Inside Llewyn Davis (2014)

Genre: Drama, Music

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Starring: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman

Rating: ★★★★★

Inside Llewyn Davis is a film that I’ve been anticipating very much ever since I saw early advertisements and trailers and it lived right up to my expectation. Beautifully-crafted and with an inspiring story, the Coen brothers have created a reflective film that many will be able to relate to. Stunningly directed along with amazing performances from the entire all-star cast, Inside Llewyn Davis is in some ways a master-piece topped with a great soundtrack tipped to win Oscars.

Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a young folk-singer trying to establish a career as a soloist; we follow his life for a week as he attempts to navigate the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961 in the harsh cold winter. Llewyn is struggling, losing hope and is being eaten away at by all the negatives in his life that for him, seem to be growing. Homeless he sleeps and crashes on various couches, some are his friends some are just mutual strangers from the industry. In a week he finds himself in a lot of places, on a lot of couches and being stared at by a lot of strangers.

The only thing Llewyn seems to have is his music and with that he grasps so tightly that it seems he pushes away all other people and relationships.  As an audience we establish such deep sympathy for him, despite obviously having a tortured soul he is a man with good intentions however he always seems to bring bad-luck and sadness wherever he goes. An angry Carey Mulligan, playing June, a fellow musician, shouts, lectures and spits telling Llewyn that the only good thing he could ever do on this planet is to not reproduce, and that sums up how the character of Llewyn comes across.

Llewyn Davis represents a lot of people, “drifters” who try and make their mark on the world, at one point he crashes on the couch of Al Cody (Adam Driver) another folk singer and just like Llewyn he has the same box full of unsold albums hidden away. Inside Llewyn Davis isn’t just showing the hard-times folk singers had in 60’s America, or people of that era in general, but it delivers a strong message to everyone who has a passion in a competitive area and is struggling to make their mark having to choose between their passion and “existing”.

The film displays an all-star cast; John Goodman plays an engrossing drug addict who only dampens the motivation and spirits of Llewyn even more on a shared journey to Chicago. Justin Timberlake plays Jim, a folk singer and the partner of June, although Llewyn is involved in an awkward love triangle with pair, they are his only “real” friends. However there is no surprise in saying Oscar Isaac is the star performer, although maybe limited due to the Coen brother’s style; he captures a great display that really connects with the audience nevertheless.

The films biggest achievement however is how it’s been beautifully crafted; both the Coen brothers and cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel deserve huge plaudits. Every scene is flawless, from the very opening to the very end, each shot with talent and it looks like they spent time on every frame attempting to reach perfection. Inside Llewyn Davis has got the nomination for Best Cinematography and that is not at all surprising, however what was is the snub for The Best Picture.  The opening scene really sets the mark throughout, Llewyn is on stage singing and playing, being highlighted by an overhanging spotlight it only focuses on him and the music, perfectly executed it leaves you speechless. Many scenes are also remarkable with small elements standing out; the “car journey scene” as well as the “train journey scene” to pick my favourites, but the film in a whole is just inspiring in a number of ways.

The sound-track deserves the final mention, which plays an important role within this film. Without the score that is lyrically and acoustically remarkable, we wouldn’t have such a connection to Llweyn, it is due to the score that we encourage him and sympathise for him. Although heart-less and cold his music is the opposite, that alongside his relationship with a reoccurring cat, shows that Llewyn is “human” and can feel.

The Coen brother’s newest creation is one that I shall be re-watching time and time again due to its powerful, impacting and inspiring nature. Inside Llewyn Davis is in some ways a story about not giving up and holding onto your dreams and passions, that story has been executed to perfection and topped by amazing performances making it a master-piece that can’t be missed.



Monsters University (2013)

Monsters University (2013) Poster

Genre: Comedy, Family, Adventure, Animation

Director: Dan Scanlon

Writers: Dan Scanlon, Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird

Staring: John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Helen Mirren

Rating: ★★★★

In a time before Monsters, Inc. where Mike had braces, was even smaller, even more adorable there was Monsters University. To say Monsters University does its pre-sequel justice is an understatement, it gets funnier, cuter and even more brilliant. The new technology used by Pixar clearly shows as the quality of the monsters are phenomenal, the writing is amazing and the film as whole will certainly be remembered just like Monsters, Inc. as a classic.

