Reviewer: Mike Welsch
Director: Wes Anderson
Writer: Wes Anderson
Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Saoirse Ronan, Ed Norton
There is a lot to be said about The Grand Budapest Hotel. For starters, it is weird. It's the kind of weird where you recognize that it's weird but you can't help but be intrigued and captivated by it at the same time. Sort of like 90s Weird Al Yankovic. That dude was weird and yet everyone knew the lyrics to Amish Paradise. Indeed, this film is rich in satire that tilts your head and drops an eyebrow while bringing you to laughter filled with uncertainty; its artistic license, however, is certainly one to be reckoned with.
Wes Anderson is otherwise known for his unique style of filming, using old-fashioned and noticeably artificial sets and techniques to leave his audience caught off guard but eager for more. In this particular film, he uses techniques that play with the viewer's perspective in a given frame and reveal an entirely different perspective soon thereafter to add plot depth as well as situational irony (Not to mention an incredible acting performance by none other than Voldemort himself!) Jokes aside, Ralph Fiennes is a very established actor and he portrays his role as M. Gustave perfectly, in my opinion.
The film is organized into five Parts and includes a Prologue and Epilogue which set the story's mood. It accounts the early years of a lobby boy who worked for a lavish hotel concierge, M. Gustave, at The Grand Budapest Hotel located in the fictional alpine state of Zubrowka. Through a series of unfortunate events, the two find themselves in the chase of a lifetime to protect an invaluable painting, Boy With Apple, while fleeing from a crazed assassin during a dizzying attempt to clear Gustave's name of all legal implications surrounding the mysterious death and lost property of his deceased lover, Madame D. To save time, I will abstain from detailed summarization and trust that you will see the film yourself if you have not already done so.
In total, if you enjoy sophisticated humor, this movie is for you. The Grand Budapest Hotel is packed with refined dialogue that makes you think and chuckle at the same time. A combination of baroque surroundings and quirky characters demonstrates Anderson's skill in using flamboyant visual environments to explore deeply emotional ideas. What else, there are plenty of celebrity cameos in this film and who doesn't love a good cameo? Go check out the movie and I hope you enjoy it!
Reviewer: Nikki Prantil
Director: Richard Linklater
Writer: Richard Linklater
Cast: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater, Ethan Hawke
After its immense success at the Golden Globe Awards, winning three of its six nominations including Best Picture, Patricia Arquette for Best Supporting Actress, and Richard Linklater for Best Director of a Motion Picture, Boyhood began gaining attention from audiences world-wide. The idea of Boyhood interested me from the first time I saw the trailer, following a group of lead characters through twelve years of their lives and watching them grow as the plot developed. However, it was one that I believed could wait until the DVD release, as I never found the trailer theater-worthy ($12.50 worthy…) as I did with American Sniper, Foxcatcher, and The Imitation Game. After its success at the Golden Globes, however, I believed I may have been proven wrong.
The story begins with six-year old Mason, his slightly older sister Samantha, and their single mother living in a small home in Texas. The movie is set up in a series of phases, each lasting about 15-20 minutes and showing the characters about a year older than they were in the previous phase. Mason’s family is representative of middle-class America, and he faces many realistic and relatable challenges, such as dealing with divorced parents, moving with his family from home to home so his mother can make ends meet, living with an alcoholic, abusive step-father, and struggling with finding himself in a world that he finds simplistic and superficial.
One of the things I found most interesting from the very first scene was that Linklater strived to make each phase of the children’s life culturally accurate, including music fads like Britney Spears’ ‘Oops I did it Again’, and allusions to the War on Terror and the Obama v. McCain election of 2008. As a 20-year-old, I felt that I was growing up alongside Mason, and that what he was experiencing throughout each phase of his life matched what I was facing at the exact same time. Technology developed with him as it developed with me, and through this aspect I was able to find a personal connection that I believe older audiences may have missed out on.
Another thing that I truly enjoyed about the movie was that not a single character felt “acted.” Though I didn’t believe the actors had a very difficult job, nor did their roles require much skill (with the exception of Patricia Arquette) I still thought the characters were very believable. Yes, they were awkward, but it seemed natural. This may be a stretch, but the characters were almost Napolean Dynamite- like… they made me uncomfortable, but they still felt real.
Patricia Arquette portrayed her role perfectly, a vulnerable and devoted mother who allows herself to give in to temptation and always falls for the alcoholic asshole. Ethan Hawke’s role should not be overlooked either, though, Mason’s father who’s parenting skills only begin to improve when he has a family of his own, and who never fails to remind Mason and Samantha that they were accidents.
Overall, I found myself very connected to the characters in Boyhood. Linklater did an incredible job showing their transitions through every phase of their life, and allowing what could have been a stagnant plot to remain moderately dynamic and interesting. Though I thought the storyline was quite dry, it was also realistic, and showed the best family portrayal that has ever been done in Hollywood.
Entering it’s sixth and final season, Justified continues to be one of my favorite shows. Timothy Olyphant stars as Raylan Givens, a U.S. Marshall that grew up in a rough, rural part of Kentucky who is reassigned back to his hometown and thrust back into his childhood once again. This time on the right side of the law. This is by far FX’s most underrated show. Olyphant’s performance is easily his best to date. The characters and the dialogue are so well written that it is almost impossible not to love it. The stories created in each season continue to be so original and real, which escalates the show into being one of the best on TV. Walton Goggins, who plays Boyd Crowder, is easily the best character on the show. Ruthless and cunning, he stops at almost nothing in order to get what he needs and rise up in the always violent Harlan County. Goggins continues to be one of the most underrated actors out there today. His portrayal of Boyd, brings the character to the forefront and shows how Goggins has the range to be up there with some of the best that are acting today. If you have not seen this show, please check it out. Though it is not available on Netflix (might be soon), it is available on Amazon Prime. Trust me. You will be hooked after the first episode and you will not be disappointed.
