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Hail, Caesar! (Blu-ray Review)

3 Jun, 2016 By: John Latchem

Street 6/7/16
Box office $30.08 million
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for some suggestive content and smoking
Stars Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum.

The latest Coen brothers adventure is a breezy romp through 1950s Hollywood — a homage to the studio system when stars were contract players and movies were cranked out on the cheap in the backlot.

This snapshot of a day at a major studio lot focuses on Josh Brolin as studio bigwig Eddie Mannix, who actually existed (Bob Hoskins played him in 2006’s Hollywoodland), but is heavily fictionalized here. He’s responsible for making sure everything runs smoothly, and for cleaning up the public image of the studio and its stars when things go awry.

Here, he has to hide the pregnancy of the swimming star (Scarlett Johansson) of the studio’s profitable aquatic movies, fend off a pair of gossip columnists (twin sisters played by Tilda Swinton), transition his singing cowboy (Alden Ehrenreich) into a prestige drama with a persnickety director (Ralph Fiennes), and pay off a group of communists who kidnap the headliner (George Clooney) of the latest Roman epic. All in a day’s work.

Given the breadth of genres tackled here, the Coens delight in re-creating them all, and the Roger Deakins cinematography is certainly evocative of that old-time feel.

As the subplots swirl around each other, the main focus turns to the kidnapping, which may also involve a Gene Kelly-style song-and-dance man played by Channing Tatum, introduced in an elaborate musical number involving sailors in a bar. Tatum swears in the bonus materials that his hair should be given a supporting credit, and it’s hard to disagree with him.

Clooney is amusing as the pampered superstar dabbling in politics that are over his head, but the standout is Ehrenreich, recently cast as the new young Han Solo for a series of “Star Wars” spinoffs. Ehrenreich’s Hobie Doyle character is the embodiment of cowboy culture both on and off camera, much to the bemusement and bewilderment of those he works with, which explains how easily he’s roped into the kidnapping case by Mannix.

It all adds up to some minor fluff that film buffs should eat up.

The Blu-ray extras consist of four featurettes running about 28 minutes, mostly interviews with the cast and filmmakers discussing classic Hollywood.

“Directing Hollywood” allows the cast to gush over working with the Coen Brothers; “The Stars Align” features the cast discussing their characters and the period setting; “An Era of Glamour” delves into how filmmakers re-created classic Hollywood; and “Magic of a Bygone Era” lets everyone talk about how different movies were back then.

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