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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Sony Pictures via Everett Collection
There is a certain level of enjoyment you are guaranteed when signing on for a movie that boasts a cast of George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, and Bill Murray. And that's the precise level of enjoyment you'll get from The Monuments Men — that bare minimum smirk factor inherent the idea that your favorite stars are getting to play together. In FDR-era army helmets, no less. But what we also get from the film is an aura of smug self-confidence from project captain Clooney, who seems all too ready to take for granted that we're perfectly satisfied peering into his backyard clubhouse.
So assured is the director/co-writer that we're happy to be in on the game that there doesn't seem to be any effort taken to refine the product for the benefit of a viewing audience. An introductory speech from art historian Frank Stokes (Clooney) sets up the premise straight away: the Nazis are stealing and destroying all of Europe's paintings and sculptures, and by gum we need to stop them! The concept doesn't complicate from there, save for a batting back and forth of the throughline question about whether the preservation of these pieces is "really worth it." Stokes rallies his own Ocean's Seven on a fine arts rescue mission, instigating an old fashioned go-get-'em-boys montage where we learn everything we need to know about the band mates in question: Damon has a wife, Goodman has gumption, Murray doesn't smile, Bob Balaban is uppity, and Jean Dujardin is French.
The closest thing to a character in The Monuments Men comes in the form of Hugh Bonneville, a recovering alcoholic whose motivation to take on the dangerous mission is planted in a festering desire to absolve himself of a lifetime of f**king up. When we're away from Bonneville, the weight disspears, as does most of the joy. Without identifiable characters, even master funnymen like Goodman, Murray, and Balaban don't have much to offer... especially since the movie's jokes feel like first draft placeholders born on a tired night.
Sony Pictures via Everett Collection
But wait a minute, is this even supposed to be a comedy? After all, it's about World War II. And no matter what Alexandre Desplat's impossibly merry score would have you believe (coupled with The Lego Movie, this opening weekend might be responsible for more musical jubilance than any other since the days of "Make 'Em Laugh!"), warfare, genocide, and desecration of international culture all make for some pretty heavy material. But The Monuments Men's drama is just as fatigued as its humor, clumsily piecing together a collection of mini missions wherein the stakes, somehow, never seem to jump. We're dragged through military bases, battered towns, and salt mines by Clooney and the gang — occasionally jumping over to France to watch Damon work his least effective magic in years on an uptight Cate Blanchett, who holds the key to the scruffy American's mission but doesn't quite trust him... until, for no apparent reason, she suddenly does. We never feel like any of these people matter, not even to each other, so we never really feel like their adventures do.
The Monuments Men doesn't have much of a challenge ahead of it. Its heroes are movie stars, its bad guys are Nazis, and its message is one that nobody's going to refute: art is important — a maxim it pounds home with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, through countless scenes of men staring in awe at the works of Michelangelo and Rembrandt. And in this easy endeavor, Clooney decides to coast. How could it possibly go wrong? Just grab hold of the fellas, toss 'em in the trenches, and let the laughs and danger write themselves. "This is what they came to see," Monuments Men insists. "Just us guys havin' a ball." But we never feel in on the game, and it isn't one that looks like that much fun anyhow.
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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
It’s October! The leaves are changing, the temperatures are dropping (except in LA… ), and our Fall TV season is finally in full swing. To help celebrate that fact that our DVRs have a purpose again, this week’s spoiler list features all of my favorite shows! Wait, no sorry, that’s a lie. I watch an obscene amount of television — it’s truly frightening — and I’m easily entertained. So if this list really had all my faves, we would be here for at least a few days.
Okay so to clarify, this week’s list highlights six shows that make me all warm and fuzzy inside. The Vampire Diaries’ Kat Graham spilled secrets from next week’s season premiere, Supernatural fans should be prepared for a new lady passenger in the Impala, and I’ve got details on the return of our favorite Canadian pop star on How I Met Your Mother! Plus, scooplets (adorably awesome baby spoilers) from Glee, New Girl and The Middle!
