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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The genesis of Universal's 47 Ronin is almost as tragic as the actual history that the movie is culling from. As the story goes, Universal saw the sprigs of talent sprouting from fresh faced director Carl Rinsch, whose previous experience was limited to just a couple of commercials and a nifty short film. The studio decided to ease the new director into feature filmmaking by cutting him what amounts to virtually a blank check, and giving him charge over a multi-national samurai fantasy epic. Almost impossibly, the film isn't a complete disaster. It's just a minor one.
47 Ronin follows the classic story of the titular team of warriors, a group of disgraced samurai who band together to seek revenge against a merciless warlord that betrayed and killed their master. But this isn't your grandfather's version of the story. 47 Ronin is an international affair, and it's covered with a veneer of Japanese mysticism and a thick coating of Hollywood lacquer, but east meets west rather uncomfortably, and it's mostly due to Keanu Reeves. Reeves' character is clearly crowbarred into the story that has no room for him, and it's plainly obvious where the seams of the story were stretched in order to patch him into the narrative. Reeves plays Kai, a half Japanese, half English orphan who is adopted by the samurai clan. His character serves no real purpose beyond being white, slicing things until they die, and playing the male lead of the most superfluous love story of the year. Rinsch simply can't make the inclusion of the character feel organic in any way, and "Kai" ends up feeling like a calculated studio move. It's a shame that the film spends so much time on Reeves when the real star is clearly Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays off the stoic samurai most believably among the rest of the cast.
It's also shame that with all the mysticism pumped into the story, there's no magic in the actual center of the film, the ronin themselves. The only personality trait a samurai is allowed to possess seems to be unerring stoicism, and between all 47 ronin, there are probably only three distinct samurai with any discernible character traits beyond an intense need to brood, and you'll probably only remember those three by the time the credits roll, only to promptly forget about them only a few hours later. Thankfully, Rinko Kikuchi's slinky and treacherous witch adds some much needed camp and personality to the mostly forgettable human characters.
And that's the issue with 47 Ronin. It's largely forgettable. When your film takes on a historical legend like the tale of the 47 ronin, a story that has been told and told again ad nauseum over the years, you really need to justify your own version. There are reels and reels of film dedicated to this story, and 47 Ronin doesn't manage to add anything significant to the canon. It promises to weld myth and history together, but does so clumsily, and while some of the action scenes are exciting, especially a particularly inspired set piece that involves the ronin noiselessly breaking into a heavily guarded fortress, the film is a bore when it's not clanking swords together.
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47 Ronin is a film with many stories. As much as it is a tale about the revenge of four dozen masterless samurai, it's also the tale of an inexperienced filmmaker swallowed up by the enormity of blockbuster filmmaking. Most of all though, It's proof that you shouldn't cram Keanu Reeves into a movie that doesn't really need Keanu Reeves. What you're left with is a dull and bloated samurai epic that has its moments, but feels largely unnecessary.
No mad scientist is an island, as the story of Dr. Frankenstein proves. But the version of Mary Shelley's character played by David Anders on Once Upon a Time had a greater motivation to create life than just to stave off loneliness. The monster whom Frankie reanimated on the ABC hit is in fact...his brother, Gerhardt.
Well, folks, this is the time to scream, "It's alive!" because Hollywood.com has just learned that journeyman TV actor Chad Michael Collins will be playing Dr. Frankenstein's brother, now a scarred, bolt-necked monster who was only revived, after several attempts, when given a heart from Fairy Tale Land's evil queen. Collins' résumé has been stacked with a flurry of guest parts the past few years on shows like Greek, Enlightened, and most recently, Last Resort.
His turn as Dr. Frankenstein's monster will come later this season, around episode 14. And if Once Upon a Time's previous Frankenstein episode is any indication, Collins' debut will most likely be shot in black-and-white for full 1930s Universal horror-movie effect. He'll also be playing the brother of Frankie's Storybrooke equivalent, Dr. Whale (named after the director of the original Boris Karloff-starring Frankenstein, James Whale), but only in flashbacks.
Reporting by Leanne Aguilera
[Photo Credit: Deb Vanceiette]
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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.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
It's shaping up as one of the greatest battles in the history of monster movies, right up there with "Frankenstein vs. the Wolf Man," "King Kong vs. Godzilla" and even the yet-unfilmed "Freddy vs. Jason." Coming soon to a courtroom near you (via Court TV, natch): "Forry vs. Ferry," with cameos by Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Hugh Hefner and others.
