ANNIHILATION REVIEW

Different . . . But worth watching?

A biologist (Natalie Portman) signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don’t apply.

An intriguing concept hammered by a meandering pace and a disappointing finale.

It was a little annoying knowing that the main story arc was being retold by Lena as it killed off the mystery that was to come. BUT the fractured time frame kept things engaging with the questions flying in thick and fast as the scenes flicked back and forth.

Portman delivered a sterling turn as the grief-stricken Lena. Struggling to move on from the loss of her partner Kane (Garland stalwart Oscar Isaac) who went MIA on his last expedition.

That was until he strolled into the house. Dishevelled, disoriented and unaware of the lost time.

The suspense set. My curiousity peaked. Alarm bells ringing. I was getting as confused and clueless as Kane.

The slow burning tempo complimented the first act as special ops intervened on Lena’s strange reunion. Whisking her away to a secret facility.

A religious event? Extra terrestrial activity? All we know is that they call it, “The Shimmer”.

Jennifer Jason Leigh’s hard ass psychologist quickly established the premise for our heroine. A meteor crashed into a lighthouse unleashing an expanding rainbow coloured mass (No, this isn’t the plot for The Blob).

The cause of Kane’s absence.

The middle act was where I was rewarded. A creepy unsettling visual feast as Lena and a team of female scientists embark on a journey for answers.

No compasses, no co-ordinates, no concept of time. 3 days had passed and the team had no recollection other than passing through the dreaded bubble.

The animation and special effects were fantastic. Despite my grumblings with the pace, I was left on tenterhooks as the team delved deeper into ‘The Shimmer’.

Just as I felt my patience was waning, there would be a new development. Be it a disturbing video message left on a memory stick. Or a new demented cross-breed.

Tessa Thompson’s encounter with a mutated gator with shark-like teeth was a particular highlight.

There was an air of unease throughout as well as a couple of jumpy moments (That got yours truly).

I loved how Garland and co. kept their cards close to their chests. Did Kane and his team go insane or was it something more? Why is this mass even here? Is it sentient? (Word of the day)

I was a little disappointed at Isaac’s minuscule role. Merely emerging in flashbacks and video clips. I also expected a little more from Tessa Thompson’s character.

However, this did allow more screen time for Jennifer Jason Leigh and gave Gina Rodriguez the opportunity to deliver a stand out performance.

The all-female dynamic worked well. My main complaint was that the characters lacked depth. I liked the tension as Lena chose not to share the fact that Kane was her husband as the team found footage of his expedition.

And before I could moan too much about the lack of character development, the team unwittingly fell prey to another mutation. Nail biting, to say the least.

A bear that wails with the cries of its fallen? Seriously, that thing will stick with me for some time. And don’t even get me started on those creepy plant scarecrow things. Yikes.

Annihilation seemed to fall apart when the team did. The paranoia and backstabbing was only a matter of time and once each member was picked off in one way or another, it all got a little predictable.

The drawn out and ambiguous ending left things on a flat note. Ex Machina was one of my favourite films of 2014 and I knew the finale was never going to be that easy.

BUT despite all the theories and existential discussions, there was only one way Annihilation could go. That final shot should have had me talking BUT I saw it coming and it just didn’t deliver after all that promise.

Despite sharing echoes of Sphere with a hint of The Edge (Great films. Cannot recommend enough), I felt the hype and lumbering pace spoiled something that could have been so much more.

By all means, if you’re still curious, this is still an unsettling and well-acted sci-fi thriller worth a watch BUT it just whether that final act will leave breathless in awe . . . or disappointment.

3/5

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*NEW* STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI REVIEW *NEW*

The last hurrah?

Rey (Daisy Ridley) develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares for battle with the First Order.

After repressing the belly laughs from spotting Vivien from The Young Ones as a First Order officer, I was thrown into the chaos as the Resistance unleashed the mayhem.

The special effects were brilliant. The action was intense. I loved the cockpit panoramic camera work as Dameron maneuvered the X-Wing.

Speaking of which; someone must have read my Force Awakens review. The one new face writer/director Rian Johnson made sure to have plenty of screen time was Poe Dameron. Oscar Isaac was brilliant. Highly comical and entertaining. His hazing of Hux in the opening sequence was cheesy but well played. Reminded me of a young Solo.

