You don't arrive at the Grand Budapest Hotel without your share of Wes Anderson baggage. Odds are, if you've booked a visit to this film, you've enjoyed your past trips to the Wes Indies (I promise I'll stop this extended metaphor soon), delighting especially in Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and his most recent charmer Moonrise Kingdom. On the other hand, you could be the adventurous sort — a curious diplomat who never really got Anderson's uric-toned deadpan drudgings but can't resist browsing through the brochures of his latest European getaway. First off, neither community should worry about a bias in this review — I'm a Life Aquatic devotee, equally alienating to both sides. Second, neither community should be deterred by Andersonian expectations, be they sky high or subterranean, in planned Budapest excursions. No matter who you are, this movie will charm your dandy pants off and then some.
While GBH hangs tight to the filmmaker's recognizable style, the movie is a departure for Anderson in a number of ways. The first being plot: there is one. A doozy, too. We're accustomed to spending our Wes flicks peering into the stagnant souls of pensive man-children — or children-men (Moonrise) or fox-kits (guess) — whose journeys are confined primarily to the internal. But not long into Grand Budapest, we're on a bona fide adventure with one of the director's most attractive heroes to date: the didactic Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes mastering sympathetic comedy better than anyone could have imagined he might), who invests his heart and soul into the titular hotel, an oasis of nobility in a decaying 1930s Europe. Gustave is plucked from his sadomasochistic nirvana overseeing every cog and sprocket in the mountaintop institution and thrust into a madcap caper — reminiscent of, and not accidentally, the Hollywood comedies of the era — involving murder, framing, art theft, jailbreak, love, sex, envy, secret societies, high speed chases... believe me, I haven't given half of it away. Along the way, we rope in a courageous baker (Saoirse Ronan), a dutiful attorney (Jeff Goldblum), a hotheaded socialite (Adrien Brody) and his psychopathic henchman (Willem Dafoe), and no shortage of Anderson regulars. The director proves just as adept at the large scale as he is at the small, delivering would-be cartoon high jinks with the same tangible life that you'd find in a Billy Wilder romp or one of the better Hope/Crosby Road to movies.
Anchoring the monkey business down to a recognizable planet Earth (without sacrificing an ounce of comedy) is the throughline of Gustave's budding friendship with his lobby boy, Zero (newcomer Tony Revolori, whose performance is an unprecedented and thrilling mixture of Wes Anderson stoicism and tempered humility), the only living being who appreciates the significance of the Grand Budapest as much as Gustave does. In joining these two oddballs on their quest beyond the parameters of FDA-approved doses of zany, we appreciate it, too: the significance of holding fast to something you believe in, understand, trust, and love in a world that makes less and less sense everyday. Anderson's World War II might not be as ostensibly hard-hitting as that to which modern cinema is accustomed, but there's a chilling, somber horror story lurking beneath the surface of Grand Budapest. Behind every side-splitting laugh, cookie cutter backdrop, and otherworldly antic, there is a pulsating dread that makes it all mean something. As vivid as the worlds of Rushmore, Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Moonrise might well have been, none have had this much weight and soul.
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So it's astonishing that we're able to zip to and fro' every crevice of this haunting, misty Central Europe at top speeds, grins never waning as our hero Gustave delivers supernaturally articulate diatribes capped with physically startling profanity. So much of it is that delightfully odd, agonizingly devoted character, his unlikely camaraderie with the unflappably earnest young Zero, and his adherence to the magic that inhabits the Grand Budapest Hotel. There are few places like it on Earth, as we learn. There aren't many movies like it here either.
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Hollywood stars Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Sienna Miller, Ellen DeGeneres and director Todd Haynes were among attendees at a memorial service in Los Angeles for late actor Heath Ledger.
The private service to pay tribute to the 28-year-old, who was found dead in New York last month, took place at the Sony lot in L.A. on Saturday and also included a variety of figures from the movie industry and Ledger's agency, CAA.
Attendees included Cruise and Holmes, who co-starred with Ledger's former fiancée Michelle Williams on TV show Dawson's Creek, and British actress Miller, who worked with Ledger on 2005 film Casanova, according to People.com.
The memorial comes a week after relatives and close friends of the tragic star gathered at a smaller service at the Westwood Village Memorial Park cemetery in the city. A service also took place in New York, which attracted close to 1,000 mourners.
Ledger was found dead in his New York apartment on Jan. 22. An autopsy failed to reveal the cause of death, and police are still awaiting the results of a toxicology test to asses if drugs found in his apartment played a part in his demise.
His body has been flown to his native Australia, where a private funeral is expected to take place in his hometown of Perth.
