Music Break: Oscar Isaac’s singing in ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’

InsideLlewynDavis_Bnr

Boy, it’s been two months since I did a Music Break post, as I missed doing one in December! Well, now it’s the last day in January and I’ve been wanting to highlight this soundtrack for some time, so today is as good a time as any.

I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog that I wasn’t enamored by this film. I appreciate the character study of a down-on-his-luck folk singer set in New York City’s Greenwich Village in 1961, but it feels so indulgently aimless. To be honest, the decidedly-morose tone makes this film much longer than 1 hour and 45 minutes! The pointless ending especially rubs me the wrong way. I guess I just don’t get what the point of it all is, which I find quite frustrating.

But hey, I’m not going to focus on the negative as there are two things I really enjoyed about the film (well three if I count the cat) and those are Oscar Isaac’s acting/singing and the music. According to this Rolling Stones article, the Coens thought their screenplay was ‘un-filmable’ before they saw Isaac … “Where would they find a crazy-talented singer-guitarist with movie-star presence and major comic acting chops?” Well I’m very glad that their paths crossed!

The opening sequence of Llewyn singing at the bar singing this song is exquisite, and it really makes me want to know more about the character.

InsideLlewynDavis_stills

Isaac is a Guatemalan-born actor who’s been on my radar for some time ever since I saw him as the spoiled Prince John in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood. He’s apparently trained Juilliard where he was encouraged to work on his voice. ‘Through doing the basic practical classes, learning how to use my diaphragm, I really figured out how to sing and what it was that I sounded like.’ [per Telegraph]. He was also in a punk bank before his dramatic training, as a frontman for a band called the Blinking Underdogs when he went through the Cure phase. He said he was a terrible singer then but surely that’s not the case as I LOVE his voice. I’m going to have to update my old list of Actors who are surprisingly good singers. I think the fact that he can actually play guitar really well AND has a naturally melodic voice adds so much realism to his character, it’s as if I was really watching a part-Welsh musician named Llewyn Davis instead of an actor playing one.

Now this clip below is one of the highlights from the film. It’s hilarious and bizarre, with great supporting turn from Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver.

Lastly, here’s a recording of Isaac with Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons:



[SPOILER alert] It’s quite amusing that Bob Dylan appears at the end of film. He’s a music legend who I’m not really fond of. I always joke that I don’t get the Coens’ style and Bob Dylan’s music, two blasphemous things for people living in Minnesota, ahahahaha. In fact, I said to my hubby afterwards that if Llewyn Davis were a real musician, I’d rather buy his records than Dylan’s 😀

So yeah, even though I won’t buy the dvd of Inside Llewyn Davis, I’d readily buy the soundtrack.


Hope you enjoy the music break today. Thoughts on this soundtrack and/or the film?

FlixChatter Review: Runner Runner

TedSaydalavongBanner

RunnerRunner_Banner

Runner Runner is a poker term referring to when a player needs the cards on the turn and river to win the pot. I’m pretty sure any poker player knows the term quite well and for non-poker folks, I’m sorry I couldn’t explain much better than that. I consider myself to be a pretty decent poker player, yes I’m one of those people who watch poker tournaments on TV and have played the game online and at casinos. So this film peaked my interest just a bit, I thought it would dive into the world that not too many people know about; sadly though, the film never delivers on its intriguing premise.

The film starts out with a Princeton grad student Richie Furst (Justin Timberlake) meeting with the Dean of the school. He’s been busted for running an online gambling at the school and the Dean order him to shut down the site or get expel from the campus. Richie is in a huge debt, you see he worked at Wall Street for a few years but when the economy went south, he lost his job and his seven figures salary. He wants to get a Master Degree in finance so he can get back on his feet again, unfortunately he doesn’t have enough money to pay for the tuition. So with only about $17,000 left in his bank account, Richie decided to play poker online with all of his savings and hoping he would win enough money to pay for his tuition. Unfortunately he loss all of his money but he realized he was cheated. So he decided to travel down to Costa Rica to confront the man who runs the poker website, Ivan Brock (Ben Affleck). Ivan agreed to meet with Richie and he was impressed with Richie’s talent, he decided to offer him a job of running his casino in town, of course being broke Richie took the offer right then and there. Richie also met up with Ivan’s girl Rebecca Shafran (ex-Bond girl Gemma Arterton). There’s this love triangle storyline between these characters that never fully developed.

