I suppose Rian Johnson's first film, Brick, is better than his new one. There he takes a conceit that should be very silly (let's do a high-school flick using hard-boiled film noir dialogue) and makes it (mostly) work, capturing the sense of loneliness and desperation associated with noir.
For his follow-up, The Brothers Bloom, he's turned to another genre, the con artist/caper, flick. Bloom is altogether more light-hearted than Brick, although there's a serious undercurrent here too, with Adrien Brody turning in an affecting performance as Bloom, a man who feels his life has been entirely "written" by his older brother Stephen (Mark Ruffalo), the mastermind of the elaborate cons which usually center around Bloom. The film is about the brothers' attempt at conning an eccentric heiress ("I collect hobbies") out of her fortune, an attempt made difficult by Bloom's habit of falling in love with his con-ees (it's Rachel Weisz: who can blame him?). The film has been criticized a bit for feeling too much like a Wes Anderson flick, and it definitely has that jaunty but melancholy tone to it (the first half hour or so, especially, whizzes by, with the frames crammed full of intricate detail and occasional jokes sort of quietly playing out in the background). Like most films about cons, it culminates in a series of things-are-not-what-they-seem revelations which are never quite interesting enough to make this a con-artist classic like The Sting or Mamet's House of Games. But the four central performances are strong (Rinko Kikuchi plays Ruffalo's second-in-command, Bang Bang, almost entirely without dialogue, just an inventive series of hand and eye gestures...very funny).
This makes three worthy theatrical ventures in a row. The Hangover might make four. But Ferrell's Land of the Lost will almost surely be a large piece of dinosaur shit.