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Roberts, Diaz collect highest paychecks in Hollywood
Star Julia Roberts, whose action sequel Ocean's Twelve hits theaters Friday, tops The Hollywood Reporter's annual list of the highest-paid actresses with an asking price of $20 million per film. Roberts first gained notice playing a waitress in the 1988 comedy Mystic Pizza and won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her role as the doomed diabetic heroine in the 1989 drama Steel Magnolias, but it was her performance as a warm-hearted prostitute in the 1990 rags-to-riches hit Pretty Woman that made her one of Hollywood's most bankable stars. Close behinds Roberts on the Hollywood pay scale is Charlie's Angels star Cameron Diaz, who also sports a $20 million price tag but didn't appear in any films this year. Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Drew Barrymore, meanwhile, round out the Top Five with a $15 million asking price per film. The sixth highest-paid actress is Halle Berry, with $14 million, followed by Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie (both earning $12 to $15 million each), and Renee Zellweger and Jennifer Lopez ($12 million), The Associated Press reports. The special "Women in Entertainment" issue also includes what it considers five breakout performers: Kirsten Dunst is No. 1 at $8 million, followed by Lindsay Lohan ($7.5 million), Jessica Alba ($3 million), Mandy Moore ($3 million) and Sarah Michelle Gellar ($2 million).
Joan and Melissa back for the Hollywood awards
Joan and Melissa Rivers are bringing their fashion expertise back to the red carpet, this time for the TV Guide Channel, starting with the Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton on Jan. 16. The mother-daughter duo was shut out of this year's Emmy Awards because of a contractual snafu with E! Entertainment Television--the network they had been with since 1996. According to the AP, an exclusive agreement between E! and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, in charge of the Emmys, prevented the Rivers duo from covering Emmy's red carpet arrivals. "It's been a mess, it's been a very messy couple of months," Joan Rivers told the AP Tuesday. "I think they have their acts together. I just want to get back to work."
Incredibles tops Annie award noms
Pixar Animation Studios' The Incredibles tops the list of nominees for the 32nd annual Annie Awards with 16 nominations, the International Animated Film Society announced Monday. The film's nominations include best animated feature, directing, music and voice acting for Samuel L. Jackson, who plays the hero Frozone, and Brad Bird as the fashion designer Edna Mode, the AP reports. DreamWorks' Shrek 2 and Shark Tale, meanwhile, garnered seven nods each. Other nominees include Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence and The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. The awards will be handed out Jan. 30 in Glendale, Calif.
Mishaps on Spielberg's War of the Worlds
Looks like a few "extras" were lost on the set of Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds, a remake of the H.G. Wells novel starring Tom Cruise. Two adult-size mannequins apparently broke free and drifted south down the Connecticut River during filming, Connecticut authorities told AP. Despite a search by the movie production's water safety crew, the mannequins weren't recovered, and other police departments along the riverfront were alerted. "We just wanted them to know that if they got any calls about bodies floating in the river," police Lt. Shannon Haynes said Monday. "But we never heard anything about them being found."
CBS wins ratings week... again
CBS topped TV ratings again this week, bolstered by Everybody Loves Raymond and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the AP reports. CBS averaged 13 million viewers followed by ABC ( 10.4 million); NBC (10.3 million); Fox (6.7 million); UPN (3.6 million); and the WB (3.5 million). The top 10 shows were: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation CBS; CSI: Miami, CBS; Survivor: Vanuatu, CBS; Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS; Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven, ABC; Two and a Half Men, CBS; Without a Trace, CBS; ER, NBC; NFL Monday Night Football: St Louis at Green Bay, ABC; Lost, ABC.
Looking for Dan Rather's replacement
CBS now has the unenviable task of finding a replacement once anchorman Dan Rather signs off in March. "We're almost starting from ground zero," CBS Chairman Les Moonves said last week. "Anything can happen. We may bring in the cast of Friends."According to a recent Broadcasting & Cable article, some of the candidates include ABC News' Diane Sawyer, Dateline NBC's Stone Phillips, 60 Minutes's Lesley Stahl, Lester Holt of NBC's Weekend Today and Sawyer's Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibbons.
Infinity expects Stern to fulfill commitment
Viacom Inc.'s Infinity radio unit expects Howard Stern to remain with the company through the end of next year when his contract expires, Reuters reports. "We are counting on Howard (Stern) being on the air, but we are feverishly looking for someone to replace him," said Infinity's president and chief operating officer Joel Hollander at the UBS Media Week conference in New York. Stern announced in October he was heading to Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. in January 2006, but there has been speculation the shock jock may jump ship before the Infinity deal is up--that is, if someone were willing to buy out the remainder of the contract. Asked by a conference attendee if Infinity would entertain offers to permit Stern's release, Hollander quipped: "If you were to give me a check for $100 million, I'll let him go tomorrow."