MARCH 11TH, 2014
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS // Every year, I feel like we get at least one truly phenomenal music-based film, and the Coen Brothers’ “Inside Llewyn Davis” is that one. The music throughout the film is performed by the actors themselves, and comes from Oscar winner T Bone Burnett collaborating with Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons. Catching you with folk ballads like “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me” and “Fare The Well”, every song in this film made this folk skeptic a bonafide fan. Set in the 60′s in Grennwich Village, Oscar Isaac plays lead Llewyn Davis, the epitome of a struggling musician, moving from friend’s couch to friend’s couch, playing any venue that will have him, in search of the musician’s American dream. The problems that Llewyn faces, besides being the unlikable protagonist in a Coen Brothers film, are a changing musical dynamic in New York, where even his amazing voice is not what deems popular, the harsh winter of New York as he walks from apartment to manager’s office to venue, and a pregnant Carey Mulligan, who couldn’t be more vocal about hating his guts. Teaming with Justin Timberlake, Garrett Hedlund, and John Goodman, Oscar Isaac produces one of the most memorable performances of the year. What is absolutely unforgettable about “Inside Llewyn Davis” is Bruno Delbonnel’s breathtaking cinematography, which fades a yellowish blue hue that adds a richness to every frame of the film. The Coen Brothers latest is captivating from beginning to end, with the touch and feel of their particular brand of drama and dialogue, mixed with full on performances of a majority of the soundtrack. With Oscar season just around the corner, “Inside Llewyn Davis” will definitely be garnering some attention and will be landing as one of my favorite films of the year.
THE BOOK THIEF // Having never read the book and having only experienced the trailer, I was fully under the impression that “The Book Thief” was more of a children’s film than that of one for adults, to which I was wholly wrong. With distinct themes of death and war, the film takes an interesting look at devotion and deep rooted ties during World War II, following a young orphaned girl, Liesel, whose passion for learning how to read brings her closer to her foster father and drives her further from the mindset of the Nazi regime. Filled with great performances, especially from Geoffrey Rush, it’s hard not to enjoy this heartwarming family period piece which really blows past expectations.
The first frames of the film involve a sweeping shot of clouds and a strange narrator, to whom you find out fairly quickly is Death himself. Having no clue as to what this film was really about, I was convinced I was in the wrong theater until the camera makes its way into a train and introduces the main young actress, Sophie Nélisse. At only 13 years old, Sophie is phenomenal, covering the impressive range of emotions necessary to bring this book to life. From curiosity to coy, from new found love to loss, her control is matched only by her innocence, which is a prerequisite in making this performance of Liesel pop. Thrust into a new family with Germans Hans and Rosa Huberman (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson), Liesel is told her mother was a communist and was fleeing from the persecution, leaving her to be cared for someone that could offer stability. Although Rosa is a hard, deep woman (whom you eventually warm up to) is matched perfectly by her playful husband, Hans, who instantly connects with Liesel, calling her royalty and inviting her into the house.
Liesel experiences so much in a short time, from becoming a member in the Hitler Youth program, making friends with the boys around the neighborhood, witnessing book burnings and Nazi army movements, but the real story picks up when you find that Hans and Rosa do not support the Nazi regime and are simply playing a role to keep their heads down while the storm passes. This works out fine for them until one night, a Jewish man named Max Vandenburg (Ben Schnetzer) shows up at their door, starving and sick, having just escaped occupied Germany. Max is the son of a man that saved Hans’ life in World War I and so Hans, an extremely honorable man, feels an obligation to take him in and keep him hidden. Liesel and Max bond over his passion for reading as well and he even presents her with her first blank book to write in, a copy of “Mein Kampf” painted to be blank. Liesel continues to experience the pressures of the war, losing people close to her along the way.
Published in 2005-2006, the book that the film is adapted from was listed on The New York Times Best Seller list for over 230 weeks, which now makes this a must read. And with an impressive film that brims with emotion for the better part of the run-time, “The Book Thief” is an amazing look at the life of Germans that were under the Nazi rule but still did not agree with what was going on, not image that is often presented. Geoffrey Rush impresses with most of his performances, but he makes “The Book Thief” so much more approachable by being in it and plays perfectly next to the young Sophie Nélisse, who we will hopefully see in many more things to come. Matched with an amazing score from John Williams and some eye catching costume designs, and rich cinematography, “The Book Thief” is a grand slam of entertainment and history that completely shoots past expectations.
THE BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN // Coming out of the Belgium and nominated at the 86th Annual Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Feature, “The Broken Circle Breakdown” is a passionate love story filled with young love and young loss that tears at the heart strings and leaves you on the verge of emotionally drained by the time you walk out of the theater, a feeling that I personally love coming from the medium of film. Through disjointed and fragmented storytelling, the narrative of the film is scattered between the present and the past, as we join the couple, Elise and Didier (Veerle Baetens and Johan Heldenbergh), as they stay with their daughter in the hospital. She has cancer and despite all their worrying and arguing, there’s nothing they can do but watch and wait. As we wait, we are thrown back to how the couple met and the path they were lead down. Dider is in a bluegrass band and Elise is covered in tattoos, and the only thing more aggressive than their sex is the passion that they feel for one another. Living in a trailer while he puts off finishing his giant house, when Elise becomes pregnant, Didier steps up and finishes it so they can start their family.
