Hail, Caesar!

March 15, 2016


“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 »

Gone Girl

October 3, 2014

I don’t know how to write about this film without extensive spoilers, so watch the film before reading.

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Gone Girl runs from relationship autopsy to eerie mystery to chess match thriller to absurdist melodrama, all the while holding up a satirical flare and a cold, wily grin as it straddles it’s many tonal shifts. It’s one of the finest examples of craftsmanship of the year, and it’s also one of the most cynical motion pictures in quite some time. Read the rest of this entry »

The LEGO Movie

February 12, 2014


When correspondents on the Fox Business channel did a segment complaining about The LEGO Movie’s bad guy being “President Business” and why Hollywood has to teach kids to demonize CEOs, it should have been a parody.  Charging what is basically a feature-length advert for a huge corporation’s product as some sort of anti-capitalist propaganda is so self-evidently absurd that only a dry wit or a complete lack of self-awareness an be responsible.  I have little doubt in my mind that it was the latter in this case, but I will give them some credit after having seen the film:  Though what they were suggesting was incredibly stupid, The LEGO Movie certainly defies easy “Right v Left” categorization.   Read the rest of this entry »

There’s a relatively tedious, though not unfounded at all, cliché about Hollywood making market-tested films that appeal to x demographic by including x types of characters embodied by beautiful stars and putting them in romantic/funny/exciting/all three situations and BOOM:  Instahit.  It’s generally a lot more complicated than that, as there’s bound to be someone along the creative line who has a whiff of the artist about them, or at the very least actors who know how to work a script in their favour, and a director or an editor who can nurture that into something vaguely entertaining.  I don’t know know anything at all about the development or the production of McG’s This Means War, but if there ever was a film that played right into that cliché about clueless moneymen suits at the studio putting an entire movie together and creating exactly what they think a “successful” (not “good”, mind) product would be, this is it.  Read the rest of this entry »

Moonrise Kingdom

June 3, 2012

This contains spoilers – suffice it say that I thought this was very good indeed and you should definitely go see it. 

There’s a moment a little ways into Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom in which the young boy Sam (Jared Gilman), who looks short, gawky, and desperately uncool with his thick-framed glasses, walks out of a local children’s production of Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde and through the backstage areas of the church where it’s being performed.  He finds his way to the dressing room, where a row of young girls dressed as birds are applying their make-up and preparing.  Looking directly at the camera, he asks, “What kind of bird are you?”  The girls turn around, and one starts to explain what they each are until Sam stops her mid-sentence and asks again, pointing directly at the camera and, it turns out, at one girl in particular: Suzy (Kara Hayward).  There’s an air of supreme confidence in the delivery, and Suzy’s reaction is to be instantly taken with him.  It feels like wish-fulfillment on Wes Anderson’s part – one imagines he would have loved to have taken young love by the throat and just gone for it the way Sam does – as well as feeling very reminiscent of Max Fischer in Rushmore, Anderson’s breakthrough film which was also about a boy determined to act with confidence.  Except, it’s different this time.  Where Fischer was vaguely absurd in his over-compensating manner and most could see through it, Sam is genuinely confident.  It’s a testament to just how good of a film Moonrise Kingdom is that we understand that confidence as a believable character trait and not just the wish fulfillment it might seem to be.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Kids Are All Right

September 1, 2010

A teenage boy, Laser (Josh Hutchinson), has been hanging around a new friend quite a bit recently.  His friend, an unbelievable (literally, he’s so one-dimensional it is almost offensive) douche named Clay (Eddie Hassell) convinces him to look through Laser’s mothers’ bedroom for weed.  They find a vibrator and a porn DVD, and quickly pop it in the laptop to watch it.  For reasons unbeknownst to anyone, the mothers, Nic and Jules (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore), have it in their heads that their son might be exploring his sexuality with his friend.  Jules, right on cue, barges into Laser’s room to find them watching the porno, which features man-on-man sex.  The mothers sit Laser down, and attempt to broach the subject of his sexuality by asking him if he has anything he wants to ask them.  He asks, quite reasonably, why they watch gay porn.  Nic, the Type A controlling mother tells him that, firstly, they don’t watch it very often, and secondly, he shouldn’t be snooping around their room.  Jules, the more wayward and intuitive mother, weighs in with an amusing and complicated explanation of the sometimes counter-intuitive nature of human sexuality, and that as a lesbian couple they are focused on the ‘inward’ and sometimes get turned on by the ‘outward’.  They resume hinting that he is hiding something, to which he relents and admits that he has met the sperm donor from which he and his sister were conceived.  Responding to the visibly shocked reaction of his mothers, he asks if they thought he was gay.  “No, no, of course not!” they respond. Read the rest of this entry »

After a safehouse is compromised, five would-be suicide bomber Jihadists in Sheffield must transport their explosives to an allotment. The car predictably breaks down (“Jewish sparkplugs”), and the most outspoken of the group, Barry (Nigel Lindsay), suggests everyone run ‘fast but smooth’, leading the men to run while squatting across a street. One of them, the peculiarly simple Fessal (Adeel Akhtar) gets lost and winds up running in staggered lines in a nearby field with some sheep. Three of the others film him as they laugh and mock him, encouraging him to leap a stone fence. He does, and in a long shot, we see him trip over on landing and, as the flock of sheep run away, turn instantly into a cloud of smoke. It’s a darkly funny moment, but only for a second, as when the shock wears off you’re left with the sad, tragedy of it all. Fessal was an idiot, to be sure, but aside from his desire to blow himself and civilians along with him, he was a not malevolent one. When the group’s leader, Omar (Riz Ahmed), berates the others, they attempt to shift the blame, and when they decide he is technically a martyr (for his death had to mean something, right?), Barry steps up and takes credit. It’s a martyrdom because he killed a sheep, and thus disrupted the ‘system’, he rationalizes. It’s the first moment the film truly jumps from broad, slapstick farce into something deeper and sadder, and that strange, awkward mood courses through the remainder. The mix of slapstick and idiotic discussions on semantics is all done very well throughout the running time of Chris Morris’ Four Lions, and there’s no doubt that it is a very funny movie. The audience I saw it with certainly laughed all the way through, so the poster which features fifteen quotes from critics that all say the one word “Funny” is not technically misleading. However, when the finale ramped up the sad, tragic nature of the story and the characters, it was somewhat uncomfortable to find how many people were still laughing. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m sure I’ve talked about the importance of tone in films before, and before I go back to that old standby when talking about Matthew Vaughn’s comic book fantasy Kick-Ass, I think it worth stressing how crucial it is (for the thousandth time). In most films, suspension of disbelief is paramount for engaging with the characters and story. This is not to say that everything need be believable or even logical, but if you want to be swept up in whatever experience the film can offer, the wrong moment can jar you right out of the picture. A consistent tone does well to maintain the suspension of disbelief in genre films such as Kick-Ass because, after all, nobody wants to find themselves aware of the real world when they’re meant to be escaping from it. As a digression, a good director making a certain film knows when to use a moment totally at odds with everything else around it to emphasize a point and, hopefully, get an emotional reaction (Richie’s attempted suicide in The Royal Tenenabaum, for instance). I’m not saying Matthew Vaughn is forever incapable of accomplishing this, but Kick-Ass is most certainly not that film. Read the rest of this entry »