Flick Picks 2/27/2015: Whiplash, Big Hero 6

Hooray for Hollywood!  Right?  Well, maybe not.  One wonders how often our friend Oscar actually gets to the movies and how impaired he might be when he gets there.  Last week's Flick Picks feature, Birdman, was the big winner at the 87th Academy Awards, the best horse in a fairly weak field.  In an awards ceremony dedicated to films that took few chances, it was good to something so ambitious as Birdman rewarded.  Also nominated for Best Picture was one of the most surprising success stories of 2014....

FEATURE FILMS

WHIPLASH


The very likable J.K. Simmons goes against his normal gruff but lovable type in playing the fire breathing band conductor Terence Fletcher, making life difficult for poor Andrew Neiman, a young drummer who would be the next Buddy Rich.  The promising Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now) plays the unfortunate Neiman, expending sweat and blood to find the perfect tempo and please his impossible conductor.  The insults and the drumming come fast and furious in Whiplash, a fever into which the vast majority of audiences have been happily swept.  Simmons just took home a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his efforts.  In addition to his ability to swing gleefully to the dark side, Simmons also sports some muscular arms worthy of an action hero.  Who knew?

BIG HERO 6

Winner of Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards, Big Hero 6 is a typical entry in Disney's "Animated Classics" series, teeming with energy and rich visuals.  Popular with audiences and critics alike, Big Hero 6 might please everyone.
We have the film in regular DVD and Blu-ray.  

Also available:  Chris Pine and Christopher Waltz join the original stars of the comedy hit Horrible Bosses in the cleverly titled, Horrible Bosses 2.  Tommy Lee Jones both directs and stars in The Homesman, playing a drifter hired by Hilary Swank to transport three women driven mad by life on Ameica's western frontier back to Iowa.  Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) plays a man roaming the globe to figure out the meaning of life in Hector and the Search for Happiness.  Lastly, Nicholas Roeg's 1973 creepy classic Don't Look Now, gets the Criterion Collection treatment in this latest release of the film.  The moral remains the same:  if you see a mysterious, diminutive, cloaked figure scurrying around Venice in apparent distress...walk away.

In the mood for something completely different?  


We also have a few adventurous films from 2014 that were completely overlooked in the Academy Awards nominations and ceremony.  Probably unlike any film you've seen, Locke has Englishman Tom Hardy on the road for its 85 minutes.  Just a man in an SUV, speeding along a highway by night, trying to hold together by phone (don't worry, he uses hands-free) a life coming apart at the seams.  Director Steven Knight makes this much more gripping than you might think possible.  In Frank, Michael Fassbender - who can apparently do no wrong - plays the charismatic leader of a very eccentric band, who just happens to live his life in a gigantic paper mache head.  Not for the faint of heart Calvary is full of gallows humor and reckoning, the story of a "good priest" beset with all manner of threats and trials.  The film also features a soulful, thoroughly compelling performance from Brendan Gleeson.

Coming Soon:  The Theory of Everything, Foxcatcher, The Tale of Princess Kaguya

DOCUMENTARY

THE INTERNET'S OWN BOY:  THE STORY OF AARON SCHWARTZ

Why did Highland Park native Aaron Schwartz take his own life at the age of 26?  It might have something to do with the computer and Internet visionary and political activist being the subject of federal prosecution for data theft, which his family characterizes as "the product of a criminal-justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach."   An overzealous young man who met a tragic end or  a martyr for open access?  Fascinating, maddening and inspiring by turns, "The Internet's Own Boy" is not one you'll forget anytime soon.    
 
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