Category Archives: Sex, Leins & Videotape

Tom Leins, Devon’s best film reviewer, takes a look at the latest DVD releases

Sex, Leins & Videotape #194. Tom Leins reviews Looking, A Most Wanted Man and Night Moves


Created by TV industry mainstay Michael Lannan, and inspired by his experiences as a gay man, new drama Looking (HBO Home Entertainment) offers an unflinching look at the complicated friendships and relationships of three men in modern-day San Francisco.

Continue reading Sex, Leins & Videotape #194. Tom Leins reviews Looking, A Most Wanted Man and Night Moves

Sex, Leins & Videotape #193. Tom Leins reviews The Rover, Retribution and The Prince.

Post-apocalyptic carnage, indie melodrama and money-grabbing B-movie trash – the week’s DVDs go under the microscope.


Set ten years after a major economic collapse, The Rover (eOne) follows cold-blooded drifter Eric (Guy Pearce, Memento) as he traverses the scorched Australian Outback on a mission to track down the men who stole his car – the last thing that he had left in the world.

Continue reading Sex, Leins & Videotape #193. Tom Leins reviews The Rover, Retribution and The Prince.

Sex, Leins & Videotape #192. Tom Leins reviews The Missing and The Fall Series 2

Tom Leins casts a critical eye over two big-name BBC dramas.


Hard-hitting BBC drama The Missing (Acorn Media) examines the toxic fallout that follows the disappearance of five-year-old Oliver Hughes, who vanishes on a family holiday in Spain. The show  takes us inside the mind of Oliver’s tortured, booze-fuelled father Tony (James Nesbitt, Cold Feet, Murphy’s Law), who remains committed to finding his son long after his marriage to wife Emily (Frances O’Connor) has imploded under the pressure.

Continue reading Sex, Leins & Videotape #192. Tom Leins reviews The Missing and The Fall Series 2

Sex, Leins & Videotape #191. Tom Leins reviews The Inbetweeners 2, The Guvnors and A Spell to Ward off the Darkness

Three years after achieving a huge hit with the first Inbetweeners movie, the cast are back with another ‘Brits Abroad’ money-spinner.


The Inbetweeners 2 (Channel 4 DVD) picks up with geeky Will (Simon Bird) struggling to make friends at university, while self-absorbed Simon (Joe Thomas) is trapped in a loveless relationship with his new girlfriend Lucy. When Simon and dim-witted Neil (Blake Harrison) visit Will for a humiliatingly uneventful weekend, the hapless trio make the decision to travel to Australia to meet up with vulgar likely lad Jay (James Buckley), who is supposedly having the time of his life, working as a DJ in Sydney. Inevitably, Jay’s tall tales have little connection to reality and the posse’s feeling of mutual disillusionment spurs them on to explore Australia and rub shoulders with the hordes of hardened backpackers.

Continue reading Sex, Leins & Videotape #191. Tom Leins reviews The Inbetweeners 2, The Guvnors and A Spell to Ward off the Darkness

Sex, Leins & Videotape #190. Tom Leins reviews The Killing, Mystery Road and Earth To Echo

Intrigue in Seattle, murder Down Under and a backwards-looking family movie – this week’s best DVDs reviewed.


Based on the Danish crime drama of the same name (well, Forbrydelsen, technically), the US remake of The Killing first hit our screens in 2011, but enjoyed mixed fortunes, getting cancelled not once, but twice – only to be bailed out by Netflix on both occasions. With a fourth and final series now poised to air on the online streaming service, The Killing – The Complete First, Second and Third Seasons (MediumRare) is available to buy, with seasons two and three available on DVD for the first time.

Continue reading Sex, Leins & Videotape #190. Tom Leins reviews The Killing, Mystery Road and Earth To Echo

Sex, Leins & Videotape #188. Tom Leins reviews Hannibal – Season 2, Postman Pat: The Movie and Tokarev

Hannibal Lecter, Postman Pat and Nicolas Cage go head-to-head in this week’s DVD round-up.

