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The Grand Budapest Hotel Gustave Wes Anderson, Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Mathieu Amalric, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Tom Wilkinson, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson

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 ChanWook 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.

Score: 7.5/10

The Grand Budapest Hotel Palace Bristol Hotel Karlovy Vary Wes Anderson, Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Mathieu Amalric, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Tom Wilkinson, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson

Dark Knight Trilogy Batman Begins The Dark Knight The Dark Knight RisesWhat makes a movie going experience unique? In the age of Blu Rays / high-definition torrents, and bargainous HDTVs / home cinema kits it’s becoming easier and more affordable to get a totally immersive film-viewing experience at home. To combat this and keep the footfall in the foyers cinemas are having to go above and beyond the standard experience. My local independent – Aberdeen’s cherished ‘Belmont Cinema‘ – has just screened back-to-back showings of the Dark Knight trilogy (all 7hrs 34min!), and although you can pick up the box set for under £30, the event was packed full of things that no amount of money or equipment can replicate.

The Dark Knight Trology Cast Harvey Dent Bane Gordon Ra's al Ghul Batman Catwoman Scarecrow JokerWith films this big there’s absolutely no denying that they’re best viewed in a proper auditorium. Christopher Nolan’s unmistakable eye-opening wide-angle style which is intentionally shot on celluloid for maximum effect; Wally Pfister’s I-MAX cinematography, Hanz Zimmer‘s deep brassy orchestrated scores, the pounding sound effects & sound editing, million dollar stunts, props and CGI… Sure, they all look fantastic on Blu Ray, but when you see them thrown up on a cinema screen and pumped out through a Dolby SR amp/speaker kit – the effect is nothing short of phenomenal.

DARK KNIGHT COSPLAY COSTUMES, CATWOMAN BATMAN, BRUCE WAYNE, Selina Kyle, The Cat

Batman and Catwoman: guardians of… the auditorium!

Beyond mere technical details there was an atmosphere in the theater that you don’t see often, and definitely couldn’t replicate at home: staff and punters dressing up as their favourite characters from the series (and further back down the Batman franchise), hardcore comic fans ‘nerding out’ in the foyers, people shouting out the big lines of dialogue – and particularly in the first two movies – there’s a lot of humour that really falls flat when you watch it on your own.

Add to this that the staff had gone out of their way to ‘make a day of it’, including an in-character Batman – with the voice – for the duration, special food/drinks promos, cosplay competition, a riddler quiz with awesome prizes, and giving everyone a goodie bag on the way out – it really did make the experience feel unique, and elevated it far beyond the scope of any regular visit to the movies. It also made the 1pm-10pm shift fly by.

DARK KNIGHT COSPLAY COSTUMES, THE JOKER, POISON IVY, HARLEY QUINN, Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel, Dr. Pamela Lillian IsleyI believe that the variety and novelty of screenings and events like this will become a larger part of remaining cinema’s revenue, and Aberdeen’s Belmont Cinema is putting a lot of effort in to such programming. At Christmas there was a festive Die Hard screening, a 90s Action Classics season has just wrapped up (Matrix, Total, Recall Con-Air…) and coming up there’s a special screening of the notorious ‘The Room‘, a Wes Anderson retrospective, and one-off re-releases of cult cinema favourites such as The Princess Bride and the ABCs of Death – to name but a few!

Seeing the films together in one sitting also helps pull the story together, with a lot of detail slipping through the cracks of the three, and four year gaps in theatrical releases. More than anything, it’s a glowing testament to Nolan as a director: he has made three very individual, stand-alone movies that will appeal to general punters, whilst having enough detail and plot threads to make them a proper trilogy, AND appease hardened Batman fanboys.

DARK KNIGHT COSPLAY COSTUMES The Joker, Harley Quinn, Henri Ducard, Ra's al Ghul, Catwoman, Batman The Riddler, Robin

The staff really made the day, and led by example with their awesome costumes.

REVIEWS

Batman Begins (Review) – perhaps a little harsh on it, but the one that benefited the most from a proper theatrical viewing. It’s funnier with a crowd, and the ‘filler’ is more necessary when viewed as part of the entire trilogy. Overall, it’s an interesting examination of fear – last-minute cameo from Katie Holme’s nipples. Trilogy score: 7/10

The Dark Knight (Review) – the closest thing to a Bond film that Nolan has done. Travel, big stunts, cooler gadgets (and quips about them), peril, awesome villain – it feels in parts like Nolan was using this as a CV. SOMEONE PLEASE LET HIM DIRECT A BOND FILM!! Still awesome. Trilogy Score: 8.5/10

