persona. He does a good job of nailing Steve’s malevolent scheming while hiding behind the guise of an apologetic and sympathetic sort.

| Robert W. Butler

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Miles Teller

I’m not sure I like Amazon Prime’s “Too Old to Die Young,” but I’m damned if I can stop watching it.

Of course, you could say that about any effort from the supremely downbeat Nichoas Winding Refn.

Over the last 20 years Refn has gone from nihilistic Danish productions like the “Pusher” series, “Bronson” (Tom Hardy) and “Valhalla Rising” (Mads Mikkelsen)  to nihilistic American productions like “Drive” (Ryan Gosling) and  the much-despised “Only God Forgives” (Gosling again), with a sidestep into nihilistic pop culture in “The Neon Demon” (Elle Fanning).

Note the recurring word “nihilistic.” Get used to it.

“Too Old…” is Refn on steroids, a 10-part crime drama (each episode is about 90 minutes) that takes all the things people love (and hate) about his  oeuvre and pumps them up to the exploding point (though it rarely explodes; mostly it simmers).

Augusto Aguilera, Cristina Rodlo

Our protagonist (hero is way too strong a word) is Martin Jones (Miles Teller), a deputy with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.  Martin is, to put it bluntly, corrupt (but then so is just about every law enforcement officer depicted here).  He has a side job as an an enforcer/assassin for a Jamaican gang. Also, he’s dating a high-school senior, Janey  (Nell Tiger Free), whose creepy billionaire  father (William Baldwin in a career-high perf) can barely communicate through a bad case of the cocaine sniffles.

Martin’s nemesis is Jesus (Augusto Aguilera), the son of a beautiful cartel queen Martin assassinated before the series begins. The entire second episode is devoted to Jesus’ sojourn with his mother’s family in Mexico, where he gets steeped in the clan’s culture. He returns to the U.S. with his new wife (and adopted sister/cousin) Yaritza (Critina Rodlo), who claims to be a powerful witch. Naturally they’re sworn to exact revenge on Martin.

In the fourth or fifth episode we’re introduced to Viggo (John Hawkes), a terminally ill former FBI agent now devoted to vigilantism. He gets his targets from woo-woo woman Diana (Jena Malone), who as a counselor for victims of crime has a long list of child rapists and other offenders who require elimination.

Eventually Martin decides to stop killing mere gangsters and join Viggo in going after the real monsters. (more…)

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Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons

Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons

“WHIPLASH”  My rating: B+

106 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) conducts the elite studio jazz band at New York City’s most prestigious conservatory of music.  He’s a musician and educator, though you might be forgiven for mistaking him for a Marine drill instructor…or perhaps a serial killer.

Fletcher enters the rehearsal room with the swagger of a gunslinger flinging open swinging saloon doors. His students don’t make eye contact.  They gaze at the floor or at their charts.  Nobody wants to draw the alpha wolf’s reptilian stare.

But that won’t save them. Fletcher is routinely profane, insulting, and capable of reducing a young musician to sobs. He seems to take great pleasure in finding a victim at every rehearsal.

“Either  you’re out of tune and deliberately sabotaging my band, or you don’t know you’re out of tune — and that’s worse.”

He’s smug, cruel and probably sexist, given his treatment of a woman player in a freshman ensemble: “You’re in first chair. Let’s see if it’s just because you’re cute.”

He punishes those who disappoint him not with pushups but with rehearsals that go on into the wee hours: “We will stay here as long as it takes for one of you faggots to play in time.”

(more…)

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