REVIEW: HAIL, CAESAR!

CAST

George Clooney (The Ides of March)
Josh Brolin (Jonah Hex)
Alden Ehrenreich (Beautiful Creatures)
Ralph Fiennes (Red Dragon)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Frances McDormand (Fargo)
Tilda Swinton (Doctor Strange)
Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street)
Alison Pill (Scott PIlgrim vs The World)
Emily Beecham (Bon Voyage)
Heather Goldenhersh (The Class)
Wayne Knight (3rd Rock From The Sun)
Jonah Hill (Cyrus)
Christopher Lambert (Highlander)
Fred Melamed (The Dictator)
Patrick Fischler (Old School)
David Krumholtz (Mom)
Fisher Stevens (Hackers)
Clancy Brown (Sleepy Hollow0
Robert Pciardo (Stargate: Atlantis)
Natasha Bassett (Britney Ever AFter)
Dolph Lundgren (Arrow)
Robert Trebor (Hercules: TLJ)
Michael Gambon (Harry Potter)

In 1951, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is the head of physical production at Capitol Pictures and also works as a “fixer” to keep the scandalous behavior of its stars out of the press. He often has to fend off inquiries from Thora and Thessaly Thacker (both played by Tilda Swinton), twin sisters and rival gossip columnists. The Lockheed Corporation has been courting him with an offer of a high-level executive position, but he is unsure about taking it. When unmarried synchronised swimming actress DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) becomes pregnant, Mannix arranges for her to put the baby in foster care, and then adopt it without revealing herself as the mother. The studio’s major production is Hail, Caesar! A Tale of the Christ, an epic set in ancient Roman times and starring Baird Whitlock (George Clooney). During a shot, Whitlock drinks from a goblet of wine that was drugged by an extra (Wayne Knight); he passes out while rehearsing lines by himself behind the soundstage and is abducted. A ransom note soon arrives, written by a group calling itself “The Future,” demanding $100,000. Mannix arranges to get the money from the studio’s Accounting Department, as “petty cash.”
Whitlock awakens in a beach house and finds his way into a meeting of The Future, a Communist cell. The members, who introduce themselves as mostly writers in the motion picture industry, explain their doctrine to him and begin to win him over to their cause. At the same time, Thora threatens Mannix by stating she will release an article about a scandal involving the earlier film On Wings As Eagles, which gave Whitlock his break-out role. Mannix successfully negotiates for her to postpone the story by a day in exchange for information about the romantic life of singing Western film star Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich). Doyle is cast in a period drama helmed by posh director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) in an attempt by the studio to broaden his appeal. After Doyle’s initial performance is hopelessly incompetent, Laurentz visits Mannix and asks him to remove Doyle from the project so that Laurentz can preserve his artistic vision for the film. Mannix informs Laurentz that Doyle’s role is non-negotiable and convinces him to coach the young actor to give a better performance. Doyle comes to Mannix’s office and admits that he feels the part is too far outside his comfort zone. Mannix reassures him that he has the needed acting abilities and tells him about Whitlock’s kidnapping.
That evening, Doyle attends the premiere of one of his own Westerns with starlet Carlotta Valdez (Verónica Osorio), per instructions from Mannix. Doyle is initially disappointed that his lone singing scene is depicted in a comedic manner, rather than as heartfelt as he intended. However, after seeing the audience react positively to the scene, Doyle warms to it himself. Doyle and Valdez visit a nightclub, where the pair are genuinely developing chemistry until they are interrupted by both Thacker sisters, each looking to get a scoop on their relationship. Doyle suddenly spots the briefcase containing the ransom money, recognizing it because he had lent Mannix his belt to keep it closed. It is being carried by Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum), the star of a sailor musical comedy depicted earlier in an elaborate dancing scene. Mannix and Moran meet with a surety agent, Joseph Silverman (Jonah Hill), an average man whom the studio has used to solve public problems; he has a solid reputation as completely dependable, reliable, and discreet. He will agree to provide foster care for Moran’s child, preserving her image. Moran, who expressed frustration with her previous two marriages with a mobster and a Hollywood type, finds herself strongly attracted to Silverman.
Doyle follows Gurney to the beach house in Malibu but, after walking in the front door, finds only Whitlock inside. The rest of The Future’s members have rowed a boat containing Gurney offshore so that he can rendezvous with a Soviet submarine and defect to Russia. The members of The Future give him the money for the Communist cause. As Gurney boards the submarine, his dog jumps into his arms, causing him to drop the briefcase, which sinks into the ocean. Doyle takes Whitlock back to the studio just before the police arrive at the beach house to arrest the group, after Mannix’s investigation led him to the house. Whitlock tries to explain his new-found Communist leanings to Mannix, who cuts him off sharply, slapping his face numerous times, and orders him to finish his role in Hail, Caesar!; the actor is chastened, but encouraged by a final directive from Mannix to be a movie star.
Mannix is notified the next morning that Moran married Silverman who will adopt the child with her. Mannix announces he has decided to reject the Lockheed offer and continue working at Capitol. Thora then meets with Mannix and informs him that the column she plans to publish about On Wings As Eagles will reveal that Whitlock got his major role in the film by having sex with Laurentz. However, Mannix has deduced that Gurney is her source for the piece and persuades her to not run the story since Gurney is a Communist who has defected—which would cause her own reputation to suffer by association. Mannix leaves the worried-looking Thora, secure in his station in life.I think that you need to be something of a film buff to really enjoy this Coen Brothers offering, which is an affectionate homage to the history of Hollywood. There are references to the influence of McCarthyism and nods to many genres, from the ‘B’ Western to the biblically based epic. Most of the comedy is gentle and occasionally subtle, not to say understated. It is both easily worth 5 stars and thoroughly recommended.