Hannibal - Season 2

At the outset of Hannibal – The Complete Season Two (StudioCanal) criminal profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) is incarcerated in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, accused of a series of crimes committed by cannibalistic culinarian Dr Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). Now that Will sees Hannibal for what he truly is, he faces a fight to prove his own sanity and convince his former colleagues that he is innocent of murder. Meanwhile, Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne), the head of Behavioural Sciences at the FBI, is dealing with his own conflicted feelings about Will – a man he pressurised into assisting with his earlier investigations, despite Will’s obviously damaged psyche. Looking for answers, Jack turns to a man he has come to trust: Hannibal Lecter.

Continue reading Sex, Leins & Videotape #188. Tom Leins reviews Hannibal – Season 2, Postman Pat: The Movie and Tokarev

Sex, Leins & Videotape #187. Tom Leins reviews Sabotage, The Two Faces of January and Brick Mansions

Hard-hitting cops, slippery con-men and dystopian danger-junkies – this week’s top DVDs reviewed.


In Sabotage (Lionsgate) a close-knit group of DEA agents, led by John ‘Breacher’ Wharton (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Commando), raids a drug cartel safe house, with a view to taking a share of the spoils for themselves. They stash the loot, but before they can retrieve it, the money – $10 million in cash – disappears, and the task force fall under suspicion regardless. After a lengthy suspension, the jaded team are allowed back into active service, but the reunion is short-lived, and they find themselves getting picked off, one-by-one, with the cartel the likely culprits. With the body-count rising, a reluctant Breacher is forced to team up with no-nonsense cop Caroline Brentwood (Olivia Williams, The Ghost) to try and put a stop to the killings.

Continue reading Sex, Leins & Videotape #187. Tom Leins reviews Sabotage, The Two Faces of January and Brick Mansions

Sex, Leins & Videotape #186. Tom Leins reviews The Raid 2, Locke and Killing Season

A second helping of Indonesian carnage dominates this week’s DVD round-up.


Two years after The Raid earned an appreciative DVD audience with its dementedly violent story of a clean-cut cop fighting his way through a scum-ridden Jakarta tower block, its sequel The Raid 2 (EntertainmentOne) arrives on DVD.

After battling his way out of the aforementioned building, rookie cop Rama (played by former footballer/delivery driver/Silat fighter Iko Uwais) thought he could resume a normal life with his young family. Unfortunately, he couldn’t have been more wrong: his handiwork has attracted the attention of a clandestine anti-corruption task force, and he is blackmailed into infiltrating a notorious local crime family, with a view to bringing down a number of senior cops in the process.

Gangster movie, prison movie, action movie… Welsh director Gareth Evans throws everything into the mix the second time around, with varying degrees of success. The numerous action set-pieces are uniformly spectacular – and all end in gore-streaked carnage – but the mind-boggling two-and-a-half-hour run-time turns the film into something of an endurance test. Considering plans are already under way for a third instalment, Evans really could have afforded to hold something back.

While big chunks of The Raid 2 the film are superior to the first film, on the whole the sequel feels like less than the sum of its parts. While Evans’ filmmaking abilities are not in doubt, his questionable judgement undermines what should have been a top-drawer follow-up. Too much of a good thing, perhaps – but The Raid 2 is definitely a good thing. If you need a break from feeble Hollywood action fodder, the Raid movies are an enjoyably full-blooded alternative and come heavily recommended.


Mild-mannered Ivan Locke has a perfect family and a dream job in construction, and he is working towards the crowning moment of his career – a multi-million-pound concrete pour. However, a surprise phone call forces him to make a decision that will put it all on the line… Set entirely in Ivan’s BMW, Locke (Lionsgate) follows the title character’s existential journey into the unknown, as he literally heads out of his comfort zone, from Birmingham to London, on an ill-conceived quest to vanquish his personal demons and ‘do the right thing’.

Locke writer/director Steven Knight carved himself an impressive reputation with screenplays for Dirty Pretty Things (2002) and Eastern Promises (2007), before going on to create the striking BBC period drama Peaky Blinders. He stepped behind the camera for 2013’s Hummingbird, which saw him coax Jason Statham into one of his strangest roles to date, and Locke marks his second directorial effort in quick succession.

