Old 09-14-2008, 03:06 AM
Burn After Reading

Burn After Reading - 8/10

I'm seriously contemplating putting this on my top ten (as No Country was unworthy of such esteem last year). No, seriously. Somebody stop me before I write a review and save it on my computer. Please, before somebody gets their hands on it and causes a massive body pile-up. I couldn't have that on my conscience. Fuck, man, I'm really getting nervous here. All these characters, like the proverbial dog chasing its own tail. But, in this case, it's sad and pathetic, especially in the case of poor vain dumb Linda (Frances McDormand). She sees a special file as benefiting to her "four" plastic surgeries. Too bad it's all a bunch of "dribble" (LOL) and another case of the brothers Coen throwing a curveball directly to the audience like Moe poking Curly in the eye with his middle finger. Just like The Dude, all he wanted was his rug (preferably not stained with pee), and all the characters are searching for is...cohabitation. People to understand them. To fuck them and fuck with them like champions racing up the hill to the gods. Linda wants a guy with a sense of humor to complement her new body, 'cause the one she has don't have much time left, and she's not apt to spend her twilight years searching through every post-lay's wallet for something exciting that will never materialize. Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) creates the Macguffin, a memoir drawn mostly due to what he feels is a betrayal by his CIA peers. The man's pretension is a facade for his infantile, stunted anti-sociality; for a man with so much insight, all he can do to respond, in anger, is to blurt out "What the FUCK??" as a repetitive mantra, until some Markers Mark can be the ever loving baby bottle to subdue his childishness. Also like a child is Harry (George Clooney), a nymphomaniac whose penile flagrancy coupled with repression of his other "gun" causes him to lose control in a series of paranoid developments, the final one with altering consequences for these babes with arms.

Richard Jenkins, as the manager of a fitness gym, is so good and understated on his Crusoe-esque island of erectile dysfunction. He so desperately wants a babe to bone, but instead of offering his penis, he's more or less prone to dispense sage advice, most of which is not taken. And, Brad Pitt -- that squint! Lesser actors would overplay his vapid moron awesomeness, but he glares with the best of them, making his Chad one of the dumbest and most endearing creations in the Coen universe.

"What a clusterfuck."

"Grow up..."

There's a lot of meta-tastic going on here. It's not as simple as I initially thought it to be. It grows on you, festering like a misanthropic little boil.
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Old 09-14-2008, 05:56 PM
Burn After Reading - 10/10

Sheer fucking brilliance! The Coens have done it again! Last year they brought us one of the best films of the decade, and this year they bring us Burn After Reading which will undoubtedly be in my top 10 list of 2008. It takes a much different turn than No Country for Old Men, and takes a route which could best be described as a mix of Fargo and The Big Lebowski, two superb films. Burn After Reading throws us into a story filled with many interesting characters, most of them very unintelligent individuals, and spirals down a path of darkness while always managing to make me laugh. The characters are all very closely connected, yet most of them have no idea, even after the film has ended. You really have to see it for yourself, and it's best to go in just knowing that it is about two dummies trying to blackmail a man who is involved with the CIA.

The performances are great all around. Brad Pitt steals the show, playing the dumb, upbeat personal trainer, and although he probably won't get a nomination, the performance will undoubtedly go down as one of the better ones of the year. Frances McDormand is also great here, as the woman who just hasn't found that special someone and who can't afford to pay the bills for surgeries that she so desperately wants. George Clooney is obviously having a blast here, and delivers a hell of a performance. John Malkovich is great here, very funny, but also is a key element to making the movie as dark as it is. The final scene he is in is fucking brilliant. Tilda Swinton is great as usual, enough said. J.K. Simmons isn't in the movie long, but the two scenes he is in are fucking great and he is very much responsible for that greatness. Richard Jenkins is great here as well.

The direction is superb. The movie looks great, featuring many great shots. The script is absolutely brilliant. The dialogue flows perfectly, with many hilarious and clever lines. The story unfolds so perfectly, and the Coens set it up perfectly for what is one of the best endings of the year so far.

