Coen brothers Feature

Some Movies to See This Weekend, February 5, 2016

Friday, February 05, 2016 Rob Samuelson

The early-year doldrums may be behind us, folks. We got ourselves a true-blue event picture hitting the movie houses this weekend. There are a couple other options for those not on my taste wavelength, too. Let's check 'em out.

The Choice
Director: Ross Katz
Writer: Bryan Sipe
Starring: Teresa Palmer, Benjamin Walker, Maggie Grace, Alexandra Daddario, Tom Wilkinson, Tom Welling

For their reputation as goopy messes, the industry of Nicholas Sparks novel adaptations has produced a competent and affecting set of features. They look good, they feature actors who are probably at least a little above the source material's quality, and at least one of them, The Notebook, is a downright solid romance. The latest seems a little quaint by Sparks's standards, with a plot involving a pair of neighbors whose dogs can't deny nature and have a litter of puppies. It leads to a forbidden romance for the owners, as they are otherwise spoken for. There's an obligatory emergency – a car accident – but this otherwise appears to be a gimmick-less enterprise. I'm not familiar with the two leads, but any movie that boasts Tom Wilkinson (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Grand Budapest Hotel, you name it) is probably all right in my book.

Hail, Caesar!
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Starring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum

Joel and Ethan Coen are arguably our finest working filmmakers, able to work in any genre with a knack for wit, tension, an ear for dialogue seemingly bestowed from on high. To see them do a backstage comedy-caper-kidnapping plot set in 1950s-era Hollywood is all the more reason to be excited. George Clooney's working with the Coens again, so you know it's a zany one. Plus Josh Brolin gets to hopefully continue his comedic winning streak after Inherent Vice and, oddly, large parts of his character in Sicario. I couldn't be more excited, especially since the usually prolific brothers have put out only one other movie since 2010's True Grit. That last one just so happens to be a contender for “Rob's favorite movie of the decade,” Inside Llewyn Davis, so yeah. I'm a little giddy.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Director: Burr Steers
Writer: Burr Steers
Starring: Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote, Ellie Bamber, Millie Brady, Suki Waterhouse

Mashup culture irks me. It's like someone throwing a bunch of ingredients into a pot and forgetting to turn on the burner. Just because you take elements of seemingly unrelated things and put them together doesn't mean the work is done there. Existing properties cobbled together for comedic effect, like a classic novel and our culture's modern zombie obsession, shouldn't be the end goal but merely a starting point. That said, I could be way off base here. Lily James, who is almost literally Downton Abbey's cousin Oliver, has nevertheless seemingly become the show's breakout star after starring in last year's Cinderella. Now she gets to be Elizabeth Bennett, a role previously made memorable by Jennifer Ehle and Keira Knightley. But this time, zombies fight her. Maybe there's more alchemy and distillation than the trailer lets on, but I can't say I'm optimistic on that front.  

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