Hail, Caesar!

March 15, 2016

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“This is real.”,  the Lockheed representative tells Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), the Capital Pictures studio “fixer” while holding a picture of the detonation of the hydrogen bomb in the Bikini Atholl.  It is part of a somewhat ill-conceived headhunting ploy, where the rep tries to hide his contempt for the pointless frivolity of Hollywood and the job Mannix does.  He wants him to leave the studio and work for them, ironically explaining that it’s actually a much easier job with better benefits and more reasonable hours.  Mannix is up at all hours putting out fires for the contracted studio players so as to protect the studio’s image and assets.  Hail, Caesar! follows roughly 24 hours in Mannix’s life in a job that is, quite frankly, glorified babysitting.  An unmarried pregnant star, the bizarre decision by the owner of the studio to promote a B-list Western singer/stuntman into the leading role of an elegant drama, and most pressing of all, the kidnapping of the studio’s biggest star in the midst of filming the titular epic.  Read the rest of this entry »

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That strange phenomena of two films arriving at once that deal with the same subject (think Dante’s Peak and VolcanoArmageddon and Deep ImpactCapote and Infamous) rears its head again in the mindless thriller genre, this time dealing with the oddly specific premise of the White House under siege.  There are dramatically different approaches to what amounts to the same story: terrorists in one form or another have taken over the iconic building, taken the President hostage (or are attempting to), and only One Man can save the day.  It’s Die Hard at 1600, and though I can’t think of a reason why they came along at the same time (other than the opposing views that the White House has been taken over by insurgents, a not unpopular opinion in this country), the Compare And Contrast element of me is tickled.   Read the rest of this entry »

Side Effects

June 8, 2013

Warning: This film is very plot and twist-heavy, so SPOILERS are present.

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In his supposedly penultimate film (I take his ‘retirement’ with a grain of salt), Steven Soderbergh once again genre-jumps feet-first into a Hitchockian “Wrong Man” thriller that draws heavily on the tradition of psychiatric suspicion.  Working again with a screenplay by Scott Z. Burns, Soderbergh’s observant, seemingly dispassionate (some say cold) approach is probably not best suited to the genre staples he’s working for, but it does offer a rich critical broadside against corrupted institutions and the people (knowing or unknowingly) complicit in them.   Read the rest of this entry »

Magic Mike

August 3, 2012

Steven Soderbergh’s inherently objective style of filmmaking has served him well in recent years, even as the coldness can occasionally subdue emotional engagement.  He is generally interested with processes, which he can portray in subtle and effective ways without ever crossing into boring, obsessive territory.  When it works, and the human element is palatable, the deepening in understanding can elevate scenes are whole films into something far better than you would imagine by just reading a synopsis.  Magic Mike reads as fairly typical backstage genre fare on the page, and the basic elements of the narrative don’t deviate much from what is to be expected.  It’s in the execution – in the marrying of visuals and editing, in the performances, in the writing, and especially in the approach to the practicalities and the world within which this story is taking place – that Magic Mike is elevated into not only one of the best films of the year so far, but perhaps Soderbergh’s most assured work in a decade.  Read the rest of this entry »