The "Forry" in question is Forrest J. Ackerman, founder of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and a guru to sci-fi and horror movie geeks all over the world (including Hollywood directors Joe Dante, Sam Raimi and Frank Darabont). "Ferry" is one Ray Ferry, the magazine's current publisher, and the target of a $1 million lawsuit in which Ackerman seeks to regain control of his creature-feature legacy.
"I hope future generations of fans will remember me as the preserver and promoter of the imagi-movie genre, and the original Famous Monsters of Filmland as the bible according to Saint Forry," the 83-year-old Ackerman tells Hollywood.com.
Famous Monsters of Filmland Ackerman produced Famous Monsters (or "FM" as readers know it) from 1958 to 1982. FM was the first magazine of its kind, a ritual read for lovers of horror galore -- from the good stuff (Karloff, Lugosi, Christopher Lee) to the bad (like "Reptilicus" and "The Hideous Sun Demon"). Every issue overflowed with huge photographs, and there was lots of cool stuff to buy (like monster masks and model kits) via old-school mail order. But what made it unique was Ackerman's inimitable, pun-prone prose. ("Hello boils and ghouls! I'm looking forryward to Mummorial Day! Hope your horrordays are everything you scream of!" Etc.)
Ferry, a filmmaker, photographer and Forry fan, revived the mag in 1993 and retained Ackerman as editor. The two men parted ways around 1995, with Ackerman exiting the magazine and Ferry continuing to publish it.
Now Ackerman says Ferry drove a Dracula-sized stake through his heart. Not only does Ackerman's suit say that he wasn't paid for work he did on the mag, it alleges that Ferry stole the monstermeister's vernacular, downplayed his role in producing the magazine and publicly demeaned his abilities as a writer and editor.
Forrest J. Ackerman (right) with Vincent Price To help defend his rightful place in horrordom, Ackerman plans to summon a few friends to the witness stand when the case goes to trial April 11 in a San Fernando Valley, Calif., court. Among them are authors King and Bradbury (both former clients from Ackerman's days as a literary agent), director John Landis ("Twilight Zone: The Movie"), Playboy mogul Hefner, Sara Karloff (daughter of Boris) and Gene Simmons, the blood-spitting, fire-breathing rocker from KISS.
A point of contention for the Ackerman camp is that, after all these years, FM still looks and reads pretty much the same as it did 30 years ago. The horror mogul says that his pen name ("Dr. Acula") and all the catchphrases he created -- like "Fang Mail," "You Axed For It!" and "Beast Witches" -- belong to him. But Ferry and his lawyer say it's a matter of intellectual property rights; since Ackerman created his "Forryisms" for FM, they remain property of the magazine and, therefore, they have the right to them -- and Ackerman doesn't.
"We think the complaint is preposterous," says Ferry's attorney, Thomas Brackey. "We try a lot of cases, and this one is really from left field."
As in any decent monster vs. monster movie, it's not always easy to tell the "good" creature from the "evil" one.
Brackey says his client never ripped off Ackerman, and there are canceled checks to prove it. Moreover, Ferry has filed a $25 million countersuit, alleging that Ackerman issued death threats, harassed him by posting a stir-up-the-fans message on the Internet and sent him hundreds of faxes at all hours. Ferry also says the windows of his home have been shot out.
"I don't think we're worried so much about Mr. Ackerman coming out and doing something [to Ferry], but he has a lot of supporters who are dedicated to his cause, and some of these guys are going around shooting out windows," Brackey says. "There's a little bit of a mob mentality out there in monster fandom."
Ackerman retorts: "I have never threatened Ferry over the Internet or anywhere, even verbally or mentally."
At the trial, Ferry plans to summon iconic science-fiction writer Harlan Ellison as his star witness. Ellison went to court last year seeking a restraining order against Ackerman, saying he was similarly harassed with faxes.
Ackerman, who coined the term "sci-fi" in the 1950s, is also one of the world's biggest collectors of sci-fi books, movie props and other memorabilia. He has an estimated 300,000 items (such as Lon Chaney's teeth and hat from 1927's "London After Midnight" and a vampire cape worn by Bela Lugosi), all housed at his creepy home, "The Ackermansion," in the Hollywood Hills.
The collection is also at issue in the lawsuit. Ackerman once gave Ferry the right to purchase part of it for a mere $2,500 after his own death, but now Ackerman wants to rescind that agreement so he'll be free to sell or donate his memorabilia.
Ackerman, who gives his version of events on his Web site (http://www.best.com/~4forry/), has solicited contributions from friends to help pay his legal bills, and some high-profile sci-fi aficionados have reportedly answered the call.
As John Landis once said: "It's amazing how many lives [Ackerman has] touched in his weird, bizarre way. He's a touchstone for all those crazy people out there."