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Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

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***½

Here we are pal. All of sudden this doesn’t look like the brightest idea you ever had, huh?

Ava Lord (Eva Green) and Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin), © 2014 Miramax.

Ava Lord (Eva Green) and Dwight McCarthy (Josh Brolin), © 2014 Miramax.

Sin City was a great movie. It was innovative and a trend setter that showed George Lucas how a green screen should be used. Nine years later pretty much everyone who wanted to see this sequel has moved on. Even me. I can barely believe that since I loved the comic books. Now I could not even find my copy of A Dame to Kill For, which was my favorite of all of the Sin City books. Well, there are three stories besides the namesake. None of which are as good as the central one.

The new stories, they focus around Senator Roark—Powers Boothe, “Deadwood”, who hounded Hartigan—Bruce Willis, Die Hard— for shooting up his Roark’s degenerate, rapist son. Joseph Gordon-Levitt fits in well to this world, as does his lady luck, Julie Garner. Nobody new takes part in (Jessica Alba’s) Nancy Callahan’s story, but it is pretty much a ripoff of A Dame to Kill For. Do not try to figure out what that means, it is too meta and circular. Despite these flaws, this is still an enjoyable and exciting movie. I could list the great cast additions, but for me the star of the movie was the dame herself, Eva Green as Ava Lord. I admitted to my adoration of Eva Green in 300: Rise of an Empire and she shows off a greater acting range here. She also wears much less clothing. As a result, those who do not like Eva Green as much as I do, may not like this movie as much.

No Holds Barred

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I won’t be around when this check clears!

 

Brell (Kurt Fuller) risking (life and) limb poking Rip (Hulk Hogan) in the chest. © 1989 WWE, No Holds Barred.

Brell (Kurt Fuller) risking (life and) limb poking Rip (Hulk Hogan) in the chest. © 1989 WWE, No Holds Barred.

Hulk Hogan, born Terry Bolea, plays Rip, the WWF heavyweight champion. Based on the above quotation you might expect that he signed the check and had deposited it into a bank, where, after it had been sent to a clearing house, funds would have been transferred into his account, probably a couple of days after he left the bank. What he meant to say was, “I don’t accept this check, brother!” The check was offered by Brell—Kurt Fuller—an immoral TV executive¹. Brell thinks that his network should be number one and that he needs Rip to do it. Unfortunately, Rip shoves the check into Brell’s mouth. When Rip turns him down he hatches a plan to make Rip wrestle for him and dispatches the love interest, Samantha—Joan Severance, to trick him into betraying the WWF. Part two of Brell’s plan is a show called “The Battle of the Tough Guys.” Gee, I cannot see why Vince McMahon—owner of the World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment— did not save that one for himself… On this stupid show one champion emerges: Zeus! Surprisingly Zeus is a really big black guy portrayed by Tommy “Tiny” Lister—the moral convict in The Dark Knight who *Spoiler Alert* throws the detonator off of the ferry. There have been allegations leveled against the WWF/WWE and Vince McMahon of racism, and the character of Zeus is pretty damning evidence thereof. Zeus arrives wearing prison issued blues. He has a lot of lines in this movie, but 95% of them are just him yelling “Argh!” He does not think for himself and just does what Brell tells him to. And this was written by McMahon and Hogan.

A reasonable question to ask is, in what world does this movie take place? Essentially, these are the facts: there are real people, or at least real characters, in the movie, for example “Mean” Gene Okerlund, Jesse “The Body” Ventura and Howard Finkel. But then there are also people wrestling under different names like “Rip” and “Jake Bullet”, who was one of the guys from the tag team Demolition. The last thing that most people are unaware of is the term “kayfabe”. That is the term for the fictional reality that pro wrestling is real. Breaking kayfabe would be being seen getting a drink with your hated rival, or talking about how the outcomes of matches are scripted. This movie absolutely takes place in a kayfabe universe. A kayfabe universe where there is a WWF, but no Hulk Hogan. This is a stupider world than even that of our own pro wrestling—Okerlund calls it a “big foot” instead of Hogan’s classic “big boot”. It was kind of absurd.

