Tag Archives: James Newton Howard

Cinema-Maniac: Nightcrawler (2014)

Several films typically portray news media in a unfavorable manner. Easily due to the shifts most people witness growing up possibly realizing the true intentions of such mainstream journalism, and the inner workings of news media. Many movies that tackle news media simply discuss, or briefly mention how evil, and soulless it is, but very few of them can match the lasting powers that something like Network (1976) has accomplished. However, I also feel Nightcrawler accomplishes the same in depicting the current era of journalism much like Network did for its era. In short, Nightcrawler is classic filmmaking, and fantastically done commentary on its subject matters.

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Like a true lunatics, wears sunglasses at nighttime.

Nightcrawler follows Los Angeles denizen Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) stumbling into a new career as a cameraman, and begins his nocturnal forays across the city in search of shocking and grisly crimes. Being entirely character driven the film hardly leaves Louis Bloom out of the picture in its tightly crafted, and masterful woven narrative. Louis Blood is a charming, sociopathic, and manipulative character written in such a darkly comedic manner one can’t help, but be engrossed by him. Part of his masterful characterization is starting up as underdog in a field he has no experience in, and even less knowledge on. His stick it to the man attitude is brilliantly used to help masked an already trouble character true’s intention. Possibly fooling the viewer into hoping this trouble man will succeed in his new career against the bigger corporation that are his competition. Only to witness more of Louis Bloom sociopath personality in his desire to always be on top.

Louis Bloom writing is similar to a fictional character from a sports story, like Rocky Balboa, and having them go the distance despite all odds. Using a similar method here, but to a vastly different effect that works just the same. Chronicling Louis Bloom hard work in detail from him rigorously learning police codes, waiting hours for a good scoop from police scanner, and learning the streets for the fastest possibles route to get to his scoop. Much like Louis Bloom mentions it several times himself he’s a very hard worker, dedicated, and always set high goals for himself which is shown in great. There’s no shortage of antagonistic forces applying pressure to Louis creating more obstacles for him to overcome. Culminating in the creation of a sympathetic character you’ll find in Louis Bloom despite taking more morally questionable action to stay on top.

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Here in nature, we see Louis Bloom in his natural habitat, waiting to attack his prey.

Louis Bloom doesn’t so much descend into madness, but rather his true intentions come to the forefront the further he reaches success, and obsessively wants to maintain it. The writing does an excellent job displaying Louis Bloom troubling nature. Just about every interaction Louis has in the film displays his cunning nature in manipulation; especially with his assistant Rick (Riz Ahmed) whom always get talked back into doing Louis work despite it being against it morally. Another subtle trait of Bloom true’s sociopath self is his politeness. Always presenting himself in a calm, and collected manner with a polite tone to everyone. Once he gets taste of being success his politeness takes a different nature when applying that to threaten people. Giving layers to an already well defined character.

When it comes to Louis Bloom, the film passes no judgement on him, and instead uses his position in the story provide commentary on society. Through, and through Nightcrawler ultimately tells a story about how a man seeking a job, and who eventually through hard work makes a successful business for himself. Seeing the method he used, and the moral lines he crossed to reach his goals never once pushes the blame on Louis Bloom. Rather, it is used for viewers for reflect how society itself lend a hand in creating such a person. By using the background of sensational journalism it kills two birds with one stone; illustrate exactly how society created a man like Louis Bloom & the consequences that come for rewarding such behavior, and displaying the shady side of sensationalist journalism. Commentating on these things with a easy to understand character with plenty more around him to dissect. Nightcrawler doesn’t become a complex story to follow, nor are it themes difficult to decipher, but much in the same vein as Louis Bloom, it’s a lot more intelligent than you might think.

First time director Dan Gilroy (who also wrote the script) shows a surprisingly amount of understanding in crafting his movie. Every choice he made in the film can fool the average viewer into thinking he’s an experience director. From his masterful usage of James Newton Howard music to display Louis Bloom triumphant state of mind when perfectly capturing a hot scoop. Gilroy style is one that is in control showing the right amount of restraint between displaying the sympathetic, and sociopath side of his story. He presents the cold truth, and harsh realities around him as well as portray Louis Bloom worshiping sensationalist media without ever telling the audience how to feel. One standout sequence in the film details how a news station usage the morbid footage Louis Bloom filmed of a terrible aftermath of a horrific crime, and showing viewers firsthand look how the news station uses such footage to manipulate its audience. It’s a brilliant scene in terms of writing, and especially direction giving it a an eerie horror like mood to it. Depicting the night life of Nightcrawlers as one full of wonders, and equal disgust in the length news media will go for ratings. Precise, and calculated Dan Gilroy in his directorial debut managed to helm a film all with an understanding of a veteran director.

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I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse Nina.

Jake Gyllenhaal is obviously the man of the hour with a tour de force performance. Gyllenhaal’s weight loss in the film help further emphasizes his definitive facial features, and seems to leave his eyes empty of emotion beyond greed. Contributing to the character’s slimy personality. Nailing his polite mannerism in scenes where he meant to come off professional, and shows subtle violent nature within him when speaking to people privately. His fast talk is just charming as it is perceived to be coming from a complete lunatics. From his smirks whenever he gets what he wants to his eye bulging look that makes him appear ready to snap at any moment. All the while keeping his portrayal of Louis Bloom in check, and actually making him a sympathetic character despite being morally against him. When viewing Nightcrawler, Gyllenhaal simply disappears into the role. Jake Gyllenhaal performance makes is worth the price of admission alone.

