Burn After Reading (2008) Film Review

Linda (Frances McDormand) and Chad work at Hard Bodies Gym in Washington DC and have a disc with what appears to be sensitive security information and decide to return it to the owner, Osborne Cox (John Malcovich), an analyst recently forced into retirement. However, Cox has a short fuse and having been booted out by his wife Katie (Tilda Swinton), he won’t tolerate this. Then there is Harry (George Clooney) who is having an affair with Katie, and then also with Linda but is married to Sandy (Elizabeth Marvel), and Ted (Richard Jenkins) who is love with Linda. And then the Russians are brought in, and the whole ‘cluster fuck’ is being overseen by a mysterious CIA figure played by JK Simmons. And being a Coen brothers production, it’s fabulous.

There are Coen brother films that are amazing (No Country for Old Men, The Man Who Wasn’t There) and Coen brother films that are weird (Barton Fink, A Serious Man, ) and there are Coen brother films that are hilarious (Fargo, O Brother Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski). That’s probably simplifying it too much, but it seems to be the way I sort them in my brain – and the fact that they can do so many films across different genres and I love them all (or, at the very least, appreciate them all) is fabulous for me. Burn After Reading is a ridiculous film, for me in the hilarious basket. It’s pretty much my favourite ever Brad Pitt performance, and I just love all the weirdness, like Harry’s present in the basement (what?) or the amount of carrots cut up. Too good. Not for everyone, but certainly for me.

Burn After Reading was nominated for Golden Globes for Best Motion Picutre – Comedy or Musical and Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picutre – Comedy or Musical (Frances McDormand), and for a BAFTA for Best Screenplay – Original (Joel and Ethan Coen).


Friends With Benefits (2011) Film Review


Jamie (Mila Kunis) works for a head hunting company and just doesn’t have the time or patience for any more relationships that don’t work out. Dylan (Justin Timberlake) is a busy LA web designer who works too hard and his work breaks up his relationships. When he moves to New York, they strike up a friendship. Eventually, they strike upon the idea of having sex, but not letting it ruin their friendship or develop into a relationship. But, and given the genre, this is hardly a surprise, life gets in the way. Will they lose their friendship or end up in love?

I expected this would be awful. I expected it to be cheesy and terrible and really awful for women. But, Kunis came through – I really like her, she often picks good projects and brings the strong a lot. My only real character issue is when they decide to go date again, and of course, Dylan ends up with the crazy chick who growls like a dog and immediately wants to introduce him to her parents. Why, when the point of his issues is that he has trouble committing to girls, so why didn’t this character follow that, instead of bringing the crazy? It’s a cheap laugh, and then given that the Jamie character is a strong woman who is actually allowed to enjoy sex and not be punished for that, why ruin it? But other than that, I was delightfully surprised to enjoy this film a lot.


North Country (2005) Film Review

North Country

After leaving her abusive partner, Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) takes advice from her friend Glory (Frances McDormand) and gets work in the mine. But she finds that the small group of woman who work there are putting up with appalling sexual harassment, from simple comments through to violent acts. Eventually, she can take no more and must try to stand up for herself, but faces the violent anger of the men of the mine who are annoyed and angered by the presence of women in the workplace.

It’s based on a true story, and it is surely impossible to watch this film without becoming angry. So much of the harassment that takes place in the workplace during the film could be seen as just jokes that the women should just laugh off – and indeed, much of the time they do. But it is horrible to watch just how nasty and abusive the men get – and that they feel totally entitled to act like this against the women and have full support of management, right to the top. It’s a heartbreaker of a film with fabulous cast.

North Country was nominated for Oscars for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Charlize Theron) and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Frances McDormand).

White House Down (2013) Film Review


What happens when you get a father who is deeply patriotic and is put into a situation where he needs to make a choice to save either his daughter or the President? Well, if it’s an action film with Channing Tatum, it involves a dirty white singlet, a lot of shooting and explosions and ultimate victory for the good guys. (I don’t think that’s a spoiler, given it is a Hollywood blockbuster action film).

So, Cale (Channing Tatum) is a divorced ex-solider with a really awesome daughter, Emily (Joey King) who is obsessed with everything politics and related to The White House. He has applied for a position as part of the protection detail of President Sawyer (Jamie Foxx) and takes Emily to the White House for the interview. However, his interviewer, Finnerty (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who he went to school with, rejects him for the position, as he is unreliable and hotheaded. But then things go crazy; the White House is taken over by terrorists and no one knows who to trust. Cale is in a position to try to rescue Sawyer, but then he needs to get to his daughter, and things are getting crazy.

This is a good action flick with all the stuff you want and need, some decent twists, a top cast and even a few unexpected bits. You want fun action stuff? Get this.