After commending Domnhall Gleeson for his stand out performance as Hux in Episode VII, I felt his delivery this time around was almost pantomime. He was dreadfully OTT and annoying. Whether they realised Emo-Ren was lacking that sinister edge, I’ll never know.

Adam Driver was very good as Kylo. A much more sombre turn that worked a lot better for the character and he got rid of that ridiculous helmet!

Ren’s conflicted conscience continued to tease throughout. Had he truly turned to the Dark Side? Was there any hope left for him?

I loved how the old faces mixed with the new ones. Andy Serkis got to feature a lot more as the creepy Snoke. The CGI and detail on the super Sith (Seriously how tall was that guy? Was he even a guy?) was impeccable.

Carrie Fisher delivered a sterling turn as Leia. There were a couple of question marks about her character that surprised but also annoyed me. BUT don’t FORCE me to spoil anything. I respect the team for keeping the finished scenes after her tragic passing BUT I can’t help but feel that it might cause problems for the next installment.

However, her appearance allowed for a wonderful reunion that (I’m not going to lie) plucked at the old heart strings.

BB8 stole the show yet again. Delivering the laughs in this super serious saga.

BUT there was one face I was happy to see return and that was the man himself. Luke “Robo-Hand” Skywalker.

Hardly a spoiler as we left Rey presenting the miserable Jedi with his old lightsabre. I was surprised at how comical Hamill was BUT it added an extra humanity to this flawed veteran. A man defeated and desperate to avoid the call to action once more.

I loved the bitterness. Ridley and Hamill were a fantastic duo, which made the dynamic work that much more, as Luke reluctantly helped the stubborn Rey channel the Jedi within.

Ridley still carried the film where it counted. Her Force telepathy conversations with Ren were intriguing.

I loved how Johnson and co. brought so many new creatures and wonderful set designs to life. The nun toads and the PORGS (My God. Those PORGs are going to be the next craze fo’ sure) being particular highlights.

There were a few surprises and twists along the way. Plenty of fitting nods and references to keep the new SW and (the long suffering) old fans happy.

The only problem with focusing on particular characters and bringing in new faces was that some had to face the cut. Chewbacca, C-3PO and ol’ R2 were pushed into the background far too much.

Well, maybe C-3PO was the right decision. Don’t get me wrong, they stole the show whenever they had the opportunity BUT I wanted more.

At the same time, that showed confidence in the new faces that it wasn’t too much of a concern. I was a little worried at how Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Trico was going to fare. Her initial irritating introduction had me wincing BUT the loveable rogue soon grew on me and I was actually rooting for her by the closing act.

She worked well with Boyega and allowed an increasingly absent Finn back into the fold.

I have to say I enjoyed TLJ a lot more than FA (Force Awakens). FA had a stronger first half but withered out with a retread of A New Hope while TLJ got better and better and made the story its own.

I expected so much worse after the Twitter hate BUT was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t perfect. The pacing was a little testing in places and some scenes were a little hokey. The casino sequences at Canto Bight were a little . . . strange.

And there were a few plot holes. *Cough* Light speed chase *Cough* BUT there was enough fun, adventure and drama to keep things gripping, riveting and entertaining. I would have no qualms watching this again.

I can’t wait for Episode XI and any other spin-offs (that we already know are on the way) if they can continue to maintain this standard.

3.5/5

*NEW* X-MEN: APOCALYPSE REVIEW *NEW*

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Was another one really necessary? Probably not BUT with Singer at the helm, I knew I was in for a treat.

After the re-emergence of the world’s first mutant, world-destroyer Apocalypse, the X-Men must unite to defeat his extinction level plan.

I loved the X-Men movies (Yes, even The Last Stand. No, really! I’ve seen worse. Trust me). BUT I couldn’t get into X-Men: First Class and felt the Wolverine spin-offs were a massive let down (Although I still have high hopes for Logan!). A shame considering the cast, the characters and Hugh flippin’ Jackman!

Disappointing affairs that there were either too long, too dull or riddled with far too many plot holes and I didn’t even read the comic books.

