Thursday, March 3, 2016

Hail Caesar and Risen - two movie reviews

After not seeing a movie in ages the Missus, Young Son and I saw two movies about similar subjects treated very differently almost back to back!

The two movies are like siblings separated at birth and adopted by different families.  They may looks similar but they sure act differently.

"Hail Caesar" was the firs of two that we saw.  It is a Coen Brothers film which almost guarantees a great movie.  "Raising Arizona" and "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou" are two favorites of the Grouch family.

"Hail Caesar" tells the story of a '50s era Hollywood studio and the studio boss who spends all day keeping the stars in line, the scandals tamped down, and the movies on schedule. it follows three movies that are in the process of being made, one of them a sword and sandal biblical epic about a Roman officer who comes to see Jesus as the son of God - but in a silly Coen brothers fashion.

The movie itself was silly and nostalgic and fun.  Much of it was filmed on the Warner Brothers back lot which we have visited so it was even more fun for us.  The movie is advertised as a slap-stick farce but to me it was more of a gentle send-up of the foibles of the Hollywood crowd of the era complete with a cabal of communist manifesto spouting screen writers.  We greatly enjoyed it and gave it three stars.

The following Friday the Missus and I saw "Risen".  It followed the same path as Clooney's movie within a movie in "Hail Caesar": a Roman officer who comes to realize that Jesus is the son of God.  This movie is played straight however.  The officer who is at the crucifixion of Jesus and who saw him dead, is tasked by Pilate to find his body when it goes missing from the tomb.

As the officer searches he becomes more unsure of his role in the Roman machine and of his personal motivations.  The officer is war weary and is only serving to retire and move to the farm that he hopes to buy.  He fights as ordered but does it for his soldiers and not to Caesar.

I was concerned that the movie was going to be, well, religious and preachy.  Instead it was a gritty and spare movie beautifully shot in Spain with a haunting score and convincing turns by the actors.  I enjoyed it and found it thoughtful and very well done.  I gave it four stars.

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