The Grand Budapest Hotel is a film not only packed with characters, sets, costumes, and all the things that tend to typify writer/director Wes Anderson's style, it is also packed with story. It is becoming more and more clear to me how much Anderson enjoys having films that are about stories being told to an audience. There are frequent themes that have been present in Anderson's other films, namely family, which is clearly seen in The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic, Fantastic Mr. Fox and all of his other films as well, which is all well and good, but The Grand Budapest Hotel really goes out of its way to show us that it is a story within a story that is being told to another person. The result is a film that finds a way to present something that will be entirely familiar to everyone who recognizes Anderson's style, but ends up feeling like a comment on storytelling itself. The film combines multiple genres in a rather go-for-broke fashion, while still finding the time to be thoughtful in regards to its key characters, and does not let narrative constraint get in the way.
Queen Gorgo: It begins as a whisper... a promise... the lightest of breezes dances above the death cries of 300 men. That breeze became a wind. A wind that my brothers have sacrificed. A wind of freedom... a wind of justice... a wind of vengeance.
300 is not a film many would have watched in its original release and thought it could use a sequel. Back in March of 2007, director Zack Snyder impressed audiences with his stylized cinematic vision of Frank Miller's graphic novel, which was a fictionalized retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae. 300 was fairly straightforward, but its visual aesthetic paved the way for other films and television series like it. Having been a large fan of 300, the idea of a sequel, especially one that took its time in getting to theaters, was not exactly a film piquing my interest. Despite the elements of history that could be creatively portrayed within this same graphic novel universe, I was not sure what a studio was willing to do with a follow up inspired by profits form the first. To my surprise, 300: Rise of an Empire manages to deliver the familiar spectacle, while adding a more complicated story and an excitingly ferocious villain as well.
Mr. Peterson: So he's literally a dog. Mr. Peabody: I prefer the term "literate" dog.
While I was never a big fan of The Smurfs, among other older cartoons that have since been turned into animated features, Peabody's Improbable History, which was a part of The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show, was a series of skits that I always found entertaining. I haven't watched Peabody in years, but seeing this new 3D CG version of the concept brought memories flooding back into my mind, once the animated, bow-tied beagle started delivering puns so cringe-worthy they would then become kind of hysterical. It is not often that I consciously take nostalgia into account, but Mr. Peabody & Sherman won me over by not only providing a fast-paced, time traveling adventure comedy with humor for all ages, but also jogging my memory with thoughts of an old cartoon that I enjoyed a bit more than expected.
It is fun to see how much credibility an actor with gravitas can bring to a really silly film. Liam Neeson has returned to the action/thriller realm once again to star in an airplane-hijacking film, with twists and turns that go way too far in terms of being plausible. It matters little though, as the film has way too much fun with embracing its ludicrous nature, which manages not to be too much of a fault, as Non-Stop finds a way to keep you guessing, while Neeson once again adds his serious presence to a film that may have once seemed beneath him. It is not a film that is trying to say anything; it just wants to entertain, with the semblance of some clever ideas, in the midst of its high-octane silliness.
Sometimes it is fine just taking what you can get. A serviceable film is not necessarily a bad one if you had an overall good time. I would be curious to revisit my thoughts on Pompeii a week from now or even a couple days from now and figure out what I would do differently in this review, but as of now, I am fine giving a mild recommendation to this disaster epic that aspires to be Gladiator and Titanic combined into a shorter and more streamlined film. It may lack the ability to be emotionally affecting and there are many elements that are way over-the-top, but at the same time, I knew what I was getting into and was fine with eventually giving in. Pompeii is not great art, but I cannot say it does not deliver on its goal. It is just a matter of how far you are willing to go to enjoy a campy B-movie set in the Roman Empire.