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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Blade 2 was a slashing success at the box office, opening in first place to a razor sharp $33.1 million.
Ice Age slid into second place with a still solid $31.1 million, melting only 33 percent. E.T.'s 20th anniversary reissue opened in third place, celebrating with $15.1 million. Also helping to drive ticket sales to record setting heights were holdovers Showtime with $8.2 million and Resident Evil with $6.6 million.
For the second consecutive weekend, key films--those grossing $500,000 or more--enjoyed summer sized grosses. Studio estimates put ticket sales at $132.7 million, down less than one percent from last weekend's $133.8 million. Business was up nearly 75 percent from last year's $76 million.
Distribution sources said that when the weekend's final numbers are released Monday they could be lower than today's estimates because of competition from tonight's Oscar telecast. Adult appeal films, in particular, are considered to be the most vulnerable to competition from the Oscars.
For years the industry avoided having a negative impact at the box office by holding the Oscars on Monday night, the weakest night of the weak for ticket sales. Last year, the Oscars were moved to Sunday night. A key reason for the move was to take advantage of there being less traffic in Los Angeles on Sundays so those attending could get to the ceremonies more easily.
THE TOP TEN
New Line Cinema's R rated vampire thriller Blade 2 kicked off in first place to a bloody good ESTIMATED $33.1 million at 2,707 theaters ($12,228 per theater).
Blade 2's average per theater was the highest for any film playing this weekend.
Directed by Guillermo Del Toro, it stars Wesley Snipes.
"It could be heading to $100 million," New Line distribution president David Tuckerman said Sunday morning.
"This was just terrific. It's Wesley's biggest opening and it almost doubled the first Blade's opening (of $17.1 million the weekend of Aug. 21-23, 1998)."
Looking at the opening weekend demographics, Tuckerman said exit polls showed were encouraging because they showed the urban appeal film played to a broader audience than expected. Those on hand were 69 percent non-African-American and 31 percent African-American.
"Non-African-Americans were 55 percent male and 45 percent female, which also is terrific," Tuckerman said. "The African-American audience was equally divided 50-50 (by gender). By age (the overall audience) was equally divided under and over 25."
Looking at New Line's timing in releasing the film now, Tuckerman observed, "One of the reasons I picked this date was because (in terms of upcoming openings) there was only Panic Room, which is not in our demo at all. It looks to me like there's four weeks for it to play without anything to bother it. And it looks like we're going to play for a while."
20th Century Fox's PG rated animated feature Ice Age fell one slot to second place in its second weekend, holding strongly with an ESTIMATED $31.08 million (-33%) at 3,345 theaters (+29 theaters; $9,291 per theater). Its cume is approximately $88.3 million.
Directed by Chris Wedge, it features the voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo and Denis Leary.
"You know, if we had opened to this figure we would have been ecstatic," Fox distribution executive vice president and general sales manager Rick Myerson said Sunday morning.
"We have about 12 digital runs in North America. The presentation in digital is phenomenal because this was computer generated digitally. People are waiting for the next digital presentation at some of those theaters. What they're saying is, 'Look, I know there's one in 15 minutes, but I'd rather wait a half-hour and see the (next) digital presentation."
Noting that Ice Age is also playing abroad now, Myerson said, "The international market is unbelievable. (Based on early grosses coming in) they may have done $30 million internationally and they have only opened up the U.K., Germany and one other European country plus Singapore and a few South American (territories) and Mexico. But the numbers are just unbelievable.
"It's mirroring what we're doing. The numbers in Germany, Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico and (other markets) are bigger than Shrek and Dinosaur combined, which were huge. It seems like the picture is just coming along with us (in paralleling its domestic success). The admissions they had in Mexico in 10 days were unheard of. If you take a bunch of animated pictures and put them together, (Ice Age is) doing better in those first 10 days. It's just phenomenal."
Universal's 20th year anniversary reissue of its PG rated sci-fi fantasy drama E.T. landed in third place with a happy ESTIMATED $15.05 million at 3,007 theaters ($5,005 per theater).