The Dark Knight Rises (Review) – less action, and a whole lot of plot to wrap up the trilogy. Still massive voice issues with Bane – I think my biggest gripe is that unlike the other sound like their being recorded on set, Bane’s booms from all speakers – giving him a bizarre omnipotence. The tone and accent are far too silly for such a bad badass. Still, great way to cap off one of cinema’s best Trilogies. Trilogy Score: 7.5/10

PFR is marking the 500th post by putting up a bunch of DVD extras this week. This guest paragraph review is from Edinburgh-based Rebecca at The Thrifty Chick; a site about  books, travel, music, movies – and everything else.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: finds Judy Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith and a host of others playing a group of fed up retirees whose desire to avoid becoming invisibly old in the UK leads them to Jaipur in India.  The plan is to age with grace amid the splendour of a luxury campus for “the elderly and beautiful”.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, life among the marigolds is not quite the haven of tranquility our intrepid travellers had been expecting.  The hotel is crumbling to the ground, and despite his best efforts the erratic management style of owner Sonny (Dev Patel) is in all likelihood making matters worse.  Given time, however, this hilariously shambolic building and its colourful surroundings find their way into the hearts of (most of) the residents.  The film is a little predictable in plot and at times a touch too reliant on harvesting comedy kicks from a field of well-worn “are we really still doing this” stereotypes.  It did, however, do what I thought was a stellar job of highlighting some of the more emotional aspects of growing old, and it has to be applauded for putting the spotlight on an age demographic that we see so little of in the cinema.  In terms of performance, Dench and Smith stood out as did Penelope Wilton, whose portrayal of Nighy’s jealous, uptight spouse was brilliantly grating.  Nighy himself turned in one of those goofily endearing performances that are fast becoming his trademark.  He does it well, but it would have been good to see him play one of the other strings on his bow this time.  Overall, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is lighthearted and fun, spirited and colourful.  It’s laugh out loud funny but it also manages to punch above its weight in emotional terms.  More than anything, it left me with a real hankering to visit India.  And on that note, it’s off to Trip Advisor…

Score: 7/10

44 Inch Chest [Blu Ray]: a man is left shattered when his wife walks out on him, so he and some unsavory friends kidnap Casanova and figure out how to best resolve the situation. Instantly obvious is the unimaginable level of crass language and nasty homophobic terms oozing from your speakers for the duration… it’s almost too much, yet it provides a strangely soothing and lyrical/rhythmic effect when intertwined with the cockney rhyming slang script. It also somehow feels genuine and integral to the situation and characters. With a strong play-like feel (long scenes, one main setting, and dips in and out of pretentiousness) it’s very much an ‘actor’s film’, and each cast member gets your undivided attention to shine at some point. The breakdown of the main character means you’re never really sure what’s real and what’s not, which is also a bit surreal. I’ve never really rated Ray Winstone as more than a typecast, but this absolutely ripped my heart out – his eyes and the speech about love being a hard graft are as good as it gets. McShane easily has the best character, best flashback and most room for fun; which he clearly laps up. There’s some lovely black comedy, and great usage of cinematic tropes – particularly music to manipulate. The BD picture and sound are average, although the content’s not really HD worthy. More than anything else, 44 Inch Chest the tale of a broken hard man being challenged by several stereotypes of stock British gangster characters – which keeps it interesting for the duration. Because of the off kilter tone and excessive offensive language you can’t safely recommend this, although it could well be one of the best sleeper hits you’ll ever see… I guess time will tell.

Score: 7/10

Rock ‘n’ Rolla [Blu Ray]: Guy Ritchie introduces another bunch of dodgy geezers that you would find in ‘everyday Britain’… honestly! There’s a huge section of Basil exposition at the start; although goes with the territory of having 20 storylines and around 400 characters. There’s more narration by a LANDAN GEEZA – and the script’s full of more cockney slang / gangster limericks; I wouldn’t blame non-Brits for requiring subtitles. (Ewe go’ mo’ feet on thu street van coppas on thu beat – etc). There’s more Tarantino-esqué styling with wipes, swipes, fast cut editing, dialogue in boxes. There’s more people acting trivially when surrounded by or cut between senseless violence – which is becoming old hat. There’s also more dark comedy elements, which are quite good: a homosexual sub-plot, S&M, botched robbery, comparing scars, indestructible Russians… Where this succeeds is the stunning Brit cast; Hardy, Strong, Elba, ‘Superhands’, Butler, Kebbell, and Newton. The Blu Ray’s worth the extra pennies, with a slick picture and some tasty HD-audio. If you can’t tell from the above, Rock ‘n’ Rolla is more of the same ol’ Guy Ritchie tricks, although it’s all totally passable, and in the end, quite entertaining & watchable. It was planned to be the first of three films and – surprisingly – I’d like to see the other two.

Score: 7/10