Despite a neat premise, the heart of the story is uninvolving and tension is scraped out of the most humdrum conversations – chiefly involving cement. Tom Hardy – in one of his least showy headline roles to date – is compelling throughout, but the film is hamstrung by its own self-imposed constraints. Watchable throughout, Locke ultimately feels like an experimental short film stretched to breaking point, and ranks as a filmic footnote rather than a must-see drama.


In Killing Season (Lionsgate) world-weary Robert De Niro plays Benjamin Ford, a military veteran who retreats to a cabin in the Appalachian Mountains to try and forget his experience in the Bosnian War.  After a chance encounter in the woods, the taciturn ex-soldier befriends a mysterious European tourist (John Travolta) who, after a boozy night of bonding, reveals that he is actually a Serbian soldier – out for revenge against the man who shot him in the back and left him for dead. What follows is a bloody, psychological game of warfare, which sees each man lose control.

Directed by the reliably average Mark Steven Johnson (Daredevil, Ghost Rider), Killing Season is a turgid survival thriller that makes a hash of its laudable attempt to confront the ethical issues surrounding the legacy of genocide. With a number of jarringly gratuitous ‘torture-porn’-esque scenes scattered throughout the sluggish narrative, the tone of the film is badly uneven.

To his credit, Travolta throws himself into the ludicrous role of Emil with admirable gusto, but De Niro is extremely unconvincing as his bitter rival. 60-year-old Travolta can comfortably pass as a man ten years his junior, but 71-year-old De Niro frequently resembles a man ten years older, and the hard-fought cat and mouse game between the pair never really seems plausible. If you are after a gruelling tale of mountaintop heroism, watch Lone Survivor instead…

Sex, Leins & Videotape #185. Tom Leins reviews Starred Up, Deception, McCanick and Under The Skin

Gritty prison drama Starred Up batters the other DVD releases into submission in this week’s DVD round-up.


In Starred Up (20th Century Fox)unhinged 19-year-old Eric Love (Jack O’Connell, Eden Lake, The Runaway) is plucked out of a young offender’s institute and thrust into an adult prison two years ahead of schedule – because he is deemed unmanageable. Keen to make a name for himself, Eric wastes little time in causing a stir, and a brutal altercation with another inmate sees him attract the attention of Oliver Baumer (Rupert Friend, Homeland), a volunteer counsellor who runs a discussion group for volatile prisoners with anger management issues. More troublingly, Eric is forced to confront his estranged father, Nev (Ben Mendelsohn) – a man who he hasn’t set eyes on for 14 years. With Nev disapproving of Eric’s attitude – not to mention his tentative jailhouse alliances – Eric is set on a collision course with both the prison management and the jail’s established criminal hierarchy.

Scottish director David Mackenzie has enjoyed an uneven career since making his quirky debut feature The Last Great Wilderness in 2002, with his filmography spanning the likes of Young Adam (2003), Spread (2009) and Perfect Sense (2011). Starred Up feels like a huge leap both tonally and thematically, and arguably sees him elevate his craft to the next level, with a new sense of sharpness highly apparent.  Ex-Skins actor Jack O’Connell makes the step up from promising youngster to fully-fledged leading man in memorable fashion, delivering a level of intensity comparable to Tom Hardy’s ultra-violent turn in Bronson.

Aussie character actor Ben Mendelsohn’s Cockney accent may waver, but he utterly inhabits another trademark scuzzy low-life role, after memorable stints in the likes of Killing Them Softly and The Place Beyond The Pines. In truth, Starred Up is so chilling that it often feels like you are watching a horror movie rather than a prison movie. That said, the storytelling is so confident and persuasive you can’t look away for a second. Not just Jack O’Connell’s best performance to date, but also the always-interesting David Mackenzie’s career-high. One of the most gripping, disturbing movies of the year – highly recommended.