Directed by Steven Spielberg, it stars Dee Wallace Stone, Peter Coyote, Drew Barrymore and Henry Thomas.
"We're very pleased with E.T.'s performance," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "The whole idea of the reissue was to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a film that we at Universal and at Amblin are all very proud of.
"Its performance is very much like any Disney animated reissue, if you look at the numbers. It ranks number four in all time reissue openings behind the three Star Wars and that's good company to be in. There's every indication that the audiences that did go to see it absolutely adored the film, including the non-parents category."
Among non-family moviegoers, Rocco noted, "ratings were well above average among 25 year olds and over. They were also, of course, incredible for kids and for parents. But I highlight that category because it's interesting. You don't have to be parent or a kid to enjoy the experience of E.T."
Warner Bros.' PG-13 rated action comedy Showtime from Village Roadshow Pictures and NPV Entertainment slipped one peg to fourth place in its second week with an okay ESTIMATED $8.23 million (-45%) at 2,917 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,821 per theater). Its cume is approximately $26.9 million.
Directed by Tom Dey, it stars Robert De Niro, Eddie Murphy and Rene Russo.
Sony's Screen Gems label launched its R rated thriller Resident Evil from Constantin Film, New Legacy Film and Davis Films dropped three notches to fifth place in its second week with a less scary ESTIMATED $6.6 million (-63%) at 2,528 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,611 per theater). Its cume is approximately $28.8 million.
Written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, it stars Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez and Eric Mabius.
Resident Evil, which was made by Constantin for about $30 million, is being released through Sony domestically and in certain international territories, including all of Latin America.
"I think we're headed towards a very profitable $40 million (in domestic theaters)," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. "It's the nature of the genre and the world we now live in (in terms of the highly competitive movie marketplace) that things drop a bit more than we'd like--not to mention some pretty strong competition from Blade 2."
Paramount and Icon Productions' R rated Vietnam war drama We Were Soldiers fell one rung to sixth place in its fourth week with a slower ESTIMATED $5.8 million (-32%) at 2,859 theaters (-284 theaters; $2,029 per theater). Its cume is approximately $61.7 million, heading for $80-90 million in domestic theaters.
Written and directed by Randall Wallace, it stars Mel Gibson.
DreamWorks and Warner Bros.' PG-13 rated time travel fantasy drama The Time Machine fell three pegs to seventh place in its third week with a quieter ESTIMATED $5.2 million (-52%) at 2,809 theaters (-149 theaters; $1,851 per theater). Its cume is approximately $48.0 million. The film is being released domestically by DreamWorks and internationally by Warner Bros., which co-financed its production.
Directed by Simon Wells, it stars Guy Pearce.
Universal, DreamWorks and Imagine Entertainment's PG-13 rated drama A Beautiful Mind--which has eight Oscar nominations including best picture--rose one notch to eighth place in its 14th week, still holding very well with an ESTIMATED $4.26 million (+26%) at 1,455 theaters (-78 theaters; $2,930 per theater). Its cume is approximately $154.9 million. How far it goes from here will depend on how well it does in tonight's Oscar race.
Directed by Ron Howard, the Brian Grazer production stars Russell Crowe, Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly.
Buena Vista/Touchstone's R rated youth comedy Sorority Boys opened in a virtual tie for eighth place with an unfunny ESTIMATED $4.2 million at 1,801 theaters ($2,317 per theater).
Directed by Wally Wolodarsky, it stars Barry Watson.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Miramax and Universal's R rated romantic comedy 40 Days and 40 Nights, down three slots in its fourth week with a dull ESTIMATED $2.72 million (-38%) at 1,831 theaters (-481 theaters; $1,487 per theater). Its cume is approximately $34.2 million.
Directed by Michael Lehmann, it stars Josh Hartnett, Shannyn Sossamon and Maggie Gyllenhaal.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Miramax's PG rated drama Stolen Summer--famous for having been featured in HBO's Project Greenlight series--to a slow ESTIMATED $0.062 million at 13 theaters ($4,769 per theater).