So overall, Burn After Reading is a very funny, extremely dark film with many great and memorable characters and performances, an excellent script, superb direction, a wonderful story, and a mindblowingly awesome ending. The pace is also lightening quick, and even though it is only 96 minutes long, it doesn't feel too short. In fact, it is a perfect length. It's the second best Coen film of the decade behind No Country for Old Men and although I don't know if it is quite as good as Fargo, I think it is better than The Big Lebowski, and I loved the hell out of that movie.
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Old 09-16-2008, 07:22 AM
It's impressive how the Coen Bros. can go from No Country for Old Men, a dark movie with an assassin chasing a small-town thief, to Burn After Reading, a movie about . . . dimwits, basically. Burn After Reading is everything NCFOM isn't . . . funny. The characters we're following aren't the brightest stars in the sky and how their stories coincide are not only brilliant, but as funny as hell.

The movie starts off with basic introductions: we meet John Malkovich, who was just laid off from the CIA; his wife, Tilda Swinton, who's having an affair with George Clooney, who's married to a children's book author. After their introductions, we see Frances McDormand who is desperate to "reinvent" herself through plastic surgery. She works at a fitness gym with Brad Pitt. We eventually learn more about the characters as the movie progresses, and the situations they put themselves in is hysterical. There are assumptions made, threats, blackmail, womanizing, affairs, and more. The movie flows really well and how everything turns out is not only surprising and unexpected, but the final scene that kind of sums it all up is hilarious.

Come to think of it, the way things turn out shouldn't be all that surprising considering it is a Coen Bros. comedy. It's a dark comedy, but a comedy nonetheless. The Coens, the cast, the story, and its development make for a great movie that's worth watching again.

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Old 09-19-2008, 10:38 PM
Burn After Reading Directed by Joel Coen

Synopsis: A Central Intelligence Officer loses his job, begins writing memoirs about his former job, and then loses the disc containing those memoirs. This disc falls into the hands of a group of gym employees, and two of them decide to try and return it. The ensuing phone call leads to confusion and hysteria between the characters, and none of it is resolved until it consumes a few more characters, Russia, and the United States Government itself. Directed by Joel Coen (No Country for Old Men), and written by Joel and his brother Ethan (Big Lebowski).

This first thought that crossed my mind at the end of this film was “that escalated quickly.” This film isn’t about some super secret spy infiltrating enemy territory, and trying to escape alive. It’s merely a film about a few blue collar Americans getting caught up in the misinformation game, and everything spiraling out of control. There’s no expert C.I.A. operative dispatched to “clean” things up, or some bomb dropped on the whole situation. Instead all these unstable people are left to deal with this mess by themselves, despite insistence on getting Big Brother involved. The journey isn’t a long one, but a lot of stuff happens to a lot of little people.

This film moves at a very even pace. From beginning to end the film flows unhindered and unheeded. Every character is fleshed out well. We get to see the daily lives of some would be blackmailers, spies, and playboys, but before you know it the film has reached it’s conclusion. It almost sneaks up on the viewer, and without J.K. Simmons character’s inclusion, it may have been entirely missed. There’s a bunch of build up throughout the film, some of which going unfulfilled (Tilda Swinton’s character seems to get lost in the shuffle by the end), but it’s no heart pumping thrill ride. It all happens at a rate similar to any regular day, only it has tons of irregular circumstances, thought that’s probably what people come to expect Coens fare these days.

The acting in this film is grade A to be sure, but I’m going to follow that with a name rarely mentioned (if at all) by this film’s marketing campaign, Richard Jenkins. An acting veteran with over fifty credits in such films as I Heart Huckabees, Step Brothers, Outside Providence, and even other Coen’s fare (Intollerable Cruelty, The Man Who Wasn’t There). Jenkins, in this film of deviant, thoughtless, selfish characters, stands out as the only redeemable character in his turn as Ted the manager of Hard Bodies. He’s the only character you can help feeling any sympathy towards in his role in the whole fiasco. I’ve seen Richard Jenkins play many different roles, but he takes a real run at stealing the show in pretty much all of his scenes. You’ll get the great comedic performances you expect to get out of Pitt, Clooney, McDormand, and Malkovich, but Jenkins’ more dramatic turn stands as an unexpectedly pleasant surprise.

Also worth mentioning in the acting department is J.K. Simmons, who basically sums up the entire film’s events perfectly in his VERY limited screen time. Great to see him getting another chance to work opposite the camera with the Coen Brothers. Despite not being a big supporter of the Ladykillers, I found Simmons performance outrageously humourous in that film.

