Hardcore Henry

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by Ryan Guerra

Hardcore Henry is unlike anything we’ve ever seen on film before. Its fast, action packed, gratuitous and downright fun. The story is simple. The avatar character Aken wakes up and doesn’t quite know what is going on.

He sees a friendly face (Haley Bennett) and everything seems to be fine. Until unexpectedly all hell breaks loose. Now he is on a constant fast paced run for his life from one point to anther being led by Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) presumably someone who understand what is going on.

The film is shown through us entirely in the first person perspective of Aken. There is no steady cam work which may cause some to become a little nauseated. I am someone who has gotten motion sickness from a lack of steady cam in movies before, however the film has a fisheye lenses style which breaks the “realism” view just enough to cause the constant first person motion to become tolerable and less nauseating. I did not get sick at all and neither did two other friends who watched the film as well. So if that is your concern, give the film a chance as it may not be as bad as you think.

In the end, Hardcore Henry isn’t something for everyone. I would not recommend this to my mom. And I would not equate this to a first person shooter videogame like most others are. If you were to compare this film to a videogame, it feels more like playing Mirrors Edge than a first person shooter. Still, if you are looking for a fun, action packed, fast paced experience that has better plot points than Batman vs Superman, then give Hardcore Henry a shot. You have never experienced something quite like this before.

4 out of 5 stars

Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice

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When I first heard that Warner Bros. was planning a series of films based on the classic DC Comics characters akin to what Marvel has successfully done, I was intrigued with the possibilities. With the release of Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, we get the first look into that universe and I have to say it is one that has more than a few stumbles.

The film follows Superman (Henry Cavill), as he deals with a plot that is set to discredit him and make the people of the world fearful of him and his abilities.
One person affected by this is Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), who has seen firsthand the devastation that Superman is capable of after seeing the city practically destroyed in the events that culminated in “Superman: Man of Steel”.

Wayne has devised a plan for his alter-ego Batman to put a stop to Superman before he can become an even greater threat to the public and despite the urgings of his butler Alfred (Jeremy Irons), Batman continues with his plan.

As if this was not enough for Superman to contend with, neurotic tech giant Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), has decided to manipulate events into a larger and even more dangerous game as he has set his sights clearly on Superman but would also love to see Batman removed in the process.

One would think that with a premise such as this it would be a non-stop action fest that would thrill fans from start to finish. Sadly this is not the case. The first hour and change of the film plods along with little action and we get a cast, some of whom I believe are badly miscast, plodding along and blandly brooding. The characters are so unlikeable that I found myself not caring for them or their fates and was shocked how a film with so much potential and a reported $250 million budget could be so under-whelming.

The final part of the film is non-stop action but Director Zack Snyder allows his film to become awash in all the Hollywood action film stereotypes. I thought I was watching an over-the-top special effects reel as all of the action unfolded, it was very hard to get overly thrilled about it despite the skill that went into crafting it.

Affleck does a passable job in the role and hopefully as he has more outings he will grow on me, but I just never really embraced him in the part. His Batman acts out of character in many sequences as he jumps to an extreme conclusion without taking the steps in between. Eisenberg is so neurotic and annoying that you just want to slap him. He is so difficult to watch.  The biggest issue I have is with Cavill. He is just so bland and uninteresting to me as Superman. Yes, I know it is unfair to compare him to Christopher Reeves, but even Brandon Routh did a more acceptable portrayal of Superman. He just is not very interesting to watch in the role, with his monotone delivery and lack of facial expressions. I want heroes that I can get behind and care about, not one-dimensional characters that do little to generate my interest and sympathy.

The most telling thing for me was for an audience that was so keyed up at the start of the film, they were pretty silent for most of it, save for when a certain character appeared and even at the end of the film, offered only a small round of applause.

The film did try to be epic in scale and it is clear that this is just the opening round of a much larger series, but for now, I could not help but feel disappointed with the result and I would be shocked if the next offerings from Marvel are not considerably better than this film.

