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Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Inside Llewyn Davis

Is it the media industry that’s in the shitter? Or is it the content itself that’s stuck to the back of the toilet? Who knows, maybe we’re to blame for digesting this garbage. Because quite frankly, I don’t think public relations, commercialism, and technology has ever been so abundant, profitable, advanced…essentially, easy. The ones who’s jobs it is to shove this over-saturated, bland, overcompensating drivel down our throats until we choke are succeeding, they’re doing their job. And sure, the ones who create the pollution are at fault to an extent, but the crap they conjure up is kind of intentional isn’t it? I mean, if we keep gobbling it up and spewing currency into their wallets like a volcano, who can blame them, right? So doesn’t that mean the reason for quality’s collapse stems from us, the consumers? Who do you think is to blame, the creators, the sellers, or the swallowers?

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Sorry about that rant, I’m just out of “Inside Llewyn Davis” and it’s making me wish things were better nowadays. And I’m not just talking about music either. I had to travel quite aways to catch this flick because it wasn’t playing in my area. And this is happening all to often recently. The only place showing the film is a small art-house downtown that’s a bit of a hassle to get to for me. I have no problem travelling to see a movie, especially one of this caliber. It’s just that, I have quite a few cinemas in my surroundings…big, new, expensive theatres and you’re telling me not one of them bothered to pick this up ? I know the reasons are obvious, for example, compared to the big-budget flicks staring A-listers screening, “Inside Llewyn Davis” would earn mere peanuts. Which is where the problem begins I guess. It’s not like the Coen brothers are unheard of to cinephiles. I mean, would people rather watch mindless trash or sappy romance flicks than this towering achievement? Maybe it’s just me, I’m probably just preaching or being stupid. Anyway…

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As I previously stated, the film we’re discussing here is the Coen brothers latest masterpiece, “Inside Llewyn Davis.” It opens on a lonely microphone surrounded by  a disheartening silence. Llewyn soon breaks this soundless void with a haunting, melancholic folk ballad that sets the tone for the rest of the film. If you’re searching for a flick with hope, laughter, and happiness, this is not the experience for you. “Inside Llewyn Davis” is about as depressing, honest, and real as it gets. Soon after, we set off accompanying Mr. Davis, a young folk musician, as he struggles to sell himself and find work. Llewyn then begins to implode under the weight of his own principals and broken relationships. Down and out, Llewyn makes one last push to rise above it all and hitches a ride to Chicago in hopes of jump-starting his career. Making new friends, losing old ones, and accidentally alienating those who love him. Llewyn suffers under our greatest fear, loneliness, as he tries to stay true to himself.

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Granted it’s not the Coen’s most complex, exhilarating story. It’s but a brief moment in a young, talented, ambitious man’s life that they depict, every high and low with staggering accuracy and sparkling authenticity. There’s no doubt you’ll experience, sympathize, and feel more with “Inside Llewyn Davis” than any other film this year. Spotted with gloomy skies, dirty sunsets, harsh weather, and the unforgiving, breathtaking countryside. The Coen’s continue to utilize poignant, terrifying visuals to create unfathomable depth and atmosphere. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more masterful use of what the Earth offers naturally. The dialogue isn’t as memorable as some of the Coen’s more comedic, violent films, but offers up some genuine humour and heartbreaking quips. Alongside this, a series of original and classic folk songs by Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake, Bob Dylan, and others lay an assault upon your body. “Inside Llewyn Davis” has the best soundtrack of the year, hands down, enough said.

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Finding a cast that is as talented on the screen as they are musically inclined is a hell of a feat. A task that the Coen brothers seemed to relish undertaking and one they achieved beyond words. Starring Oscar Isaac in the title role, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garret Hedlund, and Justin Timberlake. “Inside Llewyn Davis” offers up one of the best ensembles 2013 has to offer. Without question, Isaac leads the way here. He gives a phenomenal portrayal of an invested, skilled, worn musician fighting with his artistic mindset and conforming to survive. There’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be picking up quite a few accolades come award season. Mulligan is as striking as ever and quite easily leaves the viewer smitten. It’s a real shame she doesn’t get the recognition she deserves. Hedlund and Goodman, although sparsely used, form a charismatic, obnoxious duo that’ll leave you grabbing your sides and clenching your heart. Hedlund closely matches Isaac stride for stride and hopefully will break through with this role. Timberlake brings his talent to the film and not much else, which isn’t any fault of his own. His character is short and not given a chance to develop.

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Right now, the Coen brothers “Inside Llewyn Davis” is battling Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” for my favourite film of the year…that should speak to how good this film truly is. I mean, I’m not a fan of musicals or dance flicks, and I’m not claiming that this film is either of those, but it does have similar elements. I’m merely saying that this expressionistic, impressionistic piece is so bloody brilliant, down right transcendent that it envelopes the screen and radiates life. It may or may not be the Coen’s greatest achievement, but it’s pretty damn close.

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Inside Llewyn Davis: 9.5 out of 10.

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The Hangover Part 3 (2013)

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The Hangover was a massively successful raunchy comedy that had the honourable distinction of being one of the funniest movies of the year, arguably the funniest. So, logic would dictate that a sequel was inevitable… and in 2011 we witnessed a less inventive, watered-down version of the original. Now, it’s 2013 and although The Hangover part 2 critically failed, the movie-going public seemed to differ and we are plagued with a third, and apparently final entry into the series. Two years have passed since Bangkok and one would think that Todd Phillips and company would learn from their mistakes. However, this is not the case. I mean, they don’t even get drunk or at any point become intoxicated by a form of abusive substance, effectively nullifying the very title. I’m all for cinematic evolution but, c’mon, natural selection should have wiped this series off the planet after the first disastrous sequel.

