Hail, Zombies!

Happy Friday good readers! Today I shall give you two reviews for the price of one. Two movies of note came out today: (three if you want to include the latest Nicholas Sparks movie which I have not yet subjected myself to,) the long-time in the works adaptation of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, as well as the Coen Brother's latest film Hail, Caesar! February isn't usually the kindest month to the world of cinema, but do either of these two films manage to be a light in the darkness? Or are they the usual doomed fare? We'll start with the zombies ladies first.

When I first heard this movie was in the works I was really excited. I hoped that the filmmakers would have fun with the material and not try to take it too seriously. And then I saw the trailers and I was worried. Really worried. As such, I didn't have too high of expectations as to the quality of the film...the only thing was I expected it to be much more zombies, and much less Pride & Prejudice. I was very surprised to discover it was the other way around! This film is almost a direct copy of the Keira Knightley Pride & Prejudice, just with zombies thrown in (so there's really no use in describing the plot...just think of it as an alternate universe of Austen's world, this time that took place in a zombie infested England.) Is that a bad thing? For this girl, the answer is absolutely not. I had so much fun with this movie, I just wish there could have been some more action! Sometimes the filmmakers were too faithful in adapting the Pride & Prejudice part of the story, and you just wish that the characters' lives were a little more endangered. The action mixed with the period piece romance is the best part and when it gets it right, it really gets it right. It's a hard balance to strike throughout, but often I felt the filmmakers erred a little on being too safe.

Lily James makes a fantastic zombie-hunting Elizabeth Bennet. She's gorgeous and feisty. Sadly her Darcy is not quite her equal, and is a little more emo in this version...but I suppose he's perfectly tolerable, just not handsome enough to tempt me... (sorry for the P&P joke it was just too appropriate.) Luckily they work well together, and everyone is cast well enough. Matt Smith and Lena Headey in particular, are scene stealers. For a movie such as this, pacing is everything. In the beginning, it was absolutely perfect the way they intertwined the zombie attacks with the well-known romance. The middle portion of the movie doesn't have the same tact in getting things right. It drags as it focuses more on the story we know when it should take more liberties. Still, I can't deny I had a lot of fun seeing one of my favorite stories zombiefied. I just hope an extended/directors/unrated cut makes its way to Blu-ray sometime. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is flawed, but incredibly enjoyable for Austen lovers that don't take themselves too seriously, as well as action fans alike. It just might be the perfect date movie. EMILY RATING: 7/10

Now onto the Coen Brothers' tribute to old Hollywood with Hail, Caesar! How do I even begin to describe this hot mess of a movie? There are moments of sheer brilliance and hilarity that I love with all my heart. The film is all about a day in the life of Josh Brolin's character Eddie, a studio exec trying to keep everyone's pictures afloat and scandal-free. He has to deal with finishing a giant biblical epic (that is essentially Ben-Hur, just with a different name...) whose star has gone missing, a pregnancy from an unwed studio starlet, and a cowboy star who can't make the leap to dramatic actor. Unfortunately, not all storylines are created equal in this picture. Alden Ehrenreich, who was the only reason to see Beautiful Creatures, similarly is fantastic here. His character and his scenes with Ralph Fiennes are hilarious as the miscast actor and frustrated director respectively. Conversely, Scarlett Johansson's storyline feels like an afterthought, while George Clooney's scenes usually tend to be the best time to make your trip to the lobby or bathroom (or if you need a little shut-eye.) Unfortunately, Clooney's storyline is the most central to the plot, and it is by far the worst. I should also mention Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, and Jonah Hill all make appearances as well (of varying importance, all are great...especially Tatum.)

As a tribute to films of this era, Caesar features two amazing musical numbers, and they are undoubtedly the highlight of the film. I only wish there were more of them because it was fun to hearken back to a time where instead of explosions, it was this type of artistry that got people in their seats. It's hard not to wish that the film could have been more focused as to what it wanted to be. It can't decide whether to be an homage or a satire; whether to focus on fame or politics. Instead, it tries to do everything and it only succeeds at half of what it attempts. There are moments that truly are great, only to be dragged down by the most random dialogue-driven scenes that go on and on. For every great moment, there was one that left me scratching my head. It's definitely an unsatisfying film experience to watch a movie that is half great, and half completely out there. EMILY RATING: 5.5/10


Sarah said...

I'm not super into zombie flicks, but this one sounds fun. I'll have to check it out...if only to see how they merged a historical romance with a zombie horror film.

Hail, Caesar! sounds like a huge missed opportunity. Too bad. I might have to check that one out for the musical numbers though.

Joey said...

I am now not going to see the Zombie one because of that one picture. I can't make myself like zombie movies. I can't want to.

But I will watch "Hail, Caesar." I just won't pay a lot of money for it.