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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies & Hail, Caesar!

Dearest Blog: Yesterday it was off to Marquee Cinemas for unlikely bedfellows Pride & Prejudice & Zombies and Hail, Caesar! 
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing important that you won't have gotten from a couple of pretty awesome trailers. First on the docket: Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. A bit of classic literature gets the Walking Dead treatment. 
Oh, Jack Huston, the things I do for you. Nevermind the things I *would* do for you...the things I *do* do for you. Zombies are kind-of the "it" monster these days, but, being more of a vampire girl myself--and not having gone anywhere near Jane Austen since a forced high-school acquaintance--I might have taken a pass on PPZ if not for the presence of the talented and dashing Mr. Huston. 
Not surprisingly, though, it was a far less annoying experience than that Nicholas Sparks disaster I was forced to watch last year. Getting the obvious out of the way first: If you look at the name "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies" and think "That's stupid!" well...this isn't the movie for you. 
Like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the concept's chief appeal is in its utter ridiculousness. PPZ isn't quite as tongue-in-cheek as one might expect, but it's still good fun. Highlights include a strong leading turn by Lily James, a solid array of impressive female heroes, nice costumes, good fight choreography, and some sweet zombie effects. 
Like World War Z, these undead don't just shuffle along; if you're running, odds are they can catch you. Of all the non-traditional aspects of PPZ, that one is, perhaps, the most disquieting! On the downside, it takes a full 39 minutes for Jack Huston to appear onscreen. (Did I clock it? Yes, I did.) Sam Riley is so miserable looking throughout I feel sure he'll be tapped to play Athos in some future version of The Three Musketeers. 
The movie's not overlong, but it does feel slow at times; a little trim might have served it well. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies clocks in at 108 minutes and is rated PG13 for "zombie violence and action and brief suggestive material." 
A definitive answer to Hollywood's female problem, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is a good time that's well worth a look. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, PPZ gets seven. 
Next on my agenda: Hail, Caesar! In 1950s Hollywood, a studio "fixer" has his hands full when a marquee name goes missing. 
My smarter, funnier cousin once said that the Coen brothers' idea of a comedy is about the same as Iron Tail's idea of coloring Easter eggs. (If you're young, look it up.) I don't find that as true here as it sometimes is, but their humor is an acquired taste; if you don't love Hail, Caesar!, you'll probably hate it. 
Though the movie's been touted as a love letter to Hollywood's Golden Age, if we're being honest, it's more of a hate letter, spotlighting everything hilariously stupid about the big studio experience of the 50s. Josh Brolin is fantastic in the lead and, even after all these years, it does my tiny heart good to see his name atop such a list of Hollywood A-Listers. 
George Clooney's buffoonish superstar is a laugh every time he's onscreen. Channing Tatum continues to surprise as a real asset to seemingly every movie that'll have him. (And does he have the MOVES!) 
I wouldn't be me if I didn't name check a couple of my favorites who turn up in roles so small the characters don't even have names: Fisher Stevens and Patrick Fischler. 
Great to see ya, guys! Hail, Caesar! features a solid mystery that ties together the various movies within the movie. The film is consistently funny, with some laugh-out-loud moments, and boasts top-notch performances from a bunch of top-notch names, as well as charming choreography from the master, Tony winner Christopher Gattelli. 
There's also a small cameo by Mr. Jack Huston, which allows me to deem yesterday a "Jack Huston Film Festival." Day = Made! Hail, Caesar! runs 106 minutes and is rated PG13 for "some suggestive content and smoking." 
The finished product falls a little short of its stellar trailer's promise, but Hail, Caesar! is a fun, clever picture that should please most moviegoers. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Hail, Caesar! gets seven. 
Hope everyone enjoys their Super Bowl Sunday. Until next time...........yay, football!! 

Saturday, February 6, 2016


Slick Hollywood fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is pressed into action when superstar actor Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) is kidnapped and held for ransom by a mysterious group. Mannix races to quietly collect the ransom money without gossip columnists Thessaly and Thora Thacker (Tilda Swinton in a dual role) catching wind of the scandal. Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Jonah Hill, Frances McDormand, and Channing Tatum co-star in this comedy set in Hollywood's golden age. Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. ~ Daniel Gelb, Rovi

Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Cast: George Clooney, Josh Brolin, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Jonah Hill

Release Date: Feb 05, 2016

Rated PG-13 Some suggestive content and smoking.

Runtime: 1 hr. 40 min.

Genres: Comedy, Drama, Music/Performing Arts


Hail, Caesar is the Coen’s brother loving tribute to old Hollywood with a healthy dose of laughter.  Its plot is almost an afterthought since the Coen’s seem more concerned with recreating some of the golden eras favorite genres.  It’s an enjoyable trek with enough laughs to keep you entertained for the better part of its runtime.  Josh Brolin is fine as the studio fixer who’s just trying to keep all the proverbial plates spinning.  He mostly serves as your guide through the fictional studio so we have an excuse to wander through some wonderfully choreographed sequences like Scarlett Johansson water based musical or Channing Tatum’s fun Gene Kellyesque sailor sequence.  Alden Ehrenreich does impressive work as the cowboy star turned dramatic actor, it helps that he shares a fantastic little sequence with an underused Ralph Fiennes.  It’s all light wacky fun which is going to leave you smiling even if the film would have been better if it’d been just a tad more focused.