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After Leslie Chow (Jeong) is arrested in Bangkok, he is sentenced to serve time in a Thai prison. When a prison riot erupts, Chow makes a daring escape and begins his travels back to the U.S. In the United States, the gang decides to throw an intervention for Allen (Galifianakis) who is seemingly out of control. While en route to the rehab facility, the crew is attacked by a gangster named Marshall (Goodman) and his thugs. He informs the wolf-pack of the situation and kidnaps Doug (Bartha) until Allen, Stu (Helms), and Phil (Cooper) can bring him Chow.

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The Hangover greatly benefited from spontaneity, relevance, and a script that never took itself too seriously. Facets that its two sequels recklessly diverted from and ultimately paid the price for it. Look, no one is denying that Phillips has a keen sense and talent when it comes to comedy and direction, illustrated by his three films Old School, Starsky and Hutch, and of course The Hangover. Nonetheless, he seems to have lost his touch since 2009 churning out three stinkers including Due Date and both Hangover sequels. There is no doubt that his status in the industry and his ability to create top-notch comedy flicks has put tremendous pressure on him. Companies want to make money, and make it fast leaving Phillips torn between integrity and cash. Sad to say, it appears the dollar speaks the loudest. Conversely, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone as selective about the films they see as I am. What I’m trying to indicate is that I respect Phillips enough to continuously give him chances, as will I always.

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The Hangover part 3 falters under the weight of its own stupidity, ridiculousness, and overly dramatic tendencies. As with part 2, it has nothing new to offer and the only thing these sequels contribute to is the decimation, albeit inadvertently, of the original. I didn’t go in anticipating Academy caliber material, that would be idiotic. However, I did expect an improvement over 2011’s debacle and it couldn’t even accomplish that. With a cast that has proven track records and knows their way around a joke, it becomes very apparent that it is the source material letting everyone down. The story feels as if it was slapped together with leftover one-liners from other screenplays and fused together with weak tape. Which leaves us begging Phillips to take more time comprising his next outing and try to recapture some of the brilliance that made him so revered as a comedic filmmaker in the first place.

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Usually I’d dissect and describe the performances of the entire cast. Yet, they all perform with such mediocrity that it’s hard to differentiate one from the other. If it wasn’t for the obvious inconsistencies in their physical appearances, you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart, but I digress.  When did Allen, Zach Galifianakis’s character, become a physically incapable, mentally maladjusted, morally void reject? If I remember correctly, in The Hangover he was awkward and maybe a bit of a sociopath. Nonetheless, still normal enough to function in society and intelligent enough to cheat a casino. Anyway, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms don’t have enough dialogue between them to make either one of their characters relevant. As for Ken Jeong, who I absolutely adore in the weekly television comedy Community, has had his character become even more of an annoying nuisance to the film series. John Goodman, one of the most underrated actors in the industry, does his best to aid this sinking ship, but ends up drowning just the same.

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Justin Bartha…why…do you even need to be…I mean…ugh, whatever…I’ve had enough of reviewing this train wreck. Barely being able to scrape a decent joke together, let alone a feasible plot. The Hangover part 3 is no where near as entertaining or funny enough. I just feel bad for Goodman, Cooper, Phillips, cast and crew. At least they got to travel to new, exciting, and exotic places while making these two, needless, unavoidable sequels. Anything worth any value you can see in the trailers and TV spots and save yourself the ticket fee. I don’t usually get dragged to movies, I am very selective in what I watch. However, I did get dragged to The Hangover Part 3 and it reassured me that I should never trust anyone ever again. On the plus side, I got to see the new Pacific Rim trailer on a big screen which was somewhat of a silver lining. All in all, I’m not as mean as this review is making me out to be. I respect everyone who worked on this film, it’s just that the film itself is piece of flaming garbage.

The Hangover Part 3: 3.5 out of 10.

Argo (2012)

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Following up Gone Baby Gone and The Town, Ben Affleck’s Argo was released with seemingly insurmountable expectations. But the dark, satirical humour, unbearable tension, and outstanding performances by its entire cast is what separated Argo from a pack of dramatized history films in 2012. Argo further cements Ben Affleck as a force both on and off camera. A political thriller that had some tough competition in 2012, all heavily based on historic significance. However, despite this disadvantage, Argo was able to walk away with top honours at the Oscars. Featuring Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and a slew of supporting stars, Argo is sound from top to bottom. The retro look and immersive story make Argo glow and full of intensity.

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The American embassy in Iran was invaded and lost to Iranian revolutionaries in 1979. Numerous Americans were taken hostage. However, during the carnage and chaos, six managed to escape. The six Americans took refuge at the Canadian Ambassador’s house and stayed, waiting for the CIA to work out a way to bring them home. Tony Mendez (Affleck) with the help of Lester (Arkin) and John (Goodman), devised a plan to extract the six using a fake movie as a cover. The six Americans were to be various crew members and producers from Canada on a location scout. With the revolutionaries slowly beginning to realize Americans missing and the White House getting cold feet, time begins to run out.

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Depending more on the source material than making it appeasing. Argo is rewarded for staying true to the past, investing in the audiences tolerance, and choosing intelligence over appearance. In the lead role, Ben Affleck’s work ethic and exterior are impenetrable, exactly what they should be. You’d want someone calm and composed holding your life in their hands. Affleck is immovable and should have earned an Oscar nomination for his performance. Cranston and Goodman are equally as impressive in their supporting roles, but are an afterthought to Arkin’s Oscar nominated performance. With its strong cast and durable, yet entrancing script. Argo is proof that quality over quantity is the best policy, deservedly winning best picture.

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Argo: 9 out of 10.