Burn After Reading reviews

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Postby Mister Tee » Sat Jan 24, 2009 1:53 am

Finally got to this.

Almost a working definition of the word "minor". Slapdash and silly, fitfully amusing...but every sentence out of JK Simmons' mouth had me howling. His last scene summarizing things was almost worth sitting through the whole movie.

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Postby cam » Sun Dec 14, 2008 12:52 am

As JK Simmons say : " Let me know when it makes sense."
I loved to see the actors here stretch. A wonderful maze of a film.

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Postby kaytodd » Thu Oct 16, 2008 11:08 am

Sonic, I cannot tell you how happy I am to see you posting again. Hopefully you are back to stay.
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Postby Penelope » Thu Oct 16, 2008 7:30 am

O Happy Day! Sonic!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :laugh:
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Postby Damien » Thu Oct 16, 2008 2:57 am

Sonic Youth wrote:Fuckin' A! The CIA, man!

Tuli rules!!

OMG!!!! You're back!!!!!!!

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Postby Sonic Youth » Thu Oct 16, 2008 12:52 am

Fuckin' A! The CIA, man!

Tuli rules!!
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Postby barrybrooks8 » Sat Sep 20, 2008 11:52 pm

Just saw it.

I agree with you that it's nothing like anything else out there. I didn't necessarily think it was hilarious, but that was completely okay with me. I generally don't laugh at the funny parts that are spoiled for me in the trailer, especially when those are the ONLY funny parts and the idiot audience around me is hysterical with laughter. HOWEVER, I would give this an A-. "What? But I thought you said it wasn't that funny?" I really enjoyed this as a taught little thriller, a surprising treat, and a list of great performances from Clooney, Swinton, McDormand, and most enjoyable of all, Malkovich. What really struck me the unusual score which at times seemed out of place and other times was the best thing going on. It reminded me of the overall enjoyment I got after seeing Shopgirl. Great performances, nice build-up, and a fantastic and unexpected score.

Tomorrow, I think I am going to see Elegy.
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Postby The Original BJ » Sat Sep 20, 2008 9:59 pm

I basically have decided that when the Coens are in thriller mode, I'm a big fan -- No Country for Old Men, Fargo, The Man Who Wasn't There, Blood Simple, Miller's Crossing. Those films often had comic elements, but the humor always seemed deliciously in service of tightly wound plots that were also beautifully visualized.

But when the Coens are in full-on comedy mode, I'm much less impressed. Interestingly enough, many of these films have violent/thriller elements -- Raising Arizona, Intolerable Cruelty, The Big Lebowski -- but I've never found them all that funny, as if by letting loose the brothers fail to reign in their worst excesses.

So, surprise, surprise, I definitely fall on the thumbs down side of their latest comic effort, which is occasionally amusing but mostly an unfunny mess. The cast seems game -- Clooney, McDormand, Malkovich, Swinton, and especially Pitt all have their moments. But I found the scattershot narrative mostly an attempt to cover up the thinness of the material, as well as the limp noodle humor. (You know the Coens think it's supposed to be HILARIOUS every time someone says Malkovich's character's last name.) Plus, the big shift into violence didn't work at all for me -- I was confused by exactly what happened during this scene and by that point I felt like we had entered a different movie entirely. And if the ending isn't the definition of deus ex machina, well, I don't really know what is.

An interesting movie -- it's certainly not like anything else out there, as one would expect from the Coens -- but for me not a very successful one.

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Postby MovieWes » Sat Sep 20, 2008 11:38 am

I saw it last night, and my opinion, in a nutshell... hilarious! Probably the funniest Coen Bros. picture since The Big Lebowski, but also possibly the blackest comedy I've ever seen. Basically, if The Departed was a comedy, it'd probably look something like Burn After Reading.

It doesn't quite reach the heights of "Lebowski," but it kind of occupies the same terrain. My one complaint is Emmanuel Lubezki's camera work; it's good, but it's nowhere near what Roger Deakins has done for the Coens.

*** 1/2
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Postby Mister Tee » Wed Aug 27, 2008 2:45 pm

And, less good.

Burn After Reading
'Burn After Reading'

A Focus Features release, presented in association with StudioCanal and Relativity Media, of a Working Title production. Produced by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen. Executive producers, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Robert Graf. Directed, written by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen.

Harry Pfarrer - George Clooney
Linda Litzke - Frances McDormand
Osborne Cox - John Malkovich
Katie Cox - Tilda Swinton
Chad Feldheimer - Brad Pitt
Ted - Richard Jenkins
Sandy Pfarrer - Elizabeth Marvel
CIA Officer - David Rasche
CIA Superior - JK Simmons
Cosmetic Surgeon - Jeffrey DeMunn

After their triumphant dramatic success with "No Country for Old Men," the Coen brothers revert to sophomoric snarky mode in "Burn After Reading." A dark goofball comedy about assorted doofuses in Washington, D.C., only some of whom work for the government, the short, snappy picture tries to mate sex farce with a satire of a paranoid political thriller, with arch and ungainly results. Major star names might stoke some mild B.O. heat with older upscale viewers upon U.S. release Sept. 12, but no one should expect this reunion of George Clooney and Brad Pitt to remotely resemble an "Ocean's" film commercially.

A seriously talented cast has been asked to act like cartoon characters in this tale of desperation, mutual suspicion and vigorous musical beds, all in the name of laughs that only sporadically ensue. Everything here, from the thesps' heavy mugging to the uncustomarily overbearing score by Carter Burwell and the artificially augmented vulgarities in the dialogue, has been dialed up to an almost grotesquely exaggerated extent, making for a film that feels misjudged from the opening scene and thereafter only occasionally hits the right note.

