Inside Llewyn Davis

Viewed – 02 June 2014 pay-per-view

I was apprehensive when I first heard about this, and the only real reason I wanted to give it a go was the fact it was from famed directing siblings Joel & Ethan Coen, who have made some of the best movies I have ever seen, with a couple of missteps along the way, granted (Intolerable Cruelty?).  Yet generally I’d say, they can do no wrong even if the subject matter this time, that of the week in the life of a singer during the 60’s folk scene in New York, didn’t appeal at first.inside_llewyn_davis

Oscar Isaac plays Llewyn, a guy who just can’t seem to cut a break, as he drifts through day to day life, crashing on various friend’s couches, trying to cope with a girl’s unexpected pregnancy (an eye-catching Carrie Mulligan) and at the same time looking after a cat he just can’t seem to get rid of.  It’s quirky and full of oddball characters, something of a Coen trademark and yes we get a great cameo from Coen regular John Goodman as a philosophical passenger during a late night car journey.  Yet it’s the star making turn from Isaac that stands out most, clearly a gifted singer in his own right, his lovable charm, even when he’s being disgruntled and obnoxious, shines and I really cared for his journey.  Justin Timberlake turns up too as a rather hippy-ish lounge singer, and it’s a site to behold.

The movie is shot with a moody, smog filled noir-ish sheen and at times looked quite beautiful and add to this a collection of enjoyable songs and some emotional and make-you-ponder moments (singing to his dad in the care home, the meaning of the turn off to Akron…), even if this movie doesn’t reveal much or tell you a great deal about the era or the main character – time spent in his company is one I’d firmly recommend.

Verdict:  4 /5

Monsters University

Viewed – 25 December 2013  Blu-ray

A daunting prospect … a sequel to possibly my favourite animated movie of all time.  I absolutely loved Monsters Inc. and consider it Pixar’s crowning achievement … funny, a perfect ‘buddy comedy’, charming, magical and with gorgeous animation and a brilliant concept.  This is more a prequel showing the early years, mainly during University of much loved characters Mike and Sully (Billy Crystal and John Goodman) as fledgling monsters who dream of nothing more than becoming Scarers one days and working at Monsters Incorporated.


Clearly a parody of every campus comedy you’ve ever seen, and seemingly closely resembling Revenge Of The Nerds … I loved the idea of Mike and Sully becoming part of the least popular frat house on campus and having to compete against the more skilled & scarier houses for a chance to learn to be a Scarer.  The banter between the wealth of imaginative creations is first rate, and again Goodman & Crystal work brilliantly together.  There are also plenty of cameos and appearances from other supporting Monsters Inc characters, including Steve Buscemi’s chameleon-like Randy.

With less interaction with the human world this time and more of a focus on the monster world, this does lose ‘something’ that the original movie had, and with a hectic storyline and sometimes too many characters, it fails to zip along like it did before … oh and the ending was anti-climactic.  But these are small gripes for a stunning looking movie (Pixar at the top of their game) and plenty of jokes and fun moments meaning it’s impossible not to come away with a big grin on your face.  Pixar’s best movie in a while.

Verdict:  4 /5


Viewed – 05 November 2013  Blu-ray

When one thinks of director Robert Zemeckis, movies like Back To The Future and Forest Gump spring to mind – not meaningful drama’s about alcoholism … but this is exactly what the celebrated director has delivered.  Breaking away from a foray into animation with the (for me at least) underwhelming A Christmas Carol, this stars Denzel Washington as an airline pilot who saves the passengers of a jet after an incident, and is heralded a hero by the public and press.  However he hides the secret that he’s actually an alcoholic, who was drinking on the day of the flight – was he responsible for the incident, or should he allow his lawyers to cover things up?