Deception (previously known as The Best Offer) (Signature) marks the second English-language feature from Cinema Paradiso director Giuseppe Tornatore, after 1998’s The Legend of 1900. Virgil Oldman (Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech) is a high-end auction-house proprietor who is summoned to apprise the considerable estate of reclusive heiress Claire Ibbetson (Sylvia Hoeks, Tirza). Captivated by both the antiques, and by Claire herself – despite the fact that she refuses to meet in person, and all of their exchanges are conducted by shouting through a locked door – the eccentric Virgil attempts to woo the enigmatic heiress. To help do so, Virgil enlists the help of charming young mechanic Robert (Jim Sturgess, Across The Universe), who coaches the older man in the art of seduction.

On paper, Deception’s plot sounds fairly ridiculous, and in all honesty, it is! Overlaid with heavy-handed symbolism and some weirdly clunky dialogue, the movie risks crumbling under its own sense of self-importance at every turn. In mitigation, the impressive cast’s commitment to the cause helps to elevate the endeavour above overcooked nonsense, and Geoffrey Rush has fun with Virgil’s oddball characterisation. Deception is unwieldy and over-long, but oddly compelling in spite of itself. Approach with caution.


Set over the course of one day, crime drama McCanick (Signature) follows hardboiled veteran cop Eugene McCanick (David Morse, The Green Mile) as he hunts for a seemingly harmless young criminal who harbours a dark secret about his past. Paired with ambitious, go-getting young colleague Floyd Intrator (Mike Vogel, Under The Dome), McCanick attempts to avoid his partner’s suspicions while tracking down his elusive nemesis, Simon Weeks (Cory Monteith, Glee). As details regarding McCanick’s murky past float to the surface, his long-hoped-for reconciliation with his estranged son looks increasingly unlikely.

Driven by an impressively committed central performance from perennial supporting player David Morse, McCanick is a stodgy, unwieldy thriller that confuses poor pacing with enigmatic storytelling. If your tolerance for reheated cop clichés and slapdash storytelling is unusually high, McCanick may hit the spot. Otherwise, the film is only really noteworthy as the final screen appearance by deceased Glee actor Cory Monteith, who shows an impressive disregard for his teen-friendly reputation as a street-smart hustler. What is more, the ending is so head-scratchingly bizarre that it leaves you baffled at the by-numbers filmmaking that preceded it. With a stronger narrative underpinning it, McCanick could have been a decent little B-movie thriller. As it is, it is merely frustrating.

Film Review Under the Skin

In Under The Skin (Studio Canal) an alien entity (played by Scarlett Johansson) inhabits the earthly form of a seductive young woman and combs the Scottish highways in search of human prey. She lures a succession of lonely male victims into an otherworldly dimension where they are stripped and then consumed. However, life among the humans starts to change the alien’s perspective, and she starts to see herself as a human, with troubling and ultimately horrifying consequences.

After the stunning Sexy Beast (2000) and the dreadful Birth (2004), Under The Skin is the third feature from former music video director Jonathan Glazer. Loosely adapted from the 2000 novel of the same name by Michel Faber, Glazer’s movie is an undiluted helping of art-house sci-fi. Johansson is mesmerising throughout, and the timing of her jump away from the lucrative Avengers/Marvel safety-net is extremely brave. Unfortunately, Glazer’s icy mood-piece takes on a wearying, monotonous quality as it unfolds, and the film ultimately flatters to deceive you that there is more than meets the eye bubbling under the surface. Under The Skin is unique and disquieting, but for me it was ultimately impenetrable. Disappointing.

Sex, Leins & Videotape #184. Tom Leins reviews Mistaken For Strangers and Pulp: Life, Death & Supermarkets

It’s Battle of the Bands in this documentary double-dip: The National Vs Pulp


Matt Berninger is the lead singer of critically adored US rock band The National. Meanwhile, his younger brother Tom is a likeable thirty-something slacker, who lives at home, listens to unfashionable ‘80s heavy metal and makes low-budget horror movies on the side. The night before The National are set to embark on their biggest tour to date, Matt invites Tom to join them as a roadie, and Tom seizes the opportunity to bring his trusty camera along for the ride. Mistaken For Strangers (Dogwoof) is the result.

