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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Ave, Imperator!

The latest release from Joel and Ethan Coen is the musical comedy ‘Hail, Caesar!’  Eccentric but invariably entertaining, Coen Brothers movies are always a treat because you just never quite know what to expect.  With a filmography built over nearly three decades including such gems as ‘Raising Arizona,’ ‘The Big Lebowski,’ 'Fargo,' ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ and ‘No Country for Old Men,’ the siblings have established a reputation as true auteurs whose films always engender a sense of anticipation.
 
An ode to Hollywood’s “Golden Age,” ‘Hail, Caesar!’ is inspired by the real-life story of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), the Hollywood studio head and problem-solver during the 1950’s who specialized in crisis management and massaging the egos of some of Tinseltown’s biggest stars.  Mannix’s biggest challenge in the movie is to secure the safe return of Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), the lead actor in his Roman sword-and-sandals epic ‘Hail, Caesar!’ who was kidnapped by communist sympathizers during a shoot, all the while being wooed by an emerging west coast aerospace industry in the guise of the Lockheed Corporation.
 
Quirky, light-hearted and fun, ‘Hail, Caesar!’ is a Coen Brothers movie through-and-through with a neo-noir feel reminiscent of ‘Ed Wood.’  It is also perhaps their most accessible and non-violent offering since ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ (which incidentally also starred Clooney) and one that the whole family can enjoy with a stellar cast including Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum.  The breakthrough performance, however, goes to newcomer Alden Ehrenreich who, as the singing cowboy/action-hero Hobie Doyle, oozes a certain refreshing aw-shucks innocence and charm.
 
Grade: A
 
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