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HAIL, CAESAR!
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Finnes, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum
Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Universal
Features: See Review
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: June 7, 2016

Would that it were so simple.”

Film ***1/2

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again...thank the heavens for the existence of the Coen Brothers. Their work is of such signature originality, even when it comes to their more mainstream releases, and we definitely need more films of that sort is this day and age. And their latest, Hail, Caesar!, is simply a showcase of them having immense fun, yet it still comes across as something that is unlike anything being offered at the movies.

Fully enhanced by an all-star cast, though some of which are merely bit parts, the film is set against the backdrop of 1950s Hollywood, and the pressures it took to keep productions in line. That is precisely the job of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a “fixer” of sorts for Capitol Studios. The film is basically a 24 hour look into his professional life, and stressful doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Mannix is having to oversee quite a bit at his studio. Among them is the questionable transitioning of singing cowboy Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) to leading man in a sophisticated high class drama, which is a result of talent shortage for the role. The director of the production, Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) is finding it more than difficult to have Hobie master simple dialogue in the manner in which he rides a horse.

Then there’s the matter of DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson), a swimming starlet who is unmarried, pregnant, and the list of possible fathers is endless. Remember that in the 50s, a movie star’s wholesome image was most important, and such a simple matter like this could damage that in a heartbeat, whereas today a scandal like that was normal to hear on a daily basis. So Mannix must figure out a means of damage control on that issue.

But the primary concern of Mannix is the progress of the studio’s biggest release of the year, a biblical epic entitled “Hail, Caesar”. Mannix finds himself meeting with a few religious leaders to give their blessing of the script (one of the film’s most hilarious bits). And it’s midway through production when the film’s lead star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), goes missing.

The reason behind Baird’s kidnapping, and the very people behind it, are elements I’ll leave for you to discover (surprisingly, it was kept out of the trailer and ads for the movie) but it results in some fascinating and very funny moments that only the Coen Brothers could deliver. And Clooney is once again brilliant in sacrificing his good looking image all in the name of pure goofiness, just as he did for the Coen’s in Intolerable Cruelty and Burn After Reading.

Hail, Caesar! may not be as profound as other films from the Coen Brothers, but it’s certainly hilarious and entertaining, not to mention another showcase of superb filmmaking from them. Anyone who appreciates the 50s film era will truly dig what is on display here. This is easily one of the funniest entertainments of the year, so far!

Video ****

Universal’s Blu-ray release showcases this wonderfully shot film in a purely beautiful form. With Roger Deakins once again serving as cinematographer for the Coen’s, you can be sure to expect a bright, fully detailed and insanely lively image throughout the presentation. The 1950s have rarely looked so authentic as it does here. A pure visual splendor, if anything!

Audio ***1/2

The DTS HD mix is most terrific, especially in the showcasing of sequences of movies within the movie (I haven’t even mentioned the hilarious dance number featuring Channing Tatum in a sailor’s getup). Dialogue delivery is excellent throughout, balancing out superbly with music playback and various other surround sound elements.

Features **1/2

Included on this Universal Blu-ray are four promotional featurettes, including “Directing Hollywood”, “The Stars Align”, “An Era of Glamour” and the perfectly titled “Magic of a Bygone Era”, all of which provide a neat little glance into how the Coen Brothers approach a film, and what goes into their filmmaking process.

Summary:

Hail, Caesar! showcases the Coen Brothers in a lighter, yet still very profound mode. This is much in line with their wonderful film The Hudsucker Proxy than it is with their other light fare. It’s certainly one of the best films I’ve seen about the filmmaking business to date, and one of the best movie highlights of this year!

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