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Film: “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014)

Not sure what I can say about this film, other than I was too quick to judge it. I’ve never quite got the measure of director Wes Anderson. I have fond memories of “The Royal Tenenbaums”, but I think then it may have been the galaxy of famous actors in it, and now it might be nostalgia playing its part. I might give it another go soon.

the grand budapest hotel“The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” I remember less fondly, though (and I forget he directed this), “Fantastic Mr Fox” is superb and I recommend you watch it right away. But needless to say, Wes has a distinctive style, and can attract big-named actors like flypaper.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”, set in the fictitious and mountainous nation of Zubrowka, it recounts a period in the life of the titular hotel’s renowned concierge, Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), as told by his apprentice Zero (Tony Revolori, who curiously doesn’t have a Wikipedia page yet). After a wealthy customer (a dessicated Tilda Swinton) dies and bequeathes something of great value to her beloved Gustave, her outraged family take every chance to settle the matters of the deceased’s estate in their favour.

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Film: “300: Rise of an Empire” (2014)

I hadn’t been too bothered to go and see the new “300” film, but I’m pleased I did. I only watched the original “300” some time after the event, and found it fairly uninteresting, though its impact in the creation of similar blokey gorefest films and TV series hasn’t gone unnoticed.

300_Rise_of_an_EmpireUnusually, “300: Rise of an empire” serves as both a prequel, sequel and accompanying story to “300”, the events of the latter playing out off-screen during the film. It gives much more depth to the film, a bigger picture than “300” painted. It follows the career of (decidedly Aussie) Greek general and master tactician Thermistocles (Sullivan Stapleton), starting from the moment he became a legend, killing the king of the oncoming Persian army (father of God-King Xerxes).

On the flip-side we get to see the making of Xerxes (sexy Rodrigo Santoro), from grieving son to re-made, supernatural golden God. This also introduces the main antagonist to Thermistocles, the devastating beauty and commander of the Navy, Artimicia (Eva Green). We are narrated through the back story by the dependably brilliant Lena Headey, reprising her role as Queen Gorgo of the Spartans in role that it too small, but she owns every minute of screentime. Continue reading

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Film: “The Book Thief” (2014)

Do you ever get films where you’re not really sure you think of it? I mean on the face of it “The Book Thief” is a straightforward story about a young girl Liesel (Sophie Nélisse), fostered into a German family just before the outbreak of World War II. As she gets accustomed to her new family of Hans & Rosa (Geoffrey Rush & Emily Watson), she learns to read and adapt to her new life.

the book thiefBut when the family take in Max (Ben Schnetzer), the son of Hans’s dead WWI friend, Liesel world starts to open up as she rehabilitates this strange new man. There’s the threat of the Third Reich discovering Max, as well as the ongoing war. You can sort of imagine the story already, and the trailer leads you through most of it.

A bunch of stuff happens – it’s not essentially going anywhere in particular, but it’s still immersive, and showed me a side to the war that I knew a bit about, but have rarely seen in films, i.e. Germany during the war. Not as the baddies as such, just as a nation at war much like any other would be, with the occasional Nazi firebrand reminding us of the world they are living in. Swastikas aplenty and fairly blunt allusions to what Third Reich are doing with certain demographics. Continue reading

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Film: “Cuban Fury” (2014)

This film was a compromise. I say compromise, my sisters wanted to see something with me, and wanted to see this. I didn’t have any better ideas, so that was that. I realised as the lights went down that the last time we had all gone to see a film together was “Titanic”. I can’t imagine this film will have quite the lasting impression of “Titanic”, but that’s probably OK because it wasn’t really trying.

cuban fury posterWith Simon Pegg off doing Star Trek, sidekick Nick Frost seems to just be doing films that would have otherwise had Simon Pegg in them. This isn’t a good thing for me, I never really warmed to Nick in the way that practically everyone else seems to have. In “Cuban Fury” he at least broke his usual mould of crude, annoying best friend, but what was left?

Having been bullied (seemingly just on one evening), he gave up his talent of salsa dancing and became a spineless victim. Whoever wrote this film evidently wasn’t writing from experience, this world was populated by easily distinguishable good & bad guys. Chris O’Dowd was wasted as the office bastard ceaselessly knocking our brave hero Bruce(!) down in his quest to have sex with their sexy new boss. Continue reading

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Film: “The Lego Movie” (2014)

If you thought a Lego movie sounded like a bad idea, and the trailer only confirmed those doubts, then trust your instincts and avoid this. Book adaptations have mixed results, films based on video games far worse, those based on playthings are even more doomed – so how about a film based on plastic blocks?

Oh but it’s LEGO! YAY LEGO! I think that was the central thought behind the green-lighting, writing and critical praise of this movie. It’s got something ludicrous like 96% on Rottentomatoes, with the first review I saw being someone proclaiming it to be the best film of all time. Well, I thought I should try it out. After all, in my experience my low expectations usually get proven wrong and I enjoy films more than I think I will.

Not here. It’s little more than a seizure-inducing blizzard of bright colours doing its best to distract from a story so thin and flaky it could have been written on an Etch-a-sketch (movie coming Summer 2016). IMAGINATION GOOD, CONFORMING BAD is the stick chosen to beat us over the head during the course of the feature-length advert. Continue reading

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