As the hapless Tom tries to uncover what makes the band tick by lurking behind-the-scenes, he quickly starts aggravating the band, as well as making a hash of his responsibilities as a roadie. The experience prompts an existential meltdown in the happy-go-lucky younger brother, and he muses on the pressure of living in his successful big brother’s shadow – before vowing to knuckle down and weave together his footage to deliver a documentary that Matt can be proud of.

After enduring the torturous art-fart that was 2008’s documentary A Skin, A Night, I wasn’t particularly thrilled to hear that The National was the focus of another offbeat, potentially indulgent film project. Thankfully, Mistaken For Strangers is a far more fully realised endeavour. Goofy younger brother Tom is the star of the show, and his neuroses are laid bare in charming fashion. Matt Berninger proves to be a great sport too, even if the two brothers often seem like they are playing exaggerated versions of themselves, rather than giving a true depiction of their relationship.

Despite seemingly being aimed squarely at The National fans, Mistaken For Strangers sheds little in the way of new light on the enigmatic band and its creative processes. That said, it’s a sweet-natured, quirkily entertaining depiction of sibling rivalry, and definitely worth a look-in.


In 2012 Britpop heroes Pulp returned to their hometown of Sheffield for what seems likely to be their last ever UK concert. Pulp: A Film about Life, Death & Supermarkets (Soda Pictures) examines the band’s homecoming, and mixes live footage with the band’s musings on their idiosyncratic career. Also included are contributions from a number of disparate Pulp fans who have been buttonholed by the director in and around Sheffield city centre. Suffice to say, the latter interviews are the worst segments of the film, and generally feel either unconvincing or uncomfortable, and add little to the narrative.

Frontman Jarvis Cocker is credited with the ‘concept’ of the film, although he sought out New Zealand-based filmmaker Florian Habicht to direct proceedings, after enjoying his 2011 art-house movie Love Story. Unfortunately, the duo’s obsession with hammering home the affection that locals have for Pulp undermines the film, and some of the aforementioned ‘freak-of-the week’ talking heads backfire badly.

In their hey-day Pulp were a genuinely fascinating band – with a great story to tell – and it’s unfortunate that so much of their career is given short shrift in Life, Death & Supermarkets. For example, we hear very little about how the era-defining Different Class catapulted them to fame twelve years after the release of their inauspicious debut album It. Similarly, the dark fallout that prompted 1998’s follow-up This Is Hardcore is more or less ignored, leaving fans none the wiser about the issues that derailed the band’s dominance of the indie scene.

In truth, with so much of their career merely skimmed over, Life, Death & Supermarkets feels like something of a wasted opportunity, and in many ways a slightly more traditional approach may have yielded a more satisfying end-product. That said, the unexpected scenes in which locals break into song – particularly the café full of elderly people singing ‘Help The Aged’ – definitely hit the spot. All in all, a mixed-bag.


Sex, Leins & Videotape #182. Tom Leins reviews Lone Survivor, RoboCop and Non-Stop

Navy SEALS in peril, crime and punishment in Detroit and heroism at high altitude – this week’s biggest DVDs reviewed.


Based on the bestselling book of the same name,the gut-wrenching Lone Survivor (Universal) examines the botched military mission that took place in Afghanistan in 2005, under the Operation Redwings banner.

Continue reading Sex, Leins & Videotape #182. Tom Leins reviews Lone Survivor, RoboCop and Non-Stop

Sex, Leins & Videotape #181: the rise and rise of Matthew McConaughey.

Tom Leins reviews True Detective and Dallas Buyers Club.

After impressing with early roles in A Time To Kill and Lone Star, Matthew McConaughey had Hollywood at his mercy, and took on a series of eclectic if ultimately forgettable projects.  Somewhere around the turn of the century he lapsed into rom-com purgatory, a cinematic ghetto he struggled to escape from for a hefty chunk of his career. After a decade of increasingly dispiriting romantic comedies, McConaughey was forced to take stock of his situation and started turning down easy pay-cheques in an effort to reinvent himself. After a two-year break he resurfaced with acclaimed crime drama The Lincoln Lawyer in 2011, going on to notch up leftfield credits in the likes of Killer Joe (2011), The Paperboy, Mud and Magic Mike (all 2012). His hot-streak shows no sign of slowing down, and 2013/14 saw him hit dizzy new heights with Dallas Buyers Club and True Detective.


