Tag: Coen Brothers

***2015 RECAP*** MOVIE REVIEW | Bridge Of Spies (2015)

Bridge 1

“My father was beaten, my mother was beaten, and this man, my father’s friend, he was beaten. And I watched this man. Every time they hit him, he stood back up again.”

Before I started writing Bored and Dangerous, I was a little skeptical of Steven Spielberg. I thought he was all style, no substance, and too heavy handed when it came to sentiment and melodramatic overstatement. But in the last two and half years, I’ve written about no less than half a dozen Spielberg movies. And with pretty much each one, I have come to appreciate him more and more. Two years ago, Spielberg’s name wouldn’t have made me excited to see a movie. But a Cold War setting would. And Joel and Ethan Coen’s names on the wiring credits would. And Tom Hanks would. So add all of that together, along with my growing respect for Spielberg, and there’s no way I wasn’t going to see Bridge of Spies.


It’s the late 50s, and American paranoia about the threat of communism is at its peak. So when Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) is discovered living in the States, the trial is big news. Forced to defend Abel is lawyer James Donavan (Hanks). He’s the kind of guy who believes in the purity of the law and that every man deserves a fair trial and fair defense. Even when that man is clearly a spy. But the trial is pretty much just a formality, with the jury quick to find him guilty and a judge ready to give Abel the death penalty. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Bridge Of Spies (2015)

Bridge 1

“My father was beaten, my mother was beaten, and this man, my father’s friend, he was beaten. And I watched this man. Every time they hit him, he stood back up again.”

Before I started writing Bored and Dangerous, I was a little skeptical of Steven Spielberg. I thought he was all style, no substance, and too heavy handed when it came to sentiment and melodramatic overstatement. But in the last two and half years, I’ve written about no less than half a dozen Spielberg movies. And with pretty much each one, I have come to appreciate him more and more. Two years ago, Spielberg’s name wouldn’t have made me excited to see a movie. But a Cold War setting would. And Joel and Ethan Coen’s names on the wiring credits would. And Tom Hanks would. So add all of that together, along with my growing respect for Spielberg, and there’s no way I wasn’t going to see Bridge of Spies.


It’s the late 50s, and American paranoia about the threat of communism is at its peak. So when Soviet spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) is discovered living in the States, the trial is big news. Forced to defend Abel is lawyer James Donavan (Hanks). He’s the kind of guy who believes in the purity of the law and that every man deserves a fair trial and fair defense. Even when that man is clearly a spy. But the trial is pretty much just a formality, with the jury quick to find him guilty and a judge ready to give Abel the death penalty. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Unbroken (2014)

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“If you can take it, you can make it.”

Of all the Oscar bait movies that come out early in the new year, Unbroken may have been the one I was least interested in seeing. Sure, it looked like a more than interesting true story, but it also looked like one I’ve seen enough before. Someone conquers all odds, refuses to give in to some terrible oppression, then comes out the end stronger and more inspirational than ever. Seeing Angelina Jolie’s name attached as Director didn’t make me dismiss it, but it definitely didn’t make me any more inclined to see it. Then I saw two names in the writing credits, Joel and Ethan Coen. That was all it took. Once I knew there was a Coen Brothers connection, I had to see Unbroken immediately.


Flying a bombing mission over the Pacific in World War II, the plane of Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) barley survives a barrage of bullets from a squadron of Japanese Zeroes. But they manage to limp back to their landing strip and crash land relatively safely. Then it’s a flash back to young Louis, being made fun for his Italian heritage and acting out on the verge of delinquency. Until his brother, Pete (Alex Russell) sees potential in Louis as a runner, and coaches him through childhood and adolescence. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

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It seems like I’ve been waiting forever for this movie to come out.  It must be at least a year since the first trailer appeared, then it won the Grand Prix at Cannes all the way back in May last year.  After a few festival appearances, I don’t think it even get a wide American release until a month or two ago.  But finally, the latest movie by Joel and Ethan Coen, possibly the most consistently interesting and reliable film makers working today, got released in Australia.  I finally got to see, Inside Llewyn Davis.

It’s 1961 New York and Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is attempting a solo career as a folk musician after the suicide of his musical partner.  He’s in the middle of a destructive cycle of mediocre gigs, drinking too much, then sleeping on the couch of whichever friend he has pissed off the least lately.  While begging for refuge at the home of his friends Jim and Jean (Justin Timberlake and Carrie Mulliigan), Jean informs Davis that she’s pregnant, and it’s possibly his.

In search for money for an abortion, Davis seeks out gigs to play and couches to sleep on, he lowers himself to play as a session musician on a cheesy novelty song, takes an ill fated road trip to Chicago and falls lower and lower every step of the way, until he attempts to swallow his bride and take some responsibility for his life.  What should be the beginning of the redemption of Llewyn Davis actually sees him crash land at rock bottom, before digging deeper.  What do you do when even your last resort is no longer an option?

Because this is a Coen Brothers movie, some of the most entertaining moments are given to minor characters played by great actors who only pop up for moment or two here and there.  There’s John Goodman as a junkie jazz musician, F Murray Abraham as a dismissive record company exec, Adam Driver as…  I’m not sure how you’d describe his character.   The story might be Llewyn’s, but the best bits belong to the people he stumbles across along the way.

