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Inside Llewyn Davis

Llewyn Davis (played by Oscar Isaac) is a folk singer. It’s the early 1960’s in Greenwich Village, New York and Llewyn’s trying to scratch out a living with his music. Things had been starting to go well and he’d cut a record with his partner, Mike. But that was short lived and now Llewyn is a starving artist, dossing with friends and trying to keep body and soul together until he gets his big break. Llewyn’s friends are all quickly losing their patience with him as he moves from the sofa at one place to a floor and hopefully a meal at the next. He’s always borrowing money, too – his best friend, Jean (by Carey Mulligan) is sick of his hopeless ways and she’s also his worst critic. She and her boyfriend Jim (by Justin Timberlake) are doing okay at their music, even Troy Nelson (by Stark Sands) and Al Cody (by Adam Driver) are doing alright. But Llewyn just can’t seem to get a break. One day, after an overnight at the Gorfein’s, pet cat Ulysses escapes from their flat and Llewyn spends half the next day chasing the cat until he can return it to the ever-generous and unflappable Mitch Gorfein (by Ethan Phillips) and his doting wife Lillian (by Robin Bartlett). His luck goes from bad to worse when he wears out his welcome with his sister Joy (by Jeanine Serralles) and his useless agent fails him. So he decides to try a new big-time agent Mel Novikoff (by Jerry Grayson) in Chicago and he hitches a ride there with Roland Turner (by John Goodman) and his driver Johnny Five (by Garrett Hedlund). Roland’s a big-shot and spends the next few hundred miles telling Llewyn his endless stories. In Chicago, Llewyn plays for Mr Novikoff and hopes to get a record deal – things can’t get any worse, right?

In this movie, the Coen brothers are back to their wonderful best. Here, the hapless Llewyn Davis just blunders from one possible but insane scenario to the next. All the characters are truly and deliciously Coen-esque and the incidents are presented as only they could portray them. The dead-pan humour is classic Coen and the bizarre personalities just add to the delight of this movie. It’s not laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s very entertaining. Even if you don’t know at first it’s one of their movies, you will pick up on it once the movie gets going. Good performances abound here – Oscar Isaac is great, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake are funny in their earnestness, John Goodman is outrageous and great and the terrible outcomes of Llewyn’s decisions and hasty actions are just as you’d expect in real life. For their efforts, the Joel and Ethan Coen won the Grand Prix at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival – well done.

Made in 2013. Directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen.

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2014 in Movies

 

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Runner Runner

Richie Furst (played by Justin Timberlake) would do really well at his studies at Princeton, if only he focused a bit harder on that instead of on his sideline business. He’s really smart, but he’s also a scout for an on-line gambling company and he gets a cut every time one of his “recruits” places a bet on-line. His grades are horrendous. One day he’s dragged into the Dean’s office and is told to shape up, otherwise he’ll end up with no degree, no job and no way to repay his study fee debt – some tens of thousands of dollars. His Dad, Harry (by John Heard) is a gambler from way back, so it’s in Richie’s blood. He needs funds fast to clear his debt, so invests his entire savings into an on-line poker game, which ends badly. Richie finds he’s been cheated and goes straight to the top to resolve it – the “Mr Big” of online gambling, Ivan Block (by Ben Affleck). Rather than make a huge public fuss, at first Ivan dismisses Richie quietly, but seeing huge potential in this smart, gutsy young guy, Block offers Richie a great job, with a magnificent lifestyle and benefits. Richie accepts and starts his life in Costa Rica as Block’s right hand man. Things go well, Richie manages all the businesses for Ivan and is making everyone sh*tloads of money. Until, one day, things don’t appear to be so “above board” any more. Richie starts to get worried and suspicious about the way things are really run in Block’s organization. Something in him says he needs to cover his own backside and make sure he can get out if he needs to. Is Ivan Block really, the smooth, charismatic, caring and sharing guy he makes out ….?

This movie is a run-of-the-mill “good guy versus bad guy … bad guy gets foiled in the end” kind of movie. It’s set in Costa Rica in the main, which makes it pleasant, but the story runs pretty true to form. There are deviations, but not many. That’s a shame – it did promise more. I like Justin Timberlake in the movies and he is good in this role, quite believable really – except in the fight scenes, which are not quite right somehow. Ben Affleck fits into his role as the smooth Ivan Block well too – he does it all pretty easily really. In fact it looks like they both do – no challenge here, I’d say they are let down most by the storyline. I wouldn’t hold that against either of them. Positive distractions in the movie are the good performance by Gemma Arterton as Ivan Block’s girlfriend, Rebecca, and Anthony Makie who plays the ridiculous FBI agent Shavers. It’s a good way to while away some time.

