Burn After Reading

  • Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Producers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Genres: Comedy, Crime, Drama
  • Actors: George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Richard Jenkins, Brad Pitt

Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) is a CIA analyst who quits his job at the agency after being demoted, ostensibly because of a drinking problem. He then decides to write a memoir about his life in the CIA. His wife, pediatrician Katie Cox (Tilda Swinton), wants to divorce Osborne and, at the counsel of her divorce lawyer, she copies many of his personal and financial files off his computer and onto a compact disc. The lawyer’s receptionist accidentally leaves the disc at Hardbodies, a health club. After her husband is served with divorce papers, Katie changes the locks to keep him out of their house.

Two employees of the gym, Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) and Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand) obtain the disc from the gym’s custodian. Seeing the content of the memoir, they assume that it is highly classified information. Initially Chad and Linda plan to give the disk back to Osborne hoping for a reward, intending to use the money to pay for Linda’s cosmetic surgery. However, after a confusing phone conversation and fury on Osborne’s part, their original plan descends into a blackmail attempt. Chad meets Osborne, who, aware that the “information” is merely his memoirs, refuses to pay and punches Chad in the nose. Linda decides to take the information to the Russian embassy. At the embassy, she hands the disk over to the Russians, promising that she will give more information afterward. Because they don’t actually have any more information, they decide to break into Osborne’s house to steal more.

The movie ends at CIA headquarters, where the official and his director are trying to sort out what happened: Chad and Ted are dead and Osborne is in a vegetative state after being shot by a CIA operative who had been tasked with observing him. The agent felt he could not stand by while Osborne was killing a man in broad daylight. Harry and Linda have been arrested; Harry was caught trying to board a flight to Venezuela, but the director decides to let him go to get him out of their hair. Linda promises to remain silent if the CIA will finance her plastic surgery. The baffled CIA agents agree to her terms.

The Beach

  • Directors: Danny Boyle
  • Producers: Andrew Macdonald
  • Writers: Alex Garland, John Hodge
  • Genres: Adventure, Drama, Thriller
  • Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tilda Swinton, Virginie Ledoyen, Guillaume Canet, Paterson Joseph, Lars Arentz Hansen, Robert Carlyle

Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio), a young American backpacking in Thailand, has come to Southeast Asia with the intention of experiencing something radically different from his familiar life. He hears of an island paradise commonly held to be urban legend. According to rumor, a secret community of travelers who have left behind their former lives inhabits the island. Richard initially dismisses the island’s existence, but later meets Daffy (Robert Carlyle), who identifies himself as a former inhabitant and gives Richard a map. Shortly afterward, Daffy commits suicide.

Richard then meets the very beautiful Françoise (Virginie Ledoyen) and her handsome boyfriend, Étienne (Guillaume Canet), and convinces them to accompany him to the island. They travel a great distance from Bangkok to the shores of Ko Phangan, in the Gulf of Thailand. While there, Richard befriends a pair of American surfers, Sammy and Zeph, who mention the legend. He does not admit his knowledge, but he copies the map and slides it under their door.

To reach the island, Richard, Françoise and Étienne must hop between several adjacent islands. When they first arrive on the island, they come across an enormous marijuana plantation, guarded by local men armed with AK-47 assault rifles. They manage to evade detection by the marijuana farmers and find the community of travelers. They are seen by Keaty, who takes them to the beach community. They are interrogated by the island’s leader, Sal (Tilda Swinton), regarding their knowledge of the island. Initially, the community is hostile towards the trio, but when Richard mentions Daffy, they gradually relent, and the three are rapidly integrated into the beach’s laid-back yet structured lifestyle of work and play.

The film ends with Richard returning to his former lifestyle of travel. While stopping by an internet cafe to check his e-mail, he receives an attached image from Françoise. It is a photograph of the entire beach community taken by Françoise, with the community jumping midair in unison, looking very bright and happy, taken right after Richard and Sal made their supply run to the mainland. Upon further inspection, Richard sees an animated handwritten inscription over the image: ‘Parallel Universe. Love, Françoise’.

Constantine

  • Directors: Francis Lawrence
  • Producers: Gilbert Adler, Michael Aguilar
  • Writers: Screenplay, Kevin Brodbin, Frank Cappello, Comic Book, Alan Moore, Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis
  • Genres: Action, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller
  • Actors: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Tilda Swinton, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Djimon Hounsou, Gavin Rossdale, Peter Stormare, Nicholas Downs

