Hail, Caesar!

caesarWhile I haven’t seen all of the Coen Brothers films, and amongst those are some of their best, something just intrigued me about ‘Hail, Caesar!’. Be it the top flight cast, the premise of the film, of just the overall silliness of the plot, it just pushed all right buttons for me.

Now, sometimes, films like ‘Hail, Caesar!’ take a while to find time to watch, and that is exactly what happened, but I finally found the time last evening, and it was well worth the wait. The Coen Brothers have crafted a film that takes on a satirical look at Hollywood during the 1950’s, from the Red Scare of American Communism, to protecting assets in an era when it was much easier to do so.

Be it big starts, like George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson or Channing Tatum taking on lesser roles that all help move the story along, of Josh Brolin dryly carrying the film, ‘Hail, Caesar’ is able to do all of this built on current Hollywood’s good will that the Coen’s have built up over the years.

Featuring film styles of the time, like Roman epics, dancing and singing musicals and the like, ‘Hail, Caesar’ takes a look into a not so typical 48 hours for main character Eddie Mannix as he fulfills his role of studio “fixer”, moving from set to set and playing both actors and media, doing his best to keep less than savory stories under wraps to ensure only good publicity for the fictional studio’s films and stars.

Loosely based on the real-life studio “fixer” Eddie Mannix, the film relates possible stories that Mannix helped clean up during the 1940’s and 1950’s for MGM. In the film, Mannix spends his days ensuring that fictional Capitol Pictures films proceed in order and on time (and also on budget), and that the actors and actresses in the employ of the Studio stay out of trouble, and failing that, out of the news whenever possible.

Josh Brolin is a very strong, central focal point to the story, and with a whisper of a 1950’s mustache, very much fits what one would expect the character of Eddie Mannix to look like. George Clooney with his Roman-esque short cropped hair, Channing Tatum with his dyed blond hair and Tilda Swinton in the duel roles of twin gossip columnists all fill out the early 1950’s the exact way that you would expect it to work, much to the strength of the film.

An irreverant, light hearted but dry comedy, ‘Hail, Caesar’ pokes fun at Hollywood’s under belly from the 1950’s and should always be viewed as one of the strongest films from the Coen Brothers and a great way to get a glimpse of what the film industry looked like sixty years ago. A definite recommend from myself to anyone out there.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Looks for more to come soon. Cheers for today.

The Monuments Men

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‘The Monuments Men’ was the second film of this year that made my Ten to Watch list, and for the second time this year, I left a film wanting more. Unlike most other films though, it is actually difficult to pin down exactly what was missing in ‘The Monuments Men’.

Directed by George Clooney and starring Clooney along with Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Cate Blanchett, ‘The Monuments Men’ tells the story of a special unit in World War II tasked with trying to preserve important works of art in Europe.

The bottom line with ‘The Monuments Men’ as someone watching it, is that it is hard to figure out if you should treat this as a comedy with dramatic overtones, or a drama with jokes sprinkled within.

While, for the most part, I enjoyed this film, at times it seemed to be quite slow at times and that took me out of the film.  The tough part about this is that as I think back on it, it seems that it would be a little difficult to change much of the film from the cut that we ended up with.

The one thing that I absolutely loved with ‘The Monuments Men’ was the unique take on telling a World War II film.  Not focusing on the fighting or the plotting, this film really highlighted something that most people would not even be aware of: the Nazi theft of paintings, sculptures and other art from throughout western Europe.

I loved the story, but in the end the acting and the directing were subpar, which is much to the detriment to a story that truly needs to be told so that people everywhere can be aware of the lesser known sacrifices of war.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Gravity

gravityThe big breakout film from 2012 , that no one knew what to expect from, was Ang Lee’s ‘Life of Pi’.  What was considered unfilmable ended up with Lee winning his second Best Director award at the 85th Academy Awards earlier this year.  I mention ‘Life of Pi’ as it seems to be a good correlation to this year’s surprise hit, ‘Gravity’, from Alfonso Cuaron.

If you are looking for what is more than likely the best visuals you can find in a film this year, than ‘Gravity’ is definitely the film for you.  Simply put, there have been very few films that have been must see in the 3D format since James Cameron revolutionized the format with ‘Avatar’, but Cuaron has added a definite must see film to that list.

