REVIEW: “HAIL, CAESAR!” (2016) – Universal Pictures

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All Hail Caesar!!!
This Coen Brothers satire of old school Hollywood is a perfectly done mix of what our imagination might conjure up of what the Aqua-musicals or dance sequence films from the ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’ could be if they were done today.
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The film centers around physical production/studio head Eddie Mannix, played by Josh Brolin. Mannix is a fixer at the fictitious Capital Pictures in the 1950’s. This involves him dealing with numerous egos, including their box-office superstar Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) and Aqua~movie starlet, DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johannson). Not long after the film begins, Whitlock is kidnapped and Mannix begins his quest to get him back with some surprising help along the way from young western actor, Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich).  
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With a top notch billed cast, you do tend to notice that some of the names receiving top billing, are only in it for short pieces of time or literally there for only a ‘blink-and you missed it’ moment – as such is the case with Jonah Hill’s character Joseph Silverman. Besides that odd glitching, all the supporting cast as a whole are just plain good and you don’t get a bad performance from anyone as even the normally so wooden Scarlett Johannson plays her small part well and unannoying.   Aside from the names mentioned, you’ll also see Ralph Fiennes being spot on as director Laurence Laurentz, Tilda Swinton doing hysterical double time as bickering twin gossip columnist sisters, Thora & Thessaly Thacker. Channing Tatum for whom I must say,  I love where he is taking his career with roles like this, truly dazzles with his singing and dancing number that is so beautifully done it makes you not only yearn for those times of past, but want them back if he keeps doing this.
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Brolin is fantastic in the lead role and turns what could be a very unlikable character into a very endearing and sympathetic one. The real find among the cast is Ehrenreich. The character of Hobie Doyle is simple enough but Ehrenreich manages to turn him into one of the more amusing and interesting characters you’ll find in this film.
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All in all I truly enjoyed the film as a whole and I’m guessing all Coen Bros. fans will thoroughly enjoy it.  However as a second note, my guest didn’t like it as much and he made a good point.  That he didn’t ‘get’ all the innuendos of some of it and said the general public as a whole might not either as it might have that ‘going over their heads’ problem.
For me, I highly recommend this Golden-Age romp through the glory days of Hollywood..
Grade: B-
@pegsatthemovies
Review Screening: Tuesday, February 2, 2016 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures 
Nationwide release: Friday, February 5, 2016

REVIEW: “HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS” (2014) ~ Relativity Media

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Fun little Pegg on a Stick given to us at theatre screening.. aka it’s a fan!

Was it just last year we were treated to “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” in which we saw Ben Stiller undertake a romp around the world voyage to understand the meaning of life? Yes it was..it seems every year we get at least one of these movies..some better than others.. This time out it’s Simon Pegg’s turn to try getting in touch with his happy-self side in “Hector and the Search for Happiness”

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Based on French psychiatrist François Lelord’s best-selling novel of the same name, Pegg plays “Hector” our dissatisfied protagonist of the movie, who is a seemly stuck in the rut of a never and I mean NEVER, changing everyday life with his live~in girlfriend “Clara” (Rosamund Pike) who literally does everything for him. He seems to like it this way and really doesn’t want it to change so he says. You hear stories about people like this, a wounded bird of sorts who can’t do anything for themselves. Hector though, is a psychiatrist who realizes his methods are not helping his quirky patients in the least, and so embarks on a trip around the world in a bid to discover the secret of happiness to be able to help his patients also find this hidden gem of life.

hector                    Among the destinations Hector jaunts too are Shanghai, where he meets “Ying Li” (Ming Zhao) with whom he almost cheats on Clara with, but as he spent the only night he had with her sleeping, it didn’t happen and he finds out her time isn’t exactly free. Onward to the Himalayas & meeting up with monks, then onto Africa to meet up with an old friend “Michael” (Barry Atsma) and in a so not even semi-plausible sequence, meets up with a big time dealer “Diego Baresco” (Jean Reno) who also saves his life when he is captured by the rebels..yes you read that correctly..captured by rebels I mean..ZZZZzzzzzzz.. it is possibly one of the most ridiculous, completely unbelievable sequence of events I’ve ever seen in a movie this year.

Director Peter Chelsom does well to capture the essence & energy of the various locales ~ noting here that the filming of some of these places is really beautiful and if nothing else the aesthetics in movie are mostly impressive, all the more so when you consider the films tight budget. As for the film’s relatable messages, well I guess the bulk of them could pretend to hit home, though the heavy-handed manner in which they are  executed leaves much to be desired. Sadly, it’s not the only problem in the unfocused  screenplay. This is exemplified in the final act; Hector’s (TADA!!) ~ ultimate realization is extremely sudden and feels like it comes out of nowhere. To paraphrase Clara, Hector’s girlfriend, “you have to build to it”.Pike makes good use of her screen time but she is severely underused throughout the film and you wonder why she is sticking around waiting while never really getting anything. from it.

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Pegg is known more for his comedy chops than his dramatic acting, but here the focus is on the latter. Though the actor proves up to the task in the emotional moments and does his best to give Hector some likability, as written our protagonist is too immature and self-indulgent to inspire much empathy. A supporting cast that includes Stellan SkarsgMǻrd as “Edward” the suave & sophisticated business man who takes Hector out for the whirlwind evening in Shanghai, the wonderful Christopher Plummer as “Professor Coreman”  and Toni Collette once again playing an American role as Hector’s long unrequited love from days gone past, “Agnes” are always going to class up a mediocre film and they are enjoyable enough in their roles, but there is really little cohesiveness on what their characters musings on happiness really are.

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The screenplay really isn’t as profound as it thinks it is or tries to be and disappoints more than impresses but in an odd way it’s got a sweetness about it that I normally don’t fall for in a movie but maybe it’s because I think I liked a bit of the message it does tell or the fact that I’m a big believer in traveling as much as your life allows you too and experiencing life through other peoples eyes and cultures.  I didn’t hate this movie completely, though none of it is as particularly funny as I thought or hoped it would be, or even touching for that matter in it’s message. Those pursuing true happiness need not apply, but those content with mild entertainment will probably be satisfied.

Grade: D+  (below average- not really worth time or money)

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