Tag Archives: road trip

Inside Llewyn Davis – Review

31 Mar

I recently reviewed the Coen Brothers’ newest film, Hail Caesar! last month, and now I’m right back at it, but this time with their 2013 film Inside Llewyn Davis. I really wanted to see this movie when it first came out, but a combination of laziness and more laziness prevented me from actually making it to the theaters. It’s been quite some time since its release, and I have just now gotten around to seeing it. Let me just say, that it was worth the wait and I feel it is one of the Coen Brothers’ best. Inside Llewyn Davis was one of the movies that really hit me, and not only made me want to evaluate the movie and its different themes and artistic stylings, but also made me want evaluate some parts of myself. That’s a sign of a great movie right there.

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The year is 1961 and the folk scene of New York is a melting pot of different ideals, lyrical storytelling, and melodies that were made to hum to. For Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), music has become something of a burden, despite his overwhelming passion to express himself through song and not be forced to sell out to some giant music industry monstrosity. As Davis navigates his way through the different basket houses and venues of New York trying to find a gig and make some sort of income, he is also confronted by demons from the past that are only making it more difficult for his life to fully come together. On a whim, Llewyn Davis decides to make the trip to Chicago to hopefully gig at one of the most important venues of the city, and also get the appreciation and income he feels he deserves. What Davis doesn’t understand, is that all of his misfortune can be followed back to his own poor life choices and decisions made out of haste.

The first thing I think anyone has to talk about after seeing Inside Llewyn Davis is the outstanding usage and performance of music. The Coen Brothers have always seemed to use music in the best ways possible to enhance their movie, and before this one the primary example would have to be O Brother, Where Art Thou?. A lot of the success of the music in both of those movies is probably due to the fact that songwriting and producing titan T. Bone Burnett was the main creative force behind the song production, composition, and performance. What makes it all even more impressive is all the music in the movie is performed live and not added in in post production. That really says a lot for the musical talent of the actors. Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, and Justin Timberlake all sound excellent in the movie.davis12e_zps7d455a27Another thing the Coen Brothers are known for are the memorable, and sometimes even iconic, characters they create. Wether it’s Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski, Barton Fink, or Marge Gunderson, the people that inhabit the strange world of these movies never fail to leave an impression. Now I can add Llewyn Davis to the list of Coen characters that really hit me hard. In fact, he might be one of the best characters they’ve ever created. Llewyn Davis is quite an unlikable guy who uses his friends, condescends to people with what he thinks is his unmatchable passion for music, and treats all the people who help in like garbage. At the same time, however, there are reasons as to why he has ended up like this, which makes him something of a tragic character and one that, despite all of his faults, can be understood. I wanted to see Llewyn Davis succeed, but I more so really wanted him to realize it was time to change. He’s such a great character, and certainly one that I won’t stop talking about for a long time.

I’ve seen some people compare Inside Llewyn Davis to the Coen Brothers’ 2009 film A Serious Man. Both movies share a similar theme of a life slowly being destroyed as if it’s part of some rotten cosmic joke. A Serious Man presents this in a darkly funny way where it’s hard not to laugh the entire way through. Inside Llewyn Davis has a lot of funny moments in it, but I can’t consider this a comedy. This movie is far from being a straight up comedy. The humor that is in this movie is the same kind of dark, absurd comedy you see in many Coen Brothers films, but all the laughs really can’t outweigh the overwhelming sadness I felt at the end. This is definitely the Coen Brothers’ saddest film, and maybe part of it is because there’s nothing too hyperbolic about any of the scenarios in the movie. John Goodman certainly has the most outlandish part, but it’s really not hard to imagine that character being a real person. Just don’t expect to feel in a joking mood once the credits begin rolling.

I don’t know how many people agree with me on this, but I believe that Inside Llewyn Davis is one of the Coen Brothers’ strongest films. Not only do they create a believable version of the New York folk scene in the 1960s, which seems to live and breath all on its own, but they also have created a tragic, yet sometimes funny tale about a deadbeat with more potential than he may realize. Everyone in this movie is great, and the music that is performed for the movie sounds amazing. It’s a certainty that you will be thinking about this movie long after it ends, and even though it left me with a rain cloud over my head, it also offers some great lessons and works as an expressive work of cinematic art.

 

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Philomena – Review

20 Feb

I didn’t know too much about Philomena before going into it. I read a bare bones summary before watching it, but based on the poster, I was assuming that this was going to be some quirky indie movie with a touch of drama. I was not excited to see this. Then the movie started, and I realized that I couldn’t have been more mistaken. Philomena is a dramatic powerhouse of a movie that completely took me by surprise and has not left my thoughts since I finished watching it.

