Ghost in the Shell

3.5 Stars

A decent blockbuster, but don’t expect to be blown away.

Major Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson) is the first successfully built cyborg of her kind. With a human brain and a robotic shell, she has been specially developed by Dr. Ouelet (Juliette Binoche) as a useful tool for the government’s counter cyber-terrorism unit. Alongside her team member Batou (Pilou Asbæk) and under command of Chief Arumaki (Takeshi Kitano), she is tasked to get to the bottom of a new and powerful hacker who has emerged.

I preferred this version to the anime film from 1995 because it’s far less ambiguous and easy to follow. This does mean it lacks a certain mystery in comparison with the original, but it’s a worthwhile tradeoff for folks like me who aren’t intrigued enough to watch it multiple times in order to understand the plot. This is certainly more catering to the masses.

Johansson and Asbæk were well cast in staying true to the character traits established in the original film. The futuristic Tokyo cityscape they have created is visually stunning, except on the big screen the cgi graphics are too low quality to really knock your socks off.

All-in-all a good and entertaining film – nothing more, nothing less.

Ghost in the Shell premieres in Sweden on 31 March.

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