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Hail, Caesar!

The Coen Brothers have made a virtue of switching genres. Thrillers, comedies and dramas have been part of their repertoire for decades. ‘Hail, Caesar!’ is another gear change as it delves into the realm of farcical comedy. A cross between ‘Sunset Boulevard’ and ‘The Player’, ‘Hail Caesar!’ is another exploration of Hollywood’s excess as only the Coens can provide.

Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a ‘fixer’ working in Hollywood in 1951. Renowned for his skills in ensuring celebrity scandals never hit the media, Eddie’s services are in high demand. When popular actor Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) goes missing, Eddie has his work cut out. Along the way he crosses paths with actress DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) who among others may help or hinder Eddie’s increasingly frantic search.

‘Hail, Caesar!’ sees the Coen Brothers at their most frivolous. Unlike many of their previous work, ‘Hail, Caesar!’ is very lightweight and occasionally self-indulgent. In its favour is a great cast and stunning cinematography. The glossy technicolour glory of 1950’s Hollywood is superbly rendered as are the few musical numbers which are a lot of fun.

‘Hail, Caesar!’ also says interesting things about the movie business. How religion played a huge part in the way films of the era were made gives the script an intriguing edge. The ensemble bring much panache to their cartoony roles. It’s unfortunate they aren’t given the gift of a stronger script with only a few scenes causing genuine mirth.

The Coen Brothers have done far better than ‘Hail, Caesar!’ with this outing finding them on auto-pilot. It has its moments but considering the talent in front and behind the camera, it should have been a more enjoyable experience. As yet another strike against Hollywood excess it’s decent enough, proving once again how a job in Tinseltown may not be as welcome as first thought.

Rating out of 10: 6

CURRENTLY AVAILABLE ON DVD/BLU RAY AND VARIOUS STREAMING SERVICES

Winchester

The Winchester Mystery House is a huge mansion situated in California. Built in 1884, it is famous for its myriad of strange rooms and alleged hauntings. Owned by eccentric widow Sarah Winchester, it has spawned many urban legends to rival the infamous ‘Amityville Horror’ house. Based on these myths, ‘Winchester’ tries to spin a spooky yarn that should make its current owners gleeful of the free publicity.

When a psychic medium tells reclusive wealthy widow Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren) to build a mega-mansion, she does. Concerned by her strange behaviour, the directors of her late husband’s company send a doctor, Eric Price (Jason Clarke) to assess her mental state. Arriving at the peculiar estate, Eric’s life swiftly loses control as Sarah’s bedevilling ways to ensnare him in a deadly trap.

Directed by the Spierig Brothers, ‘Winchester’ is a film filled with loud noises. It’s difficult hearing anything go bump in the night due to the bombastic orchestral score and sound effects. The only creaky thing heard is the mechanical script going through the motions with a predictable plot. There’s little enthusiasm in generating anything remotely scary with the jump scares arriving at monotonous regularity.

Even the performances aren’t enough to save ‘Winchester’. Mirren does her best with the dull material and Clarke barely registers on the acting scale. A documentary about the house would have been more preferable than this fanciful tale. It takes true skill to turn an intriguing premise into a study in tedium as the Spierig Brothers have done far better elsewhere.

‘Winchester’ is a boring movie going nowhere fast. The set design of the sprawling property is amazing but the rest is forgettable. Seeing the real house could be less scary than the film it spawned. The knowledge that the time wasted watching it is truly a horrific thought!

Rating out of 10: 2

CURRENTLY STREAMING ON NETFLIX