Note: This list is by no means complete and we’ll add to it as see any films that came out during the month
Inside Llewyn Davis
Okie folkie, no karaoke – ★★★★★ (NW)
There’s one 12 or 15 minute sequence here showing Llewyn taking a trip to Chicago (and back) which reminds you of everything great about the Coens – beautifully shot, hilarious one-liners, great dialogue, a sense of a much deeper meaning, a bit of John Goodman for good measure – and has you asking yourself whether you’ve really gotten a handle on what is going on in this increasingly darkening comedy.
The Wolf of Wall Street
Risky Business – ★★★★★ (PMcG)
At 71 years of age and approaching 50 years in the business Scorsese is astonishing and able to tackle any story with gusto. The Wolf of Wall Street is his best since The Departed back in 2006 and his most outrageous film ever, a must see.
12 Years a Slave
Horrible history – ★★★★½ (NW)
12 Years a Slave was filmed on plantations in and around Louisiana in late summer 2012 and that production design, when added to the beautiful anamorphic 35mm cinematography of Sean Bobbitt, really drag the audience kicking and screaming into the Deep South and the horrible existence of life on the cotton farms as a slave in the mid-nineteenth century. Hats off to all.
A quick mention for the film’s most grounded character and a man with no time for bullshit, American or otherwise – Louis C.K.. His double-act with Bradley Cooper is great fun and has me thinking I should email Woody Allen to get the two of them onboard the upcoming title he is supposedly working on for Louis.
August: Osage County
Based on a play of the same name by Tracy Letts (Trivia alert: she took the title from a poem by Howard Starks) August: Osage County brings to mind the claustrophobic film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and indeed Meryl Streep’s performance is not too dissimilar to that of Elizabeth Taylor. Streep has picked up her 500th Oscar nomination for her take on a pill-popping acerbic tongued old woman who must endure her daughters as they arrive to bury their father played by Sam Shepard.
The supporting cast is top notch with Julia Roberts playing a daughter who is going through a divorce, Juliette Lewis playing a daughter who has the worst taste in men and Julianne Nicholson playing a daughter who stayed at home to be close to the parents meaning she missed out on much of life. Sam Shepard – true to form of late – is in the film for about five minutes while still managing to almost haunt the entire film. Solid performances from Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch and Chris Cooper make for quite the ensemble piece.
While it is unabashed melodrama it none the less makes for an entertaining, if at times uncomfortable, watch. The dinner scene after the funeral would remind you of another iconic dinner table scene from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Performing Seals – ★★★ (NW)
Peter Berg’s follow-up to Battleship looks at the Navy Seal Team 10 who came under fire during an Afghan mountain mission, lost all communications and had to face the Taliban. The spoiler in the title reveals the fact they do not all get away alive.
Berg has assembled an impressive cast of guys to play the military men – Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster and Eric Bana. As a director he has shown with Friday Night Lights and Battleship that he’s very good at showing the camaraderie and bonds that form between groups of guys like this and here is no different as you feel part of the team
If you take away the first twenty minutes of setup and the overly-contemplative final few minutes, this is one hell of an hour of action which really makes you feel like you’re on the side of this mountain with these guys. However that awesome look and feel is let down by a see-through narrative and one-dimensional characters.
Vince Vaughn did his part for society and donated sperm but due to an error it was used much more than normal and resulted in him becoming the biological father of 533 children.
There are some Irish connections here with Simon Delaney playing his brother and Jack Reynor one of Vaughn’s children – both doing convincing American accents. The children want to know their father’s identity so he must lawyer up in an attempt to save his anonymity. His best friend steps into the breach played by the very funny Chris Pratt. Vaughn however can’t stay out of his children’s life and starts to meddle as an anonymous do-gooder which leads to some worthy set pieces.
The film is pretty heavy on the schmaltz, while at the same time having some interesting and important views on fatherhood. The perfect viewing for a rainy Sunday afternoon in front of the fire.
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