Washington has always been a dependable actor, but for me he’s fallen a little out of favour with a few too many similar performances, where he always seemed to be the arrogant shouty-type who thinks he knows it all.  This however was his chance to showcase more depth with a damaged, emotional role, which thankfully has him back on form.  Co-starring Don Cheadle and a stand-out John Goodman, I found this gripping and powerful.  Washington’s character isn’t very likable, but as with alcoholics, it’s never as simple as right and wrong – and I found myself sympathising with him regardless of his often reckless actions.  Also, an on-off relationship with a heroin addict (Kelly Reilly) had echoes of Nicholas Cage drama Leaving Las Vegas, even this never quite sinks to that movie’s harrowing depths.

Zemeckis has crafted an often thought-provoking and surprising drama, very different to the feel-good movies he’s been known for, but shows he remains one of the best around.  And although subtle and not as lively as some of his other performances, Washington nailed this perfectly.  Highly recommended.

Verdict:  4 /5


Viewed – 02 March 2013  Pay-per-view

Considering all the attention this has got recently, nabbing the coveted Best Picture award at this year’s Academy Awards, I was thirsty to see if it lived up to the hype.  Ben Affleck stars and directs the true story of a CIA agent charged with the job of bringing home a group of American diplomats from Iran in 1980 following a political uprising.  As it’s near impossible to step foot in the country, Affleck comes up with the idea of posing as a film maker, and smuggling the diplomats out as part of his film crew.

Argo Pic

Co-starring Alan Arkin and John Goodman as a couple of Hollywood effects guys, this unusual concept proved thoroughly gripping, helped immeasurably by a topical backdrop of violence and conflict, which is still relevant today.  The seventies / early eighties setting is done brilliantly, the movie boasting an very authentic look, even down to the grainy photography, and all the costumes, cars, locations etc transported me to the period.  Affleck is very good as the CIA agent who put a very bizarre plan into action, and carries the film probably better than he’s done in years.  It’s also not hard to see why this was right up the awards panel’s street – painting America / Canada and even Hollywood in a favorable light.

Despite some good lines I felt Alan Arkin was disappointing, considering his nomination, although (a very out of shape) Goodman as ever is enjoyable despite a limited role.  This remains Affleck’s movie however and his directing is accomplished, gritty but still palatable despite the subject.  The story is a little simplistic when all is said and done, but didn’t stop the movie being tense and thrilling at times, and with a good pace, I had a very good time.

Verdict:  4 /5

Red State

Viewed – 23 January 2012  Pay-per-view

When most people think of the name Kevin Smith, they immediately conjure up images of slacker comedies like Mallrats and Clerks and characters like Silent Bob.  Yet he has also turned his hand to somewhat deeper themes in the likes of Dogma and Chasing Amy.  With that being said, he has never really been known for horror or thrillers – until now.

This follows the story of three friends who answer an add-on website to hook up with a woman for sex.  These hormonal guys think it’s their ticket to getting laid, and are soon setting off to meet the woman at her current residence – a trailer.  Yet all is not as it seems, and before long the guys have been drugged and become the hostages of a local, notorious religious cult, lead by unhinged preacher Abin Cooper (the brilliant Michael Parks).  At the same time, a Sheriff being blackmailed by the preacher due to some questionable nocturnal activities, calls in a local special agent (John Goodman) to lay siege to the cult.

This movie borrows heavily from real life cult situations like that of The Manson Family and Waco, and for me was totally gripping.  The three teens may not have a personality between them, and their plight is somewhat self-inflicted, but the cult and their beliefs was believably scary and unpredictable – meaning I was always wondering what was going to happen next.  Several times the movie surprised me, and some deaths really knocked me back in my seat.  For the subject, I don’t think Kevin Smith offered any new insights, and just why the cult did what they did wasn’t very clear.    Smith has previously explored controversial subject matter, and like his earlier Dogma, this touches on subjects that some may find questionable.  Sadly there isn’t the depth to really get to the point on any of it, turning more into an action movie half way through, despite a promising opening.  Yet with a powerful, creepy performance from Michael Parks, who also stood out in movies like From Dusk Till Dawn and Kill Bill, and a great turn from Goodman, who is always a joy – this was still entertaining.  Also, with some interesting nods to 9/11 and how America has changed in the wake of terrorism, I was also left with plenty to think about.

Verdict:  3 /5