3 stars out of 5

 

 

Second Review By Chris Daniels

 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice makes the nerd-heart go pitter-patter, but the critic in me shudders a bit.

Zack Snyder directs Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck as they dawn cape and cowl in the universe created for Man of Steel.

To begin, we are treated to a movie tie-in throwback to Man of Steel, followed by yet another retelling of the origins of Bruce Wayne’s motivations: the death of his parents.  At first, I felt weary of seeing this tale once more. As a Batman fan, I’ve experienced it many times.  However, as the movie unfolded, they tied the goings-on of the film to Batman’s origin in a unique way; I had to grant respect where it was due.

Bruce is distraught after seeing the devastation caused by Superman’s “saving” of our planet.   Over the course of a year and a half, his anger builds, and becomes punctuated by an event in the desert during which many innocent civilians are killed by Superman’s involvement.

Batman is not without his own demons; the world still struggles to decide whether he’s a hero or villain.  20 years have passed since he began fighting crime. He now sees Superman as the world’s greatest threat.

Cavill does a great job portraying a conflicted Superman.  Affleck matches his performance, creating an excellent Bruce Wayne / Batman.  Any doubts from internet naysayers can be laid to rest; Ben delivers with what the director made available.

There were a number plot holes, completely unnecessary and confusion scenes, and Jesse Eisenberg does his usual quirky routine. His interpretation evolved into a more Joker-esque madness than the cold calculation traditionally found in Lex Luthor. If you’ve seen Jesse Eisenberg in another film, then you have seen his Lex Luthor. This was a wrong cast.

Wonder Woman’s appearance would have been better left a secret, rather than put into the trailers.  Her involvement was so scant, that the reveal would have been a better aha moment.

The acting is good, but script didn’t allow for enough chemistry to bring out the true passion of the characters, save a couple of distinct moments.  The writing didn’t pander to comic and cartoon fans. Snyder created a good film, but not a great one. It’s gritty and realistic, and the type of film fans want to see as live-action, but the aforementioned pock marks besmirched what should have been, one of the greatest films of this decade. It had the ability, but didn’t deliver on its promises.

It was interesting that Snyder felt compelled to ask the audience not to post spoilers on the internet.  It saddens me that people need to be told these things, but given the plot twists and outcomes, I can see why the film’s creators were concerned about their work of art being spoiled.

It’s 2.5 hours long, so come prepared; empty your bladder beforehand.

If you’re a fan of DC, comics, or nerd-properties in general, go see it, but don’t expect the film-of-our-time to knock your socks off.

3.5 out of 5 Stars

10 Cloverfield Lane

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Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a woman with many complications as we meet her just as she is leaving her engagement ring and fiancé behind to head off to a new future. We do not know what promoted this move other than an argument, but Michelle is unmoved by his plea-laden phone calls and opts to ignore them and move ahead with her life.

Things take an unexpected turn when Michelle is involved in a car crash and awakens chained to the wall in a concrete room.   Her savior Howard (John Goodman) explains that he saved her life and that they are safe 40 feet below the surface following an unexpected attack which has made the world outside the bunker deadly.

This is the premise of “10 Cloverfield Lane” which teams Producer J.J. Abrams and Director Dan Trachternberg as they craft a film that is unsettling and at times hard to define.

Michelle believes that Howard is not telling her the entire truth and his flashes of anger over trivial things causes her and fellow guest Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), to fear that things are not what they seem and that they are in serious danger.

This is where the film really becomes unsettling as Howard is shown as sympathetic and sensitive yet at times terrifyingly volatile and unstable. There are numerous things that can be inferred or deduced from what they discover, but many aspects of Howard are left for the viewers to figure out for themselves as there is much truth in what he says, but there are also several omissions and misdirection.

As the tensions mount, the film plays out as taught characters piece filled with tension that keeps you guessing what is coming next.