Thankfully Days of Future Past was a return to form and mixed the old cast with the new perfectly. Singer’s direction being the missing ingredient. I had to laugh at his sly dig about the third movie always being the worst in a “Star Wars” debate. Righting so many wrongs in one action packed package.

So here we are . . . *WARNING POSSIBLE SPOILERS!* After the bombshell that was delivered at the finale of Days of Future Past, I really wanted to see the next installment. BUT one that followed on. NOT going back into the past again! I was a little disappointed BUT it was still a highly watchable and enjoyable effort.

The idea of mutants existing through history and NOT just from experimentation was a different angle.

The opening felt like something out of The Mummy (The Stephen Sommers saga) with all the crazy golden swag everywhere and demented ritual stuff. BUT it got things going and set up the chrome-esque Humpty Dumpty looking and (poorly named) Apocalypse quite well.

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Looks a bit like Ivan Ooze.

Despite all that make up and silly voice tampering, Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina) was still a convincing super-villain (Even if he spent the majority of the film monologuing). A god hell bent on bringing the Second Coming with the help of his chosen Horsemen.

Writer Simon Kinberg and Singer explored the origins of the old favourites quite well. Tye Sheridan (Scouts’ Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) was very good as a young Scott Summers/Cyclops. Sophie “Game of Thrones” Turner was excellent as Jean Grey. Her accent was impeccable.

There wasn’t enough of Kodi Smit-McPhee’s (Let Me In) Nightcrawler. He captured Alan Cummings’ mannerisms perfectly and stole every scene. Alexandra Shipp’s Storm was tragically lost in the mix far too much. A bit like her older counterpart in Future Past. Shame.

It was intriguing to see Fassbender’s Magneto portrayed as the tormented anti-hero. Doomed to never have a normal life after trying to start a family in Poland. The only problem was that despite giving an extra depth to the maniacal metal man, it left him skulking around for the rest of the film. Gutted.

I loved the transformation of Mystique’s character. To change from a morphing femme fatale to a conflicted symbol for the mutants’ fight for survival. BUT then again what did you expect when you have Jennifer Lawrence taking on the role?!

The only problem was that it felt like a retread from FP with Raven refusing to take the call. Even though you knew the inevitable outcome.

BUT where Singer and Kinberg explored old faces, they tried to bring in new ones which didn’t quite work. Ben Hardy’s Angel and the beautiful Olivia Munn’s Psylocke were a waste of time. Even Sabre Tooth and Toad made more memorable minions.

However, there was one face I was happy to see return and that was Evan Peters’ (American Horror Story) Quicksilver. He stole the show in Future Past and did it yet again. Featuring in one of the best animated sequences I’ve seen in a long time.

You thought the prison breakout was impressive in FP, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The detail. The effects! Fantastic. It may have taken months to shoot BUT it was worth every frame. And all perfectly timed to the rhythmic beat of Eurthymics’ Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).

It was entertaining as hell as Quicksilver kung fu kicked doors and moon walked across fiery hallways while his clueless comrades stood frozen in time; oblivious of their impending doom.

I was a little annoyed with the influx of new faces that didn’t get enough back story to make a proper introduction. Scott’s brother Alex or Havok (Lucas Till) was hyped up as such a crucial character BUT it was his first appearance in the franchise. An unnecessary addition by the time the credits rolled.

The pace did test in the final third and the finale, despite the amazing visuals, felt like a retread of FP and First Class with Magneto sulking and wanting to end the world (Again). Yawn.

It might help to have watched the other entries to appreciate all the little nods. Especially First Class because I had completely forgotten about Rose Byrne’s character and her silly little love subplot with Professor X. Thankfully Singer and co. did a quick recap to jog the memories of those who aren’t up to speed on their X-Men history.

BUT there was still enough fun and action to keep me entertained. The only problem by trying to fill in the gaps and explore new territory, Singer unwittingly put more cracks in the time frame from the original efforts. There was a revelation surrounding one character that came out so half arsed that I wondered why they even bothered in the first place?!

Despite my gripes, Apocalypse still fitted perfectly as a precursor to the first X-Men movie (That’s the 2000 release for those who want to be pedantic with the crazy time frame) and wasn’t quite the wash out that people had me believe.

