The newest from Ethan and Joel Coen takes on the Hollywood studio system in ’50s as we follow a producer/fixer (Josh Brolin), who cleans up the messes for all the stars on his roster. George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum are his troubled roster. Tilda Swinton shines in dual roles as twins, both battling for an exclusive scoop on a gossip story. This is Clooney's fourth collaboration with the Coens and Brolin’s third, and Frances McDormand shows up for an eighth collaboration. Sometimes the smallest roles make the biggest impacts in a Coen film because their films are occasions. Most of the messes in this movie are based on true events, and the Coens handle both the films within the film and the subterfuge of the studio system in an age before instant information and TMZ with style and precision. But there are also deep pools of irreverence in coded dialogue laced about communism versus capitalism and idolism versus stardom. It’s not their best, but it’s worth a watch.
Disney has upped the stakes in the last decade. I guess you have to provide a better product if competitors are breathing down your neck, and you need validation for rising ticket prices on your parks. None of that should fall on the filmmakers’ shoulders, but it’s nice to see a move away from the princess model and back to animals. But this ain’t your mama’s “Fox and the Hound.” No, this is an urban take of mammals coexisting and committing crimes in the big city. Longtime Disney employee Ginnifer Goodwin aptly plays a rookie rabbit cop on a missing persons case. She enlists a sly fox (Jason Bateman) to help her out. That’s one of the strengths here – matching the animal to the actor. Idris Elba is a strong buffalo. J.K. Simmons is a boastful lion. Writer/director Byron Howard (“Bolt” and “Tangled”) gets better and better as he goes because he threads themes of tolerance and community outreach into a cartoon about an overeager rabbit and a misguided fox. Hop up and peep this one, because it’s worth a watch.
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Adapting this brutal work of Shakespeare isn’t a new thing. Some great directors have done it – Orson Welles (1948), Akira Kurosawa (1957) and perhaps none better than Roman Polanski’s 1971 version. This time, Australian director Justin Kurzel (“The Snowtown Murders”) helms the bleak murderous tale. As far as actors, Michael Fassbender takes on the title role. He’s not the first X-Man to play the Scot. James McAvoy did it in 2005. Hell, he’s not even the first Magneto. Ian McKellen did it in 1979. So, what’s the point? This is far from a play for the screen. This adaptation moves like gritty poetry in motion. Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, as Lady Macbeth, give new layers beyond greed and ambition. This worked so well, director Kurzel, Fassbender, Cotillard and costar Adam Arkapaw retry their chemistry in “Assassin's Creed” later this year. For you Shakespeare fans, this one is worth a watch.