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.
Enemy At The Gates: Stalingrad is being attacked by the Nazis, and after a Russian sniper terrorises the Germans, they send their top marksman from a Berlin Sniper School in for an epic sharpshooting duel. How could a film about a sniper battle be so boring? There’s only a handful of kills and the rest is hammy, over-sentimental, schmaltzy war boringness and distracting “human element” side-story shite. The cast are confusing as shit too: there’s English people with cockney accents playing Russians, American’s doing German “Vith and Ak-scent”, and Ron Perlman (American) trying an English accent in order to fit in with ‘team Russia’ – accent-mageddon. I’m also pretty sure that no Russian ever spoke about “tea and a biscuit”. The look, feel and tone of the movie all reek of something from the 1950s – including bad acting, a poor script, the worst / most awkward love scene of the 2000’s, and a terrible “classic cinema” score that tells you exactly when you should be excited, crying etc. This is a film that starts off like Private Ryan on a budget and goes downhill from there. Utter war-pants.
Contagion: as a lethal virus spreads rapidly around the globe – we observe as the government, pharmaceutical industry and everyday people struggle through the pandemic. It’s always good to see an ensemble cast this big, but with the numbers involved some people go +30 minutes without an appearance, and each person’s angle feels underdeveloped. Too single one person; out I can’t tell if it was Jude Law, or the ridiculous blogger / twitter journalist he was playing, but that strand was just terrible. Other than the devastating virus and ensuing medical procedural hunt for a cure, there’s no single dominant story; there’s a slow build-up, mildly tense middle, and it ends quite abruptly as we just stop dipping in and out of the characters lives. Unlike most blockbusters the science is very realistic (on good authority from my buddy with a Master’s in Cellular Immunology). With the ultra realism in both content and a simple, minimal directorial style, you’re left with a ‘film’ that feels more like a discovery documentary / re-enactment – but with some familiar faces. The final product is a mildly depressing, Dell sponsored, montage heavy film that tries to juggle too much, with very little focus.
Sex and the City 2: The gals have another fashion-fuelled 90 minutes on the silver screen. I went in expecting the worst; a gratuitous reprise at best, but was quite surprised to find that it was at least a film of two halves. The first of which was quite respectable; setting the scene again, and playing on different kinds of relationships, which most couples could relate to. There was a bunch of cameo appearances and The Irish Nanny (!!), Penelope Cruz & Kim Cattrall kept things interesting for us gents too. All was well. Unfortunately the second half in Abu Dhabi was atrocious, losing sight of everything – including what little plot and story had been developed – to focus on flogging the “Eastern values / Western values culture clash“ horse; the only thing holding it together was Samantha’s filthy, but funny, one-liners. The most irritating thing for me was that every single time a character cracked a ‘funny’ another would force out a terrible laugh… every damn time. Even though Sex and the City 2 was as shallow as a puddle, camper than a row of tents, and desperately milking a franchise I have to say… I… kind of… enjoyed it?! (Yes, I hate myself for typing that – Male Fail). It’s not supposed to be serious so I switched off, sat down and enjoyed it for the most part. Brownie points from my better half in the bag too.