Enjoyment factor: I enjoyed this film a great deal. I laughed and laughed some more. Brad Pitt made me laugh, even in scenes I’d already caught the gist of from trailers, and the rest of the cast doesn’t seem to have any trouble keeping up. This movie is for people who enjoy “black comedies.” There’s certainly a niche audience when it comes to comedies involving any kind of casualty body count, and this film certainly has some characters “biting the bullet,” so to speak. If you’re a fan of the other Coen films set in modern day America, you’d probably enjoy this one quite a bit.

WTF Moment: Chad meeting Harry... Runner up: Harry’s Wife’s gift.

Theater Experience/ Rental/ Pass altogether: It’s the Coens following up No Country For Old Men, you kind of owe it to them to see it in theaters... Don’t you?

By Jeffrey Paul Louis Schiller
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Old 09-20-2008, 02:57 PM
Aww man, I'm a huge Coen Bros. fan all the way back and I thought this was a really bad film. I thought it could possibly be their worst.

It was largely missing the "clever" Coen dialog and the dramatic parts all felt hollow. And if that was the point, then it still didn't work, because it wasn't all that funny either.
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Old 09-26-2008, 10:27 PM
Burn After Reading: 8/10

After last year's "No Counrty for Old Men," the Coen brothers decided to take a lighter turn (not really) by directing "Burn After Reading." What can I say about this movie? Well, it reminded me a lot of "Fargo." They're both dark comedies. As you can predict, this film would probably not be their best film to date. However, it's still a really good film.

What I loved about this movie is that it's filled with coincidences. I love these type of movies. This person is friends with that person who is married to this person who's cheating with that same other person who's--you get the point. Seeing this, of course it's going to be confusing if you don't have a paper to write every characters' name down and what relationship they have with the others. But it's not that confusing if you'd think hard enough. It's all part of the fun.

Frances McDormand has, yet again, created a lovable quirky character. John Malkovich, George Clooney, and Tilda Swinton all do a decent job with their roles. However, who stood out the most was Brad Pitt. Other than Heath Ledger's fantastic performance as the Joker in "The Dark Knight," I think Pitt should get nominated as a supporting role. He's that good because you have never seen him act like the character he plays in your entire life. He also provides a lot of laughs in this film.

Although not the Coen's best film, the movie is pretty good to what it has. It's amazingly short (about 90 minutes), which is a bad thing because I wanted it to be longer. There are equal moments of some funny bits and depressing moments but the film tries its best to lighten up the dark scenes. With it's fantastic characters and semi-confusing plot, this is a must see in the cinemas. Oh, and if you think "Eagle Eye" created paranoia, you haven't seen this film, yet.
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Old 09-27-2008, 02:35 PM
Burn After Reading: 8.5/10

Joel and Ethan Coen have cemented themselves as filmmakers that can be trusted. Burn after Reading is another notch on their belt, that is a well-made hilarious satire on espionage. “Burn after Reading” opens up with CIA agent Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) getting demoted because of his overbearing drinking problem. Outraged, as well as stressed out from his uptight wife (Tilda Swinton), Cox sets out to expose the CIA by writing an explosive memoir. At the same time, his wife is having an affair with Henry, an ever growing paranoid federal Marshall (George Clooney), and is planning on divorcing Cox. Through all this backdoor sneaking, a disk containing some of Cox’s memoirs gets into the hands of Gym employees Linda and Chad (Francis McDormand and Brad Pitt). These empty-minded nitwits devise a plan to blackmail Cox in exchange for his almost useless reflections, in order for Linda to achieve her goal of getting plastic surgery done.

Although the plot sounds all over the place, the film moves rather well and rarely keeps the audience out of the loop. The tight pacing and sharp dialogue keeps you on your feet and away from your watch. Speaking of pace, this is a short movie, running a lean 96 minutes and that’s including the credits. This doesn’t hurt the movie, on the other hand, it prevents the zaniness from overstaying it’s welcome.