The film does take a Hollywood style turn towards where FX and some unexpected and to some, impractical outcomes and plotlines are introduced, but it is always compelling and does keep you asking what is coming next.

The film has some interesting loose threads that do hint that a sequel could be an option should they elect to do so down the road.

Goodman and the cast are very strong and they are able to hold your attention without having to rely on fancy visuals and other tricks.

For now, the film is a tense and compelling film that aside from taking the Hollywood way out at the end is one of the more pleasant and entertaining surprises of 2016.

4 stars out of 5

XCOM 2

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Back in the day when having a 486 CPU make you the envy of many gamers, game called XCOM arrived and quickly establish the bar for which all other turn-based strategy games would be judged against. The sequel XCOM: Terror From The Deep was also very worthy but sadly subsequent entries and the series including a flight Sim, Exo-Suit Combat game, and a canceled first-person shooter left the game pretty much being a fondly remembered relic of an age long ago. When 2K 10 the rights to the franchise and put out the very solid XCOM: The Bureau and X-Com, fans could not be happier. XCOM was a modern day turn-based strategy game that contains all the elements that made the original game such a success along with updated graphics and capabilities that are made possible by today’s modern computers.

The success of the game spawned XCOM 2 were once again players must take command of the team of soldiers fighting against an alien incursion.
This timeout players need to command a resistance unit and as before, delegate valuable resources to areas such as combat research, weapons research, scientific research, base expansion, equipment, and much more.

From there base players are free to upgrade the facilities, research new technologies, select which missions to take, and which soldiers and equipment to use. The level of detail is so high that players can even promote their troops, and mourn fallen comrades at the base Memorial.

Typically a player quips their vehicle and assigns squad of soldiers to a combat area where they can use their relegated turn units to move, take cover, assume support position, attack, reload, and so much more. When a turn is complete, players must watch while the enemy takes their turn and he can be a little frustrating to have your poor helpless Squaddie cut down in their prime by enemy you did not notice.

The enemies are extremely advanced, well-armed, incapable of Psionic powers such as being able to mind control your troops and even raise the dead which can be very frustrating is nothing is more demoralizing than cutting down an elite enemy unit only to see them resurrected back in the game.

As with the best elements of the series you’re constantly in an arms race to research new technology and weaponry to keep up with the enemy and just when you think you have turned the corner. The enemy will roll out new units and weaponry to once again put you at a disadvantage. Combine this with the fact that resources and funding are always paramount to your success, players must always maintain good relationships with there’s financial supporters as a lack of funds is more deadly than any combination of alien assaults.
The game is graphically impressive and highly diverse as there are multiple styles of play that can be employed which gives the game an unparalleled level of strategy. It should also be noted that the game is exceedingly difficult at times and I spoke to one player who said that he nearly deleted the game several times while playing it in frustration but was glad he stuck it out because the final confrontation was absolutely epic.

There is a multiplayer mode for the game that allows players to assemble a trained team of units and take on various challenges and while entertaining, I must admit that I spent the majority of my time playing the campaign mode but look forward to playing this more in the future.

XCOM 2 is a very worthy sequel that in many ways surpasses the original in terms of a deeper and more intense story and gaming experience that really draws you in. One can almost feel the horror at seeing the latest alien terror up close and watching your squad members could cut down as you desperately attempt to achieve the mission objective. Whether you want a dose of nostalgia or a solid challenge, I highly recommend XCOM 2 as it is not only a first rate game, it is one of the best games of the year and likely will be the recipient of several awards in the not too distant future.

5 stars out of 5.

Eddie The Eagle

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by Ryan Guerra

Based on a true story, this film tells the story of Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards’s journey from childhood as he chases his dream of someday representing his home country of Britain in the Olympics. When Eddie’s dreams seemly are coming to an end he looks to defy his naysayers by becoming the first Olympic Ski Jumper to represent Britain in the modern Olympic era.