1. The Vampire Diaries: Season 4 Repercussions and Romance!
I don’t know about you but I am counting down the milliseconds until The Vampire Diaries is back where it belongs: on perpetual repeat on my TV screen. To help us get even more pumped for all the Mystic Falls goodness, I chatted with the unbelievably sweet Kat Graham about what fans can expect from next week’s season premiere. When we last saw Bonnie, she was acting like a badass and rebelling against the spirit’s wishes to kill Klaus (Joseph Morgan), which in turn would kill a handful of her closest friends (Damn vampire lineage thing!) Graham warns that her witchy ancestors are less than pleased with her decision. “The biggest thing they’ve done so far is take away her powers," she says. "They’re going to do something even worse than that to her for a repercussion. They’re going to really really do something bad to her.” After learning the truth, I suggest you have a few boxes of tissues close by, TVD fans.
At the request of my Twitter followers (see, I told you I listen!), I made sure to ask about one of the few couple combinations we’ve yet to see on our screens: Bonnie and Damon (Ian Somerhalder). The actress/singer told me with a smile, “Everyone knows the impact that relationship could have on the show and how heavy and strong that could be. I think it’s just better to kind of pace yourself with that kind of storyline.”
Although this potential love triangle (Bonnie, Damon, Elena) won’t happen just yet, Graham admits that she loves her Bamon fans and the passion that they bring to the Twitterverse. “The fans just get so insane, which I love, but they would just lose their minds. They would just pass out, so we just want to keep them watching. We don’t want to kill them.” I’m pretty sure some fans wouldn’t mind watching from heaven if it meant their beloved book couple would finally be brought together.
2. Glee: Will a Freshman Flame Rekindle This Year?
Six abs, two seasons, and one tattoo later, Mike Chang and Tina Cohen-Chang are no longer the longest-running couple on Glee. So now that Tina is a single lady, I asked Jenna Ushkowitz what exactly she’d like to see for her character this season. “It would be fun to see Tina with somebody new," she says. "It’s been two years of the same guy, so it will be interesting." Of course, at this point I not-so-subtlety segued into something that many fans have been dying to know: Will Tina and Artie get back together?! Ushkowitz told me with a big smile, “Yes! Well, I love working with Kevin so I would definitely like to see that. I don’t think that they really got to live out their relationship so it would be fun.” Please excuse me while I Twitter bomb Ryan Murphy with my gleequest for this to happen.
It seems that Kevin McHale was drinking from the same Kool-Aid because he’s also crossing his fingers for more Artie/Tina romance. (Artina? Tartie? I can’t decide which I like better… ) “I do too!” McHale says. “I think that would be really nice to have our senior year come full circle. It’s Glee so you can't predict what’s going to happen but I’m sure whatever they do is going to be hilarious.”
For now it seems like Artina/Tartie fans are going to have to wait until this whole Artie and Sugar (Vanessa Lengies) thing plays out. McHale reveals, “I always felt like that was kind of unresolved and Rory might have been deported so… ” Woah, hey now! Did Artie call immigration on Rory!? The actor says, “I don’t think so, but that’s a great idea! That’s such an incredible idea and I’m stealing it. If you see it happen, you’ll know that you came up with it.” Welp, no big deal, but it looks like I’m writing plot twists for Glee now. Squee!
3. How I Met Your Mother: It’s the Return of Robin Sparkles!
Put on your jelly bracelets, grab your graffiti jean jacket and meet me at the mall because Robin Sparkles is ba-ack! If you don’t know who Robin Sparkles is, then I’m sorry, but I ‘m not sure that we can ever be friends. With that said, please feast your eyes on this and this. Great! Now that you’re fully aware of the most amazing Canadian pop star of all time, you can imagine just how exciting it is to know that we’ll be seeing her again this season.