The driving force of the movie is the performances. Everyone is spot on and slipping into their roles with ease. Most notably is Brad Pitt who puts on a clinic on playing a total airhead. He gets laughs without having to say anything, but when he does, it’s something to behold. Its fun to watch him immerse himself into a character so much, that he is free and in control of the character, as opposed to his work in the “Ocean’s” trilogy where he is drowning in an ocean of one-liners. Speaking of “Ocean’s” his costar of said film George Clooney is great in this as well. His “homeless” hair style alone is funny, but watching him slip deeper and deeper into paranoia is a also a treat.

The Coens have said that they wrote the parts of Chad, Harry, and Cox specifically for Pitt, Clooney, and Malkovich. It’s a weird notion to swallow, as those characters are a moron, a pervert, and a psycho (respectively). In a bizarre way, it works. Especially in Malkovich’s case who’s outbursts are painfully funny, especially towards the very beginning and the very end. Francis McDormand is fantastic as always, spurting out those lines faster than a speeding bullet, and with great ease. Tilda Swinton seemed a bit underused, but did great with what was given to her. Richard Jenkins was solid as he usually is in these types of roles, but it has to be said that David Rashe and J.K. Simmons stole the show and ate up every scene they had. The rapport between the two of them provides some of the film’s biggest laughs.

And big laughs are what this film provides. It may not be as provocative or shocking as “Fargo” but it is miles better than most of the comedies being churned out of Hollywood these days. The Coen’s prove that you can make a film with big name stars, and make it interesting as well as FUNNY (if that’s what you’re going for, in this case it was). The satire was well displayed whether it was Linda’s vain goal of changing her appearance to Harry’s over-awareness of people watching him. There are “sure to be classic” scenes in this movie. For example, the reunion of Pitt and Clooney is a scene which is literally mind-blowing.

This movie is a king among other lesser comedies, as Cox is to the “league of morons” surrounding him. This movie will make you laugh, scream, and tempt you to watch it again. It is written, directed, and acted with flair and is not at all conventional. There might be people who will be disappointed with the ending, but they sure won’t regret the journey getting there.
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Old 10-18-2008, 08:42 AM

The Coen Brothers are an interesting pair, there’s no doubt about that. Just as they did back in the 1980’s with their debut and sophomore films, the Coens chose to follow up their most heavy-handed and serious film since Blood Simple, No Country for Old Men, with a nutty, over-the-top screwball black comedy. But unlike their second film, Raising Arizona, the Coens deliver Burn After Reading with a kind of newfound cynicism attached to it; it’s funny, but it’s also surprisingly dark and sad, and even poignant to some extent.

Based on the Coen’s first wholly original screenplay since 2001’s The Man Who Wasn’t There, Burn After Reading features a plethora of classic Coen staples: repetitive (and brilliant) dialogue employing a strange and almost poetic use of curse words, a multifaceted plot featuring slightly dim-witted characters in way over their heads, blacker-than-the-night comedy, over-the-top performances from a pool of actors featuring recurring collaborators and newcomers to the Coen clan alike, and to tie it all off, a lesson-learning conclusion in which nothing ends up being learned at all. It’s wonderful how the Coens complicate the plot so much only to round it all off perfectly in the end. Like all of their films, Burn After Reading is a carefully calculated dance in which every pause, every stutter and every camera move is planned in advance.

What I loved most about the movie is trying to get into the Coen’s heads and see what they think is funny. What’s for sure is that the brothers have the most unique sense of humour in Hollywood; superficially, it seems as if most of the film’s comedy derives from over-the-top slapstick/screwball antics and bleak, black comedic situations and visual gags, but in reality Burn After Reading’s comedy is a lot subtler than that. As I already mentioned, this is a film in which every twitch and stutter is calculated; fittingly, this is the real source of the film’s hilarity, in the actors’ facial expressions, subtleties, and delivery of the lines. It’s great to think, for instance, that the Coens probably thought that applying a booming, ominous drum-dominated “epic”-type musical score to the movie in the style of a Tony Scott action-thriller would be absolutely hilarious, and that’s just one example of the many jokes in the movie that just soar right over your head. In addition, I think that the Coen Brothers are probably the most talented employers of curse words in Hollywood. Many directors are familiar with the colourful phrases, some more than others, but only the Coens know how to make various S- and F- words utterly sidesplitting.

