Spared or Spoiled Reviews: Hail, Caesar!

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Hail, Caesar! (Universal Pictures)

Hail, Caesar poster

Written, Produced & Directed by Joel & Ethan Coen

Starring Josh BrolinGeorge ClooneyAlden EhrenreichRalph FiennesJonah HillScarlett JohanssonFrances McDormandTilda Swinton & Channing Tatum

High concept. Hail, Caesar! is an exquisite work of art. But is it enjoyable? It’s very cool. Hail, Caesar! is starkly distant and cold. Visually stunning. It’s breathtaking. The plot is below average. It’s adorably cliché. Yet over the top because of its modern film-making and modern hind-sight. I practically busted a gut just from those beautiful and artful touches of pure unadulterated genius. The Coen Brothers are the best. A love song to Old Hollywood. It’s brilliant. But I only barely enjoyed it. Hail, Caesar! is a museum piece. Something you view through glass. Something you read about on the plaque attached. Something that makes you feel the way the experts tell you you’re supposed to feel. This one is for the laughs. The plaque reads. “Hey! It’s technically very funny.” That’s how I read it. Surprised and interested but in a deadpan delivery from out of an old 30’s Hollywood feature. The technique is funny but frigid. So, mind you, I’m personally reading that plaque from the cold hard floor of that proverbial museum laughing my fucking ass off. So… I guess I liked it. Sort of…

Verdict: SPARED

Clooney and Brolin in Hail, Caesar

“Is Mel shitting me with this dichotomy nonsense?” “I don’t know. Are you a violent caricature of a man, yet still very sexy?” ” Yes. Yes I am.” “Then I think you have your answer.”

Philosophically speaking this is a very smart movie. Extremely well-written. It opens the cliché of the old Hollywood system with writing that is drenched in realism but with a plot that is assembly line basic die-cast plastic like it came in a box from a hobby shop. But its supposed to be like that. The juxtaposition makes it hysterical. The dialogue is a seamless mix of dime store detective fecal matter and the brilliance of collected human thought. Stitched together so professionally that the political, religious and economic concepts sound pedestrian and the gum shoe banter sounds like it comes with a PHD in philosophy. And this painstakingly crafted concept shouts, “Hey! it’s technically very funny.”

Hail, Caesar

We have your movie plot. If you want to follow it you can but it really doesn’t matter that much what it is. The movie would still be a classic.

Visually speaking this a gorgeous movie but again the lofty concept smacks you in the eye holes. I mean it makes them weep with joy at how freaking beautiful this films is. The look and feel are all part of that wonderful joke. The old-timey movie scenes made with superhero movie special effects subtleties. The use of visual effects in Hail, Caesar! almost suffocated me. I was laughing so hard. It’s so fucking funny. But it’s also so beautiful that it demands to be taken seriously. I mean it slaps you right across the face and yells, “Take me seriously.” Like one of those old Hollywood b-movie slaps that a fella gives a dame when she’s acting squirrelly. Don’t laugh. It’s a dated and phenomenal work of art and “Hey! it’s technically very funny.”

Hail Caesar still

“I’m sensing a theme here.”

Professionally speaking the acting goes right along with this wonderful dichotomy. With the added bonus of having actors playing actors. George Clooney is just decent in the movie. He plays his character well. I suppose. He always does. But the actor he plays in the movie is doing Oscar level work in the movies within the movie. It hurt my head. The character is a great actor. The actor playing the actor is removed from this by playing the character just average but acting the hell out of his acting scenes. It’s brilliant. It’s, again, technically very funny. But what am I laughing at really? The movie’s one joke. The musical numbers are fantasy sequences without the fantasy elements. The stunts and dances are the equivalent of superpowers minus the super and the powers. Each one played for this beautiful unrealistic realism. But before I make this orbital station of a concept seem even colder than it actually is. I need to say it again. “Hey! (and say it with me people) it’s technically very funny.”

Scarlett Johanson in Hail, Caesar

“You funny? I guess we funny too.”

Literally speaking (actually I’m writing) I know I haven’t mentioned the plot. There’s a plot. It’s movie worthy. It fits the barest definition of generic Hollywood movie plot. And by that I mean a movie about Hollywood and also an Old Hollywood style movie. Concept overpowers narrative so that in the end we’re left with the blatantly unapologetic definition of phoning it in. Enough to make you question whether or not to call it writing. It’s more like assemblage. But the concept tells its own story. And it’s wonderful. It makes statements about history and integrity. It paints with nostalgia and science. Religion and philosophy. It tells the story of humanity and culture. And laughs at our distortion of our past and the past within our past. It’s as much phoning it in as Neil Armstrong’s famous words were phoned into NASA. Yeah. They literally were. so Hail, Caesar! is an old rotary phone that gets high-speed internet access. And before I put you to sleep with my customary I-just-saw-a-great-movie pretentiousness. We’re gonna go back to the chorus.

