Viewed – 30 July 2011 Blu-ray
Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis, will know I’m a die hard fan of sibling directors Joel & Ethan Coen. Bar a couple of minor misteps (Intolerable Cruelty, and to a lesser extent, A Simple Man), they generally deliver interesting and very well made pieces of cinema. In this ambitious re-make / adaptation of the classic John Wayne movie and the book by Charles Portis, they bring to the screen the story of 14 year old Mattie Ross, a girl seeking the man who killed her father. Hot off the train and new in town, she hires a washed up Marshal (Jeff Bridges) and soon convinces him to help her find the man she seeks.
Viewed – 21 April 2010 DVD
The much acclaimed and Oscar-winning sibling directors Joel & Ethan Coen deliver a movie that once again isn’t easy to classify. With a big name cast including George Clooney, Brad Pitt and John Malcovich, this both ingenious and absurd comedy follows a group of people and their inter-connecting lives whilst they fornicate, black mail and double cross whilst unaware of how closely linked they all are.
Coens regular Francis McDormand plays a gym worker who along with friend Brad Pitt (on wondrously dorky form) find a CD detailing secrets from the CIA’s files, and so set about trying to blackmail the man responsible for loosing it, namely John Malcovich. At the same time we have small time CIA operative George Clooney who is having an affair with Malcovich’s wife, but also finds time to date Francis McDormand, who is looking for love via internet dating.
As ever with the Coen Brothers, the appeal is in the casting and the dialogue, both of which positively shine, with Francis McDormand probably being the stand-out, although Clooney’s nervous, panicky performance is probably the funniest I’ve seen him do. This is also full of surprises, and had me thrown back in my chair in shock on several occasions. Like the brothers’ earlier The Big LeBowski this shines as a likable idiots out of their depth story, and I certainly came away entertained.
Verdict: 4 /5
Viewed – 21 March 2010 Blu-ray
The redux review
Larry Gopnik is a Jewish professor of physics whose life seems to be gradually falling apart at the seams. His wife is having an affair that she is so blaze about that she and her lover convince Larry to move out of the house. He is also being blackmailed by a student who didn’t agree with a grade he was given, and in the middle of all this he is trying to figure out how to put his life back on track by visiting various Rabbis.
Coming from film making siblings Joel & Ethan Coen, I jumped onto this as soon as it was released, and was expecting another masterpiece to rival the likes of O Brother Where Art Thou? and The Big LeBowski. Now I might add I have watched this twice, and on first impressions, it wasn’t something I liked at all. Even now I’m not sure if it’s something I’d hurry to recommend, but I can also see what the Coen’s were going for – a tale of one man’s ordinary life where bad things happen and he looks for an answer to it all, be it either consulting with friends or Rabbis. Yet ultimately it’s about how one deals with such events and whether you let it ruin you, or you rise above it. Michael Stuhlbarg is a revelation as the awkward, spineless Larry who allows people to talk to him like a five-year old, his wife and her lover belittle him, and all the time he tries to remain nice. It’s funny, in an awkward, uncomfortable way, and with a wealth of oddball characters that scream ‘Coen’ this is very much the siblings doing what they do best – but ultimately, it’s also a movie that for some, may be an acquired taste.
Verdict: 3 /5
Viewed – 07 June 2008 DVD
This was the big Oscar win earlier in the year, and as a fan of The Coen Brothers, I had wanted to see this at my earliest convenience.
Now that I have I’m happy to say that on a whole this delivers as a) the Coens seriously back on form after a double bill of shite (The Lady Killers, Intolerable Cruelty), and b) seat-of-the-pants cat & mouse thriller. Josh Brolin (last seen in Planet Terror) plays a local guy who stumbles upon a bloody crime scene and finds a case full of money. He decides to make off with it, unknowingly causing a homicidal hitman to come after him. This guy goes Terminator on anyone in his way and is really the pull of this film (understandably Jarvier Bardem got a gong for his trouble), and as can be expected, much blood shed, shoot outs and calamity ensue. Trying to come between the hunter and the hunted is a close to retirement sherrif (an always dependable Tommy Lee Jones, who strangely doesn’t really add a helluva lot to proceedings).
The only real thing to knock this gritty, exciting and superbly shot movie is its rather puzzling ending – I guess the Coens were going for clever, but I can see it dividing audiences. Shame as otherwise this would have been a well deserved ’5′. Still, worthy entertainment by anyones standard.
Verdict: 4 /5
Viewed – 30 May 2008 Television
I’ve always been a fan of The Coen Brothers. The sibling directors have constantly delivered with the likes of Millers Crossing, Raising Arizona, O Brother Where Art Thou? and especially the sublime The Big Lebowski proving some of the most perfectly crafted and enjoyable films I have seen.
This one came about during a bit of a hiatus when they delivered big studio-backed fair such as Intolerable Cruelty and The Lady-killers which many consider miss-steps in their otherwise un-tarnished reputation. I myself didn’t enjoy ‘Cruelty, and feel the name was fittingly ironic.
Yet this gentle and fascinating murder mystery about a quite Barber who suspects his wife of having an affair was decidedly the Coens on form again – small town with likeable, fascinating characters that seem worthy of their own films alone.
Billy Bob Thornton has the kind of face and personality born for a Coens film, and he doesn’t disappoint – and add excellent support from Coens regular Francis McDormond along with James Gandolfini complete with beautiful black & white cinematography and this sits proudly along with the Coens best.
Verdict: 4 /5