A. Khan's Profile - Rotten Tomatoes

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Rating History

The Grand Budapest Hotel
3 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Not Wes Anderson's "deepest" film, but still a lot of fun. :)

GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (Wes Anderson, 2014) is actually a story within a story within a story (I think that's right), so I'll skip past the frames and get to the meat of the tale, told by an elder version (F. Murray Abraham) of a "lobby boy" named Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), who works in a place called The Grand Budapest Hotel in a non-existent, vaguely European (this is Wes Anderson, after all) mountain country. He is in the employ of one M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), the hotel's concierge, who insists that being a lobby boy is a noble profession, even though it's Mr. Gustave who spends his time there "servicing" wealthy old dowagers. One of these dowagers happens to die, and leaves Mr. Gustave her most valuable possession, a priceless painting, much to the chagrin of her family members, particularly son Dimitri, hilariously played by Adrien Brody. No sooner do Gustave and Zero make the long journey to get the painting back to their distant Grand Budapest than Mr. Gustave gets accused for the dowager's murder and is jailed. Hilarity ensues as Zero and Gustave hatch a ridiculous plan to help the mentor escape, and then they begin a ridiculous journey to clear the concierge's name, for which Gustave promises to make Zero his heir, and thus ultimate recipient of the painting. Will Zero and Gustave clear Gustave's name and save the painting? That's the film.

And it's a good one, though less "profound" than Anderson's earlier work, with the experience more about watching Anderson's madcap camera try to keep up with his high-energy plot than anything else. It's also about gazing at the ridiculously beautiful color scheme and production design, magnificently shot with Anderson's trademark wide angles from weird places. The film also revels in Anderson's typical dry and ironic humor, features a surrogate family of sorts, and guest-stars a whole bunch of Anderson's A-list friends, like Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, and of course, Jason Schwartzman. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is one story, in and of itself, well-told, with a lot of sentimentality and sweetness, and is beautiful to look at. And that's about it, which is fine for me, but as I drove home from the theater, my younger sister made the comment that she wanted "more" somehow. This brought up a conversation about whether or not an artist like Anderson is always supposed to try to top himself, or if he should make film as the mood strikes him, based on whatever story he feels like telling. I mention this because if there's a criticism of this movie, it's that it's pretty much par for the course Wes Anderson stuff. There's no new ground here, per se, just this sweet little story about this boy growing up through this experience and reflecting upon it as an adult. For me, that's enough, but for the moviegoer that feels that filmmakers are supposed to work in a linear progression of quality, there may be a bit of a let-down. Last year's MOONRISE KINGDOM (2013) was different in that it was basically a movie about younger kids, which kind of borrowed from things Anderson did well in RUSHMORE (1998) but took them in a different direction. This film is more like DARJEELING LIMITED (2007) in that it's a basic story in a foreign place extremely well-executed, and that's pretty much it. The fun is just in watching it all go down.

As I said, for me, that was enough. The movie is visually gorgeous, the story is entertaining, if somewhat bittersweet in places, and I definitely enjoyed and recommend it. For the person looking for more, I recommend trying some of Anderson's older stuff. For the uninitiated or the casual Wes Anderson fan, however, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is a grand movie. Check it out.

The Place Beyond The Pines
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes
½

I'm not really sure what to say about this movie.
Let me start at the beginning. THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (Derek Cianfrance, 2013) begins when Romina (Eva Mendes) makes the fateful decision to explore whether or not she wants her babydaddy (Ryan Gosling) - who doesn't know he's her babydaddy - back into her and her son's life. This sets off a chain of events that leads to death, ruin, triumph, and everything in between for all of the characters in the film, as they try in vain to make something of their dysfunctional lives. The whole thing is really like 2-3 movies in one, with multiple sets of characters who all try to do what they think is right at various points throughout the film, only to find that it ultimately all falls to crap. It's a gripping and compelling drama, well-shot, well acted and... I'm not really sure if I liked it or not.
Look, as a former film student and all-around film geek, I can say that this movie is extremely technically proficient. Every frame is cleanly composed, despite the "griminess" of the characters and subject matter at times, and uses hand-held camera more effectively than any Jason Bourne movie or documentary. It smacks of realism, and you really feel the confusing and difficult plight the characters find themselves in. The problem for me, however, is that because the characters all bring about their own downfall, I really have no point of identification. Ideally, you're supposed to feel for characters based on something about them that's universal, which is why it's possible to enjoy anything from STAR WARS (1977, George Lucas) to WINTER'S BONE (Debra Granik, 2010), whether you've ever lived on an alien world or been that poor or not. And I guess maybe people who have been poor like these characters, or committed a crime, or are single, unwed mothers or estranged from their parents might get a lot more out of this material than I do. But for me, I just could never find any way to relate to any of them. The closest I came was to Bradley Cooper's "Avery", because he's kind of a goody-goody, but really, he isn't, and ultimately, he brings the negativity in his life upon himself too. None of these characters really resonate with me, as authentic as they feel, so to say I like this film... I dunno. And that bugs me.
And yet, it gave me a lot to think about. As I said, it was really well-made, and the moral dilemmas all of the characters get faced with at various points are intriguing. It was long, but is so well-directed that it held my attention throughout, so I genuinely wanted to see how it turned out. There is a performance by an "actor" who I think is named "Craig Van Hook" that is just so natural and convincing that I didn't think he was really an actor, and from what I can tell from IMDB, he probably isn't. I am really struggling with this movie because I really appreciate what was done, and how difficult it is to do, but I just don't... care, somehow. I dunno. It's technically a good movie,but because I couldn't relate to anybody, I didn't enjoy it as much as I would have liked to. Very difficult film to review.
Which brings us to the $64,000 question - what grade do I give this film? I will say it's a B+, but moreso than any other film, this really is just my opinion. You can make a good case to give it a much higher grade, because it does what it does extremely well. I just didn't care for the characters, so was ultimately less satisfied by the film as a whole. Call this a failing on my part, or see it yourself and tell me what you think. For now, I will leave it at B+, but still recommend it. Mr. Cianfrance is clearly a very good director, and I am very curious to see his other films. This one just didn't quite do it for me.

Tomorrow Never Dies
4 years ago via Flixster

Great action scenes, great casting, and the single dumbest James Bond villain plot EVER.

Trance
Trance (2013)
4 years ago via Flixster
½

A good movie that ruins itself.