Hail, Caesar!

“Hey! It’s technically very funny.”

Artistically speaking Hail, Caesar! is an exquisite work of art. It’s not a good movie. But it’s technically perfect. It’s like the stickiest time-travel paradox. I don’t know how to put it succinctly in a blog format. I’m having a hard time finding the words. You know the Yin & Yang symbol? How the two halves are joined yet separate? However people familiar with the symbol will know that they are not so separate after all because the most important part (to me at least) was always the eyes of each. The good within the bad and the bad within the good. So I think the problem I’m having is which one is on the outside. Which quality defines the whole? Is it a good movie made to look, sound and feel like it’s not and really is at the same time? Or a bad movie extremely well-made in a bad way? Only time will tell. History will be the true judge.

Josh Brolin in Hail, Caesar

“You know what? He’s right. It IS technically very funny. Very funny indeed.”

Historians will note that Mel Rook (from Mel Rook & the Seven Deadly Sins) settles the question when he writes these words (back in the year 2016):

Hail, Caesar! makes you do too much work just to be able to like it. But at the same time it’s well worth the effort and one of the best things The Coen Brothers have ever done.”

Nope. That’s not it either.

Damn.

– Mel

“For Good” Performed by Kristin Chenoweth & Idina Menzel from WICKED the Musical

This is amazing. Goosebumps… tears… the whole nine yards.

Love these two. I can’t believe they haven’t sung together in 12 years. That’s a travesty. But this is gorgeous.

– Mel

10 Best Fights in Captain America: Civil War (SPOILERS)

This post is full of spoilers.

MASSIVE FUCKING SPOILERS!!!

Captain America Civil War

“Run away! He’s gonna spoil the movie for us.”

I saw Captain America: Civil War on Friday. Yes. Yes. It is an amazing movie. Just like Winter Soldier, it’s more than just a comic book movie. It’s political intrigue and espionage. Very well-written and directed. Though it can be said that the entire movie is just a set-up for one incredibly cool battle sequence. But that’s alright with me. There is an epic battle in an airport that’s worth the price of admission. So many good match-ups in that sequence alone. Amazing.

One more time…

SPOILER ALERT!!!

Team Iron Man

Team Iron Man

Civil War is almost as good as that first Avengers movie (almost) and it too has some amazing match-ups. Some of the best superhero on superhero fight scenes since the original. I loved it. I loved every minute of it.

Team Captain America

Team Captain America

Here is my top ten list of my favorite fights in Civil War. Some fights are shorter than others but all have something about the match-up that I thought was cool. Pay attention. There’ll be a test later. It represents half of your grade.

Captain America: Civil War (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

Captain-America-Civil-War-Divided-We-Fall-Poster

Directed by Anthony Russo & Joe Russo

Written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely  Based on Captain America by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

Starring Chris EvansRobert Downey Jr.Scarlett JohanssonSebastian StanAnthony MackieDon CheadleJeremy RennerChadwick BosemanPaul BettanyElizabeth OlsenPaul RuddEmily VanCampTom HollandFrank GrilloWilliam Hurt & Daniel Brühl

Civil War

“What do we do, Cap?”

“We fight.”

Kevin Hart

To the list…

10. Captain America vs. Brock/Crossbones

Crossbones vs Captain America

This is one of the first fights in Civil War. It’s everyone’s favorite Hydra bad guy Brock and he’s back looking a little worse for wear. He has some technological enhancements and he gives Cap a good fight in the opening sequence. Before getting blowed up good.

9. Black Widow & Sharon Carter vs. Winter Soldier

Black Widow vs Bucky's Scrote

These two women kick serious ass but this fight is brutal. Bucky is in full Winter Soldier mode, killing people right and left. Sharon and Natasha try to take him down.

Sharon Carter vs The Winter Soldier

They try to. These girls are not in his weight class. But it is one of the better choreographed fights. I like that the first thing Natasha does is punch him in the nuts. And Sharon gets to show off her fighting skills in this movie.

8. Spiderman vs. The Falcon

This is one of the funnier fights. Spiderman is definitely the comic relief on the Iron Man side. We know Spidey. He will talk a bad guy’s ear off while kicking his ass. Spiderman kicks ass all over the place, talking shit the entire time. But in this battle Falcon finally tells him to shut the hell up.

