Hail, Caesar!

New from the desk of The Movie Snob.

Hail, Caesar!  (B-).  With the glaring and painful exception of Barton Fink, I have yet to see a Coen brothers movie I didn’t like.  (Granted, I haven’t seen them all.)  True Grit, The Big Lebowski, and O Brother Where Art Thou? are all classics in my book.  Their current release has its pleasures, but I think it is definitely a lesser entry in the Coen canon.  It’s a pure comedy and a tribute to the movies of the 1940s and 1950s.  (Apparently there are a gazillion references to movies and Hollywood scandals of that era.  They went over my head, but I think I did catch an homage to Fargo.)  Josh Brolin (Sicario) stars as Eddie Mannix, a honcho for Capital Studios who is pulled in a million directions at once as he tries to keep his movies and his movie stars out of trouble.  George Clooney (Intolerable Cruelty) costars as Baird Whitlock, a matinee idol who is supposed to be starring in a big Ben Hur-like production but who has been kidnaped by a mysterious group called The Future.  And there are scads of other stars on hand, including Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel) as a fey director of costume dramas, Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation) as a pregnant movie star in a mermaid suit, and Channing Tatum (She’s the Man) as the star of a South Pacific-like musical.  I enjoyed the energy of the picture, but it didn’t really seem to add up to much—except maybe to say gee, isn’t show biz crazy?

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Sicario

The Movie Snob enjoys a bit of the old ultraviolence.

Sicario (B+).  Think back, dear reader, to the winter of 2010.  Remember how Benicio del Toro and Emily Blunt teamed up for that lame remake of The Wolfman, and we all thought, “<Sigh>  I wish Benicio and Emily would team up for a good movie sometime.  Maybe something about drug cartels.”  Well, our long wait is over.  Blunt plays Kate Macer, an FBI agent working the drug war in Arizona.  After one particularly horrific mission, Kate is recruited for some mysterious cloak-and-dagger ops being run by a shady agent named Matt (Josh Brolin, Men in Black 3) and an even shadier Colombian(?) named Alejandro (Del Toro).  Eager to go after some kingpins instead of the low-level guys she’s used to dealing with, Kate signs up.  But is she in over her head?  And will she make it out alive?  This is a well-made drama, but it’s not for the squeamish or faint of heart.  I must say that Del Toro is particularly good.  It’s been a long time since his Oscar-winning turn as a Mexican cop in Traffic, and it seems like war-on-drugs movies bring out the best in him.

Jonah Hex

A new review from Comic Book Guy

Jonah Hex

I avoided this in the theatre but now wonder why. Sure, Jonah Hex is a little known DC comic book character but check this out. Josh Brolin, John Malkovich and Megan Fox (whose waist looks so small it made me wonder if it was a CGI effect.).  There may be no Oscar winning performances but I didn’t tune in for that reason. Just watch the first 5 minutes and you’ll get the flavor of this. Can you say carnage? Can you say creepy super power? Can you say John Malkovich being awesome? And Megan Fox being hot?  I give it a solid B. Well worth the 93 minutes it runs.

True Grit

A new review from Movie Man Mike

True Grit (A-). I’ll resist the urge to compare this film to the original starring John Wayne–mainly because it’s been too long since I saw the original version. I confess, however, that I was prepared to boycott this film because it seems wrong to push John Wayne deeper into the shadows by making another movie from the book. But when I saw the cast and directors, I couldn’t resist the lure to see it.

This 2010 film is very entertaining. A big part of what makes this movie so good is the witty dialogue. One of my favorite lines is delivered by spitfire Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) to Texas Ranger LeBoeuf (Matt Damon) after Leboeuf stakes a claim to the outlaw Tom Cheney by telling Ross that he’s been pursuing Cheney hither and yon for a very long time: “Why have you ineffectually been pursuing Cheney?” But even good dialogue needs the actors capable of delivering it, and this film obviously has that, with Jeff Bridges playing Rooster Cogburn, Damon as the boasting bounty hunter from Texas, and Josh Brolin as the outlaw Tom Cheney, who killed Ross’s father. Relative newcomer Steinfeld rounds out the cast and proves that she’s an equal to her co-stars. If there is one weakness in this film, it comes at the end when you see a grown-up version of Mattie Ross. The grown-up version doesn’t really match what you’d expect Mattie to become as an adult. But this is a minor point.

I recommend seeing this film. You’ll be glad you did. I was.

Milk

A movie review from Movie Man Mike

Milk (A). This is truly a great film about an historic and tragic event, the assassination of Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone by fellow city supervisor Dan White. Sean Penn gives an Oscar-caliber performance as Harvey Milk, an activist in the fledgling gay rights political movement. James Franco (from Spider-Man) plays Scott Smith, boyfriend to Milk. There’s a whole cast of other characters supporting Milk, including Josh Brolin, who gives a solid performance as Dan White. One aspect of the film that was so great was that the makers wove into it clips of real news footage of that era, including footage of Anita Bryant. If you don’t know the story of Harvey Milk, this is a must-see film. This is one of those films that stays with you for days afterward, and leaves you wondering lots of things, such as what would have become of Milk had he not been assassinated. Some have speculated that perhaps he would be California ’s U.S. Senator today instead of Dianne Feinstein, with whom he served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. One word of warning, however. From the very outset of this film there were tears from many in the audience. This film really strikes a chord with many viewers and stirs the emotions.