The latest TV series to roll off the enviable HBO production line, True Detective (HBO Home Entertainment)sees McConaughey star asLouisiana State Police Detective Rustin ‘Rust’ Cohle, who is brought in – alongside estranged colleague Martin Hart (Harrelson) – to revisit a bizarre ritualistic murder that they worked on back in 1995. The investigation unfolds through the two men’s separate interrogations, and the tormented ex-cops find themselves dragged back into the murky case that has haunted them ever since, prompting them to take the law into their own hands in a bid to achieve closure.

Created and written by cult author Nic Pizzolatto – whose previous TV experience was limited to two episodes of the US version of The Killing – True Detective unfolds over eight gripping hours, and sees both McConaughey and Harrelson deliver pitch-perfect career-high performances. Despite his relative lack of experience in the TV world, Pizzolatto has weaved together a dense, allusive yarn that avoids easy answers and probes uncomfortable depths in an attempt to get under its protagonists’ skins.

Part noir thriller, part incisive character study, True Detective is evocative and impeccably crafted throughout. Director Cary Joji Fukunaga – whose debut feature Sin Nombre marked him out as a talent to keep an eye on – also delivers the goods, and has boosted his reputation considerably. McConaughey’s hot streak ensures that he will earn most of the plaudits as boozy, burned-out nihilist Rust, but Harrelson’s barely restrained Hart is also exceptional, adding light and shade to his similarly intense work in gritty recent fare such as Rampart and Out of the Furnace.

Bleak, aggressive and provocative, True Detective is easily the best US TV show of the year so far. Miss out at your peril.


The release of True Detective coincides with that of Dallas Buyers Club (eOne), the movie that earned man-of-the-moment McConaughey a richly deserved Academy Award for Best Actor. The film examines the life and times of Texas cowboy Ron Woodroof (McConaughey) whose free-wheeling life is overturned when he’s diagnosed as HIV-positive and given 30 days to live. Determined to outrun his fate by any means possible, Woodroof decides to take matters in his own hands by tracking down alternative treatments from all over the world by means both legal and illegal. After finding an unlikely ally in Rayon (Jared Leto, who won the Academy Award Winner for Best Supporting Actor), he establishes a hugely successful ‘buyers’ club’ and unites a band of outcasts in a struggle for dignity and acceptance.

McConaughey is increasingly comfortable taking risks that few of his contemporaries seem willing to match, and it is hard to imagine anyone else inhabiting the role of Woodroof quite as convincingly. Indeed over the preceding two decades, Woody Harrelson, Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling were all attached to the project as it languished in development hell. Leto, who seemingly drops in and out of Hollywood between albums with his all-consuming musical side-project Thirty Seconds To Mars, is similarly impressive as Rayon, and reaffirms his position as one of contemporary cinema’s most intriguing stars.

After gaining 67lbs for his role in Chapter 27, the underrated biography of John Lennon’s killer, Mark David Chapman, method actor Leto lost 30lbs to play Rayon – a feat improbably bettered by McConaughey who shed 47lbs to better depict his character’s decline. The actors’ respective commitment to the cause tells you everything that you need to know about the dark drama at the heart of the film – not to mention the grim history lesson it shines a light on. Unique and persuasive, Dallas Buyers Club is an important movie that grips throughout, without ever coming across as sanctimonious. Hugely impressive.



Sex, Leins & Videotape #180. Tom Leins reviews Out of the Furnace, Inside Llewyn Davis and Wish You Were Here

Blue collar violence, thwarted beatniks and deceit Down Under – Tom Leins reviews this week’s biggest DVDs.


Directed by Crazy Heart’s Scott Cooper, Out of the Furnace (Lionsgate) is a bloody, sweaty drama that examines the violent lengths that some men will go to in order to survive in a ravaged steel industry town.