Taron Egerton (Kingsman: Secret Service) does a marvelous job playing Eddie. He portrays the good natured soul of this un-athletic and socially awkward yet endearing hero. As a result, he not only wins the hearts of the people around him, but of audiences as well. Coupled with the hard charismatic and athletic contrast of Hugh Jackman, who plays an ex-ski jump champion Bronson Peary, the two shine together in their contrast but find an unexpected friendship that provides opportunity for one and redemption for the other.

Through the course of the film, it is hard to not be inspired by someone who is whole-heartedly chancing his dream. As such, I would best described Eddie The Eagle as the “feel good movie of the year.” A clichéd and premature description this early in 2016, but appropriate nonetheless. Take the family to this delightful film.

4 out of 5 stars

Race

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By Jeniffer Gomez

“A young man who possibly didn’t even realize the superb nature of his own capabilities went to the Olympics and performed in a way that I don’t believe has ever been equaled since…and since this superb achievement, he has continued in his own dedicated but modest way to inspire others to reach for greatness.”

President Jimmy Carter’s summary is what Race showed us about the life of the great Jesse ”J. C.” Owens. Unfortunately, it is impossible not talk about discrimination when we talk about Jesse Owens (Stephan James), and all that this young man accomplished during those hard times for black Americans in the 1930’s. After all, Southern slavery had ended only a few generations earlier.

His promising athletic career began when he set junior high school records, winning all of the major track events, resulting in him being recruited by dozen of colleges. It was fun to learn that a school teacher was the one who gave him the nickname that he would be known for the rest of his life. Because  of his accent, she  mistook his name as “J.C” when she took roll.

Of the schools that recruited him, Owens chose Ohio State University, which was not the most progressive university at the time. Owens prepared and entered the 1936 Olympics with the help and the particular training methods of his Ohio University coach Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis). The Olympics that year were held in Nazi Germany,  where Hitler believed that the Games would support his stance that the German “Aryan” people were the dominant race. But Owens had different plans, as he became the first American track and field athlete to win four gold medals in a single Olympiad. During a time of deep-rooted segregation, he not only discredited Hitler’s master race theory, but also affirmed that individual excellence, rather than race or national origin, distinguishes one man from another.

It was shocking, but not surprising, to see how after all his success in Berlin; he came back to the United States as a hero who still had to deal with discrimination. Even when he attended a special event held in his honor, he was forced to use the service elevator just because of his skin color. That was also the same reason he almost missed the opportunity to go the Olympic Games, the one thing he trained for all his life.

Stephan James and Jason Sudeikis were outstanding in their portrayals of Owens and Snyder. Sudeikis, who is better known for his comedic roles, excels in this serious role. Both brought an emotional intensity to their characters. Though it was easy to understand the anger, hurt and frustration, the joy in this story about overcoming obstacles left me with a big smile on my face.

4 of 5

Zoolander 2

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by Sasha Glenn

“Zoolander 2” picks up just a couple days after the first film left off. Staying true to the story line, Zoolander and Hansel are as vapid as ever and have retreated to lives in exile after the school for children who couldn’t read good (or whatever) collapsed due to shoddy construction. With their dreams dashed, both models are licking their wounds when they are summoned back into the world of fashion by a disgustingly beautiful fashionista with the Botox of the gods, Alexanya Ato (Kristen Wiig). With a face that can hardly move Ato is unsettlingly inviting.

For Zoolander and Hansel, the world they once knew has been taken over by today’s most annoying pop stars and what is now known as – “mainstream hipster society.”

Reminiscent of the “Austin Powers” series, Penelope Cruz leads a high speed action-spy adventure (cheesy as it may sound, it’s pretty great) as Melanie Valentina, working for Interpol “fashion division.” Cruz sets out to discover who has been killing Hollywood’s famous faces following Bieber’s tragic, and very graphic, death.

Inadvertently, due to Zoolander’s irresistible good looks, Cruz embarks on a mission to help him reunite with his estranged son and defeat Mugatu (Will Ferrell). The film is exactly what you would expect following the first “Zoolander.” It’s short, funny, ridiculous, and yet the sequel is surprisingly relevant.

