Re-watching: Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead

Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead is a neo noir from 1995.  1995 was a pretty good year for neo noir films with The Usual Suspects, Se7en, Heat and Casino just to name a few!  That maybe why this film gets lost in the shuffle of great noir films from that year.  No, it isn’t as good as those I’ve mentioned but it is a damn good movie.

The film is directed by Gary Fleder and written by Scott Rosenberg with our top billed star being Andy Garcia.  This cast is full of great performers through out.  See if you can spot Don Cheadle, Jenny McCarthy and Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister in some of the smaller roles.

This story starts with a guy jumping a fence to get into a school playground to try to steal a little girl and gets caught.  His father, a kingpin of sorts named “The Man With The Plan” is played by Christopher Walken.  He tells Garcia how his son was in love with a girl in high school and college and that girl left him for another man and moved to California.  This girl’s new boyfriend is on his way back to Denver to ask her parents permission to marry her.  This will push Walken’s son over the edge.  He hires Garcia to take care of this.  Garcia then gets his old team back together for one last easy payoff.  The gang consists of Christopher Lloyd, William Forsythe, Bill Nunn, and Treat Williams.  The job goes horribly wrong when things get out of hand and they kill the boyfriend, then the girlfriend gets out of the van and they kill her too.  Now they are in trouble because they have killed The Man With The Plan’s only hope for his son’s future happiness and normality.  Steve Buscemi is the hit-man hired to kill our team.  Gabrielle Anwar plays Garcia’s romantic interest.  Garcia is running all over Denver trying to get his team out-of-town and spend as much time with Anwar before he has to leave town himself.  Will our team get out alive?  Will Garcia save his team and sacrifice himself?  Will he be able to talk Anwar into going with him?

This cast of characters are a blast to watch and all have their unique weaknesses.  The slang in this movie is fun and original, who doesn’t want to use terms like Boat Drinks and Buckwheats. Our gangsters handshake is interesting and has a cool story behind it, we find this out from our old-timer gangster, played by Jack Warden, who pops up from time to time telling the tourists about the good old days.

If all this sounds amazing to you, you should check out this film right away.  It is a very good neo noir that may be overshadowed by some of the best movies of all-time that came out in the same year.  That doesn’t mean this isn’t worth watching too.  For all fans of noir looking for something to watch, Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead maybe what you are looking for.

Review: Barton Fink

Even though I’m a big fan of the Coen Brothers, this is the first time I’ve ever watched this.  I guess the story never really appealed to me, but I always knew I would get around to watching this sooner or later.  This kept popping up on lists of neo-noir films, so I thought it was about time to watch it and give it a review on here.  Would this hold up to my Coen Brothers favorites like Fargo, Blood Simple, The Man Who Wasn’t There and Miller’s Crossing?  This was actually written when Joel and Ethan Coen had writers block while writing Miller’s Crossing.  I recently reviewed this often overlooked classic here:

Our story is about Barton Fink, played by John Turturro, a writer from New York who soon finds himself in Los Angles to be part of the Hollywood machine.  He check’s into a hotel where he meets his neighbor Charlie Meadows, played by John Goodman.  Fink is hired to write a script for a wrestling film and he has some writers block.  We meet a wide range of Hollywood types throughout the film.  It is a wild ride, but to be honest we don’t get into the noir part of this film until the second half and though we get a bit of a twist, its pretty minor.

On thing I noticed watching this, is the list of amazing actors in this film.  The other is we get no matinée idols here, just a cast of great performers who are their based on their talent and not on their looks.  This is something we don’t see very often.  Some of the actors we see here are Michael Lerner,John Mahoney,Tony Shalhoub, Jon Polito and Steve Buscemi.

This film has a lot of hidden meaning and almost feels more like a David Lynch film then a Coen Brothers film.  For instance the theory that the hotel is actually hell.  Keep that in mind next time you watch it and see what you think.  The ending also made me feel like something out of a Lynch film as well.

Even though it isn’t a pure neo-noir film like some of Coen Brother’s other films, it is a very good film.  The Coen’s make the hotel and old Hollywood look great, the story is interesting(you wonder how much of this film comes out of the Coen’s frustration with the Hollywood system), and it is a thinking man’s movie.  If you are new to Coen Brothers films, I would start with the four films I listed earlier.  If you already have seen most everything from these guys but haven’t seen this yet, you should give it a try.

Favorite Tidbit: John Mahoney’s character is based on William Faulkner.  Faulkner’s first work in Hollywood was for a wrestling movie.  Barton Fink was based on Clifford Odets, a screen writer in Hollywood in the 1940’s and 1950’s.  He wrote screenplays for some great films including’s favorites Deadline at Dawn and Sweet Smell of Success, as well as a few other great noir films we will look at.

Re-watching the Classics: A Fresh Look at Miller’s Crossing


Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, the Coen Brothers, neo noir legends that have made so many classic modern noir films it’s hard to pick a favorite.  This is not me picking my favorite of Coen Brothers film, this is me reviewing the one I think is the most underrated.  After their debut Blood Simple and before the Oscar-winning Fargo, both classics, they made a small movie called Miller’s Crossing.  The Coen’s used a mishmash of noir legend Dashiell Hammett books to write this story.


Gabriel Byrne plays our hero, a gangster with a gambling problem.  He’s the right hand man of the boss played by Albert Finney.  Both of them are in love with our femme fatale Verna, played by Marcia Gay Harden.  The plot is further complicated by Verna’s brother, played by John Turturro, who is always in trouble and Verna is using anybody and everybody to protect him.  A boxing match is being fixed by competing gangster Johnny Casper played by Joe Polito, but somebody is leaking the information.  We see cameo’s by Steve Buscemi and Frances McDormand, Coen Brother favorites, and a cool cameo from director Sam Raimi.  J.E. Freeman as the Dane and Mike Starr as Frankie play great heavies.

This story is full of plot twists you don’t see coming in classic noir style.  It takes place in the late 1920’s maybe early 1930’s, we have corrupt cops, back stabbing gangsters, gamblers, murder, great dialog, and sets.  If you like the Coen Brothers and have not seen this movie it, do it!  Great film worth a viewing.