Russell Baze (Christian Bale, The Machinist) works a dead-end job trying to make ends meet so he can support his long-suffering girlfriend Lena (Zoe Saldana, Star Trek) and his ailing father. After returning from active duty in Iraq, Russell’s tormented younger brother Rodney (Casey Affleck, Gone Baby Gone) gets involved with a bareknuckle fight club run by demented hillbilly Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson, Rampart) and his crime syndicate. When Rodney fails to come home after a fight, Russell puts his own life on the line in order to investigate.

Originally conceived as a star vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio – with Ridley Scott attached as director – Out of the Furnace hasn’t obviously suffered as a result of the high profile withdrawals, with a haunted-looking Christian Bale giving a typically committed lead performance. He is joined by a top-notch cast, including Willem Dafoe, Forest Whittaker and Sam Shepard, although sole female cast member of note Saldana is shamefully underused in a superfluous supporting role.

The first half of the movie is excellent: brutal and unpredictable, but it loses its way as the narrative unfolds, and the climactic showdown feels disappointingly unimaginative. Considering the A-list cast, it is a shame that Out of the Furnace can only muster a B-movie plot. All in all, a good solid thriller, albeit one that doesn’t quite deliver the level of complexity that the bold casting suggests.


Inside Llewyn Davis (Studio Canal) follows a week in the life of the titular folk singer (Oscar Isaac, The Two Faces of January) as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961. Set against the backdrop of an unforgiving New York winter, the movie sees hapless Llewyn bounce between friends’ couches as he struggles to secure a foothold in the merciless music industry. With his debut album ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ floundering, the singer is forced to perform on novelty records cash-in-hand, as he embarks on an odyssey to audition for legendary music mogul Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham, Homeland), a man who can make or break his career.

Inside Llewyn Davis is a wry, amusing movie that finds the Coen Brothers indulging themselves to the hilt. As an evocation of a bygone era, the Coens latest period piece is excellent – doing for the 1960s New York folk scene what Barton Fink did for 1940s Hollywood. What it lacks compared to the earlier movie is a greater sense of narrative purpose, with the directorial duo preferring to stitch together a series of quirky vignettes rather than tell a broader tale.  Long-term collaborator John Goodman is in scene-stealing form as a junk-addled jazz fiend, but his character doesn’t spark the film to life in the same way he did in Barton Fink.

Indeed, the supporting cast grows more impressive with each passing scene (Garrett Hedlund, Adam Driver, Carey Mulligan), but does little to develop the plot. Oscar Isaac is tremendous in the lead role, but the sense of aimlessness and lack of a satisfactory ending will ultimately ensure that Inside Llewyn Davis won’t rank alongside Coen classics like Fargo, Big Lebowski, Raising Arizona and the aforementioned Barton Fink. That said, the soundtrack, as overseen by long-term collaborator T-Bone Burnett, is just about worth the price of admission alone!


In Wish You Were Here (Metrodome) married coupleDave (Joel Edgerton, Animal Kingdom, Warrior) and Alice (Felicity Price, Home & Away) are about to become parents for the third time when they agree to join Alice’s younger sister Steph (Teresa Palmer, Warm Bodies) and her new boyfriend Jeremy (Antony Starr, Banshee) on an impromptu week-long trip to Cambodia. Their week of sun-soaked debauchery quickly turns sour, however, when brash Jeremy vanishes without a trace. After an official investigation fails to shed any light on the disappearance, Dave and Alice return home to their young family. Steph initially remains in Cambodia, desperate for answers, but her eventual return sees a series of dark secrets come tumbling out, threatening not just Dave and Alice’s domestic bliss – but Dave’s life itself.

Australian Edgerton – star of the upcoming Ridley Scott Moses epic Exodus: Gods and Kings – is a brooding, charismatic presence, and it is interesting to see him step back from his recent work in Hollywood to work on a modest homegrown movie such as this. Actor-turned-first-time director Kieran Darcy-Smith – he starred alongside Edgerton in Animal Kingdom – has helmed a memorable first feature, albeit one that sometimes suffers from pacing problems and a muddled sense of purpose. The psychological baggage affecting Dave is convincingly rendered, but the movie as a whole could do with a few more heavyweight scenes and a bit more Cambodian colour. Don’t let the jaunty title fool you – for the most part Wish You Were Here is gritty and absorbing with an impressively queasy pay-off.