Burn After Reading (February 21st, 2016)
Directors: The Coen Brothers
Starring: Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, George Clooney, and Brad Pitt
I had a strong dislike for this movie when I saw it in 2008. But I’ve constantly heard it talked about in positive ways, and it even sounded good. So I decided to give it a rewatch, with my tastes having changed since I was the pompous little ass I was back then. And I’ll say, it’s not bad. Not great, a definite step down from the prior movies the Coens did (No Country For Old Men). But it was funny. Taking the form of a spy movie but in actuality, it’s a soap opera. A bunch of vain, stupid people doing stupid shit for their own vanity and getting those around them hurt. The visuals and even the score make it seem like this super important spy picture, but the story itself and the ending make it known that nothing about it was important on any scale greater than the personal level for those involved. Which is pretty fun. It’s a nice tonal exercise. The cast is all great, with special shoutouts to Pitt and Malkovich. It builds nicely as this silly little movie, until it explodes into supremely bloody finale. This turn will completely shake the viewer, since nothing before it hints at how messy it will become. This is maybe the best anticlimax in the Coens oeuvre in a long time, maybe since The Big Lebowski. It’s a bit sleight and a not as gutbustingly funny as the Coens can be at points. But enough works to make it a worthy watch.
The Look Of Silence (February 22nd, 2016)
Director: Joshua Oppenheimer
The Act of Killing is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen, looking at the communist massacre in Indonesia in the 70s and slyly having some of the killers confront the evils they did. The ending is one of the most mindblowing things I’ve ever seen. So when a spiritual sequel was announced, I was in. Focusing on the same massacre but on the side of a victims family, it has him confront those responsible. There’s alot in here that reaches the emotional scarring highs of the prior movie, but there’s a little more fat on it. A lack of focus really is the problem here. It doesn’t have the same hook and it hits a little too many repetitive spots. But honestly, that’s just nitpicking because this is still a deeply disturbing movie that shows us true evil and a really good man who can forgive those who have done him and his family wrong. The systemic evil and propaganda on display is confronted and the danger is palpable. I really gotta say there’s nothing like these two movies and this one is a fitting companion.
Monty Python’s The Life of Brian (February 24th, 2016)
Directed By: Terry Jones
Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, and Michael Palin
I guess I don’t love Monty Python the way a lot of people do. They make me laugh and all but there’s a little too much not funny stuff in their movies that I end up not loving them alot. Like this here, it feels like there was no real editing process. Alot of stuff that just coulda been tweaked or refined or just outright cut out, it feels like some bad improv snuck into the movie. And like Holy Grail, it has a story in the slightest sense, using a bare bones logline to do some silly skits. Which is fine, but really just makes it feel like it moves in fits and starts. It is funny though, and the cast playing multiple parts is great. They all do solid to great work for the most part and make some good points in the midst of the comedy. I just wish they could have made a more focused comedy instead that didn’t feel so slapdash.
Deja Vu (February 27th, 2016)
Director: Tony Scott
Starring: Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer, Adam Goldberg, and Paula Patton
This was a lot better than it really looked. Which is really true of all the post Man on Fire team ups with Denzel and Scott. Made to look a lot dumber than it really is, this is not some goofy action movie dealing with time travel. It’s a murder mystery with some a real weighty existential crisis at the center of things. A terrorist act in New Orleans gets Denzel’s ATF agent assigned to a special agency that has a new piece of tech. Tech that allows them to look back 4 days prior from when they are, in a limited area. So they’re trying to solve the mystery of the attacker and the murder that connects everything together. But by looking into the single murder, Denzel gets connected to the victim (Patton) and has to wonder about the possibilities of maybe altering time to save this woman and the victims of the attack. This is all heady, kinda crazy shit that fuels many a time travel story. And it’s not played silly or archly. They take this seriously. And it makes the movie a lot more interesting than it should. As usual, Denzel is great. Scott limits the ADD visual style he adapted in the 21st century. It’s not an action movie, but there’s a really cool car chase with time travel involved. What keeps this movie from being great is that they don’t really give us much to work with in terms of the terrorist (Jim Cavizel) or Patton. Cavizel is just a blank slate domestic terrorist man with platitudes about patriotism. Even if they just hinted at some white supremacy to him, it would make him attacking New Orleans and killing Patton make a little more sense and give him more dynamics. Otherwise he’s just a blank slate villain. Patton is not really a character, just a device that Denzel connects to but we don’t. If they made here a little more than just such a perfect little flower and made her a real human, the conflict in Denzel would feel much stronger. And the ending just feels a little rote with a showdown on the boat. Just kinda bland action movie stuff that doesn’t feel like it’s got any energy to it. But the actual ending has some weird time travel synergy to it all that wraps the movie up with a nice bow in a mind fuck of a way, that I left happy.