Burn After Reading

No one loves idiots more.

The Coen brothers delight in concocting tales about people who think they know more than they do, morons who stumble in and out of danger, often ending up prematurely erased.

This pitch-dark comedy, while not on the top tier of their filmography, has some huge laugh-out-loud moments.

Especially from Brad Pitt as a man so remarkably stupid you expect him to forget how to breath at times.

From the mystery project George Clooney is building in his basement, to Frances McDormand’s letting the CIA buy her off with plastic surgery, this is primo tomfoolery.

 

Predestination

Ready to melt your brain?

This dizzy, never-boring time travel odyssey is so complex that to explain all its twists and turns would take a lot more than the 100 words this blog allows me.

Like a lot, lot.

Suffice it to say that if you enjoy seeing Ethan Hawke command the screen (and who doesn’t?), firmly grab on to your couch and hold on for dear life as the convoluted plot plays out.

Based on a Robert A. Heinlein story, it bobs and weaves, backtracks and mystifies, and leaves you feeling both disorientated and giddy.

Exactly what the doctor ordered.

Cape Fear (1991)

It’s its own thing.

Martin Scorsese’s remake of the early ’60s revenge thriller tells a familiar story, but puts a unique spin on events.

Robert De Niro, ranting, raving, and having a grand old time, steps into Robert Mitchum’s shoes as a man deeply aggrieved at having spent a chunk of his life in jail.

He’s a scumbag, and revels in it, but still blames compromised lawyer Nick Nolte for not helping him beat the charges.

Emerging from jail to teach the counselor a painful lesson, De Niro reminds us how good he can be when he’s fully committed.

 

Off the Grid: Life on the Mesa

Life lived alone.

Or at least mostly alone, as the drifters and nomads who pop up in this solid low-key documentary prefer to reside far from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

They call a chunk of land stashed out by the Rio Grande, 25 miles from the nearest town, their home and build a unique community with other like-minded folks.

Some are battling illnesses, of the body or mind, while others just enjoy the sound of (relative) silence.

An interesting companion piece to current Oscar contender Nomadland, this is a fairly-obscure slice-of-life movie worth tracking down again.

Dan in Real Life

Plan to be surprised.

Steve Carell became famous for comedies where he painfully embarrasses himself, but this gentle mix of comedy and drama offers up one of his most-effective roles.

Playing a widowed father of three girls, he stumbles through life, dispensing advice in a newspaper column, while needing his own dose of wisdom.

A meet-cute with Juliette Binoche during a family reunion sets things up, but the film, to its credit, is more about the small moments than delivering any big, shocking plot developments.

It’s a gentle tale of second chances for all involved, and very winning.