Reviewer: Get to the movies to see ‘Deadpool,’ ‘Hail,Caesar!’

Channing Tatum in “Hail Caesar!”
Channing Tatum in “Hail Caesar!”

Deadpool ****

Marvel and co-producers Artisan Entertainment, have broken the mold and delivered a game-changing film, in the R-rated Deadpool, raising the genre up and way out of the PG-rated, family-friendly model of the past two decades. While the plot is the same-old same old, Ryan Reynolds, perfectly cast as the wise cracking, flawed, reluctant hero named Deadpool, lets us in on the joke. He breaks the fourth wall (speaking directly to the camera) multiple times, and makes so many references to studio budgets, and insider movie-making lingo, it makes us feel like we’re behind the scenes, and in on the fun. The writers never go so far off the rails that it detracts from or slows down the story. Deadpool, and by association, Reynolds, pokes fun at himself with a Green Lantern reference, and lampoons the entire superhero genre while he’s at it. The action and story are clever, the CGI well crafted, and you almost get the feeling that this is the kind of superhero movie directors would like to make, but can’t because the gratuitous violence, blood and guts, brief nudity, and a few sex scenes, push the film out of family territory and into the 17-and-over only marketplace. Director Tim Miller, an animator by trade, makes his directorial debut here, and has made a hit critics and fans seem to love. How much so? The $58 million movie has already earned close to $275 million. My guess is Miller and Deadpool will both be back for more.

Hail, Caesar! ***1/2

Producers, directors and writers, Joel and Ethan Coen, who are the brothers behind Raising Arizona, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou, No Country for Old men, True Grit, and handful of others, delivered their 15th full length feature in Hail, Caesar! The film is very loosely based on a real person, a Hollywood “fixer” from the post-war 1950s named Eddie Mannix, played by Josh Brolin. The real-life Mannix was charged with protecting a studio’s image, by keeping gossip at bay, paying off cops, and keeping a studio’s stable of stars out of trouble, using all manner of dirty deeds. In Hail, Caesar! George Clooney, playing the fictitious star Brad Whitlock, is only seen in Roman officer garb as the studio tries to finish production on an epic “Ten Commandments” style big budget extravaganza. There are moments of pure genius in this latest Coen effort, though it’s not likely to be considered one of their best. There’s plenty of star power in Brolin, Clooney, Ralph Fiennes (yes, Voldemort himself), Jonah Hill, Scarlet Johansson, and Channing Tatum. There’s song and dance, intrigue, Soviet spies, and enough screwball antics to keep the film fun, but it’s missing the cohesiveness that made O Brother Where Art Thou and The Big Lebowski nearly perfect from start to finish. Fans of the Coens and of the stars should enjoy this romp and nostalgic look back at old Hollywood, and those with a more critical eye will enjoy the film for its 20 to 30 minutes (in 5-minute blocks), of really funny, and really good filmmaking.

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