Hail, Caesar!

2.5 Stars

High quality pointlessness.

As a pitch, it sounds like a sure-fire success. Esteemed directors The Coen Brothers, an unlikely mix of actors delivering superb performances, the glamour of old Hollywood, and a bit of lighthearted wit thrown in – what’s not to love? But in spite of all of this, somehow Hail, Caesar! manages to underwhelm.

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Following on from ‘Trumbo’, this is the second film in the last few months about the blacklisted communist screenwriters of Hollywood. Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a ‘fixer’ working for Capitol Pictures. It’s up to him to make sure all of their brightest stars are kept out of trouble, namely Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) and Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum).

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Alden Ehrenreich’s performance is especially impressive, I hope we see a lot more of him in the years to come.

I see that on IMDB Hail, Caesar! is currently rated overall at 7 out of 10 and 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. This makes me wonder if people feel obliged to like it just because it’s by the Coen Brothers, in a sort of ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ situation. If so, I don’t mind being the person to point out that the king is actually naked.

Lighthearted films can work, but there isn’t enough laugh-out-loud comedy in this to give it the push it really needs to feel worthwhile. In spite of all the merits it can boast on paper, I can honestly say I would feel rather shortchanged if I had paid to see this.

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Hail, Caesar! premieres in Sweden on February 19.

Images © Universal Pictures

Zoolander No. 2

3 Stars

Completely over the top, as it ought to be.

As far as consistency goes, Zoolander 2 is on par with first film – not a claim many sequels can make. From the the ridiculous comedy to guest appearances galore (blink and you’ll miss them!), It’s safe to say that fans of the original will not be disappointed.

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Ex fashion models Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) are tempted back into the industry by the Zoolander universe’s answer to Donatella Versace, Alexanya Atoz (Kristen Wiig) and the hippest designer around, Don Atari (Kyle Mooney). Their paths cross with Melanie Valentina (Penélopa Cruz) as she is investigating the deaths of pop stars who have died in mysterious circumstances, for the fashion division of Interpol.

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The gags range from hilarious to mildly amusing to downright stupid; but comedy is subjective and there’s something for everyone here. The Justin Bieber scene at the start is great, unfortunately much of the punchline is given away in the trailer.

The pace is varied, it starts with a bang, gets a little boring in the middle and then picks right back up at the end. If nothing else, this film is jam-packed with clichéd references to this point in time (Netflix, Uber, selfie sticks, you get the idea). Done in such a way that you can’t help but be embarrassed about us when future generations watch it.

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If you haven’t seen the first film yet i’d recommend you see that first, so you have a better understanding of some of the references.

Zoolander No. 2 premieres in Sweden on February 12.

The Danish Girl

3 Stars

Lower your expectations.

With 2015 being the year of Caitlyn Jenner’s very public transformation, there was no time like the present to release a film dealing with the struggles of someone who comes to terms with the fact that they are transgender. Perfect timing, yes – but The Danish Girl is not an especially remarkable film in and of itself.

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In 1920s Copenhagen, married artists Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) seem like a solid pair with 6 years of matrimony under their belts. That is until Gerda needs Einar’s help in posing as a woman for a portrait. The film is based upon a book which is a work of fiction loosely based upon the story of the real Einar and his wife.

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Eddie Redmayne’s performance is marvelous in some ways, and falls short in others. On the one hand he already has the feminine characteristics in his face, he is perfect for the role from that perspective. Yet I still found it too much of a stretch for him to be believable in the admittedly taxing role. Some of the scenes are extremely ‘in-your-face’ as far as the discovery of his true female self (named Lili Elbe), and it was difficult to separate the actor from the character in these scenes especially. I’m not sure if it’s a lack in the acting or whether it’s just too much of an ask to come across as entirely genuine. He seemed to be stuck in a smiling facial expression whenever he was acting as Lili. According to Redmayne, this was deliberate – however it did seem odd that she would be smiling even when she was reacting to something negative.

There are some points that you can’t fault about The Danish Girl. The costumes, the period setting, and Alicia Vikander’s portrayal of frustration as his long-suffering wife.

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On a side note – what’s up with the discrepancies between accents in some films? Eddie Redmayne has kept his British accent, Alicia Vikander’s accent sounds decidedly British as well – the only one in the film who has put any sort of effort into a convincing Danish accent is Amber Heard in her minor role as their friend Ulla. She deserved special mention here purely on the effort, the Danish accent is quite subtle yet it actually makes a big difference.

If the subject matter is particularly interesting to you, it’s worth a look. The overall vibe is a bit like ‘Girl With A Pearl Earring’ so if you enjoyed that you will probably like this as well.

The Danish Girl premieres in Sweden on February 5.