Brell (Fuller) & Zeus (Tommy "Tiny" Lister) after Zeus has won the first Battle of the Tough Guys. Note the stereotypical black thug clothing he is wearing. © WWE 1989, No Holds Barred.

Brell (Fuller) & Zeus (Tommy “Tiny” Lister) after Zeus has won the first Battle of the Tough Guys. Note the stereotypical black thug clothing he is wearing. © WWE 1989, No Holds Barred.

Nevermind, it was full on absurd. Rip and Samantha go out for dinner because she wants to talk business with him—even though he has told Brell to F-off—and Rip appears to want to have sex with her, despite his over-the-top gentlemanly exterior. They eat dinner in a church.² A church that Rip frequents enough to know the chef, but not so frequently that the waiter does not prejudge him based on his looks. Also absurd, women snorting in a bar with no cocktails or wine and that becoming the home to the inaugural “Battle of the Tough Guys”. I counted only one wrestling move in the entire movie—a gorilla press slam. And that happened outside of the wrestling matches. While I cannot find a clip of it, you can see the aftermath of the carnage, as said slam was through the windshield of a limo. It also results in the infamous “dookie” line.

After all of that madness³ I was left with two unanswered questions. One, the villain in this is a wrestling promoter, Brell, who tries to script the outcome of a wrestling match. Is this just ironic or is this an amazing new level of self-loathing that McMahon had for staying kayfabe, thus lying for a living, and using so many steroids? Two, how insane of an ending is this? Fans are cheering after a man has been electrocuted to death! F’n marks! Just marking out for the Hulkster or Ripster, or whatever. Lastly, I did not say spoiler alert because that would have implied that this movie could have been spoiled. Which it could not. Had this at ** but thinking about this much has made me like it that much less. Still, if you were/are a Hogan fan, this movie is a must watch.

 

¹ In the excellent How Did This Get Made podcast, Episode 84, with Thomas Lennon, they focus on the details of the scene and how terrible Hogan’s acting was, more than on the absurdity of the line.
² Same episode as above, and their description of the scene is much funnier than mine. It is also able to be heard unlike this review.
³ I wanted to say garbage, but that is unfair. But this is a Gary Marshall level bad movie, despite it not being in his style of terrible movie.

Guardians of the Galaxy

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****

Believe him? Well, I don’t know if anyone can really be 100% dick.

Karen Gillan as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy, © 2014 Marvel Ent.

Karen Gillan as Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy, © 2014 Marvel Ent.

This was a really fun movie. Kind of like Star Wars: A New Hope. Except that Obi Wan Kenobi is an asshole and the Empire is a bunch of well-meaning tools. Both films have, essentially, one female character who kicks ass. In this flick her name is Gamora. Trodding this extremely familiar territory is Uhura from the rebooted Star Trek movies, Zoe Saldana, who gets to play the lone main cast female character. At least she is a bad ass this time, as is her “sister” Nebula. Under the blue makeup and no-hair I had trouble recognizing Karen Gillan, whom I know from NTSF:SD:SUV¹. Most people know her from Dr. Who, but not me. I know her as the redhead who joined NTSF from Dr. Who. She was actually quite good in her smoldering rage. Saldana was fine as Gamora, but she was a hot and cold character. Either threatening to the extreme or dumb and about to get killed. Dave Bautista’s Drax the Destroyer was much the same way. But he is Bautista from WWE so kudos on pulling off “fine” in a movie like this.

Those guardians of the galaxy! Left is Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), then down front is Rocket (animated with the voice of Bradley Cooper), Groot in the back (animated with the voice of Vin Diesel), in green is Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), and Gamora is also green (Zoe Saldana). © Marvel Ent. 2014.

Those guardians of the galaxy! Left is Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), then down front is Rocket (animated with the voice of Bradley Cooper), Groot in the back (animated with the voice of Vin Diesel), in green is Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), and Gamora is also green (Zoe Saldana). © Marvel Ent. 2014.