Riz Ahmed who plays the hapless assistant Rick serving as a good contrast to Gyllenhaal. Keeping his emotions in tack to empathize with his cause. He’s closest the film has to a moral compass. Ahmed expresses fear in the way he speaks during scenes he shares with Gyllenhaal helps portray what kind of hold he has over people while his nervous nature to be firm constantly shown. On the other hand, the film also has Rene Russo who plays news station director Nina Romina. Her chemistry with Gyllenhaal is perfect in every scene they share. She’s commanding, easily approachable, and most important of all underlying evil in her portrayal. Able to slowly show the inner destruction of someone who eventually seeks ratings over ethical journalism. Bill Paxton also delivers to in the film as a enjoyable, and unlikable foil whenever he’s onscreen. Simply being charismatic in his slimeball nature while keeping himself in check.

Nightcrawler is my ideal type of movie; everything just works seamlessly with one another perfectly into a masterful viewing experience. Keeping me glue to the screen, and never looses me in it. Everything about Nightcrawler seems seamless from the natural writing that engrosses the viewer, the great performances, and the very careful direction that elevate the film to where it needs to be. Being both an entertaining movie through Jake Gyllenhaal captivating performance, and a fantastic character study ensures Nightcrawler can be the type of movie that can be enjoyed by anyone.

Rating: 10/10

Cinema-Maniac: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) Review

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire follows Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem. Structurally “Catching Fires” sticks too closely to “The Hunger Games”. We go from District 12 to the Capitol and the training period and then into the Games. The “been here, done that” vibe is inevitable, but improved upon its predecessor is in character development. Characterization strengthen the film structure from what’s already a tale of love, faith, strength, and humanity against the system into a compelling tight narrative. Spending time building its world to understand why this future is in constant conflict and seeing the effect our characters actions have on the world. Touching on the difficulty of being a living symbol through Katniss; who has greatness thrust upon her uncertain on what exactly to do with that power. It’s this conflict that makes Katniss a dynamic protagonist fighting what she believes is right versus what is seen as being right. Not only are major characters given more depths, but minor characters leave an impression including those specifically designated to be plot points. Some scenes are specifically written as comedy relief to ease the drama before the hunger games. While the film ending does only serves as buildup what came before is more than satisfactory for a complete narrative.

As for its political side the film lacked subtlety. Its in your face with moments designated to discussing Katniss position as a symbol in a revolution, a public execution of a revolutionary, what’s at stake defying the government, what previous freedom was lost, and many aspect are constantly present throughout the film. It does so without shoving down any sort of message down its viewer throat. Thought provoking it is not barely exploring the government sides of politics beyond wanting more and maintaining that power. A missed opportunity no doubt, but nothing noticeably damaging to the film narrative. The undertone romance between Peeta and Katniss which no longer remains underdeveloped is an undertone political one. Controlling the image of influential figures while in context subtly hides its intention with a double meaning. One might simply past the romance aspect of being nothing more than a romance, but doing so is missing another layer of added humanity. Katniss love interest are more than just guys she likes, they are metaphor; choosing temptation to live in a bubble away from the world problem with lip service versus being part of the world taking position in its conflicts.

Francis Lawrence direction borders on if its isn’t broke, don’t fix it mentality to the material. Rather than recreate everything Francis Lawrence merely expands on all ideas and makes them clearer and more concise. There is continuity from a change in style, tone, and authentic that doesn’t alienate it from it predecessors. A large part of continuity also works is because James Newton Howard music utilizes all of his prior thematic material to bring you back into the world. With Howard’s score, and Francis Lawrence’s direction, it makes the film feel familiar both aurally, and visually. The action scenes themselves work narratively, but the set pieces are empty of any creativity and ferocity. Once a promising setup is in place for an action scene the film falls victim to a standard execution of them playing like a straight cliche; playing around the idea one of our heroes drowned, the sacrifice after carrying someone destine not to survive for long distances, shooting a lethal projectile (in this case an arrow) pointed at an ally to hit an enemy behind ally, protagonist losing grip against a strong uncontrollable force, sharp object narrowly avoiding hitting someone’s head, everything needed for a generic action scene are here visibly clear.

Jennifer Lawrence (the only reason I’m seeing this series) exudes the spirit of Katniss in every breath and pulse of the film. Controlling every single emotional nerve of the audience with vacant stares and dimpled smiles breaking every stereotypical mold attached to her. Josh Hutcherson balances the sensitivity of love and charm with the emotional conflict of a ravaged heart with effortless poise. The interactions between Hutcherson and his merry company form the highlights of the film, filled with the cackling chemistry. Woody Harrelson delivers a matured and restrained performance while Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne blends in simplicity. Donald Sutherland is exceptional as President Snow in his mannerisms lends a third dimension. Supporting cast includes Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee. Malone in particular sets into this role that is so eccentric, so over-the-top, and manages to make Johanna somewhat relatable and real.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire improves on its predecessor even if it sticks too closely to its structure. Strong characterizations raises the stakes as well as expanding what came before it without alienating newcomers nor fans. Supported by a strong, tightly woven script, and a confident direction it improves upon the predecessor foundation refining old tricks that work better the second time around.

9/10