DVD & Blu-ray reviews: Inside Llewyn Davis, Stranger by the Lake, August: Osage County, I, Frankenstein, Hinterland

 

Inside Llewyn Davis (15) Joel and Ethan Coen DVD/Blu-ray (105mins)

The Coen brothers are masters at the very un-American (and very non-Oscar-attracting) topic of failure, and this could be the finest, funniest stab at the theme yet (above). Oscar Isaac excels as Llewyn Davis, a prickly, struggling folk artist in Greenwich Village in 1961, whose songs are good but not quite current enough. More crucially, this unapologetic individual has made his pal’s girlfriend, Jean (Carey Mulligan), pregnant and lost the Gorfeins’ cat. There’s so much pleasure to be found here: every shot resembles a classic vinyl cover, and the folk numbers nimbly mix heartache and humour.

*****

Stranger by the Lake (18) Alain Guiraudie DVD/Blu-ray (100mins)

“It’s typical, the guys I like are always taken,” bemoans Franck (Pierre Deladonchamps) to lonely, plump Henri (Patrick d’Assumçao) on a beach where gay men go to cruise. The wiry hunk does get lucky, only to witness a murder by drowning a little later. Does he tell the police? Nope, the rather dense Franck gets involved with the suspect, moustachioed Michel (Christophe Paou). Everyone warns him Michel is a creep, but Franck ignores them in this tense, explicit, slightly maddening and bold erotic thriller, all set at the beach.

****

August: Osage County (15) John Wells DVD/Blu-ray (121mins)

“Thank God we can’t tell the future, we’d never get out of bed,” maintains Julia Roberts, the best thing about this overwrought family drama set in rural Oklahoma. She plays one of three daughters to Meryl Streep’s unhinged matriarch, whose alcoholic husband (Sam Shepard) has taken his own life. The centrepiece of a stagey (adapted from Tracy Letts’s award-winning play) film is a wake from hell, where Streep insults everyone. It’s the best and most excruciating scene  – you’re willing Roberts’s Barbara to lunge at her mother.

***

I, Frankenstein (12) Stuart Beattie DVD/Blu-ray (92mins)

Frankenstein’s back and he’s, like, a totally ripped demon hunter in this wretched, CGI-riddled fantasy, based on Kevin Grevioux’s graphic novel. Aaron Eckhart and his mighty chin plays the spruced-up monster (now called Adam), Miranda Otto wafts around as the “High Queen of the Gargoyles” (which she utters, admirably, with a straight face) and Bill Nighy phones it in as a demon.

*

Hinterland: Series 1 (15) various directors DVD/Blu-ray (383mins)

“It might be just another wild bath night in Aberystwyth, but I doubt it,” quips DCI Tom Mathias (Richard Harrington) at a grisly murder scene. Thankfully, there is some black humour with the bleakness in this compelling “Welsh noir” series, clearly influenced by Wallander. Mathias has been transferred from the London Met to a close-knit community where the elderly are bludgeoned and young men are dumped in quarry lakes. Harrington  is suitably intense in an atmospheric four-parter.

****

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