Hail, Caesar! (2016)

Hail, Caesar!
Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Writer: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Veronica Osorio, Heather Goldenhersh, Alison Pill, Max Baker, Clancy Brown, David Krumholtz, Robert Picardo, Christopher Lambert, Fred Melamed, Jack Huston, Michael Gambon
Seen on: 21.2.2016

Plot:
Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) fixes problems for a big movie studio. And boy, are there ever problems: Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), the biggest star they currently have, is missing, possibly abducted. Star DeeAnna Moran (Scarlett Johansson) is pregnant und unmarried. Director Laurnce Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) needs a new star for his film and the only guy available is Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), talented stunt cowboy but acting is a whole other story. And the twin journalists Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton and Tilda Swinton) are snooping around for a story, each in her own way and for her own column. And if all of that wasn’t enough, Eddie has an attractive job offer on the table he needs to decide on soon.

After the recent rather serious outings of the Coen brothers, Hail, Caesar! is a return to comedy, and a very successful one at that. The film is a romp through the studio cinema of the 50s, with the only drawback that they’re reproducing the white-maleness of those films as well. Other than that, though, it is simply fun.

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Sicario (2015)

Sicario
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writer: Taylor Sheridan
Cast: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Victor Garber, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya, Jeffrey Donovan
Seen on: 6.10.2015

Plot:
After an assignment that ends pretty badly, FBI agent Kate (Emily Blunt) is recruited by CIA operative Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) for a joined task force as Kate’s operation brought her in contact with a Mexican drug cartell that Graver has been investigating for years. Together with informant/operative Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro), they enter Mexico to hunt down the cartell’s head. But it seems that there is more to the story and Kate finds herself increasingly puzzled.

Sicario seems to be on a mission: to find out how boring you can make a movie about murder, human trafficking and shady governments. They went far in their quest and I can now tell you: it can be very boring indeed.

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Everest (2015)

Everest
Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Writer: William Nicholson, Simon Beaufoy
Cast: Jason Clarke, John HawkesJosh Brolin, Naoko Mori, Michael KellyMartin Henderson, Jake GyllenhaalAng Phula Sherpa, Pemba Sherpa, Emily Watson, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Elizabeth Debicki, Robin WrightVanessa Kirby, Clive Standen, Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson
Seen on: 5.10.2015

Plot:
Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) thought he found his niche when he established guided tours up Mount Everest for more or less amateur climbers, but since he started, many others have followed his lead and now base camp is full with groups – one of them led by Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal). Rob, too, brings yet another group to climb the top, among them journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), postman Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), enthusiastic climber Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin) and Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori) who wants to complete her collection of over 8000m peaks she’s climbed. But the group encounters more than one problem.

I’m not a mountain person. I don’t even understand skiing as a pastime, something people do voluntarily (and I’m fucking Austrian). So the concept of climbing Mount Everest is utterly alien to me. I understand it even less after having seen this film.

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Inherent Vice (2014)

Inherent Vice
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson
Based on: Thomas Pynchon‘s novel
Cast: Joaquin PhoenixJoanna Newsom, Katherine Waterston, Josh Brolin, Eric Roberts, Serena Scott Thomas, Maya Rudolph, Michael Kenneth Williams, Benicio Del Toro, Jena Malone, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Martin Short, Sasha Pieterse
Seen on: 18.02.2015

Plot:
Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) is a private detective who spends most of his time being high. When his ex-girlfriend Shasta (Katherine Waterston) surprisingly visits him to tell him about a plot against her current boyfriend, real estate tycoon Wolfmann (Eric Roberts), by his wife Sloane (Serena Scott Thomas) and then disappears, Doc takes up the investigation. As more people go missing and the police in the form of Christian ‘Bigfoot’ Bjornsen (Josh Brolin) gets involved as well, Doc quickly finds himself in deeper than he expected.

My relationship with Paul Thomas Anderson is difficult. With few exceptions I just don’t care for hard-boiled Detective Stories. Stoner movies are not my cup of tea. So it probably comes to no-one’s surprise that I did not like Inherent Vice, though it did surprise me how bored I was by it.

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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Director: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez
Writer: Frank Miller
Based on: Frank Miller’s comics
Sequel/Prequel to: Sin City
Cast: Mickey Rourke, Josh BrolinEva Green, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Powers Boothe, Dennis Haysbert, Ray Liotta, Christopher MeloniJeremy PivenChristopher Lloyd, Juno TempleStacy KeachMarton Csokas, Jamie Chung, Julia GarnerJaime King, Lady Gaga, Bruce Willis

Plot [with SPOILERS for the first film]:
Basin City is called Sin City for a reason. A town full of crooked politicians, even more crooked cops, murderers, sex workers and pretty much everyone who was thrown out everywhere else. Marv (Mickey Rourke) spends most of his time when he isn’t fighting with somebody in a strip club where Nancy (Jessica Alba) dances. Nancy is still hung up on Hartigan’s (Bruce Willis) suicide to save her and tries to kill Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) who is to blame and regularly plays poker at her club. He always wins, of course, until Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) shows up. But the Senator can’t have people beating him. Dwight (Josh Brolin) is also at the strip club a lot. He is still obsessed with his ex Ava (Eva Green) who suddenly shows up in his life again and severely disrupting it in the process. Now he needs Marv’s help.