In episode 8, intriguingly titled “Twelve Horny Women,” the gang will be swapping stories about their badass pasts. In a flashback, we’ll see the “Sandcastles in the Sand” singer completely flip out and engage in some pretty outrageous behavior. What prompted this wave of anger you may ask? A hotel employee politely asked her to turn down the music in her room. Sheesh! Of course, in true HIMYM fashion, Robin’s (Cobie Smulders) tale turns out to be just a little bit farfetched. What really happened? You'll have to tune in to find out! 4. The Middle: Sophomore Sue to the rescue!
It's Sue's (Eden Sher) time to shine in tonight’s episode of The Middle! Now that she’s a sophomore, she’s ready to put 200 percent into yet another extracurricular activity. Bunheads fans will see a familiar face roaming the high school halls when Bailey Buntain guest stars as Jenna, an incoming freshman that Sue decides to mentor. “Jenna is that girl who just never has to try," Buntain says. "She makes friends really easily and she’s nice and she fits in and it all just comes really easy and natural to her.”
Poor Sue! After a beyond difficult freshman year, it’s baffling for her to see someone fit in so effortlessly. Luckily, Sue’s mentee doesn’t care that the new sophomore has trouble fitting in. Buntain says, “Jenna’s just really nice. She doesn’t care if Sue is popular or a nerd but watching Jenna and Sue together you see that they’re kind of opposites.” [Insert your own quip about how opposites attract here.]
5. Supernatural: Mama Drama for the Boys!
At the end of last year, fans were introduced to Princeton-applicant/Prophet Kevin (Osric Chau), and many will be excited to know that this multi-tasker will be playing a major role as this season progresses. But in episode 2, his presence is going to manifest a different sort of supernatural being for Sam and Dean — a Tiger Mom! Oh yes, you read that correctly.
Since Kevin has been MIA and on the run for over a year, it’s only natural that he’s be worried about his mother. Dean — who, after a year of non-stop battle in Purgatory is now a hardened (and sexy) warrior — doesn't really care, but Sam approves of Kevin's mission to bring her up to speed. "Kevin, understandably, is worried about his mother," Jared Padalecki tells us on the set of Supernatural. "Dean is very much like, 'Hey, forget about it, we have some work to do. I’m sure she’s fine.' [But] Kevin is resolute. She’s been compromised, and we have to save her... it puts Dean and Sam in funny situations. There’s a Tiger Mommy quote unquote forced upon us, so we find ourselves in a situation where we’re like, 'We don’t want to buckle our seatbelt! Just chill out and let us do what we do.'" And they do what they do oh-so well, don’t cha think?
But according to Executive Producer Jeremy Carver, this motherly influence was a long time coming. "Mrs. Tran does something sort of interesting and fun," he says. "[Her presence] gives the boys, in an odd way, a mother figure that they haven't had in a long time. It's a fun dynamic, and it can be a rather moving dynamic. It also gives you a fourth wheel in the car that you have to deal with." You can check out more Supernatural scoop about tonight’s season premiere right here!
6. New Girl: Prepare for a Thunderdome Thanksgiving!
Question: What is better than Fat Schmidt? Answer: Young fat Scmidt! In this year’s Thanksgivng episode, we’ll be served another delicious heaping of our favorite chubby companion — in flashback style of course! It seems that before our Schmidt (Max Greenfield) was a thumb ring-wearing, chut-a-ney loving, frittata-cooking stud, he was a boy who was bullied. Unfortunately, that bully was none other than his older cousin Big Schmidt. Now, twentysomething years later, it’s time for our Schmidt and ex-marine cousin Schmidt to face off in the ultimate battle royale: a manliness competition! I can’t reveal what ridiculousness will ensue, but one thing is for sure: It’s going to be oh-so douchey, and I can’t wait!
What do you think will happen to Bonnie in the TVD premiere? Excited at the thought of Artina/Tartie getting back together? Who do you think will win in New Girl’s manliness competition? And is anyone else planning to dress up as Robin Sparkles for Halloween?! Spill everything in the comments below!
