PCR past banners
Now in our ninth calendar year!
PCR #442 (Vol. 9, No. 37) This edition is for the week of September 8--14, 2008.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Burn After Reading"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

theater seats

"Burn After Reading"  by Mike Smith
The Fight For Sanity in Insane Times  by Will Moriaty
DVD Grindhouse: "Murder Mansion" (1972)  by Andy Lalino
If I Had An Idea....  by Corey Castellano
DVD Review: “Psychotronica Collector’s Set”  by ED Tucker
The Star Wars Years  by Chris Woods
Bucs Drop One To The Saints .... Rays Falling From Grace? Can’t Be! .... Stick A Fork In Him .... Week 2 Nfl Picks .... .... .... ....  by Chris Munger
Toga, Toga, Toga, Toga .... Happy Birthday Sag .... ....  by Matt Drinnenberg
My Dad .... .... .... .... .... .... .... .... And The Oscar For 1997 Should Have Gone To...  by Mike Smith
Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Archives 2008
Archives 2007
Archives 2006
Archives 2005
Archives 2004
Archives 2003
Archives 2002
Archives 2001
Archives 2000
Email PCR

Focus Features     
Starring: George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Brad Pitt
Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hour 36 mins

Hollywood has come to be a town of predictions. Examples include M. Night Shyamalan movies having “surprise” endings or that every film Michael Bay ever made (or will make for that matter) will feature a group of people walking towards the camera in slow motion. But then there are the Coen Brothers. In a town where everyone thinks they know what to expect they always bring the unexpected to the table. Their first feature, “Blood Simple,” was a superb crime thriller. They followed it up with an outrageous comedy (“Raising Arizona”) and followed that up with a gangster period piece (“Miller’s Crossing”). In the almost quarter century that the brothers have been making films each one has been an unexpected treat, culminating last year in their multiple Oscar winning “No Country For Old Men.” Now they return to high comedy with “Burn After Reading.”

CIA Headquarters. Analyst Osborne Cox (the never better John Malkovich) is informed he’s being “reassigned.” Upset at this news, Cox quits. At home with his doctor wife Katie (Swinton), he informs her that he is going to write his memoirs. Unbeknown to Osborne, his wife is having an affair with Harry Pfarrer (Clooney) a Marshall with the Treasury Department married to a successful children’s book author. Harry is also seeing Linda (McDormand), a woman he met over the Internet. Linda works at a local health club and is convinced that cosmetic surgery, not exercise, is the answer to her prayers. Her co-worker, Chad (Pitt) is a bike riding bubblehead whose IQ may be lower than the weights surrounding him. One day a disc is found in the locker room. It appears to be filled with government secrets. An attempt to return it sets in motion a story of ransom, murder and, above all, laughs.

Never at a loss in the art of storytelling, the Coens have crafted a script that would have made Billy Wilder proud. And to speak these lines they have assembled possibly their greatest ensemble cast. Besides regulars like Clooney and McDormand (she’s married to Joel Coen), they’ve stacked the deck with some classic performers. And each one adds something to the mix. Clooney, who has assumed the mantle once held by Warren Beatty in that he can do ANYTHING, is perfectly cast here as a mystery man with too many irons in the fire. McDormand is just as strong and they play off each other perfectly. Pitt is pitch perfect as the dim bulb trainer. We haven’t seen a more clueless person on screen since Bill Pullman’s kidnapper in “Ruthless People.” Malkovich chews the scenery with his best work since he took on Matt Damon and Edward Norton in “Rounders” ten years ago. Swinton is also solid as are the supporting players, including Richard Jenkins, David Rasche and J.K. Simmons. Each contributes to this perfect comedy of errors or, as Osborne Cox might refer to it, a comedy of morons!

But the big winners here are the Coen brothers, who have crafted a comedy classic that can stand with “Raising Arizona,” “Fargo” and “The Big Lebowski” as memorable.

On a scale of zero to four stars I give “Burn After Reading”


This week's movie review of "Burn After Reading" is ©2008 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2008, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2008 by Nolan B. Canova.