Hail, Caesar! – Review

  
I was nodding off half way through the latest movie from the Coen brothers. “It’s not you, it’s me” I thought. A late night. “The film is possibly better than this”. I remember falling asleep in their 2002 offering The Man Who Wasn’t There, but blamed that on jetlag as I was watching it in Florida. But the fact a trio of pensioners walked out half way through made me realise it was them, not me. 

It’s bursting with great actors. George Clooney is terrific as movie star Baird Whitlock, fronting the eponymous biblical epic; Channing Tatum is splendid as Burt Gurney, a thespian in an On the Town style musical; Tilda Swinton superb in dual roles as Thora and Thessaly Thacker, twin sisters and rival gossip columnists, while Scarlett Johansson excellent as DeeAnna Moran, an Esther Williams-type starlet with a smart mouth. Then there’s Josh Brolin as Eddie Mannix, the head of production at Capitol Pictures and troubleshooter who is constantly in meetings or fixing problems. 

  
Hollywood, 2016. 

When Whitlock is drugged and abducted by a team called The Future, we expect the usual kidnap cliches. But this being a Coen brothers movie, nothing is as it seems. 

As the comedy drama plays out, and reaches its conclusion, there was a huge feeling of “Is that it?” when the closing credits rolled. The audience sat in stunned silence as the realisation that there was nothing more

Yes, it’s entertaining and often hilarious, especially a scene with director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) and Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), a nice but dumb cowboy who has to adapt to a period costume drama. But while the A list stars were obviously lining up to appear, it’s a shame the story isn’t strong enough for their talents. 

It looks beautiful and of the time, while the score is pleasantly forgettable. 

However, given the siblings’ previous hits such as The Big Lebowski and No Country for Old Men, this, to quote a mate is ’Fail, Caesar!’

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Sicario – A Review

Sicario is one of the best films of 2015, a taut, compelling, beautifully lensed thriller about the hunt for a crimelord.
That’s it. Though for the first half it seems to be so much more. It’s also a Trojan horse of a movie, making you believe that Emily Blunt’s FBI officer heroine Kate Mercer is the main character when in fact it’s Benicio Del Toro’s duplicitous protagonist or antagonist that knits the movie together. 

Josh Brolin is terrific as the government agent who acts as a bridge between Blunt and DelToro, while Harry Enfield’s old colleague Daniel Kaluuya is on fine form as Blunt’s colleague. 

  

The ominous score by Johann Johansson is filled with slow building menace, while Roger Deakins’ photography is stunning. 

See it on a big screen and then wait for the obligatory Golden Globe nods. 

One of the best things about it is the fact it’s a real drama, not some advert for a video game, or a franchise launching adventure. Nor is it a vanity project. It has meat on its bones and sustains the interest from start to end. 

On the strength of this, director Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2 cannot come soon enough. Given the fact his work on Prisoners was outstanding, it’s good to see him go from strength to strength. 

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – The Review

Do you ever watch a film and marvel at the construction, savour the script, relish the photography and soak up the score?
Of course you do. But by the time the film is over, do the sum total of those fabulous elements feel less because the story lacked a certain something? Yes again.
Sin City 2 is one of those movies, as stylish as the original, boasting splendid virtual and real sets inspired by Frank Miller’s source comic.
The presence of Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon Levitt, and original stars Bruce Willis, Powers Boothe, Jessica Alba and Rosario Dawson gel nicely. The hard boiled characters and narrative are terrific, violent, sexy, extreme, brutal and seductive, but strip away the visuals and creative flourishes and truth is you’re left with some rather dull stories.
It’s a shame as Miller has long been one of the best storytellers in the business, but nine years after the first Sin City, although this belated sequel dovetails well enough, it does feel a bit of a waste.
However, as with the other Miller-inspired comic prequel/sequel this year, 300: Rise of an Empire, Eva Green steals the show as a femme fatale at the heart of the drama.
She looks as terrific now as when she stole hearts in a The Dreamers all those years ago, usually wearing little more than a smile and some conveniently placed shadows.
I wanted to like Sin City 2 more than I did, but by the time the closing titles rolled I felt short changed by the plot twists which left me rooting for one character only to be let down. I’ll not say why, but maybe it’s the relentless bloodletting that even when interpreted as glowing white liquids, gets a little samey and tiresome.
It’s well worth a look, but was more style than substance. Great style admittedly, but with more of an emotional wallop and less gunshots and sword slashes, it could have been a modern classic.

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Photo: Roger Crow.