Movie review: “Hail, Caesar!” (2016)


“Bless me Father, for I have sinned.”

“How long since your last confession?”

“Um, twenty-seven…hours.”

“It’s really too soon, my son. You’re just not that bad a person.”

“I don’t know, Father. I snuck a cigarette, I didn’t get home in time for dinner…and I struck a movie star in anger!”

As a writer/director/production team, brothers Joel and Ethan Coen are responsible for some of the unquestionably best and most esoteric movies of the last thirty years, a roll call – including Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, and Inside Llewyn Davis, among others – consisting of equal parts unvarnished Oscar bait and uncompromised wish fulfillment as high art, even if the wish itself sometimes seems culled from common stock. Part of the joy of following the Coens’ career has come from the fact that their pictures are so patently unlike anyone else’s, although they do display a tendency toward circular self-reference – perhaps unintentional, perhaps not, depending on the title – the further into their filmography one ventures. Continue reading “Movie review: “Hail, Caesar!” (2016)”

Movie review: “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015)

age of ultron

“Does anybody remember when I put a missile through a portal, in New York City? We were standing right under it. We’re the Avengers. We can bust weapons dealers the whole doo-da-day, but how do we cope with something like that?”


“We’ll lose.”

“We’ll do that together too.”

Whereas comic book superheroes and heroines have a long-standing, time-tested, free-swinging tradition of either brokering guest appearances in one another’s pages or, occasionally, full-on intramural team collaborations against a common enemy and/or towards a common goal, superhero movies have generally operated in hermetically sealed bubbles all their own, using house money and fighting the simplest, most obvious threats. Marvel’s decision, circa 2006, to revamp its existing film studio into something more robust and thus shepherd its own projects, independent of the sort of uninformed, high level meddling that helped turn promising sequels like Spider-Man 3 and X-Men: The Last Stand into underwhelming, overstuffed disappointments, or worse, didn’t immediately signal a seismic shift in the superhero game, though it did strike most observers as a pretty good idea. Little could anyone then have truly realized the scope of Marvel’s master plan Continue reading “Movie review: “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015)”

Movie review: “Lucy” (2014)


“One neuron, you’re alive. Two neurons, you’re moving. And with movement, interesting things begin to happen…”

Lucy is Scarlett Johansson’s show from start to finish, but director Luc Besson was still wise to secure the services of Hollywood’s go-to provider of gravitas, Morgan Freeman, to function as what may be the first fully expository main character in action film history. Expository characters in action films are, of course, a dime a dozen. Every other James Bond movie, for example, produces, upon the superspy’s arrival in an exotic, forbidding new locale, some goofy local agent whose entire purpose is to appear from out of a nearby bush just long enough to bring Bond up to speed on the villain’s progress before getting himself killed. Freeman’s second-billed scientist sets the new standard, spending the first third of Lucy lecturing a hall of attentive European extras on the untapped but tantalizing potential of the human mind, the second third bewildered after he is contacted by a young woman whose misadventures with a Taiwanese designer drug (intended to – stay with me – synthesize and concentrate the miraculous natural agent that kick starts fetuses in utero) have unlocked her mind in unheard of and highly dangerous ways, Continue reading “Movie review: “Lucy” (2014)”

Movie Review: “Her” (2014)


“We are only here briefly, and in this moment I want to allow myself…joy.”

I am perfectly capable of being entertained by a film without being deeply involved either by or in it, which is a damned good thing for Hollywood. In this era of highly profitable but increasingly empty spectacle, most filmmakers seem neither inclined nor, frankly, equipped to invest their characters with recognizable human traits, desires or motivations, unless that motivation is to not be blown up by alien attack or murdered by Tom Cruise, which I think everyone can relate to and rally behind. Characteristics that do happen to be assigned are often arbitrary, and seemingly designed to help the audience tell terminally bland pretty people apart from the rest of their test marketable group. Continue reading “Movie Review: “Her” (2014)”