Blessed with one of the more impressive ensemble casts of any film this year, Burn After Reading inevitably features a plethora of good acting. Surprisingly good acting, actually, proving I suppose that the Coen’s didn’t really mean for this to be a total farce but do reach out for a little something more. Frances McDormand, George Clooney and John Malkovich all deliver fantastically colourful, over-the-top performances, but each of their characters also has an added level of sadness and poignancy to them that adds a little something more than physical comedy to the actors’ performances: McDormand with her almost tragic loneliness and obsession with cosmetic surgery, along with her equally tragic ignorance of those around her that do appreciate her for what she is; Clooney with an equal amount of loneliness and desperation, and an undeniable air of incompetence abound him, suggesting that his mediocre job is probably the best he can get; and Malkovich, with his alcoholism and acute superiority complex. Tilda Swinton and the ever-great Richard Jenkins are a lot subtler than their higher-billed co-stars, and Brad Pitt delivers the only truly one-hundred percent cartoon performance in the film; thought despite its emptiness it’s also the most enjoyable and completely hilarious.

J.K. Simmons I reserve for last; he only appears in two scenes in the film, but they are undoubtedly and by far the funniest and most successful scenes of the film. Props to him for admirably succeeding in carrying the Coen’s hilarity to another level of deadpan comedy.

The Coen Brothers have an interesting sense of humour, and it is present up front and center in their latest film. Just the concept of following up a serious drama-thriller like No Country for Old Men with an over-the-top screwball black comedy probably seemed hilarious to them. Featuring great, uproarious performances from a stellar ensemble cast, the Coens really give it their all with their offbeat, so-subtle-half-the-jokes-soar-over-your-head comedy. And yet, the film occasionally does manage to reach out a little further from its apparent genre limitations and provides us with something more poignant and truthfully sad. It’s even somewhat startling just how dark the movie gets and how cruel the Coens are to their characters. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but then again, that’s the Coen Brothers for you.

RATING: 8/10.
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Old 10-20-2008, 01:05 AM
Burn After Reading starts off a little awkward but eventually finds it footing and it is a mostly enjoyable and amusing movie. That is, until the final 10 minutes when the movie not only falls apart but ends in the most draw-droppingly anticlimatic fashion that it made me feel like seeing this and getting into this and watching this movie was just a waste of time. Thank you Coen brothers. Thank you for basically telling me at the end of this movie that seeing this movie was a completely pointless endeavor. By trying to be clever, instead the Coen brothers come off as condenscending and smug. It felt like they were giving us, the viewers, the finger. Well, fuck you too Coen brothers.


Last edited by ilovemovies; 10-20-2008 at 01:07 AM..
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Old 10-30-2008, 02:51 PM
I'm not sure why you were so offended by the Coens, ilovemovies... the ending of The Big Lebowski basically also says that "everything you saw up until now was pointless"; it's not really anything new for them...
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Old 10-30-2008, 06:39 PM
Originally Posted by Monotreme View Post
I'm not sure why you were so offended by the Coens, ilovemovies... the ending of The Big Lebowski basically also says that "everything you saw up until now was pointless"; it's not really anything new for them...
Not only that, but I felt that was the entire point they were trying to make with No Country For Old men. They were basically saying "Everything you do in life is pointless, and in the end you just blow away with the dust." That's the Coen's perspective.
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Old 11-02-2008, 04:59 PM
Originally Posted by Monotreme View Post
I'm not sure why you were so offended by the Coens, ilovemovies... the ending of The Big Lebowski basically also says that "everything you saw up until now was pointless"; it's not really anything new for them...

I haven't seen The Big Lebowski. So that means I'll probably end up not liking it if what you say is correct.

I've seen 5 of the Coen brothers movies and I enjoyed 4 of them.

And as far as No Country for Old Men, I had problems with the ending that made me unable to love the movie but I still enjoyed it immensely and admired the craftsmanship the Coen brothers brought to it. As a cat and mouse chase thriller, there are some scenes of stunning suspense and there use of sound is especially brilliant and breathtaking. It's just unfortunate that I found it to be anticlimatic.

That's all I will say with No Country for Old Men. I don't want to get into it anymore. I don't agree with a lot of people's rationale for what I believe to be a rather anticlimatic ending.
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