Oh, and Chris Pratt is as amazing as everyone says he is as Peter Quill, aka “Star-Lord”. He is more fun to watch than Luke Skywalker from A New Hope—and yes, I have now cast Quill as both Skywalker and Kenobi, it’s not a perfect analogy. His introduction is memorable, but before that the opening scene that introduces us to child Peter Quill is on par with Up for the immediate punch to the tear ducts. I believe we have co-writer/director­² James Gunn to thank for this. Ironically, I believe that it was his lack of sentimentality that drew Marvel to him. His last feature, Super, has a Batman/Punisher style vigilante—The Office’s Rainn Wilson, yes, Dwight from The Office—with a Robin, who wants to have sex with him and winds up like Jason Todd more than Dick Grayson or Tim Drake—Ellen Page of Juno fame.³ That probably had a budget of less than $10,000,000, but what it did have was a cast that rivaled the one in Guardians.

Guardians cast versus the Super cast:

Chris Pratt — first starring role in a major motion picture, most famous for “Parks & Rec” versus Rain Wilson…hmm, both were supporting comedians from hit shows on NBC. So, get ready for Jane Krakowski as Ms. Marvel next!
Zoe Saldana — burgeoning star who gets all the roles, as discussed above, versus Ellen Page who was nominated for an Oscar already and got to finally kick a little ass in Inception. Pretty similar stardom for Page in 2010 as Saldana in 2014.
Lee Pace — who has been in several things, including the new Hobbit movies as King Thranduil versus Kevin Bacon. Yeah, Bacon is a bit more famous than Pace.
Dave Bautista — former WWE champion whom most people hated versus Nathan “Everyone Loves Him” Fillion, who has been the star of “Castle” and Gunn’s first movie Slither. Both were probably very nice to work with.
Glenn Close — she probably has an Oscar and an Emmy, but even in this post-peak stage of her career she is a big name versus Liv Tyler who was in the Lord of the Rings and Armageddon. That is a close one, but I think Liv takes it.

And since he could handle that cast in Super Marvel trusted him with $100+ million for Guardians. Not a bad choice! Super might be a better movie, but this is a much, much, much, much, much more fun one. I would gladly watch either one again, but my money says that I will watch Guardians at least thrice as often as I watch Super.

¹ National Terrorism Strike Force: San Diego: Sport Utility Vehicle.
² Nicole Perlman co-wrote this making her the first woman to get such a credit on a Marvel film. Progress, I guess.
³ Batman: A Death in the Family. But not with the Joker swinging a pipe and leaving some bombs.

On the passing of Robin Williams

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Robin Williams reminds me of my family. At Thanksgiving and Christmas our family tends to gather together. At these times we like to watch movies. But it can be difficult to find movies that two to three generations at a time want to watch the same thing. Or consent to seeing the same thing, even. Robin Williams helped by being in five of the finest family movies of the early 1990s: Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook, Jumanji, and The Birdcage. He was also in one of the worst “family” movies of that era, Toys. So before he blew me away as a young adult with Dead Poets Society and Good Will Hunting, before I knew he used a ton of cocaine, and before he redeemed my impression of him as an actor with Insomnia and A.I., he was someone who signified laughter and family to me.

His death, which has been described as an apparent suicide, did not come as a shock. Sadly, for him that seemed as likely a cause for an early death as an accident, and more likely than a murder. I believe these things because Robin Williams made his extroversion clear. His high energy could be connected to his drug use, but I think that only heightened his frantic self. He wanted and needed the eyes, ears, and laughs of his audience. And the world was his audience, seemingly all the time. As his comedic genius became less relevant he turned to more dramatic roles, or perhaps he just wanted to be loved for a different side of himself. He suffered from depression and spent years feeding off of the laughter and adulation, but that clearly was not enough. Drugs, both cocaine and anti-depressants, did what they could for years, but were not enough. The recognition of he who was once Mork as an Academy Award winning actor wasn’t enough either. Depression can take your successes and turn them on you, it just might take a little longer to do it than if your life objectively sucks. Instead of mourning our loss, this has helped remind me of the great body of work he produced, of his legacy. We should not be sad that we have lost him, but thankful that we ever had Robin Williams in the first place.