The incorporation of an androgynous character named All played by Benedict Cumberbatch steps dangerously close to the edge of what is acceptable amongst the film’s own likely audience of hipster pc’rs.

Surprise appearances are actually part of what makes this sequel pretty great, yet they don’t take over and the ridiculous storyline somehow remains a coherent.

The best appearance of all, and most out of place, is that of Neil deGrasse Tyson himself. Of course, as a beautiful person, Zoolander’s journey is one of epic spiritual proportions in his own mind, so somehow a physicist fits in quite nicely.

Delivering exactly what it advertises, I give “Zoolander 2” 3.5 out of 5 stars.

 

Second Review By Jennifer Gomez

The waiting is over! Blue Steel and Magnum are back! After 15 years, the legendary Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and his estranged friend and ex-rival Hansel (Owen Wilson) come back to the big screen, to show us how to be really, really, really ridiculously good-looking.

At the end of the first movie, Zoolander retired from modeling to help others, building the Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too. Unfortunately the building collapsed shortly after it was built, killing Matilda, separating our hero from their young son Derek Jr, and forcing Hansel to quit modeling after being disfigured during the accident. While Hansel spent his days in the arid dunes of Malibu wearing a gold mask, Zoolander went into self-imposed exile to the snowy wilds of “extremely northern New Jersey” only wanting to be miserable and forgotten.

In the first 5 minutes of the movie we have Justin Bieber, as himself, being chased through the streets of Rome for unknown reasons and gunned down in front of Sting Villa, but not before he posts his last selfie. Not surprisingly, everyone in the theater applauded his demise

But Bieber is just the latest in a list of celebrities who have been killed under mysterious circumstances. But what all of the victims have in common is the selfie sent before their death.

These murders are under investigation by Valentina Valencia (Penelope Cruz) a special agent with the Interpol’s Global Fashion Division who, by the way, looks amazing in that red leather jumpsuit.

Valencia is trying to find out if the selfies before the murders have any meaning and if they are connected in any way, Unfortunately, no one has seen Zoolander in years and Valentina believes he is the only one able to solve this mystery.

Back to the U.S, Billy Zane (once again playing himself) tracks down Zoolander and Hansel to coerce them back into the world capital of high fashion:  Rome. There they will be the honored guests to appear on the runway for Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig). When they get to Rome they are welcomed for Don Atari (Kyle Mooney) a millennial fashion designer whose main star is a gender-ambivalent model named All, the biggest supermodel in the all world, played in a hilariously creepy way by Benedict Cumberbatch. During the trip our heroes get involved with the Interpol’s Global Fashion Division to help solve the recent murders.

This is where Mugatu (Will Ferrell) the eccentric and evil fashion designer who loves cappuccinos; escaped jail  (fashion jail) for a final confrontation with our heroes where every designer you’ve heard appears.

It is really impressive the amount of music artists, celebrities and fashion designers that Ben Stiller gets to appears in this film. There are some really clever jokes and a lot of moments when you’ll laugh out loud, although it feels like some of the jokes would’ve being funnier maybe a year or six months ago. But in general I enjoyed this sequel; maybe because I saw the first one the night before  the screening so all the jokes and the characters were fresh in my mind. But for somebody that hasn’t seen the film in 15 years, I think they may not enjoy it as much. Personally, I’m not a fan of Will Ferrell myself, because I feel he plays the same role in every movie, except of course for Jacobim Mugatu. I really enjoyed the evil, egocentric fashion designer mastermind. So long story short, just relax and enjoy a funny film.

