Tuesday Releases: The Grand Budapest Hotel & The Lego Movie

JUNE 17TH, 2014

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL // One will often hear that when their favorite artists come to town, everyone wants them to play the hits. Director Wes Anderson is content with playing the hits, delivering yet another truly unique comedy in “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. Like in the world of art and painting, one can tell a Wes Anderson from the rest of the artists without even seeing his name written at the bottom, simply by his familiar tones and a one of kind brushstroke that is undeniably distinct. The entire film is saturated in a grainy, elegant fervor all its own. The framing of the characters and the use of stop animation and miniatures for action sequences are also tell-tale signs of Anderson’s hands at work. There is absolutely nothing wrong with playing the hits as long the resulting product is as good or better than the artist’s previous body of work and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is just that. Although I enjoyed the narrative of “Moonrise Kingdom” more and the humor of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” will always be my favorite, this latest endeavor is a close third in ranking.

Anderson’s ensemble cast is one of the best ever assembled, featuring Ralph Fiennes as the lead, M. Gustave, the manager of the Grand Budapest Hotel, in a role that truly should be remembered come Academy Award nominations. Like with “Moonrise Kingdom”, Anderson also proves his keen ability to successfully direct young actors, like with Tony Revolori, who plays a young bellhop and Gustave’s protégé, and steals the show whenever on-screen. With some new faces added to the Wes Anderson world, like Saoirse Ronan, F. Murray Abraham, and Léa Seydoux, they are ultimately mixed with the familiar faces of Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldbum, and even Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson, who show up in almost all of Anderson’s films. With a favorable cast and Anderson’s ability to great such a prolific world around them, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” has already become one of the best films of the year. And even though he has not one-upped himself or created his next brilliant masterpiece, Wes Anderson continues to be the out-of-the-box, genius auteur that we love him to be.

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ERNEST AND CELESTINE // For lack of a better term, “Ernest And Celestine” is cute. It is cutely drawn, reviving the hand drawn animation style, the characters are cute, and the voices (in French) are cute. Having made it to a preview screening of this foreign animated film in the theaters, I can easily say that the audience loved it. Adults and children alike were cracking up at the well timed and well drawn jokes throughout the course of this film. As a bear and mouse attempt to be friends in a segregated world where bears live in towns while mice live in the sewer systems below, one lowly mouse named Celestine ventures out to make friends with a bear named Ernest, who plays musical instruments in public to try and make money, but lives off of rummaging through garbages and stealing from local store owners. Eventually Celestine is outcast for bringing Ernest into the mouse village and is forced to stay with Ernest, as the film makes a commentary on the characters accepting one another for who they are rather than what they are.

Living side by side, the comedy comes out of the odd couple situations these characters are placed into and the reactions that are often given to the animals. For instance, one of the biggest laughs I had is when Celestine, trying to teach Ernest a lesson, decides to retreat to the cellar, yet on the way she grabs a spoon of chocolate and points it at him while backing away. Heavy handed with its messages by the end of the film, there is plenty to be said about a film that sticks to its morals and tries to teach the young generation a few lessons. Having seen the sub-titled version in French, the American version can be seen and heard with the voices of high profile actors like Forest Whitaker and Paul Giamatti. At a brisk 80 minutes long and reminiscent of the type of humor you would get from an animated Wes Anderson film (“Fantastic Mr. Fox”), “Ernest And Celestine” is one of the most enjoyable animated features of the year.

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JOE // David Gordon Green returns to form with his latest drama, “Joe”, about an ex-con who finds himself in the tough position between a young, innocent boy and his twisted, abusive father. Proving that his best days may still be ahead of him, Academy Award winning Nicolas Cage produces one of his best performances ever, as the title character. Joe runs a tree killing business with a bunch of work-for-hires, and meets Gary (Tye Sheridan) when he comes looking for work. Becoming a role model for the simple minded boy, Joe eventually meets Gary’s father, Wade, played convincingly by first-time actor and actual homeless man (now deceased) Gary Poulter, who delivers one of the most frustratingly real villainous turns to ever grace a drama. Unable to control his temper, Joe must keep his distance while still seeking a better life for the young Gary. Tye Sheridan proves that his unforgettable performance in last year’s “Mud” was no fluke, also proving to be the number one young actor to watch in the years to come. Finishing with a song by Ryan Bingham, a talented musician that finds his way into many of the films I love, “Joe” is, without question, my favorite film so far this year and will hopefully make it on some “best of” lists by the year’s end. With a strong sense of conflicting emotion and with the entire cast at the top of their game, one cannot begin to fathom that the man that directed “Your Highness” and the man that directed “Joe” are one in the same.

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THE LEGO MOVIE // Everything was not awesome, at least for me, upon seeing “The Lego Movie”. Akin to being the only person at a party that is not having fun, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s latest animated feature simply never clicked for me while landing for what felt like absolutely everyone else. All around me, adults and children were laughing at the jokes, humming the theme song, and praising the moral of the story. But, for me, there was something lacking. To be completely fair, when the first trailer was released, I was less than enthused. I believed that a stop animated Lego film was simply a way to sell more merchandise. Now having seen the film and having an appreciation for Lord and Miller’s body of work thus far, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that the film was somewhat of a success (although let us be honest, it will definitely spawn its own series of Lego). On top of not really being excited for the film, I made the mistake of seeing it in 3D for my first viewing. With the faults of the three-dimensional medium, I felt out of the experience the entire time, making it hard to enjoy the comical situations on-screen.

