Sunday Short Reviews

Every Sunday, Gill delves into his archive of over 800 movie reviews and randomly selects three for your enjoyment! Here are this week’s…

Hail, Caesar!
The Coen brothers’s ode to the Golden Age of Hollywood is basically a series of vignettes with very little through-line. Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a hard-boiled movie producer sometime in the 1940’s or 1950’s, and we follow him as he deals with tempermental directors, avoids scandals, ponders leaving the movie business for another line of work, and tries to find the kidnapped star of the studio’s next big movie. I feel as though the marketing for Hail, Caesar! – even the poster – did the film a great disservice by presenting it as a caper movie where the focus was on retrieving Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) from his communist captors, but that plot is barely relevent to the movie. This would be fine, except there’s nothing to replace it with. Ultimately, the movie is a parade of celebrity cameos, and yet none of the characters are given a full story arc. What’s more, Eddie Mannix is the least interesting character of all of them, and I found myself wanting to know more about all of the secondary players with whom he interacts. Ralph Fiennes as the snooty director of a Merchant Ivory picture, Channing Tatum as the star of a South Pacific knock-off, Tilda Swinton as twin journalists working for competing publications, Jonah Hill as the ultimate Hollywood fixer, and even Christopher Lambert in a one-scene part as a twitchy German director were all hilarious in the brief moments they were given, but once their moment in the spotlight was done, we barely heard from them again. Hail, Caesar! is like eating a whole lot of tasty appetizers but never getting a full meal. I enjoyed it while I was watching it, I liked a lot of the little moments sprinkled throughout the film, but in the end, I felt dissatisfied.
2.75 out of 5

Neighbours succeeds as a comedy because it knows that it doesn’t have to reach beyond its simple premise to be enjoyable. Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne have just had a baby when a fraternity moves into the house next door. Suddenly their quiet neighbourhood is turned upside down by the constant partying, and with their baby unable to sleep, the couple decides to retaliate. What follows is a steady stream of mishaps as they try to undermine the frat, and the frat boys (lead by Zac Efron and Dave Franco) keep getting revenge. Neighbours isn’t a deep or subtle comedy, and it goes for as much verbal humour as slapstick and raunchy jokes, but in the end it works just because everyone involved is clearly out to make us laugh by any means necessary. Zac Efron was especially funny in his role as the frat leader, and thanks to this role, I was able to overlook all the twee High School Musical and Charlie St. Cloud stuff he’s done in the past. This guy clearly has some talent, and I’d like to see him in more movies like this one. I don’t know if Neighbours will have much staying power, because you’ll probably forget all about it in a week due to its simplicity. But if you’re looking for a good time and some solid laughs, Neighbours won’t steer you wrong. My only real complaint is that it subscribes to the ad-lib Judd Apatow style of comedy, which meant a few scenes went on a little too long and didn’t end with the punch that scripted dialogue can deliver.
3.5 out of 5

Flesh + Blood
Before Total Recall, before Robocop, Paul Verhoeven directed Flesh + Blood, a film about a band of mercenaries slighted by a king who decide to take revenge by kidnapping the woman intended to marry the prince. Flesh + Blood is a bit like what you’d get if you crossed Game of Thrones with the production values of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Rutger Hauer plays Martin, a swashbuckler who leads a band of sellswords as they overtake a city under the orders of a king. The king promises the men riches, but as soon as they’re finished their task, the king goes back on his word and banishes them from the city without a penny to show for it. The mercenaries then kidnap the prince’s betrothed (played by a very young Jennifer Jason Leigh) and overtake a keep, which they make into their hideout. Martin soon falls in love with his captive, and a love triangle forms where she must decide between the rogueish bandit and the doofy prince. Now, all of this would be pretty par for the course in this kind of Robin Hood-esque story, but where things get all Game of Thrones is when, shortly after kidnapping the princess, Rutger Hauer and his men brutally rape her. That’s right, their whole relationship begins with a rape, and there’s a lot of rape and senseless murder throughout Flesh + Blood. The plot meanders quite a bit as well, and while Game of Thrones can get away with all the rape and murder because the characters are fleshed out and it’s set in a really brutal place, Flesh + Blood, on the other hand, is merely torrid and gorey, and doesn’t amount to much besides that. But what should I have expected from a movie whose title is basically “Sex and Violence?”
2.5 out of 5

See you next Sunday for three more thrilling short reviews!

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