The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

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Director: Wes Anderson

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Edward Norton, Mathieu Amalric, Saoirse Ronan, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Lea Seydoux, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Schwartzman, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Tony Revolori

Screenplay: Wes Anderson

100 mins. Rated R for language , some sexual content and violence.

 

Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom, Fantastic Mr. Fox) has a style. It is easy to tell when a movie is a Wes Anderson movie. He has tells. He has a visual sense that he knows he wants. The Grand Budapest Hotel has this notable visual sense that Anderson is known for. It is told in a frame device of a frame device. In the present, a girl opens a memoir by “The Author” (Tom Wilkinson, Batman Begins, Belle) who recounts a tale of his meeting with Zero Moustapha (F. Murray Abraham, TV’s Homeland, Amadeus) who further recounts a tale of his time working as a lobby boy for M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, The Invisible Woman) who is framed for murder. The entirety of the film revolves around this whodunit as Gustave claims he had nothing to do with the death of Madame D (Tilda Swinton, Adaptation, The Zero Theorem). Her family is fighting over her fortune, and one of them may be the one responsible for her death.

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This movie is all over the place. I enjoyed the central premise but I didn’t feel as though the plot stayed in one place long enough to be interesting. I prefer the more calculated Moonrise Kingdom to this piece, which just goes too far out.

Of the actors involved here, I really liked a lot of what was brought to the screen from an acting perspective. I particularly loved Ralph Fiennes as Gustave, who may be more worried about the state of his hotel than about the murder to which he is framed. F. Murray Abraham is a great narrator here. I also really like Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man, John Wick) as the hitman Jopling who has been hired to take out the leads that could link authorities to the true culprit. Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park, Morning Glory) steals absolutely every scene he has here, and I wish he had more screentime. The film also contains a cadre of Anderson cameos from previous collaborators.

Anderson does display a gorgeous cinematography here, the only fault being with the editing job which spends too much time dragging out too many subplots.

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I liked The Grand Budapest Hotel. I didn’t love The Grand Budapest Hotel. It was merely enjoyable but Wes Anderson has done better and can do better. I can see several actors getting nods from the Academy for this film, but you will not see this film on the list of Best Picture nominees.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

What did you think of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel? Did you stay for the night or check out early? Let me know!

31 Days of Horror: Day 22 – Monkey Shines (1988)

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Director: George A. Romero

Cast: Jason Beghe, John Pankow, Kate McNeil, Joyce Van Patten, Christine Forrest, Stephen Root, Stanley Tucci, Janine Turner, William Newman

Screenplay: George A. Romero

113 mins. Rated R.

 

George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Bruiser) has tackled zombies. I think we all attest to that. He has mastered camp horror (please check out his work with Stephen King in Creepshow, awesome film). There are a lot of things he can do with a horror film. Maybe a killer monkey just isn’t one of those things.

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I recently discovered Monkey Shines, a film I had been looking for since I saw the VHS cover some years back at a rental store (remember all those things?) and I was finally able to watch it.

Allan Mann (Jason Beghe, TV’s Chicago P.D., Thelma & Louise) is a successful athlete who is run down in a traffic collision and becomes a quadriplegic. Suffering from depression and the inability to cope with this new life, Allan is gifted with a monkey from his friend Geoffrey (John Pankow, TV’s Mad About You, Morning Glory). The monkey, named Ella, has been trained by gifted support animal trainer Melanie (Kate McNeil, The House on Sorority Row, Glitter). Unfortunately, Ella forms an obsessive and violent bond with Allan and begins to kill those around him. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie.

I think the major flaw with Monkey Shines is exactly what doomed it from the start. It is a horror film that lacks horror. Here is a film with an animal that doesn’t seem all that dangerous, and it doesn’t convince me that Ella is. It isn’t easy to convince us that an animal with such an affectionate bond with a human can alter that love so quickly. We have stories that have succeeded where Monkey Shines failed. We have Stephen King’s novel Cujo, an excellent little exercise in creative horror about a dog who becomes the embodiment of fear when rabies (or as King hints at, pure evil) inhabits its body. Cujo (the book, not the movie) was an achievement. Monkey Shines was not. It just plain isn’t scary. Some of it just comes off as funny.

We don’t have any horrible performances. We get some early work from Stephen Root (TV’s King of the Hill, The Lone Ranger) and Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games, Transformers: Age of Extinction) here, but little more.

Although it feels tough to fully blame writer/director Romero, who had his finished film taken away from him multiple times and finally after being completed, the studio put a different ending in that makes it feel very un-Romero.

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Monkey Shines was taglined as “An Experiment in Fear.” I had my hypothesis. I had my conclusion. This is one experiment we need not try again.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

 

For my review of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, click here.

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