Here’s the third instalment of my Film Column, featuring brief reviews of the last five movies that I’ve seen, as I cover Neighbors, Inside Llewyn Davis, Unbroken, In the Loop and The Two Faces of January. This also marks the start of a new font that I’m using (Georgia, if anyone’s interested), for the blog on what should be a permanent basis.
Well, we’re three entries into the film Column and I thought I’d make a few observerations before I start. My Foundation Degree stuff is now over, so I have a lot more time to watch movies and review books, as well as TV shows, so I’ll try and keep up the schedule of one post per couple of days, or more, over the Summer, or at least until I go to France. With Spectre coming out soon as well, I intend to watch all of the James Bond movies before it’s released, having only seen Die Another Day and the Daniel Craig films (You can find the full details of this Challenge here), so you can expect a lot of Bond reviews in the entries to come as I’ll try to watch at least one or more a week.
Film Column #1: Fast and Furious 6, Westworld, Jersey Boys, Unforgiven & Dracula Untold
Film Column #2: Avengers: Age of Ultron,Children of Men, The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies, Miller’s Crossing & Mud
Film Column #3: Inside Llewyn Davis, In the Loop, Neighbors, The Two Faces of January & Unbroken
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (2013)
Director(s): Joel Coen, Ethan Coen | Genre(s): Music, Drama | Cast: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Jerry Grayson, Robin Bartlett, Max Casella, Adam Driver | Length: 105mins
Wow. So far, I’ve only seen two other films by the Coen Brothers, O Brother, Where Art Thou? And Miller’s Crossing and both are incredibly unique, with there being nothing else like them in the genres that they’re classified under. Inside Llewyn Davis is again, another excellent film that we can add to that list, as it emerges as the best film that I’ve seen from 2013, beating others like Gravity, Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club & Captain Phillips, which fill out the rest of my Top 5.
Set against the backdrop of the 1960s in Greenwich Village, Llewyn Davis is a struggling but gifted folk musician who is on the verge of quitting after his singing partner commits suicide. The film itself has a successful display of black humour like most of the Coen Brothers films, and I couldn’t help but laugh multiple times throughout the movie. It’s got just about everything you could want from a film, and with some excellent acting from Oscar Isaac along with a brilliant script, Inside Llweyn Davis might just have become one of my favourite films, with the Coen Brothers knocking it out of the park once again.
IN THE LOOP (2009)
Director: Armando Iannucci | Genre(s): Comedy | Cast: Peter Capaldi, Tom Hollander, Gina McKee, James Gandolfini, Chris Addison, Anna Chlumsky, Enzo Cilenti | Length: 106mins
Excellent movie. Fantastic dialogue. One of the best political satire films that I’ve seen with Peter Capaldi and the rest of the cast delivering more swear words than I’ve heard in any other film, including anything from Quentin Tarantino. I’d seen clips on this movie before (mostly shortly after Capaldi was announced as the 12th Doctor to see what he would be like) but never seen the whole thing so when it cropped up on BBC Iplayer, I leapt at the chance and loved it. Mock the Week regular Chris Addison impresses here as well as Capaldi and In The Loop is certainly something that I’d recommend without hesitation. It’s just soo good.
Capaldi’s Malcolm Tucker is sent with a couple of others (including Chris Addison’s character, who’s on his first day at the job), to the USA to slope to war with both countries looking to bring the conflict to the Middle East. Filmed like its parent show, as though it were similar to a documentary, In the Loop feels right at home with the average episode of The Thick of It, and the style really works. Although, now it’s kind of disappointing to see that we’ve made it through an entire season of Doctor Who without Capaldi uttering “Fuckity Bye” or some other form of profanity at least once.
Director: Nicholas Stoller | Genre: Comedy | Cast: Seth Rogen, Zac Effron, Rose Bryne, Dave Franco, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jake M. Johnson, Lisa Kudrow | Length: 96mins
Well, I was outvoted when I suggested the excellent In Bruges as a choice of film to watch at my friends house and we went with Neighbors instead despite the fact that more people had seen this before. Enjoyed this better the second time around though which was surprising, but there was enough comedy there to keep me entertained. Nothing too memorable but some fun jokes as Rogen and Effron play friends/enemies trying to outdo each other with the husband/wife trying to kick out the Fraternity group and the Fraternity group trying to pull off the biggest party yet.
A good ensemble cast (despite the fact that I’m generally not a fan of Rogen, Effron et al) and some fun laughs make this film surprisingly watchable, and the airbag scenes were pretty hilarious. Not a perfect comedy with plenty of problems and not memorable enough (for example, I can't remember the names of the characters after finishing this film 1/2 an hour ago), but it did improve on the rewatch so that bumps the initial rating up from a six to a seven. It’s also called Bad Neighbours in the UK.
THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY (2014)
Director: Hossein Amini | Genre: Thriller | Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Kristen Dunst, Oscar Isaac | Length: 96mins
An interesting crime thriller that looks better than it turned out to be, The Two Faces of January is a watchable, if not especially exciting movie that follows a Con Artist (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife (Kristen Dunst) enlisting the aid of a Tour Guide (Oscar Isaac), a stranger who they've just met, to help them escape a foreign country when they're caught up in the murder of the private detective. Hossein Amini's stylish debut has a strong premise but for me it never really did anything to stand out.
The tension for the most part is decent and The Two Faces of January is a very different, old-fashioned sort of movie when you compare it to the more action packed Summer Blockbuster thrillers, however it handles itself well. For a film that's character centric though, we never really connect with the cast despite the fact that there's a good trio of leads here in the form of Viggo Mortensen, Kristen Dunst and Oscar Isaac, and even though their characters do lack depth the actors themselves are talented enough to put in impressive performances.
On the whole, there are plenty of problems for The Two Faces of January, but it remains a fairly solid debut for Hossein Amini that has some strong cinematography and is well acted, with the visuals probably being the strongest part of this movie.
Director: Angelina Jolie | Genre(s): War, Drama | Cast: Jack O’Connell, Takamasa Ishihara, Garett Hedlund, Jai Courtney, Domhnall Gleeson, Finn Wittrock | Length: 137mins
Whilst this was a better than the last film that I watched with my friends, Neighbors - I couldn't help feel that something was missing from Angelina Jolie's true-story inspired tale of an Olympic Runner getting captured by the Japanese after his plane goes down on a rescue mission, and is forced to spend the rest of the war in a POW Camp. It felt like it dragged on a bit too long for my tastes, coming in at 137mins, Unbroken did kind of take a while to get going.
The acting from Jack O'Connell is one of the strongest parts of the film as he puts in a fantastic performance as the lead Louis Zamperini, and the story and cinematography is both pretty good, with and Angelina Jolie puts in a solid directorial effort, coming on from In the Land of Blood and Honey, which I haven't seen.
Unfortunately, despite all the positives, whilst Unbroken is a watchable film that's far from the worst of 2014, it's far from the best coming in in a middle ground that ultimately does nothing to separate itself from the many and superior war films, even if this is focused on the Japanese/American conflict rather than the one in Europe (As the only one studying history there, I was tasked with filling in my friends about what was happening in the war whilst the film went on when they got lost).