RunnerRunner_Stills

After a couple of months of enjoying the high roller life in paradise, Richie was suddenly captured by couple of thugs and brought to an FBI agent Shavers (totally miscast Anthony Mackie). Shavers wants Richie to be a mole for him, he wants to bring Ivan’s operation into a halt. Richie of course refused so Shavers threatened him by saying he could be ban from entering the States and spend most of his life in prison down Costa Rica. With no choice Richie decided to come up with his own plans of escaping the authority and Ivan’s empire. The rest of the film was about Richie trying to outsmart the FBI and take down Ivan his own way, there’s no payoff or surprises, pretty generic thriller recipe that’s been done way too many times in other and much better films.

This was the first of Timberlake’s film that I saw with him as the lead and I don’t think I want to see anymore of him. He’s good as a supporting character, I liked his take on Sean Parker in The Social Network, but he’s way out of his comfort zone here as the leading man. There were a couple of scenes that if I were the director, I may have slapped him silly and get fired because he cannot convey the emotion that those scenes required. Affleck on the other was having fun playing the villain and he chewed up his scenes to the max. Unfortunately though, his character was pretty one dimensional and any decent actor could’ve been good in the role. I don’t know why Affleck accepted this role, maybe he’s a good friends with the director or maybe he wants the studio behind this film to finance his next film project. Arterton didn’t have much to do but being the eye candy and love interest. I mentioned earlier that Mackie was a total miscast, he’s as believable as an FBI agent as me being a QB in the NFL.

RunnerRunner_Still2

I’ve never seen any films of Brad Furman, apparently his last film The Lincoln Lawyer was pretty descent but I thought he did a poor job here. He’s one of these new crops of young filmmakers who thinks by shaking the camera, even during dialog scenes, would make the film exciting or intriguing. Seriously these guys needs to stop doing that, I’m so sick of hand held shaky cam style of filmmaking. He also copied the look and feel of the film from other directors such as David Fincher and Michael Bay, yeah I know why anyone would copy Michael Bay’s style is beyond me. As for the screenplay, it wasn’t anything special. It’s a generic plot that we’ve seen many times before, I’m actually surprised that the script got made into a big motion picture, I thought it’s better suited for a TV movie of the week.

This was a missed opportunity to tell a good story about poker gambling and how it can ruin people’s lives, instead they decided to just turn a good premise into a silly and boring thriller. With a weak leading man, script and uninspiring direction this is a rental at best. My generous 2 stars is for the beautiful scenery and cool soundtrack.
tworeels

2 out of 5 reels


TedS_post


Well, what do you think of this film and/or the cast?

Five for the Fifth: OCTOBER 2013 Edition

fiveforthefifth

Hello folks, welcome to the 10th Five for the Fifth of the year!

As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item, observation, trailer, actor/director spotlight, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. There are two actors I like who’s having a birthday today: Kate Winslet and Guy Pearce. I’ve dedicated a post to the luminous and massively talented miss Winslet and posted my top five favorite roles, so I’m going to focus my attention here on the Australian thespian.

GuyPearceBday

Mr. Pearce who turns 46 today, I haven’t seen enough of his work to do a top five but I absolutely love him in L.A. Confidential and Memento (in that order), and also his supporting roles in The Hurt Locker, The Count of Monte Cristo, The King’s Speech and Iron Man 3. I still want to see the Aussie drama Animal Kingdom and also Lawless, he’s so unrecognizable in the trailer!

What’s YOUR favorite Guy Pearce roles?


Timberlake_RunnerRunner2.  I just read this article on The Wrap on Justin Timberlake after I saw the trailer for Runner Runner (review coming Monday). Truth be told, I wasn’t fond of the pop star at all, nor do I find him to be remotely attractive. But I’m slowly warming up to him, though I still much prefer him in supporting parts (preferably more comedic than dramatic roles) as he’s just not leading man material to me. Case in point: In Time, which would’ve been a lot more compelling had Cillian Murphy is in the lead instead of him. Granted the Irish actor is perhaps not a ‘marquee name’ (though he SHOULD be) so he’s not as marketable, but he’s certainly a much better actor.

In any case, it’s interesting to see how many films Timberlake has done, but his most successful one is still The Social Network, which I think is still my fave film he’s been in. I guess he’s not as good an actor as he is a singer, and his star power doesn’t exactly translate at the cinematic box office.

Thoughts on Justin Timberlake? I’m also curious if there a musician-turned-actor whose work you admire.