3.5 out of 5

Our Second Deadpool Review

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By Ian M. Woodington

It’s best to come right out and say it: R-rated comic book movies are just better. I’m certainly no advocate for more violence, or sex, in film, quite the opposite in fact. If it’s necessary to the plot, then it’s necessary. What it comes down to is that the parameters of a lower rating don’t allow for fully-realized development of most of these characters, or the circumstances they find themselves in. Tony Stark’s alcoholism was at best an afterthought in Iron Man 2. Hank Pym’s darker, abusive side was all but missing from Ant-Man. Between recycled plots and two-dimensional characters; the comic book adaptation is becoming no better than the machine that continues to pump out boybands and pop songs. They may look like they know what they’re doing, but you scratch just below that surface and you’ll find nothing but a hollow experience and the feeling that you’ve been duped. Quantity over quality is their modus operandi and there’s no end in sight. To look at the scheduled releases plotted out through 2020 and beyond, it isn’t any wonder the phrase “superhero fatigue” is one I keep seeing more and more.

So in our plight of bombardment from endless carbon copies, along comes Deadpool, an anarchist comic book movie. From the opening titles (seemingly high jacked by Deadpool himself), it boldly makes the statement that this is no family-friendly, action-adventure romp. This is fiercely uninhibited, brazenly over-the-top and a good old-fashioned violent tale of an anti-hero on the prowl for vengeance. Albeit with the twist that this spandex-wearing sociopath is 100% self-aware and invites us on to be in on the joke. The breaking of the fourth wall, a device I am highly weary of, is thankfully used sparingly and feels all the more special when Deadpool welcomes us to laugh along with him. At no point is he afraid to let loose with a barrage of insults, not only at his own predicament, but at the current state of the comic book movie and the studios producing them. A handful of my favorite one-liners are at Hugh Jackman’s expense and hopefully the X-Men veteran has a sense a humor. For those of you still reeling from the mess that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine, rest assured, all has seemingly been made right, with Ryan Reynold himself having laid claim to Deadpool being “the most faithful adaptation of a comic book to a movie I’ve ever seen”. I’ll leave judgement on that particular quote to those of you more well-read on the subject than myself, but I will say that if the movie stands as even half as good as the source material, then I have sadly been missing out on some tremendously good writing.

Speaking of writers, justly credited during the opening titles as “The Real Heroes Here”, the two guys who brought us the surprise hit Zombieland have provided a script that allows actor Ryan Reynolds, finally, the room he needs to test his ability as a leading man. I’ve long been a naysayer of his, chastising those who believe he has anywhere near the chops it takes to carry a feature on his own. Before now, he’s always been, in my mind, a Jack Black-type, great in an ensemble and best taken in small doses. With failure after failure, particularly in the world of adaptations (Blade: Trinity, Green Lantern, R.I.P.D. and the aforementioned Wolverine flick), it emanates from his performance that this is a true labor of love and that it’s got to be all or nothing to do such an insane character justice. Reynolds, along with writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, and indeed all those involved, rightly deserve all the praise they should have heaped upon them for having the courage to make the politically-incorrect, genre-bending statement as they’ve made here, and if it wasn’t for such a formulaic second half (CGI-laden, large-scale destruction, damsel-in-distress and romantic catharsis all present and accounted for), Deadpool would receive flawless marks. Such as it is, and though to some of you it may not be perfect, remember far worse has been done to this and many other Marvel characters on screen.

In short, this is one for all you deserving fans disenfranchised with a genre that, in less than two decades in the mainstream, already appears to be wearing thin. Let’s all hope that Deadpool challenges the studios to take more risks and provides the well-needed slap in the face that shakes them from continuing to languish in contentment with lazy, sub-par adaptations.

4 ½ out of 5

 

Hail, Caesar!

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by Joseph Saulnier

The Coen Brothers are at it again with Hail, Caeser!  Set in Hollywood in the 1950s, the film follows Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a “Hollywood Fixer” as he tries to navigate some pretty outrageous pitfalls of the movie studio he works for.  These pitfalls include the biggest movie star on the lot, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) getting kidnapped, leading lady DeeAnna Moran (Scarlet Johansson) about to have a child out of wedlock, nosy twin reporters Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton), and western star Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) butting heads with director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) as he moves into a new type of role for him.  All while he is trying to quit smoking.  This is not going to be easy.