The premise of “The Lego Movie” is basically the core narrative from “The Matrix” in which an ordinary man (or in this case a Lego construction man named Emmet) is made out to be a Master Builder and the Chosen One. Not quite living up to the prophecy, Emmet (Chris Pratt) bumbles around while Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and Batman (Will Arnett) carry out their mission to bring the Chosen One to the Morphius character of the film, Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) before the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell) can destroy everything. Props must be given to the filmmakers for the pure technical feats that they endured in bringing these childhood toys to life and in trying to feature every Lego piece possible. The messaging behind the film, which mixes in some live action elements, felt unique, but also at times, a bit random. Many of the jokes that did not land for me included the Bad Cop/Good Cop character (Liam Neeson) throwing tantrums when he does not get what he wants and the should-be-funny explosion of excitement by Charlie Day’s astronaut Benny when asked to build a spaceship.

Perhaps needing a second viewing, I chalk up most of my distain for the film to outlying factors, including the never ending 3D glasses conundrum. With a strong voice cast and a valiant attempt at humor, I have a feeling that a younger version of myself would have loved this film without a shadow of a doubt. But having grown up slightly since those days, I am probably living proof of the messaging the filmmakers were trying to get across about adulthood. With another attempt at enjoying this film, I hope to feel more invested in the characters and their antics without feeling dragged along for the ride. Or perhaps I will feel the same way I do now and realize that “The Lego Movie” ends up just as stiff as the little toys that the story is based on.

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WALK OF SHAME // Urban dictionary defines a “walk of shame” as “the walk home after a one night stand”. Further extrapolated, “one usually wears either the clothes they went out in (i.e. short skirt and heels) or the clothing of the person they slept with (i.e. a large white t-shirt) the morning after”. In the film bearing that title, Elizabeth Banks is the one partaking in the one night stand and a bright yellow dress is the article of clothing worn from the night before. Banks plays Meaghan Miles, a local newscaster looking to make the jump to news anchor, but upon finding out she did not get the job, she goes out for shots at club and a one night stand with bartender James Marsden. Needless to say, both of these wonderful actors deserve better.

One may recall the 1985 Martin Scorsese film “After Hours” in which actor Griffin Dunne goes on a journey across SoHo in New York after taking a cab to a woman’s apartment who ends up not being there. The night he encounters is full of chance meetings and mishaps which leads him right back to work the next day. “Walk Of Shame” attempts to step into those shoes, but like the shoes often carried after a one night stand, the film is uncomfortable. The problem is, in 1985, I believe someone could experience getting lost in a city, with no money and no phone, attempting to get home on only the kindness of strangers. But in 2014 and in Los Angeles of all places, I do not believe an attractive young woman like Elizabeth Banks could not get home, regardless of whether she has no money or whether she left her cellphone in James Marsden’s apartment while her car was getting towed.

The morning she endures is often painful to watch. All the things she could have done, like get someone to buzz her back into Marsden’s apartment, wait for someone to walk out, or simply get a cab to the news studio and get someone to pay for her when she gets there, negate the entire plot of the film. Instead, she gets guns pointed at her, ends up in a crack den, is followed by police officers that believe her to be a prostitute, and eventually attempts to steal her car out of the impound lot. The dialogue of the film eventually insults and objectifies Banks’ character to the point of being tiresome and offensive for everyone involved, including the audience. As bad as the film becomes, at least it takes a chance with an R rating while still projecting the technical aspects of a film on par with a big budget Hollywood production and, despite the lack of material to work with, the cast projects a big budget feel but is simply underutilized. With Banks in legal battle against Dan Rosen, who alleges that he had the original idea for this film before showing it to Banks, if I were Rosen, I would not want my name anywhere near this film or screenplay.

New Releases
13 Sins
Ernest and Celestine
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Joe (2013)
The Lego Movie
Walk Of Shame

TV Box Set
  • DCI Banks: Season One
  • Death in Paradise: Season One
  • The Escape Artist: The Mini-Series
  • House of Cards: Season Two   
  • Power Rangers Megaforce: Ultra Defenders
  • Red Shoe Diaries: Season One
  • Regular Show: Season Three
  • Scott & Bailey: Season One
  • Teen Wolf: Season Three, Part Two
Special Editions/Other Releases
  • Alexander’s Lost World
  • Almost Human (2013)  
  • Angels Of The Skies
  • Assumed Killer
  • The Attorney
  • Author’s Anonymous  2-denied2-small
  • Beneath Hill 60
  • Blood Soaked
  • Cruisin’
  • Dark Souls (2010)
  • Doctor Faustus
  • Evil Roy Slade
  • A Fighting Man
  • The Final Member (2012)  2-denied2-small
  • Four of Hearts
  • Hearts And Minds: Criterion
  • I Know That Voice
  • Invasion Of The Scream Queens
  • Jimmy P.   2-denied2-small
  • Joy Ride 3: Roadkill
  • Judex: Criterion
  • Let’s Talk
  • Long-Term Relationship
  • Lord Jim
  • Lose Your Head
  • The Machine (2013)   2-denied2-small
  • A Measure Of The Sin
  • Meth Head
  • The Monkey’s Paw  2-denied2-small
  • The M Word
  • Night of the Cobra Woman
  • No Clue   
  • The Odd Way Home
  • One Last Chance At Paradise
  • Paranormal South West: Eye Of The Phoenix
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock: Criterion
  • Red Shoe Diaries: The Movie
  • Rise of the Dinosaur
  • The Rise of the Nazi Party
  • Test  2-denied2-small
  • This Is America Charlie Brown
  • True Believer
  • Vic + Flo Saw A Bear
  • Wrath Of The Crows
  • Zombie Apocalypse

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