7. Giant Man vs Team Iron Man

Giant-Man

Massive spoiler. Ant-man becomes Giant Man in that airport fight. It’s awesome. Changes the battle dynamic immensely and helps Cap and Bucky get away. This one was cool because Giant Man was one of the original avengers. Also if they do an Ant-man sequel, it will be interesting to know that he has this one in his back pocket. I also liked that Spiderman uses The Empire Strikes Back as a reference for how to beat him.

6. Black Panther vs. Captain America

Cap vs Panther

One of the coolest new characters is Black Panther. He brings the martial arts action and, in my opinion, kicks Captain America’s ass in a few small fights throughout the movie. I can’t wait to see what they do with the character in his own movie.

5. Ant-man vs Iron Man

Ant-Man

Ant-man shrinks down to a size small enough to get inside Iron Mans suit, Hawkeye fires him through the air and he starts pulling Iron Man apart from the inside. Only Tony’s new AI F.R.I.D.A.Y. saves him with the internal fire suppression system. Otherwise he was about to get undressed by the little guy.

4. Black Widow vs. Hawkeye (Broken up by Scarlet Witch)

This is a fun fight because they’re great friends and the entire time they’re chatting and it’s funny because they’re pulling their punches until Scarlet Witch just ends it for them because they weren’t really fighting. They were just sparring. Go fight other people.

3. Scarlet Witch vs. Vision

Scarlet Witch vs Vision

Speaking of Scarlet Witch we see again in this movie how she’s the strongest and in some ways the weakest Avenger. Wanda takes Vision down brutally. Also they hint at the future romance between them. It’s very cute. Making the way she brutally kicks his ass even more heart-breaking. She forces him first to his knees and then through the floor and through the ground and just buries him in a hole like a mile deep. The only way it could have been more crushing is if he were in the middle of telling her how much he loved her when she did it.

2. Spiderman vs. Captain America

Spiderman vs Captain America

Seriously Spiderman has some of the best fights. He takes on both Cap and Bucky and not only holds his own but kicks ass. I say “kick ass” a lot in this post because that’s basically all that happens in Civil War. A lot of kicking ass. I like that Iron Man sends Spidey to fight Cap. Not because they’re about equal strength but because Cap doesn’t know him and Captain America’s biggest strength is his tactical mind. So Tony sends a complete unknown after him and he kicks Cap’s ass… for a while.

1. Iron Man vs Captain America & Bucky

Final Battle

After all the cool fights, the best fight by far is the climactic battle with Iron Man fighting Captain America and Bucky. This is the coolest because Cap and Bucky are fighting together like they’ve known each other for decades. Oh that’s right they have. And neither one could take Iron Man alone. And for most of the movie the fights aren’t as brutal as they could be because everyone is a good guy and no one is trying to kill anybody…

Final Battle 2

Except for in the last fight where the gloves come off. And they are trying to beat the shit out of each other. This is the epic battle the movie builds to and it does not disappoint.

Captain-America-Civil-War

Some Random Thoughts:

Steve is so old school, he had to wait for Peggy Carter to die before making moves on her niece Sharon. That was considerate.

I have never liked the fact that Spiderman made his own suit. I’m more okay with him making his on web slingers. It’s much more believable that Stark Industries whipped a cool costume up for him. After the credits they show off some of the cool tech they included for the Spiderman movie. Can’t wait. Tom Holland is great as a young Spidey.

No one was more disappointed than I when Black Widow didn’t throw down with King T’challa’s gorgeous female body-guard. I would have paid extra for that one.

Bucky vs Iron Man or Bucky's Arm vs an Arc Reactor

The trailer leads us to believe that Bucky disables War Machine and that’s why Tony is going after him with deceptive editing. It’s Tony’s arc reactor that he tries to rip out (before Tony blows his fucking arm away) and it’s Vision who destroys War Machine’s reactor by accident because he’s worried about Wanda. I hate when trailers are creatively edited so that it changes the plot of the movie.

War Machine down

Tony was willing to use his arc reactor on Bucky but wasn’t willing to use it on Steve. In my opinion that’s the only reason he loses that final fight. He blasted Thor with it in the first movie. He hit Bucky with it and it disintegrated his arm. Had he used it on Cap when Cap was on top of him… fight over. Of course it may have killed him.

I thought Batman v. Superman was bad before but now that I can compare it to Civil War, it is pure crap. DC movies suck ass… honestly.

Captain America

“Language.”

So in conclusion, Captain America : Civil War is a great movie. With some great fights and a good story. I’m still #TeamIronMan though. Just sign the damn accords Cap. What the hell, man.

Now here comes the new quiz.

Talk to you guys later.

– Mel