In true Coen fashion, this movie is just loaded with stars.  From small cameos, to bigger roles, you will see the likes of Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Frances McDormand, Alison Pill, and many, many more.  Half the fun of the movie is finding these yourself.

Brolin is essentially the star of the film as you are seeing several different stories throughout the movie, and he is the connection between them all.  With top notch performances from all cast members, I can’t help but fell how much fun they had while making this film.  Which sets the audience at ease as you know, inherently, that the movie is not necessarily meant to be taken serious, at least not as serious as other films out right now such as Room or Brooklyn.

It was an interesting decision to release the film this time of year.  Typically, Coen Brothers films are considered award worthy.  So why release it now, which is a time of year often considered award purgatory.  If they wanted to be considered for an award, such as a Golden Globe or an Oscar, why not release it before the first of the year, or at the end of this year to be fresh in mind for next year’s award season.  Well it’s simple.  The film is good, but not great.  And I think the Coens know this.  The film is funny, and has a unique twist on some of the hot topics of the 1950s added in, but going up against some of the other films in award contention it is not likely to succeed.  So, release it now, let it have a good run (better than it would have against the other award contenders), and not worry about the politics of Hollywood.  Then again, maybe that was there plan.  A subtle protest against what the awards circus that the Golden Globes and Academy Awards have become.  I wouldn’t put it past them for this.

The bottom line is with a cast of hundreds (not really, but practically), a good score, and an entertaining, if not somewhat cheesy, story (and acting), this is definitely a film worth checking out.

 

3.5 stars out of 5

 

Second Review by Don Guillory

As an historian and lover of film, I enjoy being transported through time with movies as the vehicle. The Coen Brothers’ new film Hail Caesar transports its audience into the “Golden Age” of Hollywood. With this film they allow for the viewers to examine the various political and social aspects at play during the period. In Hail Caesar, we are allowed to get an insider’s view of film studios and the various items that are being juggled by the studio manager Eddie Mannix, played by James Brolin, who is continuously fighting to solve the problems of his actors and directors. We bear witness to a young bombshell, played by Scarlett Johansen, who must rush to cover up her pregnancy or she stands to lose her “good girl” image, a singing cowboy whose image is being reshaped to fit with the changing times in the industry, a disgruntled director who demands perfection, a young handsome dancer with a secret who could destroy the studio, and the abduction of Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), the studio’s biggest star.

We are surrounded by metaphors and imagery that are entertaining, as well as, essential to the plot and direction of the film. The Coen Brothers allow for an examination of the way that people working within the industry are controlled by it and by public perception. We see that the chaos surrounding each of the actors’ lives is somewhat comforting. They need to have this disorder in order to have a sense of normalcy. The issues that are normal and natural for the public eye are considered to be counter to how they wish to exist. When their worlds collide and result in friction, we see how they must make sense of it all in order to return to a sense of equilibrium. Hail Caesar is an examination of the film industry during the early years of the Cold War and “Red Scare” in which America witnessed a battle of ideologies play out in our political arenas which caused many to become disenfranchised and marginalized within society.

Hail Caesar fits perfectly into the Coen Brothers body of work. There is symbolism throughout the collection of stories within the film which work well together in creating a definitive piece of art and historiography. They pay tribute to film of the late 1940s and early 1950s with their inclusion of westerns, religious themes, grand choreography, musicals, and romantic dramas. The film itself is a tribute to artistic expression and demonstrates a strong and valid historical lens applied to the creation of this film.

