Coens at Cannes 

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Just as Quentin Tarantino has a hard-on for revenge flicks (and no one does it better) the Coen Brothers seem to like making crazy, Odyssey-style journeys full of wild characters, glinting wit and bad-but-oh-so-awesome protagonists navigating some sort of personal purgatory. And it usually works, from 1987's Raising Arizona through Barton Fink, Fargo, O Brother Where Art Thou, No Country for Old Men and, my personal fave, The Big Lebowski the Coens have been Americas most prolific, quality filmmakers for almost two decades. They've had seven films in contention for the Palm d'Or at Cannes and they just missed the big prize last week when their latest, Inside Llewyn Davis, took the Grand Prix (which translates to "the big prize" but is actually awarded to the runner up).

Although not set for release on this side of the pond until December, Inside Llewyn Davis is worth getting excited about now. Oscar Isaac (Drive) stars as a surly but talented folk musician in an early-1960s New York/Greenwich Village scene and Carey Mulligan (Drive, The Great Gatsby) plays the woman sucked into the mess. Inside Llewyn Davis looks to be some kind of down-the-rabbit-hole character piece seeped in tender sadness, sharp cruelty, incredible music and a runaway cat. Watch the trailer online and start getting stoked, this could be the best picture of the year.

On a total side note: It could also be some kind of cinematic climax to whatever is trending in popular music these days — it seems like there's that whole banjo-stomp/dustbowl-folk-revisionist thing going on so this flick might end up inadvertently being the hippest thing anyone's seen in their lives. (Be wary though: life imitates art and when depression-era music resurges there's often a depression riding in behind it. Just sayin'...)

But tomorrow's such a long time and there's plenty happening at the Whistler Village 8 right now. The magician heist film Now You See Me opens Friday, and even with a PG rating it looks really awesome. Remixing the Robin Hood vibe with a side of Occupy movement, four magicians pull off a series of bank heists and give all the profits back to the people. This annoys the FBI and what looks like a totally kick-ass (if perhaps a bit CGI-heavy) cat-and-mouse game ensues.

Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland, The Social Network) stars alongside smokin' hot Isla Fisher (Hot Rod, Confessions of a Shopaholic), Mark Ruffalo (Zodiac, The Kids are Alright) and Woody Harrelson (do I really need to list one? Everyone knows Woody) and the FBI stooge is played by Morgan "the voice" Freeman.

Director Louis Leterrier is best known for his work on The Transporter franchise. Those flicks are decently made, nice-looking action movies but here's hoping he can elevate the intelligence quotient a bit this time out. There were no press screenings but in this case I'm calling that a good sign — no decent magician reveals a trick before it's pulled off.

Will Smith is back saving the world (and the universe) in M. Knight Shamalayan's After Earth, also opening Friday, and this time he's got his kid with him so the stakes are even higher. Apparently it's the future and earth is abandoned except for savage mutant beasts. After crash-landing Will (the legend) and Son (the headstrong young ranger) must learn to work together while overcoming some typical family drama. I'm kind of tired of Will Smith and his lack of career risks (although starring in a film made by M. Knight Shamalayan is certainly is a risk: that guy sucks more ass than a liposuction clinic).

And we might as well leave it at that.

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