Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Witch

       If you watch this new film from writer/director Robert Eggers with a modern sensibility, you will probably dismiss it as the unsettling film it really is and just might laugh it off. However, if you  watch it through the eyes of it's cast, putting yourself in their mindset, you will understand how terrifying it really is.

       The film takes place in 1630's New England. A family of settlers from England is cast out from their congregation for a difference of religious beliefs and they set up their own farm in a clearing on the edge of a deep wood. The story is based on a New England folk tale of the time and Mr. Eggers extensively researched the period to make every detail authentic.

        The viewer is truly transported back in time where the clothes, sets and dialog all ring true and it's easy to get caught up in the family's growing superstition, paranoia, and religious fervor. The cast consists of William (Ralph Ineson), Katherine (Katie Dickie), their teenage daughter, Thomasin (Anna Taylor-Joy), their younger teen Caleb (Harvey Scrimshaw), younger twins Mercy and Jonas (Ellie Grainger and Lucas Dawson), and their baby Samuel.

         Early in the film, Samuel disappears under Thomasin's watch and that sets off a series of events that become ever more unsettling and disturbing as the film goes on. There are barnyard animals that may or may not be possessed. Something lurks in the woods. It all builds to a surprising climax with a few good scares along the way.

          Anna Taylor-Joy is terrific as Thomasin, a young girl on the cusp of womanhood, striving for independence while remaining faithful to her parents.  Mr. Ineson and Ms. Dickie are also very good as the parents unraveling with growing dread over the real and/or imagined horrors facing them.

           I wouldn't call this a horror film. It does have it's scary moments but the overall tone is more suspenseful, creepy and unsettling than horrifying.  Take it seriously and it will haunt you for days.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


           Ryan Reynolds, you are totally forgiven for "Green Lantern".  This is the Marvel adaptation Mr. Reynolds has been trying to get made for years and his determination has finally paid off. This is a terrific live action version of "The Merc with a Mouth".

           Mr. Reynolds plays Wade Wilson AKA Deadpool perfectly. He has captured everything about the comic book character that fans have come to love. T.J. Miller plays his buddy Weasel and in a moment of inspired casting, Leslie Uggams plays Blind Al, his snarky roommate. Morena Baccarin, showing off her wild side, plays Wade's love interest, Vanessa. The film also features X-Men, Colossus (CGI created) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, played by Brianna Hildebrand. The featured villains are Ajax, played by Ed Skrein and Angel Dust played by Gina Carano.

            Fox studios has gambled with a very "R" rated comic book adaptation but everything about the film totally rocks. Yes, the language is harsh, the jokes dirty, the violence over the top but it is also so much fun and entertaining that you don't mind the bloodshed and cursing. The one-liners come so fast that the film will require a second viewing just to catch them all. Mr. Reynolds, in keeping with the spirit of the character, constantly breaks the "4th wall" speaking directly to the camera, which serves to really engage the audience.

             Deadpool is a "love em or hate em" kind of character and this film will not be for everyone but fans of the genre or the character himself will be thrilled with the results. Make sure you are there for the opening credits (the fun starts right away) and of course, stay for the credits for "anti" extra footage.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Hail Caesar

       The latest from the Coen Brothers  falls somewhere in the middle of their cannon of work. Call it Coen Brothers lite. It's a comedy with it's own strange energy that revisits "Capitol Pictures", the imaginary Hollywood studio first introduced in "Barton Fink".

       The Coen's mix genres of classic Hollywood wrapping them around a central mystery of a kidnapped movie star, played by George Clooney.  Along side Mr. Clooney, Josh Brolin stars as Eddie Mannix, a "fixer" for the studio that has to contend with Mr. Clooney's kidnapping,  a pregnant starlet played by Scarlett Johansson, a director (Ralph Fiennes) unhappy with his new leading man, and a singing cowboy (Alden Ehrenreich) that would be much happier sticking to westerns. Besides dramas, westerns, and swimming spectacles, the Coen's throw in Channing Tatum as a song and dance man in a nautical musical.

        The whole thing is a fun romp and Mr. Brolin is just terrific as Eddie Mannix. He carries the bulk of the film on his broad shoulders juggling his various studio problems along with a pair of identical sister gossip columnists, both played by Tilda Swinton. Of course, being a Coen brothers film, the characters are all extraordinarily unique, right down to the cameo by Frances McDormand as a chain smoking film editor. And you won't quickly forget the talents of Mr. Ehrereich, who is also outstanding.

        There is always a certain degree of intellect in a Coen Brothers film and Mr. Clooney's kidnappers are far from what you might expect and will clearly surprise you. So too, is a discussion on the depiction of Jesus Christ  in the studio's religious epic, "Hail Caesar".  That round table discussion is just one highlight in a film filled with great scenes. The Channing Tatum musical sequence has to be seen to be believed. 

         Great dialog and attention to detail are always found in a Coen Brother film. Here however, the sum is not as good as it's parts. The Coen's rehash ideas from their own catalog and I particularly found the writing weak at the beginning and at the end, but there is enough in the middle to satisfy any fan of these original filmmakers.