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REVIEW: MILK

CAST
Sean Penn (Gangster Squad)
Josh Brolin (W.)
Emilie Hirsch (Alpha Dog)
Diego Luna (Elysium)
James Franco (Spring Breakers)
Alison Pill (Scott Pilgrim vs the World)
Victor Garber (Legends of Tomorrow)
Dennis O’ Hare (The Proposal)
Lucas Grabeel (Smallville)
Boyd Holbrook (Gone Girl)
Ted Jan Roberts (Masked Rider)
The film opens with archival footage of police raiding gay bars and arresting patrons during the 1950s and 1960s, followed by Dianne Feinstein’s November 27, 1978 announcement to the press that Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) and Mayor George Moscone (Victor Garber) had been assassinated. Milk is seen recording his will throughout the film, nine days (November 18, 1978) before the assassinations. The film then flashes back to New York City in 1970, the eve of Milk’s 40th birthday and his first meeting with his much younger lover, Scott Smith (James Franco).
Dissatisfied with his life and in need of a change, Milk and Smith decide to move to San Francisco in the hope of finding larger acceptance of their relationship. They open Castro Camera in the heart of Eureka Valley, a working-class neighborhood in the process of evolving into a predominantly gay neighborhood known as The Castro. Frustrated by the opposition they encounter in the once Irish-Catholic neighborhood, Milk utilizes his background as a businessman to become a gay activist, eventually becoming a mentor for Cleve Jones (Emile Hirsch). Early on, Smith serves as Milk’s campaign manager, but he grows frustrated with Milk’s devotion to politics, and he leaves him. Milk later meets Jack Lira (Diego Luna), a sweet-natured but unbalanced young man. As with Smith, Lira cannot tolerate Milk’s devotion to political activism, and eventually hangs himself. Milk clashes with the local gay “establishment” which he feels to be too cautious and risk-averse.
After two unsuccessful political campaigns in 1973 and 1975 to become a city supervisor and a third in 1976 for the California State Assembly, Milk finally wins a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 for District 5. His victory makes him the first openly gay man to be voted into major public office in California and the third openly homosexual politician in the entire US. Milk subsequently meets fellow Supervisor Dan White (Josh Brolin), a Vietnam veteran and former police officer and firefighter. White, who is politically and socially conservative, has a difficult relationship with Milk, and develops a growing resentment for Milk when he opposes projects that White proposes.
Milk and White forge a complex working relationship. Milk is invited to, and attends, the christening of White’s first child, and White asks for Milk’s assistance in preventing a psychiatric hospital from opening in White’s district, possibly in exchange for White’s support of Milk’s citywide gay rights ordinance. When Milk fails to support White because of the negative effect it will have on troubled youth, White feels betrayed, and ultimately becomes the sole vote against the gay rights ordinance. Milk also launches an effort to defeat Proposition 6, an initiative on the California state ballot in November 1978. Sponsored by John Briggs (Denis O’Hare), a conservative state legislator from Orange County, Proposition 6 seeks to ban gays and lesbians (in addition to anyone who supports them) from working in California’s public schools. It is also part of a nationwide conservative movement that starts with the successful campaign headed by Anita Bryant and her organization Save Our Children in Dade County, Florida to repeal a local gay rights ordinance.
On November 7, 1978, after working tirelessly against Proposition 6, Milk and his supporters rejoice in the wake of its defeat. A desperate White favors a supervisor pay raise, but does not get much support, and shortly after supporting the proposition, resigns from the Board. He later changes his mind and asks to be reinstated. Mayor Moscone denies his request, after being lobbied by Milk. On the morning of November 27, 1978, White enters City Hall through a basement window to conceal a gun from metal detectors. He requests another meeting with Moscone, who rebuffs his request for appointment to his former seat. Enraged, White shoots Moscone in his office and then goes to meet Milk, where he guns him down, with the fatal bullet delivered execution-style. The film suggests that Milk believed that White might be a closeted gay man.
The last scene is a candlelight vigil held by thousands for Milk and Moscone throughout the streets of the city. Pictures of the actual people depicted in the film, and brief summaries of their lives follow.
Sean Penn played the role of Harvey Milk so well that it really felt like I was getting a historic glimpse on what it might have felt like for Harvey Milk and for those that were the closest to him and helping him out. I normally love and prefer to watch only cheerful feel good movies. However, this movie pulled at my heartstrings because a very powerful, caring, and intelligent man was taken at such a stage in his life where he was just starting to reap the benefits of his hard work. Aside from this caveat, I still feel that this was a terrific movie with some convincing and talented actors and actresses.