Written and directed by Pete Jones, it stars Aidan Quinn, Bonnie Hunt, Kevin Pollak and Brian Dennehy.
Sony Pictures Classics' R rated comedy Son of the Bride opened to a hopeful ESTIMATED $0.037 million at 6 theaters ($6,098 per theater).
Directed by Joan Jose Campanella, the film is Argentina's official entry in the Oscars and a nominee for best foreign language film.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend USA Films' R rated romantic comedy Monsoon Wedding added theaters in its fifth week with a still festive ESTIMATED $0.81 million (+4%) at 128 theaters (+30 theaters; $6,310 per theater). Its cume is approximately $3.3 million.
Directed by Mira Nair, it was produced by Nair and Caroline Baron.
Fox Searchlight Pictures' R rated romantic comedy Kissing Jessica Stein expanded in its second week to a still sexy ESTIMATED $0.55 million at 66 theaters (+40 theaters; $8,300 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.1 million.
Directed by Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, it stars Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen.
"This Friday we're adding another 19 cities and we'll go up to over 30 theaters," Fox Searchlight distribution president Stephen Gilula said Sunday morning.
Focusing on Kissing Jessica Stein's performance this weekend, Gilula said, "It's terrific. The holdover theaters declined less than 10 percent and we continued to move into more regional cities where the film is performing extremely well. So we're seeing evidence of very, very strong word of mouth in a wide range of cities and theaters. It's crossing over into a broader and broader audience. So we're quite pleased about that."
IFC Films' unrated erotic drama Y Tu Mama Tambien went wider in its second week with a still hot ESTIMATED $0.46 million at 52 theaters (+10 theaters; $8,785 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.1 million.
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, it stars Maribel Verdu, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna.
Universal's international division reported Sunday that Ali G Inda House, its latest film from Working Title, opened in first place in the U.K. to a terrific $2.9 million for two days on 394 playdates. Ali G Inda House is 69 percent ahead of the second place Ice Age and has 32 percent of the marketplace.
Spy Game in its second weekend in Germany grossed $0.82 million on 634 playdates, ranking third behind the openings of Ice Age and Resident Evil. A Beautiful Mind was sixth with $0.6 million on 350 playdates.
In Austria, Spy Game grossed $0.1 million on 63 playdates in its second weekend, coming in second to the opening of Ice Age. Spy Game's international cume is $71 million.
A Beautiful Mind, a Universal DreamWorks co-production that is being distributed by UIP for DreamWorks, continued to hold very well internationally. In Australia A Beautiful Mind was second with $0.91 million on 220 playdates, down only 18 percent and only behind the opening of Ice Age. In the U.K., A Beautiful Mind grossed $0.5 million on 350 playdates, down 27% and fourth in the marketplace in its fifth week.
In Spain, A Beautiful Mind was fourth in its fifth week, grossing $0.3 million for two days on 200 playdates, down 25%. In Argentina, A Beautiful Mind in its fifth week took over the top spot on the chart again with a weekend gross of $95,000 on 46 playdates, down only 9 percent. In Brazil, A Beautiful Mind finished third in its sixth weekend With $0.22 million on 163 playdates, down only 7 percent. In Mexico A Beautiful Mind was fifth in its fourth week, with $0.34 million on 170 playdates, down only 10 percent. A Beautiful Mind's international cume is $64 million.
Key films--those grossing more than $500,000--took in approximately $132.66 million, up about 74.74 percent from last year when they totaled $75.92 million. Key films this weekend were down a marginal 0.33 percent from the previous weekend of this year's total of $133.81 million.
Last year, MGM's opening week of Heartbreakers was first with $11.8 million at 2,750 theaters ($4,291 per theater); and Sony's opening week of The Brothers was second with $10.3 million at 1,378 theaters ($7,477 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $22.1 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $64.2 million.