The cast were great, the effects and set pieces were breathtaking and I still had fun after 16 years and 7 films (Does The Wolverine count? Okay, 8. What about Deadpool? Steady on).

3.5/5

*NEW* STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS REVIEW *NEW*

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Was the force strong with this one? Was this the sequel I was looking for?

In a nutshell, hype help it did NOT.

It was always going to be tough to follow on from such an iconic trilogy (Episodes IV, V and VI) BUT it was still an enthralling and promising effort from J.J. Abrams. After the successful Star Trek reboot, I had full confidence in the director to continue George Lucas’ legacy.

As soon as those infamous credits came up, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .” and that iconic John Williams score boomed through the surround sound speaker system, this film nerd bellowed a Wookie cry in rejoice.

It was hard NOT to get that buzz and excitement as the plot scrolled up the screen into nothingness. Thankfully, there was no dense mumbo jumbo about taxation. *Cough* Phantom Menace *Cough*

Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.

Don’t worry. I will do my utmost NOT to spoil anything. Promise.

I always went out of my way to avoid getting into the Star Wars films. BUT the force was too strong. I couldn’t resist the score, the characters, the very world that Lucas capitulated.

The humour, the action, the corny exchanges. Thankfully they were all still there. It probably helped that Abrams teamed up with Star Wars scribe Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back/The Return of the Jedi. Ugh. Those Ewoks. Man oh man).

The first hour I was hooked. Engrossed. Fantastic special effects. Frenetic energy. Great characters. SOLD.

The introduction of several new faces spiced up the mix. John Boyega (Attack the Block) and Daisy Ridley (Mr Selfridge) were worthy additions and certainly held their own.

Oscar Isaac’s (Ex Machina) Poe wasn’t in this enough. His quick witted one liners reminded me of a young Han Solo. BUT after making an impressionable introduction, he was largely absent. Shame.

Ridley was superb. It was a breath of fresh air to see a female heroine after following Luke and Anakin. She carried the film and was a likeable protagonist. Boyega was very good as troubled trooper Finn. Come a long way from Attack The Block.

We also had a new villain in the form of the mysterious Kylo Ren. Channelling his inner Vader. I was transfixed. That was until the chap took off his helmet. Sorry, Adam Driver (This is Where I Leave You). I can see why that Emo Kylo Ren Twitter account exists. His isolated conversation with Vader’s broken helmet was haunting.

Domnhall Gleeson (About Time) also delivered an underrated performance as General Hux. By the end, I was more entranced with him than Ren. Rivalling Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin as the creepy underling. His unsettling Hitler-esque speech made the hairs stand on the back of my neck.

However, the biggest scene stealer was the adorable android BB-8. Hilarious. I’m sure a lot of people will be wanting to buy one of these little bots. I know I want one.

 

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Of course, the heavily flogged trailers revealed the return of some old faces. It was great to see Han Solo and ol’ Chewie. They were fantastic and haven’t changed a bit. Perfect. Harrison Ford was on fine form. Showing the newbies how it’s done.

Believe it or not, this really will be down to how much of a Star Wars fan you are. Go figure. If you’re anything like me, you would have already had your Star Wars marathon. The Good (Episode V), The Bad (Episode II) and the Ugly (Episode I).

If you haven’t then I would highly recommend that you don’t. As much as Abrams and Kasdan changed a few things, introduced new faces and brought back the old ones, there was only so much you could do with the story arc.

The closing act felt like one enormous retread of Episode IV: A New Hope. Different characters doing the exact same thing with the same end result. Predictable and frankly a little disappointing.

It didn’t help that the pace got increasingly patchy as the film carried on. A drawn out bar sequence with Maz Kanata (voiced brilliantly by Lupita Nyong’o) certainly didn’t help matters. The force waffle went on too long and I couldn’t help but think of Madge from Benidorm while Kanata spoke. Anybody else see it? Nope?

 

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I knew that Episode VII was going to be a continuation BUT I was still expecting more. Maybe it was a case of hype being a hindrance after setting the bar so high. Don’t get me wrong, it was a vast improvement from Episodes I and II. I know some of you will say, “Well, that wouldn’t take much”.

