INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS Courtesy of CBS Films

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
Courtesy of CBS Films

“Who would beat up a folk singer?” This was the question that led to the new Coen Brothers movie, Inside Llewyn Davis. The brothers took this incongruous scene to create Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), a talented yet stalled folk singer in Greenwich Village, circa 1961. The film is a week in the life of Llewyn from performing at the Gaslight Cafe to couch surfing and trying to scrounge up enough dough to pay for an abortion of his friend’s wife that he may or may not have knocked up. Llewyn has his plate full trying to navigate the typical Coen Brothers World stuffed with oddballs, weirdos and loads of Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmares. And a cat. Crashing at the pad of the Gorfeins, an upper-middle class liberal couple, Llewyn accidentally lets their cat out when he leaves their apartment. Unable to get back in or leave the kitty at their building, he is forced to bring the cat with him on his adventures.

Llewyn feels the walls closing in on him in New York so he hops in a car with a jazz man (John Goodman) and his near mute valet (Garret Hedlund) in route to Chicago. In the Windy City Llewyn auditions for a music manager/club owner Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham) who tells him he doesn’t hear a lot of money in his music. Llewyn heads back to New York, a broken man. So close to success yet constantly thwarted by his own terrible decisions, Llewyn is ready to give it all up to return to being a merchant marine. The film is laced with lots of dark humor, great musical numbers and a trademark of all Coen films – perfectly realized side characters. No matter if they’re on screen for a few seconds or a few scenes, minor characters in their films could be spun off at any moment into their own films. Inside Llewyn Davis has these characters in spades played by Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, Adam Driver and Max Casella, to name a few. This hilarious riff on the 60′s folk music scene that was about to spawn the legendary troubadour Bob Dylan is probably the movie of the year for this reviewer.

Go see it this weekend  at the Mayan Theater (times & tickets HERE) or at one of the other select outlets around town.

 

 

ANCHORMAN 2 Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUES
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Ron Burgundy is back America and it couldn’t come soon enough. Anchorman 2 has finally unleashed into the public conscience almost a year to the day from it’s announcement back in December of 2012. We survived the Mayan Apocalypse so Ron Burgundy could return to the silver screen to fire off one-liners right at our funny bones. For a nation wearied of it’s comically inept politicians and stagnant economy, Ron Burgundy and his mustache are here to ease our troubles, if only for a few hours. This time Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, co-writer/director/partner-in-crime, have crafted a surreal, demented sequel that includes sharks,blindness, minotaurs and tons of wildly inappropriate belly laughs. The 70′s have ended with Ron being unceremoniously fired as co-anchor and replaced by his wife, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate).  Ron gets a second-chance when he is offered an anchor job at the country’s first  24-hour, all-news. He reassembles his Action News Team -  Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) on weather , Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) the man-on-the-street investigator and sports guy Champ Kind (David Koechner).

Absurdity and hilarity ensue.

With the ubiquitous guerrilla marketing that has seen Will Ferrell stay in character as Ron Burgundy from everything from Dodge ads to ESPN spots to actually anchoring a real news program in North Dakota, you are aware of the sequel. If you liked the original, then you will like the sequel. Don’t listen to any Comparisonsists who whinge “It’s not as good as the first one, blah, blah” – they’re wrong in their line of thinking. This sequel delivers, think more Toy Story 2 and not Caddyshack 2. They’ve added more characters, Kristen Wiig plays a love interest for Brick, they’ve introduced more present day satire, mocking celeb culture and empty news shows and they’ve managed to tie all of the absurd elements together in the plot. We go on the journey of self-discovery with our clueless hero who must learn to become a better father, husband and top-notch news anchor with ridiculously good hair.

It is already playing all over town. Go see it but be warned from imbibing too much, you just might pee yourself, not that I am speaking from experience. No, not at all, this is just a potential problem that I want to be sure that I have warned you about. Stay classy.

