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george clooney

To borrow a line from a very popular book, the Coen brother’s Burn After Reading is a mostly harmless affair with a brisk pace, sometimes lightening dialog, this dark comedy begins, does its thing, and leaves you to go on your merry way. The film, the first since the Oscar winning No Country for Old Men (a film not held in high regards among our staff), takes a collection of A-list celebrities, casts them in a movie with such obscene stupidity you can’t help but to laugh for 90 minutes before J.K. Simmons steals the entire film as he closes the book on the entire piece.

As with most Coen films Reading focuses on a collection of narratives that culminate together, with characters drifting between each of the stories bridging the gaps. Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) is fired from his CIA job because of a drinking problem, his wife, played by Tilda Swinton, is secretly having an affair with married Treasury drone Harry Pfarrer (George Cloony) who is also dating gym-worker Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand). Linda works with Chad (Brad Pitt) and the two of them come into possession of Cox’s financial statements which they believe are intelligence documents. The logical thing to do with any sensitive document is to blackmail the author, in this case the foul-mouthed Cox, or sell it to the Russians, both of which are attempted.

The plot whirls you around for about an hour and a half, cracking a few jokes along the way, makes you feel dirty for laughing, but producing some decent belly laughs and more than a few chuckles. The writing is done is such a way that not every joke known to man is thrown up against a wall to see which ones stick, each joke is carefully crafted and seem to hit their mark more often than not.

Being a Coen brothers film there is your fair share of outrageous, gratuitous violence including a point blank shot to the face and a hatchet to another supporting character’s head. Its so over the top and unexpected that you’re forced to just laugh and stare in disbelief for a second after it happens, reassuring yourself that you just witnessed what you think you did.

Bit-players David Rasche and J.K. Simmons steal the film however with their dry retelling of the climatic events as it closes and Simmons bewildered CIA director makes the film as funny as it aspires to be. This isn’t to say that the film is necessarily flat or insanely funny the apt principle of mostly harmless really sums it up, whether you watch it or not, enjoy it or not, laugh or not, its over in 90 minutes. For non-fans of the Coen brothers its out of sight, out of mind, for true fans it takes its rightful place in the land of Big Lebowski’s and snow covered Minnesota.

George Clooney’s follow up to the critically praised and excellently crafted Good Night, and Good Luck couldn’t be farther from the serious tone of the historical journalism piece. With Leatherheads, about the rise of professional football in the 1920’s, comes the screwball humor and good natured sports action you’ve come to expect from Disney’s yearly releases in the genre.


Clooney stars as Dodge Connelly a player for the bankruptcy bound Duluth Bulldogs, a scrappy group of players who see their dreams crashing down when the professional football league is the laughing stock of the professional sports world and college football is where all the money, endorsements, and fame originates from. This is wonderfully highlighted in the film’s opening scenes. Connelly sees an opening in recruiting college star Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski) to save his floundering team, and the league itself.

As a subplot, reporter Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger) is looking into claims about Carter’s war record, thinking there could be a big story and a door to the editor’s desk involved she becomes the final piece in a quasi-love triangle between Carter and Dodge and the catalyst for the film’s climax.


As a throwback to the screwball comedies of the ancient days of cinema, Leatherheads works on many levels. The outlands setups for jokes and physical payoffs are wonderfully done, always with a smirk, and always to the point where everyone is okay afterwards. After a heated punching bout between Carter and Dodge concludes, both me are sporting a few bruises and a fat lip. The final act of the film directs attention away from the love story and the football action to focus on the revelations Lexie has discovered and their ramifications on all the principle players.

The film does have some slow points as it’s about 30 minutes overweight, some serious trimming of the script could have really saved this from becoming tedious towards the end. However the mesmerizing smile of Clooney and the comedic timing of Krasinski basically playing is role of Jim on The Office on the big screen, in the 1920’s, saves the film from the bowels of mediocrity.


As an underdog sports story Leatherheads doesn’t lend much to the genre filled with better films, but as a combination of comedy, screwball and otherwise, with a dose of romance, sharp wits, and colorful, big characters, the film excels.

The film won’t top the previous works by Clooney as a director, nor an actor, but as a change of pace from his normally serious work like Michael Clayton, its good to see the fun loving, funny Clooney on the big screen catching some pigskin and getting trounced in the mud.

Another second sequel, but this time the third, and reportedly last, outing of the Ocean’s crew comes out better than expected, securing itself as the best sequel of the summer (so far). There are still some problems here, but after the lame outing that was Ocean’s 12, 13 is the magical number for the series bringing it almost up to par with the unbelievable first outing.


The crime this time is revenge, and not so much for the benefit of the crew, but for the destruction of Willie Bank (Al Pacino) who backed out of a deal with Reuben (Elliot Gould) causing him to have a breakdown into a near coma. Danny Ocean (George Clooney) gathers the crew for a big score, rigging all the games in Bank’s casino to pay out to nearly everyone on the floor causing him to lose more money than they ever stole from Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia), who also shows up.

The story isn’t so much important as the caper, and the unbelievable nature of how everything seems to be thought of before it happens for Ocean and his crew. Every time it looks like something is going to go wrong, the film throws in that traditional Ocean’s twist to show you, and it was planned all along. The double crossing was seen before it happen, the endgame devised before it may have been thought of. The audience is clearly on to most of these twists, but even without the surprises and suspense that kept us in our seats during the first film in the series, there’s a great popcorn film here that keeps you interested and makes up for the other trite the common consumer has had to endure over the last six weeks.


Series newcomer Al Pacino puts in a convincing, although subdued, role as Willie Bank, a Las Vegas real estate tycoon who are just convinced to hate by the film’s opening where he nearly kills Reuben after backing out on a deal for the target hotel. The rest of the cast clearly shows how working together two times previously has put them into a sort of gel-state where they play off of each other very well, although with a cast as huge as this, no one really gets any remarkable screen time, even headlines like Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon. The absence of Catherine Zeta-Jones and Julia Roberts is actually played for laughs as both Pitt and Clooney comment on how their respective women throughout the film as a running gag.

There’s a lot to like about Ocean’s 13, just nothing to get overly excited about. These movies may be expensive to make, but it’s an easy cash crop for Warner Bros. as the sheer star power of the leads combined with the marketability of a Vegas heist and the comedy aspect make it a certain hit amongst fans and casual movie-goers. You aren’t getting the same fresh feeling that you got in the 2001 original, but even without it, it’s a good two hours at the movies.