Hope is such a funny thing. In some circumstances it is the life preserver that keeps you afloat during the rough choppy waters of doubt and fear. When one has to wait for test results, hope is there to carry them through the days. There are times though where hope drives us crazy as if it greased the wheels of one’s reasoning, making them skid across the roads of reality and sanity. Checking one’s email account for an email or voice messages for that one call, hoping the person you just met keeps their promise to contact you for a date, as you refuse to make any plans yet for the weekend. This would be the wicked side of hope. The dictionary defines hope as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. It says nothing about it helping or hindering us. In this latest dramatic film from the writing and directing team of Ethan and Joel Coen (The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men) hope was the only thing musician Llewyn Davis, played by Oscar Isaac (Robin Hood, Drive), had as he tried to make it in the New York folk scene back in the 1960’s. This Golden Globe nominated black and white movie was meticulously filmed down to each detail. The set pieces and scenes had the Coen Brothers’ special way of evoking emotions out of both the characters and viewers. I do not believe everyone will be familiar with the Fred Harvey rest stop oasis, but it was priceless to see one of them in a scene. If I am not mistaken they were in only one state in America where they spanned across the highway. Besides the outstanding acting from Oscar, I thought the acting was equally well done by Carey Mulligan (An Education, The Great Gatsby) as Jean and John Goodman (Argo, Roseanne-TV) as Roland Turner. In fact, I think John is one of the best character actors working in movies today. As for the story I enjoyed most of it, though I felt at times it was meandering about, leaving uncertain conclusions. The ending left me a little cold. I am not sure this film festival winning movie will please everyone. Music lovers will certainly enjoy this musical movie; at least I hope so.
3 1/3 stars
One would think with my love of movies I would see a favorite film more than once. In all honesty it happens very rarely. If there is a movie I just have to own, I will see the film again when I buy the DVD. As far as I can remember, I think there are only 4 movies I have seen twice while they were still playing at the theater. One of those films was The Sting with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. If I were reviewing movies back then I would have given this film a 4 star rating. Everything from the acting to directing to the music was as close to perfect as possible. Now the reason I brought up this film was because this crime film reminded me of The Sting. From writer and director David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter) this film festival winning movie was loosely based on the ABSCAM scandal from the 1970’s, which was an FBI sting operation against public corruption. Forty pound heavier Christian Bale (Out of the Furnance, American Psycho) and Amy Adams (Man of Steel, Enchanted) played con artists Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser. Forced into service by ambitious FBI agent Richie DiMaso, played by Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, The Words), they discovered their lives could be at risk when some dangerous individuals suddenly became involved. The first thing in this Golden Globe nominated movie that reminded me of The Sting was its story. Besides both being about a sting operation, the story had several twists and surprises. The next thing that was similar was the unbelievable, amazing acting. Everyone in this film held their own with their terrific acting skills. One of the youngest actors in the cast gave such an astounding performance that she should get nominated for an Oscar. That actress was Jennifer Lawrence who played Irving’s alcoholic wife Rosalyn Rosenfeld. I thought her young age would be a hinderance in playing this role, but that was not the case. However, Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, North Country) who played Mayor Carmine Polito looked too young for the part. His acting was first rate, but I felt he needed to look older for the part. Everyone in this dramatic film had equal amounts of screen presence which carried me through the couple of parts I found to be slow. With a little more editing the already fantastic dialog would have been ideal for me. The music and sets were perfect for the times. This movie certainly will get a couple of Oscar nominations and is definitely worth seeing. Now that I have seen it I have this urge to see The Sting again.
3 2/3 stars
There is a risk venturing into something without having some prior knowledge on what you will do or see. I do not know if I would call myself a risk taker, but I prefer seeing a movie with as little information about it as possible. Call me an adventurer. This is why I keep my reviews short, not divulging too much information. If I am going to ask someone about a movie it would be to ask if there is a good time to run out and use the restroom. Being the way I am, there have been movies I have gone to where I have pleaded with my watch to speed up; the movie was that awful. However, I am willing to take my chances. When I go to a movie such as this one, I enjoy the surprise of experiencing a wonderful film. For example, I did not know this adventure film was an Oscar and Golden Globe nominee for best foreign film. The international version that was done in English was what I saw at the theater. The movie was a dramatization about famous adventurer Thor Heyerdal’s 1947 attempt to cross 4,700 miles of the Pacific Ocean, to prove that Polynesia could have been settled by natives from South America. Having seen the trailer for this film, I had to wonder if the movie would be able to keep my attention. Since I had seen the movie Life of Pi, I was not expecting this film to be as beautiful. Now here came the surprise: this movie was beautiful in its own way. I am sure scenes were added to keep a sense of drama and suspense for the viewer, but it worked. I was never bored, just astounded these men willingly agreed to sail across the Pacific Ocean on a wooden raft. The only thing missing from the story was getting more background information on each member of the crew. I wanted to know what drove them to commit to such a risky endeavor. Pal Sverre Hagen (Troubled Water, Amor) and Agnes Kittelson (Happy Happy, Tag) were admirable playing Thor and Liv Heyerdal. By taking a risk in going to this movie, I was rewarded with seeing an engaging film about an amazing feat. One brief scene with blood.
3 1/4 stars