3. Ok, this is one piece of news I find truly mind-boggling.

Earlier this Spring, the crime drama BROADCHURCH aired on ITV in Britain, and then the show was bought by BBC America and it was shown this past August. The show just concluded its first season run on BBC America last week. Former Dr. Who David Tennant and Olivia Colman star as two detectives investigating the murder of a young boy in a small coastal town, which brings a media frenzy that threatens to tear the community apart. My friend Novia (a huge fan of BBC shows) praised the show in her review, and I’ll be posting a guest post on why people should check out this series.

BroadchurchBBC

Well, I just read on BBC America web site that FOX is going to remake it and though Tennant will reprise his role as the lead detective, the show will be “thoroughly Yankified,” as the article says. “The Fox redo will be set in an American small town. The network hasn’t said whether Tennant will play a Scotsman (which he is in real life) who has ended up on this side of the Atlantic or will adopt an American accent for the U.S. version of the series.”

I guess it’ll be similar to the show Elementary on CBS which capitalizes on the popularity on BBC’s Sherlock, and just as pointless. I really don’t get this types of projects but maybe there’s actually people who thinks this remake is a good idea. If so I’d like to know why. I’m also puzzled why Tennant is willing to play two separate versions of the same character [scratch head]

So perhaps one of you smart folks could enlighten me as to WHY Hollywood is doing this??


4. A couple of trailers got me super excited this week:

Before I get to it, watch Thorin er, Richard Armitage introduces the trailer [swoon] 😛

… and the trailer itself:

Totally agree with Sati that every woman who sees The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug trailer better has medics waiting for her outside!

ThranduilThorin_Hobbit2

I LOVE that there are more scenes with Thorin this time and also Thranduil (Lee Pace), the two major eye candy by two actors who really should get more roles already. I wish those two were as busy as Benedict Cumberbatch, whose dragon voice sounds awesome. Fun to see Sherlock tormenting Watson again, ahah.

Speaking of Cumberbatch, I just rsvp-ed to see The Fifth Estate this coming Tuesday. Can’t wait to see the controversial film about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. It’s got a great cast, too, including Daniel Brühl and Dan Stevens. Check out the latest trailer:

Are you excited for either (or both) of these?


5. Now, the last topic is inspired by my recent review of GRAVITY, which still lingers with me a week and a half after I saw it. Few films have such power to really get under my skin (in a good way). In my review I mentioned about the deep emotional/spiritual aspect of the film, yet another strength of the film on top of its technical and visual spectacle.

Well, now my last question to you is: What’s the most emotionally gratifying film(s) you’ve seen this year?


That’s it for the OCTOBER 2013 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these subjects.

Friday Question: Movies with Great Ideas, Poor Execution?

TGIF everyone! Certainly glad the weekend is approaching. Well, another week of blah at the cinema, nothing opens this weekend that I really want to see. Seems like aging Hollywood actors dominate the big screen with Stallone starring in Bullet to the Head, and Al Pacino, Alan Arkin, Christopher Walken makes up a trio of aging con-men in Stand Up Guys. They all face off against a bunch of young’un zombies in Warm Bodies.

For today’s post, I thought I’d open things up for discussion on a topic that certainly every moviegoer has an opinion on. It’s a subject matter that’s been covered frequently by movie editors and bloggers alike, but it’s always fun to revisit again as there are perhaps as many movies that fit into this ‘great concepts, poor execution’ category than those we consider great or rubbish. I think science fiction films ‘suffer’ the most, though of course it’s not limited to that genre.

InTimePosterA perfect example is In Time. This movie actually came up in a discussion at a happy hour after work the other day. Someone mentioned how fascinating it was to imagine living in a world where time is a currency. The rich can live forever but the rest of the population wish they could “…wake up with more time on my hand than hours in the day.” That’s what Justin Timberlake’s character said in the beginning in the movie.

I really like this concept but the direction just lack a certain finesse that prevent this from becoming a sci-fi classic like say, Minority Report. In my review I said that a capable director like Christopher Nolan or Ridley Scott could’ve taken this intriguing oncept to new heights.

I had issues with Timberlake’s casting and I’m convinced that another, more skilled actor would’ve been far more compelling to watch, but I think Andew Niccol’s direction is an even bigger issue. Somehow the whole thing felt like a frivolous action movies where a bunch of good looking young stars simply look cool running around, getting involved in shootouts and car chases without any real sense of danger. It’s a shame as the store could’ve been explored more in-depth and the film could’ve been more thought-provoking.

