Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Centurion Clooney: epic.
Coens salute vintage Hollywood in sly comedy Hail, Caesar!

The more you know about Hollywood in the so-called Golden Age (roughly late 1930s-early '50s), the bigger kick you're likely to get out of Hail, Caesar! This latest comedy from Joel and Ethan Coen is a fond and funny Hollywood farce about a day in the life of a studio troubleshooter trying to ward off scandal, and keep the stars out of trouble.

The story unfolds ca.1950, the heyday of the studio system. And what really sells the movie is the Coens' elaborate recreation of snippets of popular movie genres of the era—a stunt-filled chase scene from a cowboy movie, an elegant drawing-room comedy, a musical production number, a Biblical epic, and even an Esther Williams-style aquatic ballet.

Johansson: aquatic.

Not to mention the fun of playing spot-that-star with George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum, and Tilda Swinton, among others, popping up as the stars, starlets, and studio bigwigs of the Coens' fictional Capitol Pictures.

Front and center is Eddie Mannix (a solid turn by Josh Brolin), the studio's hired gun. With his own office on the backlot, his mission is to keep Capitol personnel from embarrassing the studio, making daily phone reports to an unseen mogul whose name sounds a lot like "Mr. Skank."

Tatum channels his inner Gene Kelly.
It's a 24/7 job, whether he's breaking up an ingénue's late-night photo shoot for a girlie magazine, or neutralizing damaging stories before they become fodder for waspish, rival twin sister gossip columnists named Thora and Thessaly Thacker (both played with relish by Swinton).

But a problem arises that even Eddie might not be able to fix when one of the studio's biggest stars, Baird Whitlock (Clooney), disappears off the set of the epic Hail, Caesar.

As Eddie visits one soundstage after another, searching for clues, we see snippets of Capitol movies in production, replicated by the Coens with adroit authenticity, and tongue in cheek. (Read more)

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