 

4/5

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

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by Genevieve Mc Bride

As a fan of the Pride and Prejudice book by Jane Austen, I thought it was all kinds of wrong when I came across the parody novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith, that essentially Austen’s classic novel with elements of modern zombie fiction.  Mainly because I’m not a fan of horror movies. So as we approached the theater where we were screening Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I told my husband, “I really don’t want to watch this. I hate zombies.” He just laughed. “You hate zombies, but you watch Walking Dead. Just pretend it’s an episode of Walking dead. Just set in the Victorian era.” I admit, I do watch the Walking Dead but it’s the most stressful hour of television for me, and there are commercial breaks. This movie has a running time for this move was almost 2 hrs with no commercials.

But the movie got a giggle out of me in the first 5 minutes. And of course it made me gasp not long after. But Walking Dead has trained me well, and it wasn’t too long ago that I watched Hateful Eight, so I think I’m quite desensitized to blood and gore now, and in comparison, PPZ was relatively mild in that regard. It also had enough of the elements of the original story that fighting zombies actually became an entertaining digression. You know – beautiful young ladies, dashing young men, ballroom dancing, budding romance, zombie attack.

“To succeed in polite society, a young woman must be many things. Kind… well-read… and accomplished. But to survive in the world as WE know it, you’ll need… other qualities.” Those qualities include being skilled in the martial arts and weapons training, while wearing a corset –essentially making them Regency era bad-asses.

Because I don’t watch Downton Abbey, the last time I saw Lily James, who plays Elizabeth Bennett, she was brilliantly blond and sweetly keeping her promise to her mother to “have courage and be kind.” as Cinderella. In PPZ, she’s a fierce brunette who doesn’t take too kindly to Fitzsimmons Darcy, played by a sullen and haughty Sam Riley – another Disney alum, last seen as Diaval, Maleficent’s companion raven.

Where the Jane Austen’s Mr. Darcy is won over by Elizbeth’s charm and wit, PPZ’s Darcy is slowly won over by Elizabeth’s aggressive and bold battle skills. Adding the alternate history of how zombies came to be a part of Regency era England hurried the story along, so the romantic developments felt a bit rushed, but Riley’s Darcy was quite believable in his reluctant but growing admiration of Elizabeth.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie, zombies and all. When you can get guys to cheer for some undead’s head getting blown off, and still make the ladies sigh for the romance, you have a pretty perfect date movie. It may very well be my favorite period costume romantic zombie action film.

 

3 out of 5

 

Second Review By Sasha Glenn

 

Based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel by the same name, “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is a quirky and dark parody of the classic Jane Austen novel “Pride and Prejudice.” In this story the women are not delicate, instead they are zombie killers with ninja-like fighting skills. Still set in the beautiful Victorian era, the film mixes elegance with comedy and horror.

On first glance the trailers for this film look pretty terrible, and the name will either perk curiosities or be met with disinterested laughter. Even a short description of the plot sounds cheesy. But don’t be too quick to shut down the idea. The film is actually quite enjoyable.

The ninja-like fighting that takes place is not too overdone, and the bits of romantic plot line are executed in a way that mocks the dating scene of a time that is often portrayed as stiff.

The film is not at all frightening, rather it’s a dark comedy. Don’t expect to be jumping out of your seat. That being said, the zombies are pretty wicked looking – some with half missing faces. They are a bit different than zombies in other stories. They can move pretty quickly and they can talk like regular people. A particularly cool and fairly unique scene includes a zombie baby. Another aspect that keeps this film from being another run-of-the mill zombie story is the incorporation of pig brains as a source of food for the zombies. A scene that is a bit nauseating depicts zombies feasting on harvested pig brains.

Adding another entertaining touch is the role of Lady Catherine de Bourgh, fierce zombie killer, played by “Game of Thrones” actress Lena Headey. She fits the role of pompous and callous ruler quite well, but it is even better seeing her perform this role in a comedy.

Director Burr Steers has done a great job keeping the film short. It lasts long enough to entertain and doesn’t try to do anything more than that.

The film is no epic masterpiece, but it doesn’t claim to be. It delivers exactly what it aims to – entertainment.

A delightfully horrific comedy, I give “Pride and Prejudice and Zombie” 2.5 out of 5 stars.