Hail, Caesar!

Our first review post-Oscars is the Coen Brother’s newest feature film, Hail, Caeser! Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, and Alden Ehrenreich, it is rated PG-13 for some suggestive content and smoking.

From IMDB: Hail, Caesar! follows a day in the life of Eddie Mannix (Brolin), a Hollywood fixer for Capitol Pictures in the 1950s, who cleans up and solves problems for big names and stars in the industry. But when studio star Baird Whitlock  (Clooney) disappears, Mannix has to deal with more than just the fix.

6 out of 10

I knew something was up when this movie was set for release in February. We all knows what happens when movies are released in February. They either suck or are rom-coms. Or Deadpool (more on that next week!). Unfortunately for Hail, Caesar!, it fell into the first category. Suck may be a rather strong word, so for a Coen Brothers film with a slew of stars— Brolin, Clooney, Fiennes, Johansson, Tatum, Hill, Swinton, McDormand, to go through pretty much the entire cast— disappointing might be the most appropriate adjective. 

I will say, there are plenty of really funny moments, largely due to the commitment from the cast to the period. The period style is maintained throughout, buoyed by great costumes and production design but solidified by some really solid performances all around.The entire cast does a very good job; there is no true weak point. Everyone does a fantastic job of staying in the era and dramatizing the time period. Clooney and Fiennes were both hilarious, poking fun of the 1950s Hollywood with perfection. Tatum’s musical number was a sight to behold. Even newcomer Alden Ehrenreich, playing young movie star Hobie Doyle, holds his ground and is pretty funny in what ends up being a sizable role.

hail caeser 2

But the acting can only get it so far; the screenplay was relatively weak, incorporating many characters who ended up being useless (namely Johansson and Hill). I kept expecting them to have something to do with the conclusion of the film, but they literally just disappeared. The plot was very scattered; there were a lot of characters without a purpose and a climax that made absolutely no sense and was uninteresting. What was the deal with communism? I still don’t understand. Hail, Caeser!’s primary issue was its failure to amount to anything as a film; the ending was not satisfying nor did it make any sense. A movie with a great cast and so much potential was ruined by its failed storyline, a shame because the Coen Brother’s are usually so good with that.

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The Coen Brothers style is prevalent, from the quirky dialogue to the signature Roger Deakins cinematography. And I personally am a huge fan of them, so the eccentric nature of the film was not unexpected. In fact, I think without that signature style, the film would have lacked any charm at all. Hail, Ceaser! is a Coen Brother’s film that is funny and decent entertainment for six dollar movie Tuesday, but not a movie that I’ll remember years from now.
~Vig

8 out of 10

The Coen Brothers are some of my favorite directors making movies today. With films like Fargo and The Big Lebowski, they make some of the most wonderfully strange and critically­ acclaimed movies in the last thirty years. Now there latest film is Hail, Caesar!, takes place in 1950s Hollywood, focusing on Josh Brolin’s character, who is the head of the fictional Capitol Pictures and his adventures. The trailers focused on the production of the film “Hail, Caesar” and their troubles as their leading man, played by George Clooney, is kidnapped by a odd group of people.

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But the film is more about a day in the life of Brolin’s character in its craziness, and moreover, the Coen Brothers’ love letter to this interesting period of cinema. Brolin links us in between incredible set pieces like Scarlett Johansson in a fantastical swimming dance and Channing Tatum in a sailor’s’ musical number. And it is quite interesting to watch. The film has been getting some mixed reviews from fans who are confused about what the movie is and its unsatisfying ending. And I did walk out wanting closure, with a few plot elements that are picked up and put down before being fully explored, but it made me thinking about the film in a way that I wouldn’t have before.

I also found myself laughing consistently throughout the film. It isn’t like normal comedy with big over the top gags, but is more understated and happens in the really quick dialogue. Many well known actors, like Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton, come in for little scenes and are hilarious in the simplicity of these characters in the overall world of the film. It also appears like really famous actors, like Brolin and Clooney, are genuinely having a really great time acting in this film.

The film is lensed by great cinematographer Roger Deakins, who once again knocks it out of the park by putting real vibrancy in the world and making the set pieces actually feel like you are watching a film in the 1950s, which is truly incredible.

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Overall, the film is definitely not the Coen Brothers best in its meandering through 1950s Hollywood, but I found myself incredibly engaged until the abrupt ending. It is another strangely structured and plotted Coen Brothers film that may have some audiences feeling sour when they leave, but is definitely not one to fully dismiss in its ambition. And being a huge fan of their offbeat style, I fully enjoyed it.
~Seth

Gravity

Get pumped, because the most exciting time of the year is here! OSCAR SEASON! With the nominations just being announced, the two of us will get you reviews on several of the nominated films every week up until the big night. This week we’re taking a look at the visual spectacle that is Gravity. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, it stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. It is rated PG-13 for  perilous sequences, disturbing images and strong language.

Sandra Bullock stars as Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer on a shuttle mission with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (Clooney). However, while on a spacewalk, a Russian missile strike leads to a cloud of debris that strikes the shuttle and kills the entire crew except for Kowalsky and Stone. Facing a lack of oxygen, dangerous miscellaneous space objects, and the cold, loneliness of space, Gravity follows Stone on her miraculous attempt at a seemingly impossible task; surviving.

9.5 out of 10

I’ve had quite a number of arguments with my peers (16 year olds) about this film and somehow, they all hated it. And their argument was as simple as one or more of the following; the plot sucked, Sandra Bullock sucked, there was no build up, or even that the movie wasn’t scientifically accurate. To this I say… Nope.