We join our small, green monster friend Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) in his school-days taking a tour of Monsters University’s “Scare Floor”, as his big one eye gazes from a far at his heroes he realises that he wants to be a professional scarer. Scaring human children to sleep, collecting screams for energy being a professional scarer is a job that separates the monsters from the beach balls. On his journey to reach his dream Mike joins Monsters University where he meets James P. Sullivan “Sully”, (John Goodman), big, blue and terrifying and coming from a long line of the best scarers life looks easy for Sully. Whilst Sully chooses the “jock” life, pranking, partying and sleeping; Mike chooses the “nerd” life of studying, studying and studying but when the two face their first exam their conflict leads them to fail the course.

With the easy route to his dream ruined the only way Mike can become a scarer is to win the “Scare Games”. The Scare Games is a traditional Monsters University event that judges who the best scarers are, but with Mike paired up with Sully and a bunch of unexperienced “rejects” his team “OK” are certainly the underdogs. The film focuses on how the games and challenges faced bring the characters of Mike and Sully together. The fierce competition from other monsters and the principle “queen” makes the adventures of our adorable monsters action packed, fun and dangerous.

Pixar once again has managed to reflect real-life from Monsters University, in Monsters, Inc. (2001) the film and the different characters represented those in the work place. This time round the characters represent those in a school environment making it very relatable to the audience. The film as a whole has “family” written all over it from the cute characters and the great gags that will keep everyone entertained. The use of casting also attracts those older with the likes of Helen Mirren (The Queen), Steve Buscemi (Fargo) being very popular well-known figures.

The film had me hook, line and sinker from the opening, seeing the cute little Mike walking around brought back all those feelings and memories from Monsters, Inc. The way that Pixar manage to create such emotion and feelings for Wazowski with only an eye and brow to work with is incredible and new monsters such as “Squishy and Art” just emphasised the awww’s.  The storyline was also intelligent, adding information that only gives us a further insight into the life of our much-loved Mike and Sully also giving us a chance to see behind the scenes.

This film lived highly up to the standards set and I’m glad it did, I’m sure you’ll find Monsters University on the best sequel lists rather than the ones that shouldn’t have been made. Faultless from start to finish, from characters to storylines, to gags and casting. It was hilariously entertaining and once again Pixar has created an animation picture that will become a classic. If you enjoyed Monsters, Inc. then you will love Monsters University, so what are you waiting for-Its scaring time!

Monsters, Inc. (2001)

Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Family

Directors: Pete Docter, David Silverman, Lee Unkrich

Writers: Pete Docter, Jill Culton, Jeff Pidgeon, Ralph Eggleston, Andrew Stanton, Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird, Rhet Reese, Johnathan Roberts

Staring: John Goodman, Mary Gibbs, Billy Crystal

Rating: ★★★★

Due to the recently released sequel “Monsters University” I decided to revisit one of my childhood favourites. “We scare, cause we care” is the slogan of the monsters in Monsters, Inc. Pixars animated creation states the legend that monsters do exist in the closet is obviously true. With another inventive storyline and some adorable lovable characters here’s a film that is for everyone in the family. I loved this film when watching it twelve years ago as a kid and I love it now as a seventeen year old.

The story follows the two lovable monsters James P. Sullivan (Sulley) and Mike Wazowski voiced by John Goodman and Billy Crystal. The two work for Monsters, Inc. the utility company who powers the city with the screams and goosebumps of children. Sulley big, blue and the companies best scream-generator accidentally finds trouble with cute, little two-year old girl Boo as he accidentally lets her into the city, Monstropolis . Mike, short, green and one-eyed has to help Sulley get Boo back home before the city gets a big shock. The twist in the plot of Monsters, Inc. is that it’s the monsters who are scared of the children and not the other way round.

The story feeds of the relationship between our adorable monsters and Boo, how the three together become close leading to a watery-eyed moment when it times to say goodbye. The other characters in the film purely represent those In the work place making the film more relatable for the adults. Monsters, Inc. released after the two Toy Story’s shows once again the brilliant, inventive imaginations of Pixar as well as their technical skills with their animation.

Just like other Pixar films it provides plenty for the family, as a child the characters alone were enough to entertain me but the silly gags and behaviour of our monsters create many chuckles. Like most children films there are also many adult humour moments creating those sneaky laughs that you miss if you’re a kid. Before viewing kids were kept awake at the thought of scary monsters hiding in the closet, after watching they will be jumping in looking for the door to meet Sulley and Mike.

Monsters, Inc. is a film that has just like most Pixar Films set a template for future family films, I personally love it and its one of my favourite animated films of all time. It has it all, lovable characters, a great storyline, laughs and an ending that leaves you with a lump in your throat no matter how old you are. I hope Monsters University is half as good as this film and does the franchise some justice, if you haven’t already seen this film then you’re missing out.