Searching through ruins in Mexico, a young man accidentally finds the Spear of Destiny wrapped in a Nazi flag. Immediately possessed by a supernatural force, he is propelled on a journey to Los Angeles, where he is now seemingly indestructible and causing demonic and unnatural damage as he goes. In Los Angeles, occult detective John Constantine (Keanu Reeves) exorcises a demon from a teenage girl, finding himself unnerved by the demon’s unusually bold attempt at crossing over into humanity’s realm. Later that night, disturbed mental patient Isabel Dodson (Rachel Weisz) commits suicide, provoking the sorrow and disbelief of her twin sister, L.A.P.D. Detective Angela Dodson (Rachel Weisz). Visiting the hospital where Isabel died, Angela encounters Constantine, who is being treated at the same hospital for his terminal lung cancer, a result of his decades-long chain-smoking habit. Disgusted with the prognosis, Constantine visits a nearby church to speak with the angel Gabriel (Tilda Swinton), angrily asking what more he must do to earn God’s forgiveness. Unsympathetic to Constantine’s plight, Gabriel rebuffs his attempts at reconciliation with God, tells him about sacrifices which can be done and then pointing out the selfish undertones beneath his good deeds. Meanwhile at the same church, Angela begs a priest to allow Isabel to receive a church-sanctioned funeral, which the Bishop has refused, pointing out the Catholic rules regarding suicides.

At the end of the film’s credits, Constantine visits Chas’s grave, leaving his cigarette lighter atop the grave. As Constantine turns to leave, Chas appears as an angel, and flies silently into the sky, leaving behind a smiling Constantine.

The Chronicles of Narnia The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe

  • Directors: Andrew Adamson
  • Producers: Mark Johnson, Perry Moore, Philip Steuer, Douglas Gresham
  • Writers: Novel, C S Lewis, Screenplay, Ann Peacock, Andrew Adamson, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
  • Genres: Adventure, Family, Fantasy
  • Actors: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Tilda Swinton, James McAvoy, Jim Broadbent, Ray Winstone, Dawn French, Rupert Everett, Liam Neeson

The film begins with the 1940 bombing of Finchley, London, during the Blitz. The Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, are in direct danger from the falling bombs – a scene which did not appear in the original C.S. Lewis book and which at the very start introduces the underlying tension and jealousy between Edmund and his siblings which would have a major role in the later plot.

Subsequently, the children are – as in the book – evacuated to the country home of Professor Kirke. One day while they are playing hide and seek, Lucy discovers a wardrobe and enters a wintery fantasy world called Narnia. She spends a few hours in the home of the faun, Mr. Tumnus, who explains that the White Witch cursed Narnia, and it has been winter for one hundred years. In accordance with her orders, if a human is ever encountered, a Narnian must bring them to her. However, Tumnus likes Lucy and can’t bring himself to kidnap her so he sends her home. When she returns, hardly any time has passed in the normal world, and when the other children check the Wardrobe, all they see is a normal wooden back – the portal is gone.

The Pevensies become Kings and Queens and stay in Narnia until they are older. When chasing a white stag to receive wishes, they find the lamppost and the wardrobe and go back to England, where they magically appear as children again. The Professor then tosses them the ball used to break the window and instructs them to tell him the story. Later, Lucy attempts to go back to Narnia, but the Professor tells her he has been trying for years, and they will probably get back to Narnia when least expected.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

  • Directors: David Fincher
  • Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Cean Chaffin
  • Writers: Screenplay, Eric Roth, Screen story, Eric Roth, Robin Swicord, Short story, F Scott Fitzgerald
  • Genres: Drama, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance
  • Actors: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P Henson, Julia Ormond, Tilda Swinton

The elderly Daisy (Cate Blanchett) is on her deathbed with her daughter Caroline (Julia Ormond) in a New Orleans hospital as Hurricane Katrina approaches in August 2005. Daisy tells the story of a blind clockmaker named Gateau (Elias Koteas), who was commissioned to create a clock to hang in the New Orleans train station. After receiving news of his son’s death in World War I, he continued work on his clock, but intentionally designed it to run backward, in the hope that it would bring back those who died in the war. After her cryptic story, Daisy asks Caroline to read aloud from a diary containing photographs and postcards written by Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt). Caroline begins to read as the story transitions to Benjamin’s narration.

On November 11, 1918, just as the people of New Orleans are celebrating the end of World War I, a baby boy is born with the appearance and physical maladies of an elderly man. The mother of the baby dies shortly after giving birth, and the father, Thomas Button (Jason Flemyng), takes the baby and abandons him on the porch of a nursing home. Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) and Tizzy (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), a couple who work at the nursing home, find the baby. Queenie, who is unable to conceive, decides to take the baby in as her own, against Tizzy’s wishes. She names the baby Benjamin.

In the 2005 hospital room, the hurricane raging outside downs the electrical system. As Caroline briefly leaves the room, Daisy passes away, her wish of seeing Benjamin again seemingly answered by a hummingbird hovering outside the storm-drenched windows. Against the sounds of the city’s emergency sirens and reports of breached levees, the backwards clock is shown in a basement, still working, as floodwaters envelope the storage room where it is kept.