Hail, Caesar! Hollywood On Hollywood.

hailcaesarposterHollywood adores a movie about Hollywood, not that La La Land is shallow and self-obsessed or anything. And not, of course, because a movie about Hollywood is dead easy to make, being on its own doorstep. No need to faff about hiring mini-vans to lug all those pesky cameras around. The latest addition to the naval-gazing cannon is Hail, Caesar! the Coen Brother’s tribute to the hand that feeds it.

 

Set in the 1950’s when Hollywood’s Golden Age was in full swing, Hail, Caesar! chronicles the trials and tribulations of big cheese studio head Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin).  Eddie chews cigars in a monstrous office and marches around the studio lot barking orders at his long suffering assistant while trying to keep the egos and careers of his stars in check. We meet DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), an angel on screen and foul-mouthed, fast talking diva off-screen; temperamental director Laurence Laurentz (a fabulous Ralph Fiennes channelling his Grand Budapest Hotel comedy spirit) and the studio’s hottest star, the amiable and ever so slightly dim Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), inconveniently kidnapped by a secret clan of Communist screenwriters whilst filming biblical epic Hail, Caesar!

 

Rambling and rambunctious, it’s less narrative story than a series of comic sketches, jumping around from character to character and back to an increasingly frazzled Eddie. Which sounds somewhat shaggy and unstructured but it fizzes with so much feel good energy you’re happy to go with the flow.  Especially when said sketches include an entirely gratuitous and fabulously camp song and tap dance routine from a back-flipping Channing Tatum in a sailor suit.  Frankly, if that doesn’t bring a smile to your face then you’re just no fun. The Coens have trodden this ground before (see Barton Fink) but never with such silly humour nor with a cast so obviously revelling in their OTT characters. Hollywood on Hollywood has rarely been such a delight.

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Inherent Vice. Just What The Doctor Ordered.

309431id1h_InherentVice_Teaser_27x40_1Sheet_6C.inddThank the lord for the smoking ban. Watching Inherent Vice took us back to the days when you returned from the pub and dumped all your clothes, right down to your pants, straight in the washing basket, such was their reek.

It’s Los Angeles, 1970. Larry ‘Doc’ Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is a private eye in a groovy, whiskered, 1970’s LA kind of way. He receives clients at a local medical clinic (hence the ‘Doc’ – geddit?) while smoking dope, chills on his couch with kooky girls in bikinis while smoking dope, drives his car around a bit while smoking dope. Frankly, how he even ties his shoelaces let alone solves cases after smoking all that dope is quite beyond The Sloth, but we are naive in such matters.

Doc’s hazy fug is rudely interrupted with a visit from ex-girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterston) who is worried a plot is afoot to wrongly inter her current squeeze, rich (married) real estate tycoon Mickey Wolfmann (Eric Roberts) into a looney bin. Still holding a candle for Shasta Doc agrees to investigate but, before he can even spark up another joint, both Mickey and Shasta herself disappear.

What follows is a rambling, psychedelic, shaggy dog story that meanders merrily through random plot lines, red herrings and dead ends with the shambolic laissez faire of Doc himself. A tip off from a local prostitute that the ‘Golden Fang’ is involved could refer to a consortium of cocaine snorting, tax-dodging dentists, a Chinese sailing boat or a drugs cartel. A dead musician may still be alive and may or may not be a police informant or student activist. Doc himself is being tailed by angry, chocolate dipped banana munching, flat topped cop Christian “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (Josh Brolin – a comic delight) whose ire towards Doc may be concealing deeper feelings.

Inherent Vice is an inherently strange thing – a crime thriller with an utterly nonsensical plot, a noir that is baked in California sunshine (and just baked). We suggest you don’t even attempt to make sense of it, instead just sit back and savour the trippy kaleidoscope of surreal and wonderfully comic characters. Groovy baby.

UK release 30 January 2015

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Labor Day. Stockholm Syndrome On Warp Speed.

laborThere is a hulking great suspension bridge one needs to cross to watch Labor Day. It’s called The Suspension of Disbelief Bridge. If you’re game and have brought your trainers with you, then read on.

Adele (Kate Winslet) is a single mum. You already know what she’s like, Kate Winslet has perfected this. Frumpy, nervously wiping her hands on her apron and pushing her lank hair back, she’d scrub up well underneath. Adele is desperately lonely and longs for a man to take care of herself and her son Henry (Dylan Minnette) but, being agoraphobic, she seldom leaves the house except for essentials.

On a rare trip to the supermarket they meet Frank (Josh Brolin). Adele notices Frank is HOT. He is also bleeding. Before she knows what has happened, Frank has pulled a gun, forced himself into their car and demanded they drive him back to their house. Turns out he’s an escaped convict in need of a hiding place and Adele’s home will do nicely.

Now we need to cross The Bridge Of Disbelief.

If someone held The Sloth captive in our own home we would hate them. Forever. But not here. Frank, apart from being hot, is quite the man-about-the-house. Explaining he doesn’t intend to hurt them, he sets about cooking a chilli for tea, but his talents don’t stop there. He does some DIY, coaches Henry at baseball and, in a scene reminiscent of the pottery wheel in Ghost, teaches Adele to bake a peach pie. Before very, very little time has passed, Adele realises Frank is the link missing from her life.

If you can get over the situation and time frame it’s sensual, sensitively acted and the chemistry between Adele and Frank is completely believable. In fact, was this a straight up love story it would be heartfelt and moving. It’s definitely worth a watch, just be prepared to come out scratching your head.

UK release 21 March. Prefer to take your date to something less dark? Try Cuban Fury.

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