LFF 2018: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Year: 2018
Directed by: Joel & Ethan Coen
Cast: Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson,

Written by Dave Curtis

Have you ever wondered how many ideas rattle around the inside of Joel and Ethan Coens head? The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is the end product of some of those ideas they could no longer contain. This Netiflx produced film has every thing you love and hate from the brothers, fantastic characters, a host of famous names, snappy smart dialogue, beautiful cinematography and strong bloody violence.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is an anthology of short stories set in the old west. It was once destined for the small screen as a TV series but luckily it has been given the big screen treatment, the landscapes alone deserved it. The film starts with a shot of a book, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. A hand appears and turns the front cover to reveal the first chapter which is accompanied by a carefully drawn picture from the upcoming story. With it is a small section of dialogue, teasing what is about to happen. This happens every time a story ends and a new chapter begins.

First up is Buster Scruggs himself, played by Coen Brothers regular Tim Blake Nelson. First seen riding his horse (named Dan) playing a guitar and singing at the top of his voice. He might come across as fun time cowboy but really he is a crack shot, deadly as he is polite. This chapter is classic Coen Bros. Funny and violent. A full film of just Buster Scruggs would have been all we needed. It is a fun and blistering first 30 minutes, if only The Ballad of Buster Scruggs could maintain that level.

James Franco as a bumbling bank robber in the second short story gets the best line and biggest laugh in the whole film. Over the next few short stories there are a collection of more serious and darker tales. Don’t worry the usual humour is sprinkled about. There is Liam Neeson as a travelling entertainer of sorts. Tom Waits searching for gold. Zoe Karzan who joins a wagon train to search for a new life in Oregon. Brendan Gleeson (sorry no beard) and others in stagecoach journey. In all this the movie takes a slight dip. Each story is different in appearance and tone. The transition between story could have been worked out better. Maybe using a reoccurring character or location would have smoothed it out (but what do I know, the Coen Brothers are masters and definitely know better than me). Apparently this is the longest film the two brothers have made and in some places it does feel that way.

If its one thing that the Coen Brothers do well is Westerns and stunning landscapes. Cinematographer Bruno Delhonnel here working with Joel and Ethan for the second time (The first being ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’) captures the mood and feel for each little story perfectly.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs may not be the Coen Brothers best film, but a bad film for them is still better than most films released today. The problem is when it’s good it is really good and that reflects on some on the slower stories. A strong start and beautiful cinematography enriched by a score by Carter Burwell tides this film together. The cast are just the icing that brings it all together. Tim Blake Nelson is the films VIP.


Dave’s Verdict:


Netflix Release First Trailer For Coen Brothers’ ‘The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs’

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a six-part Western anthology film, a series of tales about the American frontier told through the unique and incomparable voice of Joel and Ethan Coen. Each chapter tells a distinct story about the American West.”

Directed by: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Cast: Tim Blake Nelson , James Franco, Liam Neeson, David Krumholtz, Brendan Gleeson

Release Date: November 16th (Netflix)

First Trailer For George Clooney’s ‘Suburbicon’ Released

“Suburbicon is a peaceful, idyllic suburban community with affordable homes and manicured lawns …the perfect place to raise a family, and in the summer of 1959, the Lodge family is doing just that. But the tranquil surface masks a disturbing reality, as husband and father Gardner Lodge must navigate the town’s dark underbelly of betrayal, deceit, and violence. This is a tale of very flawed people making very bad choices. This is Suburbicon.”

Once again, George Clooney is sitting on the opposite side of the camera than we’re used to with his latest directorial effort, ‘Suburbicon’, which he co-wrote with the Coen Brothers. 

Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, and Oscar Isaac star in the promising and bloody first trailer, which sees Damon’s character, Gardener, begin to fight back against mobsters and loan sharks following the murder of his wife. 

You’ll be welcomed to the neighbourhood when ‘Suburbicon’ releases 24th November. 

Written by Tom Sheffield


The World Is Yours – Scarface Re-Imagining Set For 2018

As we all grow increasingly weary of tiresome reboot announcements from the motion-picture industry, you would be forgiven for thinking that Hollywood is scratching its noggin thinking ‘what next?’. It has been no secret that a ‘Scarface’ re-imagining has been in Universal’s crosshairs for some time. With an August 2018 release date, critics await news of concrete developments before they poise their pens for a slating. Brian De Palma’s 1983 ‘Scarface’ is a remake of the 1932 original produced by Howard Hughes. De Palma’s Scarface tells the story of a violently determined Cuban immigrant who climbs the criminal underworld to run a drug cartel in Miami.

‘You know what capitalism is? Getting fucked!’

Scarface may be Hollywood’s first most politically relevant reboot since Trump’s inauguration. Diego Luna (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) is tipped to star in the remake, the infamous anti-protagonist being a Mexican immigrant and not Cuban; a pertinent detail amendment that seems to resonate with Trump’s America. The second detail being that the 2018 Scarface will be set in Los Angeles as opposed to Miami.

When discussing films of the 80’s it’s hard to overlook Al Pacino’s Tony Montana wearing his iconic pinstripe, heavily dusted in Yayo, and wielding a high-powered assault rifle. So a third remake is quite an ambitious leap. However unlike many other remakes in recent years, at first glance Scarface appears to be in a good set of hands. Boardwalk Empire and Sopranos writer Terence Winter has been reportedly casting a watchful eye over a preliminary script, followed by Ethan and Joel Coen (Bridge of Spies and No Country for Old Men) who take on screenplay responsibilities.

No new project is without its hitch nevertheless. Antoine Fuqua was initially in talks to sit in the director’s chair however has had to quit due to commitments with ‘The Equaliser’ sequel,  starring Denzel Washington. A director is therefore yet to be announced, although according to Variety, Universal have been meeting directors and are keen to start production.

Watch this space.

‘Scarface’ is currently slated for release on 10th August 2018

Written by Mark Putley

Coen Brothers To Head Cannes Jury

In an unprecedented move, the legendary Coen brothers are set to head the feature film jury at the Cannes 2015 film festival. Never before has a pair of filmmakers led the jury, read the duo’s reaction here.