Thursday, February 11, 2016

Hail Caesar!, Rams

Hail, Caesar!
Rams (Hrútar)

Capsules as we flip the calendar to February:

A high 2.5 star rating for the Coen Brothers' "Hail, Caesar!", about a fixer (Josh Brolin) who puts out all the fires at fictional Capitol Studios. Brolin continues to show he can carry a movie. Here, he's ably abetted by, among others, Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum. Frances McDormand has only one scene, but it's the most riotously funny one in the picture. The breakout star is young Alden Ehrenreich as screen cowboy Hobie Doyle, hilariously miscast in a drawing-room comedy despite the studio chief's comment that he's "not sure Hobie knows how to speak." Ehrenreich's struggles culminate in polite clashes with effete director Laurence Lorenz (Ralph Fiennes) that are worth the price of admission. A boring, bad-Coen-Brothers subplot involving the kidnapping of star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) by communists eats up too much runtime and keeps "Hail, Caesar!" from three stars.

A low 3 star rating for Grímur Hákonarson's Icelandic import "Rams" ("Hrútar"), about brothers Gummi and Kiddi, sheep farmers who live adjacent to each other but haven't spoken for 40 years. (They communicate, when necessary, via Gummi's herding dog.) When an outbreak of the ovine virus scrapie requires that all sheep in the valley be killed, each brother takes a different approach to evading the order. "Rams" has a droll sense of humor - manifesting more in chuckles than guffaws - and a strong and unique sense of place, with transporting cinematography by Sturla Brandth Grøvlen. It drags a bit in the middle but picks up steam, with an ending that gives double meaning to the title.

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