What transpires throughout the film is a chemistry between two people that begs the question of true love and fate, but with the death of their daughter knocking at their door, the true strength of the relationship is tested. The chopped up storytelling is key for the film, offering a roller coaster ride of emotion that leaves the viewer always wondering what part of the story will be told next. Dealing with extremes of love and loss, the film is so passionate and so heartbreaking, that the emotions resonate long after the film has ended. With amazing performances from both leads, especially Veerle Baetens, who lays it all on the table in this role, will definitely be making a splash if she continues to act. Of the five nominated foreign language features, “The Broken Circle Breakdown” was a resounding favorite of mine and will not easily be forgotten.
HOMEFRONT // Jason Statham’s patented brand of violent thrillers have become a sort of art form, with strategic fight sequences built around a loose narrative that allows Statham’s characters to always be the good guy, looking like the underdog, but using his endless skills to take down villains much in the same vein as a less debonaire James Bond. In “Homefront”, penned by actor Sylvester Stallone, Statham plays undercover DEA agent Phil Broker, whose cover is lost on the night of a giant bust. With his identity unknown to the biker gang he was apart of, he disappears with his daughter to a small town to start over. But of course, this small town has its demons, in the form of a drug dealing family including Cassies (Kate Bosworth) the smart-mouthed meth addict and kingpin Gator (James Franco), along with his trashy girlfriend Sheryl (Winona Ryder). When Phil picks a fight with the wrong man, it seems the whole town is after him, but with a drug connection to Broker’s former biker gang, Gator proves to be the real kink in the chain.
What sets “Homefront” apart from any other action film of this flavor is the outstanding cast and Statham’s sincerity grounded by having a young daughter that he must tend to. Statham is, as always, his pitch perfect self, convincing as a father as well as a killer, he knows his niche and continues a perfect track record. More times than not, its the supporting cast that determines the quality of a Statham film, and this could be the best assembled cast yet, not only bringing big names to these supporting parts, but giving them turns that are not often seen from their wheelhouse. Franco makes another villainous turn since his bad guy role in “Spring Breakers” and proves his worth in all the scenes he’s involved in. The true unrecognizable turns are in Bosworth and Ryder, who slip into these trailer trash roles with a grace beyond any role they’ve done before. “Homefront” is by no stretch a finely tuned machine, but for straight up action fare, you could do a helluva lot worse.
OUT OF THE FURNACE // Tent-poled by an amazing cast, “Out Of The Furnace” is nothing if not an exercise in excellent casting choices. Say what you will, but Christian Bale is a huge draw. Even with his Batman days behind him, his Oscar winning performance in “The Fighter” is enough proof to say he can get people in a theater seat. Playing nice guy ex-con Russell Blaze, a mill worker who is the product of the people around him, Bale delivers a calculated performance that pays off, heightening the performances as a whole. One performance that needs no heightening is that of Casey Affleck, who once again proves to be one of my favorite actors, playing Russell’s brother Rodney. In and out of tours for the Army, Rodney is not okay and instead of finding real work outside of the military, he chooses to bare-knuckle box. This brings in two of the usual suspects, Willem Dafoe as sleazy bar owner John Petty and Woody Harrelson as redneck kingpin Harlan DeGroat, with outstanding performances from both men.
To set the stage for the entire film, the opening sequence see Harlan shoving a hot dog down his dates throat, pulling her from the car, and violently punching a man just trying to help. With Rodney owing John some serious cash, they retreat to the hills where redneck justice prevails, to settle a debt with Harlan by throwing a fight. But when things go south and Rodney goes missing, Russell, who is recently released from jail, takes it upon himself to find him. Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart”) reveals his steady hand at directing, bringing to life an otherwise straightforward narrative and giving it a richer, darker feel. Also, with no problem pushing his characters to the brink, Bale’s Russell faces loss after loss, losing his girlfriend (Zoe Saldana) to the local police chief (Forest Whitaker) and losing his father while in jail, the fact that he’s willing to go balls to the wall for his brother is no surprise. With his uncle (Sam Shepherd) by his side, “Out Of The Furnace” brings an A-list cast to an otherwise violent and cold thriller. Unfortunately, no one will be winning any awards from this film, but with highlight performances from Bale and Affleck, this will still continue to open doors for these men and remains another success in Scott Cooper’s unfolding career.
|Beyond Outrage (2012)|
|The Book Thief|
|The Broken Circle Breakdown|
|Enemies Closer (2013)|
|The Hungover Games|
|In Fear (2013)|
|In the Name of the King 3: The Last Mission|
|Inside Llewyn Davis|
|Out of the Furnace|
- TV Box Set
- Dirty Jobs: Down Under
- In The Heat Of The Night: Season 2 & 3
- Rogue: Season 1
- Special Editions/Other Releases
- All Things To All Men
- All Wifed Out
- Barbie: The Pearl Princess
- Black Plague
- Commitment (2013)
- Dark House
- Dracula Reborn
- Easy Money: Hard To Kill
- JFK: The Smoking Gun
- The Legend of Three Trees
- Lego Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles
- Lloyd The Conquerer
- Mademoiselle C
- Monsters Vs. Aliens: Supersonic Joyride
- The Outsider (2013)
- The Patience Stone
- Puncture Wounds
- Psycho-Pass: Part One
- The Reunion (2011)
- That’s What I Am
- The Time Being