‘Hail, Caesar!’: Review

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Due to my avoiding of as much of the trailers and released promotional materials as possible of movies nowadays, my view of Hail, Caesar! was a bit skewed. Ironically, I saw this trailer a ton from going to the theatre a ton over the past few months, probably more than others, and it mainly outlined the story of George Clooney’s top star actor of the 1950s character of Baird Whitlock being abducted by this mysterious group while Josh Brolin’s Eddie Mannix, an influencer in Hollywood, was tasked with getting him back, and then with this being a Coen’s brothers movie we’d be introduced to a cavalcade of wacky characters and such along the way. While this is true, the film is more specifically about filtering the eyes of Hollywood through Mannix’s eyes by going through all these Hollywood specific problems he has to deal with, with Whitlock’s kidnapping just another element of it.

In the end, it’s not much of a spoiler, but the whole Whitlock kidnapping is a non-starter. He gets abducted by some Communists, is a little unsure of everything, but then eventually becomes swayed by their ideals and then he just eventually gets rescued while the Communists are out dropping one of their members off on a Russian sub (yep). There is no big showdown, fist or gun fight or one-on-one battle, nope, Whitlock just gets rescued being left alone in his captor’s house, and that’s that for what you originally would think would be the main thrust of the picture.

Of course there are other stories, including Hobie Doyle an actor specifically skilled to play basic cowboy roles being thrust into a serious dramatic role which includes things he’s not used to like speaking… He thus finds himself more embroiled in stereotypical “Hollywood” in getting set up on dates to make his image look good and just generally trying to get by in the business on his good boy charm. Scarlett Johansson is in briefly as DeeAnna Moran a famous star whose new pregnancy causes the studio to scramble to cover it by hooking her up with a partner or making her adopt her own kid to look good in PR. We see a glimpse of Channing Tatum’s character of Burt Gurney who of course is a skilled dancer and singer and of course ends up being the leader of the Communists who abducted Whitlock and the same guy who gets dropped off at the sub.

Writing out these storylines they seem kinda boring and seemingly having no juice to use as a storyline in a movie where really not much actually happens or even really that much positive or negative and everything really just ends up pretty neutral at the end of things. This being the Coen’s it’s not that straightforward and tedious, where going through the ride of the film it eventually becomes quite evident that it’s very happy to remain so small, and never is a big sweeping epic with large plot or scene set pieces (besides the literal films), but everything works fine enough that way. Everything is very small scale and eventually reverts back to the status quo, something I’m sure that was prevalent in the minds of the Coen’s when they made this a commentary of Hollywood at the time and the business in general.

In other hands this wouldn’t work so well, but the Coen’s are skilled enough to make the small-scale minutiae work so well and the cast is all game and so seemingly of the area that they make everything work where their commitment would cover holes, if any. On first glance it still feels like one of the lesser Coen films, even though there is a lot to like in what they generally do with their lighter films, but is still a worthy addition to their catalogue, especially with the ones where they like to put the fun out forefront with the more serious issues bubbling just underneath.

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‘Inside Llewyn Davis’: Review

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Inside Llewyn Davis really just classic Coen themes. You’ve got your introspective character on some sort of journey, usually snarky in some sort of way/kind of an asshole, bizarre characers being met along the way, SYMBOLISM, music and so on. It’s all here, and it’s all so goddamn great.

After watching Treme for the last few years I absolutely how it didn’t give a fuck about the story and would just show people singing a song for, like four minutes or show, not-outwardly pushing any plot along, but creating an experiene and an atmosphere. I love shows/movies that don’t care about typical format and just do what they feel. Well, “Davis” is like that in so many ways, and chief among them its reliability  on music and its presence in the film. We learn so much about these characters when they sing, branching out in to how they perform and what they sing, it’s as much character development as anything else. It’s not a “musical” film, but rather a film that happens to have musical moments and uses that device to further the characters.

Of course it’s 1000x better when you have this quality of acting skill to back everything up. I’m pretty sure I hadn’t heard of Oscar Isaac before this, but holy shit whoever casted him deserves a shiny gold ribbon because he’s utterly perfect. Not only can he actually sing wonderfully, but he’s that perfect mix of sad-sack and motivational that makes you always hope for the best with him. I was just constantly amazed at the depths he would go to and how terrifically he embodied the role, and it’s a shame he’s not really getting recognized in awards season, even with the stiff competition.