Ironically, said curtain-raiser shows the CIA actually getting something right. Career analyst Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) is shoved out, and his subsequent obscene tantrum demonstrates he has all the decorum and self-control of a 5-year-old. Lying to his wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) that he quit, Osborne sets about writing an explosive memoir, while no-nonsense Katie now seriously begins considering leaving her unhinged husband for her happy-go-lucky lover Harry (Clooney), a federal marshal none too committed to wife Sandy (Elizabeth Marvel).

In an utterly unrelated orbit of D.C. life, desperately middle-aged Linda (Frances McDormand) is pissed that the insurance company for the fitness center where she works won't cover the extensive plastic surgery she urgently wants done. So antic and frantic you wonder if anesthesia would ever work on her, she suddenly steps into merde with gym trainer Chad (Pitt), who's even more hyperactive than she is, when the latter finds a disc they think is loaded with ultra-classified information.

With frosted blond hair, and appearing so dense he may as well have his low-double-digit IQ pasted to his forehead, Pitt's Chad is what passes for a riot here. Film's funniest scene may be that in which Chad, having traced the disc to Osborne, phones the latter in the middle of the night to initiate the blackmail scheme that will net Linda the coin she needs to transform her bod. Pitt slices the ham very thick indeed, but uniquely emerges as endearing in doing so.

Coincidentally, Internet dater Linda starts shagging Harry, who, amusingly, likes to go for long runs after sex, and just past the one-hour mark, one major character gets blown away in an accident, a development that's supposed to be funny as well as startling.

The Coens' script, which feels immature but was evidently written around the same time as that for "No Country," is just too fundamentally silly, without the grounding of a serious substructure that would make the sudden turn to violence catch the viewer up short. Nothing about the project's execution inspires the feeling that this was ever intended as anything more than a lark, which would be fine if it were a good one. As it is, audience teeth-grinding sets in early and never lets up.

Incidental niceties crop up, to be sure. The Coens' economy of storytelling is in evidence, as is their unerring visual sense, this time in league with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki; a low-angle shot of Harry, knife in hand, lingers especially. The date montages are cute, and the facial reactions of JK Simmons, playing a CIA boss more dedicated to avoiding fuss and bother than to getting to the bottom of things, are once again priceless. But on any more substantive level, "Burn After Reading" is a flame-out.

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Postby Mister Tee » Wed Aug 27, 2008 11:59 am

Believe it or not, the fall season is now semi-officially underway, with Venice starting today, Telluride and Toronto right over the hill.

Reports have long been that this wasn't any Oscar hopeful, but this first reaction is at least positive.

Burn After Reading
Lee Marshall in Venice
27 Aug 2008 14:31

Dirs/scr: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen. US. 2008. 95mins.

The first film in the Coen Brothers' two-picture pact with Focus Features and Working Title is a smart urban screwball comedy about the perils of idiocy that uses its all-star cast to dazzling and often hilarious effect. A beautifully produced mix of spy story, US zeitgeist satire and relationship drama, Burn After Reading cons the audience into seeing depths – and Fargo parallels – that don't really exist. The consumate, near-throwaway ending sets the record straight: it's a feelgood comedy so enjoy the ride and don't take it all so seriously.

Central to the film's appeal is the Washington DC setting with its brownstones, prim parks, viaducts, faux country mansions and fitness clubs. One of these is the overcrowded Hardbodies where Linda Litzke (McDormand) works alongside her gushy but gutless colleague Chad Feldheimer (Pitt). When the hapless duo find a CD containing the 'classified' memoirs of irate, alcoholic CIA agent Osborne Cox (a perfectly cast, self-parodying Malkovich), a half-baked blackmail scheme arises. Meanwhile, Cox's cold, calculating English wife Katie (Swinton) is having an affair with Harry Pfarrer (Clooney), who also meets and beds women he meets online – including Linda. He does this more out of distraction than through any lack of affection for his own wife Sandy (Marvel).

The script was apparently written with the cast in mind, and it works. As with the Oceans franchise, Burn After Reading's feelgood factor has as much to do with A-list actors having fun as it does with comic timing. Pitt's turn as an airhead, blonde-highlighted gym instructor suggests that he would fit snugly into the bumbling numbskull role the Coens have so far given George Clooney. Clooney himself gets an equally tasty workout as a fitness- and sex-obssessed federal marshal who is too dim to realise that he is in love with his wife, while McDormand is solid as a no-longer-young single woman lost in the dating jungle, who is pinning all her hopes on cosmetic surgery. Malkovich and Swinton, more typecast but no less enjoyable for all that, round out a film that will derive much of its marketing muscle from those names on the poster.

As in Fargo, the classic Hollywood dramatic springboard – people making the wrong decisions – spreads to become a kind of existential miasma: even in the city that supposedly governs hearts and minds worldwide, brains are furred, the simplest acts of interpersonal communication are riven with difficulty, and even the CIA (led by a brilliantly offhand JK Simmons) hasn't got a clue what's going on. But there are glimpses too of real societal dilemmas – Linda's complaint that "I have got about as far as I can with this body"; Harry suddenly surprised by the fact that, amidst his philandering, he misses his wife; a brief but well-judged scene in which Osborne Cox tells his mute, wheelchair-bound, father – himself a former CIA operative – that he has failed him.

Children Of Men DoP Emmanuel Lubezki gives the film a dark, autumnal look that lends its screwball antics a melancholy twist. Carter Burwell's driving orchestral soundtrack – at times elegaic, at times menacing – also contributes to this tonal counterpoint, setting up echoes with No Country For Old Men – another yarn about bad decisions.

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