I’ll address each of these issues one by one. First off, let me talk about the story. Everyone says this story was terrible or boring. It had nothing going on. It was basically Sandra Bullock breathing. If this is what you got from this movie, then clearly your head was in a different place. I got an epic, traumatic struggle for survival from a damaged, struggling women who has no motivation for survival but still wants to. So no, the story didn’t suck. It was not cookie cutter. It was inspirational, thrilling and kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. You’d probably be lying if you said you were bored throughout. This movie does an excellent job of preventing that from happening (largely thanks to the special effects & cinematography).

But fine, I understand that maybe it is tough to stay focused on just one actress for so long, especially if that one actress is Sandra Bullock. Despite this, I didn’t feel at a loss. I didn’t feel like there was anything more that they could have done. People have told me that Bullock was terrible, citing solely the fact that she is Sandra Bullock. Admittedly, Sandra is not my favorite actress by any stretch, but I thought she was excellent. She had a sense of desperation and will that is hard to grasp in film. All in all, a really great (and underrated) performance by her.

Sandra Bullock

Sandra Bullock

Next I’ll discuss the build up, or lack thereof. Okay, so there were only like 10 minutes or so before we got directly into the action, but there’s a couple things that allow this to slide. 1)The movie is short. Since it’s running only 90 minutes long, how much build up can you actually get: 2) There are basically only two characters, Kowalsky and Stone. You learn everything you need to know about them in the first ten minutes, specifically and most importantly that Stone basically has nothing back home on Earth. She doesn’t have anything to live for. That’s the most important thing to know about this film and about her character. She doesn’t have much to live for, yet somehow wants to survive. This is where the film gets into it its deeper implications about human nature, something else that makes the film great. I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff, but it’s not just about space and meteors and dying: it’s about surviving and motivation and will. I know I’ve already mentioned this a number of times, but that’s really such an integral part of making this film as great as it is.

And here’s my last counter argument: If you’re going to the movies to see a film for it’s scientific accuracy, then you’re not seeing a film for the right reasons. Since when has a movie EVER needed to be scientifically accurate to be good. Film is supposed to test boundaries and break down the realm of possibility. Maybe people like movies if they’re realistic, because they like feeling a connection to the film. But seriously, if you find yourself hating on a film because of scientific inaccuracies, you’re not enjoying cinema.

Gravity is indefinitely the best film we have reviewed (so far) in my opinion. I didn’t even have to mention the dazzling, groundbreaking effects and cinematography, or even Alfonso Cuaron’s masterful job directing. To keep it short, this movie is quite the spectacle.
~Vig

9.5 out of 10

To the normal viewer, space is an endless, dark, vapid setting with not a whole lot to offer as far as adventure if no aliens, airlocks or Enterprises are involved.

But to the trained, Hollywood eye, space has developed into an excellent backdrop for evolution, creation, discovery and a whole slew of other things that films like 2001: A Space Odyssey were able to cram in.

Gravity, the Best Picture nominee that it is, takes these two perspectives and sandwiches them together in a satisfying way that did not get too lost in its own action or ideas. So let’s dive into it:

Firstly, I really, deeply wish that I had seen this in IMAX. Space, as wide as it may be, is actually a very cramped setting to work with especially considering what this film demands. Had it been filmed or plotted out in a very unexciting way, this could have turned into a repetitive journey about two astronauts who keep falling into a deep green-screen effect but thankfully it isn’t. Nope, space is as wide of a setting as any other and, though it may seem tranquil, is always on the brink of playing host to something catastrophic.

Here, deep space is no different than the ocean as a setting for a survivor story. In other words, none of this gets lost in the novelty that it takes place beyond earth but it realizes the gravity (Hahaha.) of the setting it’s chosen and its very tough for me to describe the feeling the dark backdrop gives as our two main characters dangle above earth.

And, as great as everything around them is, Clooney and Bullock definitely hold the movie together as a mostly two-man show about making sacrifices in order to stay alive. I don’t think this movie is about plot so much as it is about them and the endurance they have to survive. Through them we are able to reach the film’s main point: the conflict between acceptance and change.

Kowalski, Clooney’s character, often has to call the shots about where the two go next and how to move forward. He only accepts a negative situation when it means saving somebody else. Otherwise he has only one policy and that is to evolve and survive. If I had to guess what the point (If any) there is to the movie, I would say that adaptation is always necessary to survive a situation. Once can never resign to a perilous fate.

George Clooney

George Clooney

Change and progress are everywhere in Gravity. It is rooted in a science that promotes exploration and its final shots are a nod to evolution as Bullock slowly rises from primordial waters, her step finally steady and unplagued by the levity of space.

There’s a lot of criticism out there that Gravity is somewhat ridiculous as far as physical science but I have never been much of a nitpicker. I feel like its becoming increasingly popular to pull apart small points in a movie to seem somewhat edgy while I don’t usually unless its blaring. This is mainly because I didn’t go to the theatre to watch The Discovery Channel, I went to see a Sci-Fi movie. Yes, Gravity has its ridiculous moments (That fire extinguisher stuff was out of Wall-E!) that I’d love to pull apart at a science convention but here, a site focused on film, I’ll just suspend disbelief.

Gravity just may have my vote for Best Picture but I still have to see the one about the guy who falls in love with Siri. Until then, Gravity will do as a thrilling, beautiful movie that has some brains (And Danny Ocean!) to back it up.
~Zach

Bonus Video: Take a look at some of the supervisors discussing the CGI sequences in the film.

IMDB: 8.0
Metacritic: 96
Rotten Tomatoes: 97%