My pal Ted offered up three more examples:

AugustPosterAugust (2008) – This little seen film about the downfall of dot com boom in late 90s/early 2000s starred Josh Hartnett as the Founder/CEO of a hot tech start-up dot-com company. The film showed how he ran his company to the ground and went from being worth $200mil to basically being broke.

Since I’ve been involved in many tech start-ups, I was excited to see this film. Unfortunately it was poorly-written and directed. Instead of focusing on how he ran his company to the ground, the film only focuses on how big a big of jerk Hartnett’s character was to his friends and family. By the end of the film, I wanted to punch his character in the face. With a concept like this, they should’ve hired a more experienced and talented director/writer instead of some no name director and writer. What this film got wrong, Fincher and Sorkin got right when they made the excellent The Social Network a couple of years later.
,,,

EscapeNY_PosterEscape from New York (1981) – I actually thought this was a very good film but I wish it has bigger budget because it’s such a high concept idea that I didn’t think it got executed properly. It’s not the filmmakers’ fault, I mean Carpenter and his crew did their best of what was available to them. There’s been talk about the remake the last few years and I’m actually looking forward to seeing it. With today’s technology and bigger budget, it could be an epic action film that the original wanted to be.

FirefoxPosterFirefox (1982) – This was a rare espionage thriller that Clint Eastwood had made. It’s about a pilot (Eastwood) who was sent to Russia by the CIA to steal an advance jet fighter that the Russian had created. I really like the script; it has everything you want for a spy film, unfortunately I thought Eastwood’s direction was very clunky. It’s probably because he hasn’t done this kind high concept film before and I felt like he’s in over his head. It’s quite a big budget production for its time but the special effects looked awful, again the technology just wasn’t advanced enough for this kind of high concept idea.

I think John Carter is another one that came to mind, though I still think the film isn’t nearly as bad as what the critics made it out to be. But given the significance of the source material that actually inspired such a lucrative franchise like Star Wars, it could’ve been far more memorable. To a smaller extent, the film I saw recently, Puncture, also comes to mind. I mentioned in my review the similarity between that and Michael Mann’s The Insider, both based on a true David vs Goliath story involved in a legal battle. Whilst Mann’s direction was riveting from start to finish, this one just wasn’t nearly as engrossing. Sure you could say that Chris Evans just isn’t Russell Crowe, but while that’s certainly true, the main problem I have is with the style and direction of the Kassen brothers. It happens to be their film debut, so I guess that explains it.

Well, there’s no shortage of such movies and Hollywood keep churning them up, too! In fact, a lot of great concepts from a variety of sources, be that books, graphic novels, what have you, get butchered by poor execution in film adaptations.


So what movies you think have great potential but the intriguing concept is botched by poor execution?

Weekend Roundup: THOR rewatch and IN TIME review

Happy Presidents Day, folks!

I’ve got a day off today which is always nice. Well, I skipped the cinema again today as there just isn’t anything worth spending $10 bucks for. So on Friday night my hubby and I opted to finally open our THOR Blu-ray disc and re-watch it. As I’m anticipating The Avengers this coming May, we might re-watch the individual Marvel superhero movies before that, and THOR has not one but two of The Avengers‘ major players… the god of thunder himself AND the group’s nemesis, Loki.

This is the third time we watched THOR as we saw this twice on the big screen and I still love it. I must say I REALLY enjoy watching Tom Hiddleston more and more as Loki and am thankful to Kenneth Branagh for choosing him as the villain. I could see how at the end of this film Loki has become so disillusioned with who he is and his place alongside his brother… he already had such a major identity crisis in the beginning and by the end of it, Thor’s return to Asgaard will finally push him into a full-blown sinister villain hellbent on revenge and destruction. So yeah, Thor definitely earns its place amongst my Top Ten Favorite of 2011, check out my full review.

IN TIME (2011)

Most of the time, I watched movies because of the cast but this one is one I actually watch despite of it. What appeals to me most about this movie is the sci-fi concept of time as means of life force AND currency. Set in an unspecified period of the future, people stop aging at the age of 25 but are engineered to live only one more year, that is unless they have the means to buy their way out of that situation to have a shot at immortal youth.

The protagonist is Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) who lives in a ghetto-like society where people are constantly dying as they literally run out of time. Everyone has a ‘digital body clock’ in their arm that tells them exactly how much time they have left down to the last second. Coffee costs four minutes of their life and a bus ride is about 1 hour or two. It’s a fascinating concept to see people pay and getting paid in their jobs by scanning their arm into a certain device that would deduct or put the number of hours. Unlike blood transfusion that would mostly have to be done at a medical location, people can transfer their life force in a matter of seconds in this futuristic world as all they have to do is put their arms together and the hours/minutes is transfered immediately.

