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“Hail Caesar”

Hail-Caesar“Hail Caesar”

****

Comedy/Mystery

PG13

Our beloved Minneapolis (St. Louis Park, exactly) native directors, brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, bring forth “Hail, Caesar!”, another off-the-wall comedy, screwy, boisterous similar to their other comedies “The Big Lebowski”(1997), “O Brother, Where, “Burn After Reading” (2008).

Like an old-school western, the Coens’ “Hail, Caesar! “rewinds the clock back to the Hollywood of the 1950s. What “Hail, Caesar!” does for me–at least–in the nostalgic sense, when I was a boy sitting in a theater (one screen) watching the fullness of CinemaScope, the new larger than life invention in 1953.There’s a lot here that more than meets the eye, I mean, in “Hail, Caesar!”, especially for a baby boomer like myself.

To start off, Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is the head of Capitol Studios with his loaded hands of keeping a struggling studio going and helping actors out of difficult situations. He’s a devote Catholic and he’s willing to take his “transgressions” to the confessional box when sees something he’s guilty about. Brolin’s studio mirrors MGM and his character name is from a real person.

Laurence Laurentz Ralph Fiennes), director-producer (echoes Mervyn LeRoy, director-producer, 1900-1987), a perfectionist making one of his cast members Hobie Doyle (Aden Ehreneich) speak like an upper-class person on set.

The most charming of all is Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) cast to play a Roman centurion in a Biblical epic (liken to Mervyn LeRoy’s 1951 “Quo Vadis), but is kidnapped by a Communist group. Mannix, at first, thinks his marquee actor Baird is on one of his benders.

Mannix has another dilemma with an unmarried and pregnant aquatic actress Dee Ann Moran (Scarlett Johansson), more than a coincidence she mirrors Estelle (and more subtle and lesser known story Loretta Young).

The song and dance routine led by Burt Gurney Channing Tatum) and other sailors is a tribute to Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in “On the Town”(1949) and “Anchors Aweigh”(1945).

Last but not least, the Hollywood gossip columnist Thora Thacker (Tilda Swinton) always showing up to write about the latest (or not so late) gossip about Tinseltown, her main target Baird on an alleged scandal of the past. I didn’t find “Hail, Caesar! “flat or boring; I am pleased with the film.

Cast: Josh Brolin (Eddie Mannix), George Clooney (Baird Whitlock), Tilda Swinton (Thora Thacker), Ralph Fiennes (Laurence Laurentz), Jonah Hill (Joseph Silverman), Frances McDormand (C.C. Calhoun), Channing Tatum (Burt Gurney), Alden Ehreneich (Hobie Doyle), Scarlett Johansson (Dee Anna Moran). Directors: Ethan and Joel Coen. Running time: 105 minutes.

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