BUT as much as Abrams and Kasdan tried to create a little mystery around the old faces as we wondered what had happened in 30 years, it was pretty easy to piece together.

Carrie Fisher was wasted in her role as Leia. Gutted. I couldn’t make head or tail of what Andy Serkis’ (The Lord of the Rings) Supreme Leader Snoke was supposed to be.

The pace tested. The plot was disappointing. BUT I was still happy to be taken back to that crazy universe and once I saw a particular piece of space junk take flight, I was beaming from ear to ear.

An enjoyable enough romp and a welcome return for a franchise. BUT if there is to be more, retread old ground we must NOT.

3.5/5 (Just)

EX MACHINA

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It may be a little mechanical in parts but it’s certainly not one for the scrap heap.

A ha . . . Anyway. Finally a film that didn’t make me question the purpose of my cinema pass.

A brooding, atmospheric and suspenseful thriller that ponders the existence of artificial intelligence and the very essence of life.

So what’s it all about? A young programmer (Domnhall Gleeson) is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I. (Alicia Vikander)

Brought to you by the guy who penned 28 Days Later and Sunshine. Now to me, I instantly had high hopes. I loved both. To some, there may be doubts.

The premise is hardly original but it’s take is certainly a breath of fresh air.

It does sound a little pretentious. And in parts it can be but it’s all helped by an original script and a small (No seriously. Four actors) but talented up and coming cast.

Domnhall Gleeson has been on the radar for some time featuring in such hits as About Time and Unbroken. He proves once again why he is one to watch. He plays the geeky programmer with aplomb and delivers his lines with an impeccable accent.

What I loved about the opening was how quick cut it was. It didn’t mess around or linger unnecessarily. Just straight to business. It set the tone, the pace and got the story going. Main character. Situation. Bang, bang, bang.

The cinematography by Rob Hardy was outstanding. Especially with the breathtaking panoramic landscape shots as Gleeson’s Caleb descends upon the Jurassic Park-esque compound of the reclusive genius Nathan (Isaac).

Oscar Isaac was brilliant as the eccentric inventor. A scene stealer at every chance. A chameleon with a tough poker face. Isaac is certainly banging on the door with his performances; Inside Llewyn Davis, Two Faces of January and A Most Violent Year.

As soon as “Day One” flashed across the screen, the game begins. A suspenseful, haunting voyeuristic journey into madness.

When Caleb is first introduced to Ava (Alicia Vikander), it makes for slow burning but engaging viewing. The pair sharing pleasantries and sussing each other out. There is great chemistry between Gleeson and Alicia Vikander.

She will certainly be one whose face you will have to get used to. Appearing in several future releases and one current (Testament of Youth); Seventh Son, Son of a Gun, Man from UNCLE.

However, if her performances are anything like this then I won’t be complaining. And no! That is not because she is a naked Swedish robot who has stolen my heart (What?)

The tension begins to bubble as the days count down. Strange things happen around the enormous techno compound. Unexplained power cuts that automatically lock every room. CCTV footage on every TV channel of Ava.

An air of unease and suspicion shrouds the house (and the film). The paranoia beginning to rear its ugly head.

Loyalties soon divided, perceptions blurred. The eccentric Nathan watching the couple’s conversation under a microscope. Ava desperate to escape. Warning Caleb not to trust Nathan.

This certainly kept my attention for the majority of the film as I tried to suss out what was really going on here.

The debates between Caleb and Ava made interesting points and certainly pondered the question of what is real? Can a robot feel? Judge what is right and wrong. Their chemistry igniting more and more.

The only issue is that with all the conversations, the slow burning pace and the beautiful landscapes, it does go on a little bit.

I could feel myself kind of wanting Day 7 (it occurs over a week) to reach it’s finale a little quicker.

It’s almost Kubrickian. The long sweeping shots, the hallways. God, the endless hallways. No creepy twins in this one. Only a sultry Japanese robot servant named Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno). Alluring one moment, unsettling the next.

Garland even goes for a bizarre encounter involving a choreographed disco routine that really showed Nathan’s eccentricity (and that Isaac can dance). He also delivered the best retort I’ve heard in some time.