If you’ve seen any trailers or read any reviews, you probably know about the cat.  For the first half of Inside Llewyn Davis, the titular character spends a lot of his time trying to find, care for and return a cat that he mistakenly let out of a friends apartment.  Every time I thought I’d figured out what the cat meant thematically or symbolically, the Coen Brothers would throw something new at me, contradicting my latest theory.

Did it show Llewyn’s doomed attempts to care about something other than himself?  Does it represent is futile pursuit of fame and success through music?  Every time he thinks he’s found it, another obstacle is thrown in his path.  I have no idea, but being the Coen Brothers, it’s either the most profound statement ever made in film, or just some flippant idea they threw in there because it tickled them.  No one bounces between profundity and flippancy better than Joel and Ethan Coen.

Like their last proto-musical, O’ Brother Where Art Though, the Coens teamed up again with T Bone Burnett to put together the soundtrack.  And also like O Brother, it’s a major part of everything that’s really great about this movie.  The music is so good that I bought the soundtrack on the way home from the cinema.  But if you haven’t heard it yet or seen the movie, I really recommend watching the movie first.  All the songs are used so perfectly within the story, that having heard them before might have taken away some of their impact.

In the filmography of the Coens, I’m not sure where Inside Llewyn Davis falls.  Despite the odd moments of legit hilarity, there’s no way it goes with the wacked out comedy of Raising Arizona or Burn after Reading.  It’s not a genre exercise like Fargo, The Big Lebowski or Miller’s Crossing.  And it’s not tied to anyone else’s sensibility through adaptation like True Grit or No Country for Old men.  This is pure Joel and Ethan Coen in the vein of Barton Fink and the under seen A Serious Man, but without the bigger, more fantastical flourishes of those movies.  Inside Llewyn Davis is dark, cynical and border line depressing, if not for the moments of genuine hilarity the Brothers Coen let seep through every now and again.

Inside Llewyn Davis
Directed By – Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Written By – Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

MOVIE REVIEW | Carrie (2013)

Carrie 2013
Whenever remakes come out, nine times out off ten, my reaction is, why?  I can kind of understand it with something special effects heavy like King Kong.  Traditionalists will tell you the 30s original is amazing, while the rest of the world just wants slick CGI that makes the monkey look real.  I totally get it when there’s a remake because the first version wasn’t very good and wasted a good story, like the terrible half animated Lord of the Rings.  And there are times when it seems totally unnecessary and the new version barely strays from the old, yet it’s still great, like the Coen Brothers remake of True Grit.  Then there’s Carrie, a movie I couldn’t see a single reason for remaking, until I watched the 2013 remake on the same weekend as seeing the 1974 original for the first time.

Sticking pretty close to De Palma’s original, and I assume Steven King’s source novel, it’s still about a weirdo high school girl, this time played by Chloe Grace Moretz, her nut job, abusive mother (Julianne Moore), her sympathetic gym teacher (Judy Greer) and some real class A bitches who pick on her at school.  When pushed too far, Carrie starts to exhibit telekinetic powers.  And she gets pushed too far a lot.

At first, the faithfulness to the original made me wonder why the remake needs to exist.  The beauty of a protagonist with telekinesis means your special effects budget only needs to be big enough to afford a few rolls of fishing line.  Make some furniture move around the room and bingo, powers displayed.  It’s not as if 2013 CGi technology really ads a lot to this movie.  But then I realised why it’s not such a lazy idea remaking Carrie.

It’s a movie about high school kids, so the target audience is probably also high school kids looking for some cheap thrills and scares.  With that in mind, I don’t think a 2013 teenager would even recognise the world in the original movie.  No computers, no mobile phones, teachers smoking in their office, John Travolta before being ravaged by decades of hiding in that closet.  The world of 1974 just doesn’t exist anymore.

And even though the screenplays are almost identical, Kimberly Pierce’s direction makes it look and feel like a totally different world to De Palma’s.  Here, the teenagers are actually played by teenagers, instead of adults in their mid to late 20s.  It’s also way less pervey, no opening titles set in slow motion with full frontal nudity of the ‘high school girls’ locker room.  No long, creepy exploitation of Carrie in the shower when embarrassment hits.  Pierce’s version gets to the point a little quicker without so much fodder for Mr Skin to mine later.

There are a couple of moments though when the updated version slows down to spell out the odd plot point and character motivation in explicit detail, when the original was happy to just put it out there, move on and assume the audience was on the right track.

As someone with no feelings of nostalgia for the original, this remake of Carrie is totally fine.  The main place it falls apart is in the casting for the main role.  I think Chloe Moretz is generally great.  She was perfect in the first Kick-Ass, she was great in Hugo and she managed to make the English language remake  of Let the Right One In almost as good as the original.  But she’s just too pretty for the role of Carrie.  Sissy Spacek had such a perfect, kind of strange look in the original.  Even with frumpy clothes and bushy ginger hair, Moretz still looks like she should be hanging out with the glamorous mean girls, not the victim of their cliquey abuse.

Carrie
Directed By – Kimberly Pierce
Written By – Lawrence D Cohen, Robert Aguirre-Sacasa