REVIEW: SCOTT PILGRAM VS THE WORLD

CAST

Michael Cera (Youth In Revolt)
Mary Elizabeth Winstead (10 Cloverfield Lane)
Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger)
Alison Pill (Milk)
Ellen Wong (The Carrie Diaries)
Kieran Culkin (Igby Goes Down)
Anna Kendrick (The Voices)
Brie Larson (21 Jump Street)
Aubrey Plaza (Life After Beth)
Nelson Franklin (New Girl)
Brand Routh (Legends of Tomorrow)
Jason Schwartzman (I Heart Huckabees)
Kristina Pesic (The Vow)
Mark Webber (13 Sins)
Mae Whitman (Independance Day)
Johnny Simmons (Jennifer’s Body)
Bill Hader (Superbad)
Clifton Collins Jr. (Pacific Rim)
Thomas Jane (The Punisher)
Joe Dinicol (Arrow)

In Toronto, 22-year-old Scott Pilgrim is a bass guitarist in Sex Bob-Omb, a floundering garage band. To the disapproval of his friends, he is dating Knives Chau, a high school student. Scott meets an American Amazon.ca delivery girl, Ramona Flowers, having first seen her in a dream, and loses interest in Knives. When Sex Bob-Omb plays in a battle of the bands sponsored by record executive G-Man Graves, Scott is attacked by Ramona’s ex-boyfriend Matthew Patel. Scott defeats Patel and learns that, in order to date Ramona, he must defeat the remaining six evil exes.

Scott breaks up with Knives, who blames Ramona and swears to win him back. Scott defeats Ramona’s second evil ex, Hollywood actor and skateboarder Lucas Lee, by tricking him into performing a dangerous stunt. He defeats her third ex, vegan Todd Ingram, who is dating Scott’s ex-girlfriend, Envy Adams, by tricking him into drinking dairy. He defeats Ramona’s fourth ex, Roxy Richter, by prodding the spot behind her knee, which Ramona tells him is her weak point.

Scott becomes upset with Ramona’s dating history and Ramona breaks up with him. At the next battle of the bands, Sex Bob-Omb defeats Ramona’s fifth and sixth evil exes, twins Kyle and Ken Katayanagi, earning Scott a 1-up. Ramona gets back with her seventh evil ex, Gideon, also known as G-Man Graves, the sponsor of the event. Sex Bob-Omb accept Gideon’s record deal, except for Scott, who leaves the band in protest.

Gideon invites Scott to his venue, the Chaos Theater, where Sex Bob-Omb is playing. Resolving to win Ramona back, Scott challenges Gideon to a fight for her affections, earning the “Power of Love” and a sword. Knives fights Ramona over Scott, and Scott accidentally reveals that he dated them concurrently. After Gideon kills Scott, Ramona visits him in limbo and reveals that Gideon has implanted her with a mind control device.

Scott uses his 1-up to restore his life. He makes peace with his friends and challenges Gideon again, this time for himself. He gains the “Power of Self-Respect” and disarms Gideon with the sword it grants him. He apologizes to Ramona and Knives for cheating on them, and Scott and Knives join forces to defeat Gideon.

Free from Gideon’s control, Ramona prepares to leave. Knives accepts that her relationship with Scott is over. At her encouragement, he follows Ramona.

This movie has everything. Action, love, geek background… The plot is great, a good reflection of the comics. But the camera, special effects and music are absolutely awesome. For me, this is one of the best movies in history.