How to Train Your Dragons

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Agh, whatever… I wouldn’t! Three hundred years, and I’m the first Viking who wouldn’t kill a dragon!

This is where you’ve been for the past twenty years? You’ve been rescuing them. Unbelievable.

Hiccup and Astrid flying on Toothless, © 2010 Dreaworks, How to Train Your Dragon.

Hiccup and Astrid flying on Toothless, © 2010 Dreaworks, How to Train Your Dragon.

These are a couple of gorgeous, exciting kids movies. If I were a kid, I would leave it at that. But no! I provide the above quotations to demonstrate just how much How to Train Your Dragon 2 threw out the window when its creators came up with the story for this sequel.

In How to Train Your Dragon the young son of the chief injures a dragon to prove his mettle and worth, but then upon seeing the fear in the dragon’s eye, lets him live. More than that, Hiccup helps the injured night terror, whom he names Toothless, learn to fly again. Unfortunately for both of them, this requires Hiccup to ride Toothless and for them to trust each other. This story teaches the audience that people can change and that when given a chance our enemies may become our friends. The one who manages to accomplish this is Hiccup, who, as it says, was the first Viking to save a dragon. He had to make tough choices that were morally right and he had to, in his own introverted way, stand up to his well-meaning father. Yet in the second movie this nobility and the difficult path Hiccup traversed turns out to have simply been preordained. He was not the first Viking to save a dragon, his mother was. And while Hiccup helps save/free many dragons, his mother has saved hundreds of them. This undermines the message and the depth of the first movie.

Valka (Hiccup's mother) and her dragon friends, © 2014 Dreamworks, How to Train Your Dragon 2.

Valka (Hiccup’s mother) and her dragon friends, © 2014 Dreamworks, How to Train Your Dragon 2.

Still, this is no Matrix Reloaded. Certainly the special effects do look better and there is more action, but it did not eviscerate the logic of the first movie. 2 also stayed true to the original Dragon Training by making me want to strangle Hiccup so, so many times. All of the kids from the original are young adults now and Cate Blanchett plays Hiccup’s mother, which is nice. I like Gerard Butler when he is not in Garry Marshall Level Bad garbage. There is also an overriding theme in both of these nice movies, and it is a positive one: give peace a chance, even if you have to fight for it. Question and fight the preconceived notions that society blindly accepts. And do it riding an f’n Night Fury Dragon.

The voice actors and their characters. On the left Drago, voiced by Djimon Hounsou and Stoick by Gerard Butler, © 20th Century Fox, 2014.

The voice actors and their characters. On the left Drago, voiced by Djimon Hounsou and Stoick by Gerard Butler, © 20th Century Fox, 2014.

One parting train of thought, Djimon Hounsou voices the villain, Drago. Hounsou is from Benin. I believe he was the first non-white voice actor in either of the movies. Drago looked white to me, but maybe he was not supposed to be white. Look for yourself above and decide. The name though, Drago, conjures a slav, or perhaps a Swedish actor named Dolph Lundgren. Either way, they are all Caucasians.  In principle diversifying a cast is a positive thing, but does it matter that it comes through villains? The message from the first movie, and this one as well, was that humans are the enemy. And we most certainly are. Think of how many times we root for non-humans in science fiction or animals in tearjerkers. But returning to diversification through villains with darker skin, Gerard Butler has gone down this path before with the criticism of 300. In 300, and its sequel, the only dark skinned people were Persians and other non-Greeks. Personally, I found the portrayal of Xerxes so positive and powerful that I thought it better to have some color than no movie at all. Because if the Greeks had no Butlers, Wenhams, Wests and Fassbenders, there would be no 300. In 300: Rise of an Empire, Xerxes loses much of his luster, which bothered me. On the other hand, Eva Green shows how powerful a woman can be as a better warrior and tactician than Xerxes. So there is that; on the other-other hand Xerxes slaps Green’s Artemisia in the face. And she is white. Well, there it is. This is just some food for thought regarding diversity in modern American cinema and the compromises made in the quest for money and progress, but mostly money.