I couldn’t tell you what the difference was between the first film and the second since it looks equally great, has an equally good cast and tells equally problematic stories. But in Sin City everything works. In Sin City: A Dame to Kill For I spent very long stretches feeling very bored.

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Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy
Director: James Gunn
Writer: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman
Based on: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning‘s comic
Cast: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio Del Toro, Peter Serafinowicz, Sean Gunn, Stan Lee, [and – see if you can find them: Emmett Scanlan, Nathan Fillion, Alexis Denisof, Josh Brolin, Seth Green, Lloyd Kaufman]

Plot:
When Peter (Chris Pratt) was a little child, he was abducted by aliens. Now he is a smuggler, always looking for the next thing he can steal and sell. But his latest acquisition is also sought after by Ronan (Lee Pace) aka The Destroyer – which does not bode well for Peter. Ronan sends assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) after Peter and at the same time bounty hunters Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) try to collect the price on Peter’s head. In the ensuing confusion they are all arrested, which in turn forces them to work together – first for the money, then to keep Ronan from realizing his destructive plans.

I was really looking forward to Guardians of the Galaxy. The trailer looked good. The first reviews were very promising. The cast was great. I was counting down the days to its ridiculously late Austrian release. And then finally it was time to see the film and… it was a mess. A sexist, boring mess.

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Re-Watch: The Goonies (1985)

The Goonies
Director: Richard Donner
Writer: Chris Columbus
Cast: Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, Kerri Green, Martha Plimpton, Jonathan Ke Quan, John Matuszak, Robert Davi, Joe Pantoliano, Anne Ramsey

Plot:
Mikey (Sean Astin) and his brother Brandon (Josh Brolin) live in the Goon Docks – an entire housing area that is threatened with foreclosure. Just before they have to move out, the two of them plus Mikey’s friends Mouth (Corey Feldman), Data (Jonathan Ke Quan) and Chunk (Jeff Cohen) stumble on a pirate treasure map. They decide to go on an adventure, picking up Andy (Kerri Green) and Stef (Martha Plimpton) on the way. But that adventure is not only one last hope of saving the Goon Docks, but also makes them cross paths with the Fratellis, a gangster family who also happen to be in the area.

I don’t know how many times I saw The Goonies as a child. I absolutely loved it. And I’m happy to say that it absolutely stood the test of time. It’s sweet and fun and basically embodies adventure movies in general.

The-Goonies

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Gangster Squad (2013)

Gangster Squad
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writer: Will Beall
Based on: Paul Lieberman’s book Tales from the Gangster Squad
Cast: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Emma Stone, Michael Peña, Giovanni Ribisi, Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick, Nick Nolte

Plot:
1949 in Los Angeles: former boxer Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) is taking over the city with his criminal empire. The police is mostly bought by him and those who aren’t are too few to do anything about it. That is when Chief Parker (Nick Nolte) asks Sgt. John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) to form an unofficial squad of police men to destroy Cohen’s operation – with any means necessary. So O’Mara gathers some men around him and gets to work.

Gangster Squad is astonishingly bad. You’ve got this excellent cast and a potentially stylish setting, and it’s all ruined by a script that is so stupid it’s practically negligent and a particularly inept direction.

Gangster-Squad

[SPOILERS]

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Men in Black III (2012)

Men in Black III
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Writer: Etan Cohen
Based on: Lowell Cunningham‘s comic
Sequel to: Men in Black, Men in Black II
Cast: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Michael Stuhlbarg, Bill Hader, Emma Thompson, Will Arnett, Michael Chernus, Alice Eve, David Rasche

Plot:
Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), one of the most dangerous criminals in the universe, manages to escape from Lunar prison, where he was sent by Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) many years ago. With his mind set on revenge, he finds a way to travel back in time to 1969, where he kills Agent K before he can arrest Boris. That is not only tragic on a personal level, but puts the entire earth in jeopardy. Fortunately, Agent J (Will Smith) somehow still remembers K and travels back in time, too, to save his then young partner (Josh Brolin).

I did not have very high hopes for this film, but it turns out that it is actually quite nice. While it is not quite as good as the first film, it has its heart in the right place, it’s entertaining and it manages to steer clear of the sexism that ruined the second one. I’d say that’s a win.

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True Grit (2010)

True Grit is the newest film by Joel and Ethan Coen, based on the novel by Charles Portis and starring Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper.

Plot:
After the murder of her father by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) decides to hire a marshall to track Chaney down and bring him to justice. She finds Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), a grumpy drunk who has the reputation to be effective. She hires him and, together with Texas ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) who has been tracking Chaney for a while, they set out to get justice.

True Grit is yet another proof of the Coen Brothers Rule: I love every second movie I see by them*. And True Grit is a second film. It was brilliant, with great performances, wonderful cinematography and a nice sense of humor.

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