The downside to all of this talk about the visuals and the 3D is that the acting is actually a tad sub-par in this film, and that is mainly due to writing that manages to take away from the film, instead of adding to it.

‘Gravity’ will more than likely go down as another ‘Avatar’ in the end.  A stunning film visually that covers up for writing and acting holes that are small enough to miss at times.  For the imaginative and risk-taking notion of setting the film almost entirely in the weightlessness of space, and pulling it off in a manner that sets the film apart as a must-see in theatres, Cuaron will most definitely be a nominee for the Best Director Oscar at the 86th Academy Awards next year, and should be one of the two favourites at the end of the day.

As for the rest of the film, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney feature as the only two actors present in ‘Gravity’.  This is another risky element of the film but one that works in tandem with the setting.  By limiting the number of people seen on screen, Cuaron really is able to set the scene and setup the thriller aspect of the film.

Many are lauding the acting job of Sandra Bullock and proclaiming her as a possible nominee for Best Actress, and depending on what other films produce for possible nominees, I can definitely see Bullock earning a nomination, based solely on the fact that she is the only person on screen for almost the entirety of the film.

George Clooney, very much in the same position as Bullock, could be a possible nominee for Best Supporting Actor as he really sets the stage in the film as the retiring, experienced astronaut and a major plot device as well.  This is a definite possible award winning role for the former ER star.

That being said, I do believe that the best lock for ‘Gravity’ at the Academy Awards will be in the Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing and Best Visual Effects categories.  Not bad for a film that was post-converted to 3D.

In the end, ‘Gravity’ should become the poster film for post-converting in 3D, as it is truly the first film to nail down that approach to 3D and is on par with ‘Avatar’ for taking your breath away.

Once again, ‘Gravity’ is the type of film that cinema is made for and to do this film justice is to see it on the biggest screen you can find and in the best 3D you can find as well.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.

Fall 2013 Season – Part Two

I don’t know if it is due from just getting older and as a result being more open to films beyond raunchy comedies and big-budget popcorn flicks, or if my tastes are changing, or if I am actively seeking out more types of films and being open to them, but with each passing year I manage to find additional levels of enjoyment from award caliber fare later in the calendar year.

As a result of this, the following article is full of eleven different award season fodder that under normal circumstances, will be on my viewing list before the end of January, and this list contains only one film that I know for sure would have made my list just two to three years ago.

This is also a sign for movie audiences everywhere on two different fronts.  First off, more big name directors and big name actors and actresses are willing to do smaller, character driven films that have enough entertainment value for the general masses.  Secondly, bigger metroplexes in more markets, and even smaller cities, are willing to bring these films in knowing that it will draw audiences to increase profits.  These two things lead off into numerous films on this list.

The ten films that follow are the larger films that are already garnering award buzz, be it for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor or Best Actress awards, and these are the eleven films that most people will have the opportunity to see before the Golden Globes are held in January.

Rush – September 27

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The only film on this list that I will 100% see, ‘Rush’ tells the story of the famed 1976 Formula One season and the race for the title between Englishman James Hunt and Austrian Niki Lauda and the horrific crash that Lauda suffered during the German Grand Prix of that season.

Directed by Ron Howard and starring Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Bruhl, ‘Rush’ seems poised to push Hemsworth beyond his role as Thor and into the light as an actor to deal with moving forward.

Gravity – October 4

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Initially put forth as a true 3D event film, in the same vein as last year’s ‘Life of Pi’, ‘Gravity’ may be one of Hollywood’s last gasps to sell a film as must see in the format that has been shunned for the most part in North America this year.  From director Alfonso Cuaron, ‘Gravity’ appears to tell the story of astronauts being stranded in space.

In order to get the best feel for the film, many people are avoiding watching trailers and TV spots featuring stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney floating away in space, and as a result of not furthering plot points in these scenes, the average theatre goer may wind up passing on this film, but much like ‘Life of Pi’, it could be a mistake waiting to happen to pass on it.

Captain Phillips – October 11

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Tom Hanks was one of the most bankable actors of the mid to late 1990’s, and with back-to-back Best Actor Oscar wins for ‘Philadelphia’ and ‘Forrest Gump’ and two further nominations for ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and ‘Cast Away’, Hanks practically owned Hollywood at the turn of the millennium.  While his time since than has been more miss than hit, it appears that ‘Captain Phillips’ may be a turning back the clock so to speak.