How to Train Your Dragon: ***½
How to Train Your Dragon 2: ***

The Lady Vanishes

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****

I’ve no regrets. I’ve been everywhere and done everything. I’ve eaten caviar at Cannes, sausage rolls at the dogs. I’ve played baccarat at Biarritz and darts with the rural dean. What is there left for me but marriage?

Michael Redgrave as Gilbert, Margaret Lockwood as Iris Henderson, and Paul Lukas as Dr. Hartz on the train, in The Lady Vanishes, © MGM 1938.

Michael Redgrave as Gilbert, Margaret Lockwood as Iris Henderson, and Paul Lukas as Dr. Hartz on the train, in The Lady Vanishes, © MGM 1938.

This movie is rightly hailed as one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best early movies. I would compare it to The 39 Steps. It is based upon the story, “The Wheel Spins” by Ethel Lina White. It has witty banter, colorful characters and an interesting mystery. Similar to The Sixth Sense, which is only sixty-one years newer than this movie, the viewer has the choice of doubting the main character, suspecting a wide conspiracy, or questioning its own eyes. Both of the movies provide a right answer; there is truth.

Part of me hoped that this would be a precursor to The Usual Suspects, which left the facts up to the viewer. Yet that would not have worked as this turned out to be an allegory for the upcoming conflict with Germany. In the opening I tried to identify the European nation where the hotel from the first scene was located¹, but the clerk jumped from language to language; snowy mountains surrounded it; and local culture had a rich tradition of music and dancing. The story calls for only four locations, the first of which is the hotel where me meet all of the main characters. Then they head to the train station, board the train, and eventually the train stops in a forest. It turns out that the hotel and train are located in “Mandrika”, which is essentially “Zubrowka” from The Grand Budapest Hotel at the same time, actually. The quality of the inn was somewhere between that of The Grand Budapest and The Bates Motel.

Most of the main characters were Britons. They were a varied sort, although all very British in their own ways. It was a balanced portrayal of many different types: the cricket twits, the publicly cool philandering couple, the handsome yet arrogant scoundrel, the modern young woman of the time, and the matronly governess. Most of these portrayals were unfavorable, despite the English being the main characters, actors, and protagonists of the movie. It showed how appeasement, in the form of the man who with no plans to leave his wife for his mistress, will wind up leaving you bleeding in the snow, with a white flag of truce in your hand. It showed how men who cannot be bothered by anything other than cricket and tea can be roused to action if given enough provocation. It showed how a scoundrel can be just the man for the job and how the modern woman can help lead Great Britain through difficult times, even if she is absolutely worthless in a fight.² Lastly, it showed that mysteries and murders do not only occur on the Orient Express. Oh, and do not underestimate Old Britannia, she has some tricks up her sleeve yet.

 

¹ A 90 foot set in England is actually where the “hotel” is located.
² Another interpretation of her character at her bumbling worst is a parody of Dr. John Watson, but he should never have been unhelpful in a fight.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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****½

There are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity… He was one of them. What more is there to say?

 The concierge, M. Jean, at his post in the Grand Budapest Hotel, © 2014 Scott Rudin Prods.

The concierge, M. Jean, at his post in the Grand Budapest Hotel, © 2014 Scott Rudin Prods.