 

AMERICAN HUSTLE Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

AMERICAN HUSTLE
Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

American Hustle has great clothes, very period-specific and very…open. The film tells the story of Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), a moderately successful con man  who, along with his ridiculously attractive partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), is forced to work for wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso is power-hungry yet not clever enough to quite get there on his own. He forces the two of them into the Jersey underworld connected to the mafia. The meet Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), a Jersey political operator, who takes their sting from the Garden State to the hall of Congress. The one real wild-card is Irving’s  unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), a real loose cannon who is either crazy or sharper than she looks. And, well, Lawrence looks pretty amazing, her performance is a riff on Sharon Stone’s role in Casino. Actually, most of the movie feels like one long homage to Martin Scorsese films like Goodfellas, Casino. The films is based around the FBI’s ABSCAM operation from the 70′s, early 80′s.

Filmmaker David O. Russell really wants the audience to love his film. His previous films (Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter, I Heart Huckabees) have seen the director moving quickly towards middle-brow films that look great and our stuffed with as many cinematic flares and touches as can be jammed into one movie. Which is a big problem with this film, it’s a fairly rambling and incoherent plot. Luckily the film features some great individual performances, basically everyone but the motor-mouth Cooper who threatens to derail the whole film. The movie has plenty of laughs yet it runs out of steam far from the finish line. This is White Bread Cinema at it’s finest – a quick rush from the sugar then ultimately an empty ache in your tummy because there’s no real substance. There is plenty of scantily clad Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence though, if that’s your thing but if it’s not you can go for Bale’s amazing comb-over & gut or to see BCoop’s rocking perm.

 Sie Film Center

Another jam-packed weekend at the Sie Film Center.

5-25-77 - In 1976, a young small-town movie geek is given the opportunity of a lifetime — to travel to Hollywood and see an advance screening of the yet-to-be released Star Wars — in this charming and inspirational coming-of-age story based on the real-life experiences of director Patrick Read Johnson. It plays tonight at 7 p.m. in a one-night only showing.

Star Wars Holiday Special - Most Star Wars fans are at least peripherally aware of the Star Wars Holiday special, but almost no one has seen it because it was never released on home video. The special aired on November 17, 1978. Ever since then, everyone involved has been trying to forget about it, destroy it, or at least deny that they did it willingly. But for one-night only the Sie FilmCenter will present the special in all its, um “glory”. It plays one-night only on Saturday night at 9:00 pm.

Some Velvet Morning - Writer/director Neil LaBute continues his exploration of male and female relations in this enigmatic relationship drama. The use of natural lighting and handheld camera highlights the dramatic realism for which LaBute is known. Both lead actors give electric performances, Stanley Tucci as the manic, ego-crushed older man, and Alice Eve, the dazzling ingénue. Their nuanced performances, paired with LaBute’s dialogue, create an intriguing drama with a stunning finale. It plays all week.

All is Lost & The Great Beauty are also showing, be sure to see them on the big screen.

This week’s featured new movie at the Sie:

WHITE REINDEER Courtesy of IFC Films

WHITE REINDEER
Courtesy of IFC Films

White Reindeer is not your typical Christmas movie as one look at the poster above can tell you. That is a a Christmas tree shape made out of lines of cocaine. That should let you know you’re not in It’s a Wonderful Life territory. Suzanne Barrington (Anna Margaret Hollyman) is kicking butt: she just sold a house to a nice swinger couple; her weatherman husband Jeff scored a sweet new job; and her favorite holiday – Christmas – is quickly approaching. Then tragedy upends her whole life forcing Suzanne to face the holiday alone. She finds out her husband was cheating on her with a stripper but instead of confronting her she ends up befriending her. Suzanne begins to slowly emerge from her misery by wandering out into the night to get mixed up into some depraved adventures in the suburbs. This cocaine-fueled drama gives a great twist to the usual holiday movie and it really packs a punch. Anna Margaret Hollyman delivers a knockout performance with the right blend of pathos, loneliness and confusion. It plays all week at the Sie.

 

As always be nice to each other and have fun watching movies.

 

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