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—Additional reporting by Shaunna Murphy.
[Photo Credit: The CW, FOX, CBS]
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Plastered all over the Internet and covers of the few remaining print magazines are images of your favorite — and least favorite — celebs (and non-celebs) kissing, both tastefully and, well, Jersey Shorely. But what about the smooches we haven’t seen and actually want to see, like our favorite TV characters?! Well, in honor of National Kissing Day (yes, that’s a thing), we’ve compiled just such a list: The TV couples, and even some who may not yet have been officially outed as “together,” that for our own selfish reasons we’d like to see lock lips already, dammit!
Vampire Diaries: Klaus and Caroline
Yes, true shippers are clutching their chests in breathless anticipation of our heroes Stefan and Elena’s eventual reunion kiss, but we know that’s coming. We’re not so sure about the ultimate bad boy (Original vampire, werewolf and a sensitive artiste? Oh my.) and Vampire Barbie. Caroline’s too much of a good girl to really fall for evil-incarnate-with-a-sensitive-side Klaus, but a little forbidden, passionate, vampire-hormone-level make-out session wouldn’t be too much to ask, would it? - Kelsea Stahler
Don't Trust the B---- in Apt. 23: Chloe and James Van Der Beek
They are best friends on the show. Um, have we forgotten what we learned from When Harry Met Sally? A guy and a girl can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way! It's so true! Chloe and James need to do more than kiss. They need to have sex on a birthday cake. - Lindsey DiMattina
Revenge: Emily Thorne and Jack Porter
We are 16 episodes into the season, and Emily has been in love with her childhood pal Jack from day one. She needs to kiss him, tell him her true identity, get over her revenge plan and live happily ever after. - Lindsey DiMattina
New Girl: Nick and Jess
Dermot Mulroney's Russell is adorable and all, but the longing looks and awkward pauses between roomies Nick and Jess are getting to be too much. They would balance each other out so well as a couple. I know it's always better to draw out the tension, but I'm so ready to see them hook up already. - Aly Semigran
New Girl: Nick and Schmidt
We know they're best friends, but I definitely see some homoerotic tension below the surface. Okay, I don't at all. I just want to see them make out. - Brian Moylan
Parks and Recreation: Chris and Ann
Sure, they used to be an item and were kissing all the time, but ever since the show broke up (and especially since Ann started dating Tom — ugh), I've been anxious for them to rekindle their love and share a spontaneous kiss to kick it off. C'mon, Ann, pull Chris out of his depression with a smooch. It would literally…make my day. - Matthew Patches
Smash: Derek and Karen
Sure Karen's boyfriend Dev is successful and gorgeous, but no one can resist the bad boy for very long. And when you throw a British accent into the mix, it's pretty much a done deal. The sexual tension between these two is palpable and has been ever since the season premiere. Someone needs to make the first move and soon — I'm done with all these cold showers. Are you listening, writers? Let's make this happen! - Kelly Schremph
The Voice: Christina Aguilera and Adam Levine
Between all the flirty, 7th grade-esque insults and asset-revealing clothing, these two just have to get. It. Over. With. Already. Preferably in a spinning chair powered by their egos. - Kate Ward
Community: Troy and Britta
Ever since Troy inadvertently won Britta over (through acting!) during season 2, there has been back-and-forth romantic tension between the two. Meaningful glances, lingering hugs, bonding over candy cigarettes, even secret affectionate text messages. Troy and Britta need to give into their feelings; it might result in the first real, healthy relationship either one has ever had. - Michael Arbeiter
Jersey Shore: DJ Paulie D and Vinny
They're always talking about how they're in love and married and refer to each other as boyfriends. Remember when Paulie D was trying so hard to act like a real human being to convince Vinny to stay in the house? Yeah, that was cute. (Paulie D is not real.) - Shaunna Murphy
Which on-screen couple do you want to kiss so badly that it's giving you an ulcer? Let us know! Let the small screen make-outs commence!