Film Reviews with a Drag Queen: Double Feature – Hail, Caesar! and PPZ

Film Reviews with a Drag Queen!

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In which Stixen Stones teams up with M. Leigh Hood

to give you a peek at the latest and greatest in a theater near you.

Tonight: A Double Feature!

Hail! Caesar and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Moderate spoilers ahead!

M.: Hail, Caesar! – How would Stixen summarize the film?

Stixen would say that it was a visually gorgeous film with lots of pretty costumes and gorgeous guys and gals who all look straight out of the 1940’s. As for the story, it had its moments. But the spectacle was well-worth the pandering plotline.

M.: How did you feel walking into the theater versus walking out?

I came in expecting a film about a squad of vintage film stars having to band together to find George Clooney. So I was ecstatic. And I left feeling a bit disappointed. Sure, it was clever and fun. Some of the characters were hilarious and endearing, but on a whole it felt like the film didn’t know what it wanted to be. A gritty drama? A screwball comedy? A commentary on religion? It was all those things and more and as a result, it was sort of all over the place.

M.: Best costumes?

The costumes were my favorite. Since costumes are my job, I was really impressed. Not only were they dazzling, but they were, for the most part, historical. They really did a good job of taking this story to the next level. They were the perfect cross between believable and stylized. Tilda Swinton and Scarlet Johansson’s costumes were my favorite.

M.: Of all the genres caricatured by the film, which did you enjoy or empathize with?

That’s a good question. I think that was a struggle I had: truly connecting with the film on an emotional level. But my favorite part had to have been Alden’s character, Hobie Doyle. He stole the show for me. He was charming and genuine and I wanted to see more of his story. But then again, Channing Tatum’s homoerotic dance number wasn’t bad either.

M.: As you said, the story was a bit haphazard because it WASN’T really a single, unified plot. Of all the plots and subplots racing around, including Hobie Doyle, which do you think would’ve made the best stand-alone film?

Oh wow. That’s a fabulous question! I think that was the issue. Not one of them had enough substance to create an entire film around them. But probably Hobie, since he did have that budding romance scene with that lovely actress. Their chemistry was adorable and I would’ve liked to see more of that story. But I could also see something with Scarlet’s character. While I didn’t enjoy the pregnancy plotline, I liked the character. I enjoyed the juxtaposition between this on-screen beauty and her off-screen crass sassiness. I wanted to see more from her and less from Eddie and his family drama.

M.: The film definitely spent a lot of time on the less-interesting characters. Could that be intentional? After all, one of the major plot points was that we never see “The Christ’s” face. Either way, that angle seems to have backfired.

Yeah! I agree. It felt like such a shame. I liked Eddie and George’s character (whose name escapes me), but I didn’t find them interesting enough to base an entire movie around them. Nor did I care about them, if we’re being really honest. The writers didn’t really give us moments to fall in love with them, you know?

M.: Definitely. Despite the vibe of the trailer and the colorful cast, the story was out to prove a point rather than let the characters drive. Then again, the social commentary was hilariously spot-on, seeing as how the next film we viewed opened with a trailer for a “Christ” film where the POV character is a Roman and we never really get to see Christ.

Yeah! That was quite the moment, wasn’t it? But then again, I guess we’re due for another movie about Christ since the Passion of the Christ was, what, ten years ago or so?

I never saw it – I just liked the fact that Satan was played by an androgynous woman.

But I digress.

M.: Yes, because nothing is scarier than an androgynous woman. And here is a good bridge into the second film.

M.: Once again: summary, please?

Ah yes! Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was much more up my alley. Fearsome women in pretty dresses kicking zombie ass? Be still my heart! It was very much a Stixen film. I laughed, I gasped, I even forgot myself and said “Yaaaaaas” louder than I should have during a scene where the girls were suiting up.

M.: Yes, you did! But, believe me, it only improved the experience. One more familiar question: impressions going in and impressions going out?

