I went to San Francisco this past week and did a bit of movie watching at the Alamo Drafthouse… here’s what I saw!
I am largely hit and miss with the Coen Brothers and their films. What’s weird is that I tend to prefer many of their “less popular” films and this seems to be the exception that proves the rule. While many critics are struggling to say anything positive about this movie, it was an awesomely fun ride for me and just proved how talented these men are as writers. Their characters are fun, quirky, enjoyable to watch, and are always pushed forward with a specific motivation that makes these people engaging to watch. And the aptly named “Guy Mannix” is no different- he’s an engaging character from beginning to end and Josh Brolin delivers this very serious character in the midst of several crises with perfect tone and temperament.
And one of the reasons I think I find myself in a different boat than most reviewers is that they are totally missing the real story being told. And this is despite the declaration from the title card of the picture, which blatantly spells it out for anyone who may be curious. It’s repeatedly addressed in a number of scenes, but most spectacularly when Mannix takes a meeting with several figures from the various religious communities. “Hail, Caesar!” is a tale of The Christ- the Christ as a figure, as a savior, as a miracle worker, as a sacrifice, and all of that- and Guy Mannix represents the Christ of this film as he performs one miracle after another, helps the community with which he has taken responsibility, and ultimately faces temptation, betrayal, and doubt in a manner that is very specific to the Gospel itself. And it’s done in a way that’s funny, irreverent, and with several nods to the splendor and creativity that is the Film Industry.
So while many reviewers will dismiss the film as “confusing” and with too many unresolved plot points, I’m going to say that this film was a fun ride and a great experience. The plot is very linear so long as you understand that you are watching three days in the life of one man and especially when you understand that this is an adaptation of Christs’ tale in the same way that “O’ Brother, Where Art Thou’” was an adaptation of The Odyssey.
5 out of 5.
I am a HUGE fan of the Deadpool comic book series. I collected the comic well into the mid-2000’s and even purchased the “Agent X” series that spun off on the spare chance that Wade Wilson had survived his “death” and had only forgotten who he was. (Spoiler: He did survive, no he hadn’t really forgotten, and yeah the story is convoluted and confusing… moving on.) I really love the Merc with a Mouth for a number of reasons- he’s irreverant, he’s funny, he’s violent, and he breaks the rules with a specific purpose in mind as he does so. Deadpool is also a great story of possible redemption that never actually takes place because of just how broken the character really is- and we see him making the same mistakes over and over again throughout the years.
The Deadpool movie is everything that it should have been and so much more- because it did everything right and it had the passion of the film’s star and director and a production team that truly believed in it. We have what many thought would be a box-office flop and the studios are now faced with a massive success that they’ll never be able to bottle or understand. This is the irreverent and subversive film that it needed to be. And I don’t mean that in the “throw away a nice little adjective that will be a cool selling point” turn of phrase- this film is SUBVERSIVE! It will dig in and it will change the way people view comic book super heroes, it will change the way studios make films, it will be a huge turning point in cinema and this is a film that is going to make a difference… and not always for the better.
The plot is fairly standard- Wade Wilson is a mercenary diagnosed with cancer who undertakes an experimental procedure to cure himself and possibly gain super powers in the process. His reasons for doing this include a loving girlfriend named “Vanessa” (Morena Bacarrin, of Firefly fame). The process is brutal and is overseen by a coldly sadistic “Ajax” and his assistant. The experiment results in Wilson being deformed but having gained the mutant ability to regenerate and heal at a very fast rate. He goes on a path of revenge and dons a mask- you’ve seen all of this a thousand times before in other hero films, comic book and otherwise. You’ve seen the villain before- arrogant and dismissive of all morality. You’ve seen the action set pieces before, the swinging blades, the shooting guns, and everything. You’ve seen all that before!
You haven’t seen Deadpool.
Deadpool is the game changer here- he’s not a character that really belongs to the world in which he inhabits. He’s driven beyond insanity by the experimentation done on his body and he’s crawled into a dark pit of self-loathing and black humor that mocks everything about the world, including it’s very existence. He breaks the fourth wall- he addresses the audience, he understands pop references to moments outside his universe, and he undermines the very existence of his character at every turn. He knows who and what he is- and he’s going to reject every bit of it out of spite and in a way that’s going to make HIM laugh just as much as the audience who is watching him. He’s not the hero that universe may want him to be- he’s going to be something different.
For readers of the comic book- He’s a squirrel with a coconut.
5 out of 5.
Demons (1985) @ the Alamo Drafthouse
Italian film-maker Dario Argento produced this film by director Lamberto Bava, son of legendary film-maker Mario Bava. It’s the second full feature from the son of a legend and it carried the legendary seal of Italian suspense master Argento, so “Demons” was gauranteed to be a bit of a cult classic at the time of its release and the movie did manage to spawn at leastone official sequel and another sequel “in name only.” It featured extensive practical effects that pushed the limits on what was thought to be possible, including the eruption of a demon from the small of a woman’s back.
The story is pretty standard- Cheryl is approached by a mysterious figure on a train, a man handing out free tickets to a film screening for later that same night. So she hooks up with her friend, another local student, and they attend the feature at the newly opened theater. While watching the horror movie on the screen, another patron is possessed by the Demonic entities and the sickness spreads through scratches and bites from one victim to the next until the remaining survivors are forced to fight back or perish.
Screening at the Alamo Drafthouse for their Tuesday Terrors, “Demons” came with a short introduction from the theater’s “Terror” organizer that included a run down on the Bava family’s lineage through film (going back three generations to Mario’s own father). The pre-show trailers included some old favorites from the same time period and scenes from cult classics (including “Street Trash” and “Brain Damage”, among others) and a rundown on their other “event” screenings; Weird Wednesday, Music Monday, and even a nod to their Miyazaki Month that was still running. Servers were helpful, offering tips on ordering before the feature presentation and recommendations.
The seating is wide and spacious with a table set between every other seat, a dim light to peruse the small menu, and a pen set for every patron. Orders are filled out on a little card while little Ninja come running through for a quick snatch and order drop throughout the course of the film. The bill is dropped near the end of the film and often cashed out before the credits even start to roll, creating a truly memorable film experience. Soft drinks are plentiful with free refills. Popcorn comes with multiples flavors, though we chose the delicious “Truffle butter with parmesan seasoing” and it blew our minds! Their cookies were also delicious and the pizza was pretty good if a little overpriced at $15 for a personal size. Some other items seemed a little overpriced for their value (The Milkshake was $9 for what was essentially a childrens glass) but they had a large alcohol-based menu.
5 out of 5 for the experience and I hope to go again.