An angry Caleb storms in and asks why Nathan tore up something. His response? “I’m going to tear up the dance floor, dude.” Brilliant.

The finale was a little predictable but how it come about still surprised me and left me nodding my head in approval. That can’t be said for a lot of films these days.

I don’t want to divulge too much as I would like you to give this a gander.

The special effects were very good. The detail on Ava and Kyoto was remarkable. No over-indulgence on the CGI which made them look a lot less cartoony and more realistic.

I mean that could be down to the fact this had a much smaller budget but always a plus in my book in this day and age of relentless, OTT animation.

It’s certainly a dark broody affair. If you’re expecting fast action and bang for your buck with sexy robots, then watch I, Robot or Transformers but if you want a little bit of philosophical sci-fi then give it a go.

It’s not perfect. A little long at the tooth but engaging enough.

A step in the right direction.

3.5 (just)/5

*THROWBACK REVIEW* TWO FACES OF JANUARY

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Two stars for Two Faces, more like. A real shame. A beautifully shot and well acted reboot of a regurgitated plot line that has been done so many times before and so much better by its supposedly “dated” predecessors.

The film revolves around a con artist, his wife, and a stranger who try to flee to a 1960s Greece after one of them is caught up in the murder of a police officer. At its core, it’s a film noir. A genre that I am an avid fan of. The only problem is that just because it has the story of one, does not make it so. Or make it any good for that matter.

Two Faces opens with Rydal (Oscar Isaac – Inside Llewyn Davis), a Greek speaking American tour guide that impresses and cons the rich tourists that come across his path. He only takes what he needs and we soon get an insight into the way he works. A slow burning but watchable opening as Rydal scouts the picturesque Acropolis waiting for his next target.

However, the next couple to be caught in his cross hair are the MacFarlands (No, not of the Family Guy variety but the powerhouse that is Viggo Mortensen and the lovely Kirsten Dunst).

Rydal soon becomes intrigued, obsessed, with Chester (Mortensen) and he weasels his way into the couple’s vacation. The opening does feel like you’re watching the actors on holiday (but in costume, obviously). With the beautiful Greek landscape caught by the talented cinematographer Marcel Zyskind, I was happy to let it carry on chugging along (Enviously wanting to go on holiday as each minute ticked on).

Mortensen’s presence and performance is the major highlight in this film. He has proven countless times before in Lord of the Rings, Eastern Promises and A History of Violence that he can deliver the goods. Even the little things; his looks and grimaces flesh out a character that should be stocky.

His paranoia and curiousity as to why Rydal is watching him creates a little suspenseful encounter. Rydal undercutting him with every sale between the market traders makes a good little running joke. BUT it’s all rather tame. Even the playful sexual tension brewing between Dunst and Isaac under Mortensen’s menacing, watchful eye feels like it won’t go anywhere.

David Warshofsky’s (Captain Phillips/The Mentalist) creepy detective soon bursts the bubble of bliss and drops the bombshell that (surprise, surprise) the MacFarlands are not who they seem. A predictable, if violent, altercation with Chester leads to them becoming fugitives on the run.

The first act of this piece was actually quite watchable and suspenseful. It’s just a shame that the film goes downhill after that. The flailing pace dips in and out, reprieved only by moments of frenzy from Mortensen and tense but predictable encounters with border patrols.

There are a couple of twists along the way, but if anything it could kills the little tension that was keeping this film going and to be frank, just disappoints. Dunst’s character was hardly memorable. Anyone could have played her. It seemed more a game of wits between Chester and Rydal, with Dunst’s Colette being a really poor bargaining chip.

I mean an exchange between her and Rydal left things a little cryptic; did they get together? Did they do . . . anything? But it all doesn’t surmount to anything. If not for Mortensen’s decline into depravity and his paranoia turning him into a volatile drunk, the film would have been a complete write off.

The films soon comes to an inevitable chase around the cobbled streets of a Turkish village which picks up a meandering movie and makes for a predictable but engaging finale.

My main issue is it had the cast, the look, but no heart or real story. Zyskind’s cinematography is impeccable. He’s even able to make the rubbly ruined Greek outback a sight to see. It seemed that director Hossein Amini had just painted the little drawings by numbers, hoping no one will notice. Looks good but something was missing.