Oh good! I’m glad I could become part of the experience! Going in: I was really excited. Like I said, I love women kicking ass and taking names. But I also was curious to see how well the two genres (classical and horror) would meld. I was also prepping myself for lots of jump scares. Going out: I was enthralled. It was clever, funny with just enough gore. And handsome men to boot (Bingley? Me-OW!). The story flowed well and the characters remained the same ones that I loved from the original. I’m definitely planning to see it again.

M.: Obviously there were some historical alterations – in clothing and culture. For instance, several times I noticed the girls’ riding dresses had long splits on the outer layer for ease of access to blades. Did you have any favorite alterations?

Good question! I’d have to agree. I liked the alterations they made to the corsets and riding boots and such to make them more battle-ready. Though, I must say, I don’t think the lacy thigh highs were historically accurate.

M.: Not at all, I’m afraid. What altered character did you like best?

While there were a lot of fun character alterations, I did really enjoy the bad-assery they bought to Lady Catherine de Bourgh. In the original she was uptight and proper to the T. But making her a hardened zombie-killing veteran with an eyepatch? On paper, it doesn’t make sense. But I enjoyed seeing her in action.

Did you have any favorites?

M.: She was probably my favorite as well. Although I did enjoy the logic behind Darcy’s reticence. It was more than pride; it was paranoia.

Yes! I agree with that. It added a lot of colors to his character that weren’t there in the original. The same could be said for Wickham, as well.

M.: Was it my imagination or did the training make the Bennet sisters seem closer-knit? In all other versions it seems to be Jane and Elizabeth vs. The Idiots.

I think that’s an interesting point. In the original, there was certainly more of a divide. But this film didn’t focus much on the relationships between the Bennet sisters as much. Except for, of course, the closeness between Jane and Elizabeth – and Lydia being annoying as hell (what else is new?). But I can agree. There did seem to be a bit more closeness to them. I especially liked the scene where all the girls were fighting each other in the underground battle room. Mary adjusting her glasses and putting down her book before throwing a punch had me laughing.

M.: Obviously the gender roles have been altered from their original historical context. Still, expectations of women, particularly lower class women, seemed to follow a pattern of rules. What are your thoughts on the shifts they chose to make?

I liked them! Obviously, as a feminist, I was excited to see this version of altered history. But I think they were able to shift them well. They were intelligent shifts. Like the shame involved in their “lower-class” Chinese training for instance, was a brilliant way to show that the women were still up against a misogynist society. I thought it was interesting that, even though they were fearsome and clearly talented at kicking ass, society was stilling oppressing them – like expecting them to put down their weapons once they got married, for instance.

M.: Which is delightfully pointless since there would, presumably, be children to protect at some point.

Exactly! And as we saw with Bingley, most of the upper-class men, save Mr. Darcy, were helpless at best. Clearly, the women were much more skilled at it then the men. One could even say that the oppression they experienced made them better, more determined fighters.

M.: A very good point. I have to say how much I liked the stage of the zombie apocalypse. It was a fact of life. No one panicked when they saw zombies – unless the zombie was particularly close. And, as we discussed, it had been around long enough to establish a new social order. It allowed zombies to influence, but not overrun the story. No pun intended.

Agreed! I really enjoy films like that. When you stir supernatural elements into anything, there has to be a sense of reality to it to make it believable. It’s a delicate balance, but without it, we, as the audience, are often unable to suspend our disbelief. I think this film did a great job of making this plague just like many we’ve seen in the past. Yes, there’s panic, but you also have to adapt to a new way of life. And I think the elements that they added to make us believe the story made sense.

Official Heel Rating – Hail, Caeser!:

HeelHeelHeel

I’d say this was a fun film. It was gorgeous visually and the characters were vivid and amusing but the story lost itself to too many plotlines. But the background characters really make this film worth seeing at least once if you’re a fan of the old hollywood flair.

I give it 3 high heels, but that’s mainly because Hobie’s adorableness stole the show.

 

Official Heel Rating – PPZ:

HeelHeelHeelHeelHeelHalf

This film was a blast and a half. It has something for everyone. It’s got humor and heart and I really can’t say enough good things about it. It was fun to watch and the acting was pretty exceptional all across the board. I’d give it 4 and a half high heels.

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