The Coen Brothers last took on Hollywood in 1991 with Barton Fink. That movie was a dark, cynical, symbolic look at the motion-picture business (and a whole lot of other things) that was rather relentless in its black comedy. Their newest Hail, Caesar! is a much breezier, lighter (if no less brilliant) affair that indicates, perhaps, a brighter view of Hollywood.
Or maybe it's just the Coens being zany again. The plot (what little there is) follows Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) as he oversees various projects for Capitol Pictures and mostly “fixes” a multitude of problems created by the stars (such as DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) getting pregnant out of wedlock or Baird Whitlock (an ever mugging George Clooney) being kidnapped by communists).
Mostly though, it's a chance to set up several set pieces from old Hollywood including an Esther Williams-inspired synchronized swimming routing and a stunningly homo-erotic cowboy musical that riffs on a similar South Pacific number. These moments dazzle an already hilariously sparkling Coen Brothers marvel.
I can’t wait to see it again.
Also out this week that looks interesting:
Zootopia: Any other week this would be the clear winner, but never bet against the Coen Brothers when it comes to me and my weekly picks. Ginnifer Goodwin stars as a plucky, fast-talking small town fox who desperately wants to make it as cop in the big city. It's terrifically fun and wonderfully animated. Also stars Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, and J.K. Simmons.
Anomalisa: Quirky writer/director Charlie Kaufman’s stop-motion puppet drama tells a very adult story about loneliness and humanity's inability to connect with each other. It's gotten great reviews and Kaufman is always interesting.
Vinyl: The Complete First Season: Martin Scorsese teamed up with Mick Jagger to create this music-business drama circa 1970. It's not gotten the critical or popular buzz I expected it to, but I’m still all aboard. I finally laid my money down for HBO Now so I’ll be checking this one out asap.
Le Amiche (Criterion Collection): Michelangelo Antonioni’s film about a self-made woman who travels to Turin to scout locations for her beauty=salon chain and gets sucked into the lives of some upper-class bourgeoise women. That sounds terribly dull, but no doubt Antonioni has spiced it up in some way.
Kill Your Friends: Black comedy starring Nicholas Hoult as a successful British A&R man at the height of '90s Britpop but as the music industry changes and the hits become few and far between, he begins taking the concept of “killer tunes” to new levels. Sounds gloriously fun.
Rick and Morty: Season Two: Adult animated comedy from Adult Swim. I hear it's hilarious but I’m always a little leery of such things.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time: Japanese animated film about a (you guessed it) girl who can leap through time. More specifically, she can jump slightly into the past and fix her mistakes. But those leaps have consequences for others. I’ve not given Japanimation much consideration outside of Studio Ghibli but this sounds like a fun place to start.
U2: iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Live in Paris: U2s latest tour was filmed for this Blu-ray on their last stop in Paris. It took place just months after the terrorist attacks there and they were joined on stage by Eagles of Death Metal whose concert was the target of one of those attacks, leading the show an extra layer of emotional depth.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi: It's hard to imagine that Michael Bay will be lending any sort of subtlety to this overly politicized story of the terrorist attack that led to an American Ambassador’s death. I bet there will be lots of explosions though.