I would invest in a “dated” classic noir. Because although the music and acting may be a little OTT, they are still better than poor affairs like these.

2/5 for me.

Inside Llewyn Davis Review

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Inside Llewyn Davis (that sounds incredibly rude! Pack it up. Come on, we’re better than that). Well . . . a mixed bag of sorts. Great cast, great performances, good songs but a somewhat slackening pace and a journey that gets incredibly bleak and downbeat with a somewhat flat ending. Not the Coens worst, but certainly not their best.

Looking back at the Coen Brothers’ filmography, I can’t help but feel how their films come off as marmite to me. At their best, we have the Big Lebowski, Fargo, Raising Arizona, Blood Simple, No Country for Old Men (after numerous viewings for a dissertation on contemporary noir, it went from meh to brilliant). At their worst, Burn After Reading and the shambolic Ealing classic remake the Ladykillers. Inside Llewyn Davis is somewhat in the middle of these two categories. The cast cannot be faltered. The pair have found a leading man in Oscar Isaac as Llewyn. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of the chap. I had to IMDb him. Turns out, he played supporting roles in Robin Hood, Sucker Punch and Drive. Well, I’ll keep tabs on him now and expect to see him in more movies after this performance. He provided much depth and brought a likeable if conflicted and flawed protagonist to life.

The things that irritates and always surrounds the Coens films is the needless hype. After the uproar at their omission from most of the “important” categories of the Oscars, I expected much more from this. I believe Isaac should have got a nod for Best Actor. His singing was fantastic as well. We follow struggling folk singer Llewyn Davis as he battles the wintery conditions of the Greenwich village scene as he tries to get his music out there, despite having no money, no home and no coat. The Coens provide their usual checklist light hearted humour and the first hour blazes along quite nicely, with the aid of a great cast of supporting characters, including the likes of the erratic Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake. Hardly need to say much about JT’s singing, after all, it is his profession (He nails it). I was surprised at how good Mulligan was. You could argue that their characters don’t have enough screen time but when they do, they all excel. The humourous episode with Llewyn being stuck with a ginger cat and the numerous attempts to capture it were a nice aside. The songs are memorable and sung well. It turns out most of the folk songs were sung live. If any were mimed, then either the sound editing and dubbing was executed perfectly or Mr Timberlake may too good a mime artist, but I digress. It does help to enjoy or be fan of folk music. Fare Thee Well, Hang Me, Oh Hang Me and the annoyingly catchy Please Mr Kennedy were the stand out ones for me. Please Mr Kennedy may have been a deliberate jab at the stupidity of jingles and catchy songs just to get a hit but it is a good song in itself.

The film is hardly original in it’s telling of one man’s journey trying to get a break. If anything the Coens truly demonstrate perfectly a protagonist’s stage of nadir (the bottom of the barrel) with the road trip from hell. The movie turns and gets incredibly dark and painfully bleak (to be expected from the Coens) with the sinister scene stealing supporting turn of a Coens regular, the legend that is John Goodman as cane-tapping Roland Turner. He growls and grumbles along, milking every minute. (Unfortunately, the poor bloke has put the pounds back on. Some might be saying, did he even lose weight?). We drudge along through this bleak journey as you hope Llewyn get’s that break. He’s not completely painted as the victim. Was he a victim of the times? Or was he afraid to actually get success? Was the rut that he had been put in due to pure bad luck? Or was it down to his own accord? You feel for Llewyn when he has no coat, seeks anybody who can spot a spare couch and tries to warm his icy soaked feet under the cafe table but at the same time, you get angry for him when he gets work that is not to his ideals, he snubs it. He snaps at the only people who are helping him.

However, the end result leaves you somewhat slighted. The journey goes full circle and without spoiling too much, ends unexpectedly and very flat. If anything it was quite disappointing, especially when you’re rooting for this underdog. All in all, not a complete failure. The songs are still stuck in my head, the performances are brilliant and there are more pros than cons but in context of the Oscar categories and best film of the year? Not so much. Another hype bites the dust? Coens do folk, I guess. Get back on the crime movies, guys! 3/5

Currently ranks #54 out of 130