Based on a true story, a running theme in this years films that are chasing the award’s season, ‘Captain Phillips’ will feature a defiant Hanks in a bit of an isolationist role, something right in his wheelhouse, and we may end up seeing a sixth career Best Actor nod from this film.

The Fifth Estate – October 18

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Featuring one of the hottest names in films today, Benedict Cumberbatch, ‘The Fifth Estate’ tells the story of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his exploits in becoming one of the most infamous men in the world.  Featuring Daniel Bruhl in his second appearance on this list as Assange’s right-hand man and author of the book that the film itself is being partly based on.

That being said, due to the nature of the film and the fact that is based around a whistle-blower, it may wind up not being able to live up to its own hype, and a quick look at the current Rotten Tomatoes score for the film seems to back up that line of thinking.

12 Years a Slave – October 18

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If there is a film that could be considered a heavy runaway contender for most awards this season, ’12 Years a Slave’ would be sure to be that film.  Based on the real-life re-tellings of Solomon Northup, ’12 Years a Slave’ tells the story of a freeman kidnapped and sold into slavery in the American South before the Civil War.

Directed by Steve McQueen and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, and a slew of name actors in other roles, such as Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch and Brad Pitt, ’12 Years a Slave’ sure seems to be the go-to film for critics ahead of its limited release in mid-October.  Whether that steam continues for average theatre goers or not, this film is sure setup to win hearts and trophies.

The Wolf of Wall Street – November 15

wolf

Another year, another highly anticipated film that might finally give Leonardo DiCaprio his sought after Oscar.  That is what ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ carries with it this year.  While the film also features actors like Jonah Hill and Matthew McConaughey, expect DiCaprio to be the centre of attention of the marketing for this film, especially considering it is directed by Martin Scorsese, and the history between the two.

Whether or not this film can finally get DiCaprio the long elusive Oscar for Best Actor will be one of the key drivers and selling points moving forward, especially if it is having a healthy run in the theatres when nominations begin to be announced.

The Monuments Men – December 18

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I am a sucker for war movies, and ‘The Monuments Men’ seems to be right up that alley, yet with a nice twist to separate it from the pack.  Set during World War II, this film features a group of allies trying to preserve works of art and other culturally relevant items from the hands of Hitler and the Nazis.

Based on true events, ‘The Monuments Men’ will be another testament to the wide range of great actors in Hollywood today, with the likes of George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray and John Goodman putting on the fatigues to fight an important cause during the war years.

Inside Llewyn Davis – December 20

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The latest film from the Coen Brothers, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’, features another star-studded cast in a film built around the 1960’s folk music scene.  Featuring the talents of Oscar Davis, John Goodman, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake, ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ is bound to be one of the harder to predict how it will do.

The reason for that is that it could be a quieter film due to the plot and the store, but the film also managed to win the Grand Prix award at Cannes this year, and that could cancel out the other aspects of the film.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – December 25

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It appears that ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ is Ben Stiller’s attempt to enter the serious part of his career.  As director and lead actor of the film, Stiller is definitely trying to show off that he has some real acting ability, and judging by the trailer that was released for the film, it will be hard to argue that he isn’t pulling it off.

While a story of a daydreamer has been done before, specifically a film of the same name all the way back 1947, a serious tone to the film could be quite the interesting take in the Christmas time period that Hollywood loves for serious award contenders.

American Hustle – December 25

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Last year’s ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ from director David O. Russell was one of my favourite films of 2012, and Russell is back with ‘American Hustle’ this year.  Starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams and two of Russel’s favourites in Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, who  both received Oscar nomination for ‘Playbook’ last year, ‘American Hustle’ takes a look at greed and corruption in 1970’s America.

‘Playbook’ was the first film since 1981 to garner nominations in all four acting categories at the Oscar’s, and with the cast present in ‘American Hustle’, there is no reason to think it can’t duplicate the feat, and a repeat of ‘Playbook’s big five nominations is quite possible as well.

There are definitely more films that will be considered as award season contenders, but this is just a quick list of the ones that most people will end up having come to their theatres this fall and holiday season.  Leading up to the Golden Globes and the Oscar’s, anyone of these ten films could become a front runner.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.