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British journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) is now unemployed after losing his job as a Labour government adviser. Finding himself with nothing to work on, he starts planning on writing a book about Russian history. That is until he meets a woman named Philomena (Judi Dench). Philomena lost her son when the convent she was put in gives the baby away without her knowledge, and for 50 years she has not stopped thinking about him and where he is. Sixsmith decides to use this story for a human interest story and helps Philomena with her search. It eventually brings them both to America where the mystery of her son’s life is revealed to be both tragic and wonderful.

If you just look at the poster above the summary, you may get a general sense of how this movie is. Well, that sense would be completely wrong, because just by looking at this poster I thought it was going to be a cute little piece of quirk. But, no. Philomena has this rare ability to rip out your soul and step on it, even though you may still be laughing at something that happened not five minutes before. While I was watching this movie, I kept saying “This is amazing. This movie is really amazing.”

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Steve Coogan and Judi Dench are part of what really makes this movie work. Their chemistry together is pretty dead on, and I feel that has a lot to do with Coogan’s natural way of acting and Judi Dench’s ability to transform herself completely into the character of Philomena. This being a sort of road trip movie, it’s pretty crucial that the characters are believable, but also show a little bit of tension. Normally, in an odd couple movie like this, one character is totally kooky and the other is the straight and narrow one. In Philomena, they never abuse this cliche, even though it is there. No cliches are ever actually abused, even when it comes to Coogan’s character as a journalist, who would seem to only really want to be involved for his own benefit. I never got the feeling that Sixsmith was trying to use this story primarily for his own gain.

Screenwriters Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan have crafted an excellent screenplay full of witty dialogue and humanity, while Stephen Frears directs it all with ease. While Coogan and Pope did write an excellent screenplay, you can’t forget that this is based off a true story. It’s startling to think that what happens here is even allowed to happen and it really makes you think what goes on behind the closed doors of some organizations amongst other major themes. This movie has a lot to say, and some of it is anything but positive, but Philomena is not a movie that tries to jam an opinion down your throat. It treats the viewers as intelligent human beings who are quite capable of deciding what they think for themselves.

Philomena was the most surprising movie of the year for me. I really had no interest in seeing it, and that just goes to show how wrong my movie radar can be. This is a funny, sad, and strangely hopeful movie based off an incredible true story that will shake you to your very core. It’s an interesting combination of characters and beliefs, and if you have an humanity in you at all you will be moved by this incredible piece of storytelling.

Paul – Review

27 Sep

In all my years of being a movie fanatic, I’ve never heard anyone say something bad about Simon Pegg’s and Nick Frost’s films like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Whenever these two are in something, it’s pretty much a guaranteed success. Even though Paul a popular movie when it came out, I don’t really hear too much talk about this one. So, I’m here to break the ice and talk about what I think, because that’s just what I do.

Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost) are two British science fiction enthusiasts who’ve come to America for the San Diego Comic-Con. After Comic-Con, their plan is to travel to all of the UFO hotspots in the west. They certainly get more than they bargained for when the happen upon a crude, yet innocent extraterrestrial Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen). All Paul wants to do is get home, but that’s now what the government has in mind, especially Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) who is hot on their tail. Now on the run from the government and an overly-religious hick (thanks to the trio inadvertently becoming kidnappers), the chances of Paul getting home are becoming slimmer and slimmer.

The first thing I was worried about was that the character of Paul was going to get annoying quickly. I automatically assumed he was going to be crude the entire way through the movie, but he was actually a great character. So was everyone else. Pegg and Frost’s characters are relatable and very likable and the villains are cold and are still able to remain funny. There are a few “villains” that are really no threat at all, and they provide some of the biggest laughs of the movie.

And when I say laughs, I mean I was hysterical. These two never fail to make me laugh, and their writing is as quick as it’s always been, albeit a little more crude. To compare it to the last movie I reviewed, Your HighnessPaul seems like a children’s movie. There are some jokes that are juvenile, but it never goes overboard, and there’s a self-referential tone that stays throughout the entire movie. Speaking of self-referential, there are loads of jokes in this movie that are homages to science fiction classics of the past from Back to the Future to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and an excellent Star Wars reference that was very clever.

Something that really surprised me though was the clearly present anti-Christian agenda that really seemed to come out of nowhere. Personally, this didn’t really bother me. I thought it was pretty funny, but at the same time really got the point of views across. At times, I will concede, it did go a little overboard and sort of shoved the opinion down your throat. Subtlety is sometimes a lot better. I do know that a lot of people were offended by this, but you have to remember, it’s just a movie. People have differing ideas on different topics and they are allowed to express them.

 

For me, Paul was a very entertaining movie that kept me laughing from beginning to end, and I’d even go so far as to say that I liked it better than Hot Fuzz. I’m sure a lot of people disagree, but go right ahead. The characters were very likable and the humor was consistently strong and loaded with in jokes and references that were always fun to pick out and appreciate. If you’re looking for a good R-rated comedy, look no further than Paul.