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.
Walkout: The Secret World of Arrietty – Despite being a Studio Ghibli film, around the 20 minute mark my two mates and I knew this wasn’t for us. Being a re-telling of The Borrowers, it’s definitely pitched at an audience far younger than us (mid 20s men), it was also quite a slow burner, especially for a kid’s film. The biggest turn off however was the English dubbing – not just because dubbing’s rubbish – but because badass Mark Strong is cast as the dad, and not fighting anything. Hanna the assassin was Arrietty, and Sophie from Peep Show was the mum… maybe it’s just me, but it’s such a strange voice cast? Although not as strange as Will Arnett (!!!) being the American voice of the dad…
Realising this was pretty uncool and that we may have looked like a pack of predators in amongst the screen full kids, we bundled out ASAP, not looking back.
Alternative plans – as it was still relatively early we went to the nearest rock Pub and got our beer on!
Hanna: Raised as an assassin, Hannah is cut loose in the real world and soon becomes a fugitive. It doesn’t take long for you to realise that this is nothing short of meticulously filmed – there’s some fantastic single takes, stunning framing / mise en scéne and the action is put together with enviable ease. Said action’s also heightened by a great soundtrack; not dissimilar to Lola. Being set, filmed and funded by Europeans – it has a great anti-blockbuster quality and feel that’s pretty difficult to describe. Distracting everyone from the all of the awesomeness mentioned so far is a cast jammed with as many ridiculous characters as the story could hold: a washed-up clown Grimm, two Neo Nazis, comedy homosexual hitman, ke-razy traveling family (with the worst daughter ever). Because of these characters, the tone bounces around frenetically – serious chase, followed by fish-out-of-water, followed by some action, then a Volver-esque ‘genuine’ Spanish street performance, then some serious plot development… Cast-wise, you can always rely on Eric Bana to pull through and Blanchett nails her portrayal of a determined, cold villain. Ronan was good, considering her part kept flipping between comedy and thriller. Hanna proves to be an above average, and well-directed cat-and-mouse movie with a nice backstory that’s drip-fed throughout the duration.
The Way Back: book-to-film epic about a group of escaped convicts and their unbelievable journey – a 4,000 mile walk from a Siberian Gulag prison to safety in India. The biggest selling point is the fantastic cast, and nobody drops the ball here. Farrell‘s great as the tough inmate and Harris is superb as Mr Smith the American – Ronan as the girl and Sturgess as the lead are also enjoyable to watch. Furthermore, for having such a variation of accents there’s only one real lapse! In saying the above, the characters and drama are both pretty much by-the-numbers. Because of the scale of the journey the film’s quite long (133 mins) and the decision to railroad the entire Himalayan trek through in a few minutes of montage equally saved the film from being ridiculously long, but deducts from the size of that task (having spent the best part of an hour in Siberia and an hour in the desert). It also does particularly well to avoid laying it on thick with cheesy human adversity, resulting in a successful balancing act between a Historical Epic and keeping it firmly on the ground – there’s nothing glamorous about this journey. Watching the characters come out of their shell and bond throughout journey, coupled with the survival techniques makes for inspired viewing and saves this from being just lots and lots of boring walking. The Way Back reminded me of old-fashioned adventure films, pitting tiny humans against landscapes so monumental and beautiful, yet brutal. Seeing such stunning scenery, photographed this well is just begging for a great Blu Ray release. You know what you’re getting with this, and with the opening title letting you know how many people survive the trip; emphasis isn’t on the destination, but how you get there.