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Notes from the back row

Don’t burn before reading

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Good news movie fans. The Village 8 knows slow season means most of us are either unemployed or homeless (or both) and is bringing back locals’ pricing. From Monday to Thursday you can walk into a movie for only ten bucks, providing you flash some proof of residency, and they couldn’t have picked a better week to start because the new Coen brothers movie, Burn After Reading, opens Friday and it is a riot.

Fresh off their Oscar win with the serious drama No Country for Old Men, the brothers Coen have flipped the script this time around by delivering a comedic farce of a thriller. Or it’s a thrilling screwball comedy, it’s hard to tell. Regardless, it is funny, smart and chock full of top-notch talent, including the always fantastic Brad Pitt who plays Chad Feldheimer, a fitness gym employee so dimwitted and dorky, when asked what Angelina thought of the performance Brad replied, “It was the first time she wasn’t sexually attracted to me.” That guy pisses excellence, and this time is no different.

Chad and co-worker Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) find a CD of top secret info and attempt to blackmail its owner, a freshly fired CIA analyst played by John Malkovich. The plot is too twisted, loopy and intertwined to give much more away but the film is set in Washington, D.C. and contains a veritable stew of idiots, vegetables, morons and cheaters. This is black comedy at its best, where betrayal lurks everywhere and even real love can’t win the day. Grim stuff, but funny, and by setting it in the nation’s capital the Coens may be commenting on the current state of the good old U.S. of A.

Or maybe not. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the Coens are the best filmmakers on the continent and because of that they’ve rounded out their cast with George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, and J.K. Simmons. That some of the biggest acting talents out there are playing total buffoons only adds to the joy. The script is so tight and full of set-ups, pay-offs and dark humour that it’s hard to believe the crafty Coens are able to close it all up in a scant 94 minutes.

Critics are a bit divided on this flick — the dude from the New Yorker isn’t down but when was the last time you read the New Yorker? Sure it’s informative, but those cats shouldn’t be telling anyone what’s humorous and what isn’t. Ever read the cartoons in that mag? Weak.

Not weak, the opposite in fact, are Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, who team up this week for the first time since 1995’s Heat ( they were both in the second Godfather flick but shared no time on screen together). The movie is called Righteous Kill and it looks better than the title sounds.

No pre-screenings out there but the general idea is that Pacino and DeNiro (both Oscar winners) are old-school cops with the NYPD who are tracking a serial killer who murders criminals that slip through the cracks of the justice system. Should they arrest the guy, or give him a medal? Screenwriter Russel Gerwirtz ( Inside Man) and director Jon Avnet have tried their best to make you think you’re watching a Scorsese film but the fact remains those two heavyweight stars will bring in the audiences, myself included. Supporting cast includes 50 Cent, Brian Dennehy, John Leguizamo, Donny Wahlberg and the always smokin’ Carla Gugino.

The last film opening is a re-make called The Women and while it’s nice to see a female-based movie open it would be even nicer if it didn’t totally suck balls. Rent the 1939 Joan Crawford version instead.

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