I have been a Wes Anderson fan since I was in high school. Unfortunately, I felt, and on some level might feel, that his second movie, Rushmore, was his best movie. With an introduction like that you might expect me place this film above it, or near it. In reality, I have no desire to rank his films. I have enjoyed almost every one¹ of his films and that is what matters. But returning to Rushmore, its star was a then unknown teen actor from Hollywood royalty² named Jason Schwartzman. He has a great voice now and had a great voice then. Seeing him as a grown man, as the concierge of The Grand Budapest Hotel (1968) brought me back, for a moment, to him as a teen. This was a fond memory, but not quite nostalgic, as he was less of a brat and, more than that, it is just a pleasure to still have him around. That suits this film as a whole as it can be said for several of the characters and the hotel itself. The film deals with heavy issues, but it is also a pleasure to watch and to listen to, which is a difficult balance to strike. Part of the Anderson’s tactic is the story within a story within a story narrative.

While I said that Schwartzman has a great voice he has probably the ninth best voice in the cast. Here are my rankings of the main actors/characters and their voices. Hopefully you will glean what the film is about from these rankings, but no promises.

F. Murray Abraham and Jude Law dining and raconteuring in the Grand Budapest Hotel's dining room, © 2014 Fox Searchlight Pics.

F. Murray Abraham and Jude Law dining and raconteuring in the Grand Budapest Hotel’s dining room, © 2014 Fox Searchlight Pics.

F. Murray Abraham — Salieri—Amadeus—plays Mr. Moustafa, the owner of the Grand Budapest Hotel from post World War II until at least 1985. He sits down to dinner and narrates the primary story to the Young Writer over a feast in the hotel’s restaurant. I cannot think of an actor who portrays melancholy or doomed joy better than Abraham.

Ralph Fiennes — Lord Voldemort plays the principled, yet haughty, concierge of pre-World War II Grand Budapest Hotel, M. Gustave. With an anonymous absentee owner M. Gustave rules the Hotel according to his strict code of chivalry, although that code considers sleeping with the elderly to be a friendly thing to do. Perhaps that is not considered appropriate today, but in 1932 it was probably also considered not an appropriate thing to do…

Mathieu Amalric — The villain from Quantum of Solace plays the wary butler of Madame D. While he has a great French accent, his face does much of the heavy lifting in trying to convey his concerns to M. Gustave. He swears to a lie against his friend in an affidavit before trying to escape with his life.

The Author in The Grand Budapest Hotel, © 2014 Indian Paintbrush.

The Author in The Grand Budapest Hotel, in “1985”, © 2014 Indian Paintbrush.

Tom Wilkinson — Carmine Falconi–Batman Begins–has the bookends of the film as The Author. This is 1985 version of the Young Writer as he addresses the camera for me, for you and for posterity. He also gets to yell at his kids for interrupting his wonderful pontificating.

Jude Law — Dr. Watson from the new Sherlock Holmes movies had the appropriate interest level in Mr. Moustafa and the Grand Budapest Hotel. His role is similar to Wallace Shawn’s in My Dinner With Andre,³ but with many more lines, and he does wind up writing the book that bases one of the stories in this movie. Even the empty look of the dining room reminded me of My Dinner With Andre.

Adrien Brody — The extraordinarily well last named star of The Pianist plays Dmitri, the prick son of Madame D. who will stop at nothing to inherit his mother’s fortune and the priceless painting of Boy With Apple. Jopling is his bulldog attorney/assassin. Brody’s use of a subtle Brooklyn accent, with boiling under/over the surface rage, works superbly.

Willem Dafoe and Adrien Brody as The villains! © 2014 20th Century Fox, 2014.

Willem Dafoe and Adrien Brody as the villains! © 20th Century Fox, 2014.

Saoirse Ronan — Hanna plays Agatha, Zero’s love interest. She has the voice of innocence, but the agency of a free woman. Her freedom stems from being an orphan, similar to Zero. She also had a birthmark on the side of her face in the shape of Mexico, because this is a movie that tells a story within a story within a story, so perhaps some details might have changed in the telling.

Jeff Goldblum — The scientist in an oversized flannel shirt in Independence Day plays Deputy Kovacs, an honorable attorney tasked with executing Madame D.’s will. He sounds like most Goldblum characters, but he does not milk his pauses, which was wonderful.