Here are a few other films that I have seen and rated. I won’t give a review for these but I will just show the rating of what I thought about these films.
Reviewer: Pat Brennan
Million Dollar Arm (2014)
Director: Craig Gillespie
Writer: Thomas McCarthy
Cast: Jon Hamm, Lake Bell, Alan Arkin, Bill Paxton
This Is Where I Leave You (2014)
Director: Shawn Levy
Writer: Jonathan Tropper
Cast: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Corey Stoll, Dax Shepard, Timothy Olyphant
Director: Brett Ratner
Writers: Ryan Condal, Evan Spiliotopoulos
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Ian McShane, Jon Hurt
Into the Woods (2014)
Director: Rob Marshall
Writer: James Lapine
Cast: Anna Kendrick, James Corden, Emily Blunt, Meryl Streep, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp
Reviewer: Pat Brennan
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writers: Jason Hall, Chris Kyle (Book)
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Kyle Gallner, Keir O’Donnell
American Sniper tells the story of U.S. Navy Seal Chris Kyle, a trained marksman, and his troubles throughout his life. Bradley Cooper excels in the role of Kyle and continues to show how he is becoming one of the most sought after actors in the game today. His portrayal of Kyle is something that simply cannot be missed. There were moments in the film where I did not even feel like I was watching Cooper at all. He went so deep into developing the character of Kyle that it almost seemed impossible to separate the two. In my honest opinion, he deserves the Oscar nomination for Best Actor this year.
Although Cooper is clearly the standout star, Sienna Miller’s portrayal of Kyle’s wife, Taya, is also a performance not to be overlooked. Miller has been in two roles this year in which she is the wife of one of the main characters (the other being Foxcatcher). Her performance as Taya feels so real and emotional that it is hard to not feel a strong connection towards her. Without these two actors and their performances, I do not see this film being as powerful as it was.
Clint Eastwood was able to create an environment that showed the struggles and hardships that war can bring. Perhaps the best line that was said during the film came from Kyle’s brother, Jeff, when he ran into Chris during his stay over in Afghanistan. When Chris asks him what he has been doing and how he has been, his response is “Fuck this place!”. That is his response to everything that is going on around him. What I love about this response is that not only is he saying fuck this idea of war and where they are, but he is also saying fuck what this place can do to someone. Just fuck it all. This moment stood out to me which is why in my opinion it is one of the most powerful parts of the film.
Although the film does seem to die down a little at the end and stray away from what made it powerful in the beginning, it does not take away from the story that Eastwood was trying to create. Cooper’s portrayal of Kyle is one that will stick with you for quite some time. Even as I left the theater you could hear a pin drop. There was definite feeling of sadness and respect for what soldiers have to go through day in and day out. American Sniper is certainly one of the more powerful films to come out in 2014.
Reviewer: Pat Brennan
Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chapelle
Cast: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist
If I were to sum up this film in one word, it would be “Incredible”. By now most people are probably starting to hear about this film due to the vast number of award shows that are coming out. This film deserves every award it can get. The performances are so powerful that they leave you with a feeling of wanting more. Miles Teller (Andrew) shows how deep he can go into developing the persona of a character. He is able to separate himself from his other performances to show that he has the ability to be one of the best actors in Hollywood. The last scene alone is easily one of the best moments in film this year, if not the past decade. It will leave you sitting on the edge of you’re seat and watching in “aw” as Teller controls the outcome of the film’s end. After watching this performance, I can safely say that Miles Teller has the ability to someday win an Oscar. He is that good.
J.K. Simmons (Fletcher), in by far his best performance, is able to create a character so powerful and memorable that he is impossible to forget. He is a lock for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and he deserves it. Hands down. I felt as though his screaming and cursing was directed towards me and the audience, not Andrew. He made me hate him as a character, which is when you know the actor is playing the role perfectly. There are moments when the character of Andrew looks as though he has pleased Fletcher, but Fletcher has other ideas. One stand out scene is where Fletcher has Andrew and two other drummers playing for hours on end until one of them can match the tempo that he wants. Literally hours of playing until 2 A.M. O yeah, he also hurls a chair at Andrew because he again does not match the tempo. These are just a few moments throughout that make Simmons the best part of the film. He is able to create this feeling towards the audience of being uncomfortable and petrified as he speaks to anyone in the frame. I felt as though I was the one who was auditioning for the class.
One other major quality that this film brings is its unique style and cinematography (Sharone Meir). This is easily one of the best shot films of the year. The pacing and editing make it feel as though the film is one long jazz number. It is simply impossible to look away.
To top it off this film was shot in 19 days. Yes, 19 days.
If you have not already, check out this film. NOW. It is unlike anything you have ever seen. You will not be disappointed.
This blog is set up to analyze and discuss films as well as TV shows. It is safe to say that I love watching, studying and making films. I want to try and express the way I feel while watching them and the excitement that makes me want to do this for a living. Who knows, podcasts may be made in the future to further break down the films. Hope you enjoy!
“It’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it.”
– Roger Ebert