Killing Them Softly (2012) Film Review


There’s an illegal card game that is protected by the mafia, run by Markie(Ray Liotta). Previously, Markie had arranged a hit on this game, thinking no-one would suspect him – which they didn’t but later he ended up coming clean. The other mafia folk forgave him for being a nice guy. The mafia’s nice like that. Another dude, Johnny “Squirrel” Amato (Vincent Curatola) takes this opportunity to hit the game again thinking that the automatic suspect will be Markie. He uses a couple of hired hands; Frankie(Scoot McNairy) and Russell(Ben Mendelsohn). The mafia is not happy, and send a couple of hitmen to resolve the situation (Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini).

I reckon that a lot of people will love this film. It’s got that kind of coolness about it. I think it is a very good film. Not for me, I’m afraid; I was mostly bored. Very excited to see Ben Mendelsohn getting more roles, I’m a huge fan. His presence didn’t save the film for me, but I did enjoy it.

Let Me In (2010) Film Review


A man is taken to a hospital after a car accident and is suspected to be responsible for a recent series of murders. However, he is unable to be identified as he has poured acid across his head and shoulders, causing serious burns. Two weeks previously, we meet, Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), a 12-year-old boy. He is bullied at school and struggling to come to terms with the divorce of his religious mother and absent father. At night, he sneaks out to play in the courtyard of his building, and one night, there is a girl his own age there. Despite her warning that they cannot be friends, a friendship is formed. What Owen is unaware of is that Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a vampire and her guardian is the man who appeared in the hospital, who has been killing to provide her with blood.

This is how horror is done. Slow, intense music (often during scenes that prove to be benign) that had me twisting with anxious anticipating. What’s more, it’s not a cheesy shlock horror – in fact, the horrible bullying scenes were far more difficult to watch than the violent attacks. Let Me In is a remake of Let The Right One In, a Swedish film. It’s always a bit of a risk watching Hollywood remakes. Not that they are necessarily worse (although The Vanishing, the Hollywood version of Dutch film Spoorloos, had an awful Hollywood ending), but they may just be identical, as I recently discovered with The Departed (adaptation of Infernal Affairs). I don’t think that I could get through Let The Right One In if it is anywhere near as intense as this flick. Incidentally, how good is Chloe Grace Moretz? She seems to be making a lot of awesome films at the moment. I’m hoping her career continues as strongly in the future.

Witches of Eastwick (1987) Film Review


I have such a soft spot for eighties films with effects that, at the time, were totally cutting edge. This and Beetlejuice and two of my all-time favs.

Alexandra (Cher), Jane (Susan Sarandon) and Sukie (Michelle Pfeiffer) are three women whose husbands have gone (dead, divorced and deserted) living in the small town of Eastwick. After drunkenly describe the perfect man for them, a mysterious character appears in town; Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson). Rich, talented and totally repulsive. He manages to seduce the three and before they know it, the whole town in talking about them.

It’s funny, it’s clever, it’s gross and it’s magnificent. The absolute height of eighties comedy. (Actually, that’s a big call. There are a lot that fit into that category. But it’s definitely up there!)

The Witches of Eastwick was nominated for Oscars for Best Sound and Best Music, Original Score.

Step Brothers (2008) Film Review


Watching this in the cinema back in 2008, I spent the first half of the film laughing my butt off and then, very suddenly, I found it totally not funny. It was a very strange experience. I had to revisit, and what did I find? I didn’t laugh at all. Well, not until the musical number at the end, which did give me a few giggles.

The plot is that there are two men, Brennan (Will Ferrell) and Dale (John C Reilly) both in their late 30s, both unemployed and living with their single parents. The parents (Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins) fall in love and marry and the two brothers have to learn to share.

There are some pretty funny lines, and some ridiculous slapstick scenes, but essentially, it didn’t work for me. I find that both John C Reilly and Will Ferrell do a variety of different comedy, but it is the really dumb ones like this that I just don’t like.

The Cabin in the Woods (2011) – Film Review

When The Cabin in the Woods was released, there was so much ‘shush’ about what could be said about it. All I knew was that it was co-written by Joss Wheedon and that it was a horror film. I’m not great with horror films. It didn’t help that I was watching this whilst housesitting alone in a relatively isolated house in the Dandenongs. Not quite a cabin in the woods, but I was still alone in a relatively unfamiliar place.  In fact, I started watching this twice; I was scared off the first time, but my marvellous Facebook friends convinced me to try again. So glad I did.

One thing I loved about the experience was not knowing anything, so I’m not going to give you any plot. It did mean that I was scared a lot more than I needed to be – even the slightest hint in the soundtrack that things were getting scary and I was clutching a pillow. But as it goes on, it is really more funny (and gory) than scary.

So good. And now I’m thinking about it, and I want to write about this ace bit, or that hilarious scene. Definitely see it – but if you are a little squeamish, perhaps watch it with someone else.