Bill Murray — Steve Zissou, aka Wes Anderson’s Bill Murray, plays M. Ivan, a concierge at a lodging on par with the Grand Budapest Hotel. He is perfectly suited to this small role, since he has the energy of the position, but the affected diffidence associated with it as well.

Harvey Keitel — Mr. White plays M. Gustave’s cellmate, Ludwig. He is a European convict by way of Brooklyn, with an escape plan that needed an Andy Dufresne to get him access to rock cutting tools. Fortunately there is no sewer with “five hundred yards of shit smelling foulness” in this prison.

Agatha surrounded by concierges in Zubrowka. Waris Ahluwalia, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Wally Wolodarsky, Fisher Stevens, Saoirse Ronan, Tony Revolori and Ralph Fiennes. © Fox Searchlight Pics. 2014.

Agatha surrounded by concierges in Zubrowka. Waris Ahluwalia, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Wally Wolodarsky, Fisher Stevens, Saoirse Ronan, Tony Revolori and Ralph Fiennes. © Fox Searchlight Pics. 2014.

Edward Norton — Scout Master Ward from Moonrise Kingdom taps back into his Wes Anderson magic as Henkels, an officer in the army of Zubrowka. He remembers a kindness that M. Gustave showed him as a child and pays him back by keeping young Zero from being detained, arrested and deported/shot. He is also a man of honor so he chases after M. Gustave when he escapes from prison. As an aside, the name of the country is the same as the Polish buffalo grass vodka.

Willem Dafoe —Max von Schreck…okay, fine, The Green Goblin from Spider-man, plays Jopling the least ethical attorney I have seen in quite some time. He is a man of few words, but of great intimidation. His appearance, especially his fang like incisors, seemed to be a reference to his performance as Max von Schreck as Count Orlock, the vampire from Nosferatu. As meta as that seems, remember that this is a story within a story guest-starring many of Anderson’s prior actors.

Tilda Swinton — I cannot think of one famous role of hers, although I have seen eight(!) of her movies. So, how about the barge captain’s wife in Young Adam plays the 84 year old Madame D. Under all of the makeup I did not recognize her, nor her voice amongst Madame D.’s quavering. She loves M. Gustave, is the mother to Dmitri, gets killed, and was the richest person in the movie by far.

Léa Seydoux — the badass assassin from the really tall hotel heist in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol plays a morally ambiguous maid in the household of Madame D.

The new lobby boy Zero–Tony Revolori, Madame H.–Tilda Swinton, and M. Gustave–Ralph Fiennes –take the elevator down to the lobby in the Grand Budapest Hotel, © 2014 Studio Babelsberg.

The new lobby boy Zero–Tony Revolori, Madame H.–Tilda Swinton, and M. Gustave–Ralph Fiennes –take the elevator down to the lobby in the Grand Budapest Hotel, in 1932, © 2014 Studio Babelsberg.

Somewhere in a review of the 15th anniversary/director’s cut of Blade Runner, or some such, I learned that voice-over is considered tacky in cinema. So much so that Blade Runner is considered better without Harrison Ford’s voice-over, and Harrison Ford had one hell of a voice in 1982. Another source is Brian Cox’s wonderful lecture in Adaptation, warning screenwriters of the dangers of voice-over.4 If you believe that a film cannot survive voice-over, no matter how excellent, then avoid this film. Voice-overs abound. I found them wonderful and if you can stomach them then you will probably watch this film and enjoy it.

 

¹ I did not really enjoy The Darjeeling Limited.
² Jason Schwartzman is part of the Coppola family, most famous of which is either Francis Ford Coppola or Nicholas Cage, take your pick.
³ I would not very strongly recommend watching Mr. Dinner Andre. If you do watch it keep an eye open for the steam from the actors’ breath as their restaurant set was an out of season hotel with the heat turned off.
Thank you to Steve Poland for the link.

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