Welcome to this week’s dose of cinematic medicine as we open the celluloid bottle to reveal what elixirs of the film kind will be poured onto our entertained spoons … ok, so I’m out metaphors.
Onto the films and Oscar bait seemingly continues apace. Let’s take a gander at what’s out this week…
August: Osage County (15)
One critic in the States has described this film as “2014’s first feel bad movie!”. The plot sounds a tad like a contrivance for amazing actors to get together and do their thing. Well, it is.
The plot. Well, basically an Oklahoma family of strong women come together following a family crisis after years apart – and lot of talking and bickering happens.
What a cast though, and here in lies the film’s big selling point in my opinion – Streep, Roberts, Breslin lead the women with support from the blokes Cooper, McGregor and Cumberbatch – brought together in an ensemble experience where each no doubt has their moment to shine.
I’m hoping the film has some heart and darkly comedic moments for what looks like a very staged affair, not surprising as it is an adaptation of a stage play.
I will at least approach the film with optimism in having one of the best ensemble casts out there this year!
Inside Llewyn Davis (15)
Cinema can rejoice with the return of the Coen Brothers and the story of a young folk musician called Llewyn Davis, following him for a week around 1961 New York.
With just one or two exceptions, the Coen Brothers are the epitome of what cinema is about – craft, characterisation, comedy, cleverness and the deftest touches to bring genius to filmmaking. Yet they also play to their own rules, deliberately not following mainstream conventions, and knowingly playing with the audience’s expectations too.
This film challenges convention by being a rags to rags tale but it also looks like a surprisingly straight tale, whatever that actually means in the Coen brothers’ universe. After all, one can expect no catharsis nor a happy resolution.
Llewyn Davis, played by Oscar Isaac, is a character to follow for his failures and wrong decisions, yet ultimately I’m sure we will connect with him. When done right, we can connect with losers or people who choose the wrong path! That’s what cinema, done well, can do!
Whilst the film has been lapping up five star reviews across the board and despite some Academy Award recognition, it has been largely overlooked in many of the major categories
To add to this, is the T-Bone Burnett produced soundtrack, with plenty of songs which form a key place in this film’s construction and being.
Alec Baldwin played the best Ryan in by far the best Ryan film – Red October was just gripping and brilliant from start to finish. Bringing in Harrison Ford was a deliberate attempt to try and push big star cred to a big action thrillers even if his two Ryan films were pretty average in my opinion. Affleck’s Ryan flick The Sum of All Fears wasn’t great either.
With that out of the way, I’m glad to report Jack Ryan is back in an origins tale (of sorts) which follows Ryan, this time played Captain Kirk aka Chris Pine, as the CIA analyst on the pursuit of a corrupt Russian and his attempts to crash the US economy with a terrorist attack.
I’m a fan of spy (action) thrillers, especially ones which look like they could originate from something which would have been at home in the 1980s. This looks like just one of those, albeit, in cinematic terms, appearing in the post-Bourne universe (much like any action thriller these days!).
Our man Branagh has developed quite a flair for the big Hollywood action flick having directed Thor in recent years. To see him both directing and as the film’s villain is quite exciting. Branagh really understands the pacing of films and can build tension very effectively from fizzing dialogue to full-on action.
The film’s publicity has deliberately pushed Ryan into the Bond and Bourne league … and maybe that’s more a nod to what the film is aspiring to be. That said I think the deliberate reboot, ala Casino Royale, is a great opportunity to move Ryan’s characters away from Tom Clancy’s books and towards a fully fledged movie character not constrained by the source material.
So it is to the franchise’s credit that they’ve brought Chris Pine to the role of Ryan. He has a physicality and energy as an actor that could hopefully ensure the character’s future for a few films to come, providing the box office returns come in.
Grudge Match (12A)
The film which matches Rocky against Jake LaMotta. Well, if only! I mean, how the mighty have fallen!
Now, whilst I’m sure the actors were having an absolute ball making this, there’s very little about this film which fills me with any sense of optimism. In fact, quite to the contrary, it makes me a little bit sad. That said, such a plot premise could work, even in its apparently comedic context, yet the film from the trailer spots feel something like a folly. I wish that wasn’t the case.
For two actors who have been heavyweights in every sense of the word, maybe it’s their past which is part of the problem. For all of their cinematic history, the current only serves to amplify the reality that this comedy and parody pales into comparison against the great characters of years gone by.
Stallone being in this film is on the surface far more believable – I think he can pull this stuff off and he is still built like someone who could give a pounding. De Niro, on the other hand, for all his superior acting chops, is doing what he has been doing for longer now than I think he’s been doing ‘serious’ stuff. Quite, quite bizarre.
There are two questions this week for you to debate over on twitter!
First, what’s your favourite Coen brothers film? Getting me to agree to a top 5 is hard enough I think.
Second, a guest question comes courtesy of @nick1975 (on twitter): What is your favourite film that you could not possibly watch again, and why?
Watch out for some choice responses to that question over on twitter.
That’s it from me for this week. Any quibbles, queries or questions, please let me know @timmy666.
See ya later!