I really loved the film twofold as a character study and as a journey or adventure film, but if you really want to get down to it, they really fit into the same category. I still find it hard to believe that the Coen’s can keep topping themselves, but they seemingly do it every year or so, and this is no different. It’s a new approach they haven’t taken before, yet the themes and subject matter are still so familiar that it feels so very “Coen.”

9/10

‘The Wicker Man’: Review

Nicolas Cage in the middle of “acting."

Nicolas Cage in the middle of “acting.”

I really don’t even know where to start with this one. Well, some table-setting as I always seem to do, I guess. I’ve been on a Nicolas Cage kick, for, oh, uh, like two months now and am intent on filling in the gaps of his career that I have yet to see. Nonetheless, current day Nic Cage, who just happens to be insane, delivers the most mind-numbing performances that they demand to be seen before any of the handful of his actual “good” films. Of course, The Wicker Man is insanely popular online and such for just how god-awfully, ridiculous and hilariously bad it is. I had to finally see it for myself, and oh my lord how it exceeded all my expectations in how bat-shit it was.

I’m not really sure what the plot was. Something about Cage being a policeman and being summoned to an island strictly inhabited by women in order to find a missing girl, and oh yeah, these women are obsessed with honey and worship bees. Yup, you read that right. It really doesn’t matter, because you and I only watched this movie for everything outside what faintly resembles a plot.

So, what makes a bad movie? Acting? Well, yes, that’s always the chief problem, and it’s bad here of course. But, the dialogue that the actors are saddled with is some of the most baffling words puts together that I’ve ever seen. It’s weirdly cutesy and often attempts to be poetic and philosophical, failing at every chance. Hey did I tell you that Ellen Burstyn is in this? Yes, ELLEN BURSTYN, that ELLEN BURSTYN, playing the matriarch character of the island, who is giving the line-readings of someone who worked a couple days and is just anticipating her check to cashed into her bank account. Molly Parker is also a wonderful actress who has to be terrible here. The wonderful Frances Conroy is very creepy, but deserves oh so much better.

I still can’t process this movie even days after seeing it, so I’m just going to spew out random awful observations from the movie. There is one scene that they cut back to in a flashback for about, no joke, 10 times throughout the movie, providing nothing we didn’t already know. But, hey psychological “horror” movie, right guys? I’m pretty sure they just threw that scene in multiple times just to extend the running time. There’s also about 10 minutes in total, if you combined all the scenes, of Nicolas Cage riding a bicycle. Yup, nothing but him riding to his next destination, but apparently we have to see shot after shot of it. Again, seemingly just to extend the run time. Cage does won of the most hilarious dives into a lake you’ll ever see. There’s a scene where he has a dream within a dream within a dream, and it’s every bit as incredible as you think it could be. Nicolas Cage punches about 37 women throughout the movie, and one such instance he just walks up to an unassuming women, says nothing, and coldcocks her. After he punches some women, he puts on a bear suit, oh my god yes, he puts on a BEAR SUIT and proceed to punch more women. I think it’s time to repeat, that yes, this was a “Hollywood” film that was indeed released in theatres. People worked hard to make this, gaffers, foley, sound, video, sets, costumes, make-up, catering, EVERYTHING. And not once did someone think any of this, not even a small part, was a bad idea. It’s just so, so,so incredible.

It’s so, so, so amazing that this movie is billed as a horror movie. Quite seriously, if they had labeled it as a comedy, we wouldn’t be talking shit about it. No, we’d be hailing it as the funniest movie of 2006. Like, I mean a lot of it is unintentional comedy, but it’s so horrible in spots that it has to be, just has to of been made under knowingly terrible circumstances. Not that it makes it any better, but it’s really just me trying to make sense out of everything. Really the only redeeming aspect of the movie is the ending which is anything but a copout. I guess I should clarify that this is the extended version I’m talking about, whereas the theatrical version has a horrible ending to fall in line with the horrible movie that came before it that randomly has James Franco and Jason Ritter. I don’t know either. I know that I’m missing or forgetting about 1000 other dumb, random incredible bits and quotes that pepper this movie, but it’s impossible to reprint them all without me just copying and pasting the screenplay. Yeah, someone actually sat down and wrote this. Actually, that reminds me of another hilarious thing. Neil LaBute wrote the screenplay, and then felt so obviously connected to the story that he HAD to direct it as well. Apparently, LaBute thinks he’s some kind of auteur like Paul Thomas Anderson or the Coen Brothers. I’m not even watching the movie, but typing words about it is making it melt my brain even more. The Wicker Man, everybody, a movie randomly dedicated to Johnny Ramone. Amazing.

3/10