Wes Anderson is on a roll right now. He, like his contemporaries Paul Thomas Anderson and Alexander Payne, has not made a bad movie since his pilot feature, "Bottle Rocket". "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is simply another cinematic gem in Wes' filmography...yet, as a film on it's own, it is so much more. It is an exciting, fun, funny, and rather deep film on the adventures of concierge Gustave H and Zero Moustafa as they run The Grand Budapest Hotel. Each of Anderson's films are similar, yet different. You still get your offbeat comedic timing and Anderson putting his actors in mid-frame, but all the difference lies in the writing. Like the modern auteur, Anderson writes and directs all of his film. Coming from the world (and still living in it) of indie cinema, Anderson has to be creative. He has to make his own world using his knowledge and imagination, and what a vivid imagination it is. The set and art decoration of "Grand Budapest" is a beauty like nothing you'll see this year. It seems every detail was thought out, not in the production meetings but in Anderson's head as he wrote this gem. The characters' costumes, designed by Milena Canonero (the reliable costume designer of post-70s Kubrick), add to each personality in the film. And what makes "The Grand Budapest Hotel" Wes' masterpiece (or rather, one of), is everything has a purpose and personality. Auteurs like Tarantino and Wes Anderson, whose imaginations have lit up the screens for years, have clear visions of what they want and how they want it. This is the best kind of film-making, the kind that stems from the creative mind. Aside from it's technical aesthetics, "The Grand Budapest Hotel" features a wonderful ensemble cast (another constant in Anderson's work). Of course there are your Wes Anderson regulars such as Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson. But then there is the underrated Ralph Fiennes, who only expands upon his legendary filmography and widens his range. He plays Gustave H, the famous concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel. His perfectly timed performance exudes a man that takes his standards to heart. He is serious about making sure The Grand Budapest keeps it's reputation in tact. Meanwhile, his personal traits remain ambiguous, as the story is told from the view of Zero Moustafa (played by Tony Revolori), which only adds to Gustave's mystery, as well as the mystery of the hotel. Much of the story is told in flashback from an older Zero (played by the veteran F. Murray Abraham), who talks to a modern author (played by Jude Law) about the hotel's history. Again, the cast is sensational, (in addition to the seven I named above) you have (an unrecognizable) Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Tom Wilkinson, Harvey Keitel, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, and Jeff Goldblum. They're over 11 Oscar nominations between them, so the talent is impeccable, as always in an Anderson film. I had to point that out again because the acting really is amazing. Shot on location in Germany, this beautifully designed (art design and production design) film can also lend some thanks to Anderson's constant collaborator, DP Robert Yeoman, who's cinematography tells us of the time, and expertly captures Wes Anderson's quirk. Essentially, for anyone 16 and up, "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is an imaginative film expertly crafted by Wes Anderson and company, that never fails to entertain nor make you laugh.
Sam Mendes is a visual story-teller. Using some of the greatest cinematography of all-time, Mendes creates mood, feeling, and foreshadowing to tell this story of father-son relationships. Mix that with the great, veteran acting of Tom Hanks, Jude Law, Paul Newman, and Daniel Craig and you've a classic film for our generation. My only problem with the film is it's ending. If the film had ended at the beach house, it would have been fine. But it outstays it's welcome, as this monologue voice over from the son ruins the final few minutes of the film. The content of the monologue tries to give depth to the Hanks character since the film didn't devote much time to revealing Hanks character and his depth. Other than that, "Road to Perdition" is a thrilling, suspenseful, beautiful (I mean BEAUTIFUL) film that contains great performances.
I wanted to try to keep my thoughts and appreciations for the original trilogy out of my opinions for this film...but I couldn't help it. "The Phantom Menace" is wooden. Lifeless. Humorless. No romanticism in sight. No entertaining gags. The best performances come from Jake Lloyd and R2-D2. Neeson adds a controlled stoicism to his uninteresting character, which is the best he could do. As Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ewan McGregor is uncharacteristically bad. Just plain and emotionless; but, the thing is, it's not his fault. The writing is awful. The characters aren't interesting, we don't care if they're blown up or not. Only Anakin, Queen Amidala, and (of course) R2-D2, grab our concerns and cares. While the visuals are excellent...they get old quickly. After the first 30 minutes of seeing groundbreaking effects, we want a story and characters to get lost in and invested into. Unfortunately, "The Phantom Menace" never offers us anything of substance to hold on to and care for.
Thrilling, deep, and suspenseful, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" may be predictable, but it doesn't detract from the fact it's a very well made political thriller. Perhaps, that is what separates this film from other Marvel vehicles...it isn't simply just "action" or "adventure" or a combination of the two, it adds in a subject that goes deeper, making itself a political thriller. Conspiracies and the major theme of trust (you'll hear the word said a thousand times) are large components in the film's build up towards thrilling, exciting moments. The entertaining actions sequences aren't even the inviting attractions to the film! It's the well made script, and very good acting (adding Redford to the mix really helps). An amazingly constructed screenplay, good acting, and thrilling sequences of action and suspense alike, make this the best Marvel film in a long time.
Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda star in a film together...that's an achievement in itself. These two acting legends had reportedly never met before this film in 1981, which is hard to believe seeing as they'd both been going strong since the 30s. To wrap the review up in a nutshell, so I don't spend all day going into it's sensational qualities, the fines thing about this film, and it's most essential quality, is that it comes off as 100% real. The entire casts' performances, the writing, all of it comes off so natural we forget we're watching a movie. The most cinematic things about "On Golden Pond", and possibly it's best assets, are the score and cinematography. The beauty of the opening sequence can't be put into words. It was like a moving painting with soothing, beautiful classical music to accompany the mood. "On Golden Pond" is simply filled with beauty and naturalism- and no film can wrong with that. Near perfection.