Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.
Starring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, and Alden Ehrenreich
Synopsis: The Coen Brothers have a style all their own. Since their first movies in the 1980s, through classics over the last four decades, they’ve delivered original and entertaining stories. That’s the case with their latest film, “Hail, Cesar!,” too. There are really two kinds of Coen Brothers stories. The first is comedies that tell interesting stories about different kinds of people. The second is crime stories, usually where ordinary people get pulled into situations that spin wildly out of control. “Hail, Ceasar!” falls into the former category. Set in the 1950s, in chronicles about 36 hours in the life of a fixer for a movie studio. It’s a movie with a lot of incredible moments. It has a lot of Coen Brothers signatures. But if you’re looking for one of their deep, resonant stories, this film falls short. The Coen Brothers have crafted memorable comedies throughout their careers, beginning with their second feature film, “Raising Arizona.” They often tell wild stories with colorful characters. In that sense, “Hail, Cesar!” fits the mold perfectly. But in another way, it feels more disconnected. It’s been two and a half years since their last film — “Inside Llewyn Davis” — was released in November 2013. That film, which was nominated for a pair of Oscars, was set in the world of folk music in the 1960s. Their latest comedy steps back a few years and moves to the world of the Hollywood studio system. What works in the film is the classic Coen Brothers dialogue and the loving way the old studio films are depicted. There’s a number of fascinating musical numbers and production sequences. Ehrenreich has a couple fascinating sequences, Johansson is in a lavish musical number and Channing Tatum has an incredible musical sequence, too. All of them are parts of the films within the film that are being produced at the studio. And there are some great performances here, too. Brolin is great in the lead role and helps to try and tie these stories together. Clooney is funny in his role, too, as are the supporting players. I loved the performance from Ehrenreich, who had such a diverse kind of part to play. But the problem for me comes in the overall construction of the story. There are a lot of fun moments in the movie, and there are great performances. I love the dialogue and the detail with which the period is captured. But it’s hard to identify the connecting pieces in the narrative and what we’re to take from the end of the film. Instead, this movie feels like a collection of wonderful moments. But it doesn’t feel like a complete, focused story in the way many of their other films have. That’s what keeps it from being one of their best. “Hail, Cesar!” is a fun film and an entertaining film, but it falls short of being a great film.
Rating: PG-13 for some suggestive content and smoking.
Verdict: Three stars out of four.
Pride & Prejudice & Zombies
Starring: Lilly James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Charles Dance, Lena Heady, and Matt Smith
Synopsis: "Pride & Prejudice" is one of the most famous love stories of all time. It's been told and re-told countless times. But it's fair to say none has ever been like the story crafted by author Seth Grahame-Smith. That novel, which turns the travails of Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy into a zombie tale, is the basis for this new film, released just ahead of Valentine's Day weekend. This new story hits all the famous hallmarks of the classic story, but it weaves in this zombie narrative in a fun and creative way. Additionally, I like the performances from James as Elizabeth Bennett and Riley as Mr. Darcy. The whole film has a fun tongue-in-cheek vibe, and the action sequences work well. It's truly the kind of movie that works for men and women, as the combination of the classic romance tale and zombies turns out to be fun. This isn't an incredible film or an all time classic, but it's as good as the trailers advertise.
Rating: PG-13 for zombie violence and action, and brief suggestive material.
Verdict: Three stars out of four.
Friday, February 12 — "Deadpool," "How to Be Single," "Zoolander 2"
Friday, February 19 — "Risen," "Race"
Friday, February 26 — "Gods of Egypt," "Triple 9," "Eddie the Eagle"