Made in 2013. Directed by Brad Furman

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2014 in Movies

 

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Trouble with the Curve

Gus (played by Clint Eastwood) is a baseball talent scout – baseball has been his entire life and he’s been a scout for the Atlanta Braves since before anyone can remember. He’s starting to feel his age and his club is seeing it too … they wonder whether he’s really up to the task anymore – he’s always had a great eye for talent in the past, but has he still got it? Gus is grumpy .. his eyesight’s failing him and he’s irritated about that – he can’t see very well to drive and he’s worried that technology is going to take what’s left of his enjoyment of his career, so he doesn’t let his shortcomings show – or so he thinks.  His long time friend and colleague, Pete (by John Goodman) can see it and encourages Gus to think about taking it easy, but he won’t have a bar of it.  Instead, Pete persuades Gus’s high-flying lawyer daughter Mickey (by Amy Adams) to accompany him on his latest “scout run” to North Carolina to find the next big baseball thing, but that’s really the last place Gus wants his daughter …..

This movie is okay. Unfortunately I have been spolt by the unquestioned excellence of Clint Eastwood’s directorial work in  “Gran Torino”, “Mystic River”, “Unforgiven”, “Million Dollar Babies”, “The Changeling” (and even “Bridges of Madison County” to a point) over recent years, so I sort of anticipated more of the same wonderful stuff – I was wrong. I understand that this movie is directed by Eastwood’s protege, Robert Lorenz, so that’s my mistake to anticipate his own work – but unfortunately, Eastwood has been typecast into the cantankerous role he’s played a few times lately and it’s getting a little tired. However, the relationship portrayed between himself and Mickey is very well done – in these portions, Eastwood displays some remarkable sensitivity which is great to see.  Amy Adams is very good (and beautiful) as Mickey, but I can’t tell whether Justin Timberlake (he plays Johnny) is acting or just being himself, but he seems very natural here.  John Goodman’s role is done very well, he’s very nice in this. Overall it’s a nice movie, but not a stunner.

Made in 2012.  Directed by Robert Lorenz

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2012 in Movies

 

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Friends with Benefits

Dylan (played by Justin Timberlake) is a media art director in Los Angeles who has just come out of a relationship and has sworn off any more, preferring the “no strings” approach to his social life. Jamie (by Mila Kunis) is an Executive recruitment agent in New York – she’s also just ended a relationship that’s left her feeling the same – no more relationships for her, they’re just too complicated and hard work. Dylan is approached by Jamie’s recruitment agency for an Art Director’s role at GQ magazine in New York. He’s never been to NYC, so he visits to explore the opportunity. Jamie persuades him to take the job and he leaves his father (by Richard Jenkins) and sister (by Jenna Elfman) behind and moves to NYC. With no friends or any family in NYC, Dylan is at a bit of a loose end at first, so Jamie invites him out socially just until he gets his feet on the ground.  They hit it off and form a great friendship, then one day, they wonder what sex together would be like, but “just sex”, not a relationship – just like playing tennis.  So their  “friends with benefits” relationship starts. This works well and they happily continue, they even date other people for a while and Jamie’s mother (by Patricia Clarkson) is totally okay with it. Then when Dylan invites Jamie to spend fourth of July weekend with his family in LA, things take a different turn … do they really want to keep up the ‘friends with benefits”? or will they be much happier with either “all or nothing”?

As romantic comedies go, this is a good one. It is entertaining and there is a nice chemistry between Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis. They both perform their roles well – with a good banter and balance between them. The supporting cast of Jenna Elfman, Richard Jenkins and Patricia Clarkson is very strong – but it needs to be to provide a solid base for the movie as the two main characters could not sustain this movie on their own. I think Justin Timberlake has good potential as an actor and Mila Kunis is already clearly a talent on the rise (after her performance in “Black Swan” also). Overall, it’s a better than average rom-com.

Made in 2011. Directed by Will Gluck

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2012 in Movies

 

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The Social Network

This is about the beginnings of the social networking phenomenon. We meet Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) as a brilliant, but eccentric computer nerd at Harvard University in 2003. In the opening scene (stick with it, it’s chaotic but just try to follow the dialogue) Mark is summarily dumped by his girlfriend. To take revenge on her he creates an internet listing that rates the girls in the Harvard colleges. This is called Facemash and whilst the backlash gets him in a heap of trouble, it also sparks interest by the Winkelvoss twins, Cameron and Tyler (both played by Armie Hammer) who want to create a network of Harvard undergraduates. Zuckerberg agrees but develops his own Harvard network called The Facebook instead. To develop this further Mark teams up with his best friend Eduardo Saverin (by Andrew Garfield) to as an investor for the scheme. The story progresses through the court case mounted by the Winkelvoss twins to sue Zuckerberg, his own huge success with Facebook and the outcomes of each of his original business/personal relationships where friendship, loyalty, envy and competitiveness are played out. A great component of this is provided by Sean Parker (by Justin Timberlake) who is the creator of Napster and was an early supporter of Zuckerberg and Facebook.

Jesse Eisenberg is great in this role – perhaps not always someone you like, but really interesting character. The others are good too, Armie Hammer does the Winkelvoss twins beautifully, Andrew Garfield is great and Justin Timberlake does very well. The film is really interesting too – it’s based on the book ‘The Accidental Billionaires’ by Ben Mezrich.

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Movies

 

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