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Out in Theaters: ‘THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE’

A visual sugar rush, The Lego Batman is Bayhem for 5-year olds. A skittle-colored collision of kid-friendly set pieces and jokes that never manage to be as clever or irreverent as its predecessor, even when peppered with good-natured and adult-oriented laughs throughout, this overactive spinoff hosts a collection of pop culture friendly winks and nods with references spanning the last 60 years of cinema but the overabundance of side characters and endless maze of action sequences leaves the animated film feeling dizzying, muddled, overwrought and headache-inducing. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS’

If there was ever any doubt that the circle of awesome that began with Coraline, Paranorman and The Boxtrolls would be broken, breathe relief. First-time director Travis Knight has led the masterful animators at Laika to victory once more with Kubo and the Two Strings. With the precision and delicacy of a samurai, Knight and his roundtable of figurine tinkerers carved out my heart and left it a fluttering mess, crafting a spellbinding adventure that thrums with wistful soul and spirited poignancy. In an age of skepticism and cynicism, Knight and the Laika wizards prove real alchemy exists. Marrying resplendent visual imagination with potent mature themes, they have made gold. Read More

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Out in Theaters: ‘HAIL, CAESAR!’

The Coen BrothersHail, Caesar! exists in some zany cinematic purgatory of indecisiveness. Their critique of 1950s Hollywood dwells in an occasionally bemusing middle ground; that is, it can’t decide whether it wants to be a skewering of or a love letter to the golden era of tinsel town. Those who’ve found solace in the bewilderingly esoteric arms of A Serious Man or the bombast of The Hudsucker Proxy will likely concede Hail, Caesar! as a new coming for the seriocomic duo but I like my Coen’s like I like my coffee and Hail, Caesar!’s semi-satirical goofball makeup couldn’t be further from the blackest of comedy that defines the brothers’ greatest ventures. Read More

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Channing Tatum is a Merry Sailor in Trailer for Coen Bro’s ‘HAIL, CAESAR!’

Have you ever wondered what Channing Tatum would look like in a little sailors outfit? Wonder no more. The trailer for Hail, Caesar!, the newest comedy from Joel and Ethan Coen, has arrived and it looks nothing short of glorious (and features Tatum dressed oh-so-preciously) . Hail, Caesar! tells the story of a tentpole movie production halted when its leading man (George Clooney) is kidnapped and held for ransom. The sure-to-be winning picture is brimming with talent; in addition to Tatum and Clooney, Josh Brolin, Tilda Swinton, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill and Frances McDormand are set to star with cinematography provided by all-star DP Roger Deakins. Read More

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Out in Theaters: THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman, Lea Seydoux, Owen Wilson, Bob Balaban, Mathieu Amalric, Tom Wilkinson
Comedy, Drama  
100 Mins
R

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Fiennes, Brody, Dafoe, Goldblum, Murray, Law, Swinton, Ronan, Norton, Keitel, Schwartzman, Seydoux, Wilson, Balaban, Amalric, Wilkinson. Wes Anderson‘s latest may have more big names working for it than ever before but their characters are more paper thin than they’ve been, more fizzle than tonic, more Frankenstein’s creations than humans. His company of regulars – joined by a vast scattering of newbies – are relegated to playing furniure-chomping bit roles, filling the shoes of cartoonish sketches, slinking in long shadows of characters. From Willem Dafoe‘s brutish, brass-knuckled Jopling to a caked-up and aged Tilda Swinton, gone are the brooding and calculated, flawed and angsty but always relatable characters of Wes yore. In their place, a series of dusty cardboard cutouts; fun but irrevocably inhuman.

Here in 2014, Anderson’s ability to attract such a gathering of marquee names to his eccentric scripts has never been as potent. He’s a talent magnet and his tractor beam is set to high. It’s just too bad that this gathering of the juggalos is as caricaturesque as they are (arguable even more than the animated Fantastic Mr. Fox). But what can you expect when your face is painted up and you’re dressed like a Slovenian underground fashion show. Upon dissecting what he’s got to offer, the seemingly indelible Wes Anderson appeal is as clear as day.

In the jungle of Hollywood, roles are mostly relegated one of two ways: the tentpole blockbusters, where characters are written like ham steaks – vessels for plot diversions, jukeboxes for one-liners, sarcophagi for the next action scene – and the smaller budgeted “independent” movie, wherein the tone is usually somber, the scenery is left unchewed, and emotional preparation ought to be through the roof. Anderson’s films flirt a very thin middle ground, a Bermuda triangle between indie cred and mainstream. To his credit, it looks like a blast.

Inside his pictures, Anderson’s stars are afforded a chance to play dress up in the midst of gorgeous sets at exciting locales. What’s not to love? Plus, this particular project had an added advantage: European travel. For these thespians, being a part of Anderson’s playground is like being a kid again. However, their childishness is more apparent here than in any of Anderson’s finest work (save for maybe Moonrise Kingdom). But through the haze of these colorful yet superficial oddities shines Ralph FiennesMonsieur Gustave, a beacon of complexity in an otherwise skin-deep cast of characters.

Gustave is a relic of the past. He’s an icon of chivalry, a servant dedicated to his craft, a well-groomed pet for his adoring clientele. He sluts it up for the elderly ladies who pass through his hotel (but he enjoys it too, so he tells us), making him a bit of a tourist attraction in himself. A hot springs for wilting feminine physiques, Gustave becomes the recipient of a pricy artifact (an ironic art piece called “Boy with Apple” – the customary brand of wry Anderson platitudes) when one of his doting golden-agers (Swinton) bites the dust. With her family trying to discredit him and blame the murder his way, Gustave must go on the run.

The cat and mouse, European romp to follow is as much an episode of Tom and Jerry as it is The Great Escape. Fiennes’ soulful gravitas brings immeasurable life to what is otherwise a series of cartoonish escape plots and hijinks. Anderson’s offerings are easy to consume and his persnickety eye for detail and Fiennes’ brilliant performance brings life by the pound to the otherwise far-fetched proceedings.

In this recent turn in his career, Wes Anderson has almost becoming a mockery of Wes Anderson. Though I thoroughly enjoyed The Grand Budapest Hotel it lacks the rounded emotional honesty of his pre-Fox efforts. He’s lost the intellectual intensity he had going in Rushmore, The Royal Tenanbaums and (I know I’m in the minority here) Darjeeling Limited, largely replaced by quirk by the bucket and enough billable names to make your head spin.  Nevertheless, Fiennes is magical; a perfect vessel for Andersonisms, the savior of the show.

B+

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