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.

 

Kalifornia

The danger is sitting next to you.

David Duchovny portrays an aspiring true-crime writer obsessed with serial killers, who convinces his photographer girlfriend (Michelle Forbes) to take a cross-country tour of famous murder sites.

Picking up two new, highly-suspect, passengers, they encounter a version of Brad Pitt who should set off every alarm in sight. I mean, come on!

Anyway, things get dark fast as stark reality intrudes on fantasy, forcing the city slickers to realize that yes, the country folk do probably want to kill you.

A launching pad for a lot of careers, it remains thoroughly chilling.

 

12 Monkeys

You don’t have to be crazy, but it helps.

Terry Gilliam has spent a career confounding expectations, making dazzling films which often focus on people being rightfully paranoid about everything happening around them.

Here, working from a template drawn by the classically surreal French short film La Jetée, he tells a tale of time travelers trippin’ across the decades, chasing a world-ravaging virus.

Nothing, and no one, are what they seem, from big ‘n brassy Brad Pitt as an insane philosopher to Bruce Willis going low-key as a man haunted by half-remembered dreams.

What’s real? Everything, and nothing.

 

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Long title, long running time.

But carve out three hours, settle deep into your recliner, and you’ll be greatly rewarded by this absolutely gorgeous tale of life and death in the Wild West.

The cinematography is by Roger Deakins (two Oscars, 15 noms), the man who has made so many Coen brothers stories pop, and the look of the film carries you away to a different time and place.

Once there, you get a dream-like tale of a two-bit gunman trying super-hard to impress a legendary bandit.

When that doesn’t work, love curdles into hate, setting the stage for tragedy.

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Suck it, hippies!

Quentin Tarantino, and his characters in this fantasy retelling of Hollywood history, don’t much cotton to the great unwashed.

What they do enjoy are quality booze, cigarette smoke, old-school movies (and the dudes who made them), and a heapin’ helpin’ of the ol’ ultra-violence.

And yet, beneath the bluster and machismo, the film delivers some of its finest moments when it gets seriously melancholy.

Leonardo Di Caprio’s struggling actor trying to rediscover his mojo, or Margot Robbie’s ethereal Sharon Tate being given a new destiny straight out of a movie script, those are the magical money shots.