The Grand Budapest Hotel: a girl reads a book’s prologue, which the author personally sets up; his younger self meeting a hotel owner, who tells him how he came to own a hotel, after he helped a concierge that was once framed for murder. Only that last part is necessary, but hey, this is a Wes Anderson film so suck up the whimsical details you boringly normal douchebag! The ensemble cast is phenomenal – if a little male-centric – to the point where it becomes distracting, but to be fair, the less time you spend thinking about the story the better. Fiennes makes this way funnier than it should have been with his dashing, sweary, and thoroughly entertaining concierge role – an outstanding a piece of comedy-driven anti-casting, in fact, most actors appear to enjoy playing their exaggerated slapstick characters – and on the whole, they’re all fun to watch. There are plenty of great cinematic techniques resurrected here; with models, scale, depth and focus all being used to powerful effect. The cinematography is also meticulous – composition, shapes, balance, symmetry… it’s the epitome of mise-en-scène (any screenshot could be a painting) making Anderson one of the few directors around that give Park Chan–Wook a run for his money. Substance-wise however is where the film falls over, as it feels very light – the story is all shine and no significance beyond the homage to old-timey farces. The Grand Budapest Hotel is a very unique movie, and Anderson’s most entertaining & accessible film to date. Like one of Mendl’s pastries it’s beautiful and admirable, but very light and fluffy.
The Fly: when a teleporter accidentally fuses his DNA with that of a housefly, brilliant scientist Seth Brundle slowly begins a dramatic transformation into a man-fly! It’s a great testament to Cronenberg that he can have such an obvious directorial stamp on a film, yet keep it feeling like an old-fashioned monster movie; as the plot could have easily been an old Corman B-movie. The SFX department are on fire, with some of the greatest physical, in-camera effects that no amount of CGI could begin to replicate – the fingernails, puss, blood, guts, limbs, and transformations are all so visceral that it makes you feel sick in the pits of your stomach. There’s some other neat technical tricks such as the ‘how did they do that’ camera trickery for wall-crawling antics. Last, but not least, the small cast are all great, particularly Goldblum, who delivers a riotous performance as an increasingly peculiar and demented Brundlefly – but remains believable throughout. Top top it off, the telepods are a great feature for both extremes (fusion/blood/guts) and dramatics (noise, smoke, strobe), and there’s some classic ’80s programming’ going on. A bit of patience is required as the film takes its time to build toward a conclusion that – even after knowing the story – exceeds anything you could imagine. The Fly is one of those films where everything’s just right, and is easily still on of the best horror sci-fi movies around.
Seth Brundle’s nerdy clothes reminded me of someone… MR BEAN!!! (at least when it wasn’t one of the 200 shirtless scenes)
Death Wish: A respectable architect becomes a crime-slaying vigilante after his family are assaulted by street punks. For a film this dark and serious, the acting is nothing short of comedy. Championed by the daughter, who looks like she’s winding up a pantomime audience. Everyone else involved – up to Bronson himself – doesn’t really aim much higher; unfortunately the wife’s short-spiel is the best in the movie. Given the atrocious crimes committed, the first group of antagonists (Hi Goldblum!) also feel like parody/goofy stereotypes. Still, the main scene of violence is brutal, graphic and unsettling – like a punch to the gut, which doesn’t happen to me very often. Hard to miss the overall critique of violence, and considering how much more this has to say than the average crime b-movie; just a shame that it falls down due to the poorly-drawn characters and bad acting. I don’t say this about many ‘classic’ movies, but Death Wish would greatly benefit from a modern, more serious, re-telling.