Sunday, January 31, 2016

Cindy Prascik's Review of The Finest Hours

Dearest Blog: Yesterday it was off to Marquee Cinemas for the action-thriller The Finest Hours. Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from that lone trailer you've been seeing every week since last May. 
When a T2 oil tanker splits in half during a brutal Nor'easter, it's up to a small, brave Coast Guard crew to mount an unlikely rescue. Ahhh...the bleak midwinter...that No Man's Land between the awards hopefuls tuckering themselves out and the Lenten glut of Bible stories, where Hollywood dumps all the movies it's given up on or has no idea what to do with. These are movies with no ulterior motive. 
They don't expect to win anything, and they certainly don't expect to save your soul; they just want to entertain you. These movies are my friends. The Finest Hours is an old-school adventure, perhaps too old-school for today's audiences. 
The heroes are traditional, Ken-doll types, the elements big and threatening, the romance sweet and chaste. There's not much chemistry between Chris Pine and the always-delightful Holliday Grainger, but both are likeable enough to get by. The movie's real star (outside of some nice water and disaster effects) is Casey Affleck, as the de facto captain of the disabled tanker. Ben Foster, perpetually one great performance away from knocking Russell Crowe out of my Holy Trinity, is fantastic in a smaller role, and West Virginia boy Josh Stewart is great as well, though also with not too much to do. 
The rescue itself is hold-your-breath tense, and plays out so Hollywood-perfect that I'd call it hokey if not for the fact they've stuck pretty close to true events. Though it may be an unremarkable picture in the grand scheme of things, The Finest Hours a perfectly enjoyable afternoon at the movies for anyone who isn't expecting an Oscar coulda-shoulda-woulda. 
The Finest Hours clocks in at 117 minutes and is rated PG13 for "intense sequences of peril." It may not win any awards, but The Finest Hours kept me well and propertly entertained for the duration. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, The Finest Hours gets seven. 
Until next time... 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Carol & Room

Dearest Blog: Yesterday it was off to Marquee Cinemas to catch a couple Oscar hopefuls before they beat a hasty path out of town. On the docket: Carol and Room.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn’t know from the trailers if you’ve seen any (which I haven’t).
Dear Reader(s), Awards Season is a funny thing here in Smalltown, USA. Unless you’ve got yourself a freakishly-realistic bear attack, your picture may expect a run of about seven days. Thus I found myself at the movies on a Wednesday afternoon in January, watching two films that interested me about as much as one of those “Real Housewives” shows. First on my agenda: Carol. 
A young photographer falls for a sophisticated older woman. 
Ahhhh…forbidden love. It always sounds just a bit tawdry, doesn’t it? While Carol tells the tale of an affair that was, for the time, utterly impossible, there’s not a hint of dirtiness about it. The romance is a slow burner, with not even a kiss before the movie’s midway point, and the major love scene is as sterile as an operating theatre. 
Respect for the subject matter is appreciated, but a taboo affair should feel at least a little dangerous. There are also some weird shots that linger so long as to be almost comical. That’s the bad news is. 
The good news is, Carol is a lovely story, slowly paced but never dull. The family drama is well-played, and fleshes out our love story without feeling like an intrusion. 
Should Cate Blanchett go home with Oscar on The Big Night, the Academy will undoubtedly be accused of choosing old-and-safe over young-and-edgy (again), but, for my money, she is deserving. 
Rooney Mara is equally extraordinary and moving. For all its deliberate pace, the movie never feels long, and, a superhero fangirl stuck in a grownup movie even has a *squee* moment when Cory Michael Smith (Gotham’s Edward Nygma) turns up, so there’s that. 
Carol runs 118 minutes and is rated R for “a scene of sexuality/nudity and brief language.” 
Carol is a beautiful love story that boasts some very special performances, and, like The Danish Girl, provides nice reminders of how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Carol gets six.
Next up: Room.
A young woman who bore a son while being held captive attempts to recover from her ordeal, while the boy experiences the outside world for the first time.
In the interest of full and fair disclosure, I’ll always admit when a movie’s main or only problem is that it’s not “my thing.” Room is most certainly not my thing (nor is Carol, for that matter), but it’s got much bigger problems. 
The first ten minutes of Room are so insufferable that it was all I could do not to walk out. Most of the first half is barely watchable, and not remotely in the way a capable telling of this harrowing story might make itself unwatchable. 
Rather than sympathizing with characters that should be very sympathetic, I was bored and even annoyed with them. The film picks up somewhat once it puts “Room” in its rearview, which might be attributed to happier subject matter or simply to more going on. 
I attribute it mostly to Joan Allen, a great actress who elevates anything that’s lucky enough to have her. Brie Larson is as good as you’ve heard, though not my Best Actress winner, if the Academy gives me a vote. (Hint: it does not.) 
Kid actors are never less than a risky proposition, and, while it may seem unfair to place such a big burden on such small shoulders, it’s youngster Jacob Trembley who ultimately could have made Room fully engaging, but, sadly, does not. 
There are a fair few emotionally wrenching moments where you think the film might be finding its feet, but it overstays its welcome so badly that those are barely remembered by the time the picture reaches its longed-for conclusion.
Room clocks in at 118 minutes, and is rated R for “language.”
Room is this year’s Boyhood, an unjustified critical darling for what it should have been more than for what it is. 
Maybe next time they should consult Tommy Wiseau. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Room gets three.
Until next time…

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