Tragedy hits Will at the beginning of the film when his 50-something mother (Olivia Wilde) ran out of time on the way of meeting him. Wilde is actually younger than the 31-year-old Timberlake by 3 years in real life but that is ok as she looked about 25 in this film. It’s even more devastating as Wil just inherited over a hundred years from a stranger he saved from a bar, a 105-year-old Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer) who’s burned out of living forever. It’s not exactly clear how Henry obtained that enormous amount of life force however, but he ended up transferring most of his life force to Will with only minutes left for him to commit suicide by the bridge.

Will then moves to a different ‘time zone’ New Greenwich, a city where the upper class live and the millionaires here have hundreds and even millions of years to their time to live as they please. It’s eerie to see that everyone is so young, Phillipe Weis, a time-loaning business tycoon introduce his mother in-law, his wife and daughter to Will and they all look merely a couple of years apart. The 90-year old Phillipe himself looks barely old enough to be a college freshman.

Will ends up being on the run as the Timekeepers (led by Cillian Murphy) think Will killed Henry and stole his time. But just before he is arrested, he managed to kidnap the Phillipe’s beautiful daughter Sylvia and the two runs off together in Will’s newly-acquired fast luxury car. Will is hellbent on fighting against the injustice of the system and against the ‘for one to live forever, few must die’ philosophy of the rich, fostered by billionaires like Weis. The rebellious Sylvia is more than happy to trail along with Will as the two become lovers on the run.

Whilst the whole thing is quite a novelty idea, there are tons of issues that keep this from being a great film. For one, the storyline is quite predictable. In many occasions I could predict what’s about to happen next. The high-paced action and car chases are fun to watch but there’s no sense of real danger to the protagonists and apart from the scene between Will and his mother, the elements of surprise is almost non-existent throughout. The set pieces are quite nice however, I especially like how the vintage-futuristic cars, if there is such a thing… they have futuristic elements but the design is made to look like 60s/70s automobiles.

Now, let’s talk about the casting. I’ve always thought that Timberlake has talents but not exactly a capable leading man material. He was good in The Social Network but it was more of a supporting role and he simply had to rely on his charm and confidence to make it work. In this one, he’s serviceable and even sympathetic at times, but lacks a certain depth that would make his character someone we could truly connect with. I think Seyfried is a promising young actress, she’s definitely got on-screen charisma, but she’s not given much to do but look alluring in a short dress and sky-high heels. Props also for her ability to outrun the police in those stilettos, not to mention keeping her perfect bob always looking so smooth and bouncy. They make a nice looking couple but neither have the edge to make me think they’ve got it in them to be society’s ‘savior’ who steal from the rich on behalf of the poor. In fact, they seems to be a clumsy amalgam of Robin Hood + Romeo & Juliet + Bonnie & Clyde.

Director Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, S1m0ne) seem to have a penchant for ridiculously beautiful people. This film is chock full of them! In fact, Timberlake seems to be the only the more ‘normal’ looking one amongst supermodel-types like Seyfried, Matt Bomer, Alex Pettyfer and Olivia Wilde. Now, I’m probably the only one who’d notice this, but even Sylvia’s bodyguard is played by a the gorgeous Ethan Peck, the grandson of my beloved Gregory who obviously has the tall, dark with a deep voice genes on his side. Perhaps the director is trying to emphasize the ‘fountain of youth’ aspect of the story but I feel like the gorgeous cast actually becomes a distraction instead of serving the story.

The massively-talented Cillian Murphy with killer blue eyes is always watchable as the chief of the Timekeepers, but I don’t think his talent was fully utilized here. When I first saw the trailer, I actually thought what this movie would look like with Cillian as the lead and how a capable director Christopher Nolan or Ridley Scott could take this fascinating time-based currency concept to new heights.

Final thoughts:

As I’ve said above, this movie is worth a watch largely because of the fascinating concept. I probably wouldn’t even rent it if I weren’t a big fan of this kind of sci-fi films. Thankfully, despite the flaws, it’s not a complete waste of time either, which would be ironic indeed 🙂

3 out of 5 reels

So what did you watch this weekend, folks? If you’ve seen this movie, I’d love to hear what you think.