Screengrab: Twin Coens



Richard Lutz points to the movies you just can’t miss on the box this week

The Coen Brothers (Joel and Ethan) take chances dinkering with different genres and making them extremely funny or at least bittersweet. Most times they succeed.

This Thursday there are two on show on the box: one an outrageous comedy and the other a misfiring  attempt that just doesn’t cut the chill sauce.

Firstly, there is The Big Lebowski (ITV4, 23.30). It is an uproariously funny parody of an old Hollywood 1940’s whodunnit complete with a marijauna-infused hero, a bunch of post moderrn nihilists who want to rule the world and the wicked hard universe of ten pin bowling


Well, that about sums up the plot which is as twisty and turny and obscure  as The Big Sleep back in them good old noir days.

But Jeff Bridge’s role as funky spaced cadet  Dude Lebowski is no Bogart. More interested in his bowling leagues, his weed and listening to recording of whales, he gets mixed up in a crime story that he doesn’t understand- and nor do we.

Who cares? it’s a hoot.Cast includes grade A comic turns from Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, John Turturro, John Goodman and Julienne Moore.

Director Joel Coen said: ”We wanted a hopelessly complex plot that’s ultimately unimportant…We wanted to do a Chandler kind of story.’

Well, he and his brother did just that with a hit of Acapulco gold thrown in. It has now gained cult status , many say it is the greatest comedy of all time and its music is a joy: Dylan, Kenny Rogers, Capt Beefheart and Duke Ellington.

Earlier in the evening is the other Coen film: Burn After Reading (ITV, 22.35). This really isn’t up to Coen standards.  It is as the brothers are trying too hard: a Washington DC conspiracy caper studded with dumb characters. But tune in for a great comic performance from Brad Pitt as he effortlessly portrays a doughnut-brained gym rat  who can’t get anything right. He sends himself up something pretty and is the star turn in a film that…well…tries a tad too hard  (and that ain’t funny).

Footnote: A movie that is, sadly, unintentional comedy: Al Pacino in The Merchant of Venice (Fri; BBC2 00.10).

Al, baby… stick to the streets and barely controlled anger. Leave Will Shakespeare to the experts (ie the British)