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.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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Well, the ninth film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ is upon us, and I will tell you one thing: We have never seen anything like this before. Crossing a 1970’s style spy thriller with superhero characters and an action film, Marvel gives us a momentous game changer that will be felt for years to come in film and television.

I do not use “game changer” lightly. Unlike in ‘Iron Man 3’ where it appears that Tony Stark has taken away the ability to be Iron Man, the repercussions from ‘Winter Soldier’ feel very real, impacting all of the surviving characters in one shape or another, while also forcing us to ask questions about what we are going to end up with in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ next year, or even ‘Agents of SHIELD’ for the rest of it’s first season and if there will even be a second season.

Without giving anything away, Cap 2 is a tremendous combination film that tells a great story through it’s action, dialogue and character development for the entire duration. Even the quiet moments do much to propel the combined universe forward in ways we really should not have expected from mere comic book films.

Chris Evans is at his best as Steve Rogers/Captain America, and unlike his turn in ‘The Avengers’, we really see what he can do in an ensemble film as the lead and a leader. Swimming amongst a sea of conspiracy, facing questions of who to trust at every turn. As a result of this, Evans’ Rogers finally shines as the character hits full stride.

You can clearly see that Marvel is in fact serious about the Black Widow character in the future, and possibly even a stand-alone film, as Scarlett Johansson is featured heavily in ‘Winter Soldier’ and has some of the best moments. The continuos building of Johansson’s character can only lead to better things in the future for Widow.

Another of the prominent things that we are seeing with the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the fact that known actors and actresses, who would not necessarily expect to see in these films, are being cast now, and Robert Redford fits that mould perfectly. Redford is the straw that stirs the drink in ‘Winter Soldier’ and, without an actor of his caliber, the Alexander Pierce character really could have floundered.

Unlike in the ‘Iron Man’ franchise, the introduction of a partner/sidekick character in ‘Winter Soldier’ actually managed to showcase The Falcon as a legitimate hero instead of one constantly being used as a hostage or throwaway, much like War Machine/Iron Patriot ended up being in ‘Iron Man 2′ and Iron Man 3’. Anthony Mackie delivers enough of a back story to make you care about Sam Wilson, and I fully expect that character to take a major step forward in ‘Captain America 3’.

Finally, we hit on Sebastian Stan as The Winter Soldier. Stan could end up having one of the best character arcs in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, and this was just another step along that path, but one that missed just a little bit at times it feels. The inevitable Captain America/Winter Soldier team-up that we will get in Cap 3 will be fun to see though, and Bucky’s taking up of the mantle that will happen down the road will be huge for Marvel to pull off.

Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders have good moments as Nick Fury and Maria Hill as well, further setting up the game changing elements of ‘Winter Soldier’ and it will be interesting to see if Smulders becomes an integral part of the second season of ‘Agents of SHIELD’.

As has become the norm in Marvel films, the comedic tones were present in ‘Winter Soldier’, even in some situations that you may not have expected them. The use of comedy to temporarily relieve stress during the films is fast becoming a hallmark for Marvel. That being said though, the true hits for this film were just that, the hits and the action.

‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ takes the action to places that it has never been before in the previous eight films. Featuring strong one-on-one sequences along with stealth attack scenes, this film at times seemed like an unlikely hybrid between Die Hard and the Bourne films, and one that worked all the better for it.

Chase scenes, static action, grande damage, all of that was present in a film that I would say rivals the original ‘Iron Man’ and ‘The Avengers’ as the best we have yet seen from Marvel, and one that builds to a new and uncertain world for ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’. When they claim that this is a game changer, it is actually quite possible that they are under selling the film.

Simply put, if you are a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ fits in as one of the best films yet and shakes it to the very core. If you have a passing interest in the films, this is the one that could change that for you. Espionage, chils, twists and turns, action and comedy. It is only April and it will be tough for a film to be better than this in 2014.

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

Her

her

‘Her’ will go down as the one of the strangest and weirdest films that I have ever seen.  The premise of a man from the near-future falling in love with the Artificial Intelligence of his computer Operating System was completely different to begin with.  But after actually watching the film, that is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ‘Her’.

Spike Jonze crafted a rather interesting take on societies current addiction to social media and how we, as humans, currently interact with our technology.  That is truly the highlight of ‘Her’, forcing us to look into ourselves to see if this is in fact something that could happen to any one of us in the future.

Joaquin Phoenix does a wonderful job of playing a man struggling to deal with his personal life and the emotions that stem from it.  Phoenix has always been known for being somewhat quirky himself, so he really was a perfect fit in the main role of Theodore Twombly.

In a quite surprisingly emotional role, we also find Scarlett Johansson, playing the voice of the Artificial Intelligence that the lead character falls in love with.  From tentative wonder when first activated, all the way through finding “herself”, Johansson, through her voice alone, brings a character that you never see to life.

In the end, ‘Her’ does a great job of telling a new take on a love story, all while delving into commentary on our current reliance on technology and social media.  While the film gets a little odd at times, it does so all in the name of telling its story.

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